Saturday, April 29, 2017

How Bad Are They?

Palestinian sympathizers incorrectly claim Israel "blockades" Gaza. But guess who is doing their best to do exactly that?

With the prospect looming of a Middle East peace initiative by a new U.S. administration more sympathetic to Israel, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has decided to turn the screw on the Hamas group that has kept Gaza out of his control for a decade.

Abbas's Western-backed Palestinian Authority (PA) on Thursday told Israel it would no longer pay for the electricity Israel supplies to Gaza, a move that could lead to a complete power shutdown in the territory, whose 2 million people already endure blackouts for much of the day.

Even Palestinians understand that Gaza is run by terrorists rather than by pastoral poetry-writing victims of unjustified aggression.

Good News and Bad News

The Germans stopped a "xenophobic" German from carrying out a terror attack:

A German soldier who pretended to be a Syrian refugee and was allegedly planning a gun attack has been arrested in southern Germany.

Prosecutors in Frankfurt said the 28-year-old suspect was motivated by a "xenophobic background".

A student, 22, said to be a co-conspirator, has also been arrested.

He may have planned to kill Moslem migrants or perhaps pose as a Moslem migrant killer. Or something else, I suppose.

That's the good news.

The bad news is that the man registered as a refugee in December 2015:

No concerns were raised at the time, despite the man speaking no Arabic. German media report that he even received monthly payments and accommodation.

If the German--those of the "papers, please" Teutonic grim efficiency--screening process for refugees/migrants couldn't ferret out an actual German, how are we to expect that jihadis were screened and identified?

One shudders to think about the Italian screening process.

But hey, it's not like entering one European Union country allows you to move anywhere within the EU, right? So how bad can the problem be?

This will work out swell.

Don't Be Sheepish About Your Trades

In honor of game night at Casa TDR.

It's a Catan thing. Not everything is a joke.

And yes, I made that.

Friday, April 28, 2017

The Long-Telegraphed Southern Front

Are we about to open a southern front inside Syria?

As coalition forces inch closer toward the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa, increased U.S. military activity on Jordan’s northern border suggests that the fight against ISIS will soon expand to southern Syria.

Well, we've been preparing for a southern front for 4 years, at least.

If we were serious about fighting Assad, I figured this was a likely place to do it. But that was 430,000 dead ago.

Instead we went to the eastern part of Syria--to fight ISIL and avoid the question of what to do about Assad.

Does a southern front mean that we will help Syrian enemies of Assad?

Or is this just taking the fight against jihadis to its logical conclusion?

And is it an effort to put pressure on Iran inside Syria?

UPDATE: You know, this would complement an Israeli offensive into Lebanon to hammer Hezbollah.

It would help protect Israel's Golan flank and would benefit from Israel making Hezbollah too busy to be Assad's shock troops.

Not in His Name

Well, this could just be odd news but I think it shows that God both has a sense of humor and doesn't like what the jihadis are doing in His name:

Three Islamic State militants setting up an ambush in a bitterly contested area of northern Iraq were killed by a herd of stampeding boars, local leaders say.

To be clear, wild pigs killed wild Moslem fanatics.

Is there anything bacon can't do?

Meanwhile, Iraqi soldiers continue to kill jihadis the terrestrial way:

Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service spokesman Sabah al-Nuaman said security forces killed about 500 Islamic State militants and captured the Islamic State's "core" when it seized the al-Tenek district. Nuaman said forces need to capture four more Mosul neighborhoods before completely capturing Iraq's second-largest city.

Trained troops are still the best way to kill jihadis, of course.

But God's help is always welcome.

Two Out of Three Isn't Bad

The Navy has another "expeditionary fast transport." The 8th of 12 planned:

EPFs are shallow draft, all aluminum, commercial-based catamarans capable of intra-theater personnel and cargo transport that provide combatant commanders high-speed sealift mobility. EPFs enable rapid projection and agile maneuver and transport of personnel, equipment and supplies over operational distances and offer access to harsh and degraded offload points. ...

As versatile, non-combatant vessels, EPFs provide increased operational flexibility for a wide range of activities including maneuver and sustainment, relief operations, and flexible logistics support.

One, why "EPF" stands for "expeditionary fast transport" is beyond my comprehension.

Two, these used to be Army assets. I hate to think that these vessels might be counted when tallying up our fleet numbers.

Three, and this is related to their original status, what is "expeditionary" about a non-combatant vessel based on a civilian ship's construction standards?

Don't expect this ship to deposit Marines on any hostile shore. At best an EPF can transport forces between secured locations. And it is fast for a surface vessel.

So two out of three isn't bad.

Who is Ready for What?

Over the years, I've noted that indicators of readiness that show a high proportion of our forces as unready for combat are not what people may think they are. I think it is important to provide context given that we spend so much on defense that people can rightly wonder what we are spending money on if only X percent of service Y is capable of going to war.

