Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Different President. Same Objective

Let me review my objectives for Afghanistan when an Obama surge looked likely:

The end result in Afghanistan, if all goes well, will be a nominal national government that controls the capital region and reigns but does not rule local tribes and which actually helps the locals a bit rather than sucking resources from the locals, who in turn do not make trouble for the central government or allow their areas to be used by jihadis to plan attacks on the West. We press for reasonable economic opportunities, with bribes all around (I mean, foreign aid), to keep a fragile peace.

And we stick around this time, unlike after the Soviets left Afghanistan when we ignored the place, for a generation or two to see if we can move Afghanistan into the 19th century (hey, let's not get ahead of ourselves).

Hopefully our military surge recedes by the end of 2011 and we can get down to a single combat brigade plus air power that function as a fire brigade and a hammer for the central government should a local difficulty exceed Afghan military capabilities.

But my caveat was that the Pakistan problem had to be solved:

Remember, at this point our real "Afghanistan problem" lies in Pakistan. Even a successful surge in Afghanistan means a post-surge Afghanistan will face the Pakistan problem once again. Like I've argued, in these circumstances I think we can do well enough in Afghanistan without a surge. Which doesn't mean that a surge can't accomplish our minimal objectives a bit faster or even achieve more. But it also means that we risk more--lives, treasure, and national prestige--by trying to achieve more results with more effort.

We'll see if we can pressure Pakistan to deal with the real Afghanistan problem and whether the threat of pivoting to India at Pakistan's expense and supporting Indian efforts in Afghanistan will scare Pakistan enough to finally behave in regard to thinking they can support "good" jihadis.

And in what should be an encouraging sign for liberals, Trump passed that all-important global test:

"France recognizes the importance of this undertaking and remains resolutely engaged in the struggle against terrorism," a foreign ministry statement said.

So we've got that going for us.

UPDATE: Bringing India into the Afghanistan problem is the really interesting part:

From Islamabad's viewpoint, India represents an existential threat vastly superseding any danger posed by al Qaeda, or any other jihadist outfit that targets the Pakistani state, including the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan and the Islamic State's Khorasan chapter. Islamabad's goal in Afghanistan, then, is to deny India a foothold by supporting the Taliban to extend its strategic depth as a means of hedging against a potential Indian military thrust.

By inviting Pakistan to turn against the jihadis that Pakistan supports in Afghanistan out of a fear that India will make gains in Afghanistan that threaten Pakistan, but holding open the alternative of using India to help pacify the Taliban, Trump has told Pakistan their worst fear will come true if Pakistan does not help in Afghanistan at long last by turning against the jihadis that kill Pakistanis as happily as they kill Afghans and coalition military forces in Afghanistan.

Does Pakistan really want to push America to more fully and more rapidly embrace India as our ally at the expense of Pakistan? Seriously?

Really, if India ever wanted to conquer Pakistan (and I doubt it), India has a bigger problem on their northern border--China--that makes it unlikely that India could scrape up the forces to conquer Pakistan now.

UPDATE: Really?

Trump's call for India to play a greater role in Afghanistan, in particular, will ring alarm bells for Pakistan's generals, analysts said.

"Trump's policy of engaging India and threatening action may actually constrain Pakistan and lead to the opposite of what he wants," said Zahid Hussain, a Pakistani security analyst.

So Pakistan will reject the call by Trump to work with America and Afghanistan because of the so-called threat from India, and will therefore get more of the India threat in Afghanistan?

Well, that's stupid. Perhaps the Pakistanis think that way. But it is self-defeating. And stupid.

Wait. What?

The Taliban lobbied America to get out of Afghanistan? I thought they loved death and eagerly welcomed the chance to kill our people?


The Taliban vowed to create "a graveyard for the American Empire" with "lofty spirits" after President Trump didn't heed their lobbying for a withdrawal from Afghanistan.

I expect tough talk from them. But they had tough talk when our forces withdrew from combat and left the fighting to our allied Afghan allies. The Taliban said that they'd smash the Afghan security forces without our forces in the battle.

The Taliban have made worrisome progress. But they did not smash the government forces. And now that window is closing as more American and coalition support will flow to the Afghan security forces and more effort will be made to choke off Pakistani support for the jihadis.

Our new approach is at least realistic.

So let's hold off on discussing their lofty spirits until next year at this time.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Because There Are No Missiles in a Subliminal War?

I've mentioned the Ukrainian factory that might have been the source of North Korea's new rocket engines either via Ukrainian corruption or Russian hostility. I don't understand this status:

The wall around the Yuzhmash rocket factory in east Ukraine is in places overgrown with weeds, a sign of hard times at a plant which a new study says could be the source of engines that power North Korean missiles.

Workers at the plant have had their hours cut and wages are in arrears, but Yuzhmash denies the study's finding that unhappy employees could have been induced to steal engine technology and sell it to illicit arms dealers who passed it on to Pyongyang.

Russia took Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and wages war in the Donbas right now, in that part of Russian-occupied Ukraine.

Why isn't the Yuzhmash rocket factory mass producing ballistic missiles capable of hitting Russian ships in Sevastopol harbor and every military installation the Russians have built in Crimea?

How can Ukraine be at war with Russia and leave this asset out of the fight, overgrown with weeds?

If Numbers Matter to the Navy

The Navy could get to a 355-ship Navy by 2030:

The Navy could reach a 355-ship fleet by 2030 if it both extended the service life of most of its current ships and built more than two dozen new ships beyond current shipbuilding plans, two admirals said this week.

We could get to the plateau earlier if the Navy resorted to auxiliary cruisers--modularized auxiliary cruisers, in particular (although I'd want more of the warship type rather than power projection versions)--to get numbers before the new builds hit the water.

And it would help in whatever plan we have to get to a larger fleet if our ships would stop having accidents that take them off the line:

Ten sailors are missing and five injured after the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain collided with a tanker east of Singapore and the Strait of Malacca, the U.S. Navy said late Sunday.

