Thursday, October 19, 2017

Inputs and Outputs of the Alliance

The idea that NATO states not meeting the 2% of GDP defense spending minimum objective should be able to count alliance activity as a substitute for defense spending is so mind boggling in its stupidity that I can't believe it continues to be raised by serious people.

Are you effing kidding me?

Take a glance at NATO’s defense spending statistics, and Denmark looks like a mediocre member. Last year, the Scandinavian country spent 1.17 percent of GDP on defense, far below NATO’s 2-percent benchmark. But a closer look at the country’s military deployments reveals a rather different picture: Denmark is, in fact, a NATO starlet. Members’ contributions to alliance missions matter as much as their defense spending. We should encourage them to be more like Denmark.

Here we go again. If all this article is designed to do is to encourage spending and activity, that's great. Greece meets the alliance spending goal but isn't exactly a strong alliance participant because their spending is actually directed at nominal NATO ally Turkey.

But some want to be able to count activity in place of defense spending. This is insane. And if this article is part of that nonsense, the stupidity just won't die.

Of freaking course alliance members are expected to contribute to common defense by participating in alliance actions. And Denmark's willingness to do that is great. Kudos, really.

But the NATO 2% spending goal is--open up the Duh Files for this one--a spending goal and not a combined Alliance Goodness Scale. If we could focus on minimum defense capabilities, great. But we can't so spending minimums are necessary to define.

As if defense spending is irrelevant to being able to participate effectively in NATO missions!

Are we to consider geography to give Portugal and Belgium monetary credit for being safely behind the lines while requiring Estonia, Latvia, and Norway to pony up a lot more in spending because they border Russia and require more help? (Although countries like that should be for their own self interest higher spenders than Portugal or Belgium, regardless of alliance goals.)

Being prepared to carry out collective defense as part of NATO through minimally adequate spending levels is a separate issue from contributing to collective defense missions and should not be conflated.

So stop that talk of substituting activity for defense spending. It's a really stupid argument and anyone making it should be embarrassed.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

System Immunity

Democrats like to say they want money out of politics. I think that is a free speech issue and should be out of bounds, but there is another reason to support money in politics.

Consider that Trump spent about a billion dollars directly and Clinton spent about 1.4 billion (and these are from memory and since it is just for illustrative purposes I don't feel like spending 30 seconds to find out for sure).

And Russia spent a pittance--did it even reach a million dollars?--on online political advertisements (most apparently after the election!).

So given the flood of money in our political process made Russian money about as effective as peeing in the ocean for raising sea levels.

Which means that our large spending on political campaigns (and more when you throw in other actors spending money and in-kind donations of labor and whatnot) is a kind of defense against foreign intervention in our elections. Who can afford to spend enough to be effective?

Which also means that campaign finance "reform" (which never works because people with lawyers always find a new way to spend money outside of the latest restrictions) designed to reduce money in our political campaigns just plays into Russian hands. That's the logic, I believe.

The Rump Axis of Evil

If we are to have any hope of being able to contain North Korea after they get nuclear weapons, denying North Korea a chance to profit by selling nukes to Iran is necessary.

Is this new strategy on Iran our real anti-North Korea strategy?

But if we fail to defeat Iran in Syria and Iraq, is it an effective strategy?

It would be best to deny Iran and North Korea nuclear weapons. But it is possible that war with North Korea is too dangerous now (thanks Obama!).

We might have missed that whole "imminent" window when liberals said preemptive military action is justified to deny a state WMD. I always said that standard relied on intelligence precision we could never reach. So here we are.

So we may have to deter North Korea while doing all we can to contain and roll back Iranian aggression until there is a revolution there that ends the mullah regime.

And is this strategy a response to Saudi Arabia's hedging by looking to Russia for possible help in containing Iran?

[Saudi Arabian King] Salman’s visit to Moscow could kick-start Russian mediation efforts to reconcile Yemeni differences, potentially in a way that benefits Saudi Arabia over Iran — the Saudis’ bitter enemy and rival proxy in Yemen’s civil war.

Remember that the Saudis were initially overjoyed that Trump seemed ready to reject Obama's Middle East policy of resetting relations with mullah-run Iran. But the long delay in actually changing our policy started to worry them that nothing would change.

Although in theory, in addition to being a warning shot across the bow to America, a Saudi outreach to Russia could benefit America if it pries Russia apart from Iran. But given common (enough) goals in Syria, is that likely?

Is the new Iran strategy in part designed to keep Saudi Arabia withing the fold? Is it enough?

The Empires Strike Back

With the West's temporary advantage in economic power because of the industrial revolution ending as productivity expands in the non-Western world, sheer population begins to weigh power balances back to pre-industrial times. And the old empires--with critical weaknesses that threaten their cohesion--endure to contest for the world.

This long article is quite interesting. I've touched on its aspects of geography and empires over the years. So it appeals to me on that basis alone. But it is pointless to try to pull out points and quote them.

Although being a product of the Center for No American Security makes me suspicious of it, for any policy recommendations that flow from it.

One thing I really contest is the idea that America can deny a single power or grouping of allied powers from controlling the Eurasian land mass with only American air and naval power.

Ultimately, local allies who might resist the dominance of a power or group of powers will not accept as an ally a power that provides sea and air power alone while expecting the local ally to die in combat in muddy countrysides or urban slums.

Balancing continental powers will require the ability to project significant ground power ashore to bolster local allies in holding or taking ground.

Independent American land operations on the continent could only be in the form of large raids, in essence.

But in either case, land power backed by air and sea power will be necessary to keep America from being shoved into a Western Hemisphere defensive crouch, waiting for an enemy to project power to the Americas.

