Thursday, July 02, 2015

Meanwhile in the War Formerly Called Good

News out of Afghanistan is sparse--shark summer taking priority in reporting, of course. But Strategypage has an update on the war.

One bit of good news in light of our failure to do this in Iraq after 2011 is that our special forces and air power (drones mostly) are still in the jihadi-killing business.

Afghanistan is a patchwork of tribal entities rather than a real state. But that doesn't mean we can't win in the territory called Afghanistan.

Good Enough for Government Work

It is true that no Arab army is that good when compared to a Western army actually trained to fight. It is also irrelevant to rebuilding an Iraqi army to defeat ISIL.

Retired General Robert Scales, when reflecting on our victory in Desert Storm, is right about the challenge of preparing Iraq's ground forces to fight ISIL--Arab armies historically haven't been very good:

“You know, Bob, Arab armies really can’t do this very well."

From memory, I recall a story of an American officer looking over the well-constructed bunkers in Kuwait that Iraq's army abandoned when we attacked in 1991. He said thank goodness they weren't held by North Vietnamese.

And he is right that it is futile to try to make the Iraqi military fight like our Army. You go to war with the army you have and not the army you wished you had, right?

But there is a bright spot, as that same officer cited by Scales indicates:

"Remember we not only fought an Arab army, we fought with Arab armies, and the Saudis and Syrians weren’t any better than Saddam’s Republican Guard.”

The Iraqi military doesn't have to beat a Western army. It will be fighting fellow Arabs, for the most part, who share the same deficiencies.

Yes, the jihadis have fervor that makes them fairly eager for death. But they aren't soldiers. They don't do that very well, either.

With American-led planes in the air over them, Iraq will have firepower.

And Iraq does have a clear numerical advantage over ISIL.

With sufficient numbers and training to make some of them reasonably adequate soldiers, backed by our air power (I assume we'll have somebody reliable with those units to call in air strikes) they'll be good enough for government work.

Remember that Iraq did finally break the will of Persian jihadis during the Iran-Iraq War when the Iraqis built up sufficient firepower (including poison gas, which is ruled out now) and trained mobile forces (the Republican Guards) to supplement their expanded number of static infantry formations that held the line to erase Iran's numerical edge.

Despite the drubbing they gave the Iranians during Karbala Five and the meager Iranian efforts that had followed, the Iraqis were nonetheless compelled to man a long front, albeit with greater confidence. Although the pattern of Iraqi defenders facing repeated Iranian land offensives was apparently continuing unabated, the strategic balance was shifting in Iraq's favor. Less visible than the stalemate and the Iranian attacks were Iraq's ground force expansion, the Republican Guard's secret training in the summer of 1987, and Iran's quiet collapse due to the Karbala Five slaughter that killed off the bulk of Iran's experienced and trained Pasdaran. Just as Iran's ground forces lost the will to make the type of "final offensive" that Iran's religious leaders believed was necessary to win the war, Iraq's army had expanded sufficiently for Iraq to take the initiative once again.

Our air power has inflicted attrition on a far smaller ISIL army. But this attrition has not reached the point where jihadi will to fight is cracked--as their capture of Ramadi shows.

But the firepower potential is still there. And we are sending new weapons to help with the frontline direct firepower deficiency that helped ISIL super-car-bomb their way through the Iraqi defenses at Ramadi.

And perhaps we are secretly training and expanding Iraq's reliable mobile forces.

Iraq beat jihadis once before--Iranian Shia jihadis--with Russian arms and advice and American intelligence support. It wasn't pretty. But it worked.

Iraq can beat Sunni jihadis, too. It would be nice if we really could regain the initiative and get on with that mission.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

The Schultz Doctrine and an Iran Deal

If we cave on every Iranian demand and sign a fantasy nuclear deal based on mutual pretending, it would be counter-productive to have a process that can reveal too easily that this is a fantasy agreement.

