Friday, July 20, 2018

Fear the Walking Troops

America has traditionally neglected infantry in favor of bigger ticket forces.

A decade of counter-insurgency reversed that for the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. The possibility of going back to business as usual has always been present. That is changing under Secretary of Defense Mattis. And a Marine program begun in the Obama administration is still not achieving its aims to have better trained infantry forces.

This effort needs to work:

It’s been about three years since the [Marine] Corps established a new job field for squad leaders — the 0365 military occupational specialty — which only 359 Marines have obtained, according to data provided by Marine Corps Training and Education Command. The figure is barely half the number needed to fill out the 648 active-duty rifle squads across the Corps.

Training is our biggest edge over enemies. Technology is a force multiplier for good troops and no replacement for insufficiently trained troops.

The European Prize

Europe's statistics indicate it should be able to rival America in power. It does not. But Europe's vast potential for hard power indicates why America must fight for Europe even if Europe doesn't want to participate that much.

This survey of European power and resentment is a valuable reminder of just how much broad power Europe has despite its long decline in hard power and global influence:

[If] “Europe” is defined by the membership of the 28-member European Union, then it should easily be the world’s superpower. The European project now has an aggregate population (512 million) that dwarfs that of the United States (326 million). Even its GDP ($20 trillion) is often calibrated as roughly equivalent to or even larger than America’s ($19 trillion).

Historically, European geography has been strategically influential—with windows on the Atlantic, Baltic, and Mediterranean, the ancient maritime nexus of three continents. Rome is the center of Christianity, by far the world’s largest religion. Some of the world’s great nations—Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, New Zealand, and the United States—were birthed as European colonies. Some two billion people speak European languages, including hundreds of millions outside of Europe whose first language is English, Spanish, Portuguese, or French.

European products—Airbus, BP, Shell, and Volkswagen—are global household names. France each year hosts the greatest number of the world’s tourists. Europe as a whole is more visited than any other nation or geographical area—and no wonder, given Europe was the home to civilization’s most significant breakthroughs: the birth of the city-state, the emergence of Roman republicanism and its later globalized empire, the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, and the Industrial Revolution.

Many of the world’s greatest thinkers, writers, scientists, and politicians were European, from Plato, Socrates Cicero, Octavian and Pericles to Copernicus, Dante, Galileo, Da Vinci, Newton, Shakespeare, Cervantes, Einstein, and Churchill. And likewise, the greatest cataclysms in world history took place on European soil: The Black Death, Stalin’s genocide in Western Russia, World Wars I and II, and the Holocaust. The Western military tradition was born in Europe, and the world’s most lethal armies in history—Roman, French, German—were all European, as were the most skilled commanders, from Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar to Napoleon and Wellington.

All this is why it has been American policy for a century to prevent any potentially hostile power from gaining control of that concentration of potential power.

And yes, I include the European Union as a a potential power America should absolutely oppose in controlling geographic Europe.

So Europeans know that America will fight for Europe even if Europe won't fully fight for their own security.

Although in the back of European minds they know that America doesn't actually need to make sure Europe is on America's side. That's nice and very helpful, but because of our geographic isolation at worst America just has to make sure nobody else controls Europe to mobilize its power against us. If America has to destroy the continent to save it from enemy control, that will be close enough for government work.

Indeed, if I recall my Cold War ancient history (it is sometimes so odd that the Cold War, which was political science when I was growing up is now virtually ancient history), this reality caused a weird contradiction in European defense policy regarding the Soviet Union.

On the one hand, Western Europe wanted to keep the Soviets out and knew that America would defend them; but they had to do enough to keep America interested in defending them from the Soviets.

And Europe also didn't want to defend too much because Europeans didn't want to be the battlefield between America and the Soviet Union--a battle that might destroy Europe, especially if it went to "tactical" nuclear weapons (which would seem pretty "strategic" in their effects if exploded in large numbers on European soil even if they were aimed at Soviet army targets).

So there was a strange inclination for Europeans to be weak enough so that an American defense of Europe to prevent the USSR from capturing Europe intact would require a rapid American escalation to strategic nukes, making sure America and the USSR would suffer the most in a battle for Europe. If the Soviets knew America had to nuke the USSR to defend Europe, that would preserve Europe more than European conventional military power.

For added fun, I do think that America has a moral reason to defend the fellow West in Europe. But if geographic Europe becomes a political European Union as an autocratic multi-ethnic empire, the moral reason to defend Europe dissipates rapidly, no? Is one more empire worthy of defending?

Europe is worth fighting to control. You'd think the Europeans would recognize that they should keep themselves worthy of defending.

UPDATE: Related.

It is easy to forget--and this was a useful reminder to me--that Europe with its autocracies and monarchies was not fully part of a free West (although obviously part of the Western tradition) until we rebuilt Western Europe in that template after World War II. And NATO expansion after defeating the Soviet Union was more explicit in demanding democracy and rule of law for new members.

