Friday, June 23, 2017

Zombie Army

This FMSO short paper addresses the dramatic shift of the Syrian army (Syrian Arab Army: SyAA) from an army to a hybrid army-militia force:

The SyAA is itself held together by a diffuse network of volunteer militias that are plugged into its chain of command and patronage system at different nodes of the system, making the SyAA all the more resilient.

The SyAA remains the single strongest force in the country in terms of weaponry and reach. Its impending demise has been a constant of Syrian conflict analyses ever since 2012. This prediction, often based on decontextualized analysis of shifts in territorial control, has overlooked the important ways in which the SyAA has adapted to the ongoing conflict. Barring direct intervention by hostile foreign powers, the SyAA’s main battlefield threat will remain its own ineptitude and corruption, rather than the rebel forces.

I admit I kept looking for the Syrian army to collapse. But I based it on casualties and not territory.

Indeed, early on I assumed Assad had to give up territory to survive.

The monograph also says that the Alawites grew tired of dying for Assad and wanted someone else to step up. That too was part of my repeated question of how much more could the army endure in defense of the minority Alawite government.

I termed the transformation as one of the Syrian army becoming fiefdoms that in many ways resembled an advise and assist force with a backbone of logistics and heavy weapons fleshed out by militias--both domestic and foreign:

The Syrian army has collapsed. In a way it is like an advise and support force of firepower, armor, and logistics backed by air power sent in to help poorly trained local forces fight their war. And without local forces--whether Syrian or imported militias--the Syrian army would be unable to fight the war.

Without an army as we understand it, Assad does not truly control Syria. Regional entities based on the army divisions run their areas as sub-state sovereigns.

I've stopped asking whether the army will collapse. But I wouldn't be shocked if portions of it did collapse or quietly (or not so quietly) pull out of the war effort at Assad's command.

The Syrian army really has suffered heavy casualties. Perhaps it can't die. But it does not live.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Healing Powers of "And"

Seriously? The amount of money spent on NATO defense is not important?

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently renewed the Trump administration’s calls for 2% defense spending commitments by European members of the alliance; but as German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel asserted, “more money doesn’t mean more security.”[1] Instead of simply meeting budgetary recommendations, an analysis of small state security potential and funding of smarter, more cost-effective contributions to the alliance is needed.

If I may be so bold, when America calls for more money in NATO defense budgets, we assume it isn't all spent on hookers, booze, and photocopier ink. We assume you analyze your defense needs within the NATO alliance and make appropriate decisions on how to spend more money.

As for saying that instead of more money the Baltic states should focus on intelligence and special forces to combat "hybrid" warfare, you know my feelings about that buzz word.

"Hybrid" warfare is simply Russia invading a country and denying they are invading a country--and we go along with the fiction.

I feel like I'm on crazy pills every time the subject comes up.

Stop basing our defense policies on the unique situation of Russia invading Ukraine's Crimea and eastern Donbas while denying it during a period when the new Ukrainian government lacked the legitimacy and command and control to order resistance to the invasion.

Special forces and intelligence are absolutely useful for the Baltic NATO states to fight a guerrilla war as Russian forces roll over them. I want our special forces to help with that, too.

And special forces surely would be useful to fight "little green men" Russian special forces posing as locals.

But well trained infantry with armor and firepower support would also be useful against little green men if ordered by the legitimate Baltic governments to go after the little green men.

And if Baltic states focus on so-called "hybrid" war, the Russians can simply invade with armor and rapidly roll over the Baltic special forces.

Face it, Baltic anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons backed by engineers who can slow down a Russian conventional invasion are useful and would buy time for special forces to link up with mobilized reservists trained to act as irregulars and guerrillas to resist the Russians.

To their credit, the authors argue for that Baltic state capability. But they say that the Baltic states can't match the conventional capabilities of larger NATO states. With all due respect, duh. Of course the small Baltic states can't rely on their own militaries to provide the ability to defeat the Russians in battle. If that's all they are saying, I'm fine with it. But in the context of focusing on hybrid warfare, I think they go down a false path.

Spend more money on defense. And spend it with some sense of reality about the threat.

And stop acting like "hybrid" warfare is a new and significant thing.

Paging Buffy Summers

This is ominous:

It might sound like science fiction, or a recent episode of "Silicon Valley," but a start-up called Ambrosia is charging $8,000 for blood transfusions from young people.

About 100 people have signed up to receive an infusion, founder Dr. Jesse Karmazin said Wednesday at the Code Conference.

With this kind of thinking, aren't we a couple pointy teeth from a vampire problem?

And won't liberals demand sharp stick control to prevent a backlash against the Persons of Pallor community?

I'm stocking up on Mister Pointy, just in case.

Tip to Instapundit.



Aiming to Fight "Over There"

The latest Department of Defense confirms my impressions a year ago of China's new military district commands.

I wrote of the new Chinese military district commands:

The new map seems to be one not of facing threats to be absorbed and defeated as the old regions were designed (although the southern Cold War region certainly saw China's forces on offense against India and Vietnam).

Chinese power is strong enough to merge all of the west into a single district.

The Russian threat from Mongolia and the Pacific region is so low that this can be merged.

A larger region faces South Korea and Japan which have greater power projection capabilities that China can now meet at sea.

Another faces Taiwan as it did before, but now with a greater chance of actually invading Taiwan rather than resisting an American-assisted Taiwan invasion to renew the Chinese Civil War.

