Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The President Just Doesn't Understand Leadership

Leadership is not defined by not doing stupid stuff, as our president believes.

This is just astounding:

It was clear to the guests how aware Mr. Obama was of the critics who have charged him with demonstrating a lack of leadership. He brought up the criticism more than once with an edge of resentment in his voice.

“He’s definitely feeling it,” said one guest. At one point, Mr. Obama noted acidly that President Ronald Reagan sent Marines to Lebanon only to have hundreds of them killed in a terrorist attack because of terrible planning, and then withdrew the remaining ones, leaving behind a civil war that lasted years. But Reagan, he noted, is hailed as a titan striding the earth.

Leaders make mistakes in the process of leading. People understand that acting can sometimes result in setbacks. But real leaders are trusted to achieve victory despite mistakes and even disasters.

Voting "present" on the world stage is not leadership. And after 6 years, our president will not learn this. I pray our enemies don't exploit this observation as a window of opportunity.

Was President Reagan a titan? No. Time has allowed fans to forget flaws while remembering the big picture.

But perhaps Reagan looms so large in President Obama's eyes because of his own small stature on the world stage. At this rate, the president's fans need to worry more about whether he'll get top billing over the puppet show rather than whether he should be put on Mount Rushmore.

The Revolutionary Impact of America

Strategypage writes--as they have many times--that American Moslems are generally not a security problem. America's influence on them has had a positive impact.

What is most interesting in their post is the example of Representative Ellison:

After he won he announced that he would take his oath of office in 2007 using Thomas Jefferson’s own copy of the Koran. While widely viewed as a way to diffuse criticism from arch-conservative Christians, the move also sent a subtle message to Islamic extremists as well. The Jefferson Koran is in English. Old school Moslems consider translating the Koran from the original Arabic blasphemous. ...

Black American Moslems differ from their immigrant co-religionists in that they are much more committed to securing a niche in mainstream society. They are also much more socially liberal; the most socially conservative Republicans seem like revolutionaries compared with most orthodox Moslems.

Ellison may be annoying in the context of American politics. But in the context of Islamic politics, he's a revolutionary force that undermines the Islamists.

Remember that the immigration of lots of Catholics aroused suspicions here--expressed openly before John F. Kennedy won the presidency in 1960--that Catholics--in theory part of a very centralized religion with a table of organization from the local parish all the way to the Vatican, were perhaps more loyal to the Vatican in Rome than we are to America.

Now the American branch of the Catholic Church is viewed as very different and certainly not amenable to simply accepting directives without question.

Indeed, the American Jewish community has a similar status. If you ask them, I bet the religious authorities in Israel don't think the vast majority of America's Jews are actually Jewish as those authorities define Judaism.

So we have that effect on people.

For all those who say American can't change ancient habits, a long-term American--dare I say "exceptional"--influence can very clearly change societies away from the old ways. If we pulled out of the entire world and returned to our shores, radical Islam would view us as a threat for this reason alone and "justify" their efforts to kill us.

They Called It a Nobel Peace Prize and He Created a Desert

President Obama announced last week the beginning of the Third Iraq War. After we contemplate the disorder that plagues our foreign policy, let's recall why President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009:

This year's award must be viewed in the light of the prevailing situation in the world, with great tension, numerous wars, unresolved conflicts and confrontation on many fronts around the world. And, not least, there is the imminent danger of the spread of nuclear weapons, degradation of the environment and global warming. In fact, Time Magazine recently described the decade that is coming to an end as the worst since the end of World War II.

From the very first moment of his presidency, President Obama has been trying to create a more cooperative climate which can help reverse the present trend. He has already "lowered the temperature in the world", in the words of former Peace Prize Laureate Desmond Tutu.

The gap between expectations and results is just astounding only to those who drank the Kool Aid and felt thrills up their legs just gazing at his sharply creased pant legs.

On the bright side, at least we know that climate change has been licked on President Obama's watch.

Well, actually on George W. Bush's watch, but I'm in a more generous mood than Michael Moore, so let's give the man something.

Renaissance Man

President Obama demonstrates that he is unclear on the concept of enemies:

If he had been “an adviser to ISIS,” Mr. Obama added, he would not have killed the hostages but released them and pinned notes on their chests saying, “Stay out of here; this is none of your business.” Such a move, he speculated, might have undercut support for military intervention.

You see? That's why ISIL is our enemy and not a friend we just haven't tried hard enough to make.

