Saturday, April 04, 2020

Finally, the Real Threat to Venezuela is Unmasked

Maduro may be getting to that lashing-out level of paranoia that I've worried about. Please alert the Netherlands, which is responsible for Curacao's defense.

Yeah, that's sane:

A Venezuelan navy coastal patrol boat sank in the Caribbean after allegedly ramming a cruise ship that it had ordered to change direction.

The owners of the Portuguese-flagged RCGS Resolute said the naval vessel Naiguata also fired shots in an "act of aggression in international waters”.

The collision left the cruise ship, which has a reinforced hull for sailing in icy waters, with only minor damage.

Venezuela accused the Resolute of an act of "aggression and piracy".

It also said it "did not rule out" that the cruise ship "was transporting mercenaries to attack military bases in Venezuela". ...

President Maduro said an investigation had been launched and he expected "maximum collaboration" from authorities in CuraƧao.

I assume that a failure to confirm Maduro's fantasy will be counted as lack of maximum collaboration.

I've long said that the Dutch should keep their powder dry when it comes to Curacao:

With talk of imminent collapse of Venezuela's economy, would that nutball Maduro order his forces to invade Curacao citing weak and distant Netherlands as a threat to Venezuela by merely existing as a destination to flee?

This would not be the first time that Curacao has been in Venezuela's sights as a "threat" to the Bolivarian Paradise.

The Dutch should really keep their powder dry and have the phone number to America's SOUTHCOM on speed dial.

Don't count the Dutch out. They actually fought at our side in Afghanistan and the Venezuelan military is no doubt in as bad shape as their oil industry and economy in general.

Have we reached that point?

Friday, April 03, 2020

We Can Walk and Kill Gum at the Same Time

They write this like it is a problem:

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has led calls for an "immediate global ceasefire" to refocus on fighting COVID-19 and on Friday appealed for the "waiving of sanctions that can undermine countries' capacity to respond to the pandemic."

The appeals have fallen on deaf ears in Washington. The Trump administration has kept sweeping sanctions on Iran, one of the countries worst hit by the pandemic, and in recent weeks has blacklisted more Iranians including over the clerical regime's heavy involvement in neighboring Iraq.

On Venezuela, which like Iran has appealed for IMF help to cope with the health crisis, the Justice Department on Thursday unveiled criminal charges on drug-trafficking against President Nicolas Maduro, with a $15 million reward for his arrest.

Yeah, unique in the world, America has not stopped resisting its enemies.

Face it, for people who love America's enemies, the Wuhan Flu is just another reason thrown out to do exactly what they wanted to do before the Wuhan Flu struck:

Top Democrats in Congress are urging the Trump administration to ease sanctions on Iran, Venezuela, and other countries badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic, citing the need to provide medical supplies and humanitarian support.

This kind of effort to rescue Iran is not new. And our sanctions don't interfere with humanitarian aid.

Seriously, what kind of perverse incentive does such a policy of easing up during a disaster give tyrants and enemies? If they know that all they have to do is inflict some type of pain on their own people and count on America caring about those people more than their rulers do, what won't the tyrants and enemies do to their own people to interrupt our sanctions or war effort?

Just remember, much like Jeffrey Epstein, our enemies won't kill themselves.

PRE-PUBLICATION UPDATE: Rouhani admits that the effort to lift sanctions "because of the Wuhan Flu" is just an effort to get money frozen under sanctions. The letter those Democrats wrote has been memory-holed in embarrassment--if not shame, given their politics. So yeah, we'll pass on your "historic opportunity" to lift sanctions that your Obama administration friends are helping you achieve.

If Iran has no problem pleading for victim status even as they foment mayhem all around them, I don't know why we can't keep sanctions on the regime even as we work to help Iranian people directly without letting the mullahs steal the aid.

Russia Picked a Bad Week to Quit Sniffing Petroleum Products

Russia relies on oil exports for income and political influence. And now the Wuhan Flu is hitting Russia--probably far worse than Putin admits.

So ordering an oil price war now really was exceptionally bad timing on Putin's part:

The timing could not have been worse for Russia to provoke a spat with Saudi Arabia over oil production quotas in early March. Moscow’s decision to withdraw from the OPEC+ agreement restricting oil production in order to maintain higher oil prices triggered a harsh reaction by Riyadh that sent oil prices spiraling down to below $25 per barrel in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic (, March 24). The price of Russian Urals oil dipped even lower, under $19 on March 18, which will deprive the Russian budget of some $3 billion a month (Vedomosti, March 19).

The Russian economy is likely to suffer the most devastating consequences of the oil price war—just as it bore the heaviest impact of low global oil prices five years ago. This time around, however, the injury is self-inflicted, as an angry Saudi Arabia not only decided to ramp up production but also moved to grab Russia’s oil market share around the world (see EDM, March 19, 23).

I mean, rather than lauding Putin for playing a poor hand well, aren't the Russian people eventually going to notice that Putin is effing up royally?

Putin isn't brilliant. He is weakening Russia's economy, failing to arrest the decline of Russia's defense industries, alienating potential allies, and strengthening potential enemies all for the "glory" of Abhkazia, South Ossetia, Crimea, parts of the Donbas, and bases in Assad's Syria.

And he's not that impressive riding a horse bare-chested, truth be told.

Chimps with nukes.

What Western plot could be as effective at wrecking Russia than Putin himself? Seriously, why isn't there a conspiracy theory floating around Russia on that possibility?

Yeah, a public vote on Putin remaining in office for life at this time that isn't completely rigged by Putin probably isn't a good idea.


UPDATE: Is Russia really willing to give up their gambit, whatever their motive is?