And the last one faces the South China Sea which China is trying to absorb into "historical" Chinese territory.

To me, this new design of Chinese military districts demonstrates increased Chinese confidence and a commitment to taking a war outside of China's borders.

In regard to China's new commands, the latest Department of Defense report on China's military states:

Taiwan remains the PLA’s main “strategic direction,” one of the geographic areas the leadership identifies as endowed with strategic importance. Other focus areas include the East China Sea, the South China Sea, and China’s borders with India and North Korea. PLA reforms appear to have oriented each new theater command toward a specific set of contingencies.

The strategic direction named as focusing on North Korea is true enough. But it could easily be focused on Russia's Far East if ending a "century of humiliation" includes restoring Chinese control of territory taken from China by Russia in the 19th century. That's what I had in mind for the command I noted second, although North Korea implicitly is folded in there.

And the first district I mention encompassed India and, to a lesser degree, Central Asia as the focus in my mind.

Growing capabilities are increasing Chinese ambitions.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

To Emit or Not to Emit, That is the Question

Is this the future of the Army?

“If we don’t win the cyber/EW fight, then the maneuver fight may not matter because we may not get to it,” Maj. Gen. Wilson Shoffner, director of operations, Army Rapid Capabilities Office, said during a presentation at the beginning of June, noting that the decisive fight may well be the electromagnetic spectrum as opposed to maneuver. ...

Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work discussed how this new paradigm will affect future conflict, explaining last October that the “old adage was … if you can be seen you can be hit, and if you can be hit, you can be killed. The new adage is if you emit, you die.”

So to survive the Army has to have the electronic emission profile of an 18th century army?

That's a lot to ask of an army that has to find an enemy and fight it. At some point, you have to emit in order to kill.

Yes, we have to suppress a lot of our troop electromagnetic emissions to avoid enemy massed firepower. But it can't be just that unless you want to field 18th century armies.

Part of suppressing emissions has to be converting 360 emissions that can be detected with point-to-point emissions hugging the earth that can't be detected. You may need to string short-ranged directional emissions or even wires again once you enter the enemy firing envelope.

You may need mobile 360-burst emissions that send and receive accumulated transmissions and then shut down emissions to displace before the enemy can shoot at it. There might be large numbers of these mobile, perhaps robotic, communications systems.


And where we need to have continuously emitting systems, make them autonomous drones cheap enough to be considered expendable. Use them like ammunition or any other consumable, providing information to manned systems with line-of-site or wired links. The enemy will destroy them, but with enough put into action continuously, we will retain continuous necessary emissions and allow our units to find enemies and shoot.

For the manned systems, we will need active defenses that can buy time for the unit under fire to displace out of the target zone by taking out incoming rounds. Maybe the autonomous drones get the active defense role to emit and shoot at incoming rounds while they can in order to let the manned systems escape.

I just don't think that we can totally suppress emissions if we want the Army to fight rather than just evade attack.

Trying to Win, I Hope

It looks like America will send 4,000 more troops to Afghanistan, mostly to help our Afghan allies fight the Taliban jihadis:

The Pentagon will send almost 4,000 additional American forces to Afghanistan, a Trump administration official said Thursday, hoping to break a stalemate in a war that has now passed to a third U.S. commander in chief. The deployment will be the largest of American manpower under Donald Trump’s young presidency.

That's the floated number, anyway. I assume NATO will send some number lower than what we send.

Oh, and this is puzzling:

In 2009, Obama authorized a surge of 30,000 troops into Afghanistan, bringing the total there to more than 100,000, before drawing down over the rest of his presidency.

Obama implemented two surges in 2009. Look at the troop numbers.


This chart shows the changes before the final Obama surge of 30,000 troops that brought our commitment to 100,000.

President Obama nearly tripled American troops in Afghanistan from the level under Bush in January 2009 when Bush left office. Why minimize what Obama ordered?

It's like the media wants to reduce Obama's role in the fight by minimizing his escalations that still left us with a losing war effort. Baldor and Burns should know better.

The excuse may be that the first surge of 2009 was "authorized" before Obama took office, following battlefield victory in Iraq. But have no doubt that if Obama did not agree with this surge, it would not have happened. The Bush plans were coordinated with the incoming Obama administration.

Remember, Bush fully intended to remain in Iraq after 2011. Obama reversed that goal.

Don't start the "quagmire" wailing with a small increase. I'm sorry that our jihadi enemies are persistent. Yet it is better to support hundreds of thousands of allied Afghan soldiers and police who fight and kill jihadis over there than it is to let the Afghan government fail or fall and claim the sole role in fighting jihadis who will have a big sanctuary to plot attacks on the West.

We really did reduce our presence far below what was necessary to support the Afghan forces, and they have lost ground to the Taliban and other jihadis.

And it would really help if our problem child Pakistan didn't work both sides of the war, undermining our effort to fight jihadis over there.

Taiwan Needs a Taiwan Model of Defense

The idea of Taiwan rejecting subs and relying on the Iranian model of deterring America fails by the simple fact that Taiwan is trying to deter China and not America from invading Taiwan.

Good Lord, control of Iran is not a core interest of America as controlling Taiwan is a self-proclaimed core interest of China. This is nonsense:

In developing a more asymmetric strategy, Taiwan would do well to study the Iranian example. Like Taiwan, Iran faces the challenge of deterring the United States, an objectively stronger military power — albeit one much farther from Iranian shores than China is from Taiwan’s — from using regional maritime and air superiority to impose its will. Iran has managed to change the U.S. and regional Arab military calculus primarily through the development and employment of asymmetric capabilities integrated with conventional military forces.

