Sunday, September 22, 2019

Weekend Data Dump

Michael Yon continues to video the increasingly violence-tinged protests in Hong Kong. At some point it will be clearly rebellion. I remain pulled between admiration and dread. The protesters' only hope may be the equivalent of drawing to an inside straight. Just a reminder that this is actual resistance against actual tyranny.

If Trump did it quietly without Tweets, his asylum policies would be pretty much like sophisticated and nuanced Europeans. Tip to Instapundit. Although I will say I thought I knew for sure that refugees have to apply for sanctuary in the first country they hit rather than shop around for the best deal. According to the article, that's not the case under international law. So that is news to me.

An accusation from a Clinton attorney about an alleged victim who remembers no such thing and about which no named witnesses remember. Yeah, explain to me again why it is so wrong to mistrust the media. But the damage is done before the correction is made, so that's a win as far as they are concerned.

Maduro's socialist idiocy has finally gotten bad enough for Maduro to turn to the last resort--a little bit of free market. Lenin did the same thing. Which worked well enough to give the USSR Stalin and decades of misery and death for Russians and the world.

For all that Hollywood has incubated faux Resistance against a faux Trump dictatorship, Hollywood is surprisingly eager to comply with (collude?) an actual Chinese tyranny to have access to the lucrative China market. Yes, they'll look the other way for money. Huh. So much for moral superiority. I've posted on that reality before. It is part of a broad Chinese Communist Party effort to silence any sources of information that might stir domestic dissent. Given the US-China trade dispute, the Chinese are no doubt delighted to have Hollywood going after Trump so willingly. Although that kind of effectively pro-CCP rhetoric might not matter. Not that it is illegal for Hollywood to have similar opinions as the tyrannical ruler of a foreign country. But I'm just going by the rules the Democrats wrote for the whole Russia collusion nonsense.

The Libya fighting continues 8 years after the NATO intervention to depose Khadaffi who faced a rebellion.

I managed to grab a 2018 edition of The Military Balance. It's rather a bible of international security affairs. Normally they go for many, many hundreds of dollars. But I try to get one every five years or so when I find an older version at a cheaper price. My new one wasn't exactly cheap but at least it wasn't many hundreds of dollars. My last version was 2012, so for the moment I'm not too badly out of date!

Yes, Brexit is all about preserving British democracy in the face of a continental proto-empire that will turn Great Britain and Northern Ireland into one (or more) imperial provinces as the prefix fades with power.

Maybe if the FBI and White House hadn't been so focused on mythical Russian collusion with Trump, the FBI would have done its job and not been FUTA by Russian intelligence: "The operation, which targeted FBI communications, hampered the bureau’s ability to track Russian spies on U.S. soil at a time of increasing tension with Moscow, forced the FBI and CIA to cease contact with some of their Russian assets, and prompted tighter security procedures at key U.S. national security facilities in the Washington area and elsewhere, according to former U.S. officials."

So Beto wants to confiscate guns?

Yes, that's mine.

Cuba's oil shortage. Couldn't happen to a nicer communist dictatorship. Without a superpower or even an oil-rich idioocracy in Venezuela to subsidize it, the failure is easier to see.

If  Brexit is so bad for Britain, why isn't the European Union welcoming Britain's exit confident that Britain will fail without the embrace of the proto-empire?

The Philippines is making progress on ending the rebellion of Moslems in the south with an autonomy agreement; but is facing increased Chinese subliminal territorial aggression in the South China Sea--but has growing international support against China's illegal expansion.

I know the NRA isn't a terrorist group, as so many Democrats claim. I know because if the NRA was an actual terrorist group, Democrats would make excuses for them and ask "why do they hate us?" all the time, as if we did something to deserve it.

I don't know what was up with that. Way outside my lane.

I don't know why people pick on white girls so much for liking pumpkin spice. I think it may be the only thing they can like without being accused of cultural appropriation (which is a stupid concept, of course).

I know I mentioned this in some data dump as an incomprehensible South Korean decision, and Strategypage goes into the whole 2016 GSOMIA (General Security Of Military Information Agreement) debacle as South Korea pulled out over anger with their ally Japan, thus giving China and North Korea a victory. Peak Stupid climbs ever higher.

A real 2-decade hate is reserved for Koch brother political opponents exercising free speech rights (and dancing on the grave of one) and not for an actual killer and sexual deviant (allegedly) who donates big to your side. It's all a big yawn in the media. Still, a couple more deaths due to overdosing on meth while in his home and he would have been a mass murderer (allegedly) and perhaps earned the hatred that the AR-15 gets from Democrats. Maybe all the AR-15 has to do is bundle money for Democrats to get immunity. Tip to Instapundit.

The Germans aren't complete allied slackers.

The Army is bolstering its ability to logistically support American forces in Poland.

The Navy tested for the first time its ability to rapidly mobilize its reserve transportation fleet. All 28 ships. Which itself is a problem. And the problem is worse because the Navy says it has too much to do to escort the few ships we have to move and supply expeditionary forces overseas. Relying on hiring other ships in a major war will be a problem despite our ability to do that in wars against small powers or terrorists.