So we've unleashed our diplomats to take care of that potential problem:

"We have worked out a process that we believe will ensure that the IAEA has the access it needs," the administration official told reporters.

"The entry point isn't we must be able to get into every military site, because the United States of America wouldn't allow anybody to get into every military site, so that's not appropriate," the official said.

Got that? Since we wouldn't let Iranian nutballs into any of our nuclear facilities with no notice, it would be totally unfair to insist that we can visit any facility at any time to make sure the nutballs are obeying the deal.

So we've established the Schultz Doctrine to make sure we can't discover Iranian violations of even a weak deal:

I think that is actual video of a State Department undersecretary of nuance, or something, after Iran committed an act of war against us in 2011.

Have s super sparkly day.

Welcome to the Real World

So the legal world of marriage finally caught up with Dick Cheney's views and the more recent conversions of President Obama and Hillary Clinton. There is a Chinese curse that might apply to this victory.

If asked, I'd say that marriage is self-evidently a contract between a man and a woman. But I'm sufficiently liberty-minded to say that if society is ready for same-sex marriage, it's no skin off my nose. The court has spoken. Enjoy this new freedom. But those who can now take advantage of this will realize that they no longer have an "alternative" lifestyle.

Now, gay and lesbian people can look forward to pressure to marry, unable to say, "Sorry honey, if only we could! I'd love to! Sadly, society does not recognize our love! Damn them!!"

So enjoy the wedding ride. Even if you don't mind being the last couple you know to tie the knot, does your partner feel the same way? Ooh. Didn't see that one coming, eh?

And maybe with a mortgage and children and all that, Republican ideas on government and taxes will start to make more sense. That's gonna leave a mark.

Oh, and if love should falter, the new laws remain even if the love is gone. You have committed to sexual relations with one person for the rest of your life. Check the fine print.

In an "alternative" lifestyle, you could walk away at your wish. Change your Facebook status, collect your goldfish, Kindle, and clothes, and you're outta there!

Now, with a legally binding bond, enjoy the court process and alimony and property division and custody issues. And how do friends divide up? That's fun, too. Now we're experiencing equality, eh?

Mind you, many will surely find love and happiness this route--as heterosexual couples often do. I'm happy for them. I wish them the best. Maybe they'll even show the rest of us how to do it right.

Anyway, I'm more worried about the strange results of same-justice legal logic.

But in 10 years I don't want to hear conspiracy theories about how this was all a hetero plot to destroy the gay and lesbian communities by assimilating them into the Borg collective of suburban life, lawn care, mini-vans, PTO meetings, and big-box bulk stores.

With this new freedom (#LoveWins) comes new legally binding responsibilities and choice-limiting realities. You might want to start watching Married with Children as a warning rather than a comedy.


Be careful out there!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

So Easy, A Cave Man Can Do It

Is America going to cave to Iran and sign a lousy deal just to get to the signing ceremony and Nobel Peace Prize nominations?

"It's really absurd,” the [senior unnamed] official said.

"If we were going to cave, I could be home already and I would be a really happy person ... we would have done that a long time ago," the official said.

"Why would we be spending the hours doing this in the way we are if, you know, we were just (going to say to Iran) 'well whatever you want, you got'."

Yeah, I wouldn't want my name associated with that kind of denial, either.

And our diplomats get paid by the hour, I assume. So what else would they do with their time? I hear Switzerland is lovely this time of year.

And of course, if the deal's outline is as I've long assumed--Iran will pretend not to have a nuclear weapons program; and we will pretend to believe them--this is exactly the kind of denial one would expect from our administration, no?

I remember our first deadline for Iran:

The Obama administration and its European allies are setting a target of early October to determine whether engagement with Iran is making progress or should lead to sanctions, said senior officials briefed on the policy.