Urging Taiwan to mimic Iran's ability to deter an American attack neglects that Taiwan is an island rather than a large land mass with land lines of communication that America can't reach.

Urging Taiwan to mimic Iran's ability to deter an American attack neglects that Taiwan lacks the ability to interfere with the world's oil supplies as Iran possesses.

Urging Taiwan to mimic Iran's ability to deter an American attack neglects that China intends to absorb Taiwan while America just wants to prevent Iran from controlling the Persian Gulf.

How does urging Iran to be the template for Taiwan even make sense with those major differences?

When you consider this basic flaw for Iran as a template for Taiwan, it seems almost pointless to address the authors further.

But I will anyway. Much of my criticism would mirror my criticism of the Hezbollah model another author advocated for Taiwan.Why some people think democratic Taiwan should mimic the civilian-killing attitudes of terrorist actors is beyond me.

So let me just address the Iran-model article's dismissal of Taiwan's submarine program:

At a time when Taiwan needs deterrent capabilities and needs them now, a 10-plus-year wait for a few squadrons of F-35s or 5-10 submarines is far too long. Instead, development of a resilient, survivable force with the ability to asymmetrically counter-attack is Taiwan’s best option for deterrence as well as defense.

Given the time it has taken to agree to upgrade Taiwan's old F-16s, I doubt F-35s are on the table.

New F-16s would fit better. Honestly, I'm not convinced Taiwan is willing to invest in their national defense enough to risk the F-35 falling into Chinese hands if China conquers Taiwan.

And to be fair, if Taiwan had bought the subs early in this millennium when they first expressed an interest, they'd have them now.


As for the big notion in the article that Taiwanese subs don't help Taiwan, first let me note that subs are part of Iran's military. I guess Iran doesn't follow the so-called Iran Model.

Second, Taiwanese subs would be a major factor in an asymmetric defense that the author advocates.

Chinese ASW capabilities aren't very advanced, and are certainly less potent than China's anti-ship and anti-aircraft capabilities. So modern Taiwanese subs capable of interfering by using missiles, torpedoes, and mines, with Chinese sea trade and threatening Chinese surface ships participating in a Chinese blockade or amphibious assault would be a very potent threat capable of surviving and fighting for a longer period of time.

Without subs, Taiwan would be helpless to counter for long a serious Chinese effort at sea and in the air to blockade Taiwan.

With subs, Taiwan can inflict pain on China rather than just endure the pain, relying on America to break the blockade--with all the risks of a wider war that entails.

Don't forget the subs. They are a key Taiwanese deterrent.

And don't forget naval mines. Lots of them. They are an under-appreciated weapon that could be acquired pretty rapidly.

Staggering Stupidity

I just have no use for the international human rights industry as a moral force.

American-backed Syrians are in the process of liberating Raqqa from ISIL control. Naturally, this is a reason for "human rights" types to fret:

"We note in particular that the intensification of air strikes, which have paved the ground for an SDF advance in Raqqa, has resulted not only in staggering loss of civilian life, but has also led to 160,000 civilians fleeing their homes and becoming internally displaced," Paulo Pinheiro, chairman of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry told the Human Rights Council.

Pinheiro provided only the adjective and not a count for the casualties, it should be noted.

Implicitly, Pinheiro would be happier if ISIL remained "peacefully" in control of Raqqa rather than expose these Syrian people to the risks of being liberated.

Naturally, the barrel bombing, chemical warfare using, starvation-inducing, area bombardment Syrian government mirrored Pinheiro's complaint by slamming America's coalition for causing civilian casualties.

Pinheiro can take a hike. The French at least had the decency to refrain from complaining about America until well after the liberation of France from Nazi control.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Air Force Secretary Aims High

The Secretary of the Air Force has ordered the Air Force to aim higher:

In many respects, the Air Force and the nation are at a critical crossroads. We realize, as do our potential adversaries, that space is interconnected to American life and to U.S. military success. The time is now to integrate, elevate, and normalize space in the Air Force and thus assure continued American dominance in this most critical domain. ...

Today, we begin the process of standing up a new organization at the Pentagon that will be responsible for recruiting, training and equipping airmen involved in the space mission. The establishment of the deputy chief of staff for space operations is the next step toward ensuring that we maintain space superiority.

They are on the launch pad, at least. But space requires more than three stars for a leader.

I've long been a proponent of the Air Force aiming high to become the United States Aerospace Force to dominate the Earth-Moon system (a Space Navy can wait for inter-planetary missions).

So this new process for going to space is good. As far as it goes.

But the move to space has the related effect of reinforcing the Air Force's institutional inability to see the mud where ground troops hug the Earth waiting for fire support from the Air Force.

I mean, seriously, WTF?

Perhaps the space focus explains why the A-10 is still in danger despite Air Force claims to have found Jesus on the close air support mission.

So while it is good that the Air Force is shifting to space, it should be accompanied by the recreation of the Army Army Force tied to the Army. Send the A-10s, other CAS aircraft, ISR, and SAR (along with the funding) to the Army Air Force. And have the Marines remind the Army how it is done, given they've had this all along.

The United States Air Force needs to become the United States Aerospace Force.