The Marine commandants is beginning a year of wargames that aims for a force that can survive against A2/AD threats: "In building a vision for how to equip for an era in which its ships, aircraft, and overseas bases exist under constant threat from long-range precision weapons and electronic warfare attacks, the Marine Corps will try and go 'smaller, lighter, less exquisite, more numerous,' a top Marine general says." I've noted this and in Proceedings suggested amphibious vessels that could meet his quoted needs. It would certainly be worth wargaming them.

Putin and Assad have rolled out the "mission accomplished" banner. Not quite. Indeed, Russia has had to reinforce his forces in Syria despite earlier loud withdrawals. Sure, Assad won in the sense he is still behind the big mahogany desk and not sharing horror stories with Khadaffi, Osama bin Laden, and Saddam in Hell. That's a big deal for Assad, naturally. But can he survive that victory given the price and shortcomings in the win?

I don't know why any Democrats would listen to Hillary Clinton given that she managed to lose to Trump. A ham sandwich with a (D) after it on the ballot should have been able to defeat Trump.

But seriously, why is California declaring economic warfare on other states?  Isn't this a violation of the Interstate Commerce Clause? Or in violation of something that assumes we are one country?

If America can truly decouple our economy from China's economy, it will make blockading China a better option for America in case of war. Although the issue of blockading China is complicated.

So when Sweden really was more socialist it was kind of tyrannical in regard to eugenics? Well, some people really are deplorable, I guess. Tip to Instapundit.

Yes, an evergreen topic for our Navy is that it should do more work on mine warfare defenses. counter-mine warfare isn't as sexy as hyper-sonic anti-ship missiles but even simple mines sure are effective.

Oh wonderful. Did these scientists not watch Jurassic Park? Life finds a way. Tip to Instapundit.

Great. I'm glad Obamacare required the health industry to digitize our health records. Sure, a different law requires them to remain private. But oh well. Tip to Instapundit.

Sure, we've been panicky and wrong before. But this time for sure (tip to Instapundit)! Look, the underlying basic science can be correct broadly speaking without the predictions or solutions being anywhere near close to correct. Of course, if it is a religion, it all makes sense. Now go and emit no more.

Yeah, ef the NYT and their fellow travelers. And yes, if the free states hadn't compromised with the slave states, the slave states wouldn't have faced the pressure (and war) to end slavery. How long would slavery have continued in the south without the effects of America's founding commitment to freedom and equality? Oh, and since the NYT has addressed slavery in the Americas as an ever-damning episode for modern America (but not for anybody else in the Western hemisphere), now do Islam. I dare them. Although to be fair it would be a longer project that begins well before 1619 and doesn't end in 1865.

Have I mentioned lately that professors as a class have forfeited the presumption of intelligence and knowledge? The most vocal professors seem to be pampered clowns who have cushy jobs that provide nothing of value to America. They are ruining the reputation of the vast majority of even left-wing professors who do their jobs. Eventually, state legislatures will decline to fund these clowns as they have in the past. Remember who to blame. It won't be the fault of legislators "starving" higher education. Best and brightest, indeed.

A Siberian shaman heading to Moscow to expel the "demon" Putin was taken into custody by the Russian authorities. Wow, I really underestimated just who sent Putin to Russia.

Prime Minister Trudeau has apparently been addicted to brown-face costumes. I heard we are now up to three incidents. But he's progressive so that's okay. Canadians will still think Trump is the big ol' racity racist with racist thoughts and policies in North America. But even if Canadians turn against Trudeau, at least he could run for governor of Virginia, eh? That's how the left works. Trudeau is lucky the campaign is on so it is too late to replace him. Throwing him under the bus after his use-by date would also be how the left works.

Pelosi wants House to pivot away from impeachment focus lest voters get the idea they have no interest in legislating. Hitler was devastated to be told this, of course.

In related news, conservatives shouldn't impose "cancel culture" on Trudeau? In theory, yes. Cancel culture that looks for any blemish no matter how old and paints that as the total person is toxic and should be killed. But until the left feels enough pain from the rules they thought would only harm conservatives, I say cancel away with them. Still, the author has a point that if you didn't think Trudeau should resign for policies and scandal, resignation over this is ridiculous.

I find it amazing that people are talking about whether America would start a hot war be retaliating against Iran's missile/drone strike when Iran started the hot war by knocking out half of Saudi Arabia's oil export capacity. Why is Iran getting a pass by the Nervous-American class for initiating a war? And how are the Europeans so eager to help Iran avoid sanctions reacting to Iran's act of war? With resolve or a renewed drive to give the mullahs the Sudetenland?

I was somewhat relieved when I heard that a mechanic who sabotaged an airliner did it for work reasons notwithstanding his name. I'd prefer it if Americans didn't try to kill other Americans. Well apparently the man may actually have been trying to conduct his part in the jihad.