But who can be shocked that President Obama thinks he could be a good ISIL advisor? He thought he'd make a great chief of staff, too:

Obama didn’t know what he didn’t know, yet his self-confidence was so stratospheric that once, in the context of thinking about Emanuel’s replacement, he remarked in all seriousness, “You know, I’d make a good chief of staff.”

Good chief of staff. Good ISIL advisor. I guess our president really is looking for post-2016 job options.

The New Twilight Struggle in Europe

The fighting in Ukraine is over, it seems. Russia now has control of Crimea and Russia has helped their proxies in eastern Ukraine survive. Now the twilight struggle begins.

Ukraine is the immediate battlefield that must strengthen itself to resist further Russian aggression and to prepare to regain what has been lost.

The Ukrainians seem to undestand the basics of strengthening their economy and military to form the foundation of that struggle. Ukrainian President Poroshenko emphasized what must be done:

He said he had assembled a team of experts to help fight pervasive corruption, which he likened to "a cancer" eating away at the foundations of the Ukrainian state, but that improving the security situation remained the paramount concern.

Improving the economy will help Ukraine afford a better military, provide ammunition to keep Ukraine's eastern regions content to remain within Ukraine, and allow Ukraine to wage an information war against Russia's control of Crimea by undermining the local satisfaction of joining Russia.

Since we have a ceasefire with eastern Ukraine still legally part of Ukraine, I think Ukraine needs to reassert civilian control there. Sure, the fighting is over, but if Ukraine pushes in civilian aid, civilian police and administrators--all under the eyes of Red Cross and OSCE personnel--will Russia escalate back to fighting?

As for the military side, Ukraine needs to enlarge and improve their military reserves (at least, if they can't afford to really build up the active forces) to give them the ability to screen Crimea, guard the Black Sea Coast, defend Kiev, contest eastern Ukraine if Russia invades (including building up stay-behind forces to resist Russian control behind enemy lines), and create offensive forces to take the Russian enclave of Transdniestria on their western border and to attack Sevastopol with missiles, long range artillery, and naval mines off shore.

Our help is needed to prepare Ukraine's military. And our help is needed to punish Russia to deter further Russian aggression and to help Ukraine close the economic gap.

So far, we're still in the punishing business:

The United States announced more sanctions against Russia on Friday, affecting oil and defense industries and further limiting the access of major Russian banks to U.S. debt and equity markets to punish Russia for its intervention in Ukraine.

If NATO seriously reacts to improve our military capabilities in eastern Europe, Russia has more to worry about.

I'm relieved that we pushed NATO east. Our task is a lot better than when (much more numerous) Russian tanks were a hundred miles from the Rhine River.

And keep in mind that as long as Ukraine is friendly to the West and independent, NATO's main land mission is to defend Poland and points north into the Baltic NATO states.

We will have the luxury of a Ukraine shield to strike Russian forces in Crimea from bases in Romania and Bulgaria in a sea and air campaign.

Should we let Ukraine slip back under Russian control, NATO's new land front extends south all the way to the Black Sea--and Ukraine's military will once again be in the Russian arsenal, housed in those Soviet-era bases near the new NATO states in eastern Europe.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Hope and Change Makes It Good?

Say, given that President Obama has embarked on a long-term campaign to bomb ISIL in Iraq and Syria, comparing it to our efforts to bomb jihadis in Yemen and Somalia (but not Pakistan?), should a prize be given for the first accusation by someone on the Left that President Obama likes to bomb brown people?

I'm sensing a big revival of the "what if George W. Bush had done it" game.

Aleppo Falling

The Turks need to act like they matter in the region.

Despite Assad's effort to leverage ISIL's power in Syria into an alliance with the West that would save Assad's regime, Assad is working with ISIL to capture Aleppo:

According to a report published by the International Crisis Group on September 8, the regime of Syrian president Bashar al Assad and the jihadist group ISIS are squeezing the rebels out of Aleppo, the strategic and symbolic center of the country's three-year-old revolution.

The report warns that if the rebels' hold on the city is broken, Syria's conflict could slip into an even more dangerous and anarchic phase — and the U.S. and its allies would lose their most valuable partners on the battlefield, a fighting force with local credibility and years of experience fighting both ISIS and Assad.

Why is Turkey standing by doing nothing?

When casualties were but a tiny fraction of today's 200,000+, Turkey issued an ultimatum to Assad to stop killing his people.