We really do need Europe in our team. Which is one reason I am a firm supporters of America's leading role in NATO and do not think the alliance is obsolete.

But Europe does have a role in keeping America in Europe by remaining worthy of defending--as we designed it to be. Which is why I so vocally despise the European Union.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Better Late Than Never

Former President Obama warns against counting on autocrats to run our lives:

Barack Obama said on Tuesday the world should resist cynicism over the rise of strongmen, in an apparent reference to populist leaders who hold power in a number of countries.

Pity 8 years of hope and change had so little lasting effect abroad.

Still, I welcome his rebuke to the "pen and phone" Tom Friedman "reasonably enlightened" autocrat-loving wing of the Democratic Party, late though it is.

Preparing for the EW Party

The Army is getting electronic warfare equipment at a record rate.

After being frankly scared by the Russian electronic warfare capabilities we saw in Ukraine and Syria, the Army took advantage of new NATO allies familiarity with old Soviet stuff and cooperation with Ukraine under assault by Russian EW in the ongoing war in Russian-occupied Donbas to quickly put countermeasures into the hands of our European troops:

This latest U.S. Army [EW] request is also seen as a side-effect of the new (since 2015) “terrify and train” approach to getting commanders, especially of combat units, ready for what they will face in wartime. Just putting officers through an “educate and familiarize” course on Cyber War is not enough so the army has also created cyber protection teams to give units they are assigned to a taste of what horrors await them in wartime on the network warfare front. This is an improvement over Cold War era policies that generally discouraged exposing combat units to realistic demonstrations of what kind of jamming and other electronic techniques the Russians had developed to cripple American military communications in wartime. That was the pre-Internet version of a network attack. Sometimes American units on training exercises did get a taste of electronic jamming and deception and it proved so disruptive to operations that it was discouraged.

European-based American units were the priority and others are now getting it.

China would also have similar equipment.

I've long read about the havoc that the radio-based Soviet disruption could have inflicted on NATO forces during the Cold War.

The post also discusses the effort to get the Army a secure battlefield internet, based on the Win-T system. This needs to work securely if the Army is to ever reach back for the squad, as I suggested here.

Five Degrees of Osama bin Laden

Europe has a problem with Moslems sympathetic to Islamism and terrorism in support of that ideology. Optimist that I am, I retain hope.

Strategypage writes that the problem with support for terrorism in Europe's Islamic population has long been known:

By 2014 the situation in Europe had gotten worse. That year a poll in of European nations to discover support for ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) resulted in some surprising results. In Germany two percent of the adults supported ISIL, while in Britain it was seven percent and in France 15 percent. While many of these supporters are Moslems, only 4.6 percent of Germans, five percent of Britons and 7.5 percent of the French are Moslems. Thus there was support from non-Moslems and a closer look at the data shows that ISIL support is higher among the young and falls sharply among older people. Many of the ISIL supporters are actually angry at their own government for various reasons. Still, the ISIL support was part of the overall support (or tolerance) for Islamic radicalism in the West and the recent rapid growth of European anti-Semitism.

Strategypage contrasts the situation in Europe where most Moslems are silent about the Islamists in their community; and America where Moslems are willing to help their new country fight these potential terrorists. This is good. As I've noted on occasion, seeing Moslem women with a head covering driving a minivan gives me a lot of hope. That act of driving--with no male relative in the vehicle--would earn them a death sentence from Islamists despite her head covering. Islam is changing far more in America than in Europe. Given time and sufficient distance from their old world bad influences, I do believe that despite added difficulties Moslem immigrants like other immigrants will be able to assimilate here.

In part, that may be from Europe's emphasis on equality of condition in contrast to America's (for now) emphasis on equality of opportunity under the law. (Do read it all, although it is really about Europe.)

And even in Europe I have hope that the situation will get better without descending into mass expulsions to "solve" (in a fashion that harms innocent people, too) the problem of Islamist ideology in Europe. Back to Strategypage:

The vast majority of the three million Moslems in Britain were either hostile or unsympathetic to Islamic terrorism. But a large fraction (at times over 20 percent) had some sympathy for the motives of the terrorists (“defending Islam” and all that) while as many as six percent believed the Islamic terrorist violence was justified. More troubling was that nearly a fifth of British Moslems felt little loyalty towards Britain and instead believed “Islam” was where their main loyalty was. Islam stresses this in its scripture.

I don't know if Britain is better or worse than the rest of Europe. But while at one level it is horrifying that nearly 20% of British Moslems don't feel loyal to Britain; given that Islam does elevate loyalty to the Islamic community over any state, isn't it a good sign that only 20% fully reflect that portion of their original belief system?

Like any immigrant community, distance and insulation from the old world Islam helps assimilation. As long as too many new people come in fresh from the jihadi factories to act as speed bumps to assimilation, the jihadi impulse within the Islamic immigrant community will remain stronger than it would otherwise.