This after Fitzgerald collided with a civilian ship in the Sea of Japan. Oh:

Aside from the USS McCain and USS Fitgerald incidents, the Navy crusier USS Antietam ran aground dumping over 1,000 gallons of oil in Tokyo Bay in Februray. In May, another cruiser, USS Lake Champlain, hit a South Korean fishing vessel.

I suppose we could just define these broken ships as still in the battle force. Voila!

Is this a training issue? Or is this kind of record that is normal and only seems alarming because it is put together in one article? Is it just bad luck, and sometimes that clusters in time?

An "operational pause" to look things over and answer some questions is prudent.

If it is a training issue, don't take the superiority of our Navy for granted. As China gains in quality of ships and quantity of those better ships (and subs and planes), we comfort ourselves that we have better trained crews to make up for those factors. Can we count on that supposed training edge?

And what about the quality of our leadership? Is that good given that they may have failed to make sure the sailors who staff our warships are capable?

I'm obviously concerned about the fate of sailors in these incidents. But if they are a symptom of a bigger problem that is what we should really be worried about.

UPDATE: Oddly, the possibility that the collision was intentional or was from radar interference or cyber warfare isn't ruled out yet.

UPDATE: Hacking is ruled out.

UPDATE: The Navy sacked the commander of 7th Fleet. Too many bad things were happening to his ships and sailors.

The Prick Man of Europe

I'm really not sure how much longer Turkey is going to be in NATO.

Pulling away from America. Partnering with Russia. Crushing democracy and rule of law. And now this:

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Friday said German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats were enemies of Turkey and called on Turks in Germany to vote against major parties in next month's elections.

Stoking tensions to try to create a 5th column within Germany (or to convince Germans that there is a 5th column, which leads to the same thing) is not something an ally does.

But Erdogan is not much of an ally.

I've long said an imperfect ally is better than an enemy. Erdogan has not tipped Turkey over that point. But he sure is trying. I wonder if he'd like NATO to make the break to avoid repercussions from the Turks who are still pro-Western and pro-NATO.

Can we pull Turkey back from the brink and influence Turkish society to reject Erdogan's creeping dictatorship that could reject collective NATO defense in favor of restoring the Ottoman Empire (in influence if not in fact)?

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Next Tank

America's next tank is an updated version of the old tank:

In mid-2017 the U.S. Army ordered $270 million worth of components for upgrading M1A2 tanks to the new SEP3 standard as well as upgrading more M1A2SEPs to the SEP2 level. These upgrades keep the M1, or at least some of them, competitive with more recently designed and built tanks. The U.S. (mainly the army) has about a thousand of the SEP2 upgrade M1A2s and wants to up to half of that upgraded to SEP3 by 2020, the earliest date for the [M1A3] upgrade will show up. That one will have major upgrades to the tank software and whatever upgrades are available for the engine, armor and electronics. A major upgrade is adding the capability to use advanced (some guided missiles) from the 120mm smooth bore gun. There may also be an ADS (Active Defense System) added as well. The specifics of M1A3 are vague because much of the tech is still in development or getting its first combat experience. What isn’t ready in the early 2020s can be added with the M1A3SEP.

An ADS should be in the standard package given the top-attack missile threat.

At the beginning of the century I did say that the wonder tank (lethal, survivable, and only 19 tons) would not be built (see "Equipping the Objective Force").

The M1A3 will be the new main battle tank.

Is Opportunity Knocking One Last Time?

Russian forces are entering Belarus for the major Zapad 2017 military exercises. Most articles minimize the risk of Russia using the operation as a cover to invade the Baltics or to take over Belarus. Are we whistling past the graveyard?

I tend to agree that Russia wouldn't risk invading the Baltics and starting a war with NATO, especially while Russian troops are bogged down in Ukraine and in Syria to a lesser extent.

But no Russian anschluss?

A post-operation occupation of Belarus is unlikely, Alessin said, because "occupying [Russia's] only ally would undermine faith in the Kremlin, including with its potential partners." It would also undermine Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko's credibility - at home and abroad, which is in neither side's interest. Alessin cited Belarus' denial of Russia's 2013 request to maintain airbases there.

Belarus is Russia's only ally? Really? That's nonsense. What rogue friend of Russia will do anything but applaud Putin?

What Russian partner would, after Georgia, Crimea, and the Donbas, suddenly think that adding Belarus to the list of aggression is a deal breaker? For many potential partners that might seem like a feature rather than a bug.

And who cares if Lukashenko is undermined? That would be the bloody point of taking over Belarus, no?

Seriously, isn't the denial of a Russian air base a motivation for Russia to just take the whole country over?

Maybe Putin has concluded that 20 years of carrot to persuade Belarus to more closely integrate with Russia has been a failure. Now he'll try the stick that got him prestige and bases in Syria and bases in Crimea.

Lukashenko would just disappear, his departure covered by the AstroTurfed pro-Russian militias and political parties who will welcome Russia's "fraternal assistance" to "liberate" Belarus from the dictator (and he is) Lukashenko.

Is it just me, or are those reasons why Putin won't take over Belarus while he has troops there actually reasons that Putin just might take over Belarus?

And let's add to the reasons.

Wouldn't Putin love to extend the Russian threat to Ukraine across that country's Belarus-Ukraine border to finally pressure those stubborn Ukrainians to concede the loss of Crimea and the Donbas to Russia?

Wouldn't Russia love to have forces able to hit Poland, link up with Kaliningrad, and cut off the Baltic NATO states?

Heck, wouldn't Putin love to add some Slavs to his empire to make up for Russia's declining population?

Perhaps Putin thinks that gathering resistance to his aggression and a belated NATO effort to bolster defenses in the east mean that the window for Russia to cheaply grab Belarus is closing.

Perhaps Putin thinks that the next major Zapad exercise in four years will be too late to cover an invasion.