Talk of Turkey intervening was common, focusing mostly on establishing a liberated zone with Turkish troops inside Syria.

Unless Turkey wants a jihadi win in Syria or the equally bad outcome of an Assad victory, the Turks need to step up their game.

And if that rebel-crippling Kerry-Lavrov chemical weapons deal is to be salvaged, the Turks need to take advantage of Syria's so-called chemical weapons disarmament. I doubt Syria has no weapons, but they have fewer and would face problems using them against the Turks given Syria's new pledge (broken in regard to civilians) not to use chemical weapons, Turkey's military power, and Turkey's membership in NATO.

The Turks need to seriously examine whether that security belt inside Syria is necessary to prevent rebel losses around Aleppo and a new flood of refugees into Turkey and/or a major ISIL sanctuary close to Turkey.

At best, our effort can't really affect Syria until after we destroy the Iraqi ISIL hold on Iraqi territory and build up non-jihadi rebels. If the Turks can't hold the line around Aleppo, we'll be limited to the southern front out of Jordan.

Let me note that if we do this right with enough US troops to support the Iraqis and Kurds, I don't think we need combat brigades on the ground to spearhead the effort to defeat ISIL.

If we can regain the cooperation of enough Sunni Arabs in ISIL-controlled territory and form core ground forces based on Kurds, Iraqi special forces-type units, and the three divisions we will embed advisors in at division and brigade headquarters, I think we can defeat the ISIL gunmen.

This will require US special forces or other assets to call in our ground support aircraft and US forces based near Iraq for search and rescue if a plane goes down, but I do not think we need US combat brigades committed to the fight.

Remember Afghanistan and Mali. We can break ISIL's hold with local ground forces and our air power.

My biggest worry is whether we will stick around after these operations are over to help Iraqis dig out scattered ISIL terrorists who try to go insurgent. Does President Obama value leaving as his legacy the "ending" of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan before he leaves office regardless of facts on the ground?

President Obama made the mistake once of prematurely leaving Iraq yet I have little confidence that he is capable of learning this lesson even when he's had his failure clearly exposed.

UPDATE: Well, what do you know?

Turkey's military is drawing up plans for a possible "buffer zone" on the country's southern border, where it faces a threat from Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, Turkish media quoted President Tayyip Erdogan as saying on Monday.

As long as we're going this way, have I mentioned that it would be a good idea for Summer Glau to have dinner with me?

Thank Goodness We Didn't Make Things Worse!

I would like to remind you that more than two years ago, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said we shouldn't arm rebels because "we don't want to further militarize the conflict."

We're up to 200,000 casualties just in Syria, including repeated chemical weapons use; with ISIL in Syria expanding the violence to Lebanon and taking over large parts of western and northern Iraq.

And now we are formally involved in the fighting.

So thank goodness we didn't "further militarize the conflict" and risk bad actors using our weapons in ways we wouldn't like.

Well, perhaps Kofi Annan will succeed yet. Oh, he's gone? no loss.

Remember, refusing to make a decision is a decision.

The Soothing Balms of Hope and Change Affect Iraq, Too

Ponder that the Obama administration considers the 2002 Congressional authorization to use force in Iraq, which allowed President Bush to initiate what the current administration considers the "bad" "war of choice" "based on lies" in Iraq, as sufficient authority for the Obama administration to wage the Third Iraq War, which is obviously a good and necessary war:

The White House believes that Congress’s 2002 authorization of the Iraq war — and not just the 2001 authorization to fight Al Qaeda — provides a legal justification for President Obama’s air campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the Obama administration said Friday.

Hope and change can really do anything!

Tip to Instapundit.

Anonymous and Nearby Boots

President Obama just hopes to strike from the air. But boots have to be on the ground, so I assume they will be by someone and somewhere.

The allure of air power and kill lists remains strong:

President Obama is solidifying his legacy as the air war president with his strategy for taking on the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The escalated use of airstrikes in Iraq and potentially Syria is just the latest example of the president finding it strategically and politically expedient to choose missiles over manpower when fighting enemies abroad.

As good as our air power is (from the Air Force, Navy, Marines, and even the Army with helicopters and drones), its effect is limited without ground troops to focus the air power and to take the ground from weakened enemies shaken by the air power.

So I assume there are boots on the ground.

First, we will have 1,600 boots on the ground after the latest announcement. Somehow they don't count, I guess.