Capabilities Open Options

This article notes that improved Chinese relations with Russia since 1985 allowed China to transition their military posture from absorbing a Russian invasion from the north to projecting power around their periphery. Since the collapse of the USSR, the power balance has shifted much more to China. The continued shift from that event could have more effects on Chinese military posture.

The Chinese are looking south to the seas without the threat of Russia looming over Chinese territorial integrity:

Appointing a naval officer to command a theater in unprecedented in PLA history, further confirming the shift of China’s military posture from continental defense to maritime security. Moreover, ADM Yuan’s position as commander of the Southern Theater Command indicates the relative importance of South China Sea in the eyes of the PLA, particularly as a suitable bastion for its growing SSBN force and as an ideal operational space for its expanding surface fleet.

But how much more does China need at sea other than a SSBN bastion?

At some point, with the balance of forces shifting more to China and with Chinese economic interests encompassing the interior of Asia, China may shift their increasingly offensive military posture to offense on land to the resource-rich and once Chinese north that is weakly held by Russia rather than at sea defended by America and our constellation of allies.

But until that change in posture, the Chinese can closely observe their potential land foe, eh?

The Cyber-Fight for THAAD

The American THAAD anti-missile system in South Korea has gotten its own cyber-defense unit to protect it from hackers:

In May 2017 the United States revealed that it had sent one of its few cyber protection teams to defend the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) battery sent to South Korea earlier and declared operational in April. ... To work properly the battery depends a lot of networks for quickly transmitting target and other data. Since China, Russia and North Korea all have excellent network hacking capabilities and have been hostile to the stationing of a THAAD battery in South Korea, it was expected that the THAAD networks would be subject to penetration and disruption attempts by foreign hackers.

Neither the THAAD nor the cyber protection teams have had any real combat experience. THAAD has been successful in tests but the army is still seeking a realistic way to test the effectiveness of the cyber protection teams.

Strategypage notes that creating cyber protection units is stymied by the need to hire contractors to make up for the lack of in-house talent.

This is normal for new systems. Very early in artillery introduction, artillery was provided by contractors because armies did not have the expertise.

Privatized warfare is normal. In time as the cyber capability matures, that expertise will reside in-house.

You Had One Job

The Air Force is our resident expert on dropping bombs and other explody devices from airplanes.

So how was this possible?
On Aug. 7, 2014, the United States kicks off air strikes against the brutal terrorists in Iraq, beginning attacks on its members in neighboring Syria the following month. But between August and November 2014, the Air Force saw between 11 and 19 percent of weapons either not have the intended effect or not detonate entirely, according to a briefing Air Force Major Brian Baker gave at the National Defense Industry Association’s Precision Strike Annual Review in March 2017.

The problem was that the Air Force in Afghanistan had been using bombs designed for close air support--using smaller amounts of explosives or air bursts using shrapnel--to avoid killing friendly troops nearby while precision killed the enemy.

When switched to Iraq to fight ISIL which in June had overrun Mosul and northern Iraq, the Air Force largely went after targets far from friendly troops with the same weapons when they would have been better targeted by larger bombs with bigger explosions.


I'm not even sure what to say.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Accept the Home Field Advantage

Japan is right to worry:

Concern is rising in Japan the Chinese military may be training for a future mission in the disputed Senkaku Islands, where Beijing has been dispatching coast guard ships at increasing frequency in recent years.

Quoting the Pentagon's 2017 survey of the Chinese military, Japanese newspaper Sankei Shimbun reported Thursday the People's Liberation Army could be training for a raid of outlying areas, including the Japan-administered Senkaku Islands, also claimed by China and Taiwan.

In a section on China's amphibious capabilities, the report from the U.S. Department of Defense states the "PLA Army focuses its amphibious efforts on a Taiwan invasion while the PLA Navy Marine Corps focuses on small island seizures in the South China Sea, with a potential emerging mission in the Senkakus."

Japan needs to dig in on their islands to defend them rather than hope they can win a race with the Chinese to plant troops on the ground.

Because if China wins the race, will Japan eject the Chinese when China makes nuclear threats to hold what the Chinese take?

Guilt Requires Atonement and Not Abdication

If it was really guilt for their Nazi past rather than a convenient excuse to avoid spending on defense, you'd think the Germans would be eager to defend the free West.

Is this nonsense excuse for Germany to rely on others for defense incapable of being killed?

Modern Germany, says Sheehan, "thinks of its military very much the way most states think of their police force".

What he calls a "persistent distrust of military institutions," he adds, "continues to be strong, and in some ways has become stronger".

Underlying all this is the enduring memory of the horrors of World War Two - not only the shame of Nazi crimes but also the devastation inflicted on civilians.

Let me (again) apply the clue bat:

I keep reading that the Germans hate their militaristic past so much that they don't want to fight.

Let's try applying the clue bat to Germany's collective skull on this issue.

Conquering and setting up death camps under the shield of a powerful military? That's bad. By all means, don't do that.

Having a military capable of fighting death cult enemies or stopping the Russians from moving west? Well, that's a good thing. Try doing that.

Why do people essentially justifying Germany's refusal to shoulder their share of the burden of defending the West go back to Nazi Germany as the alternative to Germany's conveniently low-cost pacifism?

Consider that the Cold War West German military was formidable. Even in 1995 (which is the oldest Military Balance I have), Germany spend 2.2% of its GDP on defense.