And as the post notes, the biggest class of victims of the Islamists and jihadis are other Moslems. Either directly or indirectly by feeling the effects of the Islamists/jihadis who make it harder for Moslems who want to fit in to European society and succeed (when in Rome, do as the Romans) and who inspire natives to view all Moslems as potential jihadis.

I just don't understand why it isn't evident that a slow down in immigration from Islamic countries and tougher screening of those allowed in are necessary in Europe to protect Europe, protect European Moslems who want to live at peace in Europe, and other countries who might be victims of jihadi terror plots hatched in European sanctuaries of Islamic community silence and government reluctance to deal with the problem.

I am an optimist, aren't I?

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Fervor of Recent Converts

One of the problems with Democrats going full Jack (D) Ripper on the Russky threat is that while we should block Russian attempts to dominate their western border neighbors and intimidate NATO, reacting too much is a gift to China which is a rising rather than faltering power.

China would love it if more of our power is sucked up by political pressure to confront Russia.

I'd rather have NATO Europe arm up to hold Europe with minimal American help, to free up American power for the Indo-Pacific theater (and sigh, I still wish it was renamed the Pacific-India Command--PAINCOM). I don't really expect more than nominal European help in the Pacific Ocean.

Rather than forward deploy a lot of troops to Eastern Europe, I'd rather have tripwires and a much greater ability to reinforce and supply Eastern Europe if Russia attacks; which is a footprint that doesn't pose an offensive threat against Russia.

Russia is a revived worry. But it should not be treated as a Cold War 2.0 focusing our energy. Because China. And I'd rather try to promote Russian-Chinese friction over their long border and the contest for supremacy in former Soviet Central Asia.

And I am fully consistent on this, having argued against overreacting during the Obama era after the Russian invasions of Ukraine:

We don't need to go Cold War II on Russia--why stroke Putin's ego with that? President Obama was right--psychotic, but absolutely right (sorry, Animal House reference, there)--Russia is just a regional military power[. ...]

But they are an aggressive regional military power in a region of great importance to us.

So no new Cold War. There are lots of reasons it is not. But do treat the Russians under Putin as the potential threat that Putin is happily turning Russia in to these days.

It will take a little longer than I'd hoped for sanity to break out in post-Soviet Russia.

Russia is a regional threat with lots of nukes. But respond appropriately, and not based on your domestic political needs.

I am upset that Trump blamed bad relations with Russia on America. But nothing was surrendered other than the optics. And as usual, the incredible Democratic/media complex's ability to turn the Resistance dial to 11 drowns out the problems of Trump's statement with the massive unjustified drama of the over-reaction. Or did I miss the media outrage over Obama's "apology tour."

And note, too, that I never accused Obama of treason for his "outreach" efforts even though I strongly disagreed with him.

Putin's Russia is bad. That's good to realize. But a little perspective please.

Cause and Effect

So "critics" of the president's push to get NATO allies to spend more on defense say that allies who border Russia shouldn't have to spend as much on defense? Yeah, when you say it out loud that way, it sounds really stupid.


Critics say Trump's laser-focus on allies' spending understates the broader importance of key allies, particularly countries like Norway.

Norway plays a vital role gathering intelligence on Russian submarines and other maritime training activity. Much of Russia's naval training occurs in international waters near Norway, giving it a privileged perch for observation.

But we are to understand the reluctance of NATO states who are farther from the Russians because those states don't feel the threat.

And even Germany which has Poland as a buffer is understandably not too worried about Russia and so should get a pass. And Nazis, of course.

Norway should absolutely meet the commitment that they freely accepted to spend 2% of GDP on defense. The idea that their geographic position near Russia is an advantage to observing Russian military forces which allows Norway to reduce their defense burden is an embarrassingly stupid argument to make.

Even the New York Times editorial board admitted that the Trump NATO trip worked:

Trump Got From NATO Everything Obama Ever Asked For

But alliance members leave Brussels bruised and confused.

Mind you, that was wrapped around a lot of criticism of Trump, but that's the headline. Seriously, while saying it is good to get Europe (and Canada) to spend more on defense in place of their domestic emphasis, the editorial complains Trump is unlikely to cut American defense spending to divert money to domestic spending.

And perhaps the bruising and confusing Trump inflicted had something to do with the success, eh? Yeah, I left Army basic training bruised and a bit confused. I also left better able to defend my country. I think there was a connection.

He who does not kill you makes you stronger, as I noted earlier.

A Friend With a Benefit?

If America can negotiate a good nuclear deal with North Korea, Iran will suffer a major setback in their nuclear program and regional efforts to expand their influence:

As part of North Korea’s denuclearization, the U.S. will insist on implementing the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program in conjunction with monitoring by the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs. CTR was the way to prevent “loose nukes” – preventing the “proliferation of WMD [Weapon of Mass Destruction] and related materials, technologies and expertise from former Soviet Union states.”

The U.S. will demand to know the extent of North Korea’s cooperation with Iran (and Syria and Pakistan, for that matter). The information won’t come cheap, but it will allow the U.S. and its partners to identify new key weapons development officials and facilities, and to attack the transport networks and financial systems that support Iran’s WMD program. And those same networks probably support Iran’s program of terror and subversion, most of it directed against Iran’s neighbors, so political and security progress in Asia may pay dividends in the Middle East.