Thursday, April 02, 2020

Well That's Not Alarming and Suspicious At All

Seriously, why do we let Chinese nationals roam our country freely? Did we let Soviet nationals get free access to America during the Cold War?

Oh holy freaking Hell, just what were they doing?

In late November 2018, just over a year before the first coronavirus case was identified in Wuhan, China, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents at Detroit Metro Airport stopped a Chinese biologist with three vials labeled “Antibodies” in his luggage.

The biologist told the agents that a colleague in China had asked him to deliver the vials to a researcher at a U.S. institute. After examining the vials, however, customs agents came to an alarming conclusion.

“Inspection of the writing on the vials and the stated recipient led inspection personnel to believe the materials contained within the vials may be viable Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) materials,” says an unclassified FBI tactical intelligence report obtained by Yahoo News.

Could it be that when the Chinese Communist Party said the Wuhan Flu came from America that they had an element of truth in it? What were the Chinese doing smuggling deadly viruses into America?

China run by the CCP is our enemy and this pandemic is making that clear.

Don't trust the Chinese Communist Party. Ever. On anything.

Soft Power Failed? Inconceivable!

It amuses me that people continue to say that Trump has reduced America's "soft power" around the world.

What pray tell did Obama's supposed high "soft power" appeal to the world do for America?

Did his speech at the Brandenburg Gate to wild applause get Germany to stand up within NATO by spending more on defense and help us meaningfully abroad?

Did Obama's outreach speech in Cairo convince jihadis not to cruelly and joyfully slaughter innocent people in pursuit of their sick view of Islam?

Did Obama's "reset" with Russia convince them that being aggressive a-holes was wrong?

Did Obama's nuclear deal with Iran convince the mullahs that they should be a non-aggressive and successful regional power?

Did anything Obama did get China to be a "peaceful, stable, prosperous, and a responsible player in international affairs?" China never reined in their little atomic pit bull North Korea, that's for sure.

Granted, the fact that those foes didn't stop being foes is no indictment of Obama. Our foes are responsible for being foes. But the outsize faith that Obama and his fans had in Obama's ability to charm cooperation from friend and foe alike was just nauseating and not justified by the record.

I'm just not seeing the supposed benefits of the soft power that Obama allegedly had and that Trump has allegedly squandered.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Putin Really Seems to Care

Putin ordered large-scale military exercises. Huh. I guess not everybody is focusing on the Wuhan Flu rather than military and war issues the way people say America should cave in to enemies during this pandemic crisis.

Even as NATO is reducing military exercises to focus on helping member states in Europe cope with the Wuhan Flu, Russia notified NATO of large-scale exercises that NATO estimates will involve 82,000 troops:

"Moscow provided a notification that they were going to have a snap exercise, which they said was intended to test their capabilities to provide military support to the civil response to the COVID-19 outbreak," Stoltenberg said.

The Russian Defence Ministry said in a statement that the drills, carried out from March 25-28, would include medical units and nuclear, biological and chemical protection troops.

"But we actually judge that this exercise was also used to demonstrate to NATO that they remain combat-ready despite COVID-19," he said.

After Russia has denied there is much of a Wuhan Flu problem in Russia, are we really going to believe they are testing their ability to provide military assistance domestically to an epidemic response?

Unless Russia plans to transition very rapidly from that exercise into an offensive against a NATO state to take advantage of the pandemic in Europe, isn't Russia just risking spreading the Wuhan Flu among his military and making it less combat-ready in the future?

Because it will take time for the quality Western militaries to degrade in the absence of exercises that hone skills.

Unless Russia really does just want to cast a giant shadow as if nothing is going wrong.

I admit it is a coin toss as to whether Putin is chest-pounding and flinging poo, taking advantage of a crisis, or effing up royally:

Russia has alienated the West which was not a military threat to Russia by pointless threats to the West given weight by Russian invasions of Georgia and Ukraine, even though the West was willing to help Russia upgrade their defense industry until 2014; while China stole and then surpassed Russian military technology and production methods.

And recall that China has dormant claims on Russian Far Eastern territory with a treaty keeping those claims dormant up for cancellation in 2021.

Putin isn't brilliant. He is weakening Russia's economy, failing to arrest the decline of Russia's defense industries, alienating potential allies, and strengthening potential enemies all for the "glory" of Abhkazia, South Ossetia, Crimea, parts of the Donbas, and bases in Assad's Syria.

And he's not that impressive riding a horse bare-chested, truth be told.

Chimps with nukes.

What Western plot could be as effective at wrecking Russia than Putin himself? Seriously, why isn't there a conspiracy theory floating around Russia on that possibility?

Are we really going to go with the notion that Putin cares very deeply about public health issues in Russia rather than clawing back more bits of the Soviet/Russian empire during his reign?

Yeah, Putin really seems to care. About what I have no idea.

Of course, there is always the healing power of "and" to consider.


UPDATE: This warning from General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is really more general in nature:

“We came upon some intelligence some time ago that the drug cartels as a result of COIVD-19 were going to try to take advantage of the situation and try to infiltrate additional drugs into our country,” Milley said, without providing further detail. “We’re at war with COVID-19, we’re at war with terrorists, and we’re at war with drug cartels as well.”

We can still fight if necessary despite the Wuhan Flu.

Get the Sailors Off That Potential Plague Ship

The captain of the carrier Theodore Roosevelt reportedly wants most of his 4,000 crew evacuated, tested, and quarantined as needed before the Wuhan Flu sweeps the crew:

The captain of a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier that has more than 100 cases of coronavirus wrote a stunning plea for help to senior military officials.

Said the captain:

“We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors,” Crozier wrote. “The spread of the disease is ongoing and accelerating.”

