Friday, September 21, 2018

Al Qaeda Failed to Win and So Far So Has America

The War on Terror drags on. It has been waged against us longer than the 17 years since the 9/11 attacks, but that is how long we've been fighting it seriously.

Things didn't work out as al Qaeda hoped the morning of September 11, 2001:

9/11 also drew attention to al-Qaida and brought it support, but not in the way that bin Laden expected. He thought that many or most Muslims would rally to al-Qaida’s cause. Instead, most Muslims have been repulsed by the movement’s extremism and violence, even if they share its preference for an Islamic resurgence. Most of the recruits that al-Qaida has attracted are angry losers on the periphery of society, rather than the Islamic world’s best and brightest. And 9/11 did not weaken American national will but instead amplified it far beyond what bin Laden and his henchmen expected.

On this point, then, al-Qaida’s strategy has failed, undone by paralyzing misperceptions and flawed assumptions. The global revolution it sought to engineer is a bust. It can kill and survive but do little beyond that. America’s homeland security and counterterrorism capabilities are immensely greater than they were before hijacked passenger jets were flown into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field, and they likely will keep al-Qaida on the run and in perpetual fear. The “caliphate” bin Laden dreamed of remains elusive and probably impossible.

Yeah, al Qaeda lost their home in Afghanistan and lost a friend in Iraq, eventually losing their home in the Islamic State spanning Syria and Iraq.

The author also thinks the expense of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan was a mistake, but I disagree. Our debt increased from almost $6 trillion in 2001 to over $20 trillion in 2017. The author cites the costs of those two campaigns as $2.8 trillion. Which means the costs of those wars in that time was almost 20% of the total increase (about $14.4 trillion) in debt. The war to protect us hasn't broken the bank.

And don't forget what we've gotten from that. Two countries allied with us who kill jihadis every day at a high cost to their own countries' lives with a relatively small American military footprint. I've mentioned that overlooked fact regarding Iraq but it is true for Afghanistan, too.

And despite wondering if we have the patience to win, we have been fighting in Afghanistan for 17 years and we have been fighting in, around, or over Iraq off and on since 1990.

And that's on top of winning the 40-year Cold War. I really think we're under-estimated patience-wise.

Yet jihadis continue to kill and recruit. The war isn't over. We haven't won.

The problem is that our so-far successful military effort is just a holding action to protect the West from collateral damage and enable friendly Moslems who must win the war.

Real victory has to come from the Islamic world to win what is really not a war on terror but an Islamic civil war over who gets to define Islam, jihadis or reformers.

I'm hoping that in retrospect, despite the continuing death toll caused by jihadis, historians will look at 2017 as basically the end of the jihadi interregnum.

But that can't happen, as the author rightly notes, if we grow tired of fighting our portion of the war--and fail to make greater efforts to help the moderates win the Islamic civil war.

Does Nobody Want to Fight and Win America's Ground Wars?

Army Multi-Domain Operations seems dangerously too much like the Army becoming added firepower and reconnaissance for the Navy.

Is this what we are really going to do with the Army?

“Winning in competition is not accomplished by winning battles, but through executing integrated operations and campaigning. Operations are more encompassing, bringing together varied tactical actions,” [TRADOC Commander General Steven] Townsend writes.

As part of the Army’s pursuit of these strategic aims, the Army and Navy have been operating together in the Pacific over the course of this past year. The services have been collaborating to fire Army artillery from Navy ships, send targeting data to land weapons from Navy sensors and use coastal land rockets to destroy enemy ships at sea, service leaders said.

“The Army is looking at shooting artillery off of Navy ships. Innovation is taking existing things and modifying them to do something new,” Maj. Gen. John Ferrari, Director, Program Analysis and Evaluation, G-8, told Warrior Maven in an interview earlier this year.

When winning battles--and campaigns--isn't part of the Army's basic mission in the Pacific, why bother having an Army there?

Just field Army anti-aircraft and field artillery brigades and allocate the combat brigades to places they are needed and will be used.

And if the Navy wants additional artillery on their ships, don't put Army assets designed for use on land on the ships--put navy guns or missiles in shipping containers and put those on Navy ship decks.

I miss the days when each service focused on its own domain and the synergy of that jointness was the real multi-domain operation.

What we have now is the sea domain (Navy) dragooning the land domain (Army) into the sea fight.

This will be just swell.

More Cowbell!

Despite unrest in the EU, resistance to the EU, and Brexit that collectively indicate growing dislike with the EU, the European Union apparatchiki continue to want to strengthen the EU's authority:

It all started with Guy Verhofstadt, perhaps the most outspoken and prominent supporter of an “ever closer union” – and the European Parliament’s negotiator for Brexit. He quite diplomatically proclaimed in an interview with a French newspaper that the UK’s decision to leave the European Union had saved the EU. “Fortunately, we have Brexit. It illustrates the populist wave, but it has also provoked a resurrection of attachment to the EU,” he said.

Jean-Claude Juncker’s annual State of the European Union speech on Wednesday took up the same theme. While the President of the European Commission struck a more conciliatory tone on Brexit, he nonetheless made clear that more EU integration is the only way forward, and that there is no way looking back.

Bizarrely, the EU elites look back at two world wars in Europe and instead of blaming past elites for the wars, blames the people of Europe for pushing the poor enlightened but helpless rulers to mass slaughter of the people of Europe. Obviously the people must be suppressed for their own good, the elites think.

