Thursday, March 22, 2018

Good Grief, They Suck

The Germans are screwing up their pledge to provide a single armored brigade for the NATO response force:

Germany has come up short once more in meeting its military obligations to NATO. Leaked readiness data indicates that a key component of the NATO rapid reaction force, which Germany is to supply in 2019, is nowhere near ready to perform duties German said it could handle. The German armored brigade that was promised for 2019 is not able to fulfill its duties. Only about 20 percent of the armored vehicles (Leopard 2 tanks and Marder infantry vehicles) are fit for service. German military aircraft continue to have the lowest readiness rates in NATO and Germany continues, as it has for over twenty year, to promise the situation would be fixed but it never is.

Yet we're supposed to trust Germany to be the NATO framework nation for land combat missions rather than worry that Germany will be the anchor that drags every other NATO army that associates with the Germans down?

Heck, these days I don't know if Germany could design a decent anchor.

What happened to our once capable NATO-era ally that fielded the best mechanized army in NATO? Do the Germans value so little the prosperous democracy they built as part of the free West that they are unwilling to defend it?

Strange Russian Respect

Putin won his election. There was no electoral surprise in Putin's Russia. And no actual rule of law democracy, of course, no matter how much he wants Russians to believe that.

I've noted before that for all that some Westerners excuse non-Western autocrats for not having a "Western" democratic system "imposed" on their "authentic" societies, that every tinpot dictatorship of the secular or religious variety likes to have elections to pretend they have legitimacy based on popular will expressed at the ballot box. Russia is no exception:

Vladimir Putin, Russia’s longest-serving ruler since Joseph Stalin, surprised no one with his landslide re-election on Sunday. While his victory, in which he claimed 73.9 percent of the vote according to state-run exit polls, was a foregone conclusion, the Kremlin was reportedly anxious about turnout, and conducted an elaborate, well-financed get-out-the-vote campaign. For an authoritarian regime in which election results and turnout are pre-ordained, such concerns may seem odd. But even in Russia’s “managed democracy,” appearances still matter, and the Kremlin needed to present believably high levels of support to ensure Putin’s mandate.

If Western democracy is so inauthentic to local cultures, why does every thug ruler hold sham Western-style elections rather than just assert their local history of superior governance?

It's an odd thing. Putin works hard to discredit Western democracy while working just as hard to justify his own increasingly dictatorial rule with the color of rule-based Western-style democracy.

Times Change and So Must Our Taiwan Policy

America downgraded relations with Taiwan when China lacked the ability to launch an invasion of Taiwan in order to gain Chinese support for containing the far bigger problem of the Soviet Union. Those factors changed so why should America continue to hold to the obsolete terms of that old agreement?

China poses a threat to Taiwan and aligns with Russia on many issues that harm America. So old agreements are due for revision to take into consideration today's realities:

President Donald Trump on Friday signed legislation that would allow U.S. officials to travel to Taiwan to meet their Taiwanese counterparts, a move certain to anger China, which views Taiwan as a wayward province.

The Chinese complained that this harms the "one China" policy that says that all of China, including Taiwan, are one entity that Peking should rule.

China doesn't mention the part about not using force to achieve that goal, which we've long insisted be observed.

Now that China has the ability to invade Taiwan (if it wants to pay the price, of course) and now that China no longer helps us contain Russia (and indeed, now that China is a long-term threat greater than Russia), I don't understand why America should consider the old deal written in stone.

Further, it was one thing to stand apart from Taiwan when China couldn't invade and when Taiwan was an authoritarian state.

But now Taiwan is a free and prosperous democratic state under threat from a one-party (and increasingly one-man) dictatorship.

Of course, official visits don't replace spending a lot more on defense which Taiwan still doesn't do given the scale of the threat Taiwan faces.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Act Like It Could Be True

Whether or not Russian subs stalked our naval bases undetected, we should assume it could be true.

The Russians claim their submarines got close to American naval bases undetected:

Russian nuclear attack submarines conducted a mission where they approached U.S. military bases with the intent of staying undetected, a Russian military official told Russian state-owned media. ...

[Russian navy submarine officer Sergey] Starshinov claimed Russian submarines came “close enough” to American shores and were “undetected,” but did not infringe on U.S. maritime borders.

I don't know if this claim is true. It could be sheer propaganda. But I know I worry that we act as if it couldn't be true.

Although I can't rule out the possibility that one of our nuclear attack subs stalked them and the Russians don't know it. Which would mean we should let the Russians think they counted coup on us.

Austin, Texas

The Austin, Texas, bomber was found and he killed himself with his own bomb.

The debate is whether this is terrorism. In a sense, of course it is. His bombs terrorized and killed. But if it isn't part of a group dedicated to achieving a goal--even if the goal is just killing people different than the terrorists--and with the potential of appealing to a broader (even if limited) audience to support the goal, it is hard to call it terrorism.

But it is very different from the IED campaigns of Iraq and Afghanistan that plagued civilians and troops fighting the terrorists.

There was an entire IED industry in Iraq, for example, that had large teams composed of scouts to determine locations for bombs, people who made the bombs, people who emplaced the bombs, and people who detonated them. Each bomb was a battle plan.

That kind of effort required a certain level of support in an area to carry out over time.

The Texas bomber was apparently a lone bomber (unless that is just to lull accomplices still being pursued) who did all of it himself. And quickly tracking him down indicates no support in the community.

So while the intent may well be terrorism, it is not at all like an organized terror campaign. I suppose we'll find out what likely motivated the man. Then we may know if it was terrorism, mental illness, a grievance, or a serial killer.