The "not at [general conventional] war" part is key, as I noted in this recent post that mentioned the infections in two of our carriers:

Mind you, if we were at war, both carriers would fight. As would the rest of the military. As an institution it is built to operate while suffering losses. The carriers would fight less effectively, more slowly, and with more non-combat casualties even before you consider combat losses. But they would fight. As would the rest of our military, even as it takes steps to limit the damage from the epidemic.

Obviously, we are "at war" now with troops fighting every day. But you know what he means. We can kill jihadis without that carrier even if it could be crucial to keep her in the fight during a conventional war against a great power.

Get the crew off, take care of them ashore, and deep clean that ship.

UPDATE: Although I wouldn't call this a "stunning plea for help" as much as I would say it is an honest reporting of a serious problem that requires a rapid decision by people above him in the chain of command. He's doing his job. He isn't hiding the problem.

UPDATE: Like I've said:

In his letter, Crozier presented two scenarios to leaders, one in which the 4,000 sailors of the carrier would remain at sea, fight sick and suffer losses from the virus. It’s unclear how many sailor are infected with reports ranging from 30 to close to 100.

“We go to war with the force we have and fight sick. We never achieve a COVID ­free TR,” he wrote. “There will be losses to the virus.”

The second was to pause the operations of the carrier, quarantine sailors and disinfect the ship with a skeleton crew aboard to maintain the nuclear reactor and essential systems.

If we were in a shooting naval war the ship would go to sea and deal with the problem as best it can while fighting. That is not the situation we face.

UPDATE: Well good:

The U.S. Navy says it will remove the majority of USS Theodore Roosevelt’s crew so the aircraft carrier can be disinfected, one day after its commanding officer sent an urgent message asking for help controlling a COVID-19 outbreak.

That's the right thing to do under the circumstances, I think.


Having felt many times the surge of pride that goes with leading a ship into a deployment, I cannot imagine how wrenching the feeling of signing that letter must have been for the captain. But he made the right choice, and the Navy will back him up[.]

The captain made the right decision.

UPDATE: Although if he leaked the letter, I can't say that relieving him of command is the wrong action. Pity, though.

UPDATE: The Navy is unforgiving of errors by ship captains--especially the few who command an aircraft carrier. So I can't say I disagree with the Navy for relieving the captain, under the circumstances

Iran Had to "Destroy" the Reactor in Order to Save It

Behold the glorious Iran nuclear deal! Perhaps we have to save the deal for sixty days in order to destroy it.

Iran disabled the Arak reactor but retained the ability to restore it:

Under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), longstanding demands for a permanent prohibition on reprocessing activities and the full dismantlement of Iran’s Arak heavy water reactor was replaced with an Iranian commitment to forgo work on such reactors for 15 years and an international commitment to help Iran “modernize” its existing reactor.

Iran agreed to disable the reactor by pouring concrete into its core on the promise of retrofitting the facility to a design that produces far less plutonium. Five years later, however, Iran retains its ability to return the reactor to a more threatening course at any time. Last year, Iran’s top nuclear official revealed that the regime had negotiated in bad faith – concealing spare tubes it can use to build a new reactor core.

Huh. Iran retained the ability to restore the core of the reactor?

Who could have seen problems with the deal's plans for the Arak reactor?

Here's an interesting provision in Annex 1 about the redesign[ed], safer Arak reactor. It will be designed not to produce weapon grade plutonium in normal operation. Pray tell, in what type of operation can it produce weapon grade plutonium, how hard is it to shift to that type of operation. and could the IAEA detect temporary changes in operation?

The calandria (a Canadian-designed reactor) will be removed from the existing reactor under construction, kept in Iran, and filled with concrete to make it unusable. I assume filling it with concrete does not make it unusable even if it takes time. Why doesn't the agreement include destroying the calandria?

On page 22, it is noted that the West will help build the new Arak plant. Although Iran is in charge of the construction. How nice.
So Iran filled the calandria (the core, as the article calls it) with concrete rather than destroy it. And Iran secretly kept spare tubes to rebuild the core of the reactor.  

Thanks Obama! With no small assist from that titan of diplomacy, our own Spongespine Spandexpants, of course.

And now we get to the really interesting part as the author of that first article says we should issue another waiver on the Arak plant only if the Europeans are serious about triggering "snapback" sanctions that the Iran nuclear deal says will automatically snap back into place if Iran violates the deal:

In January, reportedly at the urging of the Trump administration, the E3 took the first step toward a UN snapback by invoking the JCPOA’s dispute resolution mechanism.  If European leaders are seriously considering taking the final step – accusing Iran of violating its nuclear commitments under the deal – they will want to appear to be the aggrieved parties who faithfully upheld the agreement until the end. By pointing to their work at Arak, European capitals could say they are upholding their commitments, but Iran is not.

Across all of Iran--and beyond--how much more is Iran cheating on the deal? Remember, they don't have to get away from it forever. Just long enough to be freed of international scrutiny.

But I don't think that snapback provisions are legal and I don't think China and Russia (heck, France might refuse to recognize that dilution of their power) will allow them to go through (and this is quoting my post that had the calandria bits):

Can the United Nations charter be amended by this deal to carve out an exception to the veto power of the 5 permanent members of the Security Council?

Here's what the Chapter V, Article 27 of the UN charter says about the veto:

1. Each member of the Security Council shall have one vote.
2. Decisions of the Security Council on procedural matters shall be made by an affirmative vote of nine members.
3. Decisions of the Security Council on all other matters shall be made by an affirmative vote of nine members including the concurring votes of the permanent members; provided that, in decisions under Chapter VI, and under paragraph 3 of Article 52, a party to a dispute shall abstain from voting.