The fact is, "unready" forces can fight. The Army certainly understands this:

[The] readiness of the Army is key to the security of the Nation. Unfortunately, less than one-third of Army forces are at acceptable readiness levels to conduct sustained ground combat in a full spectrum environment against a highly lethal hybrid threat or near-peer adversary. The risk of deploying unready forces into combat is higher U.S. casualty rates and increased risk to mission success. [emphasis added]

The Army rightly has high standards for measuring readiness. Our soldiers are not cannon fodder and have a right to expect that the goal is to make them ready to fight, survive, and win if sent into battle.

But even our "unready" units are better than the the vast majority of units that a potential foe might deploy to fight us.

Heck, our National Guard combat brigades mobilized without additional training would probably be better than the majority of units that a potential foe might deploy.

But as the Army notes, there is a higher chance of defeat using units that don't match readiness standards. And there is a risk of higher casualties even in a victory.

I'd like to match the Army standards of readiness. You can bet the Russians wish they had our Army standards as they complete 3 years of ground warfare in the Ukrainian Donbas region.

So that's your daily dose of perspective.

Clean-Up in the Uijongbu Corridor

I should add another disturbing factor that could be significant in North Korea's calculations for war or peace.

As I've noted, I think North Korea would likely lose a war with South Korea and her allies quite badly. North Korean success would rely on massive use of chemical weapons, a ROK army collapse, and a failure of America to strike back against North Korea with either a massive conventional campaign or nukes.

Yet North Korea might choose war even if they believe they have but a 5% chance of victory--and so regime survival--if they believe a choice for peace has a 100% chance of regime collapse and defeat.

There is another disturbing factor. North Korea is so broke that North Korea can't afford to even feed their very large army let alone equip and train if for combat.

The North Koreans tried a strategy I called Kooks, Spooks, and Nukes to spend scarce resources on nuclear weapons to deter foreign enemies and the spies and secret police to control internal enemies from the people and armed forces.

The problem is that the North Korean elites are outnumbered and the army, even if incapable of defeating South Korea's army, is capable of defeating the loyal forces of the elites if the army decides it has more in common with the people who are also being starved of resources than they have in common with the elites who live well by spending on people and programs the elites really value--the nukes and spooks.

But the North Korean government can hardly afford to demobilize the army to save the money. Could North Korea really afford to abandon what is a large slave labor force that has young men with military training? Better to have a foe inside the tent peeing out than outside the tent peeing in, as the expression goes.

But what if the North Korean regime assumes that the destruction of their army in a futile war is the objective? What if Kim Jong-Un decides that America and our allies would do him a favor by destroying his army while hoping that the survivors and their relatives blame America?

The surviving army would have more resources per person available in theory.

Mind you, the surviving North Korean army might turn on Kim anyway. Or America and our allies might not be content to survive the war. We might exploit the destruction of North Korea's army and move north. So I'm not saying this would be a good idea.

But Kim Jong-Un might think it is a good idea. Or he might just think it is part of the least bad idea available to win.

Have a super sparkly day.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Where is the Gasoline?

It seems clear that despite military moves that President Trump wants to put pressure on North Korea to get a diplomatic solution rather than go to war. Does North Korea appreciate that limit on our potential actions?

Because this makes me worry:

An acute shortage of gasoline in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang that has sparked price hikes and hoarding is raising fears of potentially crippling pain at the pumps if things don’t get better soon - and driving rumors that China is to blame.

Could China have squeezed the petroleum supply? Sure, China might be behind this. And it would hurt North Korea if China cut them off:

"If China cuts off oil supply, North Korea would not survive on its own for three months and everything in North Korea would be paralysed," said Cho Bong-hyun, who heads research on North Korea's economy at IBK Bank in Seoul.

But North Korea might also be diverting every drop of imported fuel to their war reserve stock.

Perhaps North Korea believes that after more than 60 years of predicting an American invasion of North Korea, America's plans finally came together this year.

Perhaps North Korea doesn't think there is any point to diplomacy because they will never agree to give up nukes, and so a super-mighty pre-emptive strike would do the trick.

So perhaps North Korea believes a military campaign against South Korea that doesn't require a lot of fuel--like bombarding Seoul--could be sustained with what they already have stockpiled and what they are diverting now (if they are) for several months without collapsing the civilian economy; and that China, even if it cuts off oil when North Korea starts a war, wouldn't dare let North Korea fall.

And so in time (within 3 months) would start up the oil supplies, and a whole lot more to keep North Korea afloat and fighting.

Always remember, our rational isn't their rational.

UPDATE: In case it isn't clear:

"There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea," Trump said in an interview at the Oval Office.

"We'd love to solve things diplomatically but it's very difficult," he said, describing North Korea as his biggest global challenge.