And this being early, we'll find out if he truly acted alone as it seems. Much could change so I'm necessarily speculating on thin information.

But thank goodness he is dead. Hopefully no more bombs kill more after the bomber's death.

Baby Steps to Sanity?

Behold the power of the Iran deal in getting Iran to reconsider the evil of their ways!

Britain, France and Germany have proposed fresh EU sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missiles and its role in Syria's war, according to a confidential document, in a bid to persuade Washington to preserve the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran.

Even the Europeans who believe in the farce of the nuclear deal don't think testing ballistic missiles that would be really useful for nuclear warheads is a good idea for Iran to pursue.

Remember, the nuanced set in the White House believed the awful nuclear deal would set Iran on the path to being a friendly "successful regional power."

So given the glorious future the deal would create, small details like defining what a banned missile is were unimportant to the American negotiators, quoting an Iranian official here on the deal:

"It doesn't call upon Iran not to test ballistic missiles, or ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads ... it calls upon Iran not to test ballistic missiles that were 'designed' to be capable," Zarif said.

So if the missile isn't technically capable of having a nuclear warhead on it, it's cool.

No matter that once you have the missile perfected you can redesign the thing easily enough to be capable of mounting a nuclear warhead.

So now the Iranians are driving a nuclear ICBM through that loophole.

Europeans see the nuclear deal isn't stopping Iran from pursuing missiles most useful for nuclear warheads. Maybe the clue bat will get them to reverse course on the bigger deal before it is too late.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Coming War

That seems rather definitive about a war between Israel and Hezbollah:

Despite all the noise the Palestinians make Israel is concentrating on what it perceives is its greatest threat; war instigated and backed by Iran on two fronts. In the north there are over 100,000 rockets in Lebanon and Syria aimed at Israel. In the south there are over 50,000 rockets in Gaza, where Iran is once again a major backer of Hamas. Iran does not have sufficient ground forces available in Gaza (Hamas) and the north (Hezbollah and Iranian mercenaries in Syria) to invade Israel. The coming war involves Israel invading Lebanon, Syria and Gaza to stop the massive rocket attacks.

Well, I've been expecting this.

The main target, I think, will be Hezbollah in Lebanon where Israel will mount what is essentially a deep ground raid on a large scale to tear up Hezbollah by killing fighters, rear echelon types, and digging out intelligence from the rubble of the Hezbollah infrastructure captured.

I think Israel should avoid targeting any of Lebanon's infrastructure and forces with the goal of enabling Lebanon's formal government to reassert control over southern Lebanon against a dramatically weakened Hezbollah. Otherwise Israel will need to do this again in a decade--possibly with a nuclear-armed Iran operating a fully controlled Syria as an additional asset.

I suspect that any operations in Syria will be from the air only to smash up Iranian assets and forces close to Israel.

And I suspect Israel won't target Gaza, hoping Fatah can restrain Hamas, and react only with limited artillery and air strikes to any attacks from Gaza--unless Gaza fully joins Hezbollah.

UPDATE: There does seem to be "chatter" in the air for something happening soon

Getting What They Wish

Turkey under Erdogan seems unhappy with being an American ally within NATO. Well, they are getting their wish, it seems:

A senior U.S. State Department official has repeated Washington's support for Cyprus' right to carry out an offshore search for oil and gas.

Turkey, which invaded and controls the ethnic Turkish north (since 1974 or so, if memory serves me).

Turkey opposes the drilling.

I'm thinking and air base in the Greek portion of the island would nicely replace Incirlik, in Turkey.

Running on Fumes

Strategypage reports that the Army is now able to order ammunition to rebuild war reserve stocks. I hadn't realized things were that bad but should have known.

Strategypage also notes that the Air Force revelations of bomb shortages were real and not, as I assumed, only shortages in immediately available munitions separate from the war reserve stocks that I assumed remained.

But even without specific knowledge of the ammunition shortage, I should have known that slighting readiness to fight includes lack of ammunition in addition to shorting spare parts and training.

And given that I recognized at the time that America had instituted our own "ten-year rule" back in 2009 that assumed America would not have to fight a major war in the "medium term" that ammunition stocks would be allowed to fall to low levels.

But I did not follow the logic other than general worries about readiness.

Indeed, a year ago I noted that we had to move bombs around theaters, but in my defense that seemed to imply the war reserve stocks were intact. And half a year ago I still thought the war reserve stocks were okay.

I was wrong.

Allies who rely on America to resupply them should take note.

Although in one sense, this particular planned shortage may not be critical if stocks can be rebuilt before an enemy decides to exploit our shortages to gain an edge in battle while they can.

I feared in 2009 that we wouldn't cancel the "rule" in time, notwithstanding the correct justification that no major enemy would arise in the medium term to challenge America.

Let's hope we did.

Monday, March 19, 2018

We Really Did Win the Iraq War

I just don't see all the failures that so many analysts claim for the Iraq War initiated 15 years ago.

So "some" Iraqi officials said the sanctions were being felt and would have led to Iraqi compliance with American demands?

But by early 2001 the sanctions were clearly weakening as Saddam exploited fake "dead baby parades" (see my quotes of the same article noted there but now offline in the undead archive of pre-Blogger TDR--behold the primitiveness! Scroll down to "This Just Sickens Me" (Posted June 19, 2003)) to convince Westerners that post-1991 war sanctions were killing Iraqis.

Basing analysis on Saddam officials' statements seems a problem to me given contrary evidence of the oil-for-food corruption and the rising clamor to lift sanctions. Remember that our government was speaking of "smart sanctions" to cope with erosion of support for sanctions by replacing them with more focused sanctions to escape the growing outrage.