I'm going to guess that this is just another BS partisan complaint with no more importance or validity than any other over-hyped BS charge leveled over the last few years. Perhaps I'm wrong. We'll see, I guess. But if this is about corruption involving a Biden family member, what's wrong? We have an interest in battling corruption in Ukraine. If it harms Democrats, why is that America's problem? Remember that Biden has boasted that he used the threat of withholding aid to get Ukraine to fire a corruption investigator, which had the effect of ending an investigation into his son's business dealings. No complaint for that? Also, why wasn't this a problem?

The cause of illness among American and Canadian diplomats posted to Cuba may be a pesticide for combating Zika. I never thought it was a weapon although I figured some type of remote listening device might be the issue.

Even if you are right that siding with some awful people will get them to turn against you last, eventually those awful people do get around to you.

France is leading an effort to get an all-European anti-tank missile into production. But other European countries already have missiles. Is this about defense or pan-European industrial policy?

Finally, a real miscreant in the Trump administration is beginning to get a dose of needed justice for his actions that hurt America. Tip to Instapundit.

South Korea and Japan have formidable militaries. Why South Korea is hacking away at their alliance with Japan is beyond me. South Korea and Japan need each other. Yes, Japan was a cruel colonial master. But America got over the Kaiser and Hitler. Our problems with Germany stem from Germany's refusal to help defend Europe. Japan seems fully on board defending their region, including South Korea, from threats from China and North Korea (and Russia).

It's a sad day when anti-Kremlin protests are brutally dispersed in Georgia. It's a Georgian Nightmare.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

The People are Tired of Something, No Doubt

Is there Trump burnout spreading among the voters as left-leaning pundits suggest? I don't know. I know I am weary of the constant dishonest charges and sometimes even pointless attacks on trivial things by Democrats as if they signal End Times.

I'm bewildered by the anti-Trump Republicans who while understandably disliking Trump, seemingly prefer a Democrat in the White House.

And I roll my eyes at the sometimes worshipful tones of his elite backers. Even as I understand the relief of  "civilians" across the country who are grateful to have someone who listens to their problems and fights.

But I'm not tired of Trump's policies for the most part, although I do worry his inner New York City liberal will come out before he leaves office in 2025.

And the Democrats who are the only alternative are just nuts these days. If they were sane they would have worked with Trump to coax his inner Democrat out. But thank God they have been too dense to do that.

Is Trump too harsh in his tone?

Well, we saw what being a gentleman who suffered Democratic dirt did for George W. Bush's reputation. And for Romney's candidacy. So as wearisome has Trump's demeanor may be, I can't rule out that it is necessary to ward off the effects of the relentlessly hostile and dishonest Democrats, media, professor class, and Hollywood.

Anyway, as I mentioned before, I've mostly stopped watching the news to avoid the turn-it-to-11 faux Resistance and the Republican (admittedly justified) outrage over the Resistance. That's what I was weary of seeing. And I feel much better now.

But I'll still vote for Trump. For the first time. I will not reward the Democrats for what they have intensively done since 2016 to corrupt our institutions and poison our civic life. Period. That is what I am tired of these days.

Found On Road Dead

The new Ford carrier is having problems with nuclear propulsion, catapults, landing system, ammo elevators, and radar. Already expensive, it will be more expensive to fix. Other than that Ford is fabulous.

Oh Lord:

The new Ford class CVN (nuclear powered aircraft carrier) has become a major disaster rather than a more effective new ship design. Several innovative new technologies were supposed to have made the Fords more effective and cheaper to operate than the previous, and similar looking Nimitz class. Two of those new technologies, EMALS (Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System) catapults and landing equipment and high-speed electromagnetic ammunition elevators (for getting explosive items to the deck more quickly). There are lesser problems with the nuclear propulsion system, the new radars and modifications needed so that the new F-35C can operate. ...

The Ford is already two years late and will probably be at least four years late. Much of those delays could have been avoided if many of these new technologies were not installed on the first of the Ford class. Originally these new technologies were to be introduced separately in the first three Fords. Those early CVNs could have the new tech installed during the major refurbishment/upgrade periods that take carriers out of service for a year or more every decade. Before construction began on Ford it was decided to try and save some money by introducing all this new tech in the first ship.

The super carrier is great for power projection missions that require a floating air field to fight enemies ashore without significant anti-ship capability.

But that's the apple to the other very different orange mission.

When the mission is sea control against a major naval and air threat, as far as I'm concerned the super carrier is just a potential super expensive burning hulk.

The super carrier is the ultimate in platform-centric warfare. That is an environment that requires you to mass assets together to mass effects (as in striking the enemy).  And the Ford-class carrier is supposed to the be ultimate super carrier with the ability to generate more sorties with fewer crew.

In a network-centric world with large numbers of long-range, precision weapons guided by persistent surveillance and within a network that can mass effects without massing assets, a few high-cost assets that mass effects on the single platform are counter-productive.

Not only are those few very capable assets very expensive to build, they are expensive to protect. Assets that could otherwise go on offense are tied to the carrier to protect its very valuable skin.

And worse, the new Ford can't carry out its mission at all--as costs go up trying to fix problems. Sure, the Navy thinks that the operating costs of the carrier will be significantly lower than the carriers before the class, but will that work out better than the construction costs?