If North Korea knows they will never give up nukes, they could be jumping right to the major conflict part of that statement as the logical conclusion of Trump's position.

Not that there is much we can do about that other than accepting a nuclear North Korea.

And while in isolation it would probably be possible to deter a nuclear North Korea (possibly with the addition of nuclear South Korea and Japan, which would alarm China), with the threat of North Korea proliferating nukes to mullah-run Iran, that's not an option.

I know that China doesn't have control of North Korea. But China might be the only one that can do the job at an acceptable price, as tough (and costly) as it may be for China to pull off.

UPDATE: More on the petroleum issue. And yes, the military (and transportation--which would supply the military) is a major user of gasoline that has become scarce in Pyongyang.

Risky Business

I'm in favor of close ties to Taiwan so they can defend their island democracy and keep China boxed inside the first island chain. But I would not sell Taiwan F-35s now.


Minister of National Defense Feng Shih-kuan (馮世寬) yesterday told a meeting of the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that the ministry would formally declare its intention to procure Lockheed Martin F-35 jets to US officials in July when Washington is expected to finalize its appointment of Taiwan affairs officials.

What will Taiwan fail to buy in order to purchase F-35B aircraft?

Sure, Taiwan is finally reacting to the threat from the mainland:

Military expenditures are targeted to rise to 3 percent of gross domestic product next year, up from about 2 percent this year, Minister of National Defense Feng Shih-kuan said Thursday while presenting a report outlining Tsai’s first major security review since becoming president. Taiwan plans to develop indigenous ships, airplanes, weapons and unmanned aerial vehicles, he told lawmakers in Taipei.

While the one-year increase planned is impressive (going from 2% of GDP to 3%, putting Europeans to shame for their difficulty getting to 2%), this does not make up for many years of deficient spending.

I'd like to see the baseline spending north of 3% for a long time with any purchase of F-35s done with appropriations above that level.

My main reason for opposing the sale of our advanced F-35 is that I'm not sure that Taiwan could hold off a serious Chinese invasion. And I don't want the Chinese to capture intact Taiwanese F-35s when Taiwan goes down.

Keep defense spending higher for a while to reassure me that Taiwan takes their defense seriously without counting on American forces running the gauntlet to save Taiwan.

Then I'd consider a sale of F-35s.

Let's Wage Afghan War 1.45 Before it Becomes Afghan War 2.0

Yes, focusing on ISIL and al Qaeda in Afghanistan is an overly narrow view of the problem when the Taliban are the big threat to Afghanistan's stability:

To Afghan and other critics of President Donald Trump's apparent indecision over how to win a seemingly intractable war, Friday's assault - the worse of its kind since the Taliban were ousted in 2001 - was evidence he was getting it wrong.

"The biggest threat to the security and stability of this country is the Taliban insurgents, not Daesh forces," said Mirwais Yasini, an influential Afghan member of parliament from Nangarhar province, using an Arabic term for Islamic State.

"You drop your biggest bomb on Daesh, but what about the Taliban who kill dozens of our people every day?"

I agree. And I agreed a year ago when I noted President Obama's decision to avoid winning a seemingly intractable war by focusing on "counter-terrorism" as if that was the whole universe of Afghanistan's security problems was a problem.

This policy confusion didn't originate with the current administration.

Mind you, eventually the article author gets to the origins of "Trump's" indecision three months into his administration:

In the final years of former U.S. President Barack Obama's administration, American troops in Afghanistan were discouraged from directly targeting the Taliban, amid hopes the group could be brought to the negotiating table for peace talks.

"The Obama administration was very much existing in a parallel universe where if you don't call the Taliban terrorists then there's a chance you can reconcile with them," said Ioannis Koskinas, senior fellow with think-tank New America.

Narrowing the scope of the Afghanistan campaign (no "mission accomplished" moment--just a "honey, I shrunk the mission" slight of hand) justified for the Obama administration a dramatic reduction in the American effort in Afghanistan. Only the enemy rise Phoenix-like in Iraq after we pulled out interrupted a similar trajectory in Afghanistan.

America defined away the majority of our enemies in Afghanistan and they didn't go along. It would be nice to help Afghans defeat the threats while Afghans are capable of fighting the threats.

Or was 2014 in Iraq which led to Iraq War 2.0 so much fun that we want to go on that ride again?

UPDATE: Yeah, I'm worried about the current fighting season in Afghanistan.

The Return of History

I'm not afraid to say that this scared the Hell out of me about how prepared our Army is to fight the Russian army.

Stick with it. The audio gets better.

The bad news is that the Russians have gotten good at armored warfare while we were fighting insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan the last 15 years. The 2003 American blitz to Baghdad is but a memory.

The good news is that the Russians can't afford to field a large army equipped to fight the way the Russians have been fighting with their small force in the Donbas. Objectively speaking, Russia is a weak power only able to overwhelm even weaker neighbors--or a small NATO force that opposes them initially.