I've noted that any deal with North Korea must include North Korea spilling their guts about their relationship with Iran (and Iran's minion Syria, if you will recall the secret nuclear reactor North Korea was building in Syria before Israel bombed it).

I don't know if we can get a good deal with North Korea. But if we can, we inflict a lot of damage on Iran's mullah regime, too.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Russia is Creating What They Claimed to Fear

The Air Force is only now preparing airfields to fight in defense of NATO's new Eastern Europe members:

The goal is to effectively build up locations closer to Eastern Europe to support "strike, superiority, surveillance, command and control and [air]lift," he said. "All aircraft are involved."

Remember this when you hear complaints that NATO expansion threatened Russia.

Until Russia started threatening NATO and committing territorial aggression against Ukraine, eastern NATO was a vacuum of NATO military power.

This hostility to NATO might have seemed like a good and safe tactic. Have the Russians had enough of this counter-productive path?


Shia Grievances are Real

While Iraqi Shias in southern Iraq have a lot of reasons to protest their situation after fifteen years of fighting Saddam and jihadi terrorists (Shia and Sunni); after decades of Baathist rule; and after centuries of Sunni rule, I wonder if Iran is using their influence to stir up Shias as a warning to the government of Iraq that would love to get Iran out of Iraq after the defeat of the ISIL caliphate.

That's a problem:

Iraq placed its security forces on high alert on Saturday, in response to ongoing protests in the country's southern provinces over poor government services and corruption. ...

Reinforcement troops from both the Counter Terrorism Service and the Army's Ninth Division have already been dispatched to Basra, where demonstrators gathered for the sixth consecutive day, to help protect the province's oil fields, security sources said.

The directive came in an effort to stem the burgeoning protests, which on Friday spread from oil-city Basra - where residents had blocked access to the nearby commodities port of Umm Qasr - to the cities of Amara, Nasiriya and the Shi'ite holy city of Najaf.

I wonder if Iran is stoking this unrest. They do that all around the region, so Iraq is no exception.

On the other hand, the revered Iraqi Shia religious leader Sistani stated he is in support of the protesters' concerns.

Which doesn't mean Iran isn't involved to the detriment of Iraq. But as I said, the protesters have real grievances. Sistani can hardly dismiss the Shia concerns by simply attacking whatever role Iran might have in the unrest.

And unfortunately, threats to Iraqi oil production and export, which is virtually all that Iraq exports, is too vital for the Iraqi government to risk. So the potential for further deadly clashes that alienate the poor of Iraq from the government is too high to dismiss.

I hope we are involved in keeping Iraqi actions within rule of law and politics. We shouldn't try to pick winners in the negotiations over who governs. But we should demand that ballots and not bullets resolve political disputes.

UPDATE: Strategypage says that the unrest is essentially anti-Iranian:

The growing popular unrest in southern Iraq is spreading. The unrest is largely anti-Iran and senior Shia clerics have openly encouraged the protestors and approved of their cause. One of the complaints the protestors have was the way Iran interfered in the recent (May) national elections.

I honestly never got that from any of the news I got. How could that aspect be missed?

I did note not too long ago that Iran has no interest in a stable Iraq.

The Return of the Harpoon

The Navy is testing the return of Harpoon missiles to its attack submarines.

It is likely this is just a proxy to test systems for some future advanced missile rather than a true return of the Harpoon to the sub fleet.

That's good. You may recall my shock that we lost that capability long ago.

I thought I would have run across that fact, but a Harpoon-equipped sub fleet was a phantom capability that I assumed had continued. My error was enabled by the fact that ships still had Harpoon even as those ships declined as new construction left them out.

All that was a result of the Cold War victory when the Navy decided that carrier aircraft could take care of any surface fleet threat.

The rise of China's fleet and a partial revival of the Russian fleet has led the Navy to reverse the concentration of our offensive power in our few carriers and instead disperse ship-killing power throughout the fleet again.

And have no doubt, China's navy is expanding in numbers and ship sophistication. There is more to a navy than just that, of course despite their progress:

But the PLA-N still has a very long way to go before it reaches the necessary level of maturity to claim mastery of multidimensional operations in the contested environment of the open ocean.

Yet that is no reason for our Navy (and Air Force) to be complacent. If China continues to funnel resources to their fleet--and as a land power with land threats that historically hasn't maintained a fleet I don't assume that commitment can be made (The Soviet fleet was likewise an anomaly in Russian history that could not be maintained for long).

But with far more overseas trade by sea, China does have more reason to build a blue water fleet than the USSR had (or Russia has).

So yeah, our fleet needs anti-ship missiles to distribute ship-killing power throughout the Navy.

Monday, July 16, 2018

So This Is How We are Playing America First Now?

This is no way to put America first.

Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!