People use the fact that China is building carriers to justify our own carriers. But what are we doing to match China's naval build up? Building more carriers? No. We are adding missiles to Navy ships and subs, and getting the Army, Air Force, and Marines to add their own cannons and missiles to the anti-ship mission (see the Army's Multi-Domain Operations concept).

I'm grateful that China is effing up, too, by spending resources on carriers. I've wondered where in the world they think they'll use them (unless they are distractions for our Navy).

But that doesn't mean we aren't also effing up by thinking the super carrier is needed to control the seas when we have cheaper weapons that we can spread throughout the fleet. A fleet that would be larger if we didn't have to put so much of our budget into carriers.

Still, as I've long argued, the super carrier is useful for power projection missions short of a major war with a major power that requires us to fight to control the seas. I wouldn't retire them all.

But I would let their numbers dwindle by slowing down our rate of construction, and retire those in service a bit early in order to mothball them with some life left in case we need to reactivate carriers if we need sea-based air power that won't face significant anti-ship threats.

I'm worried about the Navy's inability to bring new ships into service without major glitches in design and construction quality. This isn't a problem just for Ford. But the Ford problem may have a silver lining.

Will the cost and problems with the Ford class super carrier push the Navy to build more ships and subs instead when the reality of network-centric warfare (or the previous buzz words up to today's "kill web") failed to drive the change?

Friday, September 20, 2019

Nice Work If You Can Get It

Sure, this would be a great solution:

"One Country, Two Systems." This ostensibly continues to be the semi-official motto of Hong Kong. At the British hand-over to China in 1997, the hope for the West was that China would gradually become more like British-lead Hong Kong. Today in 2019, the reality for Hong Kong, by force from Beijing if necessary, is to become more like an increasingly autocratic China. The goal of U.S. national security strategy should be to flip this narrative.

So I guess the only hitch in that solution is getting China's brutal communist rulers to go along with it.

Still, for Taiwan which otherwise might need nukes at one point to deter a Chinese invasion, flipping the narrative might be the only option Taiwan has in the long run to avoid being conquered and absorbed by a communist dictatorship.

And Hong Kong, too, might find that its only salvation.

To speak nothing of the large Chinese population. They are no doubt grateful for the vast improvement in standards of living. But eventually that will wear off as memories of dirt poverty wear off, perhaps among their children who never knew that poverty. Then desires for more freedom might grow.

Perhaps Taiwan and Hong Kong democracy advocates should get together on that League of Democracies that I suggested.

Also, that initial article says China is going to surpass America's economy. Maybe. Maybe not. And if so maybe not for long.

UPDATE: China's communist tyranny continues to try to discredit the protesters:

In mid-August 2019 Twitter and Facebook announced that they had shut down hundreds of accounts that were being used by China to spread false and disparaging news about the millions of pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong. ... This effort to find and cripple the Chinese Information War operation on Twitter and Facebook confirmed earlier estimates that about half a million Chinese were working for this Information War operation. The Chinese effort was not just directed against the Hong Kong protestors but also sought to boost China’s image among the worldwide Chinese speaking social media users.

Don't fall for Chinese misinformation efforts.

What Does It Take to Admit Iran Wages War on the West?

While I don't think we need to take a direct role in any Saudi retaliation for Iran's big strike on Saudi oil export capacity, knowing our options is a good thing and lets Iran know that their further escalation by them will bring in the big guns.

This is prudent:

In a White House meeting, the president will be presented with a list of potential airstrike targets inside Iran, among other possible responses, and he also will be warned that military action against the Islamic Republic could escalate into war, according to U.S. officials familiar with the discussions who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Iran says any retaliation will spark all-out war but they know that would be really bad for Iran. They want the freedom to strike at will and face no consequences.

But again, I think the Saudis are fully capable of hitting Iran. The Saudis may need to shift forces from Yemen to do it, but the Saudis are fully capable of waging an air and naval campaign against the Iranians.

The Saudis would need our logistics and intelligence support plus perhaps air defense help with assets in the region--and an offensive back up in case Iran does some more real damage--but odds are we don't need to pull any triggers in this.

But we should help. We don't import oil from the region but the rest of the world does and our economy needs the rest of the world to be healthy trading partners. What happens there happens to America, too, even now.

Meanwhile, after our enemy Iran conducts an act of war against our ally Saudi Arabia (and yes, they are our ally as problematic as they are--they are at least the enemy of our enemy and they do seem to be getting better slooowly), our Congress continues to be unable to pour water out of a boot when the instructions are written on the heel. There are arguments against a unilateral strike, arguments against helping the Saudis, and arguments for restoring the horrible Iran nuclear deal as if it actually slowed Iran's drive for nukes.

And Tulsi Gabbard's comments disgusted me when I made the mistake of leaving news on too long to hear her shameful and wrong remarks about the crisis. She should know better. If she doesn't she's an idiot.

Iran is waging war across the Middle East and beyond. And they want nukes. Yet even with Iran's strike on the Saudis, people want to make excuses for mullah-run Iran.