So let's hope that Russia's planning, finances, and recruiting don't recover enough to do that any time soon.

But tell me how we went from training to fight and win outnumbered to counting on the Russians having too few units to really defeat us?

This talk reinforced a number of my worries about the Army:

--Heavy armor is vital and not obsolete. I've gone on about that in many ways whether it is about tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, recon vehicles, or the amount of heavy armor units we have as opposed to light infantry that has proliferated since we won the Cold War.

Yes, the pursuit of strategic mobility pulls us to lighten our armor, but sacrificing survivability to get lower weight is a losing game.

--Light armor is worthless in high-intensity combat and Ukrainian troops learned to ride on top of the light stuff rather than die inside the thin-skinned armor. Which is a lesson we learned in Vietnam when our troops rode on top of M-113s rather than burn and die inside. But I guess we forgot that.

--We need to put fewer people in each vehicle to reduce casualties.

--We need cluster munitions for artillery, both for direct attack and as scatterable minefields.

--Heavy armor is useful in defense and infantry need organic capabilities to fight heavy armor.

And it added to my worries:

--We need thermobaric weapons for artillery.

--And much more artillery. Precision rounds aimed at point targets are no replacement for precision targeting combined with massed area fire or massed precision strikes. I was wrong to think that precision eliminated the need for volume of fire. Grant me that I concluded that pre-Ukraine.

--Troops need to disperse and dig in to survive enemy firepower.

--Russian electronic warfare is dangerous.

--We desperately need low altitude air defenses for the frontline units. This could have gone in my first column but I don't think I truly appreciated how unlikely it is that the Army can count on the Air Force to reliably provide fire support or keep the skies cleared of enemies.

We need to learn from Ukraine's fight with Russia. In many ways this is Russia's Spanish Civil War intervention to hammer out the details of how to wage modern armored warfare--against America.

And let's support Ukraine in their fight against Russia's ongoing invasion and provide the weapons--like long-range infantry anti-tank weapons as I've long wanted us to provide--to fill in Ukrainian capability gaps.

Now excuse me while I go change my underwear.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Combined Arts

I've had those prints for years. They came with the matting but no standard frames worked.

A few years ago I was in a store that sold frame mats made from old maps. I thought, that's brilliant!

So I finally did it myself after picking up a couple frames on Tuesday.

Oddly, I couldn't find the maps that I know I set aside for this purpose.

But I found another old map that worked. Notwithstanding Putin's desires, I don't think the USSR is coming back. So I could safely ditch that map.

Now. Where to hang them?

Hezbollah Won't Welcome What Will Hit Them

Hezbollah seems to think that in a new war with Israel that Israel will hunker down behind border fortifications:

Lebanon's Hezbollah sought Thursday to show that Israel is building up defences in anticipation of another conflict, after a string of statements from Israeli officials warning of a potential confrontation. ...

"This tour is to show the defensive measures that the enemy is taking," said Hezbollah spokesman Mohamed Afif, on a hilltop along the so-called Blue Line.

A military commander identified as Haj Imad, dressed in digital camouflage and sunglasses, said the Israeli army was erecting earth berms up to 10 metres (30 feet) high, as well as reinforcing a military position near the Israeli border town of Hanita.

"Because their position is directly by the border and the enemy fears that the resistance will advance on it, they have constructed a cliff and additional earth berms and put up concrete blocks," he said.

"The Israeli enemy is undertaking these fortifications and building these obstacles in fear of an advance" by Hezbollah, he said.

So ... the message of the day is not that Israel will attack Hezbollah but that Israel is worried about Hezbollah attacking Israel? Okaaay.

The fact is, the Israeli defenses are not inconsistent with an Israeli offensive.

Perhaps it is purely defensive for the purpose of holding the border while Israeli air power goes after Hezbollah's massive numbers of rockets and missiles capable of being fired at Israeli civilians defended by a limited Iron Dome shield.

But I think that would be a big mistake. Is the lesson from the 2006 war that the Israelis need to do the same thing but turn it to eleven?

I think that border defenses allow Israeli ground troops to penetrate the border in select locations while the rest of the border is defended against Hezbollah ground attack.

The Israelis will occupy the Hezbollah rocket launching sites in southern Lebanon (built up despite the UN presence) to end the Hezbollah threat to Israeli civilians.

And then the Israelis will launch a deep drive that doesn't end until the Israeli troops reach Baalbek.

When done tearing up Hezbollah's infrastructure and killing as many Hezbollah troops as they can, the Israelis will withdraw back into Israel behind those fortifications.

The best timing would be when the Syrian civil war is winding down, whether in Assad's victory or defeat while Hezbollah is committed to that war.

UPDATE: That's interesting:

The possibility of pursuing this option might very well be on the table if a new war erupts between Lebanon and Israel next summer, as many in the region expect.