And if Europeans can't see "wild" information (tip to Instapundit) apart from the "tame" stories the EU propaganda information officials put out, well that makes Europeans easier to control.

Have no doubt, it is not in America's interest to have what the EU leaders want to build--an imperial EU that rules European provinces.

An American-led NATO is necessary for American national security and to preserve European freedom and liberty in the face of external and internal threats. Period.

Strengthening NATO should be the goal of America and Europeans who value their liberty and democracy, with blocking EU defense ambitions a necessary corollary.

Because God help the Europeans if the EU apparatchiki add tanks and guns to their ever-expanding cheese and information regulations as a tool to keep Europeans in line.

Screw the more cowbell ever closer union.

Why Be Shy About Killing Jihadis?

I never once complained one bit at all about President Obama's "kill list" for drone strikes on jihadis; and was confused that killing murderous enemies could be opposed the way it was by elements of both parties.

Obama may have scaled the CIA effort back before he left office, but Trump is ramping it up again in Africa:

The C.I.A. is poised to conduct secret drone strikes against Qaeda and Islamic State insurgents from a newly expanded air base deep in the Sahara, making aggressive use of powers that were scaled back during the Obama administration and restored by President Trump.

Late in his presidency, Barack Obama sought to put the military in charge of drone attacks after a backlash arose over a series of highly visible strikes, some of which killed civilians. The move was intended, in part, to bring greater transparency to attacks that the United States often refused to acknowledge its role in.

But now the C.I.A. is broadening its drone operations, moving aircraft to northeastern Niger to hunt Islamist militants in southern Libya. The expansion adds to the agency’s limited covert missions in eastern Afghanistan for strikes in Pakistan, and in southern Saudi Arabia for attacks in Yemen.

Let's make more good jihadis. Although I don't know why the military under AFRICOM (or anywhere else) can't conduct the missions. We're at war and the military should have the role, no? Obama had a point.

Although AFRICOM has always been the oddball command, being more than just a military outfit and pulling in all sorts of government assets in addition to the military.

I assume there are legal reasons for this reversal, although I can't rule out simple bureaucratic infighting, I suppose, given that the CIA seems to be doing what the military is doing in Africa. Maybe it really is just easier for the CIA to deny involvement, although the high profile of the Africa mission seems to blunt that angle, eh?

Then again, Russia invades and wages war on Ukraine and denies the obvious repeatedly. Maybe we just want exploit the precedent Putin set.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Sorting the Dead in Syria

The Syrian multi-war casualties clearly show that a large part of the war was a civil war in contrast to the Iraq War, which was a counter-insurgency.

While I have earlier seen reports of half a million dead, I never know how authoritative the counts are. This count calls the total 365,000 dead.

By category, civilians count for almost 111,000 of the dead. I assume most were killed by government forces.

62,000 Syrian military personnel killed.

62,000 Syrian and foreign militia members killed, including 1,665 Hezbollah fighters.

64,000 jihadis and Islamists.

And 65,000 non-jihadist rebels, soldiers who defected, and Kurdish forces.

In contrast to Iraq where most of the dead were civilians, indicating a war among civilians, "only" less than a third of the casualties in Syria have been civilians. To me this indicates front lines , behind which civilians were not directly attacked. If not for Assad's policy of bombing civilians to drive rebel supporters into exile, the toll would be far less.

The death toll among the forces fighting on the government side is astounding. No wonder their morale is shaky. Despite air and fire support, pro-government casualties have been about the same as rebels and jihadis.

Which means the pro-government forces aren't that good. If the government versus rebel civil war evolves into an insurgency, the government forces will be sorely tested in a more complicated role.

They Do Know the Effect

I'm somewhat shocked at this news:

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen pushed for a longer mandate for Germany's military training program in Iraq on Sunday, as she met with Iraqi defense officials. ...

A German parliamentary mandate for the military assistance program in Iraq was extended in March this year and is due to expire on October 31. It will likely be extended as well, although there has been pushback from the junior coalition partner in Chancellor Angela Merkel's government, the Social Democrats.

Germany is willing to keep its military presence in Iraq for the long haul?

Well, Germany does know that a prolonged Western military presence can wring the militarism--or even willingness to fight in defense of the West--out of your country.

And I suppose that the Germans are aware that leaving Iraq in 2011 helped the rise of ISIL which led to its rise in Syria and Iraq--which led to massive numbers of Moslem migrants/refugees flooding into Europe that has destabilized Germany and the European Union imperial project.

Although I hope that von der Leyen doesn't try to again make the argument that participation in the Iraq mission is something that is an alternative to defense spending rather than something made more effective by increased defense spending that doesn't destroy the effectiveness of the rest of your military scraping together resources for the mission.

Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory

Given that the evils of the communist Soviet Union (whose economic system was socialism) motivated me to enlist in the Army National Guard late in the Cold War, it is disturbing that so many Americans are extolling the promise of socialism. We defeated those monsters in the Cold War. Are we really dumb enough to let the ideology defeat us in the end?

Remember that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics considered that it was only building true communism. The communists didn't actually claim to have a true communist system, which was the end stage of their building project (no matter how many figurative eggs had to be cracked to build the figurative tasty omelet). The end stage was supposed to be a fantastical world where the system of government evaporated as New Soviet Men (and Women) naturally produced according to their ability and consumed according to their needs.