President Trump is 100% wrong to blame the bad state of Russian-US relations on America.

Russia has been a problem for a long time, and as far as I'm concerned we weren't tough enough on the Soviets when we defeated them in the Cold War. Although Russian nukes made an alternative impossible.

Also, I don't want to hear a damn word from Democrats given their sudden conversion to worrying about the Russians. That concern evaporates the second Trump leaves office.

But I don't know what the Hell Trump is doing figuratively bowing to Putin in Helsinki. Sad.

UPDATE: And yes, despite the president's denial, Russia interfered in our 2016 election--as they and their Soviet predecessors did up until then routinely--but I do not think the Russians were trying to get Trump elected (and no, they didn't "hack" our election process, as in changing results) as much as they were trying to harm the expected winner Clinton--they could read our polling data as well as anyone here--and sow chaos to make the example of American democracy look less appealing to Russians and others around the world.

UPDATE: On the bright side, it appears to be an Optical Yalta only, with no actual concessions to Russia. Whether that horrible Trump blame game will be more than a temporary embarrassment like the "more flexibility after the election" fiasco is the question, I suppose.

And I bring this up not in defense of Trump's statement, but to highlight the dramatic change of heart by Democrats on the Russia issue that they are going crazy over today.

I welcome Democrats to the anti-Russian camp. I hope they retain this attitude when Trump is gone.

UPDATE: The next day the optics of the trip still stink. I didn't expect that. But I did expect that nothing of substance bad would result. That seems to be the case:

Trump didn’t recognize the Russian annexation of Crimea, announce a troop pullout from Syria, promise to disband NATO, withdraw U.S. troops from Germany or stop the deployment of U.S. anti-missile defenses in Eastern Europe. He didn’t give up his opposition to Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline into Germany or express regret about his decision to supply lethal weapons to Ukraine. In fact, he did nothing that could be construed as undermining U.S. interests as traditionally understood. His comments revealed no freebies to Putin or even any sign that the two leaders had attempted to negotiate compromises on the many substantive issues that divide their two countries.

The Putin-friendly optics mask American actions that Putin does not like. So talk of "treason" is purely ignorant on both substance and the law.

And no areas of agreement seem to have been forged on common interests. So I'm not sure what the point of the meeting was. I hope that Yalta Optics fade without causing damage.

One can't rule out that the public affection for Putin's position by Trump was meant to mask a harder message in private--one that Putin accepted--to back off attempts to influence our 2018 election.

UPDATE: On the bright side, President Trump conceded election interference:

"I accept our intelligence community's conclusion that Russia's meddling in the 2016 election took place," Trump said Tuesday. But he added, as he usually does, "It could be other people also. A lot of people out there. There was no collusion at all."

But I can't go along with his blame on America for poor Russian-American relations. I was unhappy with President Obama's "apology tour" and outreach to enemies that never worked and only worried friends; so I cannot go along with the outreach to Putin or Erdogan. I had scorn for Obama's attempt to prop up Erdogan as an example of "tame" Islamism compatible with democracy and can't support a public friendship with the man by Trump.

If Trump's approach works, I'll change my assessment as any reasonable person should when facts change.

UPDATE: Much to criticize in style, no doubt. But for God's sake, get a grip.

Situation: Normal

European bouts of anger at America predates Trump:

This policy of applying economic pressure has of course further aggravated tensions with other countries and degraded the United States’ reputation abroad. This is not new. Ever since Vietnam, and really since World War II, the United States has been condemned for a host of policies. But it’s not clear that global public opinion has any lasting effect.

So relax. Europeans need America so much that they get nervous when we do things and get nervous when we don't do things. It's a constant factor. And voices of concern are easy to hear no matter what course we take. What a shock:

The European furor over Donald Trump is not, as alleged, because he and the nation that elected him are crude, but that he and his country are needed more than ever by a continent that has lost its way.

And read the rest which discusses the Trump attempt to use diplomacy and economic power to avoid military conflict across a wide range of theaters with a military too small to deal with all of them.

Not that I advocate a military large enough to deal with all of the potential problems at once. We would break our economy and budget--which is bad enough.

But it would be nice to have a bigger margin of error--and allies prepared to pull their weight to help hold the line after enjoying the peace dividend so enthusiastically since 1991.

Remember, the ten-year medium term rule is over.

The Economy of Force Front

American special forces are active in Africa:

American special operations teams are playing a more direct role in military actions against suspected terrorists in Africa than the Pentagon has publicly acknowledged, planning and participating in combat raids by African troops in multiple countries including Somalia, Kenya, Tunisia and Niger, under a set of classified programs.

In repeated public statements, military spokespeople have said the American role in Africa is limited to “advising and assisting” other militaries. But for at least five years, Green Berets, Navy SEALs and other commandos operating under a little-understood authority have planned and controlled certain missions, putting them in charge of their African partner forces. ...