The 475 Americans that President Obama announced during his Wednesday speech that will go to Iraq will embed at the brigade level in the Iraqi army to help them fight more effectively. It looks like we will embed in three division headquarters and three brigades in each of the divisions.

I noted early on in discussions of air intervention that we need core ground forces to exploit our air power. A three-division force striking north that includes the still-good but small Iraqi special forces forces will work on that front.

The Kurds will provide the core force from the northeast and ideally should be the main effort that could cut off the ISIL forces further south confronting the American-embedded Iraqi forces.

And I'd still like to see the Jordanians provide a core force for Anbar to reach Ramadi and Fallujah.

Second, we still need somebody to call in the strikes when the local ground troops are in contact with the enemy. The French already announced they'd have their special forces on the ground to call in their air strikes. I find it hard to believe that the French will be the only contributing country to do so.

If we aren't doing the job, I assume our allies will send in special forces to work with our civilian assets who will do the same thing for us--not violating the no combat forces pledge.

Remember, even though we said we would not put troops on the ground in Libya in 2011, somebody eventually reached the ground to call in those NATO air strikes on Khaddafi's forces.

Back in the day, I think Strategypage called Afghanistan the site of the Special Forces Olympics given all the foreign special forces--even Arab--that quietly fought there against the Taliban.

Perhaps Iraq will be the new Olympics event for killing jihadis.

Third, we must have search and rescue assets for an air campaign.

Or do you really want to risk one of our air crew being captured by ISIL?

So if we don't have these assets complete with troops capable of dropping in to hold the crash site around the crew, be prepared for more beheading videos.

So I assume that we will have search and rescue assets plus quick reaction forces in some combination of Jordan, Kuwait, afloat in the Gulf, Kurdistan, and Turkey.

Boots on the ground are so necessary for an effective air-ground campaign that I assume that the boots are somewhere in some uniform to support our aircraft.

I'm just focusing on Iraq at this point, because I imagine a real effort in Syria--as opposed to a limited effort in Syria to support the Iraq campaign--is some time in the future after ISIL in Iraq is broken.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

You Didn't Build That Ally

I would like to point out that President Obama is able to attempt a strategy of supporting Iraqi (and Kurdish) forces to fight ISIL in Iraq because George W. Bush destroyed a hostile Saddam regime that supported terrorism in the region and replaced it with a government willing to fight terrorists at our side.

Yes, during the Bush administration we built an Iraqi government and a military that, with our continued support, could be an ally to fight terrorists at our side out of the ruins of a state that fought us, threatened neighbors, and supported terrorism around the region.

President Obama refused to use the tool that we built to fight terrorists and instead ignored the growing threat of jihadis in Iraq that could have been confronted at far smaller levels of effort had we partnered with Iraq rather than doing a victory lap over Iraq by insisting we'd "responsibly ended" the war.

But despite the deterioratioin in Iraq's military that took place after we left in 2011, enough of Iraq's military remains to hold the line against ISIL and provide a basis for us to intervene with just air power (and hopefully special forces, contractors or CIA--and those of our allies, too--to call in the strikes and advise Iraqi and Kurdish units).

So as President Obama assures us that we won't have another Iraq War as he intervenes in Iraq, remember that the reason he has the luxury of this strategy is because George W. Bush led the effort to build an Iraqi military and government to fight jihadis.

Quite clearly, President Obama did not build that. He damned near let it be destroyed through his inattention.

Come See the Violence Inherent in the System

Well that's a bloody giveaway:

Just days before China was set to deliver its edict on electoral reform in Hong Kong, Beijing’s most senior official in the city held a rare meeting with several local lawmakers whose determined push for full democracy had incensed Beijing's Communist leaders. ...

Zhang, 51, dressed in a black suit and a navy blue striped tie, delivered a blunt response. “The fact that you are allowed to stay alive, already shows the country's inclusiveness," he answered, according to two people in the room who declined to be named. Zhang's office did not respond to several faxed requests for comment. [emphasis added]

The Chinese Communist Party prefers to select rulers by having a moistened bint lob scimatars rather than honest elections and voting. And you'll darned well be grateful for that.

What's to Protest?

It has been noted that there has been no mobilization of the anti-war movement (already against the next war, as their bumper stickers announced) that was active against the last Iraq War.

Would I be too cynical to think a good part of the explanation is that the anti-war movement is only worried about American victory in war, and so only goes on the streets when that prospect is raised?