They also are developing specific benchmarks to gauge Iranian behavior. Those include whether Tehran is willing to let United Nations monitors make snap inspections of Iranian nuclear facilities that are now off-limits, and whether it will agree to a "freeze for freeze" -- halting uranium enrichment in return for holding off on new economic sanctions -- as a precursor to formal negotiations.

The moves are partly driven by concerns in Israel and among Washington's Arab allies that Tehran could drag out negotiations indefinitely while advancing its nuclear program, the officials said.

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have stressed that U.S. overtures toward Tehran won't be open-ended. The administration is committed to testing Tehran's willingness to cooperate on the nuclear issue and on related efforts to stabilize Afghanistan and Iraq.

The administration officials were still drunk on Hope and Change at that point. Yet when you go from all of those conditions for a deal to our current position that we just want a decent interval of 10 years before Iran gets nuclear weapons--and feel free to build a Persian Empire across the region, you proto-partners, you--it's hard not to call the last 6 years both open-ended overtures and a slow cave.

The question is how much more caving will we do in the last months of the administration?

Remember, we have precedent as well as a president for a pretend deal.

Greece pretended to qualify for membership in the Euro bloc; and the European Union pretended to believe them:

From the beginning, Greece has been in a different category from countries like Italy and Spain. It was a terrible candidate for the common currency, and only ‘met’ the targets by cooking its books. ...

The willingness of European authorities to turn a blind eye to the wholesale chicanery in Athens weakened the common currency and undercut the currency’s credibility among financial market participants from the start.

And more recently, Syria pretended to give up their chemical weapons; and America pretended to believe them:

U.S. intelligence agencies believe there is a strong possibility the Assad regime will use chemical weapons on a large scale as part of a last-ditch effort to protect key Syrian government strongholds if Islamist fighters and other rebels try to overrun them, U.S. officials said. ...

Last year, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad let international inspectors oversee the removal of what President Barack Obama called the regime’s most deadly chemical weapons. The deal averted U.S. airstrikes that would have come in retaliation for an Aug. 21, 2013, sarin-gas attack that killed more than 1,400 people.

Since then, the U.S. officials said, the Assad regime has developed and deployed a new type of chemical bomb filled with chlorine, which Mr. Assad could now decide to use on a larger scale in key areas. U.S. officials also suspect the regime may have squirreled away at least a small reserve of the chemical precursors needed to make nerve agents sarin or VX. Use of those chemicals would raise greater international concerns because they are more deadly than chlorine and were supposed to have been eliminated.

Thank goodness for Kerry's brilliant chemical weapons disarmament plan!

And now we have only the president's judgment standing between us and another faux deal.  God help us all.

What's one more fantasy?

UPDATE: President Obama warms up for the Iran cave by caving to the communist Cuban tyranny.

We could have exacted a real price to benefit the Cuban people who have suffered under this tyranny. We didn't.


The rumor is that Turkey will--as they've long wanted--establish a buffer zone inside Syria on the western side of the border. This is supposed to be to prevent the Kurds from establishing a state, but it avoids the northeast where such a state would theoretically be established.


The reports said up to 18,000 soldiers would be deployed to take over and hold a strip of territory up to 30 kilometers deep and 100 kilometers long that currently is held by ISIS. It stretches from close to the Kurdish-controlled city of Kobani in the east to an area further west held by the pro-Western Free Syrian Army (FSA) and other rebel groups, beginning around the town of Mare [NOTE: "Marea" on the map]. This “Mare Line,” as the press calls it, is to be secured with ground troops, artillery and air cover, the reports said. Yeni Safak reported preparations were due to be finalized by next Friday.

It is being billed as an anti-Kurdish independence move but does not target the main Kurdish area in the northeast. Is this just for domestic non-Kurd consumption so as not to be seen as fighting jihadis true Islamists?

But does that anger their own Kurds or successfully warn them not to hope for too much to their south?

This will hurt ISIL. But Assad won't like Turkey entering Syria, and it paves the way for further Turkish intervention deeper into Syria--potentially to directly fight Assad's forces or to fill a vacuum if Assad retreats to his Alawite core region near the coast.