A spokesman for Africa Command declined to say which African states host teams under the authority, but former special operations officers have identified eight countries as current or recent sites of the surrogate programs. They include well-known combat zones like Somalia and Libya as well as more surprising sites for American-directed commando raids like Kenya, Tunisia, Cameroon, Mali and Mauritania — and Niger, where the October mission that ended in tragedy involved one of two units that Green Berets run in the country under the authority.

Special forces, people who have to volunteer many times to be in their jobs, are considered a different force altogether than our conventional military which has more constraints on deployments and missions. I don't know the origin of that. But it is a longstanding bipartisan view of how the force can be used.Congress has willingly funded the effort.

I think we can all agree that it is better to deal with the terrorism problem at this level than to let it get so bad that it requires large amounts of conventional military power to defeat.

If you pay attention, this is hardly news. Is it really "secret" if your lack of knowledge is from not reading what is available? You would be aware of this if you read this blog. Trust me, I'm not being fed secrets. My sources are all public.

But notwithstanding the tenor of the article, we are partnered with African states for direct action through willing participation by African states. We would not be where we are without the shared objective of destroying terror groups operating on their soil.

And indeed, Mauritania's withdrawal from the program highlights the voluntary nature of the effort.

The article does have a good point that these quiet efforts should be reviewed for effectiveness rather than letting them--as any government program does--get a life of their own that defies need or record of achievements and effect.

Anyway, this effort could use mobile support from the sea. Support the Navy is too often unable to provide because it has higher priority theaters in Europe, the Middle East, and the Indo-Pacific region. Only South America has a lower priority.

But Africa is an active front in the war on Islamist terrorism. We have a good reason to quietly fight terrorism so it doesn't destabilize African states and cause even more death and destruction in its wake.

The AFRICOM Queen power projection platform would be useful, no?

And I swear I'm not looking to promote my article and idea. But news related to it has come up a lot lately, it seems.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

A Russia Survey

Strategypage's post of issues regarding Russia has a number of interesting parts. Go read it.

Let me highlight some parts.

Russia is managing to keep its military modernization plan going, but at the cost of economic problems at home and the alienation of Western European states who have halted disarmament in response.

The Russian Su-57 "5th generation stealth fighter" is being dropped because it isn't working out. (I suspected this would be the case when I saw a headline elsewhere about how awesome the 6th generation Russian fighter would be. Hah!)

Russia sent better mercenaries to Syria who won't walk into a kill sack so readily.

Russia has basically annexed the Sea of Azov as Russian territory in some economic warfare against Ukraine, pretty much blockading Ukraine's ports at Berdiansk and Mariupol. That's begging for a Freedom of Navigation Operation by some Western nation, no? Or will China consider that a template for the South China Sea?

The Russians, Turks, and Iranians are starting to part ways on what to do in Syria. Syria would be happy to have Iran leave after a nice party and a hearty thank you by Assad for their help, but Iran won't go.

In related news, they say Turkey is unlikely to get F-35s delivered. But I thought we delivered one? What's up, anyway? I'm confused.

Stupidity or Disinformation: You Decide!

Russia hasn't developed radical new tactics for tanks based on their Syria experience. They've adapted tanks for static warfare against opponents without anti-tank weapons. And we can only hope the Russian army is adopting the stupidity described.

The Russians, it is reported, adapted in Syria with three new tactics:

  • tank carousel;
  • tank trousers;
  • syrian shaft
The first, the tank carousel, is rather silly:

[A ]“tank carousel” ... is Non-stop shooting, when three, six, nine or more tanks move uninterrupted in a circular motion, one pummeling the enemy, the other moving to the rear and reloading, the third preparing to enter firing position, and so on.

Why? If the enemy has anti-tank missiles or tanks, that circular movement isn't going to throw them off. And if they don't have anti-tank missiles, just sit there and shoot while out of range.

And this might be done with three tanks? Oh good grief:

Even if the tactic works, three tanks is kind of pointless.

This is just an old cavalry tactic--which made sense at the time--pointlessly revived. Just shoot your damned weapons, if the enemy has nothing to reach you, with other tanks in overwatch just in case to shoot at anything that does shoot at your tanks.

And that's if you don't have indirect fire to let you keep your tanks safely out of the line of fire.

This is possible for a static line with long fields of fire against enemies without the means to shoot at tanks. But it is ludicrous.

Next up:

[“Tank] trousers” ... involves tanks alternating fire between two trenches, without staying in one position for more than a few seconds. The tank enters the trench, fires, kicks into reverse and moves to the next. Enemy anti-tank weapons don’t have time to react.

This is nothing more than having alternate firing positions and I'm reasonably sure I read about that in US Army practice in the 1970s. Certainly, there is nothing new about digging in tanks for a "hull down" position.

And again, if the enemy has anti-tank weapons they will notice the big loud cloud-spewing tank entering and leaving the trench with plenty of time to shoot it--especially as it exposes more vulnerable top armor as it enters and leaves the trench.

Again, this is something possible for a static line against enemies without the ability to shoot at your tanks. And if that is the case, why bother moving?