And other means of picking apart the cohesion of the opposing continental empires to contract them to their cores will be the main efforts that military strength buys time to achieve.

Also, I hope the author isn't being too optimistic in assuming that America is immune to the cohesion problems of the empires.

Anyway, it is worth your time to read.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Thanks Captain Obvious

"Crimea Isn't the End of Russia's Black Sea Ambitions[.]" Well, sure.

Crimea is a power projection platform to project Russian military power around the Black Sea and into the Aegean Sea and eastern Mediterranean Sea to exploit Russian bases in Syria.

But yeah, NATO should definitely work to resist Russian ambitions made possible by their aggression against Ukraine. No argument there.

And one way to help resist the Russians is to encourage Ukraine to build long-range ballistic missiles capable of striking military targets in Crimea.

And we should have such missiles too, in southeast NATO, as well as minelaying capabilities to shut down Sevastopol in time of war.

The Long Red Line?

Is West Point just an east coast version of Berkeley but with a more formal uniform and shorter hair?

Of course West Point let their communist cadet Rapone graduate and commission him to go on to infect the Army with that disgrace of an officer. He is a symptom and not the cause of the academy's problems.

After all, Newsweek informed America that "we're all socialists now" in early 2009.

Gosh, why might the academy have thought Rapone had a defender in high places?

In all seriousness, it is a disgrace that West Point didn't defy apparent command influence and discharge that pathetic excuse of a soldier.

And that failure is just the tip of the iceberg, it seems:

I firmly believe West Point is a national treasure and that it can and should remain a vitally important source of well trained, disciplined, highly educated Army officers and civilian leaders. However, during my time on the West Point faculty (2006-2009 and again from 2013-2017), I personally witnessed a series of fundamental changes at West Point that have eroded it to the point where I question whether the institution should even remain open. The recent coverage of 2LT Spenser Rapone – an avowed Communist and sworn enemy of the United States – dramatically highlighted this disturbing trend. Given my recent tenure on the West Point faculty and my direct interactions with Rapone, his “mentors,” and with the Academy’s leadership, I believe I can shed light on how someone like Rapone could possibly graduate.

We need officers who can lead soldiers into combat and win. We aren't getting that from our elite service academy.

The Army is focused on restoring conventional capabilities like better artillery. There are bigger problems.

Experts Are Worried About What?

So would North Korea wage an insurgency following their defeat in a war? Well, there'd have to be somebody in control to wage an insurgency against, and I don't see any reason anybody would fight to control that worthless land.

Fine. Should there be a war with North Korea and if America, South Korea, and Japan beat North Korea, I stipulate that North Korea is likely to wage an insurgency. And maybe China and Russia would support an insurgency.

So what?

The only reason to wage war on North Korea is to remove their nuclear weapons capabilities.

Good grief people, you couldn't pay America, Japan, or even South Korea to take over that black hole of despair.


If we decisively defeat North Korea and roll into the north, our armies should stay exactly long enough to wreck their military capacity (tanks, artillery, chemical weapons); destroy the prisons and camps; arrest and imprison whatever leaders are slow-witted enough to be captured; dig out their nuclear infrastructure; remove their nuclear scientists and technicians; and distribute cell phones, seeds, and farm hand tools.

And then we leave. Maybe we push South Korean territory north around Seoul to make a better buffer zone. But maybe we just bug out completely south of the existing DMZ to avoid legal problems with moving the ceasefire line without Russian or Chinese consent. I assume that would be a problem.

Let the Chinese and Russian enjoy supporting the regime remnants rebuild their gulag with a UN seat.

Park recon drones over the country and bomb anything that looks like WMD rebuilding. Or any overweight man with an attitude and a bad haircut, of course.

Hell, for real yucks, pass out AKs from North Korea's stocks to every North Korean as we leave. Surely not all will meekly fall in line with the regime elements now brought down to their level.

Remember, South Korea has this nice DMZ and associated border defenses to control the remnants of North Korean armed might and contain it in the north.

UPDATE: I'm wary of predicting North Koreans collapse because the regime seems to be able to control their people no matter how badly the regime does economically.

But the North Korean economy and regime authority  do continue to get worse as China actually has started to squeeze North Korea, and there are visible signs of weakening state control. Do read it all.

Ideally, I'd like to contain even a nuclear North Korea and work for their collapse. I don't think they are actually insane.

Only the possibility of Iran purchasing nuclear technology or even working nuclear weapons from North Korea gives me reason to consider military action against North Korea.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Past the Expiration Date

Just four years later, Russia considers the Syria chemical deal pretty much over. Well, it achieved its objective so of course it has to go.

Our friends the Russians:

Russia on Friday questioned the work and future of an inquiry into who is to blame for toxic gas attacks in Syria and said it would decide whether to support extending the mandate after investigators submit their next report to U.N. Security Council.

The Russians agreed to the 2013 deal to pretend Syria got rid of chemical weapons capabilities in order to buy time to save Assad's regime.

I wrote the deal would not deprive Assad of chemical weapons--and worse, it would strengthen Assad and the jihadis:

And in the bonus style point count, we've not only made it more likely that Assad could win, but if he doesn't win we made it more likely that the jihadis will be the winners[.]

That has worked. So naturally Russia wants to end any type of enforcement mechanism that examines Assad's violation of the deal.

Say, Russia is already running interference for Iran in having the IAEA inspect Iranian sites to enforce the farcical 2015 Iran nuclear deal, now aren't they? It's like a pattern, or something.

President Obama in his ideological blindness and his windsurfing idiot savant Secretary of State Kerry gave us both the Syria chemical weapons deal and the Iranian nuclear deal.

Oh Holy Crap

Have the Iraqis have launched a military operation to take Kirkuk from the Kurds?