We had no substantive plan for Iraq after the war? But the New York Times said that we had extensive plans (called "the most ambitious American effort to administer a country since the occupations of Japan and Germany at the end of World War II").

And if your template for what we should have done is post-World War II, have you looked at the chaotic mess that Europe was after the war for years? We extensively planned that horror show?

I think post-war Iraq went reasonably well considering the Shia victims of Saddam had no experience governing. Just who inside Iraq could have taken over without problems? Seriously, we followed COIN 101 even in the face of heavily supported opposition.

Also, given that the war really continued to evolve after the fall of Saddam's regime, the war didn't really end until 2008, by which time Bush 43 put in place a plan for long-term engagement.

Why didn't the Obama administration formulate a plan during the three years it had to use it's big-brained nuanced foreign policy team to make a post-war plan before walking away from Iraq?

And I absolutely reject the idea that it was a mistake to disband Iraqi security forces. That was as necessary as de-Nazifying Germany was. Further, at least for the army, disbanding it was a legal formality--it was gone.

Do you really believe that disbanding those entities caused Baathist resistance? You may have missed decades of Baathist Sunni Arab minority rule on top of centuries of Sunni minority rule of the Shias. Good Lord, believing we caused Sunni Arab resistance by not essentially reversing the military victory over them is nonsense. Indeed, in the uprising of early 2004 by pro-Iran Shias and the Sunni Islamists, can you imagine what our forces would have faced if the surviving Iraqi security forces had been staffed with Baathists?

If it is true that the destruction of Saddam's government helped Iran gain influence in Iraq, it is also true that the destruction of the Nazis helped Soviet-backed communists gain influence in post-World War II Western Europe as well as full control of Eastern Europe.

And check this out. Defeating Japan opened the way to Mao winning the civil war in China. Do we blame our current problem with modernizing China on the decision to wage war on Japan the morning of December 7, 1941 rather than letting the Japanese occupy large parts of China to keep Maos's communists suppressed?

Are we having "blowback" fun yet?

Solving one problem--aggressive, brutal, WMD-pursuing Saddam--does not solve all problems. Work the Goddamn problems.

And blaming the Iraq War for Iran's influence in Iraq requires you to neglect that Saddam's brutal minority rule over the Shias was the reason Iran had influence within Iraq in the first place. Recall that Iraq invaded Iran in 1980 in part to reverse the influence revolutionary Iran had on Iraq's restive Shias. Saddam wasn't sure he could even count on his Shia soldiers to remain loyal without inflicting a humiliating defeat on Iran.

The idea that ISIS arose from the Iraq War ignores the terror group's origin in the pre-Iraq War al Qaeda, the role of the Syrian revolution in creating a sanctuary for jihadis in eastern Syria, the role of Syria in the Iraq War terrorist campaign that made Syria a haven for Iraqi Baathists who joined with the jihadis, and the failure of America to remain in Iraq after 2011 to keep the Iraqi government and security forces on track and to keep our foot on the gas to pursue the beaten jihadis inside Iraq rather than let them regenerate.

The charge that what we achieved was a failure is nonsense, and Iraq War 2.0 that President Obama initiated in 2014 indicates that even he--who won the presidency on his absolute opposition to the war--thought we needed to salvage what we achieved in the Iraq War rather than walk away from the "mistake."

Iraq is an imperfect democracy that is not brutal to minorities, is not a threat to neighbors, and is not a threat to gain and use WMD. Iraq doesn't train and import terrorists but kills them in large numbers at our side.

And following the ending of the ISIL caliphate in Iraq, with more American support along with increasing foreign Sunni Arab states' support, Iraq will be able to resist and reverse Iranian influence among the Shias of Iraq (and even in that community, only a minority back Iran).

We won the Iraq War. It didn't become Vermont immediately after the war, it is true. But it took a long time to make Europe--West and East--the secure friendly bloc it is today after the victory in 1945. And South Korea did not become the free prosperous democracy it is today without decades of effort following the Korean War.

Have a little damn patience and work the problems that inevitably arise in any endeavor.

God almighty,

I'll skip the rest of the article, although the remainder have a bit more balanced views. The consensus is failure. I don't agree with that consensus, although leaving in 2011 made the success harder than it needed to be.

Don't forget that the consensus during the war was that our military was flailing in a "fiasco." Until somehow we won on the battlefield.  So I reject the consensus now that says "Sure our military performed well. But the outcome is a disaster (with it commonly claimed the Iraq War was possibly one of the greatest American errors in all of our history!)."

That is nonsense. And I'd be remiss not to (again) note Learning Curve on assessing the Iraq War.

And I don't rule out that the Arab Spring could yet be seen as one sign post on the way to opening the Arab Moslem world to democracy and rule of law as an alternative to the traditional forms of their government of either an autocracy (that itself spawns Islamist resistance) or an Islamist regime. The Great West Hope of autocrats who suppress jihadi ideology doesn't work and encourages Islamist growth.

I've argued that repeatedly. Autocrats may support "tame Islamists" but they simply encourage the "wild" Islamists who become more extreme as opposition; and which attract even non-Islamists to the only game in town for opposing the regime.

But I (sort of) digress.

I really am weary of fighting against the impossibly high standards so many Westerners insist America--and America alone--most meet to call a war victorious.

Here's my 10-year piece on the war as well as some frustration with others' thoughts on the so-called disaster of the war, for what they're worth.

We won the Iraq War. Get over it.