Seriously, that's what they claimed to believe.

Although in the meantime the top ranks of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union conveniently got to boss around other people and skim off the best of what their crappy economic system produced. And every other such system always seems to stall at the exploitation by the minority phase before collapsing prior to the paradise phase.

It boggles my mind that educated people can profess faith in a system that continually promises paradise if you will only trust a small group of people to manage your lives. Is the evidence of failure after failure insufficient to repel you from such unjustified trust in the wisdom and compassion of people given such power? Are the violent masked "antifa" stormtroopers drawn from actual communist and anarchist ranks an insufficient warning of what follows?

I honestly don't think the people now claiming to be proud "socialists" here in America have a clue about what they claim to believe (given the poverty and sometimes death that follow socialist governance when the government runs out of other people's money) and instead use "socialism" as a way to say they are intensely liberal. Recall that the really liberal once rejected that label to rebrand themselves "progressives." I suspect this is another rebranding. I hope that is all it is.

For the health of America, I don't want Democrats to be captured by that kind of far left minority. Democrats who complain that Republicans have been captured by extremists should seriously examine what they are doing. And for Republicans delighted to face a far-left Democratic Party, do they not remember the 2016 election lesson about being delighted in your opponent? How did that work out for Hillary Clinton? I want both parties to be parties that can be trusted to govern without doing too much damage until the next free election even if I don't like the edges of their policies.

And for God's sake, remember that political allies can be horrible people and that political opponents can be good and decent people. Don't treat opponents like enemies and don't trust allies with complete control. Save that kind of thinking about foes for actual enemies abroad like the jihadis who still keep to kill Americans despite our inward Twitter-based self-absorption by the tiny minority of asshats who dominate that medium. There may be a civil war on Twitter, but in the physical world the atmosphere has been far worse in my lifetime and I don't worry that there will be a civil war in America, as uncivil as political discourse has become.

We won the Cold War by defeating our enemies abroad and building a free and prosperous country at home. But there are loud yet hopefully fleeting and small signs we may have failed to win the post-war stabilization mission at home. Americans made a great country through the efforts of many people of competing political views over many generations. Don't think it should be torn down to start over. There are too many on both sides who seem to think that way.

Recognize the victory we have achieved, okay?

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

It's Only New--and Convenient--to You

Subversion is nothing new and is not a replacement for conventional war. Raising Russian subversion techniques to a new style of "hybrid war" just because they use the Internet now seems like an excuse not to prepare for conventional war.

Germany's defense minister is overly focused on "hybrid warfare":

"Here you are also confronted with a situation that represents another part of the Russian military doctrine: the idea of hybrid warfare," she told German troops stationed in Lithuania as part of a NATO force deployed to deter Russia.

NATO allies have accused Russia of using "hybrid warfare" techniques, including subversion, propaganda and cyber warfare, to undermine the West without triggering a full NATO military response.

Using propaganda and subversion is a normal practice for those who don't or can't use military force.

Raising this to the level of some new and novel form of warfare reminds me of the nonsense in the 1990s of calling any insurgent leader with an email address a practitioner of "netwar" (or "4th generation war" if I remember correctly), as I complained about here:

Ah, "netwar." Recall the first celebrated practioners of netwar--the Mexican Zapatistas in 1994. You remember them, they netwarred their way into power, seizing Mexico City. No? Then they succeeded in creating an independent state. No? Then they convinced the Mexican government to spend more there. Wow. This example of so-called netwar was a guy with a colorful name, some college education, an internet connection, and a bunch of ill-armed indigenous peoples following him. Add an adoring press and presto! Netwar!

Russia doesn't have the conventional military strength to take on NATO in a full-blown conventional war and so subverts NATO states. Germany doesn't want to pay for military strength and so pretends what Russia is doing is a new form of warfare that conveniently means Germany doesn't need a conventional military.

But you know my feelings about "hybrid war."

Assets Need Protection

The Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI, a.k.a. OBOR or New Silk Road) anticipates China spending huge sums of money in order to provide economic benefits and political stability on their land flank, extending Chinese influence westward. But it will pull China into military problems, too:

This study finds that Chinese security perspectives on the BRI are fundamentally ambivalent. On one hand, the thinking goes, economic development and connectivity will help stabilize China’s border regions, secure its energy supplies, and allow China to extend its strategic influence. On the other hand, China will face various challenges, ranging from terrorism to strategic competition from the United States, Japan, and India. Meeting these challenges requires careful diplomatic coordination and messaging, a stronger ability to anticipate and assess risk, and new capabilities to protect trade routes and Chinese citizens abroad.

I've long wanted China to focus inland rather than out to sea:

[Defeating] China makes the best of the worst case and deterring China makes the best of the second worst case. We need to shovel the Snow back north. We need to play the Great Game in Asia to achieve our best case--a China pointed away from the south--Taiwan and the United States and our other allies--and pointed toward the north and the interior of Asia.

And the BRI is a massive Chinese refocus inland to extend alternative trade routes to Europe. Regardless of the intent of BRI, the inland focus, I have believed, will naturally divert Chinese military focus away from America at sea and our allies in the west Pacific littorals:

Well, the flag follows trade. So one will lead to the other regardless of the primary intent.