Remember, Belarus may very well be the most important territory in Europe today.

My pucker factor is going to be high during September.

UPDATE: This article addresses Polish worries about Russia, and highlights Zapad 1981 that was intended to threaten Poland then witnessing unrest against Soviet control.

I don't know when I read this--certainly not in 1981 or the remainder of the decade--but the Zapad 1981 exercise was apparently a shock to the Soviets who discovered that they could not mobilize an invasion of Poland from the western Soviet Union. All their best Red Army eggs were in East Germany facing west.

UPDATED: Thoughts on Zapad 2017.

Democracy Dies in Eclipse Darkness?

Am I being overly worried to wonder if jihadis might think blows against Americans in the path of eclipse totality might make a great propaganda campaign?

UPDATE: Less disturbing than terrorism is this essay that essentially says today is about Making Eclipses Great Again.

Some people have too much time on their hands.

UPDATE: Clouds didn't roll in until just after peak eclipse (around 80%, I think, in Michigan). But pictures on camera didn't turn out. My best was an early one:

Later ones of a crescent on top just looked like a full disk in the photo. I don't know what I did on the early one to catch the edge of the moon so clearly.

But it looked pretty cool. I never saw one before.

UPDATE: I was overly worried. The only crying came from overwrought observers of the eclipse.

Pakistani Democratic Forces?

The Trump administration is deciding what to do about Afghanistan. It might help to remember that a good portion of the Afghanistan problem is in Pakistan.

Let me start off by saying I don't have the same sense of foreboding during the current fighting season as I had last year. I don't sense major gains by the Afghan side in the news flow. But I don't sense a losing effort. So whatever we did over last winter had an effect even though the situation is not good yet.

The Trump administration is still pondering options:

President Donald Trump is “studying and considering his options” for a new approach to Afghanistan and the broader South Asia region, the White House said Friday after the president huddled with his top national security aides at Camp David.

We still need to help Afghanistan make gains to win the war, mind you--although my objectives are not high. Failing to make the incremental effort to defend what we've achieved so far would be monumentally stupid. Was Iraq after 2011 not a lesson enough?

Yet even major success in Afghanistan to defeat the Taliban and other "international" jihadis runs into the jihadi safety net that sanctuary in Pakistan provides.

In light of the idea of options in the broader South Asia region, I will revive my suggestion that our efforts to win should include a major effort to create friendly forces on the ground inside Pakistan the way we have done inside Syria:

[America] may have an opportunity to use a post-Westphalian Lexington Rule to fight al Qaeda in Pakistan.

If we can't get Islamabad to control the frontier area, it is time to bypass Islamabad and deal directly with the tribes who don't recognize the control of Islamabad in the first place. We cannot allow the fictions of sovereignty to keep us from defending ourselves from fanatics who straddle the gray boundary that lies between reality and international law.

Using limited military assets such as special forces and drones to back civilian armed assets such as the CIA or contract personnel (with either former or seconded special forces from Western countries, or perhaps even hiring security companies to provide the personnel) or even Arab special forces that would live and work inside the frontier areas, we may be able to turn the frontier tribes against the jihadis who target us.

We should be able to start at the Afghan-Pakistan border and extend the network of anti-al Qaeda tribes toward the interior of Pakistan.

With the Syria example in mind, our own special forces should not be ruled out, as I ruled out 9 years ago.

If Pakistan won't help us, let's see if some Pakistanis are willing to help us.

Heck, in a decade or so, Pakistan working with American-backed Pakistani actors inside the frontier territories might seem as normal as this:

The Lebanese army launched an offensive on Saturday against an Islamic State enclave on the northeastern border with Syria, as the Lebanese Shi'ite group Hezbollah announced an assault on the militants from the Syrian side of the frontier.

I don't like these sub-state actors with so much autonomy. But Iran has set a precedent and I don't know why we can't try to use it.

Is that a new enough approach?

UPDATE: The president will give a speech tonight to set out the plan for Afghanistan. 

I will be most interested in hearing what he says about Pakistan--and Iran and Russia to a lesser extent. President Obama, as a candidate, famously vowed he'd invade Pakistan if he had to in order to win, recall.

UPDATE: I don't understand people who say what we've done the last 16 years in Afghanistan hasn't "worked."

I'm really quite sorry that our enemies are persistent killers who won't go home.

And I'm not saying that we can't change what we are doing going forward. As I've suggested.

But we did achieve a lot by the time President Obama drew down our troop levels and scaled back our missions.

And do recall what Afghanistan was on the morning of September 11, 2001: Run by the Taliban which gave the al Qaeda killers a haven to attack us at home that day and inflict close to 3,000 dead.

Now Afghanistan has a government that doesn't destroy old statues (I realize our Left isn't as upset at that as they once were) or suppress girls or provide terrorists a home; and which in fact fights at our side every day to kill jihadis. If that isn't "working" its darned close to it, it some level.

We have not won. That is clear. And a year ago I sad the trajectory was bad. Now? Stalemate seems about right.

So let's win the war. Not everything has worked. But let's not forget a lot of what we did sure as Hell worked.

UPDATE: So the plan is 4,000 more US troops and allied forces (I assume 2,000 more) to help the Afghan security forces fight. Plus more of a focus on Pakistan's role in sustaining the Taliban inside Afghanistan.

This is welcome.

I don't understand the complaints that since the surge to 100,000 US and 40,000 allied forces didn't win the war, what can 4,000 more do?

This neglects the example of the US war in Iraq. Obama could send 5-6,000 US troops to Iraq in fall 2014 for Iraq War 2.0 and successfully help Iraq beat ISIL because unlike during the surge where 170,000 US forces fought, the Iraqis had enough troops to fight ISIL. Iraq needed our support but not our direct shooters.

Afghanistan now has 350,000 (I assume less than the authorized are in the field) unlike the situation in early 2009 there were 200,000 Afghan security forces. And the Afghans have been fighting.