UPDATE: Honestly, can you see no value to having one of the Axis of Evil states helping us fight jihadis and not being a threat given the immense problems that the surviving two-thirds of the Axis of Evil (North Korea and Iran) pose to us and our allies?

Unable to Electromagnetically Jump the Shark

I worry that our big-deck carriers are too vulnerable for the primary role of sea-control against a peer naval competitor.

The new Ford-class super carrier is supposed to be the pinnacle of carrier design based on experience since World War II. While I assume a number of problems are normal and will be solved, the replacement of the old steam catapults to launch heavy modern aircraft with the EMALS (Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System) catapult is failing at an alarming rate and no solution is in sight.

Indeed, a retired carrier might have to be brought back into service until the problem can be solved.

Not that I am in favor of small carriers. They add more problems than they solve.

The major problem in the carrier debate is that advocates and foes of super carriers as the primary capital ship of the Navy argue apples and oranges without really dealing with their own side's weak points.

Maybe first of its class Ford should be designated an amphibious warfare carrier for now in light of my suggestion to consolidate strike carriers and amphibious carriers with one platform based on the Ford hull. As long as it can't be a strike carrier, why not test it as an amphibious warfare ship to see just how large a Marine force can be carried and used?

And what about the delayed shock tests, eh? 

Another Reason to Die for Russia?

Is Putin sending Ukrainian war mercenary veterans to die in Syria?

"There is a rumor that Vagner is a so-called meat-grinder project," one of the [Russian mercenary unit] commanders said. "What is to be done with those who fought in Donbas? With the idiots from the first wave who are real ideologues? These are scary people who could catalyze society. They can cause trouble like yeast in bread. But in Syria, you can help the interests of the country and get rid of some yeast at the same time. That's what some people are saying. And probably there is something to it."

That's pretty brutal. Not that I don't think former KGB Putin could do it. But what about Ukraine veterans would make them so dangerous? Surely they aren't a threat to overthrow the government or to be criminals or terrorists, right?

Or is it something as simple as Putin not wanting them to speak about Russia's role in Ukraine's Donbas war?

Of course, maybe these particular veterans are as dangerous as believed. Or maybe Russian rulers believe that is the case.

Not that this is unheard of. China did send former Nationalist soldiers to die in the Korean War, according to something I read long ago, to kill off potential internal threats while killing foreign enemies. Two birds with one stone.

I've also speculated that at least one reason for Saddam to invade Kuwait in 1990 was to keep the army busy in a war so it wouldn't be a threat to him. I figured Saddam couldn't afford to discharge all the soldiers needed to fight Iran in the recently ended Iran-Iraq War not only because Iran might renew the war but also because the Iraqi veterans could be a threat to Saddam. Yet Saddam couldn't afford to keep them in uniform without capturing the bank (Kuwait) after Arab subsidies to fight Iran dwindled (Kuwait had sold oil in Iraq's name from a border field).

And I've also wondered if North Korea might start a war it knows it will lose on the assumption that South Korea and America would kill off large parts of a dangerous standing army it can't afford to reduce lest military-age men be out of the government's control, while not going for the kill to overthrow the regime.

A dangerous belief if it is widespread among Russians is the sentiment expressed by one mercenary that America may be able to build missiles but that American troops can't fight on the ground:

"If we have to fight with America, we will win," he said. "They don't know how to fight. As Putin said, you can invent all sorts of missiles, but you can't invent people like we have. Our people -- they know how to sacrifice themselves."

Given that American troops since 9/11 have been battling and killing jihadis up close and personal in infantry combat (backed by those missiles, of course), that is wrong. The Germans and Japanese believed that to be true, too, before attacking or declaring war on America in World War II, and got stomped for their delusions.

Also, as Patton said (well, as George C. Scott portraying Patton said), nobody won a war by dying for their country. They won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.

Also note the mercenary impression that the Syrian troops are really wary of risking their lives given the heavy casualties they've endured so far in the war (somebody has to live to carry on a family line, basically).

As an aside, since the Russian invasion of Crimea I've said that Russia will be stopped by body bags going back to Russia. Russia is no longer the country that will endure 30 million dead to win a war.

But if the body bags don't go home, will Russian opinion that doesn't want to sacrifice for the Donbas or Syria be affected?

And I seriously wonder if Putin's government could simply simulate dead soldiers/mercenaries online with Facebook, Twitter, email, and texts to keep friends and families ignorant of the death, slowly cutting back on contact until Russians at home simply think their friend is in a new life out of sight and out of mind.

An interesting article worth the read.

THAT'S a Deal Breaker?

Is Xi's move to rule indefinitely something that breaks the implicit deal that has seemed to govern China that says China's rulers will improve people's lives materially in exchange for the people accepting an autocracy?

That's interesting:

The unspoken compact that has anchored the relationship between China's government and its people - stay out of politics and we'll help you prosper - is being tested like never before by President Xi Jinping's move to extend his power.

The decision this week to abolish presidential term limits, setting the stage for Xi to rule indefinitely, has engendered widespread unease and jolted a generation that was brought up largely apathetic about politics.

But is it true? The "deal" has always been about Chines Communist Party supremacy in China and not any particular ruler. Why would the Chinese people reject one-man rule by one man when they accepted one-man rule by serial rulers? I know I'm deficient in nuance, but what's the point in drawing the line there?

If the Chinese people are growing uncomfortable with the "deal," it is something that has been building and not something caused by Xi's move to extend his power.

Indeed, there has long been a worry that the Chinese rulers may rely more on aggressive nationalism to justify their rule as communist-imposed discipline and belief by the people wanes in a modernizing China.