And right now the "anti-war" movement doesn't think the chance of President Obama pursuing victory is very high?

Not a Figurative Cold War

The shooting war in Ukraine is apparently over. War by other means will commence.

The ceasefire seems like it is fairly firm despite repeated small violations, cementing at least limited Russian gains in eastern Ukraine:

1. An immediate bilateral ceasefire

2. Monitoring and verification of the ceasefire

3. Decentralisation of power

4. OSCE monitoring of a "buffer zone" on the Russia-Ukraine border

5. Prisoner release

6. Amnesty for those involved in unrest in eastern Ukraine

7. Inclusive national dialogue

8. Humanitarian aid

9. Early local elections

10. Withdrawal of 'illegal militant groups' from Ukraine

11. A programme for the economic reconstruction of eastern Ukraine

12. Security guarantees for participants in the crisis talks

The OSCE presence seems way too small to keep Russia from mucking about more in eastern Ukraine.

And no mention of the Budapest Memorandum, under which Ukraine de-nuclearized in exchange for security guarantees from Russia, America, and Britain.

This situation in eastern Ukraine is hardly a full win for Russia, but on top of their control of Crimea, represents at least a partial victory in restoring the empire:

Russian troops are still inside eastern Ukraine. And Ukrainian troops must still defend themselves.

Fighting isn't over, just at a low level and so far just initiated by the Russian side, it seems. The Ukrainians have few delusions about their Russian "peace" partners:

"We are still in a stage of war and the key aggressor is the Russian Federation ... Putin wants another frozen conflict (in eastern Ukraine)," said [Ukrainian Prime Minister] Yatseniuk, a longtime fierce critic of Moscow and a supporter of Ukraine's eventual NATO membership.

Perhaps more immediate a problem for Ukraine is that Russia will dispatch General Winter to the front:

Ukraine warned on Friday that it will have to adopt deeply unpopular energy savings measures this winter should Russia fail to lift its suspension of natural gas sales to the West-leaning ex-Soviet neighbour.

Russia in June halted gas exports to Ukraine after Kiev balked at paying higher prices that Moscow demanded in the wake of the February ouster of a Kremlin-backed president.

And if you still believe Russia isn't calling the shots with the astro-turf rebellion in eastern Ukraine:

“Eastern Ukraine, or most of it, as far as I’m aware, doesn’t want to be part of NATO,” said Lukin, who represented Russia at February talks in Kiev between then-President Viktor Yanukovych and opposition leaders who later ousted him. “Russia is also against this, but the main thing is that eastern Ukraine is opposed and has made it abundantly clear,” he said, stressing that he was speaking in a personal capacity.

The biggest issue for the "rebels" is Ukraine's membership in NATO? Right.

And even if true, that minority should have a veto over an entire country's future?

Oh, and membership in the EU:

The European Union and Ukraine agreed on Friday to delay the implementation of their free-trade pact until the end of next year in a concession to Russia, which had complained its industry would be hurt by the deal.

The EU blinked. On the bright side, at least Russia isn't pretending that this is a core interest of the rebels (though it surely is important given economic links to Russia).

As Ukraine goes forward, if Russia presses Ukraine to hold a referendum in eastern Ukraine on whether to separate from Ukraine, I suggest that Ukraine counter with a proposal that every province in both countries--such as Crimea and those in the Far East of Russia--be allowed to hold such referenda every 5 years for the next 20 years--just to be sure that the vitally important Russian objective of local self-determination is truly upheld.

UPDATE: I may have been hasty in assuming the fighting is mostly over:
Civilian casualties were reported in heavy shelling around the rebel stronghold of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine on Sunday, with Kiev accusing the separatists of jeopardising the truce by intensifying attacks against government positions.

At what point does Ukraine risk taking the initiative in this fighting despite risk of Russian escalation?

The Coalition Accumulates

For imagery, it is good to have Arab planes along for the ride, but air power is the military area we least need assistance.

So on balance this is good:

Several Arab countries have offered to carry out airstrikes against militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, a senior State Department official said Sunday. ...

American officials said that the communiqué should be interpreted as meaning that some, but not all, of the 10 Arab countries would play a role in the military effort.

Most will likely provide fuel and basing rights. Others may fly in arms to help the Iraqi government and Kurdish regional forces. Others may fly recon missions.

Some will shoot. The United Arab Emirates, which recently bombed jihadi targets in Libya by flying from Egyptian bases is one likely candidate.