And finally, although it is unnamed it must be the "syrian shaft":

In Syria, mounds and bench terrace began to be used in tactics on the use of armor on the battlefield. Here, tanks can move along the parapet and, when they reach an opening, shoot, quickly concealing themselves back behind the embankment. So long as they remain in constant motion, it becomes almost impossible to aim at or hit them.

If the tanks are in constant motion, how do they aim?

But never mind. So tanks are tied to long walls that provide cover and concealment from enemies, with gaps so the tank can drive into the opening and fire its weapons.

Congratulations, the Russians invented the battlement. For tanks.

Good Lord, if the Russians want to use their tanks as artillery to bombard, do what America did in the Korean War when the front was static and the enemy lacked armor:

This at least keeps the tanks safely away from enemy direct fire weapons.

And for added insults to the reader's intelligence, after detailing silly tactics that require a static frontline to use, the author concludes:

In an era of local conflicts without clear front lines, the idea of large tank armies facing off along vast fronts has become a thing of the past.

I don't know if this article is stupidity by some breathless Putin fanboy or disinformation because the Russians damn well know that the most important weapon of the tank is its engine, making it a mobile, protected, cannon.

Tying tanks to static positions is surely an acceptable adaptation for Russian tactics of bombarding enemies on static front lines. But the glorious tactics discovered by Putin's minions in Syria seem pretty darned stupid and in no way reflect how Russia would use massed armor on a modern battlefield.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Weekend Data Dump

I had recently been trying to avoid posting too much on political issues, despite the outrage of the day. I tried to find a line between interesting in a political science way, amusing, or demonstrating media bias on the one hand and simple politics over some outrage outside my lane. But that was difficult. I'm not sure I really succeeded much at all. The border issue is in part a national security issue and prone to outrages. But even that blurred lines I want to keep. Really, posting about some individual's outrage when I know that it doesn't really reflect the vast majority of people on that "side" contributes to polarization. So this week I decided just not to post on any domestic political issue to see how it goes. Maybe as time goes on and I demonstrate I've learned to avoid reacting to the outrage of the day, I'll try again for the political science, amusing, or media angles. Or maybe I'll feel better staying in my blogging lanes.

The details are sketchy, but it sure seems as if Iraqi police fired on protesters way too readily. I realize "protest" has acquired a loose definition lately, so maybe it was justified. But I doubt it.

Strategypage reviews the state of American artillery. I noted the current push for increasing tube artillery range.

Two American destroyers transited the Taiwan Strait, physically sailing between China and Taiwan in a move seen as a show of support for Taiwan despite the transit being through international waters. Clearly, America isn't throwing Taiwan under the bus to get Chinese help with North Korea.

Brazil has a helicopter carrier after buying Britain's Ocean, which I believe participated in the 2011 Libya War.

Iranian agents were arrested for trying to bomb a meeting of Iranian opposition in France. You may recall that Iran attempted to commit a similar act of war in Washington, D.C., in 2011--which we basically ignored.

The Hamas-Israel border protest war is a lot of political theater, with each side avoiding inflicting casualties or risking actual war.

Russia ordered an expensive bridge to reach their Crimean conquest by a land link. Perhaps they should have built a big water pipeline instead. Would Russia expand their war against Ukraine to seize the source of the water that Crimea used to get when part of Ukraine?

American and Afghan special forces went on a mission to destroy ISIL fighters. It would be nice to prevent such fanatics from setting up shop there.

Democratic socialism wrecks a country and abandons the democratic part pretty quickly. Could be have the sense God gave flatworms and turn away from a blazing warning that Venezuela is? Or are you really going to argue that Venezuela was undermined by the Obama administration for 8 years, leading to this sorry state?

I'm worried about Brexit now. Just get out while you can, Britain, and worry about amending it later when you are legally out! Any exit whether hard or soft is worth the short-term pain to escape. Good grief, Europeans are eager to deal with Iran despite the American withdrawal from the nuclear deal! How much more attraction does the non-nutball ally Britain--with a far larger economy and market--have for Europeans? They'll cut deals!

Unless China captures really large segments of Russia east of the Ural Mountains, China will only be able to use the Arctic Sea--not dominate it. And I doubt Chinese efforts in Antarctica will lead to much. So stop worrying so much and work the minor problem it appears to be.

This article is good. But the idea that NATO expansion after the Cold War prompted Russian aggression is nonsense. Russia capable of thinking the weak NATO pushed east is a threat to them would think a NATO further back is a threat. And Russia would think that "neutrals" between NATO and Russia are a threat unless brought under Moscow's control. The idea that leaving states vulnerable to Russian aggression by denying them the ability to join NATO and the West; and essentially telling them that their lot in life is to submit to Russian demands on their behavior is repulsive. Russia is the problem. Not NATO.

The Saudi-led coalition is making progress taking the Houthi rebel-held port of Hodeida in Yemen. The rebels would rather see the port destroyed than see the Saudi coalition take it and use it for humanitarian relief aid. As I noted before, why is the safety of the port reliant on the Saudis letting the rebels hold the port and use it to smuggle arms along with the aid?