And that worries those on the silk road.

But basically I think the charge [that the BRI is motivated by security issues] misses the point that Chinese rulers see all problems as part of a continuum of threats to Chinese Communist Party rule.

So improving trade routes that redirect economic growth to interior Chinese provinces helps preserve stability and secures China from internal threats; while the political and military inroads abroad help secure the economic benefits and provide direct security benefits for China from external threats.

Of course, the project probably isn't sufficient to gain the economic benefits the Chinese hope to get.

Which may mean that the Chinese dig in even harder along those trade routes to secure the limited security benefits the trade routes provide; and probably shift Chinese justification for a political and military presence in more external security terms.

China has emphasized naval power and the air power to support it. Which naturally threatens America and our allies at sea.

But massive investments inland to the west become assets that need protection. And that will require land forces and the air power to support them. And it will require deploying those assets inland to the west.

Can China build both a navy and air force to defeat America and our allies at sea to the east and an army and air force to overcome competition from countries that must cope with the increased Chinese penetration of the interior of Asia?

I doubt it.

Ready to Go?

Is China worried enough about the trends in Taiwan and dismissive enough of American resolve to help Taiwan that they will attempt to invade Taiwan rather than bide their time for Taiwan to be pulled into China's orbit?

Well that's ominous:

Several factors have led to an escalation of coercive pressure on Taiwan in recent years. Xi is increasingly impatient with Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, who has refused to accept the 1992 consensus and the concept of ‘one China’. Tsai’s position is understandable: Taiwan is a strong and vibrant democracy and a majority of its population identify themselves not as Chinese, but Taiwanese. Pro-independence forces are gathering support, and Tsai is conscious of this growing sentiment in her Democratic Progressive Party base. She can’t ignore the will of the majority of Taiwan’s people. ...

Ni also argues that there’s a perception in Beijing that in spite of closer US–Taiwan ties under President Donald Trump, the US lacks the resolve to go to war against China over Taiwan. Now is Beijing’s opportunity to achieve China–Taiwan reunification, through the use of force if necessary.

The article discusses the possibility that Xi will decide to invade Taiwan (which is China's most central "core interest," so don't talk to me about how China "can't" invade) and cement his rule for--he hopes--decades to come.

I've thought China was getting ready to invade Taiwan for a long time. Obviously I was extremely wrong about the timing. But not about the intent and ability (if China is willing to pay the anticipated price).

And yes, China continues to get ready.

Yet that initial article warning about the cost that China would have to pay to take Taiwan breaks down when it gets to the insurgency issue. If China has taken enough of Taiwan to be talking about insurgency, Taiwan has lost the war and their freedom, and China has won. Have no doubt that China will do what it takes to ruthlessly pacify the Taiwanese--and "world opinion" be damned. And honestly, I'd expect mass expulsion of Taiwanese to Xinjiang and Tibet combined with Han colonization of Taiwan.

Indeed, I think China has essentially won if the war ends with a ceasefire with Chinese forces holding Taiwanese territory. If that happens, conquest is just a two-stage operation.

What is most worrisome is that Chinese leaders may think that the more powerful China they have built is far more powerful than reality justifies. Even winning a war will be costly for America.

And if China conquers Taiwan which becomes a Chinese power projection platform and which demonstrates the inability of America to protect a friend (if not ally, admittedly), we lose too.

It would be tragic if we fight a war with China just as it seems like China is finally starting to focus inland.

Have a super sparkly day.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Reachback for the Entire Crew

South Korea has an armed unmanned ground vehicle prototype:

South Korean defence prime Hanwha has taken the opportunity at the DX Korea 2018 land forces exhibition to unveil a new 6×6 unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) prototype that will be further developed to meet a future requirement of the Republic of Korea Army (RoKA). ...

The prototype UGV can carry a payload of about 1 tonne and has been shown with a stabilised remote weapon station (RWS) armed with an S&T Motiv 12.7 mm K6 heavy machine gun, although it can be outfitted with other weapons depending on mission requirements.

Clearly it is possible to remotely operate a weapon station from outside the vehicle as I suggested for our future infantry fighting vehicles in some situations where the infantry is a potential casualty list rather than an asset needed for dismounted fighting.

Unless the vehicle drags a cable along a track or is otherwise tethered to some location for point defense. But it is called a combat vehicle so it doesn't seem like it is that limited.

Descending the Escalation Ladder

If the rebels were smart, they'd prepare to scatter and go to ground when the Assad forces attack and end the last significant territorial control the rebels exercise in western Syria. But no, they'd rather die in place:

They dug trenches around towns, reinforced caves for cover and put up sand bags around their positions. They issued calls to arms, urging young men to join in the defense of Idlib, the Syrian province where opposition fighters expect to make their last stand against Russian- and Iranian-backed government troops they have fought for years.

This time, it's "surrender or die."

Those aren't their only options.

The rebels are making it easy for Assad's shaky army to use firepower to kill their way to final victory in the west. Failing to go insurgent at this point and wait for another opportunity to seize territory is a decision to die.

Still, that might be what the rebels are preparing for despite the "surrender or die" image:

Al-Mustafa, the National Front spokesman, said the rebels are prepared for a battle he called "existential."

But, he added, "our cause will not end if we lose this battle."