Saudi Arabia is another. They have lots of modern planes. But they have few decent pilots. Yet by mobilizing the foreign maintenance people to support foreign pilots and the relatively few Saudi pilots capable of flying and fighting, a "Saudi" effort will likely be part of the war.

If "several" means "three" I'd guess that Jordan is the third country. We already have troops on the ground there, and Jordan's military is decent by regional standards.

I'll also guess that some of these Arab states will send special forces to Iraq to fight ISIL and support the air campaign, as many did during the Afghanistan campaign.

Our Friends the Turks

Turkey under the tame Islamists has been a particular focus of President Obama's outreach to the Islamic world.

I'd like to point out that our manned air sorties in northern Iraq seem to have all come from Navy aircraft in the Gulf, Air Force planes apparently based along the Gulf shores, and even Marine Harriers flying at what must be extreme range from the Gulf.

Turkey, I read (sorry, can't find it now), is not allowing us to use our bases in Turkey to strike nearby targets inside northern Iraq.

Remember we contributed Patriot missiles to defend Turkey as the Syria Civil War expanded.

And remember that President George W. Bush got the Turks to allow airbase use and even the deployment of some ground units (although not 4th Infantry Division, at the last moment) from their territory.

Ah, outreach. It really is all different with a president who ate dog meat in Indonesia as a child and whose middle name is Hussein.

But I'm sure John Kerry will clear this all up.

UPDATE: Ah, here's the link for the Turkish refusal to let us use airbases now (other than for drones). And I may be wrong about 2003. Our ground forces may have come direct from Europe and perhaps we only had access to Turkish territory for support.

At best, we can only hope that Turkey will stop making the ISIL problem worse by actually controlling their border with Syria to halt the flow of recruits and weapons to ISIL in Syria.

UPDATE: I stand corrected. I rechecked and the Turks in 2003 not only denied us the use of their territory for any of our ground units, but they prevented the British from deploying a division in the north.

And Turkey did not let us use their air space at all, requiring long flights in through Jordan and into Iraq to bring in our forces by air.

We'll see if Turkey does any better this time. NATO ally, indeed. Perhaps if Russia looms over them enough they'll remember they are a NATO ally.

To Be Fair, Our Withdrawal From Iraq Was an Opportunity--For ISIL

The one thing that then-Senator Obama got right about Iraq is the one thing he didn't do as president:

As I’ve said many times, we must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in. We can safely redeploy our combat brigades at a pace that would remove them in 16 months. That would be the summer of 2010 — two years from now, and more than seven years after the war began. After this redeployment, a residual force in Iraq would perform limited missions: going after any remnants of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, protecting American service members and, so long as the Iraqis make political progress, training Iraqi security forces. That would not be a precipitous withdrawal.

The president did not push for that residual force, being content to boast that he got our troops out of Iraq as he promised.

And here we are.

Tip to Instapundit.

Trajectory, People. Trajectory

How exciting!

When U.S. combat troops are caught in a firefight, one of the quickest ways for them to turn the tide in their favor is to use grenades. The 40mm rounds can be fired from a launcher attached to a rifle, landing on enemies a few hundred meters away. But they have limitations, especially when enemy fighters take cover behind a wall or other obstacle.

The U.S. Army’s Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey is working on a new round to address that. “Small Arms Grenade Munitions” would double the lethality of the grenades against enemies who are “in defilade,” meaning they are using obstacles or barriers to shield themselves from harm, Army officials say.

The notion that killing enemies hiding behind walls requires new technology is ridiculous. Once upon a time, soldiers had to aim high to create a trajectory that would drop the round behind the wall.

Granted, being able to fire at a flatter trajectory that relies on sensors to detonate as the round passes over the cover is surely a good thing. Maybe even better than allowing troops equipped with the grenade launcher to practice firing them over and over until they can drop a round over a wall in their sleep.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Comic Genius

Russia on our war tiff with ISIL/ISIS:

A Russian Foreign Ministry statement said such military action without a U.N. Security Council resolution "would be an act of aggression and flagrant violation of international law."

Normally I'd let that pass without mentioning Ukraine. But you never know how far in the future this post might be read.

If You Can Dodge a Wrench, You Can Dodge a Ball?