Of course, Turkey has been proposing something like this for a while and hasn't done it. Are the Turks simply tired of trying to get NATO backing? Or did they get it? Perhaps the apparent faltering of our non-jihadi Syrian rebel training effort is sobering about what is possible--and the Turkish option is possible.

Jordan is reported to be thinking of the same thing in the south:

The Jordanian military is actively implementing plans to create a humanitarian buffer zone in the south of the country, Sam Jones, Roula Khalaf and Erika Solomon report for the Financial Times.

Which is the whole point of the Southern Front rebels--which is what I called them before they started calling themselves that, interestingly enough.

Although I'll keep flogging my suspicion that regardless of whether the buffer zone is Jordan's main effort against ISIL or just guarding their flank, Jordan will lead a mechanized force (backed by our air power and special forces) into western Anbar when an Iraqi offensive against ISIL kicks off from the east side.

Stuff is happening, no doubt.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Russia In Assad's Literal Corner of Syria?

What did Assad's foreign minister tell the Russians to gain their pledge of support?

Russia's support for Assad was recently looking uncertain given that it looked like Assad's fortunes were going down rapidly.

But now Russia is firmly in Assad's corner:

Syria's foreign minister said in Moscow on Monday Russia had promised to send political, economic and military aid to his country, where the army is coming under some of the heaviest pressure since the start of the civil war.

Insurgent groups have made gains against government forces in northwest, central and southern Syria in the past two months but Damascus has voiced confidence that it can hold on to important territory with the help of its allies.

"I got a promise of aid to Syria - politically, economically and militarily," Walid al-Moualem said at a televised news conference after meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin. He did not give details.

Putin said earlier on Monday there was no change in Russia's support for the Syrian leadership.

What territory that Assad can control is important? If the correlation of forces as Russia seemed to see it showed Assad going down trying to hold what he has now--which has long seemed beyond his power--how is the correlation of forces going to change in Assad's favor?

Is Assad planning to withdraw to a core Syria (that includes Damascus) or even a rump Syria that transfers the capital of Syria to the coast and abandons Damascus?

Did Moualem brief Putin and get his blessing as a way to maintain Russia's access to a port at Tartus?

Could Assad have territorial ambitions in Lebanon (acting through Hezbollah rather than open occupation?)?

Yet after such heavy losses, can Assad's ground forces hold even a smaller state?

I know I'm drawing a potential picture with virtually no dots and based on what I think the different parties would and can do.

An Assad secure in his northwestern corner of Syria is good enough for Putin who has alienated Europe to capture Crimea as a base to project naval power into the eastern Mediterranean Sea--which would be less valuable if Russia doesn't have a secure port in the eastern Mediterranean.

Perhaps the question of whether a rump Syria rather than a core Syria is good enough for Iran will be answered, as well.

UPDATE: Syria is prepared to use chemical weapons to keep Assad in power:

U.S. intelligence agencies believe there is a strong possibility the Assad regime will use chemical weapons on a large scale as part of a last-ditch effort to protect key Syrian government strongholds if Islamist fighters and other rebels try to overrun them, U.S. officials said. ...

Last year, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad let international inspectors oversee the removal of what President Barack Obama called the regime’s most deadly chemical weapons. The deal averted U.S. airstrikes that would have come in retaliation for an Aug. 21, 2013, sarin-gas attack that killed more than 1,400 people.

Since then, the U.S. officials said, the Assad regime has developed and deployed a new type of chemical bomb filled with chlorine, which Mr. Assad could now decide to use on a larger scale in key areas. U.S. officials also suspect the regime may have squirreled away at least a small reserve of the chemical precursors needed to make nerve agents sarin or VX. Use of those chemicals would raise greater international concerns because they are more deadly than chlorine and were supposed to have been eliminated.