Unless this is an expression of an "Inshallah" moment of accepting their fate as Allah wills it, perhaps insurgency is their Plan B.

Still, I'm just glad we didn't militarize the conflict back in 2012. Things might have gotten much worse, eh?

UPDATE: Uh oh:

A Russian military spy plane carrying 15 over the Mediterranean Sea was downed Monday by an anti-aircraft missile from Syrian forces, prompting finger pointing by Moscow over what is called an "intentional provocation" by Israel.

Syria fired the missile. Russia might have a point that Israeli planes were too close to the Russian plane--if Russia's version is accurate.

Israel has no reason to risk Russian lives given their common goals against Iran.

UPDATE: More. Israel says there planes were back in Israeli air space at the time of the strike and the Russians seem like they want to avoid a crisis with Israel as much as the Russians want to avoid blaming the Syrians,

An Offer Europe Should Definitely Refuse

Lovely little continent you have there. It would be a shame if anything was to happen to it:

"Europe said the nuclear agreement was in its security interest. Then Europe must be ready to pay for its security," [Iranian Foreign Minister] Zarif said. "Nothing is for free."

He said Europe should be "ready to pay for its security" by implementing a European Union "blocking agreement" under which it can punish European firms for withdrawing from Iranian business deals to avoid U.S. sanctions.

Suddenly the end of the deal means Iran could pose a threat to Europe? Unless you think Zarif just threatened Europe with cheap and clean nuclear energy, that sounds like Iran is claiming that without the nuclear "agreement" Iran will be a nuclear threat to Europe. But Iran never even admitted that it ever had a nuclear weapons program

Odd, that is, no?

I never understood how anyone with a functioning brain stem and eyes that work could have looked at the Iran nuclear deal and concluded that it was anything but horrible.

Of course, the vast majority of our media and liberal "think" tanks proved that lack of a brain stem and eyes is no impediment to passing along government propaganda about the deal.

The Iran nuclear deal stripped of useless provision boils down to a simple transaction: "The Iranians will pretend not to have a nuclear weapons program; and we will pretend to believe them."

America stopped pretending. Europe hasn't yet. Even as Iran sort of admits it has only been pretending.

Monday, September 17, 2018

The Inchon Queen

South Korea's marine corps wants to build an aviation platform:

The Marine Corps is considering introducing a large transport ship capable of carrying warplanes, and mobilizing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to enhance its amphibious operations and surveillance capabilities, its chief said Wednesday.

Sounds like a South Korea modularized auxiliary cruiser could be the answer. Even if a purpose-built ship could work better, a conversion might do enough to be worthwhile at a lower price and allow them to test the concept.

Shocking News of Cooperation Between Treaty Allies!


British and French defense ministers will meet twice a year rather than just once, reflecting a deepening of bilateral relations despite Britain’s impending exit from the European Union, said French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly.

"Despite" Brexit, bilateral defense relations between Britain and France--who are both members of the NATO military alliance--will continue!

Well that is shocking news. Formal treaty allies cooperate on defense matters. Will wonders never cease?

Remember that the European Union is not a defense alliance. Although the EU proto-empire wishes to destroy NATO to push America out of Europe to make the EU an actual autocratic empire with its own defense capacity.

Good Enough for Carrier Work?

USS Essex (pictured below, photo from the Navy via the quoted article), carrying a small number of F-35Bs, is sailing the Red Sea, able to quickly move to support operations in the Mediterranean Sea or Arabian Sea. Essex is not an aircraft carrier.

This is better than nothing:

Until recently, the US had no capital ships and just one or two destroyers in the Mediterranean, but the USS Essex, a small, flat-deck aircraft carrier used to launch US Marine Corps F-35B stealth jets that can take off almost vertically, just arrived off the horn of Africa, USNI News reports.

Though the Essex remains on the opposite side of the Suez Canal from Russia's ships in the Mediterranean, it's a quick-moving ship. Additionally, the F-35Bs can fly about 550 miles out from the ship in stealth configurations that make them hard to detect for enemy defenses.

uss essex f 35b

Essex is an amphibious warfare platform with a large deck for Marine-carrying aircraft to operate. The F-35s would normally support the Marines in the amphibious group. But the planes can be used like any F-35 that is operated by the Navy or Air Force.

Essex is not an aircraft carrier capable of carrying up to four squadrons (and more if support aircraft are subtracted) of combat aircraft plus supporting aircraft.

But Essex is one of our "stealth carriers" that can function as a carrier for smaller missions. But I would not build small carriers to replace the big carriers.

Actually, I don't know why we can't send portions of carrier air wings to operate from land bases when no carrier is available.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

None Shall Exit!

Fresh from the EU boasting about how they made Britain's life a living Hell during Brexit negotiations, the EU's top apparatchik vows to make Europe great again:

The European Union must flex its muscles as a world power, EU chief executive Jean-Claude Juncker said on Wednesday, as he spoke critically of U.S. President Donald Trump's retreat from international engagement.

Sigh. Juncker makes me sad.

America isn't disengaging from the world. America is simply trying to engage more effectively and in our interests. And that includes strengthening NATO in Europe.

As for flexing their muscles as a world power, without Britain ('Tis but a scratch! A mere flesh wound.) what power does the EU think it can flex around the world?

Full scene here for those shamefully unfamiliar with the genre.