If it does, it would be a doomsday war in which Israel would strive to eliminate Hezbollah once and for all, as it has failed to do since the early 1980s, even if that means de­stroying Lebanon and parts of Syria.

The claim is that the Israelis would really bombard Lebanon this time. But I don't think that turning the bombardment dial to 11 will do more harm to Hezbollah at an acceptable price.

A really big bombardment that kills Lebanese civilians and damages Lebanese civilian infrastructure will just alienate new Arab allies of Israel against Iran; and give Iran more propaganda opportunities.

I have to believe that Israeli boasts that they will bomb even harder than they did in 2006 are just designed to mislead Hezbollah.

UPDATE: Compatible with being related:

A loud explosion hit close to the Damascus International Airport in Syria Thursday, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. ...

Israel's Intelligence Minister Israel Katz appeared to back up claims that Israel was responsible for the explosion in an interview with Army Radio Thursday.

"I can confirm that the incident in Syria is completely compatible with the Israeli policy of operating to prevent the smuggling advanced weaponry from Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon by Iran," Katz said in response to a question on the incident.

Summer isn't far off. Tip to Instapundit.

UPDATE: I truly believe that Israeli hints that they'd turn the bombardment dial to 11 in a new war with Hezbollah is a red herring to make the shock of a deep ground invasion of Lebanon to seriously dig out Hezbollah forces there all the more crippling.

Obviously, I can't know this. This is purely in the realm of "what I'd do" analysis.

And I can't imagine the Israelis would really believe that this time for sure, an aerial campaign will deliver victory.

The Enemy Votes, Too

So how would North Korea strike South Korea? We think that China might take care of the problem and say America will if China won't. But North Korea gets a vote, too.

Rather than comment on that article, let me spout off on my views. But do read the article.

My view is that North Korea has a few basic options.

North Korea has a lot of artillery and chemical weapons which are their major asset. I'm still assuming they don't have functional nuclear weapons as opposed to devices babied by armies of technicians and scientists. They have lots of troops with old equipment, poor training, and nutrition deficiencies that make them small as people. They have no large-scale combat experience since 1953.

The South Koreans have good troops that fought well in the Korean War and in the Vietnam War, and their equipment is modern they certainly have adequate training.

The balance favors South Korea with North Korea having only the advantage of initiating war before South Korea is ready or America and Japan can commit forces to the fight.

As to North Korean options.

One, North Korea could try to limit the risk of a ground war along the DMZ by initiating fighting along the sea border to the west. Send in subs, naval infantry, commandos, and surface ships to sink and kill as many troops and civilians as possible. Meanwhile the North Koreans dare South Korea to expand the war and risk the destruction of Seoul by artillery barrage.

Two, North Korea could unleash commandos in the south to sow disorder while their army makes a limited grab for territory north of Seoul and digs in south of the DMZ to hold the terrain and dare the South Koreans to kick them out and risk the destruction of Seoul that is now within reach of more of North Korea's artillery.

Three, North Korea could go for broke. They'd use option 1 plus the commando portion of option 2, and they'd add a massive offensive on the west side of the DMZ aimed for Seoul that, given the poor quality of the troops and equipment flung south would rely on an even more massive chemical weapons barrage to break the South Korean army and allow the North Koreans to conduct what is essentially a road march to Seoul and perhaps points south.

If the South Korean army breaks under the chemical barrage, it could be game over for Seoul unless the North Korean conscripts break ranks in the advance to plunder South Koran grocery stores and malls--and I'm partially serious, here. Armies have gotten confused about their priorities in history.

I suspect the South Koreans would reform their lines further south and hold. But with Seoul enemy occupied the war gets much more awful.

And we might have to nuke some North Korean bases as a retaliation for massed chemical weapons use, if we want to maintain deterrence. Without chemical weapons, in the past we relied on the threat of nukes to deter chemical use against our troops and our allies. But precision weapons mean we might unleash them as a substitute for nukes because precision means we can destroy targets that once needed nukes to take out.

Odds are the North Koreans suffer a major defeat trying to invade South Korea and that South Korean forces counter-attack to occupy an arc of territory north of the DMZ to push North Korean artillery out of range of Seoul.

And then the air-ground campaign by America, South Korea, and Japan against North Korea kicks into high gear to hunt leadership and WMD targets.

UPDATE: And yes, I am aware that discussion of Seoul being within range of North Korean artillery (tip to Instapundit) mostly means northern suburbs for the usual artillery and that hitting the heart of Seoul requires missiles, planes, and a limited number of larger caliber pieces.

Still, the damage will be heavy and given how a single errant round by America leads to massive complaints, I assume the damage to Seoul will be blamed on America to an even greater degree.

I also assume that predictions that America and South Korea can knock out North Korean artillery quickly underestimate North Korea's ingenuity. So I think the fewer assets that hit the heart of Seoul will fire far longer than optimistic assumptions.