Is this a warning to ISIL to stay away from a retreating Assad, as he falls back to a core or rump Syria? And more importantly a way for Assad to reassure his supporters that a retreat can be orderly and successful--we'll do what it takes to survive--rather than a bug out and every clan for itself?

From the "Well, Duh" Files

Anbar Sunni Arabs are reluctant to re-Awaken because they don't trust us. Ya think?

We would really love it if Sunni Arabs would reject ISIL and join us in defeating ISIL. But there is a problem of trust:

“It is a pervasive view throughout Iraq and throughout the region that we are simply disengaged, that we are not prepared to exercise the kind of weight that might actually make a difference,” said Mr. Crocker, now dean of the Bush School of Government at Texas A&M University.

“And in the case of Iraq and Anbar, we are dealing with individuals, groups and tribes that remember a very different U.S. engagement. They know it, they lived it, and now the level of bitterness and mistrust is profound,” he said.

This spreading perception that the U.S. isn’t really interested in defeating Islamic State has undermined local resistance to the militant group in Anbar in recent months. It represents a major obstacle to recruiting local Sunni tribes—one of the U.S. strategies in the war—provincial leaders say.

“If you want to help someone, do it with strength to achieve results, not with drip-drip-drip as if you expect them to die anyway,” said Sabah Karhout, chairman of the Anbar provincial council. “The Americans are playing a very shy role—and if this American support had not been so shy, the Sunni tribes would not have gone over to the side of ISIS.”

Apparently, our resolve isn't inherent after all, when you are sitting in Anbar province.

Which is one reason I've argued that Anbar should take priority over Mosul.

It's funny, really. Anti-war activists kept telling us we were horrible in how we fought the resisting Sunni Arabs during the Iraq War. If their fevered war crime fantasies are accurate, we slaughtered them from the air (from 2004-2001, we averaged under one air strike per day). Yet the Sunni Arabs turned against al Qaeda during the Awakening to side with us in our 2007 Surge offensive.

Then we walked away from Iraq in 2011 and the Sunni Arabs turned--again (after they teamed up the first time in 2004)--to alliance with jihadis to resist the Shia majority that did not carry out our promises to be more inclusive.

Mind you, the Shias had some justification for mistrusting some of the Sunnis, but the Iraqi government stiff-armed all the Sunni Arabs because the Iraqi government needed to appease Iran which did not walk away from Iraq.

And now our tentative effort against ISIL to defeat ISIL--after the Sunni Arabs of Iraq experienced our more forceful efforts in 2003-2006 against them--deters these local Sunni Arab tribes from turning on ISIL in a re-Awakening. Their own experience with what we can do tells them we aren't serious based on what we are doing now.

Yes, we are still struggling to find (or train?) core ground forces that can be the spearheads to exploit our air power and drive ISIL back from their conquests.

And recall Nigeria's recent experience with and without core ground forces:

While Boko Haram took heavy losses over a thousand of the Islamic terrorists fled with weapons and vehicles and have been on the run, and rampage, ever since. Boko Haram leaders went public after the May defeats to proclaim that Boko Haram was still intact and active and seeking revenge for recent losses. While Boko Haram violence is less than it was before the May defeats, the group has made good its promise to keep killing. Now it’s up to the government to respond effectively. That will be difficult because the May victories were made possible largely because of South African mercenaries and more competent troops from neighboring countries (mainly Chad, Cameroon and Niger). The Nigerian military is as inept and unreliable as ever, especially when compared to forces from neighboring countries.

But no, really, we can just take our sweet time about any objective. I'm sure the Sunni Arabs will wait patiently--ready to clobber ISIL--for us to decide to help them effectively.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Close the Crimean Peninsula

If Russia's game in Ukraine is to keep taking small bites until they are full, Ukraine needs to cope with Russia by means other than just slowing down the digestion process.