On a Path to NATO Membership

Sweden is committed to spending more on defense, which will make them worthy of being a member of NATO if they follow that route.

Swedish military technology (their ability to make high quality fighter planes for such a small country is fairly amazing) is good and they once had a potent military. And there is broad-based consensus to rebuild Sweden's post-Cold War military:

“Sweden’s national defense has been neglected for decades. What has happened is shameful. The budget allocated to the armed forces must reflect needs, operational realities and the requirement to replace outdated equipment. The goal should be to raise spending on defense to 2 percent of GDP, the recommended NATO level, inside 10 years,” said Ulf Kristersson, leader of the Moderates and someone being widely tipped to become Sweden’s next prime minister.

Of course, Sweden doesn't plan to meet the NATO spending goal until 4 years after NATO states are supposed to meet it. But they'll still beat Germany, I imagine.

Sweden's geography would make it an excellent NATO candidate if it can be a military contributor rather than just another member that needs rescuing. Until then, membership is too risky for NATO.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Weekend Data Dump

Mercenaries are a feature of modern warfare and what can Russia say if their mercenaries in the Donbas are killed at a high rate? You can purchase my collected thoughts on private warfare here. And I've certainly advised sending body bags back to Russia to reduce the appeal of their Ukraine adventure.

Paranoia and the grain of truth behind it.

In the Soviet Union, it was standard practice to treat disagreement with socialism as a mental illness.

God help us, but we entrusted these people with our national security.

Instead of being more flexible for the Russians, we are reinforcing our military in Europe to counter Russia. It's a bit much for former president Obama to now claim that he answered that call from the 1980s.

I'm not sure what to make of this claim about human impact on the climate and preventing an ice age. It makes sense at some level, since I've long read that our current inter-glacial period has been rather long, but it relies on models. And I've also read that humanity didn't really have an impact on the climate until 1950. Although having an impact for so long might have disguised the impact as just the baseline of the climate. Also, it discusses orbital mechanics that heat and cool the Earth, which so often seems to be ignored. It is an interesting article. But maybe there is another explanation: Could the reason be some natural cause?

Erdogan has crippled Turkey's economy and alienated traditional allies by turning Turkey into an Islamist autocracy under him. This otherwise good article about the bad financial crisis in Turkey is weakened by a ritual slap at Trump, with the author saying Erdogan's "angry feud with President Donald Trump ... is pushing [Turkey] towards financial crisis." It is not some 3:00 a.m. Twitter-based "angry feud." It is a major foreign policy problem based on what Ergodan has been consistently doing to the once secular Turkey that was a reliable NATO ally. This is not about Trump. This is about Erdogan. Trump Derangement Syndrome shouldn't be allowed to obscure that basic truth.

The German 10-year plan to restore military capabilities won't even meet the NATO 2024 commitment for  spending; and it seems highly unlikely that the Germans will fund even this plan. I assume this will be a thousand year-plan to reach the 2024 goal.

Putin's sword

Is China following the path to downfall of the Soviet Union despite thinking the Chinese learned the lessons of the collapse of the Soviet Union? I've thought that China's economy has more depth than the USSR's and so that would make a difference. But perhaps it isn't sufficiently better to provide a different outcome. The author is not impressed with the New Silk Road initiative (a.k.a. OBOR, BRI).

Naval mines are a horribly unappreciated threat to us and opportunity for us offensively. I've mentioned this repeatedly over the years.

Okay, I really want to comment on the anonymous New York Times op-ed by a White House official who claims to be saving the country from Trump's worst instincts.  But on the issue of governance and not on politics. Other than the display of ego in the age of The Resistance, this is the normal stuff of a president sitting atop a massive White House and executive branch staff and bureaucracy. Presidential options--with rare exceptions of intense presidential interest--get pushed toward remaining within the parameters of what the staff and bureaucracy consider possible and wise. That's why I didn't panic over Trump or Obama despite their inadequacies in background to govern. I won't elevate this behavior into a "Deep State" issue. It's just how the system works, as long as you also understand that the civilian bureaucracy is far more friendly to Democrats than to Republicans. And the military leadership is the reverse. On a related issue, I suspect that 80% of the "chaos" in the White House that is alleged today is because of the level of scrutiny and the media judgment that this is unusual. Recall that when the media is friendly to the president, having competing centers of power in the president's cabinet is lovingly called "a team of rivals" recalling Abe Lincoln's cabinet. Also, what the official did is not treason. But I'd probably fire the official.

I find it interesting that the Chinese believe their vast investments in countries as part of their New Silk Road (BRI) project will convince them to reduce their resistance to Chinese territorial claims against them by rejecting a "zero sum" mentality. Because I've expressed a hope that China will learn to appreciate that their economic rise has been enabled by the American-built post-World War II system and so reduce Chinese desire to reject and revise that system. The Chinese might want to consider their own view of the American-designed system when they judge whether countries with territorial disputes with China will just accept Chinese claims if those other countries gain economic benefits from the BRI.


In this last week we had the anniversary of the Battle of Lake Erie, which took place September 10, 1813. I only mention it because the first thing I wrote for publication as a real writer was a brief biography of the commander Oliver Hazard Perry, in the Historic World Leaders publication.