If I May Be So Bold to Suggest, Sinking a Carrier Isn't Necessary

Even if our big aircraft carriers can't be sunk, a mission-kill is just as good during the time the carrier is out of action. The war might be long over before that ship sets sail again.

Sure, we have counter-measures to have a chance of defeating enemy capacity to strike our carriers.

But really?

But the observation that the enemy has a missile or torpedo that can kill a carrier only begins a conversation about carrier vulnerability. Shooting anything at an aircraft carrier is a costly, difficult operation.

And beyond the monetary cost, launching an open attack against an American carrier strike group, with its own cruisers, destroyers, and submarines, is almost certainly a suicide mission.

So there are two questions that remain for anyone who thinks they even have a shot at taking down one of these enormous steel behemoths.

Can you do it? And even if you can, is it worth it?

I think the notion that something that floats can't be sunk is ludicrous. Some believe that. At least the above defense doesn't go that far. But it fails anyway because even if a carrier truly is unsinkable, that's not the metric to judge carriers by.

In any likely scenario, a mission kill is 99% as good as a sinking. And given the importance of the carrier and the psychological impact of taking one out, you are absofreakinglutely darned right an enemy will make the effort.

Especially if we go out of our way to place them in really stupid positions within easy reach of enemy attack assets. But no worries if the ship can't be sunk, of course.

Also, I would be remiss if I failed to note that carrier defenders and critics too often argue apples and oranges about two separate and distinct missions.

Why spend so much for half of the reason we have carriers by pretending the carrier is vital for all of the missions?

UPDATE: In related news:

China has launched its first aircraft carrier built entirely on its own, in a demonstration of the growing technical sophistication of its defense industries and determination to safeguard its maritime territorial claims and crucial trade routes.

I suspect China is building a carrier fleet just as carriers are becoming less relevant to sea control missions given the rise of networked surveillance and cheap precision weapons.

Big carriers look good in peacetime and are useful for war against non-naval/air powers. But in war they will be put out of action just like ours can be.

My main worry in war is that our Navy could be distracted by the shiny object while the Chinese sacrifice their carriers to achieve their objective.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Ukraine Really is a Forgotten Crisis

 Let's not forget that Ukraine gave up a lot of nukes and for their faith in paper guarantees got invaded and partially dismembered by Russia.

In a pessimistic article about avoiding war over North Korea's nuclear program, the author notes the problem from North Korea's view of the negotiated end of Iraq's and Libya's WMD programs followed by Western attacks for regime change:

What’re the odds that a revived dialogue, of however many parties, is going to lead to complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement (CVID) of the North Korean nuclear program? They’re brutally long. The North Korean regime has made clear, citing the cases of Libya and Iraq, that WMD dismantlement has previously been an invitation to intervention by external powers.

In the case of Iraq, Saddam's regime wasn't attacked because it gave up WMD. It was attacked because it refused to stop pursuing WMD.

As for Libya, the Khadaffi regime wasn't attacked because it gave up WMD. It was attacked because during a civil war the regime looked like it was about to go postal on rebellious civilians.

If North Korea agrees to give up nukes, does North Korea plan to cheat on the deal or massively oppress their people?

Oh wait, North Korea has done both. So for completely different reasons than the author intends to convey, negotiations with North Korea really are futile.

But on the terms of the author, there is a very good example that isn't being made: Ukraine.

Ukraine actually did give up nuclear weapons (inherited during the break up of the USSR) in an explicit exchange for safety from invasion by a neighbor--Russia--and guaranteed by America and Britain.

Ukraine gave up their nukes and a decade or so later Russia invaded Ukraine, taking over Crimea and continuing to fight for the eastern Donbas region.

One wonders if Russia would have invaded if Ukraine still had nukes.

Honestly, while the Crimea operation with an obvious Russian invasion might have been considered risky, the Donbas method of an atro-turfed insurrection would have been plausible.

Nobody would have speculated about Russia trying to take over large chunks of Ukraine, however, as that would have prompted a small nuclear strike by Kiev perhaps on Ukraine's own territory against a Russian-occupied target. But it is hard to say because Russian nukes might have deterred Ukrainian use of nukes.

Or maybe nukes just deter use of nukes in any scenario short of national extinction.

Anyway, I guess that obvious example of WMD disarmament gone wrong didn't come to mind despite being exactly relevant to the issue in question.

I'm Still Critical of Air Power Purists

Huh, while searching around I ran across a letter to the editor that the Washington Post published that I'd completely forgotten about. My basic concern was the unlimited faith some had (and still have) in what air power can accomplish on its own.

By the end of that year, America and Britain led a brief strike campaign on Iraq in Operation Desert Fox; and in response China, Russia, and France took the lead in the dissipation of international sanctions designed to compel Iraq to comply with the Persian Gulf War ceasefire provisions on proving Saddam Hussein had eliminated his WMD programs.