It would be kind of funny if consolidating power in the person of Xi to be better able to control China's levers of power over the people actually provokes popular unrest that overwhelms the party levers of power.

Not that unease--even widespread--indicates that chaos is around the corner, of course.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Meanwhile Near Iran

For all the focus on the North Korea nuclear problem, a potentially far worse nuclear problem continues in the Middle East with Iran.

Well, yes (tip to Instapundit):

Will the Iran deal set off a nuclear arms race in the Middle East? Mohammed bin Salman doesn’t want to go nuclear, he tells Norah O’Donnell in a 60 Minutes interview due to air on Sunday, but Saudi Arabia will not wait long after Iran creates a nuclear weapon to follow suit.

Unless you are delusional enough to believe the 2015 nuclear deal will make Iran normal:

“There's incredible talent and resources and sophistication inside of Iran, and it would be a very successful regional power that was also abiding by international norms and international rules, and that would be good for everybody."

Yeah, that would be good.

But we're not going to get anything good from the deal.

No, Iran will go nuclear--possibly enabled by North Korea--and nuclear proliferation will take off with Saudi Arabia, possibly Egypt, and certainly Turkey at some point. Add that to Israel, Pakistan, and off to the side, India, who already have nukes.

What could possibly go wrong with all those nukes in such a small area? Yes indeed, the dawn of interesting times.

And Saudi Arabia's path is already locked in place from past Saudi backing for the "(Sunni) Islamic bomb" in Pakistan.

I noted this path some years ago, including a reference to the Chinese-made CSS-2 missiles mentioned in the BBC link that could likely be the delivery system waiting for the warheads given that the Pakistanis have warhead designs made for the missile.

Have a super sparkly day.

How Bad is Yemen?

Unless I'm missing something, I don't understand what appears to be the exaggeration over the Yemen civil war:

[Saudi heir apparent Mohammed bin Salman] seems to be scaling back his war in Yemen after three years that have achieved little beyond mass civilian slaughter, famine and a cholera epidemic, at huge cost to both the kingdom’s reputation and its finances (a cost of $120bn so far, according to one Saudi defence expert).

Slaughter? The death toll doesn't support that claim, as I noted recently in a data dump:

I don't understand why Westerners so often say that the scale of death in the Yemen civil war, as an aside in an otherwise interesting article on reforming Islam said, "has brought famine, disease and death on a scale that is almost unimaginable." The death toll in nearly 3 years in Yemen is under 14,000 dead. People are dying and suffering, but the scale is hardly unimaginable at under 5,000 per year. Yet Yemen inspires indignant horror in Britain while Syria's 400,000+ dead in about 6 years of serious fighting (the first year seemed more protest based with casualties rather than a civil war it evolved into, to me). Or compare it to the war in Russian-occupied Ukrainian Donbas where about 12,000 had died in nearly four years of war. The world yawns at 3,000 dead per year but 5,000 is unimaginable?

Famine? A recent Washington Post article doesn't say more than that millions are at risk of famine--not dying in actual famine:

Nearly 80 percent of Yemen's population is food-insecure; millions are teetering on the edge of famine. The situation — described as critical for nearly two years — has grown even worse since early November, when Saudi Arabia enacted a near-complete blockade on its borders with Yemen, making it nearly impossible for anyone to import food, water and medical supplies from Saudi Arabia.

I have no doubt that food is scarce and something should be done. But the blockade is for the purpose of stopping Iranian arms shipments to Houthi rebels who fire missiles at Saudi civilian targets.

Yes, there seems to be a cholera epidemic. And while it could cause mass deaths it doesn't seem to have yet. That's no reason to remain passive, but I don't think the claims so far are accurate.

Nor do I see the Saudi reputation taking a hit. The Saudi effort did stop the pro-Iran momentum in Yemen's civil war and is slowing achieving results.

Besides, if the Saudi reputation has survived the Islamist ideology that spawned 9/11 and the terrorism we've fought since then, it can survive opposing Iran.

And I seriously doubt the financial cost claim unless it counts military expenses that would have been incurred even in peacetime.

Also, this is misleading from the Post:

Thousands of bombs have been dropped; many have hit and killed civilians. According to research, out of about 8,600 of those attacks, 3,577 hit military sites, and 1,510 struck residential areas, school buildings, hospitals and other civilian sites.

Does the "research" (linking to a far-left Guardian article!) indicate whether rebels were using civilian sites as fighting positions or otherwise using them? If so, that makes them military targets. The rules on war do not require combatants to treat any civilian site as a sanctuary for enemies.

I'll not deny that being in a war zone is anything but a horror show. But so much of the Western reporting on Yemen seems like Iran-inspired propaganda, quite honestly. I'm open to being persuaded by better information. But so far I don't see it.

And I want the Saudis to win.

UPDATE: Strategypage sketches the clusterfuck that is "modern" Yemen.

UPDATE: I suspect the bias of the head of the Yemen Peace Project from saying that Yemen is the "world's worst humanitarian crisis."

As I've long argued, Yemen is a clusterfuck. All we can do is try to kill jihadis who use Yemen as a base to attack us and make sure Iran doesn't gain a foothold at the southern access point to the Red Sea. The Saudi alliance with our help is working to do that latter while our air strikes and special forces raids work on the former.

America is not at fault for making the Yemen clusterfuck. If you haven't read the Strategypage update, do so now. We made that worse? Good luck with that peace project.