This is bad:

Iraqi Kurdish officials said early Monday that federal forces and state-backed militias have launched a “major, multi-pronged” attack aimed at retaking the disputed northern city of Kirkuk, causing “lots of casualties” in fighting south of the city.

Kurdish forces known as the peshmerga were digging in at the edge of the international airport after withdrawing from their positions outside the city. Hundreds of armed Kurdish residents were taking up positions inside the city anticipating an attack.

Is this a signal sent by Iraq with limited military force or an effort to take Kirkuk?

UPDATE: This looks like a major Iraqi effort, including a thrust into Kirkuk city itself to seize the abandoned governor's office.

Although there isn't much fighting as the Kurds pull back, there has been artillery fire by both sides.

American are--I'm sure rather frantically--trying to mediate.

UPDATE: God almighty, does everything in that part of the world have to have a high degree of difficulty?

Iraqi government forces captured the major Kurdish-held oil city of Kirkuk on Monday, responding to a Kurdish referendum on independence with a bold lightning strike that transforms the balance of power in the country.

It is unclear if the capture of the governor's office is assumed to mean the entire city is Iraqi-controlled.

What with my suspicious mind, I'll guess the Iranians had a hand in persuading Baghdad to do this.

On the bright side, so far there has been little shooting. The Kurds could make this a real fight if they choose to do so.

Let's hope our mediation can settle this before so much blood is spilled that nobody can choose to back down short of victory or defeat.

UPDATE: More on the issue. And note that of the two major Iraqi Kurdish factions, the KDP and the PUK, the PUK largely avoided fighting--and is also the faction that leans toward Iran.

UPDATE: There hasn't been too much in the news since this initial move. Is it really just a limited grab of oil resources to be a cheap crippling of a potential Kurdish state?

Iraqi forces took control of nearly all the oil fields in the disputed northern province of Kirkuk on Tuesday, dashing Kurdish hopes of creating a viable independent state.

Those fields are nearly a third of oil resources in the Kurdish region. Although given the "oil curse" that crowds out any other economic activity, would that be a blessing rather than a curse if it forces an independent Kurdistan to open their economy to all other businesses?

The Iraqi government is calling for talks now that they have a bargaining chip.

And Iraq has the backing of Iran and Turkey in this phase. Which is what I noted shortly before the limited military operation began.

Oh, and as I said, I suspect Iran convinced Iraq to move against the Kurds--which the Kurds of Syria are bound to notice as they consider what to do post-Raqqa.

UPDATE: Kirkuk and Iran's influence.

At the Intersection of Honor and Interest

China's new at-sea replenishment ships give China the ability to operate far from their shores for sustained periods. As long as America allows it. Which is where Taiwan comes in.

China has been investing in the logistics of blue water sea power:

With more long distance cruises China has, since the 1990s, trained more and more of its sailors to resupply ships at sea. It’s now common to see a Chinese supply ship in the Western Pacific refueling two warships at once. This is a tricky maneuver and the Chinese did not learn to do it overnight. They have been doing this more and more over the last decade, first refueling one ship at a time with the receiving ship behind the supply ship and then the trickier side-by-side method. This enables skilled supply ship crews to refuel two ships at once.

But geography still hems China's navy into China's coastal waters.

To truly break out and operate in distant waters, China must break the ring of enemies who will, with American support, interdict China's navy. In the Cold War, we experienced that threat with Soviet-supported Cuba which interdicted sea lines of communication from our Gulf ports. But our east and west coast ports were clear of this threat.

We should keep this in mind when we consider Taiwan.

Even without a moral responsibility to support a small democracy under threat from an autocratic neighboring giant intent on conquest, we have an interest in keeping Taiwan as the cork in the bottle that prevents China from freely pushing through the gap between the Philippines and Japan to gain access to the Pacific Ocean; and using Taiwan to extend Chinese air and missile power further east.

"Deserve" is Not the End of the Kurdish Debate

Yes, the Kurds deserve support for an independent homeland. But.

I concede that the idea that Kurdish independence harms the fight against ISIL is incorrect. It rests on the dubious argument that Iraq will hate the Kurds so much that they will divert force from the fight against ISIL to take on the Kurds. That's hardly a ringing endorsement of Kurds remaining within Iraq, eh?

But, there are reasons to be cautious nonetheless.

We can hardly support Kurdish separatism in Turkey as long as Turkey is a NATO ally. Bad form that would be. Sure, Turkey isn't being a very good ally lately (although I'd go back to 2003 for the start of their bad policy trend). But as long as they are our ally, we have an obligation not to work for splitting their country up.

I'd have no problem supporting independence for Kurds in Syria and Iran. That hurts our enemies.

Yet while I have complete sympathy for the Kurds of Iraq wanting an independent state, unless America can convince Baghdad that an independent Kurdistan split from Iraq is a good idea for Iraq, too, an independent Kurdistan cannot survive surrounded by hostile states (Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey).

If Iraq accepts an independent Kurdistan and the formal loss of Iraqi territory, then Kurdistan has an outlet to the sea and can trade with the world and thrive. If not? Kurdistan would be doomed. Then it would be better for the Kurds of Iraq to negotiate more autonomy that provides practical independence from Iraq without legal independence.

Even then I have worries about Iraq losing the Kurds who provide a measure of anti-Iran muscle within Iraq which reassures Sunni Arabs that they can balance the Iraqi Shia majority (only some of whom are pro-Iran, to be clear).

Although the Sunni Arab embrace of ISIL--regardless of how quickly they regretted that move to oppose the Shia-dominated government--even while the Kurds were within Iraq lessens this consideration over time. 