Air power didn't work to stop Saddam from aiming for WMD, the ability to turn the screws on him without war was eroded as Saddam evaded sanctions and eroded the willingness of the world to enforce them with the threat of Western aerial punishment behind them, and 5 years later America did actually gather a coalition to deal with the problem on the ground in Iraq.

Funny, too, is that al Qaeda's air power strategy on 9/11 failed to terrorize America as much as piss us off, and we put a coalition on the ground to defeat them in their sanctuary in Afghanistan, too.

The struggles go in in different ways, but at least neither is the threat to America that they were in 1998. Which is no sign of failure as we continue to deal with evolving security threats on the ground in Europe and against South Korea so many decades after those wars put Americans on the ground in Europe and South Korea.

I completely forgot about writing that letter. And it doesn't even occur to me to write letters to the editor.

Is There a Realistic Threat Aircraft (and Tactics) Already Out There?

Via Instapundit, this is good news for American airpower:

The F-35 Lightning II strike fighter is easily able to counter the adversary services aircraft thrown at it in numbers, said an official of an adversary services contractor, who added that the industry is facing challenges in coming up with a realistic threat aircraft for training for high-end combat.

And the F-35 isn't even optimized as a fighter--it is a fighter bomber--the way the F-22 is.

I was concerned about the design philosophy of the F-35, while admitting I lack the knowledge to say it is wrong. Yet I've been comforted about the plane as it is being put into service.

But I sure hope that our enemies have the same assumptions about fighting the F-35 as our Navy, Marines, Air Force, and adversary services companies have.

Monday, April 24, 2017

We Came, We Saw, We Forgot

I don't know why we support the problematic GNA faction in Libya. Is the West truly too stupid to learn from experience?

The basic problem [in Libya] is that the UN and most Western nations continue to back the GNA despite the fact that the GNA relies too much on Islamic conservative militias and senior Libyan Islamic clerics who favor imposing Islamic law on Libya, something most Libyans don’t want.

Sure, let's support "moderate" Islamists! It worked so well with Erdogan in Turkey and the Moslem Brotherhood in Egypt, eh? So what on Earth are the Italians thinking?

Italy tried to get the new U.S. government interested in providing military support for the GNA in its fight with HoR. The Americans declined but will continue helping with efforts to destroy surviving ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) groups in Libya.

The West is aware that Islamists are either hostile to or at war with the democratic and liberal (in the classical sense) West, right?

Democracy Dies in a Coma

In Russia, Putin doesn't bother that much with planting fake news at home given that he has compliant journalists who do it willingly with the threat of dead journalists to remind the rest:

A prominent Russian journalist known for articles criticizing Russia’s government and President Vladimir Putin has died at a hospital in St. Petersburg after being severely beaten by unknown assailants.

Nikolai Andrushchenko, a 73-year-old co-founder of the weekly newspaper Novy Petersburg, had been unconscious since he was attacked on March 9.

Yeah, note to America's liberals, this is what a real resistance to tyranny by speaking truth to power looks like.

In America, liberal journalism is encouraged by threats of killing your social life if you don't go along with the left-wing herd.

Our way of slanting news is way better, of course, even if it gets to the same general place.

UPDATE: I was prescient on the social life angle

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Houston, We Have a Problem

The chance that the people of North Korea will spare the world the problem of a nuclear-armed North Korea is disappearing.

I don't think it is right to say that North Korea is a particularly difficult problem because while Iraq under Saddam was a prison, North Korea under the Kim dynasty is an "ant colony."

North Korea's prison camp system is so large because North Koreans do resist. Sadly, the smallest resistance is punishable by massive force. North Korea is a particularly harsh prison.

Although resistance in the face of even that exists.

Which is why I never complained about the Obama administration "strategic patience" with North Korea. I truly hoped that a policy of "talk, talk; die, die" could allow North Korea to implode before it could explode a nuclear warhead, while offering reasons for North Korea not to use their eroding conventional power to strike South Korea.

Heck, I was less concerned that Obama would try to cut a faux deal (as Clinton did in 1994) than I was worried Bush 43 would because Obama didn't face any public liberal outcry to use diplomacy the way the Bush administration was vulnerable to faux outrage on that issue. Perhaps we are lucky that the left had Iraq to focus their ire on.

Anyway, we may have lost that race as North Korea's tests of nuclear devices and long-range missiles continues. It is common to say that North Korea has 10-16 nuclear weapons, but I don't know if that is truly accurate. I'm not aware that the intelligence consensus has concluded that North Korea has perfected the nuclear devices they've tested down to rugged nuclear warheads small enough to mount on missiles. Perhaps I'm wrong, of course. And even if I'm right, North Korea is on the path to nuclear weapons sooner rather than later.