Because I can see the Russians or Chinese objecting to the whole notion that UNSC resolutions can be reimposed after 30 days of inaction by the Security Council. What do we do when the Russians and Chinese (probably correctly, but it has been a long time since I had an international law class) argue that this deal provision is invalid and that no sanctions resolutions can go into effect without 9 votes, including the concurrence of the five permanent members, and they will not go along with it?

If renewing the Arak waiver will get us to the point of testing the validity of the snapback sanctions theory of the deal in the face of the UN Security Council's powers, what the heck. What's another sixty days of pretending this deal provision works?

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Decouple On Sight, Decouple First, Decouple To Kill, Keep Decoupling

Is saying the Chinese Communist Coronavirus Party is evil racist? Because I'm not stopping and this is just one more reason:

China is waging a propaganda war against the coronavirus on several fronts. In addition to its well-documented efforts to deflect attention from its early suppression of information about the disease and to claim that it has among all nations now halted the scourge, it is also pushing an alternative explanation of its origins—namely that it didn't start in Wuhan after all, but was a creation of a military biochemical lab in the United States and was brought to China by an American team that competed in the Military World Games in Wuhan last October.

Go read it all. And tell me your reaction isn't "Those mothereffing commie bastards!"

As far as I'm concerned, the CCP fired the first shots:

Among the biggest victims of the coronavirus pandemic is the fiction of amicable U.S.-China relations. Those ties have been worsening for years, even before President Trump decided to call out Beijing’s predatory behavior starting in 2017. With the crisis now pitting America and China openly against each other, it seems impossible to salvage the old working ties. Washington now faces an unambiguously adversarial relationship with the Chinese Communist Party, one in which global ideological blocs may be drawn. Losing this new cold war would be a grievous blow to global transparency and liberal order. It would also threaten a significant reduction of American power and influence abroad.

The Wuhan Flu is just making us notice that the CCP is a bunch of evil bastards who wish to harm us (tip to Instapundit). Much like 9/11 rubbed our noses in the fact that jihadis were at war with America despite our only sporadic attention to that fact.

Oh, and about that Chinese "aid" that China has loudly publicized:

And, far from acting as an altruistic partner attempting to help other stricken countries, Beijing is actually charging ;nations for the emergency aid it is giving, even when those supplies are defective, as in the case of test kits sent to the Czech Republic.

But the propaganda works, as I saw at a press conference when an overseas reporter asked if America was helping Italy the way China had. I sincerely doubt China "helped" Italy.

But the propaganda may only work on our media class as the rest of the West catches on:

It was only a matter of time before the coronavirus pandemic started to show a rupture in Western relations with China. Today, the market got some of the first hints of a rising probability of “decoupling”. ...

The wide spreading disease throughout Europe is turning people off to China in leadership positions who, only a few months ago, were fine with Beijing and thought the U.S. trade war with China was just Trump being Trump. Three years ago, Davos Man invited Xi Jinping to the World Economic Forum, heralding him as the new leader of the free trade world.

Still, given the CCP's actions during the Wuhan Flu it's an open question of whether the CCP hates the American-led free world or its own people more.

I'm going to really enjoy decoupling from China's economy as much as possible. Rich communist bastards are much worse than poor communist bastards.

UPDATE: And yes, an alternative to Huawei's 5G communications technology would be a smart thing to get.

UPDATE: "If you claim that calling it ‘Wuhan coronavirus’ is racist, you are part of the cover-up[.]" Hard to argue with that.

What is INDOPACOM Integrating?

INDOPACOM* will propose how to operate as an integrated joint force under the developing All-Domain Operations concept. How are ground forces treated?

This is good on the surface:

At a time where the Navy has been pretty quiet about All-Domain Operations — an emerging war fighting concept being pushed by the Pentagon’s top leaders — the head of Indo-Pacific Command, commander of the Navy’s biggest theater of operations, has proposed a bold new plan.

In a speech at a navy conference earlier this month, Adm. Philip Davidson offered an expansive vision of how to transform the way US forces train and partner with allies across the vast Indo-Pacific region, calling for the services to be linked in new, more permanent ways.

What is the role of ground forces? Especially the Army?

Already we see the Marines being downgraded from operating as a major force in land campaigns with a reduction in tube artillery, infantry battalions, and the elimination of the already small tank force. The Marines are clearly going back to direct support of the fleet.

Does that INDOPACOM integration plan view the Army, too, as something to garrison islands with local defense forces plus air/missile defense and anti-ship assets to directly support the fleet?

If so, that is not bold. It is just integrating the other services as auxiliaries to the Navy. Nice work if you can get it.

My view, as I wrote in Military Review, is that the plan needs to allow the Army to contribute its core competency of large-scale ground operations to the war plan, which with other services carrying out their core competencies provides synergy to allow gains in all the domains, as I wrote in a complementary AUSA Land Warfare Paper.

Obviously, for America INDOPACOM is a sea and air environment in the initial period of the campaign. Ground forces should support the fleet.

But once control of the seas is gained by our Navy and Air Force working with allied fleets and air power, the tyranny of the shores means we have to look to the mainland for decisive wins alongside allies.

All-Domain Operations should mean all domains.

*I continue to wish we'd renamed PACOM to PAINCOM. Sigh.

Monday, March 30, 2020

The Wuhan Flu Affects America's Military Disproportionately

I'm relieved that America hasn't experienced the Wuhan Flu alone. If China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea weren't also under threat, God knows how they'd be tempted to take advantage.

Both our carriers in the western Pacific have Wuhan Flu cases:

Two sailors onboard the Nimitz class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, which forward-deployed in Japan and presently pier-side there, have tested positive for the COVID-19 novel coronavirus. This comes just a day after the U.S. Navy announced it had quarantined the entire crew of another aircraft carrier, the USS Theodore Roosevelt, on their ship in port in Guam after a number of sailors contracted the virus.