Germany had an army of over 250,000 with nearly 3,000 tanks in 3 airborne, 9 tank, 10 mechanized infantry, and 1 mountain brigades. Plus odds and ends.

The German navy had 17 submarines, 14 principal surface combatants, and 36 smaller vessels and 40 mine warfare ships. And the navy had 54 fighter planes.

The air force had just under 500 combat aircraft!

And this is after being drawn down from Cold War levels! Guilt from World War II didn't stop Germany from having a good military then. Why now?

Today, the British would call the police if the German army was reported to have landed on the Dover coastal region.

Envisioning a German military capable of fighting in defense of NATO and the West does not need to go back to Nazi Germany.

Seriously, are people worried that after 60 years of being part of the democratic and free West that Germany is in danger of getting aggressive imperial ambitions again with a side trip of genocide?

Just go back 20 years to a democratic Germany that still had a sizable military even if it didn't reach Cold War levels. NATO defenses would be good if Germany built the force structure of the mid-1990s.

Just stop the Nazi excuses for refusing to help defend the West.

How Sad is Russia's Nuclear Deterrent Force?

Hmmm:

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that elements of a U.S. anti-missile system in Alaska and South Korea were a challenge to Russia and that Moscow had no choice but to build up its own forces in response.

We have a thin missile defense force and Russia has a massive offensive nuclear force.

If America's missile defenses are a challenge to Russia, should we question whether Russia really has an effective missile force in reality as opposed to on paper?

The only way America's missile defenses are a challenge is if Russia's nuclear missile force is a Potemkin Deterrent with few missiles in working order.

Much of Russia's conventional military is a wreck, with only pockets of excellence backed by a narrow slice of adequate. Should I assume that Russia's nuclear force is any different despite the importance of getting that part right to make up for the weakness of the conventional military (especially compared to the long land borders of Russia)?

Or is it possible that Russia, which is in the midst of a policy of appeasement to China obscured by provoking tensions with NATO that is no threat, needs a convenient--if flimsy--excuse to build up forces in the Far East that otherwise would look uncomfortably anti-Chinese.

So what is going on?

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Weekend Data Dump

Ah, Harvard. Basically, this is why I quit the American Historical Association back in 1991. Most in the profession just don't do history very well, it seems. Best and brightest, indeed.

I have no problem if blue states want to cripple their economies by adhering to Paris climate agreement standards. Enjoy! (But can Connecticut afford to do this?) I'm sure German automakers and Russian oil oligarchs will send a few bucks their way to encourage those states. And I'm sure that states that don't secede from American policy on this issue will do just fine. The states interested in upholding the Paris agreement have a quarter of America's GDP. America has a quarter of the global GDP. So if these states abide by their share of America's theoretical commitment to contributing to the agreement through 2030 (and if the rest of the world goes along with their own commitments--some of whom "committed" to emitting more and more CO2 for a while, recall), then those states will have the planet-saving effect by 2100 of preventing the planet from warming 0.003125 degrees Celsius (the entire world under those conditions would prevent .05 degrees Celsius warming, which means America would have responsibility for about .0125 degrees C (actually more since America is expected to do more than China and India who do nothing positive, but let's keep it simple). So states with a quarter of America's GDP would be expected to cover a quarter of that, or 0.003125 degrees Celsius of planet saving. Yay!

Democrats announce a Resistance Summer. Yawn. Even the Taliban have a greater sense of urgency given they announced a Spring Offensive weeks ago.

The Democratic Party has problems. Really, only the friendly mass media conceals the decline by shrilly amplifying Democratic policies (and anger management issues).

While I am sure that many on the left are sure Trump somehow inspired the Manchester terror attack, it looks like the bomber began his planning a year earlier. During the Obama administration. When hope and change ruled. When the world loved our president. Before any "Moslem ban" (no, it isn't) was issued. When--oh, you get the point. The jihadis hate all of us, people. Even those who shop at Whole Foods and proudly sport a COEXIST bumper sticker on their Prius.

You know, this is one of the best things I read this month. Despite the loud voices of mindless rage that the online world pours out, most people are just decent sorts living their lives without being defined by Twitter mob outrage. We all need that reminder, I think.

I'm not hostile to an administrative state if it remains within its proper role. But it is about time the federal administrative rules process is clubbed into submission.  A bureaucracy delegated to write rules to implement statutes is necessary to prevent statutes from becoming unwieldy in technical details. But legislative deference to policy experts in the bureaucracy requires reciprocal deference from those experts and the executive branch to the language and intent of statutes that guide the rules, rather than using the rules process to create wholly new quasi-statutes. I was an APA guy in my career and never understood why the state legislature threw away its ability to provide oversight to the rule-making process without a fight.

I will say that France and Europe are stepping up to police an admittedly smaller front in the war on terror in Mali and the surrounding regions. Best to nip this stuff in the bud. We help, too, of course.

Wait, so it is okay for a New York City millionaire to slam the media and undermine its credibility? Duly noted.

While there is much talk of the new Russian Armata tank design, Russia is far more likely to have upgraded older models like this new version of the T-72. And affording many of those could be a problem.

What's the matter with Portland, Oregon?

A reminder that "green on blue" attacks on Western troops by Afghan troops is usually an anger management issue arising from the society. Green on green (Afghan troops killing other Afghan troops) attacks just don't get the same publicity. And I'd bet good money that there are a lot of "red on red" attacks we never hear about.