Russia is preparing for a new offensive in the Donbas region:

Force levels on Russia's side of the border had not changed much in recent months, Breedlove said, but U.S. military officials had observed in Russia a "stocking of important supplies, ammunition, etc, to levels that would support operations".

Inside Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists are battling Ukrainian forces, Breedlove said "we see a force that has been trained, that is led by Russian leadership, ... and is ready to do whatever mission is required of it in the Donbass (region)."

"I don’t think Mr. Putin is done in eastern Ukraine," Breedlove told reporters, and Kiev, despite Moscow's hopes, was still looking to the West for support.

You can understand why Russia likes to pretend they aren't at war with Ukraine. But why should Ukraine cooperate by limiting the war to the Donbas?

I think Russia would have trouble coping with a wider war. Blood and cash aren't limitless for Putin, whose armed forces aren't that good outside of a narrow slice of his military.

I know that Ukraine is in worse shape so doesn't want to expand ground fighting that might cause Ukraine to lose more ground faster. The prospect of even a winning long war that combines regulars, irregulars, and guerrillas to resist a Russian invasion is frightening.

So Ukraine won't expand the ground war even if Russia would have problems coping with a wider front and the resulting casualties. But since Ukraine's Crimea is such a prize for Russia, why not put it at risk if Russia's hand puppets attack in force?

If I was supreme Ukrainian commander, I'd prepare forces to strike Sevastopol naval facilities and ships in port. Ballistic missiles should be readied to strike those targets and planes should be readied and trained to use anti-ship missiles against ships in port.

These assets would be held in reserve to deter a Russian escalation while the main effort is to declare Crimea's ports closed (Ukraine still has legal sovereignty despite Russia's conquest) and plant naval mines outside the ports.

How to do this is the problem. Aerial delivery? Delivery by cruise missile or drone? Small boats at night?

On the bright side, not many would have to be delivered. Hitting a Russian warship would be a bonus. But just by having some mines in place, insurance rates would go up for any ships heading that way; and how many cruise ships would want to risk hitting a mine? So Russia would take more hits to their economy.

I have no idea if Ukraine has naval mines. If not, they should produce them.

And at least such a response demonstrates that Russia risks gains by pushing for more. The war should not be limited to Russia attacking when ready and Ukraine losing ground.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

All is Fine ... But Check Your Ammo

One of Assad's outposts in the far northeast--the provincial capital of Hasaka--is under attack by ISIL:

In Syria's northeast, Kurdish forces and the army fought separate battles with the group around the city overnight. The YPG's Xelil said the Kurds were not fighting with Islamic State on Saturday. ...

Islamic State launched its offensive on government-held areas of Hasaka on Thursday and the United Nations says the violence is estimated to have displaced up to 120,000 people.

"We want to reassure people in the governorate...Hasaka is fine," Governor Mohammad Zaal al-Ali told state TV but also echoed a government call for people to come back and defend their homes alongside the army.

"All of the people of the governorate who want to, pick up arms to defend it," he added. He said the air force had been carrying out frequent bombardments against Islamic State.

With a common enemy, the Assad government and the Kurds are fighting on the same side for now.

But all is well in Hasaka. But if you want--no big deal, or anything--you can mosey on over to the city border with any weapons you might happen to have and see if our troops--who I mentioned are doing fine, right?--need any help. Not that they need it.

Well okay, then.

UPDATE: Syria says they have ejected ISIL from portions of Hasaka--although I was unaware the jihadis had achieve that:

The Syrian army said on Monday it had recaptured a major residential quarter in Hasaka from Islamic State insurgents who stormed the strategically located northeastern city last week and drove out thousands of civilians.

I just wonder how long Syria can hold their isolated outposts away from the core region of northwest Syria, where Assad is having problems holding that territory.

My Scare Was Early

I took Lamb and a friend of hers to the carnival this week. As we were driving there, an orange golf ball bounced just ahead of us and continued across the road to Michigan Stadium. No ride could have given me the same scare (or cost as much!).