Pandemics affect combat operations:

Amid the escalating COVID-19 pandemic, countries around the world are facing widespread disruptions to not only the health of their populations and economies, but their militaries. Even if the virus itself doesn't leave key personnel severely ill (or worse), quarantine measures can still severely thwart military operations. Meanwhile, military powers such as the United States may increasingly be forced to deploy additional forces to the frontlines of unfolding COVID-19 outbreaks at home. The resulting fallout could, in turn, result in setbacks in the fight against multiple non-state actors abroad, and potentially even the long-term development of military capabilities.

Operating in the midst of an epidemic has to be way worse than operating in a chemical warfare environment which slows fighting down a lot, because epidemics are everywhere, all the time.

Training for war is also more difficult:

Large-scale field exercises canceled. Recruiting stations shuttered. And most alarming: a steady rise in coronavirus infections aboard warships, in special operations units, among troops in Afghanistan and at boot camp.

The pandemic is bearing down on military readiness. And with predictions that the outbreak could last for months, concerns are growing inside the Pentagon and Congress that the virus could seriously erode the military's preparedness to fight.

For those who don't train as much as we do, this is a real bonus for them if they fight us. So this does hurt America and certain allies more than other countries' militaries.

Mind you, if we were at war, both carriers would fight. As would the rest of the military. As an institution it is built to operate while suffering losses. The carriers would fight less effectively, more slowly, and with more non-combat casualties even before you consider combat losses. But they would fight. As would the rest of our military, even as it takes steps to limit the damage from the epidemic.

Remember, things like lack of training, personnel, equipment, and ammunition don't stop wars. Those inadequacies just make them less decisive, longer, and more costly in lives and money.

From a national security angle, I am relieved our potential enemies face this epidemic problem, too (with all due sorrow for the civilians who suffer during this pandemic). If they didn't have to cope also, the temptation for their leaders to hit us while we are coping with an epidemic might be too great for some to resist for long.

And for some, it still might be.

A Wing on the Land is Worth Two in the Fleet

The United States is committed to keeping two carriers in the CENTCOM region to be in a position to threaten Iran. There are problems with this:

“It’s an asinine strategy,” said Bryan Clark, a former senior aide to the chief of naval operations and now a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. “The Iranians don’t perceive carriers and a threat to their ability to project power because they project power through gray zone activities and terrorism — the kinds of things that carriers aren’t very good at dealing with."

“And when they are inside the Persian Gulf, the Iranians perceive them as being an easy target. They can range the entire gulf with shore batteries along the coast in caves and other terrain where it’s hard to root them out," he added. “So the Iranians see the carrier as a way to get the Americans to spend a lot of money on a show of force that doesn’t really impact their strategic calculation.”

And that's on top of the problem of maintaining two carriers forward with the existing force, as the author notes, too. I have less of a problem with that in the short run.

I am very thankful that somebody else is raising the vulnerability issue I've been banging my drum about for a long time--inside the Persian Gulf the carriers (or any capital ships) are conveniently located targets!

This is my latest salvo about the risks after reading about our 2-carrier plans.

And I'll ask again, if we need a carrier air wing in the Persian Gulf, why can't we send elements of a carrier air wing to operate from land bases without the carrier?

And that's without asking why the Air Force shouldn't provide the planes.

One thing that doesn't bother me is that carriers in CENTCOM aren't available for INDOPACOM. I'd rather have carriers facing Iran than China with its robust missile and air power targeting our carriers.

Of course, if we hold the carriers back out of range so Iran isn't tempted to strike first, the carrier strike groups are a potent addition to our combat power in CENTCOM if the balloon goes up. But we can't keep them poised for long without harming the ability surge carriers at sea in the future while the maintenance backlog is cleared up.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Weekend Data Dump

The good news for Africans is that Africans appear to be less vulnerable to the Wuhan Flu. That's an aside to a discussion of Libya.

I've mentioned N95 masks. Yes, I have some. For the record I've had them for years for those just-in-case problems, just like I have fire extinguishers, a fire blanket, an escape ladder, a few days of emergency rations, six gallons of water, clotting bandages, and insurance, to name some. Because sometimes bad things happen. And while I'd be more than happy to have wasted the money I spent on those things and services, if I need them I might not be able to get them. Or in the case of the masks, might not want to get in the way of health industry people buying them. On the other hand, it never occurred to me to stock up on toilet paper ...

A Chinese-backed company essentially looted Australia of medical supplies to send back to China to deal with the Wuhan Flu back in early February.

The federal government has called up National Guard units in New York, California, and Washington to combat the Wuhan Flu.

I prefer letting states decide on Wuhan Flu shutdowns rather than having the federal government decide for all. Isn't it better if parts of our economy work while they can while others that can't work shut down? Maybe in a month states now working will shut down and some states now on shutdown will go back to work. Maybe some states will find they never need to go on shutdown. And some have to remain on shutdown. But we can endure that longer than a uniform shutdown that applies to states that need it and don't need it.

Again, federalism is a feature and not a bug. How do people not realize we do not live in a unitary state like France?

The Wuhan Flu will be one more hit on an already shaky Middle East roiled by political unrest and civil war. This will affect our friends and our foes.

One of our deployed carriers has three Wuhan Flu infections. And now it is nearly two dozen.

Good grief, people, don't do that.

Sure, universal health care is not by definition socialism, which is the state ownership of production (of a service in this case). Universal coverage could be by everyone freely buying the service that competition makes affordable for your needs. If the state simply pays for everyone to have health care, that's a welfare state solution. If the state nationalizes the health care system, that's socialism. And if the state simply controls through extensive regulations the technically privately owned health care system, that's more like fascism.