So the Afghans can use more support but don't need American trigger pullers to fight the jihadis. But I assume we will have special forces taking on international jihadis more of a direct threat to America and our allies.

And the focus on Pakistan, with India thrown in as a threat to Pakistani influence in Afghanistan if Pakistan isn't more cooperative is welcome. Before Obama's two surges (prematurely ended for his reelection campaign), I worried about committing too many troops to Afghanistan because without dealing with the Pakistan sanctuary any gains in Afghanistan are under threat.

We'll see if this approach can move Pakistan enough even though we need Pakistan for our supply lines.

I wonder if we will work directly with the Pakistani tribes in the frontier area?

I do wish we had a supply line to Afghanistan through a post-mullah friendly Iran rather than through Pakistan or through the "Stans" that are more difficult and vulnerable to Russian blockage or influence.

UPDATE: NATO backs the Trump plan.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Kurdish Option?

I'll be pretty shocked if this is the plan for Syria:

Washington's main Syrian ally in the fight against Islamic State says the U.S. military will remain in northern Syria long after the jihadists are defeated, predicting enduring ties with the Kurdish-dominated region.

I don't rule it out. But I suspect this is more to persuade the Syrian Kurds not to cut a deal with Assad regime to bring the Kurdish regions back into Syria formally while getting some form of autonomy--until Assad is strong enough to revoke the deal.

Good News and Bad News

I've long wanted Saudi Arabia to reach out to post-Saddam Iraq despite the Shia-Sunni divide to emphasis Arab solidarity against Iranian ambitions and aggression. Finally we are getting some of that. But not always in good ways, it seems.

This is good news long overdue:

Saudi Arabia and Iraq plan to open the Arar border crossing for trade for the first time since 1990, when it was closed after the countries cut ties following Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, Saudi local media reported on Tuesday.

Good. We need to pull Iraq away from Iranian influence that flows from Iranian emphasis on pan-Shia solidarity.

But this is not good:

The Sunni-led Arab Gulf countries have hosted influential Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr for talks with their crown princes in recent weeks, rare visits after years of troubled relations.

That three-time insurrectionist and all-around piece of breathing garbage, Sadr, is no force for peace in Iraq.

All Sadr wants is for the Gulf Arab states to stand down during a coup in the false hope that they have a relationship with Sadr that they can use to influence a post-coup Iraq. The Gulf Arab states are wrong.

UPDATE: The Saudis are serious about helping Iraq:

Iraq and Saudi Arabia are negotiating a new alliance that would give Riyadh a leading role in rebuilding Iraq’s war-torn towns and cities, while bolstering Baghdad’s credentials across the region.

The motive is clearly to oppose Iran, but I'll take doing the right thing for a different (good) reason.

And while I understand the motive to deal with Sadr to nullify a potentially major force to oppose the alliance, Sadr will try to use this access to the Saudis for his own evil purposes. I just don't think this three-time insurrectionist and (former!?) Iranian hand puppet can be trusted.

A Shameful Tolerance of Hate

Oh good, America was the sanctuary for the jihadi who cheered on the proposed terror attack in Manchester, England, that slaughtered little girls:

A Dallas-based ISIS recruiter gave the green light to Manchester suicide bomber Salman Abedi, encouraging him to "kill them and show no mercy," according to a report in the Italian news outlet L'Espresso last week. Newsweek also reported the connection earlier this week.

Even more remarkable, U.S. authorities knew about the conversations months in advance of the terror attack and cited them in court document this past March when they charged the ISIS recruiter -- 40-year-old Said Azzam Mohamad Rahim of Richardson, Texas -- for lying to FBI investigators.

We discovered this in August 2016. But rather than stopping a known jihadi, our country went into a spasm of Russian hunting here.

This is shameful. We chase fake threats while real threats kill and plan to kill even more.

A 3-Part Plan is One Part Short

A RAND study calls for a contain, deter, and transform plan to cope with a nuclear North Korea rather than risk war.

I do think we can contain the weak North Korea--as long as South Korea remains stable and strong.

And I do think that we can deter North Korean use of nuclear weapons. I've never said they aren't rational even if we don't fully grasp their rationality calculations (this could be rational, for example).

I'm not sure if the third part is feasible, but I do know that the plan to deal with a nuclear North Korea doesn't deal with a fourth part of the problem: the ability of North Korea to sell nuclear missile technology--or even the missiles themselves--to Iran.

Iran even under the nutballs isn't irrational for the most part. But does anyone doubt that there are very irrational actors within Iran who should not even have the chance of getting even a single nuclear warhead?

So where in the RAND plan does it include preventing North Korea from proliferating nuclear weapons to dangerous actors?

Remember, it isn't a successful policy of North Korea isn't the one who nukes us or an ally with a North Korean-designed or -built missile.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Weekend Data Dump

If you think America is anything but welcoming to immigrants, ponder Indonesia. Somebody needs a poem.

The difference between fascists and anarchists is that our left wing media would never give a big wet kiss to fascists the way the Washington Post celebrated a couple of anarchist scum. Nazis, fascists, ethnic nationalists, anarchists, and communists are all anti-freedom scum who should be shunned by polite society and resisted and prosecuted when they cross into violence. But no, the Post celebrates one of those scumbag groups. Perry Stein should be ashamed of herself for celebrating such violent scum. Tip to Instapundit.

In related issues, there is a reason lefties can find much to admire in the Nazis apart from genocide and conquest--Nazis were national socialists, recall. Again, tip to Instapundit.

The B-52 keeps flying. Amazing record.

Converting a container ship to a a super yacht. My suggestion for temporary military conversion is more practical (see page 50).

Liberal bastions of California are keeping young people away. Funny that a virtual wall of over-regulation that drives up housing prices is more effective than a physical wall in keeping people out.

A good reminder that the alt-right and other white supremacists aren't actually "conservative" actors. They are just one more version of aggressive ethnic identity group chauvinism that liberals have celebrated for decades now. How's that example working out for you--and for America?