If' we've lost that race, another of my assumptions that we could deter a nuclear-armed North Korea is no longer true. I assumed that America would seek regime change in Iran both to protect freed Iraq and to remove the people in Iran who want nuclear weapons.

So one pillar of my patience that we could wait for North Korea's people--even if it was up to the army or a faction of the ruling elite to fight that battle for the beaten down people--was that North Korea would be unable to sell their nuclear weapons technology to Iran, because Iran without mullahs wouldn't want them.

Sadly, the Obama nuclear deal has saved the Iranian mullahcracy just as the Obama chemical deal with Syria saved Assad's dictatorship. I assume that the Iran deal will prevent Iran from having nukes just as poorly as the Syrian deal prevented Assad from having chemical weapons.

So North Korea's prime nuclear weapons customer, Iran--who I have doubts can be deterred--will be willing to pay for nukes (and because of the Iran deal will have the money).

Which means that we may not be able to risk a policy of deterrence with North Korea for the simple reason that it is no longer a case of deterring North Korea.

Perhaps China will deal with their problem child from Hell. It was all fun and games for Peking when their pet psycho just scared America, Japan, and South Korea. But now China has reason to be scared as potential targets of North Korea arm up to deal with the threat and who may decide that they need nuclear weapons. Krauthammer is right about that motivation.

Remember, South Korea and Japan could count on American pledges to use our nukes to defend them with confidence as long as North Korea could only threaten Japan and South Korea. What happens when North Korea can deter American nukes after nuking Japan or South Korea by threatening to nuke American cities?

What happens is that Japan and South Korea decide they need their own nukes. Having fun yet, China?

North Korea could yet collapse--because their people finally rise up in desperation--before Kim Jong-Un is a real nuclear threat if China seriously clamps down on North Korean trade and criminal enterprises.

Or maybe China takes direct action against North Korea, with America's blessing.

Or maybe because the multiple assumptions that allowed patience with North Korea have collapsed, America has to hammer North Korea in cooperation with Japan and South Korea to end the threat of North Korean and Iranian nuclear weapons.

And have no doubt that South Korea is prepared to participate in the hammering:

Back in 2012 the South Korean military also called for over $2 billion to be spent on missiles during the next five years and this plan was largely approved. This was part of an effort to develop the capability to quickly weaken the North Korean artillery and missile forces in any future war. The South Korean plan included the purchase of over a thousand new ballistic and cruise missiles. These are aimed at specific North Korean missile launchers and artillery positions. In the event of a war, the South Korean missiles can be quickly launched and most North Korean missile and artillery weapons destroyed.

Since 2012, America agreed that South Korea could build and deploy longer-ranged missiles. South Korea is fielding them. (And yes, that's a good thing the Obama administration did.)

Although I remain doubtful that missiles and smart bombs alone can knock out the North Korean artillery threatening Seoul as easily as it appears we think. I think troops will have to stand on that ground to protect Seoul.

Have a super sparkly day.

UPDATE: I honestly think that Americans who voluntarily go to North Korea where at best they give hard currency to an odious regime; and at worst become hostages to restrain American policy, should be told that they are on their own if they go there and not to expect help from the American government.

UPDATE: Austin Bay also sees the need to supplement a strike on North Korea's nuclear and delivery assets with a ground operation to protect Seoul from North Korean artillery.

Which looks a lot like a war rather than a "simple" air and missile campaign to defang North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

Move the Springboard East

The supplies have to roll:

The 16th Sustainment Brigade is based in Germany, but soldiers with the only large logistics unit in Europe aren’t home very often.

The brigade is the logistical springboard for Operation Atlantic Resolve, U.S. Army Europe’s efforts to expand east to counter Russian assertiveness without more permanent basing of U.S. troops.

It's a big job in a NATO logistics desert.

Guess Who's Coming to Deir ez-Zur?

Under American-orchestrated pressure at Raqqa, ISIL has moved its capital in Syria southeast:

In the wake of increased airstrikes and pressure applied from three directions by U.S.-backed Syrian forces, the Islamic State has essentially moved its so-called capital in Syria, U.S. defense officials told Fox News.

ISIS is now centered in Deir ez-Zur, roughly 90 miles southeast of Raqqa, the officials said.

Which is interesting when you consider that Assad has forces there under siege.

Will ISIL launch an assault to wipe out those defenders to cleanse their new capital?

Or is this just an interim move to just going underground as a terrorist organization?

Here's a CRS overview of the civil war+.

UPDATE: US-backed forces advancing around Tabqa may accelerate the ISIL shift east:

A US-backed alliance of Arab-Kurdish forces entered the key jihadist-held town of Tabqa on Monday as they pursued their campaign against the Islamic State group in northern Syria.

The really interesting part comes when Russia- and Iran-supported Assad decides that he should move into the area that ISIL is being pushed out of.