The Marines are getting rid of their three tank battalions, three of their infantry battalions, 16 tube artillery batteries in order to get more rocket batteries, and the apparent elimination of a regimental headquarters, among other reductions. This is all to support the fleet more directly rather than being a "second army" fighting alongside the U.S. Army. The Army should probably be prepared to loan the Marines Army tank battalions if the Army needs the Marines on the battlefield again. One more reason the Army should maintain separate tank battalions or combined arms task forces, I say.

Ah, college-educated professional journalism: The Wuhan Flu escaped its place of origin as people traveled across China and across the world; and by the time China put travel restrictions in place the virus had already escaped. The conclusion? Travel restrictions don't work to stop the spread of a virus. Please see the double facepalm meme above. Yeah, the media can take down that "democracy dies in darkness" self-pleasuring slogan any time, now.

How do you social distance with people like this out there?

The Chinese continue to be total a-holes to Taiwan. We can't trust them.

I'm hearing that putting your N95 away for a number of days will certainly keep you safe from being infected by the mask from the Wuhan Flu, which will "die" in some number of days. But other things can grow on the mask. But it would be better than nothing if you are reusing your own mask. And putting it in sunlight would certainly do wonders for other things on the mask. So a ziplock bag on the window sill for three+ days will be the emergency procedure. Not ideal. But better than nothing.

Thoughts on the US reaction to the Wuhan Flu. Yeah, the shutdown can't last very long. 

So how many people have really died in China? Do we think the CCP is suddenly honest?

Democrats should be ashamed of stalling the Wuhan Flu response package in Congress all to advance partisan political motives. We can always do more if what we do isn't enough. What we can't do is regain lost time. Remember that global warming was such a high priority of Democrats that much of the New Green Deal was about non-environmental issues close to the hearts of leftists. Democrats may be confused that this is a "normal" stimulus bill that can be used for what you'd do anyway if you can get away with it. But this is an epidemic response bill. While I knew this distinction between stimulus and response, thanks to Jonah Goldberg for making the distinction clear.

Exhibit X of why you can't trust the media to report the news rather than their political biases. "Journalism" schools were the worst thing the industry ever did. It was better with blue collar "reporters."

Good luck with that. The proponents of the sainted international community really do live in a fantasy world, don't they?

We no doubt have used highly imperfect data in formulating our Wuhan Flu response plan. But data will always be insufficient. I will say again that it is better to resolutely carry out an adequate plan than to switch between plans searching for the perfect response.

A timeline of the Chinese Communist Party lies that hid the Wuhan Flu from the world long enough to make its spread to the rest of the world inevitable.

HAHAHAHA! "Sanders, at this point, looks like an unindicted co-conspirator in the Rosenberg case."

I'm not terribly happy with the American government threatening to withhold aid to Afghanistan to pressure the government to accept the deal we negotiated with the Taliban. Aren't we essentially working as an arm of the Taliban? Wouldn't it have been better to go after the Taliban leadership more energetically to pressure the Taliban to accept a deal more to the liking of our allied Afghan government?

Seriously, I'm going to start believing that the Wuhan Flu isn't really much of a crisis if global warmers see government stimulus to combat the economic effects of the epidemic as a means to get Green spending.The article also says that the epidemic might cause the cancellation of the next U.N. Climate Summit in Glasgow, Scotland. I don't know, global warming hasn't stopped people from jetting in from around the world for the past summits. If global warming didn't stop them from cancelling the summits in the past why would an epidemic that they don't seem to think requires our focus do the trick?

The bureaucracy's built-in inertia hobbled a rapid response to the Wuhan Flu. That's not a partisan thing. It's an institutional thing. Tip to Instapundit.

Honestly, Biden should be taking advantage of the Wuhan Flu to lay low avoiding exposure and not try to break through the public focus on the virus and the economic fallout of the virus. We may find out how many voters will pull the lever (figuratively) for a ham sandwich with a (D) after his name, confident that the vice presidential candidate is the real presidential candidate. But unless that's the Democratic Party strategy--or has it been to put up a loyal soldier to lose without dragging the rest of the party down and avoiding the taint of defeat for the 2024 candidate?--I suspect that the Democratic Party will figure out a way to substitute an actual candidate capable of running without an entire party-media edifice propping him (or her) up. Could New York Governor Andrew Cuomo be the savior-of-the-moment well-timed to get the nod from the party? Although I will say that the video of Biden losing the TelePrompter feed in a recent talk about the Wuhan Flu and motioning for it to be moved up doesn't look nearly as bad as a lot on the right are saying.

Yes, Chinese-Americans and the Chinese people are not responsible for the Wuhan Flu. But that's what it is normal to call it and no Chinese Communist Party propaganda campaign to deflect blame abroad--especially to America--should prevent us from facing the responsibility of the CCP for making an epidemic a pandemic. Media fools are useful idiots in the service of Peking to claim racism is at work. This crisis demonstrates why decoupling from economic ties to communist-run China in key areas important to our national interests should be done much more quickly than the general trend already evident.

Last week I cited an article wondering about using our Navy hospital ships to support the Wuhan Flu response. One, they use reservists from the civilian health system; and two, they are designed for combat trauma rather than viruses. This week I hear the ships will be used for trauma response to save land hospitals for the epidemic. So one objection is solved--as long as patients are screened so the epidemic doesn't sweep through the ships' crews.

The ongoing race between tank protection and anti-tank weapons with thoughts on killing tanks with new protections. It's nice to see people recognizing that there is more than one way to skin a cat. Of course, we didn't rely on active protection systems in place of passive armor. We have both. But the basic concept of seeking out weaknesses holds true.

China is investing on American-style body armor for their troops.

I'm not sure why we'd listen to their advice to leverage the Wuhan Flu crisis for Green spending since by their logic any spending on the Wuhan Flu is wasted because climate change has pretty much doomed us anyway.