Russia has been testing an unusual satellite "carrier" which may be an anti-satellite weapon designed to kill without debris or take over satellites. That and satellites in general over at Strategypage. It's time to move the X-37 spacecraft forward and remove the X to get something in production. And wow, it has been a while since I mentioned it. Time flies.

The aging world. A long time ago I figured that America would react to declining birth rates with immigration (with robots as a productivity product rather than a people replacement issue); Japan would react with robotics; and Europe would react with cloning (and again, robots would be a productivity issue). As Europe's experiment with immigration falters, my old completely speculative view might pan out. China might be a robot response candidate. The Stratfor article expresses confidence that Japan can adapt given its talent and wealth.

Well that's just effing amazing. Actual science is amazing. Although I assume the range is short. So it might be more practical (if that's the right word) for hands-free piloting with wingmen drones close by. If it can be done at longer ranges, could you have telepathically controlled remote weapons stations that enhances my notion reliant on wireless links?

Jesus Christ you moron, "the truth" is the least of the casualties of Assad's war on the Syrian people. Or have there been 400,000 funerals for various truths killed and millions more driven abroad? A journalist amazingly makes that blood-soaked war all about journalism. I guess when the only tool you have is a pen, every problem is an untold story. The myopia is astounding.

Hmm. How ... French ... of Kuwait.  I won't panic about bet hedging but it is something to watch.

When you like your society, you have reason to want to keep your society. And it is justified to wonder if mass migration of people who may not be able to assimilate into your society threaten to change your society. When Islamists who hate our society struck America in force on September 11, 2001, too many people here responded by asking "why do they hate us?" as if America did something to deserve that mass murder. But after the recent election in Sweden that challenges the status quo nobody in Sweden will ask "why do they distrust us?" (With "they" being those voters and "us" being the unassimilated immigrants friendly to Islamism and the government and media that refuses to face concerns over that migration policy's effect on Swedish society.)

Withdrawing American dependents from South Korea is a serious step, and it was discussed in the media last December.

I'm so old I remember when a foreign hostile power funneled money into the DNC and a presidential candidate's coffers and the media couldn't care less. I know, that's different because ... shut up. Tip to Instapundit.

Yes, the swastika that the Finnish air forces uses predates Nazi Germany. But honest to God it has been tainted too much and if Finns want NATO public opinion to be reflexively positive toward Finland if Russia attacks them, it really should be shelved.

China doesn't only persecute Moslems--Christians get abused too.

The Army hopes to power drones up to 500m up with lasers, allowing them to stay up indefinitely (as long as a line of sight is maintained, of course. I guess smoke screens will be important again).

Russia is conducting large-scale military maneuvers in Russian military regions close to China, yet people seem to be going out of their way to bizarrely claim the maneuvers are directed against America?

Don't over-analyze this. Russia is conducting large exercises to see just how bad it is out east in case China decides to attack Russia. If Russia is "sending a message to America," the message is "Help me!"

Paul Blart: Snake Eater.

Of course he would. He's a recognized moron. And on his own terms, a climate war criminal.

Good. We should stiff-arm the ICC. We are a free democracy that will police our own if somebody does something wrong. But the ICC would rather pick on anybody other than true monsters who might track them down and kill the judges, their staff, and their families.

I still suspect this was the result of an eavesdropping device and not an attack on our diplomatic personnel. Interesting that Russia is the leading suspect. Although I can't rule out mass hysteria combined with a small number of unrelated real ailments.

Lots of oil + lots of socialism = everyone's a millionaire! But there's a catch. There's always a catch. But nobody ever learns, believing that if only "true" socialism was done the right way, it would be great. If only some people could get together and try to create it in one nation (tip to Instapundit), it would be fine. Seriously, any system that requires such a high amount of intelligence and skill to avoid the mistakes of every other failed dictatorial socialist shithole that has emerged with hope and praise from gullible Westerners should be abandoned by anyone with a functioning brain stem. Alas, that is not so.

We will have the ability to sanction any foreign actor trying to interfere in our election.

I obviously cannot comment on the sudden FBI shutdown of the Dunn Solar Telescope in New Mexico. Not if I know what's good for me. I'll guess it is about countering foreign signals intelligence in some way. Either that or aliens.

A rose by just that name, apparently. Passing the referendum clears the path for NATO membership. The whole Macedonia name issue is a farce with real world repercussions.

Lighten up, Francis. We're allies. The disagreements on terms of trade will be settled peacefully.

A Strategypage tour of China, including the military modernization versus economic/corruption problems race; Iran; Dystopian State 2.0 Beta Version in Xinjiang and the silence of the Easily Offended; North Korea; Venezuela, and the Philippines. There's a lot. Read it all.

Thwart Iran by saving Idlib? "Saving" Idlib--the last rebel bastion in Syria--from the looming Assad ground invasion involves saving a lot of jihadis as collateral damage to thwarting Iran in a very minor way. There are plenty of other places and ways to thwart Iran. That there are fewer places to do that inside Syria now is because of America's failure since 2012 to make the overthrow of Assad an objective (which I believed was the fourth step in the anti-ISIL plan I outlined that we broadly followed in the years since that post).

A Rose by any other government? Russia tried to destroy Georgia in 2008 but failed. Will Russia succeed anyway with Georgians barely willing to admit that Russia tried to destroy Georgia in 2008? The revisionism to undermine what was obvious in 2008 is underway.