Yeah, this has long scared the heck our of me. I've always kept eyes on my children when they are in the water rather than lie back and close my eyes. I've never really accepted the view of a beautiful coast--it's a big bad waiting to kill. Even the smaller cement version.

Dissent is not the highest form of Islam. This is not a normal reaction. Why liberals aren't the biggest cheerleaders for the war against jihadi terrorists and ideology is beyond me. But no, worry that theocracy is around the corner here in America under Trump. That's normal to worry about.

If "democracy dies in darkness," it is just as true that staring at the sun for so long blinds you. Sure, discussing Trump to the exclusion of almost anything else rather than policies drives ratings. But when journalistic bias converges with political bias, the results can't be good for democracy.

The Left: "Violent eliminationist rhetoric--as we define it--promotes assassinations." Oh, it's directed at Trump? Never mind. That's not how they define it, of course. This is where the expression "false patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel" applies. And as long as we're at that post, I guess the Left will have to start saying "dissent assassination porn is the highest form of patriotism the Resistance."

"America is no longer a force for stability in the Gulf[.]" If you define "stability" as refusing to stop Iranian aggression and terrorism, and going along with Iran's nuclear ambitions, then yeah, America is no longer a force for stability in the Gulf. What we are now is a force for defeating Iran. That's what editors with a functioning brain stem would call it. That is something that will promote stability in the Gulf. But no, the editors have proclaimed that Obama gave us stability for our time in the Gulf. My how The Economist has fallen.

After 7 months of leaks that Trump was under investigation for Russia "collusion" (is that like offering "flexibility," perchance?), Comey said Trump was not actually under investigation. Suddenly there is a new leak that now--really--Trump is under investigation for obstruction of justice despite no underlying crime. This is banana republic stuff.

Okay, that was seriously odd. If the objective was to show the cabinet backing rather than backstabbing the president, there had to have been a better way to show a united front. Unless I'm missing some important context. Which is possible, all things considered. (Later: I finally listened to the entire clip rather than relying on the story. Yeah, there is context. First full cabinet meeting after finally making it through Democratic blockage in Senate. So there was a ceremonial aspect to this. And Trump started by praising his cabinet members. Nor did Trump "invite" his cabinet to compliment him. The oddness disappeared. Shame on me for accepting the framing of the issue. Why did I trust a HuffPost author--Igor Bobic--to interpret for me? Big mistake. How many people took the time to watch the video rather than just accept Bobic's slant?)

Terrorism motives die in darkness. Or in relentless spin, I suppose.

Oxford will let female students take their history exams home to answer. Just the women. All Oxford did is cheapen the value of a first-class degree for all women who have them--even those who don't need to take them home to complete. Do these people think these things through? Best and brightest, indeed. Tip to Instapundit.

Even if liberals achieved their dream of banning and confiscating all firearms from even law-abiding Americans, criminals and terrorists would still be able to get weapons. Or will liberals suddenly be in favor of tight controls of our land borders to prevent the influx of illegal guns for criminals and terrorists? Remember, criminals and terrorists are by definition willing to break laws for the purpose of thievery and murder. So violating gun laws is a minor factor.

Your political opponents are not evil. A Bernie Sanders and Rachel Maddow fan shot Republican Representative Scalise who is in rough shape and wounded 4 others (including 2 police) while Republicans were preparing for the Congressional baseball game. Given how Democrats react to any attack regardless of the facts by blaming Republicans, I should be blaming hate-filled Democratic and MSNBC rhetoric that has been flooding our society the last 7 months with a "climate of hate"--when it hasn't actually justified violence. But I won't. Just as the vast overwhelming majority of Republicans don't commit crimes because of over-the-top rhetoric (and just as the overwhelming majority of legal gun owners don't commit gun crimes), I can't in good conscience blame the violent and criminal choice of one rabid leftist on all liberals who have ignorantly flung the charge of "Nazi!" at Trump and Republicans. Yes, I think we make a mistake in thinking that the very visible media and Twitter hate truly reflect all of America in regard to the threat of political violence. But I will blame liberals for raising the war on civil discourse (through political language and refusal to restrain their "Antifa" storm troopers) to levels that make it impossible for them to even talk to their political opponents. Yes, the overwhelming majority of even the intolerant left aren't willing to resort to violence. But the intolerant left is figuratively killing debate by defining their opponents as evil.  Killing political debate is dangerous because if politics and rule of law for resolving politics are crippled, actual wide scale violence will be how differences are settled. That outcome will make Putin smile. Just stop. Your political opponents are not evil.

In related thoughts, you will struggle to find political insults or demonization of political opponents on The Dignified Rant (I'd say you absolutely won't find that, but your definitions may vary; and perhaps I had a bad day or two where I slipped up that I don't remember). In part that is because this is a defense and foreign affairs blog, to be sure. But in the Obama era, despite my conviction that he was a poor president, I did not ever resort to violence-friendly rhetoric. I worked from the assumption that President Obama was largely wrong and unjustifiably arrogant--but not evil. And consider that I've never been shy about the need to kill our actual foreign enemies. So it isn't some general thing. I'm fully capable of distinguishing between foreign enemies and domestic opponents.