Speaking of golf balls, there's another golf course on the way to my son's high school that helpfully has a sign that says to watch out for golf balls. Like a driver could dodge them, or something; and if a car is hit it is the driver's fault for not watching out sufficiently. Nice try on liability deflection, though. You have to admire that.

Anyway, the rain held off and there was much fun and minimal queasiness. And no car damage from any source.

Gentlemen of Taiwan: Prepare to Defend Yourselves

There was a time when my blogging about the China-Taiwan dispute was pretty common since it was discussed more in news stories. China's charm offensive has lowered the visibility of China's objective to take control of Taiwan--but has not eliminated the objective. Taiwan should not forget that.

China practiced an invasion of Taiwan:

The PLA Daily article featured an image of an officer giving a briefing with a digitally barely concealed map of Taiwan. In early 2014 an Asian government source told IHS Jane's that with combined military-civil transport, the PLA could move eight to 12 divisions to Taiwan.

China also conducted a series of exercises sending air and naval forces through the Bashi Channel and then to the region east and south of Taiwan. On 10 June PLA Navy spokesman Liang Yang confirmed the naval deployments.

This article goes over 4 basic facts of life for Taiwan that long-time readers of this blog will recognize.


Don’t be taken in by hooplah over cordial cross-strait relations.

China would love to take over Taiwan without firing a shot. Don't forget that. If they can't just peacefully take over, they'll settle for undermining Taiwanese will to resist to make the cost cheaper. And under certain circumstances (political unrest in China), China might make the effort to take Taiwan without worrying about casualties.


Don’t kid yourself about Big Brother’s coming to the rescue.

Yes. It will take time simply to decide to intervene. It will take time to gather the forces to fight through growing Chinese aero-naval power to reach Taiwan. And potential allies from Japan to India require America to take the lead to add their potential to the scales.

So Taiwan must be able to fight for many weeks without help or resupply without breaking. Russia has Crimea because they took it fast. Russia is struggling in the Donbas as NATO helps Ukraine because Ukraine still stands there.


Conscript your island as part of the defense.

Finland would have killed for a 100-mile wide anti-tank ditch in 1939. Use it. Make sure you have the artillery and engineering assets to exploit the mountainous terrain to punish the invaders from the water's edge (and the perimeter of the airheads since I assume major airborne operations directed at Taipei would be part of the invasion) to stop them from gaining a bridgehead, pushing them back, or slowing them down if that isn't possible.

I'm not as confident that guerrilla warfare could deter China or work since if I was in charge in Peking, I'd deport Taiwanese to Tibet and Xinjiang to help dilute local ethnic populations and convert the Taiwanese into de facto Han agents since locals will see them as Chinese invaders. Ethnic Han could be sent to Taiwan. The population imbalance would make mass exile of Taiwanese a rounding error in Chinese internal migration statistics. But it wouldn't hurt to try. What would it do? Make China angry?


Tend to your offshore defense.

Taiwan can no longer beat China in the air or at sea. Taiwan needs subs and small missile craft (supported by rocket, tube, and missile artillery ashore) in the Taiwan Strait in an anti-access/area denial role.

Taiwan still needs their sea control ships, however, to keep sea lines of communication open to the east--as China's exercise shows.

And their air power needs to survive as long as possible to remain a threat to Chinese air transport. Ammo and spare parts, sufficient pilots, rapid runway repair, alternate runways on highways, and hardened aircraft shelters need to be stronger to keep the air force alive even if it can't maintain air superiority over the island.

Taiwan isn't doomed despite the power imbalance if they are ready to fight, fight hard, and fight until allies can help.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Proportionality Nonsense

I can't believe a former high ranking officer can spout nonsense about "proportionality" as a matter of lawful warfare.

This is nonsense:

In the Gaza conflict, Hamas fired 7,000 rockets and mortar shells, killing 6 Israeli civilians.