Still our Congress is influenced by Iranian propaganda? After everything we've endured from the mullahs from the hostage crisis to killing hundreds of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, to lying about the nuclear program, to plotting to bomb a restaurant in Washington, D.C., to taking American sailors hostage, to knocking out half of Saudi Arabia's oil export capacity, there are Americans who still want to make excuses for Iran's rulers?

I did warn that economic sanctions effective enough can lead the target to resort to military action. And so I say to our military in CENTCOM again, check ammo and double the watch.

Iran is at war with us. One day they'll do something that even our Congress can't ignore.

UPDATE: Trump has increased sanctions on Iran. Which seems appropriate given that this is our strongest weapon to use against the mullahs:

Speaking in the Oval Office Friday during a meeting with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Trump said: "We have just sanctioned the Iranian national bank."

But what's up with this?

Iran denies being involved in the attack. The attacks and recriminations are increasing fears of an escalation in the region.

The attacks by Iran and the discussion of Iran's responsibilities are increasing fears of escalation?

Iran's attack that knocked out (temporarily) half of Saudi Arabia's oil export capacity is the damn escalation! Doesn't anyone notice that?

I feel like I'm on crazy pills.



UPDATE: We will help fill gaps in Saudi and UAE air defenses. After noting recent Iranian aggression, our DOD stated:

In response to [Saudi Arabia's] request, the president has approved the deployment of U.S. forces, which will be defensive in nature and primarily focused on air and missile defense. We will also work to accelerate the delivery of military equipment to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the UAE to enhance their ability to defend themselves.

This will involve additional US forces--in the hundreds range rather than thousands. Which may telegraph that any offensive operations in retaliation will await their deployment.

The Iranians seem to be making a classic mistake by threatening to attack anybody involved:

Any country that attacks Iran will become the "main battlefield", the Revolutionary Guards warned Saturday after Washington ordered reinforcements to the Gulf following attacks on Saudi oil installations it blames on Tehran.

Their definition of "attacks" may be overly broad if the Iranian statement is in reaction to our defensive deployment announcement.

Which is the classic Sicilian Expedition mistake of neglecting to focus on the immediate enemy and instead attacking friends of your enemy to make those friends of your enemy an ally of your enemy.

Iran is pretty weak. They can't match their boasts and know if they provoke a full conflict they will feel it pretty badly.

UPDATE: Chutzpah in action:
President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday denounced the presence of foreign forces in the Gulf and said Iran will put forward a peace plan, after arch-foe the United States ordered reinforcements to the tinderbox region.

"Foreign forces can cause problems and insecurity for our people and for our region," Rouhani said before a massive military parade marking the Iran-Iraq war.

Iran just attacked Saudi Arabia's oil export industry. But other people are at fault for tensions?

Unless that peace plan consists of Iran halting its military actions in that tinderbox region, I don't know what good it will be.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Just Following Programming

Are robots the ultimate loyal minions able to follow a tyrant's orders to kill civilians without hesitation?

But imagine what might have occurred had those soldiers been not human beings but robots, lacking in any sympathy or humanity, ready, willing, and able to reliably massacre anyone the authorities chose to be their targets.

This is the threat posed by the emerging technology known as “autonomous weapons.”

I did note this in regard to "tank man" at Tiananmen Square:

No doubt the Chinese have made more progress given that armed UGVs would have made this encounter end far more quickly and differently[.]

Of course, the rebellious civilians will have robots, too. And guns and IEDs. With less resistance to destroying robots than killing police and soldiers.

And can the tyrants count on the programmers or maintainers of or factory staff who make the robots being loyal?

And will the rest of the people accept the deaths of fellow citizens/subjects at the "hands" of robots?

Further, will foreign powers operating on responsibility to protect (R2P) be able to send in their own robots--even "little green robots" with no admitted ownership--to fight the tyrant's robots?

Robots are a danger to civilians. But I think it is way more complicated than remorseless terminator killing machines doing the bidding of absolute tyrants.

Mullahs Want Nukes

Netanyahu continues to expose Iran's fraudulent claim that they've never had a nuclear weapons program. Does it matter?

This is good to know:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week offered fresh reason why the Iran nuclear deal was never good enough — namely, new proof that Tehran has been cheating on its nuclear promises for years.

Specifically, Bibi revealed the existence of a secret nuke-research site that Iran never revealed, even after it promised to suspend its nuclear program in the 2015 accord.

The photos show major activity at the site in the early 2000s — and then, more recently, the same cluster of buildings reduced to rubble. “This is the site after they understood that we were on to them,” Netanyahu explained.

His effort is being tarred by the usual suspects as just a campaign effort. One, that seems relevant for Israeli voters to know. And two, so what? Is he right or is he wrong on the charge? That's what is relevant for us, no?

The question is did the Iranians destroyed that facility because they ended the line of inquiry or because they moved it elsewhere? The way the 2015 nuclear deal limits where (and how, and when) the IAEA can inspect, I suspect the latter is almost surely the explanation. But at least it is a real question (and you could even ask whether the facility was actually a nuclear facility rather than an obsolete widget factory).

Simply dismissing such a question about Iran's motivations because Netanyahu is in a reelection campaign is ridiculous.