The B-52 will quadruple the weight limit of wing-carried bombs. Which is nice if you need to sink--or at least scrape clean--an artificial island in the South China Sea, I suppose. Let's hope the 20,000 pound "weight class" capacity mentioned is just rounding down from 21,600.

Britain is doubling its troop strength in Afghanistan and Canada will take a leading role in training Iraqi forces in Iraq. Our alliances are just fine despite squabbles between friends and allies. I thank them for their help and value what they do.

Finland and Sweden are preparing to defend themselves from the renewed Russian threat. And reaching out to NATO, too.

Russia has backed off from their former position that Iranian forces should leave Syria.

The Russian war on Ukraine in the Donbas continues. Will Ukraine ever reach the point where they attempt to retake that territory? It is an odd subliminal war. I mean, as much as the Russian-occupied Donbas is a dull background roar, when is Russian-occupied Crimea even mentioned these days?

I don't really follow events in Myanmar/Burma.

A squad of American Marines reinforced our embassy in Haiti as protests turned violent.

What the Hell happened to Max Boot?

The human terrain of military recruiting and training. It's not just an American problem. But it is more of a problem for America which wants a real and large military.

The Iraqi prime minister headed to southern Iraq to address complaints that the government isn't addressing their needs. Long kept in poverty by the minority Sunni Arab Saddam regime, the end of the ISIL war's conventional phase has allowed Shia locals to demand the Shia-majority government actually do something. That's where Iraq's oil is mostly produced and so gets prime minister attention.

The French continue to tighten the screws on domestic liberty to combat "extremist violence," "radicalized inmates," and "terrorist convicts."  Oddly absent from the AP article is any mention of Islamist jihadis which might help French authorities focus on the problem. This will work out just swell, I'm sure. Unless this is just a polite public fiction and those involved are well aware of the nature of the current terrorism problem.

Socialism effs up a (oil-)wet dream in Venezuela. And note that oil prices are higher now than when Hugo Chavez began his drive to fundamentally transform a prosperous nation with huge oil resources into a nation of hungry and oppressed people who flee that paradise in large numbers when they can. Tip to Instapundit.

Trump should not tap into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Personally, I'd expand it while oil is cheaper. Oil may be plentiful now. But if war breaks out somewhere, oil will no doubt suffer. And while America is basically self sufficient in energy now, we have allies who are far from immune to supply disruptions and we will need to help them if we are to keep them fighting on our side.

Is it just me or is the fondness of the Resistance for Germany's Merkel--because of Nazi Trump, of course--actually pretty funny given that the Germans claim they can't have a real military to help defend NATO because they might go all actual Nazi again?

Good. I've long said I'd never bow to royalty. Not that I'm likely to be in that position, of course. Tip to Instapundit.

The German View of Russia

Germany barely has a military. We are told that Germany doesn't feel the need to spend much on defense because Russia isn't much of a military threat to Germany:

For Germany and France, Russia poses no challenge to territorial integrity or economic position[.]

I guess the Germans figure they have plenty of time to react if Russia has an Anschluss with Belarus and takes Poland. And in the meantime the Germans can cut deals with the Russians on energy supplies that throw Ukraine under the bus.

But West Germany sucked up to the Soviet alliance back when the Russians were a severe and looming challenge to German territorial integrity (and in fact occupied the eastern part of Germany).

The Germans appear very flexible in their reasons for being weak. Is the only time the Germans aren't sucking up to the Russians when the Germans are invading the Russians?

UPDATE: That's about the size of it:

Germany demands that the United States continue to be the largest funder of NATO and yet has an unfavorable view of America — and an increasingly favorable view of NATO’s supposed common threat, Russia.

Without America in Europe via NATO, Germany is not kept down and unified Germany in fact invites Russia in.

New Capital Ship

The Arleigh Burke destroyer is the heart of the surface Navy and is very good, but it is at the limit of its capacity to handle upgrades.

So a new ship design is needed:

The Navy has crammed as much electronics as it can into its new DDG-51 Flight III destroyers now beginning construction, Rear Adm. William Galinis said this morning. That drives the service towards a new Large Surface Combatant that can comfortably accommodate the same high-powered radars, as well as future weapons such as lasers, on either a modified DDG-51 hull or an entirely new design.

I've mentioned the electric power requirements for new systems.

The newest DDG-1000 Zumwalt class stealthy warship is only going to have three ships and is really just a test bed, although in war it would obviously be pressed into service.

Although I never understood the notion that the ship was designed to bombard the coast of China. Stealthy ship and non-stealthy explosions on Chinese soil? What could go wrong? Thank goodness that was dropped.

But I digress (as I can!).

As I've mentioned, the technology developed for Zumwalt will be useful for a future ship even though the cost of developing that technology that was counted against the DDG-1000 made the ship class too expensive to build in numbers. So the new surface capital ship will be pretty good, no doubt--and under budget!