I hope America works with the Iraqis and Kurds to gain a measure of mutual trust for an amicable split such as Czechoslovakia achieved. But I hope that we can make enough progress to stay the Kurds from unilaterally going on a suicide mission.

Yet with Iraqi Shia militias (popular mobilization forces) with less to do as ISIL goes down to defeat within Iraq, I worry that pro-Iran elements might trigger a fight with the Kurds--like near Kirkuk.*

*Although I'd like to point out that the "tank" pictured in that article and captioned as retaking Kurdish positions is odd given that the "tank" is a self-propelled artillery place and unlikely to be taking a frontline role.

UPDATE: I don't think it is fair to say America "stabbed the Kurds in the front" (as opposed to in the back) by opposing their independence bid. Is it really pro-Kurdish to support formal independence when it would just lead to a war against the new state by Iraq, Iran, and Turkey? Which would be bad for the Kurds as well as bad for our broader interests in the region?

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Alliance Preparations

Australia is preparing to fight alongside America.

Two news pieces demonstrate Australia's growing ability to fight alongside America in the South China Sea.

One is the development of Australian amphibious warfare capabilities:

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) is nearing full operational capability of its amphibious force, after a six-year effort to turn an Army battalion into the heart of a joint-service expeditionary capability akin to the U.S. Marine Corps.

A three-ship amphibious ready group will deploy 2 RAR on such missions.

The growing American Marine presence around Darwin, where we are building up toward a full Marine Expeditionary Unit rotation there, will allow the two battalion-sized forces to train together for joint operations.

In other news, Australia is buying Small Diameter Bombs which have precision and penetration capability--all while fitting into the bay of the F-35 that Australia is buying:

Australia has received U.S. State Department approval to purchase GBU-53/B Small Diameter Bomb Increment II weapons from the United States.

Australia seeks up to 3,900 bombs with this deal.

In addition to being used by Australian F-35s, the SDBs would be a stockpile that could also be used by Marine F-35s deploying to Australia until American supply lines reach Australia with more bombs.

This joint capability will be useful if America and Australia need to fight for the small islands in the South China Sea that China hopes will cement their illegal claims to virtually the entire sea being bolstered by captured or built artificial island bases.

People can easily forget that Australia has been a solid ally, fighting with us in our wars--including Vietnam--since World War II.

A One-in-a-Million Shot

Seriously, WTF.

My passport was scheduled to expire early next year and the Department of State recommends renewing 9 months before that; and my driver license expiration was coming up and the Secretary of State recommends renewing several weeks early.

So I sent off my passport for by-mail renewal. And a week later I went for my license.

Sadly, I didn't read the license pamphlet and I couldn't get the enhanced license good for domestic air travel boarding because I did not have my passport to verify that I continue to be the person that I have been for the last 40 years of being in the driver license system.

And then less than a week after I renewed my license I received my new passport.

So I could have renewed my license a week earlier or a week later and have gotten my enhanced license. Now I need to use my passport for domestic air travel.

I couldn't have timed that on purpose if I'd tried.

So This is Waay Different Than the FCS

I see the Army will once again try to build the wonder tank--lethal, survivable, and light enough to be strategically mobile. Oh good grief.

Again?

The Army is now performing concept modeling and early design work for a new mobile, lethal, high-tech future lightweight tank platform able to detect and destroy a wider range of targets from farther distances, cross bridges, incinerate drones with lasers and destroy incoming enemy artillery fire – all for the 2030s and beyond.

So the Army again thinks it can build the wonder tank. But don't dare call it a Future Combat System (FCS), or something with the same initials.

Because this time for sure!

I guess I can recycle my criticism of the 19-ton FCS non-tank wonder system in this 2001 Military Review article (see page 28):

Barring successfully fielding exotic technologies to make the FCS work, the Army must consider how it will defeat future heavy systems if fighting actual enemies and not merely suppressing disorder becomes its mission once again. The tentative assumptions of 2001 will change by 2025. When they do, the Army will rue its failure today to accept that the wonder tank will not be built.

I'm old if bad ideas are rolling around again. Our M-1 main battle tank is getting old and soon we won't be able to update it. Why are we resistant to building a new main battle tank to replace the old one?

We still can't build the wonder tank.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Weekend Data Dump

Until the Wisconsin suppression of conservatives in Wisconsin under color of rule of law in those "John Doe investigations" is fully revealed with Democratic operatives within the state sent to prison, this will be a stain on democracy and rule of law. This is Third World Banana Republic stuff. And it happened in America.

German Chancellor Merkel welcomed migrants and refugees and got so many that it hurt her political stature and angered other European states that had to cope with the flood of people and effects. The entire European Union project could be threatened because of Merkel's feel good preening initiative. In completely unrelated news, California Governor Brown has signed legislation to make California a "sanctuary state" that welcomes illegal immigrants. This will increase budget problems, crime, and the appeal of non-liberal areas in seceding from California to form a new state.  Enjoy. Hopefully without federal money to cope with the effects.

It's rather sad that the proliferation of television options has reduced the need for television shows to seek a non-political common approach to appeal to all Americans. Indeed, the example of late night shows indicates that appealing to a liberal base is the new operating procedure. Funny that none of them considered appealing to a conservative base. It's almost like Hollywood is a monolithic leftist institution. And now I can't remember who to offer a hat tip to for the story. Sorry.

Jobs were lost in September. While hurricanes affected that, this should be a warning that  anticipating job-creating laws, regulations, and tax laws will not propel economic growth for long and require actual job-creating laws, regulations, and tax laws.