Sure, the UAE may want to leverage the Saudi-led dispute with Qatar to get America to move our base from Qatar to the UAE, but I don't believe that is a major cause of the dispute revolving around Qatar ties to Iran and Islamists.  Besides, in a carrot-and-sticks approach to Qatar, America should hardly walk away from Qatar if the purpose of the pressure is to redirect Qatar away from Iran and Islamists a bit more rather than push Qatar fully into Iran's arms. Say, here's a carrot now. How nice we get to be the "good cop" in the good cop/bad cop routine. (Funny, I originally wrote that as "good cop/bad coup". My typo might have been more accurate.)

Otto Warmbier was released by North Korea. Warmbier didn't deserve to be imprisoned for the BS charges he was convicted of violating. But let's not forget that gulag tourists like Warmbier function as props to an evil regime that their hard currency hands over to the gulag. Warmbier apparently thought it would be an adventure to see close up--totally safe as the tour group promised--a regime that abuses its people. The regime turned on him despite the promise. Then it was no longer fun and games. I hope Warmbier recovers from the ordeal and health crisis that sent him into a coma while imprisoned. But I hope others who would finance the gulag with a UN seat learn a lesson from this episode.

Michigan resident James McCloughan will receive the Medal of Honor for his actions in battle in the Vietnam War. Render hand salute.

It is good that President Obama's opening to Cuba has been reversed (in part). It shocked me that supporters of President Obama's opening to Cuba said that since the American isolation of Cuba "hadn't worked" we had to give it up. One, so tenacious evil is to be given credit for being so tenacious? And two, it is wrong to say the isolation did not work. It weakened Cuba and prevented it from being a bigger threat--while also refusing to openly side with that evil. The idea that the measure of success for isolation was compelling Cuba to be a free democracy was always a false standard, although a free democratic Cuba has always been the ultimate goal. And it really annoyed me that just as Venezuela (picking up from the former Soviet Union) was faltering in its subsidy for Cuba that President Obama had taken on that role. No more.

Ordinary Democrats should reconsider leaning forward in Le Resistance. Sure, prominent entertainers and news people are doing it, but for them it is "marketing" their popularity and not "resisting" a dictatorship. Consequences are for the little people, remember.

Now that I think about it, isn't the preening faux "Resistance" against Trump culturally appropriating French resistance to actual dangerous Nazis in World War II?

Hackers tried to influence the 2015 Canadian election but failed. Wait. What? So the hackers weren't trying to get that one-man boy band Justin Trudeau elected?  Go figure.

An Iranian missile-armed ship harassed 3 US ships in the Strait of Hormuz. This is far more dangerous than speed boats flitting around our ships.  Because the Iranian missiles could inflict serious damage on our ships, our ships need to have a lower threshold for shooting first to prevent the Iranian ship from taking a shot at us. We can't afford to be lulled into passivity that gives Iran a chance at shooting first with deadly effect.

At the Interesting Part

An American F-18 Super Hornet shot down a Syrian Su-22 that had bombed militias backed by the United States in eastern Syria:

The U.S.-led coalition headquarters in Iraq said in a written statement that a U.S. F-18 Super Hornet shot down a Syrian government SU-22 after it dropped bombs near the U.S. partner forces, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces. The shootdown was near the Syrian town of Tabqa.

The U.S. military statement said it acted in "collective self defense" of its partner forces and that the U.S. did not seek a fight with the Syrian government or its Russian supporters.

I did say that determining who takes over in eastern Syria when ISIL is defeated would be the interesting part.

UPDATE: In related interesting news, the Iranians fired "several" ballistic missile into Syria from Iran in retaliation for the June 7th ISIL bombings in Iran.

I'm guessing Iran considers their strikes on target if the missiles landed in Syria.

It will really get interesting if Iran fires missiles at US or allied forces in Syria.

The Russian Threat

Russia doesn't have the military power to be a threat to everyone along their western borders at the same time, but they do have options to be threats on a narrow front along a wider region.

The Romanian ambassador to the United States notes the linkage between the conquest of Crimea and Russia's operations in Syria and the eastern Mediterranean Sea:

Crimea is being used more and more as a platform for power projection in the Black Sea. And even further, in the eastern Mediterranean, with certain ramifications toward Syria.

I've said that the Russian conquest of Crimea made power projection to Syria and the eastern Mediterranean Sea more effective and that the operation in Syria to defend bases in that country justify the conquest of Crimea:

Russia is beefing up their bases in Russian-occupied Crimea. This will allow Russia to exert power and influence against Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, and Georgia. I'd throw in Turkey, too, but Turkey might be bending to Russian power as a favor to a fellow autocrat as Turkey dismantles rule of law, which would then allow Russia to exert power and influence in the eastern Mediterranean in concert with bases in Syria.

Indeed, I highlighted the linkage before Russia invaded Crimea:

Pushing Russia away from the Black Sea--should Russia lose their bases in Crimea if Ukraine doesn't want them there any more--in the long run makes Russian operations in the Mediterranean much more difficult. That would make their help for Syria a bit more difficult and deprive Russia of some leverage in Egypt.

They are not separate issues even if I don't suspect the operations are part of a coherent single policy.

Just a fact of geography that leads Russia to push forward a defense screen to guard Russia from the southwest direction.

So I'd watch Turkey very closely to see if they are wobbly on NATO.

Romania is of course key to bolstering NATO operations in the Black Sea and keeping Russia from pushing through Ukraine to the gates of NATO in the Balkans.

Romania is committed to maintaining the NATO 2% of GDP defense spending goal.