What Netanyahu has done is expose the utter fallacy of the Obama administration's basic view of what an Iran nuclear deal would look like:

Well of course a deal is possible! Duh. All Iran has to do is pretend to end their drive for nuclear weapons and all we have to do is pretend to believe Iran. Simple, no?

I have no doubt that this administration and our Western allies would be willing to pretend to believe an Iranian false promise to halt nuclear weapon work. Let the next governments worry about the future while they bask in the glory of a deal that promises peace for our time.

Actually, I underestimated the level of pretending that would happen. Iran pretended they never had a nuclear program and we pretended that was just fine to believe.

Trump ended the Iran nuclear deal. Good. But Iran, the Europeans, and the Obama alumni are trying to save it. And I don't think Netanyahu could say anything to pierce that shield of pretending that allowed the deal.

And honestly, I worry that Trump will sign a rebranded Iran deal that continues the pretending. Despite the revelations that Iran pretended they didn't have a nuclear weapons program.

Have a super sparkly day.

UPDATE: And given that Iran carried out an act of war with that attack on Saudi oil production, pray tell what will they be willing to do when they have the shield of nuclear weapons that they might believe protects them from any consequences?

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Dressing Up Defeat as a Strategy

Nigeria's military not so long ago seemed to have beaten down the Boko Haram threat in the north. Now Nigeria is losing.

This is not good. Not good at all:

Nigerian soldiers had left the town earlier that month under a new strategy of withdrawing to “super camps” that can be more easily defended against insurgents the army has been struggling to contain for a decade.

That withdrawal into large bases is by definition going to leave areas outside the big bases open to enemy operations:

The army’s withdrawal into large bases has coincided with a string of insurgent raids on newly unprotected towns and has left the militants free to set up checkpoints on roads as they roam more freely across the countryside, according to three briefing notes from an international aid and development organization, two security officials and residents.

And this is just wishful thinking:

The new military strategy announced by President Muhammadu Buhari in July to concentrate soldiers in big bases is designed to give troops a secure platform from which they can respond quickly to threats in the region and raid militant camps.

Without the hope of friendly eyes and ears outside the bases--because the government has abandoned those people to the tender mercies of the jihadis--forays into the countryside or urban areas will just be blind lunges that wreck things as the jihadis harass and avoid decisive contact.

In theory, having secure bases is a good first step to spreading out from those bases in order to control more people. You either protect your civilian allies from the enemy or you prevent your civilian foes from helping your enemy.

Pulling back to bases as described is just abandoning the people in the countryside and urban areas away from bases. This is a way to lose the war, as I warned against doing in Afghanistan:

If--and it is a big if--Afghan forces truly are contracting their area of control in order to move on the offensive, this is good.

Otherwise, the Afghan security forces are simply abandoning the countryside and allowing the Taliban to eventually put the urban areas under siege, perhaps reliant on aerial resupply or heavily guarded ground convoys to sustain their resistance. If that happens and Afghan security forces collapse even for a moment under constant Taliban attacks as the security forces hunker down and just take attack after attack with no end in sight, there will be no place to withdraw to and we will have a massacre of Afghan security forces and a Taliban victory that might shake the foundation of the Afghan security forces in general.

Nigeria's strategy will end the ability to atomize the jihadis and allow the jihadis to step up the insurgency ladder to build larger forces--which makes it even harder to control territory and people because the Nigerian military will be less able to spread troops out in smaller units to do that. Because those small units will be wiped out.

This has happened before.

This is bad. And Boko Haram will gain strength until the Nigerians change their strategy.

Asymmetric Warfare

Iran continues to be aggressive, and Trump will respond to Iran's kinetic aggression against our allies.

Trump is using our best weapon against Iran's aggression:

President Donald Trump said Wednesday he is hitting Iran with new economic sanctions over an attack on Saudi Arabia oil facilities.

"I have just instructed the Secretary of the Treasury to substantially increase Sanctions on the country of Iran!" Trump tweeted.

Good. I'm not in the camp that says responding to enemy attacks with our own military action is exactly what an enemy wants. I've always said that ineffective military responses are what our enemies want. That rallies allies. Al Qaeda did not expect the ass-kicking we inflicted on them after 9/11. That response kills allies and can discourage them if done energetically enough for long enough.

Sadly, as my initial post links shows, our Congress won't allow us to use effective military power against Iran.

On the other hand, that Congressional opposition may be moot. After some pondering after Iran shot down an American drone, I believe our economic measures are the most effective weapon we have against Iran's mullahs at this point. So let's continue with this weapon.

Iran's kinetics likely mean that our economic warfare is as effective as kinetics for their harm inflicted on Iran, so Iran might as well use force in response. We need to watch out for Iran really upping their military options as our economic warfare escalates.

If the Saudis want to hit Iran directly over this very serious attack, they can do something. And America should back them. The Saudis are justified in retaliating. I'd suggest bombing Kharg Island oil export facilities as an option.

UPDATE: Although the Saudis might want to close gaps in their missile defenses before replying in kind.

UPDATE: From Geopolitical Futures, America's military options are problematic because none can really be decisive and basically rely on Iran agreeing to end hostilities when we finish with our military operations. Or they count on Iran not striking a blow that gets through our defenses, such as in a long blockade.