I know the THC crowd (Trump Hysteria Condition) thinks the Russian Facebook advertisement buys are big news. But they were trivial. And most appeared after the election. If the Russians were trying to elect Trump why didn't they air them before the election and why air any after Trump won? Shouldn't the Russians have been ecstatic? As I said after the election, Russia was surely trying to damage Clinton who they expected to win and were trying to tarnish the image of our election to reduce the appeal of American-style democracy to Russians. Democrats are doing more to harm Brand America than Putin did. Tip to Instapundit.

God help us all, but the Left still hasn't reached Peak Stupid, I fear.

I understand why Congressional Republicans are wary of President Trump. I do. But if Congressional Republicans don't get their act together and pass Republican bills that the president will gladly sign to get "wins," Trump--long a rather liberal Democrat--will get bills to his desk by working with Democrats and peeling off enough moderate Republicans to get the edge. Yes, Republicans control the leadership and so could resist a lot of that, but what happens in the 2018 mid-terms? And the media will completely support the "evolved" Trump, have no doubt. Or do you think a sitting president will have a problem decimating his own party if it helps his own popularity? Time is running out.

It's almost as if liberalism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.

Federal laws encourage people to flee Puerto Rico and discourage business. So reducing the island territory's debt won't set Puerto Rico on a good course. Maybe the island should be made a free trade zone to encourage economic growth. And set an example.

I mean, other than the aqueduct ...

Indonesia has long been a hug Moslem-majority state with a moderate form of Islam. Is that changing for the worst as the economy falters?

I've long viewed Venezuela and Cuba as the core of an Axis of El Vil (the vile one), as a variation of the Axis of Evil that pose real dangers. The Axis of El Vil is hostile and socialist, but is more annoying than dangerous because of their weakness. Sometimes I've wondered whether junior partners like Haiti or Nicaragua should be considered part of the Axis of El Vil. Is Erdogan taking Turkey into the Axis of El Vil to thumb his nose at America? "Maduro and Erdogan oversaw the signing of five agreements for cooperation on air travel, tourism, culture, agriculture, and international crime. They discussed ways to deepen economic and energy ties and explored opportunities for military industry cooperation, the Turkish leader said." What is the point? Tip to Instapundit.

Without Columbus discovering the Americas, would the free West have arisen at all?  And for all the claim that Europeans destroyed indigenous people living at peace in the New World, recall that the tribes and empires conquered by Europeans were themselves the winners of New World conflicts among the people of the Americas prior to 1492 (and boy were they violent). That was the way of the world then. And the then-existing conflict is why Europeans found eager allies in the Americas to fight other Native Americans. By today's standards, we wouldn't do what Native Americans or Europeans (or Africans or Asians) did every damned day. But we'd have to repudiate everybody back then regardless of race or religion if modern standards are what matters when judging our ancestors (and it isn't the standard). I swear, we should save money by refusing to put up any monuments (including naming buildings after people) to current politicians because future generations could decide they are unworthy of the honor. Or do you really think our current generation has reached the end of history at peak morality? And by the way, is the anti-Columbus Left saying that unrestricted immigration is dangerous to the receiving people? Just wondering.

While I still watch my Lions (I know, I have issues), I no longer routinely put on other NFL games to have on while I do other things just to listen to the game and watch a really good play when it happens. I'm not a Nielsen's family for tracking ratings, I know. But I just don't feel like supporting the NFL as they disrespect the flag in a completely mis-targeted protest against unjustified police shootings.

Harvey Weinstein apparently was well known in Hollywood for sexually harassing (and worse) women, if the news reports are correct. So Donald Trump's old comment--when he was a man of entertainment who knew the business--that if you were wealthy enough and powerful enough that women would let you grab their p***y was a commentary on Hollywood culture rather than any type of personal confession, eh? How many in Hollywood remained silent to let this go on for decades? And how many remain silent now because there are so many more predators still out there? Remember, Roman Polanski is still honored in Hollywood! Is that "normal" in Hollywood? And are the changing standards going to take down Bill Clinton who is no longer useful given that Hillary lost? Yeah, remind me again about how conservatives are anti-women.

The Hill incorrectly published a report that the US drone fleet was infected by a virus, but took it down--you just get an access denied page--explaining: "Editor's note: This story inadvertently went off reporting from a Wired.com article published in 2011. The story, as published by The Hill, incorrectly stated that ..." from the web search.

The Russians and their Assad allies exploited those "de-escalation zones" where ceasefires were negotiated in the west to focus on killing more Syrian rebels. That and more in Strategypage's tour of Syria.

I don't understand how sentient beings can think the Iran nuclear deal is even remotely good. Just going through what was made public at the time looked horrible. The delusions are strong. But I recall that liberals were horrified that President Trump dumped the Paris climate deal--until even global warming fanatics confronted the fact that the deal was worthless even by their own terms of the debate. So I've got that going for me. Which is nice.

The unresolved scandals with no press coverage.

This is a great point: Hollywood is vocally part of the so-called Resistance against "fascist" Trump; but was silent in the face of  allegedly sexual predator Harvey Weinstein's victims. So who do the Hollywood types actually fear, eh?

Campus crybullies increasingly shout down speakers without any consequences. I say expel the students who do that and require them to immediately start repaying their student loans.

It occurs to me that not being dead yet is in the short run indistinguishable from being immortal.

America has led the fight against ISIL but the lying Russians charge America of "pretending" to fight ISIL. #WhyRussiaCan'tHaveNiceThings

Yeah, the India-China border dispute isn't anywhere near resolved.

Given the accusations, can you imagine the world of hurt Harvey Weinstein would be in if he was a college student at the mercy of college administrators?

Boko Haram is still killing up to 100 per month. Corruption has a role. Although to be fair to corruption, mass murder, beheading, and kidnapping/raping girls isn't a normal response to corruption.