Annihilate and Humiliate the Jihadi Losers

Because the only good jihadi is a dead jihadi, this is good news:

The U.S. is accelerating its fight against the Islamic State and radical Islamism. In his first interview as secretary of defense, James Mattis outlined the United States’ strategy. Mattis’ words carry weight because he is one of the few subordinates U.S. President Donald Trump seems to trust implicitly and to whom Trump has delegated significant responsibility. In the interview, Mattis said the war of attrition – pushing enemies out of their locations rather than destroying them completely – failed to produce the desired outcome. The U.S. will now fight a war of annihilation and humiliation against the enemy, which is not just IS but radical Islamism in general. Mattis expects the war to be a long fight, but he also expects to win.

I mentioned my agreement with focusing on what we do to enemies rather than worrying about what they do to us.

Mind you, this is no excuse to ignore collateral damage to civilians. We must always vocally contrast our care to avoid civilian deaths (while we ruthlessly and relentlessly go after jihadis) with our enemies' eagerness to kill civilians.

And the humiliation aspect is no mistake. No, we didn't humiliate the Germans after World War II. But we did annihilate and humiliate the Nazis who led Germans to ruin.

There is no reason we can't make the same distinction between Moslems and jihadis (not just ISIL), especially given that so many Moslem states are on our side to fight the jihadis--an advantage we did not have as we fought German armies across Africa, Italy, France, Belgium, and Germany itself.

Late in the last century, I tried to get an article published that focused on the need (and ability) to kill "the new warrior class" of fanatics identified early in the 1990shttp://ssi.armywarcollege.edu/pubs/parameters/Articles/1994/peters.htm. I even quoted Osama bin Laden before he made his name on September 11, 2001.

So let's get to serious killing. The war will be long enough as it is.

I think I should dig out that old article manuscript. It might have a more receptive audience these days.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

So Puerto Rico Decided to Remain in the Dictatorship?

Isn't the fact that Puerto Rico has repeatedly refused to seek independence from America proof that America isn't the awful place that so many American liberals claim it is?

All over Europe, separatists strain to escape their national rulers. But here? When push comes to shove, there isn't a whole lot of interest in really "escaping":

Puerto Rico's referendum on statehood delivered a lackluster turnout Sunday, with almost four fifths of voters deciding not to cast a ballot, though those who did unanimously backed the territory becoming a US state.

A weak turnout had been predicted, given the call by opposition parties -- which supported the status quo -- for a boycott of the non-binding vote.

Even on the eve of the Trumptatorship, Puerto Ricans think staying in America is just fine.

And if they ever decide to leave, American troops won't be sent as little green men to persuade them to stay. We'd wish them well and concluded trade and travel deals as we do with any other foreign state.

Maybe liberal Californians still in a panic about Trump will migrate in large numbers to Puerto Rico in time to lead their ignorant Caribbean brethren into exiting America in the next referendum.

The Return of Heavy Forces

In an effort to get ready for potential high intensity combat, the Army is adding heavy brigades at the expense of lighter units:

The U.S. Army is planning to move pre-positioned stock stationed in South Korea back to the continental United States in order to outfit an armored brigade combat team, according to Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley.

The move is part of a bigger effort to rebalance brigade combat teams to emphasize the need for heavy, armored BCTs over lighter infantry BCTs. The Army is converting an infantry brigade combat team to create a 15th armored brigade combat team and will build the 16th using the pre-positioned stock from South Korea.

This is good. I agree.

But is taking the equipment from unit set stockpiles in South Korea the best idea?

I know that North Korea's army is rotting away, but are we so confident that South Korea can handle the north with just American air and missile support?

But I guess our stockpiles of weapons are so thin that the Army needs the equipment already in place if it wants a heavy brigade soon rather than scraping up equipment from stockpiles not in unit sets. That's disturbing.

But perhaps the pre-positioned unit set in South Korea will be rebuilt when money is available.

Are the Israelis Sure They Want to Run With This Criticism?

Some Israeli officers think that America's emphasis on defeating the ISIL caliphate is counter-productive?

Sure, if America thinks the defeat of ISIL is the end of the war against jihadis begun after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks by al Qaeda.

But why is focusing on the one group of jihadis with a proto-state counter-productive?

Is Israel really enjoying the jihadi proto-states of Hamas-run Gaza and Hezbollah-run southern Lebanon?

Is Israel really enjoying the mullah-run Shia jihadi state of Iran that has nuclear weapons within its reach?

Is scattering jihadis so they are more of an intelligence and police power really counter-productive?

Hell, if so, maybe Israel should reconsider their very existence as a state that gathers Jews into one territory. Maybe Israel would be stronger and harder to defeat if Jews were scattered in separate countries across the globe.

Yeah, the notion sounds stupid when you put it that way.

(Although if Iran gets nukes, the advice might be better. Might the Israeli settler movement reconsider their role in that environment?)

Crush ISIL. Jihadi sanctuaries are bad. And then continue the war.

Do Not Become Confused

President Duterte's flirtation with China seems to be ending as the Philippines realizes how bad an idea that really is:

Chinese efforts to buy the cooperation of the Philippines in the South China Sea dispute have failed as Filipinos realized that there was little gain in the long run by giving in to Chinese demands. Although China became the largest trading partner with the Philippines this year most Filipinos did the math and realized the Chinese dictatorship could turn that around without warning. It now seemed that the Americans were a better long-term ally because the Americans have no old territorial claims in the neighborhood, are a democracy and have a long history of good behavior.

Luckily, no damage has been done during the period of confusion.