When Britain voted to exit the European Union, I warned that they should not let their guard down until they leave. The process to cut the ties that bind is so tough that many who voted for Brexit are worried their vote just won't matter. Is that really a victory the EU wants? An exercise of raw power against a peaceful exit? If so, the next "exit" attempt will involve tarring and feathering EU apparatchiki and expelling them.

Are jihadis being released from our prisons rehabilitated; too scared to wage the jihad; or just tanned, rested, and ready to kill Infidels?

I've noted that corruption in Ukraine is a problem for Ukraine in mobilizing resources to fight Russia. Corruption in Ukraine is also a problem for America and our allies who worry about North Korean nuclear missiles: The Ukrainian Yuzhmash factory with ties to Russia supplied North Korea with missile engines. Ukraine wants our help. Controlling that factories products should be high on Kiev's list if they want our help. And were those ties to Russia a factor? Heck, is this whole thing Russian disinformation? The North Korean engine seems identical to the Ukrainian engine, according to the Ukrainians. But the source could easily be the Russians, eager to harm US-Ukrainian relations while sticking it to America, too. Or it could be corruption in Ukraine. You wonder why I drone on about rule of law?

So Obamacare isn't pushing the cost curve of health care costs down and isn't saving Americans $2,500 because of that magical ability? Huh.

The communists are basically Nazis with better propaganda and more loyalists, arguing over small differences.

There apparently was some altercation between India and China on the border near Pangong lake that doesn't seem to have gone beyond a brawl, and perhaps less than that.

Oh good, an anarchist terrorist group, Cells of Fire, has grown in Europe and Latin America. How long before the black-clad anarchist and "antifa" scumbag here in America escalate from clubs, fire, and rocks to actual bombs? They will be natural allies of jihadis who hate America and will provide the numbers and ability to infiltrate in America that the jihadis currently lack. This would be a bad development.

It deeply offends me that American flags are burned by some Americans to express anger with American policy. I am expected to accept that as the price of freedom of expression. Which on balance is correct, despite my feelings on the issue. I just want to know who decides whose feeling count?

Nigeria will never be the engine of prosperity in Africa as long as 95% of Nigerians are willing to demand or pay a bribe to get things done. Rule of law is the unspoken partner of voting when we speak of "democracy." But too often I think Westerners just assume voting means rule of law follows automatically. It does not. Indeed, while it is nice to get both at once, it is better to have rule of law first and then voting than the other way around, which all too often results in one man, one vote, one time to create a new autocrat.

China rejects our criticism of their lack of freedom of religion because we aren't perfect? How convenient for that brutal autocracy that their far-from-adequate religious freedom can't be criticized by America because we are not perfect--a status we'd never claim.

The pilot from the 107th out of Selfridge got his damaged A-10 on the ground and none the worse for wear. Whoa.

The 1940s called and want their foreign policy back. Seriously, Nazis--as repulsive as they are--are the least of the threats we face. They are few in number and isolated in our society and political system. It is hysteria to paint them as anything but less-than-marginal in America. Hell, the Nazi types love the portrayal that they are on the march! On the bright side, the Nazi hunt indicates that liberals are moving on from their search for Russians under every bed, right? I swear they aren't far from "The British are coming!"

The Russian Su-57 is not much of a stealth plane. I've long read that it is only a frontal stealth aircraft rather than the 360 degree stealth planes all four of ours have been. I don't know if the stealth flaws in the Russian plane harm the frontal stealth or are just reflective of the known flaws in the non-front directions.

To Hell with Liz Sly. I hope she never has to hope for rescue from her Hezbollah pals by our special forces.

Terror in Barcelona on Thursday. Multiple attackers elsewhere, too, claimed by ISIL. Will my morally superior brethren let me know who should have condemned the killers and what was the deadline for the correct form of the condemnation? Normally I'd extend my deepest sympathies to the Spanish people first. But the Left has taught me first things first on such matters. As an interesting foot note, keep in mind that when the Spanish prime minister rapidly blamed Basque separatists for the 2004 Madrid bombings by al Qaeda, he was punished by the voters and lost his job.

Of course she is: "One of the activists who toppled a Confederate statue in Durham, N.C., on Monday night is a member of an extreme leftist group that supports the totalitarian regime in North Korea and wants to abolish capitalism." The Left can never stand the scrutiny they give the Right--but for the interference the media runs for the Left. Tip to Instapundit.

Ah, social science!

We've reached the limit of superior Canadian migrant compassion already? "Canada sees 'unsustainable' spike in asylum seekers at U.S. border[.]"

Seriously, grow the ef up. Tip to Instapundit.

If global warmers hate fossil fuels so much, why don't they just stop using them rather than inflict their mental health issues priorities on me?

When I saw that a former American labor secretary said Trump was trying to start a civil war, I knew it was Robert Reich, Clinton's former secretary. Keep in mind that Reich is an idiot with few limits on his self regard. And what's with the name? I suggest antifa activists picket Reich's home until he changes that obviously Nazi-like name that must be triggering hysteria every time it is read or spoken. Truly, it's the surname of hate.

While of course the neo-Nazi or whatever related form of lowlife he is should be condemned (and more importantly prosecuted) for killing a woman in Charlottesville, the radical left has been most active in violence and way outnumbered the Nazis at Charlottesville. Why Trump is getting grief for condemning the scumballs on both sides of that melee is beyond me. My obsession with rule of law doesn't just apply to overseas.

Related to the above comment. When I was a teenager, a Nazi book store opened in my neighborhood in Detroit. One day the Communists in their stylish red helmets and clothing came to protest the place. A friend and I went to watch. The best part of the whole thing was when a bunch of men at the local bar came out and began yelling at the protesters "You're just as bad as they (the Nazis) are!" The Communists were puzzled, replying "No, we're good! We're against the Nazis!" Those guys from the bar probably had zero college credits among them, but they had far more wisdom about the merits of the two revolting sides than all the college-educated punditry out there today have in their failure to understand that reality, what with their clutching of their pearls over the very idea that Trump would condemn both groups as different flavors of thuggery.