Our Navy sailed near Chinese-claimed islands in the South China Sea, but not real close. Apparently our ship violated China's more broad "line" of regional claims rather than being a true freedom of navigation mission within 12 miles of a specific island. China complained. What I would like to note is that despite the news during the Obama administration of the Navy carrying out "freedom of navigation operations," it is now recognized that the Obama administration conducted "innocent passage" operations that did not challenge Chinese claims. I questioned the Obama era claims despite the consensus.

Why is Harvey Weinstein going to Europe for "sex addiction therapy" when no sex--a consensual activity--at all was involved in allegations of rape and sexual harassment? Those are physical assaults and a matter of imposing superior power. He made "mistakes," indeed. But no, really, The Handmaid's Tale is about how conservatives would treat women like slaves if they aren't stopped.

California fires could threaten the state's marijuana crop. Firefighting aircraft will reportedly drop Doritos downwind of the inferno.

Honestly, I think the owner had every right to kick out patrons who passed out pamphlets in his business. This is not a reverse Christian bakery incident.

I only manage to work up interest in watching soccer in the World Cup and the Olympics. The United States team amazingly failed to qualify for the World Cup and so now my interest is virtually nil. The American television station that won the rights to broadcast the World Cup here is probably trying to keep executives off the ledges. That the contributing Panama's win in another game was probably based on a missed shot mistakenly called a goal only adds to the debacle, really.

Ah Clinton World! Where nothing can harm you! "'I give 10 percent of my income to charity every year,' [Hillary] Clinton said. '[The money Harvey Weinstein donated to her] will be part of that. There’s no doubt about it.'" So Clinton will substitute money she would have donated anyway for the now-tainted money from accused serial rapist, sexual predator, and Democratic donor Weinstein. It's good to be a Clinton. Or at least convenient.

American and South Korean diplomats will talk before President Trump visits South Korea later this year, and Japan will join in talks after the bilateral meeting. Which would be helpful to hammer out what we and our allies will do about North Korea. I continue to think--based on a hunch and no more--that America is prepared to lead South Korea and Japan in an assault on North Korea's nuclear infrastructure in 2018 if the Chinese don't deal with North Korea (either with a land blockade, coup, or invasion). Of course, meetings would happen eventually without a crisis, so this is hardly the key "dot" to connect. As I say, just a hunch.

An appreciation of cause and effect has never been strong among the crusaders pushing the minimum wage well past what the market will bear.

We can't have a battlefield Internet if the Russians can hack it.

I have never understood why sensitivity requires us to call both male and female thespians "actors." What was wrong with "actor" and "actress?"

CNN and Democrats (but I repeat myself, of course) seem upset that Trump doesn't think FEMA stands for Federal Eternal Management Agency. Of course FEMA won't be on Puerto Rico (or Texas or Florida for that matter, but they don't have the history of mismanagement and some problems the fault of the federal government, of course) forever. How the statement of the bleeding obvious can be spun into controversy is beyond me. And I assume it was a shot across the bow in case anyone in Puerto Rico thinks that responding to the impact of corruption rather than the hurricanes is FEMA's job. There is zero chance that Trump will fail to help fellow Americans, non-state status notwithstanding, recover from the natural disaster. So dial the reaction back from 11. There were a lot of people whose brains turned to mush in opposition to President Obama (and you saw none of that here). I don't want to hear any more attitude from Democrats given how so many of their brains are turning to mush by turning the opposition dial to 11 over every damned thing Trump does or says.

FEMA will eventually leave Puerto Rico when the emergency is over; but the FBI should apparently set up shop there for a lot longer. I did note that rule of law is a problem there. Tip to Instapundit.

I swear liberals piss me off more and more each day. Mostly from their ridiculous "Resistance" to Trump that compels me to defend a man I really don't like much from the Left's really stupid opposition to every damned thing he does or says. I have a long history of not liking Trump--from back when he was a liberal Democrat--and he still does not thrill me, to say the least. But as the alternative to what could have been and what the Democrats are doing now? Yeah, even as is he is better. God help us all.

Is America practicing for war against North Korea? Well I should bloody well hope so under the circumstances. Whether we are preparing for war in the spring or summer if China doesn't deal with North Korea, or if we are just putting psychological pressure on North Korea (and China), we would be practicing for war. If there was no crisis at all, we'd be practicing for war at some level--that's what training is.

WHO says there is a low chance of the freaking plague spreading off of Madagascar island, but it's the freaking plague! Knowing whether I should worry is well outside my lane. But I'm worried. [I normally wouldn't link to Vox which is too political to trust. But even this subject seems safe from politicizing it.]

The Spanish government has pulled back from heavy-handed bad-optic responses to Catalan independence; and Catalans and the rest of Spain seem to be pulling back from the brink.

Egypt continues to battle jihadis in Sinai. Which is of interest to America given our military presence along the Egypt-Israel border to maintain the Camp David peace treaty.

I swear to God America had a giant "kick me" sign on our back during the Obama administration. Tell me this kind of abuse of our people no longer goes on.

Who knew the "war on women" had its secret weapon in the Democratic Party all along? Tip to Instapundit. Although don't count out Hollywood's power as the news media weighs in to look away from the rampant crimes in this Democratic constituency to focus on Republican "over-reach" to "exploit" the liberal crimes--the exact opposite of how the media treats a Republican problem.

So how likely is it that Facebook would have erased Russia-related data if it harmed Trump?

Taiwan will go to Plan B and update their M-60A3 tanks. Did we turn down Taiwan on getting surplus Abrams tanks because we need them to replace losses in war or because we don't want to offend China right now?  And nobody else who builds modern tanks will sell to Taiwan?