Remember, the Tanker War in the late 1980s was ended when Iran essentially broke in the Iran-Iraq War and agreed to a ceasefire with Iraq. Our operation leading Western navies was not done in isolation.

So George Friedman has good points. Which is one reason why Saudi Arabia should be the one retaliating. The act of war was against them--not America.

We should definitely help the Saudis. But the Saudis should do the deed. A sizable strike on Kharg Island would probably be the best bet. The question is whether strikes on Iranian anti-aircraft and surface-to-surface missiles need to be added to the primary targets.

UPDATE: Huh:

Air raid sirens were tested across the Saudi Arabian capital on Thursday as the country prepared for a possible escalation with Iran after a weekend attack on its oil fields raised the stakes in the conflict.

You almost have to admire the chutzpah of the Iranians:

Iran’s foreign minister warned that any U.S. or Saudi strike on his country in response to the attacks on the kingdom’s critical oil facilities would lead to “all-out war.”

So Iran would like the freedom to strike Saudi Arabia without any kinetic response. Well there you go. That certainly would be nice from Iran's point of view.

Good Practice

The Navy is sending the escorts for the carrier Truman to sea without the carrier. That's good practice for losing a carrier, I say.

This is supposed to be a bad thing, I guess:

Surface escorts from the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group left their homeports today to kick off an overseas deployment.

Aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) did not.

After the carrier was sidelined at the end of August with a malfunction in the ship’s electrical distribution system, engineers continue to assess the problem. “The aircraft carrier’s repairs are progressing, and all efforts are being made to deploy the carrier and air wing as soon as possible,” according to a Navy statement to USNI News.

The timeline for diagnosing the problem and fixing it remains unclear.

In the meantime, the surface ships in the strike group are forming their own surface action group and deploying with neither the carrier nor the air wing.

Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Lassen (DDG-82) and USS Farragut (DDG-99) departed Mayport, Fla., today, and will be joined by Norfolk-based USS Forrest Sherman (DDG-98) and Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG-60) in the coming days.

Good. I assume an attack submarine is part of the SAG because it would normally be part of a carrier strike group. This deployment will be excellent practice for how to fight if the carrier is sunk or mission-killed.

Indeed, I think we should practice how to fight with a "kill web" without the carriers by design.

And while I'm at it, why not send the carrier air wing overseas to operate from a land base? Could the air wing support crew do their jobs on land with equipment that replaces what is built into the carrier? Truman is sidelined and not her air wing, right?

I'd rather practice a fighting SAG now with a carrier malfunction than have to learn during a war while leaving a burning hulk of a super carrier behind as the rest of the strike group continues the fight.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

From Smart Diplomacy to Brilliant Diplomacy?

Congress will use the Saudi-UAE split as an excuse to try to end our help to the anti-Iran side in the Yemen civil war:

The rapidly escalating fight between Yemen’s Saudi-supported government and the United Arab Emirates-backed southern separatists has renewed Congress’ determination to buck President Donald Trump and pull the United States out of the war.

This is simply falling for Iran's propaganda effort to give Iran a victory in a war they are slowly losing.

What is the problem. We keep saying we want our allies to pull their weight in the fight against our enemies! In Yemen we have our allies pulling their weight to fight our common enemy Iran which seeks to leverage their help to the Houthi rebels into a new vassal state in service of Iran.

Yet Congress wants to end our help to that effort:



We don't want Iran dug in at the southern end of the Red Sea. Or is this kind of launching pad funded and directed by Iran just fine with you?
Drones claimed by Yemen's Houthi rebels attacked the world's largest oil processing facility in Saudi Arabia and a major oilfield operated by Saudi Aramco early Saturday, sparking a huge fire at a processor crucial to global energy supplies.

While the small drones didn't do lasting damage, it was quite broad (tip to Instapundit):

Coordinated drone strikes on the heart of the Saudi oil industry forced the kingdom to shut down half its crude production on Saturday, people familiar with the matter said, potentially roiling petroleum prices and demonstrating the power of Iran’s proxies.

The Saudis hoped to be fully on line by Monday. What if larger weapons had been used?

You have to admit that destroying the oil production reduces Iran's need to interdict the exports.

But no, Orange Man Bad so Congress should stop Trump. Is it any wonder the mullah nutjobs think Allah is on their side?

Trump at least knows who is behind this:

A top White House official is downplaying the threat of imminent action against Iran after President Donald Trump said the U.S. is "locked and loaded" following a drone attack on Saudi Arabia that cut into global energy supplies.

And of course we are "locked and loaded" all the time in that dangerous region. Stop the frantic objections to what we say. You yawn at "Death to America" so why get frantic if we state the obvious? I'd sack commanders who aren't figuratively if not literally locked and loaded and risk getting hit first.

One wonders what Iran has to do to convince Congress and our media that Iran is the problem.

UPDATE: The damage is greater than I thought:

Saudi Arabia's energy minister said Tuesday that more than half of its daily crude oil production that was knocked out by a weekend attack had been restored and that full production is expected by the end of the month.