To be fair, people who violate all the laws are a natural constituency of the Democratic Party.

White nationalists whose DNA tests don't show racial purity are advised by their fellow racists that if they self-identify as pure white they are okay. Grant me that this is pretty funny on at least a couple scores. Also, I thought we lost a lot of young men stamping that thinking out in 1945. Then again, I thought 1989-1991 should have ended the appeal of socialism.

It remains interesting from a political science point of view that the Democrats and Republicans are divided parties with major factions that challenge the traditionalists of each. The upstart factions, those of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, respectively, aren't a majority of either party. Yes, Trump won the nomination in the Republican Party but it was against a divided field that collectively beat him. And if memory serves me, Sanders had a higher percentage of the vote in the Democratic primaries than Trump got in the Republican primaries. And equally interesting is that these upstart factions are led by people not in the parties they fight to control. Trump was a liberal Democrat, really, until he won the nomination (and as an aside, if the Left hadn't gone all "11" on Trump over every damn thing, the Democrats would have formed a working majority with him much as Reagan did with conservative Democrats in Congress); and Sanders wasn't--and isn't--a Democrat. He's a socialist behind that (I) after his name. The sad fact (for our country) is that our party traditionalists have failed to justify their continued status as a ruling elite and more of the people have noticed. Enough to throw our politics into turmoil.

"Punch a Nazi"--if said person is doing nothing illegal--should be unacceptable in our society (wanting to punch a Nazi is something else, of course). Seriously, this is "... they came to punch a Nazi and I said nothing because I was not a Nazi; then they came to punch me and there was nobody left to speak for me" territory.

It sometimes feels like I've been writing about the planned move of American Marines from Okinawa to Guam for as long as I've been blogging. A contract to build facilities on Guam just got awarded. Who knows? In a decade the first Marine might unpack their duffel bag there.

After Barcelona, I assume the usual cries for Car Control will resume. Or maybe just for Van Control--the Assault Gun of Vehicles.

Also, and I can ask this because I am as anti-Nazi as I am anti-jihadi, why aren't liberals asking after the Charlottesville murder by a neo-Nazi "why do they hate us?" the way liberals asked that question after the September 11, 2001 al Qaeda terrorist attacks, as if we did something to deserve the murders? I do a lot of wondering these days.

Apparently, "what happened" is that Hillary Clinton would rather risk war with nuclear-armed Russia than admit that she blew a campaign against Donald Trump (!) despite her money, organizational, and media dominance (and let's not forget the Electoral College "blue wall"!). I still don't like Trump. But I am still grateful Hillary is not our president. For that alone he will always have my thanks. And so much of the anti-Trump fanaticism seems driven by hatred of his non-racist supporters (all but a tiny handful no less deplorable than left-wing storm troopers) who rightly or wrongly (I hope rightly) view him as their last hope to get the federal government to listen to them. I was born in Deplorableville, as I've noted. I do not trivialize that motive. I do not see those Trump supporters as deplorable. But Lord, President Trump makes it difficult ...

To be clear, while opposing the removal of Confederate statues hardly makes you a racist, joining that obviously white supremacist/Nazi rally in Charlottesville pretty much makes you a racist. Not that being in the anti-rally camp automatically makes you one of the good guys, of course.

I believe in last week's data dump I asked if Lincoln is the only acceptable 19th century white man we can build statues for. For someone in Chicago, the answer is no. Perhaps the public school system there neglected to inform that idiot with matches that Lincoln's election inspired secession and that he abolished slavery and led a war at high cost in lives that ended slavery in America. Please God, tell me Peak Stupid has been reached.

Well ... that's ... problematic. I know. Slavery in the Islamic world was (is) different than the race-based slavery of pre-Civil War America (and other places). But I didn't know that this issue was getting the nuance treatment of defining what it means to be just a little bit pregnant or a crime not being "rape rape" as one famous liberal defended Roman Polanski. Please, by all means, explain to me the difference between acceptable and unacceptable slavery.

So Bannon is out at the White House. I'll not cry. I had never heard of him before Trump won. I have no idea if he is the awful person the Left says he is because they say everyone in the Republican Party is an awful hater (see Mitt Romney).

So she didn't say "As God as my witness, I'll never be Burgundian again!"? Someone tagged a Joan of Arc statue in New Orleans with "tear it down." Said the founder of the annual parade there in her honor, "Surely, people realize she's not related to American history." No, and don't call me Shirley. Sadly, Peak Stupid remains out of reach. Via Instapundit.

Maduro has replaced the entire Venezuelan legislature with his own loyalist bodyThat, my friends, is how a dictator reacts to a legislative body that doesn't pass his agenda. Not by dashing off early morning angry Tweets. Compare and contrast.

Yes, those who want the government to define and ban hate speech notwithstanding the First Amendment are aware that President Trump would be the government official to execute that plan, right? Did you think that through fully?

If I had to guess, I'd say this factory gets bombed.

The very strange cases of white liberal areas being unwelcoming to African Americans. So odd. Not a gun rack or monster truck rally in sight!

United States Cyber Command has been raised to a unified command, becoming the second--after our special operations command, I think--non-geography-based unified commands (like Central Command for the Middle East). Which means rather than being a command that supports a unified command, it can carry out operations and be supported by other assets. I think. If my memory serves me. Given that I've long said that you can knock out enemy cyber operations by bombing the office building where the hackers type as effectively as you can by counter-hacking them, does this mean Cyber Command can have trigger pullers assigned to support them?

I remember when President Obama had to go back many centuries rather than the same event to put evil killers "in context." I really just don't get nuance. Via Ace of Spades. Tip to Instapundit.