I don't pretend to like IPAs. I didn't know I was supposed to pretend I do.

What happened in Cuba with our diplomats (and some Canadian diplomats, too) is a mystery. The article focuses on a sonic weapon, but I can't imagine it being a weapon. If it isn't a mass hysteria (and perhaps the hearing loss of a minority of "victims" is completely unrelated, simply making it seem like a real thing), I think if it is man-made it would have to be an unintended side effect of some type of surveillance gear. And if that, I doubt it was Cuba given their vigorous protests of innocence.

Peak Taliban?

The war in Afghanistan looks better.

One, Taliban influence may be overstated because of government corruption that encourages provincial rulers to claim problems in order to gain resources to fight that influence.

Two, American air power is dramatically more involved. And Afghan air power is taking part.

Three, British special forces have returned.

And four, Afghan forces are on the offensive more often.

As I noted last year, we decided to pull in Afghan forces from scattered vulnerable outposts, which I hoped would allow them to go on offense more effectively.

I worried that move could be the start of real collapse if things were worse than they appeared.

There is more.

It appears that we survived the nadir of our fortunes in Afghanistan. Hopefully we have a winter offensive that seeks out the Taliban and other jihadis as they try to hunker down and survive the winter.

The Future is Arriving

The Army is working on making soldiers more accurate when shooting:

Army researchers are targeting ways to make small arms more accurate by removing the shooter from the loop.

The gear they’re working on ranges from platforms that allow a sniper to insert his rifle for better stabilization while shooting from a helicopter, to nearly fully-automated robotic firing systems that can stand alone on the battlefield while the soldier fires via remote control behind cover.

“We’re ... letting the computer do its thing so all the solder has to do is pull the trigger,” said Terence Rice, a project manager engineer at Army Materiel Command’s Research, Development and Engineering Command.

I've never heard of this. But I did use this concept in an article that didn't make the cut in the Mad Scientist contest on future war from last year (and which I posted here):

“Hostiles,” HOOAH stated, prompting Washington to stop and take a knee. “Target set A-D Hostiles in the woods line.” The targets highlighted as target pips were ranked in order they should be destroyed. Washington confirmed the tactical picture and weapon choice, raising his M-18 to his shoulder.

HOOAH had already released the safety and selected 5.56 DBC—dumb but controlled—firing protocol. Washington aimed at priority target A, gave the order, and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened until his MESLAS exo-skeleton arms moved the PPW on target and fired its first unguided round. The next three rounds fired within 2 seconds as the suit moved Washington’s arms to aim at Hostiles B, C, and D.

The mechanism the Army is working on to install a weapon on for this capability is represented by the exo-skeleton suit (MESLAS) with the AI assistant HOOAH which I had as standard equipment for the scout soldier.

Friday, October 13, 2017

What Do They Know?

Did North Korea steal a plan for operations north of the DMZ or did North Korea steal the plan for pushing north of the DMZ?

Well, that's interesting:

North Korean computer hackers have stolen hundreds of classified military documents from South Korea including detailed wartime operational plans involving its US ally, a report said Tuesday. ...

Among the leaked documents was Operational Plans 5015 for use in case of war with the North and including procedures for "decapitation" attacks on leader Kim Jong-Un, the paper quoted Rhee as saying.

This supposedly happened in September 2016.

If this had happened more recently, I'd be more likely to think that the plan stolen was deliberately made vulnerable to scare the North Koreans while leaving the most up-to-date plan secret.

Happening a year ago makes me think it is more likely that the plans stolen are real. Unless of course an update to the plan was going on even back then either because of new information about North Korea's nuclear plans or because it was at a routine update point.

So I don't know that to think. And have no way to know what to think.

Personally, I think any major move north of the DMZ--including a thrust to grab their nukes--requires a collapse of the North Korean military; unless the move is a narrow offensive to create a no-launch zone in order to protect Seoul.

Of course if China hammers North Korea from the north, it could be a race for South Korea to carve out a buffer zone to prevent China from taking over the role of threatening Seoul.

UPDATE: Sounds like just a summary of the big picture was stolen. And I have no idea if this is an old summary or the current summary.

This was meant to be seen, of course:

The U.S. military in South Korea is preparing to hold evacuation drills for military families and other civilians, weeks after President Donald Trump pledged to "totally destroy" North Korea if he is forced to defend the United States and allies.

This will take place later this month.

UPDATE: I know I've written on our operational plans for going north, surely quoting Strategypage; but I can't find anything when I search for them. Very frustrating. And note that other stories say OPLAN 5027 is the main plan. What variation OPLAN 5015 is, I obviously don't know.

UPDATE: And as Strategypage reminds me (and I did know this even though it didn't leap to mind initially), even an old plan will have a broad base of unchanging basics that are useful to know.

But if the "plan" was a summary, it won't provide that knowledge.

Russia Should Love Brussels

Is Russia's effort to sow divisions in Europe really directed at breaking up the European Union? I suspect that is just an EU propaganda angle to exploit justified anger at Russian espionage and propaganda.

I saw an article that noted in passing that Russia was against the European Union (EU). The exact article isn't really important. I've seen that type of argument before.

But why would Russia be anti-EU?

In the short run while the EU is still a proto-empire jealous of NATO and America's leading role in this alliance, strengthening the EU is in Russia's interest. Why wouldn't Russia want scarce European defense spending directed to the proto-imperial military structure at the expense of the existing military alliance? And why wouldn't Russia want to encourage the weakening of American influence which a downgrading of NATO in favor of the EU--where America has no role--achieves?