Israel launched 6,000 air strikes and 50,000 tank and artillery shells, killing 800 Palestinian women and children.

The actions on both sides illustrate the elasticity of the moral concepts underlying the rules for warfare. Hamas launches rockets solely to induce fear and to kill civilians. On the other hand, an Israeli response of 100 to 1 is not proportionate, as it is supposed to be under the just war concept. So what’s going on here? An existential war between enemies who detest each other.

What is Bing West talking about? Mind you, he makes a valid point that our current highly restrictive rules of engagement that accept far fewer civilian casualties than Israel accepted would have to be lifted in a serious conventional war or we'd get hammered. But the issue of proportionality is nonsense that is persistent in its ability to twist the rules of war on their head.

One, intent is a large part of lawful warfare. Hamas intended to kill civilians by launching rockets at civilian targets. That is a war crime no matter how effective they are.

Israel, on the other hand, attempted to kill combatants who surrounded themselves with civilians to deter Israeli attacks or provide a propaganda win when Israel attacks the lawful targets anyway--which is legal.

Then West trots out the "proportionality" nonsense. The argument that one should respond to enemy attacks with firepower proportional to what you've endured.

While West is arguing that Israel shouldn't have killed as many civilians--if all those "children" really weren't underage combatants (also a violation of international law)--isn't his complaint logically satisfied if Hamas simply gets better at killing civilians? If Hamas had killed 100 Israeli civilians, making it a rate of one civilian killed for every 70 rockets fired, would that then finally make Hamas just as guilty as Israel which killed one civilian for every 70 rounds/air strikes?

That's what the proportionality nonsense results in.

And it ignores the point of Israel fighting back. Isn't the purpose of war to achieve an objective? Doesn't a fixation on proportionality mean that Hamas gets to establish the rate at which it can comfortably endure Israeli strikes and just keep going as long as they wish?

Note too, that Israel has a military reason to halt the rocket launches sooner rather than later--their Iron Dome anti-rocket defenses will run out of ammunition if the conflict staggers along unresolved. 

The point of Israeli action was to stop the rocket launches and protect their people--before they ran out of Iron Dome ammunition. As long as Hamas keeps launching rockets, the Israelis haven't used enough force, no?

This reading of "proportionality" is a twisting of the actual law on proportionality which basically holds that if an apartment building houses a sniper, you don't drop a tactical nuke on it to kill the sniper. You are supposed to use levels of force proportional to the threat you face in order to minimize collateral damage.

So again, if the point of the war is to stop Hamas from firing rockets at their civilians, if Hamas continues to fire rockets the force is not yet effective and so not disproportionate to the threat.

Mind you, this doesn't mean Israel did not violate rules of war in targeting. Even though Hamas surrounds itself with civilians on purpose--a violation itself of the rules of war--Israel certainly could have violated the rules of war on purpose or by accident in their targeting decisions.

But noting the disparity in civilian casualties and the rounds fired proves no such war crime at all. It just points out how much Hamas was willing to endure in order to have even a small chance of killing a Jew.

[NOTE: I adjusted my math--I was assured there'd be none of that involved here ...]

If You Build Them, We Will Come

China may think they are clever by building new islands to assert control of the South China Sea in defiance of international law. But the Chinese do have to defend them.

Japanese naval infantry will train with American Marines along with their Australian hosts:

Japanese troops are deploying with Marines as they head Down Under for a multinational amphibious training exercise as tensions in the Asia-Pacific region continue to rise.

The move represents the Japanese Self-Defense Force's latest step in boosting its amphibious capabilities. Thirty-one members of the Western Army Infantry Regiment are embedded with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. The troops are deployed aboard the amphibious transport dock Green Bay, where they will head to Australia to participate in Exercise Talisman Sabre.

Japan has interests in defending their islands in the East China Sea--which would likely involve retaking them from China.

And America and Australia have an interest in being able to capture small islands in the South China Sea, which China is actually creating lately.