There was a terrorist stabbing spree in Finland that targeted women. Feminists will be largely unmoved by this display of jihadi misogyny.

New York Times hunts for Trump racism evidence; finds none; writes article as if the truth is out there, anyway.

And the Russians experience a jihadi attack in their Far East. If the jihadi claim of "credit" is to be believed. My sympathies go out to the Russians. I don't wish that on anybody. 

Live and Let Live

I don't let the bees bother me when I'm downtown.

As long as it leaves my beer alone, I'll leave the bee's flower alone.

Let's Work to Prevent Iraq War 3.0

With ISIL on the ropes in Iraq and Iraq War 2.0 in the end stages, the next battles will be against corruption (and so, for rule of law) and against the Iranians.

This is good if true:

Iraqi leaders are talking about “post-war reforms” and at the top of the list is the popular demand to curb corruption. Mosul needs a lot of that right now since all the government money spent on reconstruction means lots of opportunity for corruption and that generates short and long term problems because a lot of the repairs and new structures will be sub-standard in order to pay for the bribes and theft. While many of the usual offenders see this as a chance to play it straight others see it as a challenge with big financial rewards for those who can pull it off.

Most Iraqis now know there is a connection between corruption and the overall health of the economy, public safety and general welfare. Saddam Hussein and his predecessors were notoriously (and often shamelessly) corrupt and while Iraq is still one of the most corrupt nations on the planet there some local nations that are living examples of how less corruption means life gets better.

Sadly, there is a lot to talk about. The Iraqis need our help. A "surge" of FBI and court specialists might be just the thing. Our allies already democratic could help, of course. It's a large job. Start soon.


With ISIL no longer a major threat Iraq has surprised Iran (and many others outside the Arab world) by rebuilding relations with Sunni Arab neighbors and telling Iran to back off with any plans it had to dominate Iraqi politics. Senior Shia Arab religious and political leaders have been leaning this way for a long time and Iran thought the war against ISIL was an opportunity to weaken the traditional Shia Arab distrust of Iran. That did not work.

I know that liberals have long argued that the Iraq War just got rid of Saddam to turn Iraq over to Iran (if that's bad, why do you support the Iran nuclear non-deal? Just asking ...). I said repeatedly that this was nonsense and that the only reason Iran made inroads was that we walked away from Iraq at the end of 2011.

Without our strong presence, the Iraqis had no choice but to appease Iran; with a secondary effect of Iraqi Shia rulers selecting army leaders for loyalty rather than honestly and military skills just in case there was a coup outside of elections. Hence the June 2014 collapse of the Iraqi security forces across northern Iraq in the face of the wide-scale ISIL uprising.

And without American military forces monitoring the Iraqi officer corps, we were unable to do anything about it as we did until 2011. I know a lot of people complained that the collapse proved our training was wasted, but that complaint rests on the idiocy of thinking "training" is something you do to an army and then put it on a shelf until needed, rather than an ongoing process that unravels without constant effort.

So let's hope that President Trump is wiser after Iraq War 2.0 than President Obama was after the Iraq War when he pulled our troops out in 2011 and declared a glorious victory that would stand without our efforts the way Japan, Germany, Italy, and South Korean needed to become free and prosperous members of the West.

We must keep troops and civilian advisers in Iraq for decades to come. If not, we'll see Iraq War 3.0.

That's the Spirit!


An advisor to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said the six-year war is nearly over as foreign states cut backing for rebels, and vowed the government would confront any "illegitimate" forces, whether Turkish or American.

I don't think so. But it doesn't hurt to say it if it convinces enemies to give up.

Unless it harms the morale of supporters if the reality doesn't follow the claim. Hard to say.

Assad's forces are advancing lately, with the aid of Russia in the west and with the aid of America in the east (by filling a vacuum as Syrian forces we back defeat ISIL), and with Hezbollah's and Iran's aid generally.

But Assad has a long way to go to win and he has suffered heavy losses to get even this far.

And the price Syria will have to pay to get the predicted victory (if Assad gets it) may get us a new picture in the dictionary next to the entry for "Pyrrhic victory."

Friday, August 18, 2017

Ah, Smart Diplomacy!

In another age this Cuban outrage would be an act of war and things would be blowing up in Cuba:

U.S. officials disclosed earlier this month that six Americans were struck by a mystery illness believed to be caused by a covert sonic device in what many think was a clandestine operation targeting U.S. personnel stationed in the communist country.

The number of Americans impacted is greater than previously disclosed, according to multiple U.S. officials who told the Free Beacon that those suffering from symptoms of sonic damage appears to be more than 10.

"It's definitely in the double digits," one source told the Free Beacon.

Other Western diplomats, including the poster boys (and girls) for polite, responsible (dare I say nuanced?) foreign policy sensitivity--Canada--have suffered, too. The results include severe hearing loss.

I know. You're thinking, "How is this possible when you consider that President Obama reset our relations with Cuba? They should be well on the road to our bestest buddies by now!"

No less than Tom Hanks supported normalization with Cuba under the amazing logic that "what we were doing (sanctions) wasn't working" so normalization was the only alternative!

He didn't explain why even if the former was true why normalization with a thug communist regime was the only alternative.

Left undefined was what wasn't working, too, of course. If you mean American sanctions hadn't turned Cuba into a version of Vermont, that is true.

But if you mean the policy kept Cuba too poor to be a threat to America after losing Soviet financial support, the idea that the policy wasn't working is nonsense.

If you mean the policy showed our support for dissidents who hope for freedom and democracy in Cuba one day, the idea that the policy wasn't working is nonsense.

If you mean the policy avoided having America's productive system subsidize that cesspool of misery and despotism after losing Soviet and then Venezuelan financial backing, the idea that the policy wasn't working is nonsense.

But no matter! Reset! Legacy! Nuance! But get your poverty/despotism tourism in now before integration and prosperity ruin the Caribbean Communism Experience with Starbucks and KFC!