The Air Force is not considering a new F-15 or a F-22/F-35 hybrid.  The Air Force may be right about those ideas. They'd also better be right that the F-35--which is basically the only game in town for the future Air Force as older planes drop out of the force pool--will work as advertised.

When Russian efforts to keep their Ukraine vassal state reached the White House.

The healing powers of "and" suggests Iran has both instigated attacks on American interests in Iraq through their proxies and suffered from attacks by Iraqi Shias who reject Iranian influence in Iraq. Sanctioning Iranian hand puppets in Iraq is an excellent idea.

China won't get a foothold in Greenland after all

Trump would have to be a complete fool to fire Secretary of Defense Mattis. I remain grateful Trump defeated Hillary, but that doesn't mean I gave him a blank check.

The Missiles Beneath START Notice

This is an interesting discussion of the benefits and problems with the INF treaty between Russia and America that limits land-based theater missiles.

I did note that problem of potentially unrestrained theater missiles in the New START negotiations but didn't think that Russia could really afford to expand their theater nuclear arsenal too much. So I figured British, French, and Chinese nukes offset the Russian edge over America there.

Although more recently I've begun to wonder if Russia is emphasizing shorter-range nuclear missiles because they have a reliability problem with their far more complicated long-range intercontinental missiles.

It is food for thought on the value of INF, if Russia can be brought into compliance. The author makes a strong case that some form of an INF treaty is in our advantage. On the assumption that it doesn't include sea-based missiles.

And it makes me wonder if the existence of a Chinese theater missile arsenal justifies building American land-based theater missiles if we can use sea-based missiles.

Could we really just deploy theater missiles on American soil from Alaska to the western Pacific? Isn't Guam getting crowded enough as a target-rich environment for China?

Or would we have to ask allies to allow us to deploy such missiles on their territory, inviting protests that weaken our alliances, perhaps stoked by Russia or China?

The World Focuses on Idlib

This is an interesting description of how different actors are pulling in different directions--and with conflicting interests even within one actor's motivations--over Syria's Idlib province which Assad's forces (and allies) are preparing to assault.

But I have a couple quibbles.

One, even if American support for Turkey over their objectives in Idlib could gain points with Erdogan, that will be spitting in the ocean given that our problem with Turkey is that Erdogan is taking Turkey in an Islamist direction. Other than making a futile gesture against the use of chemical weapons in Idlib by Assad, we have no interests worth risking war over in that province.

Two, I disagree with this assessment of Russian interest in the Mediterranean Sea:

Russia had no obvious strategic interest in Syria, and the attempts to divine some were dubious at best. Baffled onlookers posited that Russia wanted to control oil pipelines and place a major naval force in Syria. But Russia has plenty of oil of its own; what it needs are higher oil prices. Russia’s dream is to have a naval force in the Mediterranean, but that dream could easily become a nightmare, since any force it placed in the Mediterranean would have to be supplied through the Bosporus, which the Turks could block at will.

The real reason Russia intervened in Syria was to show its own public that it could act like a great power.

I do agree about the real reason for intervening. It looked good and demonstrated Russia would go the extra mile for a client. Which might have looked like more of a contrast when America seemed like a risky ally to count on (see Iraq under siege by ISIL then).

But Russia has an interest in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Even if it is at risk in wartime.

Assuming Russian paranoia about the West is real rather than feigned to excuse aggression, Russia likely sees the eastern Mediterranean Sea as a potential launching site for sea-based nuclear attacks on Russia itself--as the Soviet Union saw the region where American carriers and subs roamed during the Cold War.

So just having forces in the eastern Mediterranean Sea in the opening days of a general war will be worthwhile.

Plus, not everything has to be judged by the standards of all-out war. In peacetime, having a naval and air presence in the eastern Mediterranean Sea helps Russia promote its interests in the region and occupies American forces otherwise free to operate in other regions.

And as I've said, bases in Syria help justify the conquest of Crimea and the cost of a continuing war against Ukraine, by helping Russia project power from the Black Sea to the eastern Mediterranean Sea, bolstered by forward bases in Syria.

But it is true that by essentially siding with Iran to allow Iran to participate in the Idlib offensive is a real problem for Russian interests regarding Israel, America, Iran, and Turkey.

But Russia is clearly taking hits in those areas to keep bases in Syria. Obviously the bases must be important to Russia.

And of course, if Russia is stiff-arming Turkey, it increases chances Turkey will look to China as a major ally in place of America and NATO, or the one-time candidate (but long-time enemy) Russia.

Finally, I disagree that America has proven itself "bad at counter-insurgency." In only five years we crushed well-financed and well-armed insurgents and terrorists in Iraq despite outside support to those enemies from Syria, Iran, and the wider Sunni jihadi world.

Don't believe me? Well believe President Obama when he commented on our late 2011 withdrawal of troops from Iraq (in the last update):

Now, Iraq is not a perfect place. It has many challenges ahead. But we're leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people. We're building a new partnership between our nations.

But the accuracy of that COIN point is moot because I don't think we have any interest in occupying western Syria and waging a counter-insurgency there. Let Israel and Turkey who have much higher interests in western Syria worry about Assad, I say.

I do wonder if the Assad offensive into Idlib is truly the final act in the war in the west. If rebels accept a step down the escalation ladder and go insurgent, the war will go on.