UPDATE: However bad the war is objectively, the image is amazingly bad. Secretary of Defense Mattis let the Saudis know they should get on with winning and ending the war.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Weekend Data Dump

A Pakistani author worries about India and China getting closer rather than intensifying friction. Pakistan would be isolated if America makes good on threats to punish Pakistan for supporting Islamist terrorists. Given border disputes between India and China I don't know how they get "close" notwithstanding any movement right now to be closer.

For whatever reason, my summary of the Iran-Iraq War is getting steady hits these days. I mean, other than the obvious reason that it is rather good, of course.

Naturally, the Chinese are attempting to infiltrate institutions that are already close to being Maoist indoctrination centers. Tip to Instapundit. I've mentioned the Chinese Confuse Us Institutes before. Yet still our institutions welcome them and their money.

It is absolutely wrong and counter-productive to punish the instinct of those who protect us to "head to the sound of the guns" as their first reaction to a crisis. Effing idiots, those "superiors" are. I fully understand that too many responders can clog the scene and diminish capacity to action. But in the initial stage before there is effective command and control to deploy assets and issue orders, the first unorganized responders could be key. Punish that instinct enough and we won't have it when we need it. Tip to Instapundit.

Countries spanning the Pacific agreed to a trade pact (ratification must follow) that reduces tariffs without America. The implication is that America is hosed for not participating. As a rule I prefer free trade. And I think it is good for America to participate in free trade agreements. But the terms of a deal are important. And all those countries want to trade with America which means there is no reason we can't have bilateral pacts with members of the agreement. Also note that China is not part of the pact. I admit things could turn out badly. But it might be fine, too. I'll not predict so soon.

It isn't too shocking that the broad failure of the Arab Spring has led to an increase in jihadi terrorism in Africa. The Arab Spring offered democracy as an alternative to the traditional autocracy or mullah-run government as means to run Arab Moslem states. This does not mean that the Arab Spring was a long-term failure. In the long run the choice of democracy (and rule of law) has to be a real option of governance. But in the short run the autocracies were weakened even though they turned back the reach for democracy; and with a weakened government security forces, the jihadis who kill naturally benefit. Perhaps this shores up the appeal of the traditional forms of government to control the violence. Ideally those autocracies add rule of law to their tool kit that eventually leads to more opportunities for democracy.

If a future heavily armored battleship was equipped with active missile defenses and long-range missiles and drones, it could have a place in the fleet again. Remember, aircraft gave the carrier the edge over battleships in the ship-killing (with strike plane range) and fleet defense (with fighter aircraft) contests. If missiles can provide the range without the risk to planes going up against enemy air defenses and an edge in defense with a combination of active defenses and passive armor, battleships could re-enter the contest. Although I wonder if modern weapons would overwhelm battleships as they were overwhelmed in World War II by simpler "dumb" weapons. And I wonder if we could even make the thick steel armor needed. Or would new materials and electric armor be able to replace steel?

The language of presidential hate: "All Americans, not only in the states most heavily affected but in every place in this country, are rightly disturbed by the large numbers of illegal aliens entering our country. The jobs they hold might otherwise be held by citizens or legal immigrants. The public service they use impose burdens on our taxpayers. That's why our administration has moved aggressively to secure our borders more by hiring a record number of new border guards, by deporting twice as many criminal aliens as ever before, by cracking down on illegal hiring, by barring welfare benefits to illegal aliens. In the budget I will present to you, we will try to do more to speed the deportation of illegal aliens who are arrested for crimes, to better identify illegal aliens in the workplace as recommended by the commission headed by former Congresswoman Barbara Jordan. We are a nation of immigrants. But we are also a nation of laws. It is wrong and ultimately self-defeating for a nation of immigrants to permit the kind of abuse of our immigration laws we have seen in recent years, and we must do more to stop it." Dog whistle phrases for hate, for sure.

Cultural appropriation defended.

Big boom. Don't forget the far more numerous little booms.

For a while I've said that America should look for alternatives to Incirlik air base in Turkey and quietly remove our nukes from the base, given problems with Erdogan pushing Turkey to Islamist politics. We are scaling back use of Incrirlik and apparently did the latter a couple years ago. I don't remember hearing about that, but I did say do it "quietly." Kudos to the Obama administration on the latter, which was done notwithstanding their encouragement of Erdogan as a "tame" Islamist we could work with. Now make some progress on making sure Turkey doesn't get our advanced F-35 (sell them a simpler "monkey version" as the Soviets called their export weapons), as I also advised. Perhaps in 5 years I'll read we did that, too.

To protect and serve their multi-cultural PC credentials. Shameful.

Let's hope the repulsive alt-Right is waning. It was never influential in America despite "resistance" panic attacks, never large--or even a sizable fraction--of course. Sadly, the hard Left will not wane as long as professors and administrators sympathetic to the hard Left control the institutions (and our media, of course). Tip to Instapundit.

If this allegation of false conviction rates is true, it's really bad. It would be even worse if you consider that prosecutors only bring charges on cases they think they can win (it is bad politics to have low conviction rates), explaining the amazingly high conviction rate. But is it true? I have no background to judge, honestly. But rule of law, which I drone on about, requires a low false conviction rate. And I do think juries are prone to believe forensic evidence is Golden because of television cop shows, despite its deep flaws. If "expert" witnesses could be sued in civil court by defendants, that might help reduce overly broad or definitive conclusions and provide a means for the wrongly convicted to recover damages.

Good charts on NATO states reaching (or mostly not reaching) 2% of GDP defense spending. It's a blunt measurement but it is the foundation of real defense capabilities.