Well, that is no threat any time soon. Venezuela was open to the world and rich with oil yet still managed to muck things up with socialism. What were the communists in Cuba going to do, eh?

Of course, Cuba's rulers only wanted enough money to keep their racket going--not to spread prosperity to Cubans. So reset was fine for their objectives.

Cuba might not be behind the attacks on our people. It might be one of Cuba's rogue pals with office space in Havana. But Cuba allowed the attacks to take place, at the very least.

Cuba must pay a price for this outrage.

Make Russia Choke On Their Glory

Russia sends their troops to die and suffer in Ukraine but the survivors of that subliminal war aren't even acknowledged by a Russian government or society that wants the glory of conquest without the reminder of the price. Is that the "hybrid" in hybrid war?

Tough luck to fight for Putin:

For him and thousands of other unrecognized, so-called veterans of the Kremlin-fomented conflict in eastern Ukraine, there is little, if any, glory beyond the battlefields of a war that grinds into a fourth year, with no end in sight.

These Russian vets didn't return to a hero's welcome. Most bear permanent scars, both physically and mentally, and with no veterans benefits and few jobs available they struggle to make ends meet. Moreover, infighting among different groups of them over ideology, strategy, and legacy has kept them from uniting as a more influential voice.

Be careful with that uniting stuff. Putin will see them as just another dissident group to be ruthlessly suppressed.

We need to make sure more tough luck descends on Russia.

If You Want War, Let It Start Here and Now?

The India-China stand-off at the Doka La Pass risks an escalation to war:

In recent days, Chinese media has kept up its overheated rhetoric, culminating in the release by a state-run news agency of a bizarre video mocking India as a bad neighbor — with an actor wearing a turban, fake beard speaking in a put-on Indian accent. Indian netizens immediately denounced the video as racist. Perhaps more troubling, the Global Times reported that the government was setting up blood collection centers and moving its blood supplies closer to the area in Tibet.

India has undertaken a variety of preparedness measures with its eye on Chinese escalation, Joshi said, including advancing the operational alert status of several units by two months, which involves moving two of its mountain divisions toward the region and allowing troops to begin acclimatizing to higher altitudes.

“Clearly, there are a whole set of measures they’ve taken as discreetly as possible to shield themselves from snap Chinese offenses,” Joshi said.

Yeah, my impression is that this is more than a routine border dispute that could get real ugly real fast at the slightest spark.

Not that I expect full-scale war, although that is possible once shooting starts.

But each side has the motivation to strike first to grab territory and then dig in while brandishing nuclear weapons to deter a counter-attack.

Collective Self Defense

I keep hearing the Trump is wrecking our foreign relations. But Japan is willing to fight at our side even if Japan isn't directly attacked:

Any missile attack by North Korea on the US territory of Guam in the western Pacific would breach the US deterrence against an attack on Japan, enabling Japan to exercise the right to ‘collective self-defence’, Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera said on 10 August.

Which is a new thing for pacifist-structured Japan.

During the Cold War, that didn't much matter because if the USSR was going to attack American forces, the Soviets would have had to go through Japan.

The United States, it should be noted, has pledged to honor the US-Japan treaty "without reservation."

Darned shame we don't get along better.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Killing Blow is Ponderously Set

Tal Afar appears to next on the list of ISIL-held regions to be assaulted by the Iraqis:

Iraqi warplanes are bombarding the jihadist group Islamic State's positions in Tal Afar, in preparation for a ground assault on the town.

Tal Afar became the last IS stronghold in northern Iraq in July after the government declared victory in the city of Mosul, 55km (35 miles) to the east.

It is not known when the offensive will begin, but army, police and special forces units are heading to the town.

I suppose it could be a distraction in order to go after other areas first.

But mis-direction has not been a feature of Iraq War 2.0.

I fear that so much time is passing since the ISIL Mosul defeat that ISIL morale in Tal Afar will recover to put up a hard fight by the time the Iraqis finally assault the city.

How Can Anyone Defend This Joke of a Deal?

The Iran deal was supposed to stop Iran's drive for nuclear missiles. So what did the chief nutball in Iran say about possibly walking away from the deal in response to America's pressure on Iran's aggressive foreign policy and missile testing?

Rouhani warned that Iran was ready to walk out of the deal -- which saw the lifting of most international sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear programme -- if Washington persisted. ...

"If they want to go back to that experience, definitely in a short time -- not weeks or months, but in the scale of hours and days -- we will return to our previous situation very much stronger."

So according to Iran, the deal can be undone in a matter of hours--so the deal didn't dismantle anything of importance; and Iran claims their position will be much stronger when they escape the deal--so the deal has allowed Iran to make progress on nuclear technology.

And this is what the Obama administration called smart diplomacy.

UPDATE: Four ways to kill the deal: appeal to the sainted international community that Iran is still going nuclear; declare Iran in noncompliance; submit the deal as a treaty to the Senate where it will be defeated; or strictly enforce the deal by inflicting harsher penalties.

When Does Putin Build a Wall?

The reason the Soviets put up the Berlin Wall was that a brain drain of the east's best and brightest was flowing to the West there and starting to hurt, and was an embarrassment to the Communist rulers. Russia is again experiencing a brain drain:

Among the many problems [Russia has] with its population, one that gets little notice outside Russia is the sharp decline in the working age (15-64) population. The drop began in 2010 when there were about 103 million working age Russians. Unless something drastic happens to reverse the situation the working age population will continue to decline by at least half a million people a year until the 2050s.

The current sanctions and police state government have made it worse. Since the Ukraine related sanctions hit in 2015 Russia has lost over two million more workers it cannot afford to lose. About a million of those were actually foreigners who came to fill jobs there were no Russians for as the economy still showed promise. But the decline of oil prices after 2013 followed by sanctions and more official hostility to outsiders sent these skilled foreigners home. At the same time many skilled Russians left and that continues.

When does Putin build a figurative and literal wall to keep his people inside Russia?