I'm reasonably sure that Maduro sees the Wuhan Flu as a solution--perhaps final--to his problem with insufficient loyalty to his autocratic socialist regime. Effing up the country with socialism was just prepping the battlefield for the decisive epidemic sure to come. And who will dare to send in troops to that plague environment to help? It's going to get ugly there. Very ugly. Uglier than we can imagine right now. God help them.

Given that we shut down travel from China in February I find it hard to believe this optimistic possibility that a lot of people in America have already gotten and recovered from the Wuhan Flu and so "herd immunity" is already being achieved. But if true, lockdowns could end faster than we think. But this is speculation based on assumptions that I have no reason to believe are accurate. All I know is that I don't think we have enough information to know.

Good, I suppose, but self-reporting is not the best way to monitor actual behavior. Tip to Instapundit.

Four weeks ago I wondered if the Wuhan Flu would be an excuse to pull our troops out of Iraq. I see the French are withdrawing their troops from Iraq to help cope with the epidemic at home. More broadly, American and coalition forces pulled out of another base in Iraq as part of a general goal of consolidating forces, which for America means paring down to just two bases (at Baghdad and at Ain al-Asad Air Base in the west). This makes the troops easier to defend if we go after Iranian assets in Iraq. And makes it easier to quickly pull out of Iraq, too. Are the French the earliest withdrawal from the coalition or are they just unwilling to fight Iran if needed? Or they could be concerned about the epidemic, I suppose.

Jihadis killed a lot of Chadian and Nigerian troops. The death toll suggests very sloppy force protection practices by the troop commanders.

The Libyan civil war flared up around an airbase 80 miles west of Tripoli.

Remember, we can handle this epidemic.

I had mentioned that the Wuhan Flu means we should probably put more intelligence into identifying emerging epidemics coming from China even if China tries to hide the problem. This article reinforces that view but weakens the case with some severe TDS that ignores that sophisticated and--dare I say nuanced--Europeans have been hit really hard. Is their failure to contain the epidemic somehow Trump's fault, too? And it ignores that opposition to Trump railed against Trump's early travel ban on China to try to keep the virus away from us.

Yes, China's military budget is effectively much higher than the formal figures indicate. One, China has military funding outside of the official budget; and two, this is an area where purchasing power parity actually does apply.

Early in this Wuhan Flu there were some saying perhaps we should just get it over with by getting infected to get herd immunity. The main argument--aside from accepting the death toll--was that this would overwhelm the ability of our health system to handle such a surge. I also read that viruses tend to mutate to less lethal versions to help the virus survive. So just delaying getting the virus is good. And we can see that delay helps in treating the virus. We have time to make the equipment and to test and make drugs to treat the patients. And in time, we'll have an inoculation to prevent it. Sometimes all you can do initially is buy time.

The U.S. military has halted all movement of overseas troops, civilians, and their families for 60 days to prevent moving Wuhan Flu infections around.

There is widespread skepticism about China's claims to have halted the Wuhan Flu in its tracks.

The Wuhan Flu in India and Pakistan.

Please, who needed one of them express this concern out loud to know most of them think this?

A reminder that not all murderous vile terrorists are jihadis. But at least he's a good terrorist now.

The sainted international community: WHO edition. Tip to Instapundit.

So an EU naval mission to enforce the weapons ban for Libya is going to shoot at Turkish ships?

Yes, railing about corporate welfare lacks compassion about the effects of broken corporations. We knew this was coming. That's the whole obvious and intended result of shutting down our economy to get social distancing. That is why there is already talk of restarting the economy when we can.

Peering behind the Chinese curtain in Oz.

To the great annoyance of liberals, the proto-Hitler Trump bizarrely refuses to exploit the Wuhan Flu to gather the powers of dictatorship. It must be hard to pretend you are the only force standing between Trump and America when Trump refuses to play along with your dystopian fantasies. Kind of makes those Resistance bumper stickers look even more stupid, eh? Well, they'll always have "dog whistles," I suppose. Seriously, the Resistance is just Birthers with college degrees.

WTF Michigan?

Wanted dead or alive: Maduro of Venezuela.

I'm a good part anti-anti-Trump, so this is pretty funny:

After lying about the extent of their epidemic that started in Wuhan, and after starting a propaganda campaign to blame America for the Wuhan Flu, China began a propaganda campaign to portray themselves as the saviors of the world by shipping experts and supplies abroad. Spain and the Czech Republic sadly received that "help." But China got the propaganda videos of planes landing and crates being unloaded as smiling experts exited the planes. So no big deal for them, eh? We can totally trust China that the epidemic has stopped in China.

Speaker Pelosi really did drop beneath my low expectations of what politicians are willing to do even in a crisis. Tip to Instapundit.

If your behavior changes for the better from what the model assumed, naturally the model output will no longer reflect reality. That's a good thing. Yay us.

I'm in favor of topping off the Strategic Petroleum Reserve while oil prices are low. This is not a new position: "Trump should not tap into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Personally, I'd expand it while oil is cheaper. Oil may be plentiful now. But if war breaks out somewhere, oil will no doubt suffer. And while America is basically self sufficient in energy now, we have allies who are far from immune to supply disruptions and we will need to help them if we are to keep them fighting on our side." It's an insurance policy: "I'm fully against selling portions of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.  We can't imagine anything bad happening given new energy trends, apparently. Perhaps I just have a better imagination."

The media was assured there would be no math during the Wuhan Flu. Tip to Instapundit.

Optimist that I am, doesn't this decision to eject our reporters from China mean that the Chinese Communist Party can't trust American reporters in China to "report" the CCP propaganda?