The headline makes it sound like Russia pledged to fight America if America strikes Assad: "Russia says U.S. plans to strike Damascus, pledges military response". Which made me wonder if the Russians are dangerously reckless. But the Russians didn't quite say that. There was a condition. They said America plans to strike Assad's facilities in Damascus and that Russia would respond militarily "if it felt Russian lives were threatened" by the attack. So Russia drew a very closely drawn red line that leaves a lot of Syria exposed to American attack (over possible chemical weapons use or the death toll in the Ghouta pocket) that doesn't expose Russian troops to risk. I wonder if this is brushing Russia back from the plate for an Israeli operation against Hezbollah in Lebanon that also allows Russia to save face doing nothing about that by posing as the protector of Assad despite no threat to Assad?

Lack of transparency and accountability is a feature of the European Union and not a bug. The Brussels elites can knight anybody into their new pan-European royalty. So the peasantry can get back to tending the fields and just shut up while the proto-imperial state in Brussels erases the "proto-" part.

Tillerson was fired as secretary of state. I wasn't a big fan but other than his fondness for the Iran nuclear deal, didn't offend me. So firing him isn't a bad thing. And if Tillerson was promoting a European foreign policy in regard to Iran, that was a problem. Tip to Instapundit.

Saddam Hussein reached out to useful idiots and allies within the West to shield Iraq from Western military action and sanctions.

An overview of the Baltic region. I'm trying to get an article on my views on defending the forward Baltic NATO states published.

Hillary Clinton's claim while in India that she lost because married white women succumbed to pressure from their husbands leads me to ask just where do you meet these subservient women? I kid. I kid! But seriously, I haven't met any of these mythical women. I think they fall in the category of "moderate Democrats" and Big Foot.

It should be obvious that thugs like these deserve prison time.

On the bright side, America suddenly had half a million fewer fugitive criminals!

I hate to even glance at Yahoo! News comments these days. Long stupid, these days they often seem so over-the-top stupid that I can't see them without assuming they are Russian trolls.

See something, say something, do something--get rebuked. Volkswagen should re-hire the man as a crash test dummy.

I remain deeply disappointed in Russia. The Russians could have joined the West after the Cold War on the basis of the notion that they too were victims of communism. I wanted them to become friends. Germany, Japan, and Italy didn't do too bad as former enemies, now did they? But instead the Russians have turned the West into an enemy while ignoring China's rise to their resource-rich rear where only Russian nukes could stop China from grabbing land ceded by them to Russia in the 19th century. The Russians aren't foreign policy geniuses. They're morons. With nukes and poison gas. Is it impossible for sanity to break out there?

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." Just in case you doubt my full right wing credentials, for whatever reason. It blows my mind that this isn't universally supported in America.

Good grief, people, the White House has air defense missiles!

While I'm not happy that Trump wrongly told Trudeau Canada did not have a trade deficit with America, this Canadian author erases my sympathy by loudly arguing Trump "lies" to America's closest allies. But the quote clearly indicates that Trump simply didn't know the facts and asserted his own convenient fact. Which isn't quite a lie, is it? Again, Trump shouldn't have done that. But it wasn't a lie. It was incorrect. And another thing, Canadians who elected a one-man boy band to be their prime minister have little credibility in belittling Americans who voted for Trump. And as for all those quotes about how we are mis-treated in trade? That's called negotiating. International trade will be just fine.

I have a great deal of respect for H.R. McMaster. Losing his advice would be bad if he truly is to be fired as national security advisor.


Karma: Hillary slips twice on stairs and fractures wrist while in India in separate incidents after going off on "shithole" red states and the "deplorable" people--including the Stepford wives who voted for Trump--who live in them. Funny all this happened in India.

To be fair accurate perceptions of liberal bias in colleges are still perceptions. Tip to Instapundit.

Ah Hell, we lost all 7 crew and passengers on a helicopter that went down in western Iraq.

The gender fluidity nonsense is all fun and games until consequences rear their ugly head. So, is "she" to be believed?

I never much liked Stephen Hawking notwithstanding admiration for his coping with his condition and respect for his scientific skills.

Coping with this vulnerability would be nice. I don't like the Internet of things one bit.And I'll ask again, given the damage that a cyber attack could inflict on us, why isn't a kinetic response justified by such an act of war?

The Left mocked new economic advisor's statement that things would go well, God willing. MSNBC expressed that mockery on the air. I eagerly await the nonstop MSNBC mocking of Moslems who commonly say "Inshallah." Any minute now.

I admit I am open to persuasion about whether conservative things are happening because of Trump or despite him; as well as the related question of whether there is chaos in the White House or just media amplification of what is going on and perhaps an over valuing of dullness. At the very least perhaps we'll gain some perspective about the role of the imperial president we invest so much attention on in a vast governmental structure with lots of parts that continue to work along. I've never panicked over the election of Trump despite worries about his liberal heritage and I'm not a particular fan of his style or character and make no excuses for that. You will never find panty-throwing fanboy literature here any more than you found it during the Bush 43 administration or demonization during the Obama years. But I remain deeply grateful he defeated the deeply corrupt and perhaps more divisive Clinton (and by "he" I suppose I mean Trump and Obama).

Add livestock in the passenger compartment to the indignity of modern air travel and our airlines have basically re-invented Soviet-era Aeroflot without the accident rate. I'm starting to think that success against terrorist take-overs of airline flights since 9/11 has less to do with improved security and more the result of the sheer unpleasantness of a flight that might be the terrorists' last moments on Earth. How many virgin vouchers for Paradise are needed to overcome that?