But then again the strike was bigger than I thought--and quite possibly a direct Iranian act of war against Saudi Arabia:

The United States believes the attacks that crippled Saudi Arabian oil facilities last weekend originated in southwestern Iran, a U.S. official told Reuters on Tuesday, giving an assessment that further increases tension in the Middle East.

Three officials, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the attacks involved both cruise missiles and drones, indicating that they involved a higher degree of complexity and sophistication than initially thought.

While America should support the Saudis with intelligence and logistics, the Saudis are fully capable of blowing of Iranian things.

UPDATE: And can you imagine the impact of taking half of Saudi Arabia's oil production offline before the fracking boom?

UPDATE: Earlier drone attacks look like practice for the latest missile/drone attack.

UPDATE: While America should certainly intensify the fight against Iran after the Iran-backed (if not an actual Iranian) strike on Saudi oil facilities a week ago (and were they missiles and not drones?), I don't think America needs to strike back. Or should.

This was a Saudi facility and Saudi Arabia is fully capable of launching a military retaliation if the two of us think that would be better than tightening the economic screws even more using the strike on the Saudis as diplomatic leverage.

And then maybe our Congress would get a clue about who our ally in the Gulf is and is not.

Monday, September 16, 2019

All Unquiet on the More Western Front

Will Israel go to war with Hezbollah to disarm it of precision rockets and missiles?

In early September, Israel’s military shelled a series of Hezbollah factories and installations in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. The strikes represented the most significant Israeli operation against the terrorist group since the 2006 Lebanon War. It also marked the start of what could well become another military conflict between Israel and the Lebanese Shia militia. ...

[Notwithstanding the Israeli strike campaign against Iran in Syria], in recent weeks, the Israeli-Iranian front has shifted further west to Lebanon. There, Israeli experts say, Iran is assisting Hezbollah with what amounts to a major industrial project designed to improve the accuracy and precision of its extensive arsenal of short-range missiles and rockets. In turn, this “precision project” represents a grave threat to Israeli security, because it has the potential to qualitatively alter the missile threat facing the Jewish state.

Well, I've long thought (at least 9 years now) Israel would go to war with Hezbollah over masses of unguided rockets.

As I've noted, Israel's Iron Dome defenses can be overwhelmed by massed unguided rocket attacks and the defensive system can run out of anti-missiles long before Hezbollah runs out of rockets. The quoted article above doesn't appreciate the ability of mass "dumb" rockets to overwhelm Israel's defenses. But it is right that precision missiles are a whole new level of threat.

Which is why I've assumed that war would essentially be a giant Israeli ground raid deep into Lebanon to rip apart Hezbollah and its infrastructure.

I've been wrong a long time connecting dots on that issue.

And there is this:

The United States navy destroyer USS Ramage docked briefly in Lebanon, the US embassy in Beirut said on Sunday, amid heightened regional tensions.

The Arleigh-Burke-class vessel, capable of intercepting ballistic missiles, stopped Saturday for a "one-day goodwill visit on the sidelines of its participation in ongoing efforts to ensure freedom of navigation and free-flow commerce in the eastern Mediterranean", a statement from the US embassy said.

Ramage could conceivably stand off shore and help intercept Hezbollah long-range missiles in case of war. Just saying.

More broadly I hope this visit could be a dot signalling that the Lebanese military will stay out of the way of a Israel-Hezbollah war that takes place on nominally Lebanese territory--and that Israel won't deliberately try to punish Lebanon for being unable to control Hezbollah.

Will the addition of precision weapons in Hezbollah's terror arsenal raise the incentive for Israel to really tear apart Hezbollah while Syria and Iran are too weak to stop Israel? I think so.

But I've been wrong a long time. All I'll say now is that it makes sense for Israel to go in on the ground to tear up Hezbollah.

UPDATE: Electoral paralysis may freeze the possibility of any military action until the leadership issue is decided:

In an apparent setback for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, exit polls show the Israeli leader has fallen short of securing a parliamentary majority with his hard-line allies.

Who knows when this will be resolved.

Oops, We Did It Again

Obviously, a prop-driven simple close air support plane (A-29 and AT-6) can't operate in a high-threat environment. They are meant to operate against insurgents and terrorists. So come on Air Force.

This is not shocking:

U.S. Air Force’s slow fielding of propeller-driven attack planes to support ground troops, one lawmaker raised the possibility of putting the project under Army control.

“My frustration is almost palpable at why it is taking so long to get this platform out to where the warfighters need it,” Rep. Michael Waltz, R-Fla., said Wednesday at a Mitchell Institute event.

The House has already given U.S. Special Operations Command the authority — if not yet the appropriations — to buy such planes. But Waltz said the need is so great that perhaps the Army should also be given such authority.

Over the past 12 years, the Air Force has waffled about whether it wants propeller-driven planes.

My view is that the Air Force only wanted those cheaper prop planes as long as it thought it could pretend to want them as a replacement for the A-10.

But the Air Force was forced to keep the A-10.

And now the Air Force has to figure out how to get rid of a second dedicated close air support plane after talking it up as a cost effective solution to get rid of the A-10.