I've mentioned this before, but the U.S. is readopting land mines. We developed safer land mines for after the battle, and we will use them. Much of the world is complaining we are going against the 1997 international ban. But those complaining don't need them. Plus we never formally adopted the treaty and only mostly went along with it. And many of our enemies never agreed to the ban. And now that great power competition is back, we sure as heck need them against our enemies who never stopped using them.

So China managed to get zero new Wuhan Flu infections by halting virus testing? Is that true?

More than 9,000 retired Army medical MOS soldiers responded to a call to reenter the force to help with the Wuhan Flu. We'll see how many are still qualified and/or not in the civilian health system.

As the Pentagon works on plans to seriously go after pro-Iran militias in Iraq if they continue to hit our bases, the local American commander warns of the risk of escalation if Iraq is not fully on board our operations. We might want to capture or kill just local commanders. Or we could go to the source and hurt Iran directly, with as quiet a campaign form as we can manage. We'd need more troops there, too, if we mount a serious effort. We are not primarily in Iraq to conduct combat operations of that nature there. The Wuhan Flu alone may argue against pulling that particular trigger in the near term.

An American university stands up to its students to defend the Chinese Communist Party (top to Instapundit). You think those Confuse Us Confucius Institutes on our campuses aren't continuing to pay dividends to the CCP? Why do we allow them any more than we'd allow Aryan Institutes?

You have to get to the sixth paragraph that you learn that Michigan is not being targeted because Trump doesn't like our governor as the headline and charge say, and that other states are also finding out that the federal government is preempting state purchases. Perhaps it isn't targeting Michigan but trying to centralize purchases to dole out to states as needed. Maybe Whitmer is right, but the facts in the article don't seem to support that charge. And the history of the media undermines my ability to trust them. The one thing that might bolster the charge--depending on the context--is Trump quoted as saying to Pence that he shouldn't bother calling the Michigan governor. But then the story says the governor is grateful for her good relationship with the vice president. So the quote does not describe what has happened. And the idea that Trump would target Michigan given that it was key in his 2016 election and will be key again in 2020 is kind of ludicrous, isn't it? And it's a HuffPost article, so there's that. Here's some context (tip to Instapundit). Using Trump as the whipping boy to deflect criticism from themselves flows easily from the left's constant demonization of Trump the last four years.

The mayor of Moscow is pushing hard and may drag all of Russia into stricter Wuhan Fu measures like a lockdown. The Soviet Union was basically two relatively modern cities (Moscow and Leningrad) with a vast Third World country attached. Today I imagine Russia is two more modern cities (Moscow and St. Petersburg) with a vast developing country attached. So what Moscow does is likely to be really influential--and important--to all of Russia.

Let's remember that even as the left and the media are accusing Trump of failing to lead early enough on the Wuhan Flu, the left and the media called Trump's early travel ban from China "racist" and "xenophobic" because the epidemic was not that big of a deal. You need to remember because our media and the left don't want you to remember. Tip to Instapundit.

Well Brazil's hands-off approach to the Wuhan Flu will certainly make a nice case study to compare the responses of other countries, eh? I'd hate to live in the petri dish, though.

Welcome North Macedonia to NATO. Iran is panicking in 3 ... 2... 1 ...

I will again recommend Jonah Goldberg. While sometimes I think he is a bit overboard in his criticism of Trump--especially considering the alternative--he is defending conservatism against both the Democrats and Trump. And I'd like to see small government federalist conservatism come back once Trump is gone. And Trump is only recently conservative--with a lot of ideas not terribly conservative. So sometimes criticism of him is fully justified. Plus we have a right to criticize our president even in the face of efforts to unify the ranks in the face of admittedly insane left-wing opposition. Anyway, I've liked Jonah's material and trusted his motives for a long time and see no reason to change my view of him. But I admit that sometimes I turn off his Remnant podcast. Not very often. But sometimes.

Where freedom is a crime: The Chinese government-backed Hong Kong police arrested anti-government politician Cheng Lai-king. Oppression doesn't take timeouts for epidemics.

Experts now say masks provide some protection from the Wuhan Flu. I've been saying that for a while now. Reading between the lines of what was actually said and not what reporters said the sources said would lead you to conclude that. A couple months ago I gave my daughter a N95 mask in a ziplock bag to keep in school just in case they announced a Wuhan Flu case during the school day. I explained my view and sent her a YouTube video on putting it on properly. She wasn't worried but I figured she was the most exposed in theory and if it provided comfort in addition to the value, she should have it.

Okay, that's funny. Tip to Instapundit.

It looks like Wuhan Flu lockdowns as a federal objective goes to April 30th. By mid-month the models show peak deaths. I guess I'll see if our governor renews the lockdown period in EO 2020-21. She already said it is unlikely that school will resume. I guess I still need to get groceries to extend my last-in-the-line longer-shelf life food.

The Detroit police are getting hit with the Wuhan Flu. Well, Wayne County is being hit hard. Wayne County is always hit hard with viruses, apparently. Be careful out there.

The Saudis intercepted missiles fired by Iran-backed Houthis at two Saudi cities.

North Korea isn't letting their need for help with the Wuhan Flu interrupt their threatening missile launches.

Must... Not... Make... Obvious... Joke. Argghhhhhh!!! Tip to Instapundit. In the future, that juvenile temptation will be eliminated:

Because I am managing to hunker down without traveling much since community spread became a thing, I haven't had to use my small supply of N-95 masks that I bought many years ago after another scare raised my awareness of the device. They popped up on Amazon and I figured, what the heck. Ideally they mostly remain in storage for when I really need them. Delivering groceries to my REDACTED-year-old mom (you're welcome for the censorship, mom!) is one good use, at this point. But I hope I never really need to use them up this year.