In the medium run, an EU that builds a military structure will both weaken NATO to the point of irrelevance and which will be internally focused to stamp out embers of resistance to the multi-ethnic proto-imperial state apparatus they are building whose rulers want to make a full blown empire without the "proto" prefix built on the promise of "ever closer union."

At this point, the autocratic but still militarily and politically weak EU will be unable to compete with Russia on soft power democracy appeal; and it will be vulnerable to conventional military pressure under a Russian nuclear umbrella. This will be a window of opportunity

Only in the long run could Russia fear the European Union. Then, if the EU goes full imperial state with superpower aspirations, kicks out America for good, and has its own nuclear arsenal, it will be a rival autocratic multi-ethnic empire right on Russia's border blocking Russian revival of its old European empire right into Central Europe.

It will be one teetering corrupt empire facing off against another teetering corrupt empire. And Russia will at least have the experience edge in managing that kind of police state.

Although if that all comes to pass, America will at least be a natural ally of Russia to contain the common threat.

Really, Russia should be for the EU to get America pushed back across the Atlantic (or at least across the Channel) and leave a continental enemy, which Russia has proven capable of defeating; just as America should be against the EU, based on our long history of opposing a potential enemy from controlling the economic, scientific, and demographic potential of the continent.

The Problem of the Gordian Knot

With the defeat of ISIL in Syria looming, America faces a Gordian Knot of what to do as Assad backed by Iran and Russia pushes east into the relative vacuum.

Assad is moving east backed by Russia and Iran, even as rebels endure in the west.


If American forces stay to support our Kurdish and Syrian allies after defeating ISIL, we risk conflict with Russia and Iran, and even with Turkey our formal NATO ally (which has moved into Idlib province in the northwest to contain the Syrian Kurds); and we risk casualties from terror attacks sponsored by Syria or Iran in eastern Syria.

Yet if we leave, we abandon allies, losing credibility. Who will work with us in the future if we don't help our allies survive after their use to us is deemed over? This is especially problematic given the reputation Putin has gained for sticking with Assad when he looked doomed.

And by leaving we grant Iran room to maneuver in Syria where Iran wants bases and lines of supply to their client Hezbollah which lost 1,500 men fighting for Assad so far and is expected to fight Israel at some point.

I've mentioned this new stage of the war problem before.

Indeed, I foresaw this issue as the fourth stage of the defeat of ISIL in Iraq and Syria before America embarked on Iraq War 2.0.

The author of the article initially linked to says Trump faces a Gordian Knot in deciding what to do.

But oddly, the author doesn't identify what the Gordian Knot is.

Remember, the Gordian Knot is so tight that it can't be untangled. The solution is not to try to pull apart the many strands of the problem but to take a sword to the knot and cut it at one stroke--a single solution outside of the box, so to speak.

The fact is, I've long identified the Gordian Knot with our problems in the region (and with North Korea, for that matter). And this new Syria problem is just one more strand in the knot that would be better undone by cutting the knot--Iran ruled by the nutball mullahs.

Strategery

People who argue that it is futile to kill jihadis because they love death--and so it just creates more jihadis--fail to appreciate that while the most determined true believer jihadis will fight to the death, they are the minority bolstered by those with lesser motivation and belief who are attracted to join when the jihadis are winning but who will give up (or not join in the first place) when the jihadis are losing.

In Iraq, the end came quickly at Hawija:

The fall of Hawija in northern Iraq, after two weeks of fighting, is the latest in a string of defeats for Islamic State, also known as ISIS, and suggests the rank-and-file fighters are demoralised as the group struggles to defend what remains of the territory it seized in 2014.

'The speed at which the enemy gave up surprised me,' Funk said in a phone interview from Baghdad, after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the liberation of Hawija.

Funk said about 1,000 militants surrendered in the past three or four days of fighting in Hawija. The coalition had estimated up to 1,500 militants were defending the city when the offensive began.

Jihadis are not all fight-to-the-death types. Kill jihadis and eventually the less committed to reaching Paradise any time soon will end their personal role in the jihad.

Amazingly enough, those surrendering jihadis weren't convinced by some WebOps propaganda. No, they knew they'd die as they saw so many other jihadis die.

Heck, even the leaders seem to have given up--telling the rank and file jihadis to surrender.

Go figure.

This difference between committed jihadis and those following the strong horse is why I was frustrated at the refusal to help non-jihadi rebels in Syria based on the argument that jihadis would just take their weapons. Strengthen the non-jihadis enough and rebels who joined the jihadis because jihadis were effective rebels would migrate to the mainstream rebels.

But instead of doing that, we operated on the assumption that every jihadi is stamped out in uniform lots of "we love death" fighters.

And here we are 400,000 dead later with Assad likely to survive this rebellion and the destruction of ISIL's caliphate.

Do we still call that Smart Diplomacy?

UPDATE: In a survey of Venezuela's socialism-driven collapse and Colombia's long war, the reverse is noted:

Despite the FARC peace deal there are hundreds of FARC members still active and considered outlaws. All disagreed with the peace deal and for different reasons. Most of the holdouts felt they were doing well economically in the cocaine business and surrendering with the rest of FARC members would harm their drug operations and cut their income substantially. Such men, and women, felt it was better to just ignore the peace deal and keep their drug business going. A minority of the holdouts are political true believers who insist that revolution and communism is the only solution for all that ails Colombia. [emphasis added]

In addition to those who like the drug kingpin life, there are some true believers who won't stop fighting until they are killed.

And they, like ISIL remnants, must be pursued and killed lest they survive to provide the core around which others can join them if they think it is profitable or represents the strong horse.

I was frustrated after 2011 that we didn't remain in Iraq to push the Iraqis to hunt down the remnant al Qaeda. Instead they remained to grow into ISIL and require Iraq War 2.0.