Somebody Needs to Aim Higher

President Trump mentioned the possibility of a Space Force. Rather than a separate Space Force, I'd make the Air Force the Aerospace Force to control the skies and space above Earth.

People not paying attention to the issue can mock this proposal, of course, because Trump:

President Trump is a political force of nature who refuses to be hemmed in by the bureaucratic status quo. He proved that again Tuesday when he raised the possibility of creating a Space Force to oversee U.S. military efforts in space. Not a space command or a space corps, but a Space Force.

This makes sense as a concept if not the precise nature of the force.

I think of space around the Earth as an extension of the atmosphere above the planet that we need the Air Force to control to support operations lower down to ground and not a truly separate domain. That doesn't happen until we have military forces moving beyond the Earth-Moon system.

Then we can discuss a separate space service, whether modeled on the Navy or Air Force, pulling people from those services to man the new force. I'd go with the Navy with their planes, subs, and long-endurance mission experience. Although I'm open to drone-based rather than crewed models of a Space Force/Navy that plays more to Air Force drone experience.

But I am in danger of digressing.

In my ideal world, the Air Force sheds the close air support mission (and money and force structure) to the Army, leaving the Army with capabilities to fight for the air over its units and support them in combat that the Marines have, while leaving the Air Force to focus on strike missions not primarily in support of Army units in combat, air superiority, cyber, transport, nukes, missile defense, anti-satellite assets (ground, airborne, and space-based), and space control (off the top of my head, this is hardly set in stone).

I'd call the re-focused Air Force the Aerospace Force.

Strategypage has related thoughts on the Russian space farce. Clearly, China is the spacefaring nation America will see the most in space.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Crouching PLA, Hidden PAP

After decades of shedding light infantry to the People's Armed Police, the Chinese official army seems to want to bring the "police" closer again.

Well that's interesting:

After the recent takeover of China’s 1.52-million-strong Armed Police Force by the Communist Party’s Central Military Commission, which is also the PLA’s command and control center, further militarization of training and management of the armed police have become a new emphasis.

It has been reported by Chinese media that themed war games of armed police units versus PLA regiments have been arranged, and some observers believe that the majority of the paramilitary police could be absorbed by the PLA.

Exercises for the Armed Police Force have been put at the center of strategies, Bao Yingxiang, commander of the armed police corps of Tianjin, told People’s Daily.

The Chinese seem to want to make sure their "police" light infantry can work with their army. Which they used to be part of.

Although perhaps just as interesting, making these police units capable of carrying out their former army role and practicing fighting PLA regiments makes those party-controlled troops capable of ... fighting PLA regiments.

Like I said, every threat to the Communist Party's control of China is part of a continuum of threats to be dealt with.

Change. But What Kind?

I'm not sure what to make of the Saudi Neom multinational city to be built at the top of the Gulf of Aqaba in partnership with Egypt and Jordan.

The vision is certainly grand:

To observers, Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman Al Saud’s flagship idea may seem overly ambitious – to build a mega-city known as Neom along the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea that extends across the borders to Jordan and Egypt.

Indeed, its proponents are describing the planned 26,500 square kilometer city in almost messianic terms. “Neom is positioned to become an aspirational society that heralds the future of human civilization by offering its inhabitants an idyllic lifestyle set against a backdrop of a community founded on modern architecture, lush green spaces, quality of life, safety and technology in the service of humanity paired with excellent economic opportunities,” says Neom’s website.

Israel seems to be a glaring hole in that project denying it land contiguity. Is Israel envisioned as a partner in the future if anti-Israel bias can be reduced?

I tend to see things in terms of security issues. Tying Egypt and Jordan to Saudi Arabia does help Saudi Arabia in confronting Iran.

And the bridge plan at the southern end of the gulf would make it easier for Egypt to send troops to support Saudi Arabia.

I have to believe it would help Egypt economically as a route for Moslems making the trip to holy sites in Saudi Arabia.

The Neom project could certainly provide economic advantages to Jordan and Saudi Arabia (which wants to diversify from oil export dependence) if it brings in investments into an oasis of business-friendly rule of law and absence of Islamist ideology. Security better be tight.

Would it also provide help with the Salman project to move Saudi Arabia away from Islamist ideology that supports jihadis? Could it be an incubator for modernity using Jordan and Egypt as foreign shields to protect it from internal Saudi opposition?

It will be interesting to see if the Neom project is even started let alone built.

Answering the Call from the 1980s

The Army is adding equipment sets for two armored brigade combat teams in Europe:

Four years after the Army rolled its last tanks out of Europe, the service has sent back a brigade’s worth of equipment to have on stand-by and plans to add a second set this year. ...

The vehicles, housed in Belgium and the Netherlands, are in addition to the brigade’s worth of equipment and personnel that are continually in Europe, as part of a heel-to-toe rotation that began in 2016.

So America can quickly have three Army heavy brigades in Europe in addition to the parachute brigade and Stryker brigade already based in Europe.

I'm assuming that after we get enough practice moving brigades to Europe for the heel-to-toe deployments from the continental United States that a brigade will be permanently stationed in Poland, notwithstanding any now-obsolete agreements with Russia about that.

The Marines are also beefing up their equipment stored in Norway to support what sounds like possibly a brigade of Marines.

And eventually we'll need a corps headquarters back in Europe, (although because of Russian aggression now we need a heavy corps rather than a lighter corps as I wanted when I argued for keeping a corps--see pp. 15-20).

We took our eye of the European ball and now are making up for our mistake.

And please note that America pulled out our last tank from Europe 5 years ago, demonstrating how ridiculous the Russian claim that NATO poses a military threat to Russia has been.