God save us from defense visionaries:

The year is 2020; the setting, a battlefield in the Middle East. An armored Army vehicle bounds over low dunes on its way to a checkpoint when a local tribal leader fires a shoulder-mounted missile directly at the fast-moving truck. The targeting is dead on and the missile is moving too fast for the human driver to take evasive action. But the vehicle itself detects the vibrations of rocket in motion via an array of advanced sensors. Acting at the speed of electric current, the vehicle’s raised-wheel axis extends out beneath it, dropping it several feet, like a newborn falling on shaky legs. The rocket glides over the top of the vehicle missing it. The result? No casualties to report.

Good grief, let's just abandon the technology approach and just encourage our crews to pray that the enemy misses.

I mentioned this type of approach to finding an alternative to the bulk of passive armor.

The MBT-70 at least envisioned the ability to duck as a way to go hull-down (or turret-down) more effectively, making its armor protection better by exposing only the thickest armor.

If I may make one objection to the "ducking" approach for making sure anti-tank rounds pass over our vehicles--top-attack rounds.

Or maybe our enemies just aim several feet lower? At that point I suppose DARPA aims for a vehicle that can jump, too--and maybe moonwalk.

Once enemies know that they don't have to penetrate effective armor, many ways to disable our main combat vehicles are opened up.

No weapon system lasts forever. The tank will be obsolete one day. But so far, I haven't seen the alternative to the heavy tank--with all that troublesome passive armor--and suitably evolved with active defenses, to provide mobile, protected, firepower.

This is Kind of Humiliating

President Obama got France in his coalition, showing Kerry finally figured out how to pass that global test for intervention. Now we are lagging France in commitment.

Sadly, despite all the hope and change and not-Bushiness (to say nothing of "smartness" and newly discovered nuance) of the Obama administration's world-friendly foreign policy, there are--difficulties:

The United States says it is "comfortable" it can forge an international coalition to fight Islamic State, but with Western and Middle Eastern allies hesitant, it risks finding itself out on a limb.

President Obama urging our allies forward with the words "we're right behind you" isn't as comforting as we assumed!

The French--that Gold Standard of a real coalition--explain:

"This coalition has to be efficient and targeted," said a senior French diplomat. "We have to keep our autonomy. We don't want to be the United States' subcontractor. For the moment they haven't made their intentions clear to us."

Ah, the French don't want to be our "subcontractor" just doing our dirty work.

I do believe I mentioned that "leading from behind" assumes we can get others to fight for our objectives--nice work if you can get it, I said.

And the French are embarrassing us with their relative degree of commitment:

France has so far sent weapons to Kurdish fighters in Iraq and humanitarian aid. It is likely to send about 250 special forces troops to help direct strikes for Rafale fighter jets.

As small as France's effort will be, they understand that boots on the ground to direct air strikes are kind of necessary to make them effective as timely ground support rather than striking targets of opportunity away from friendlies on the ground.

So we got what we wished--France is with us. And not only do they represent a "real" coalition, they demonstrate how a "real" intervention should work at minimum.

I Won't Speak About You, But I Did Assume

On occasion, I've lamented that the Navy didn't make the mission modules for the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) fit into standard shipping containers. Erm ...

I've long discussed the concept of Modularized Auxiliary Cruisers using standard shipping containers to house the components in order to convert container ships into warships.

I've also occasionally wished that the LCS used such modules in order to allow the Navy to reduce the cost of the modules by producing many more beyond what the LCS needs in order to arm Modularized Auxiliary Cruisers. Win-win, I thought.

Not once in all the articles I've read about the LCS did I see any mention of the dimensions. I assumed that given standard military procurement practices that the Navy would have specified dimensions without regard to the existence of shipping containers already out there.

In recent months, I realized I didn't know that. I kept meaning to look it up. This morning I did.

Apparently, the LCS mission modules are at least the same size as those standard shipping containers if not actual shipping containers:

In addition to cargo or container-sized mission modules, the bay can carry four lanes of multiple Strykers, armored Humvees, and their associated troops. An elevator allows air transport of packages the size of a 20-foot-long (6.1 m) shipping container that can be moved into the mission bay while at sea.

Odd that this never came up before. But I am embarrassed that I assumed I knew the answer. My bad.

Win Eventually or Fight Forever

Before jihadis erupted into Anbar in early 2014 and Mosul and the north in mid-2014, I spoke of the need to wage the Long War for the soul of the Moslem world if we wanted to avoid an endless war against the terrorists who are the symptom of that main problem.

So let me just link to that post which has added relevance as we start the Third Iraq War (from our point of view, of course, since for Iraqis the war has continued since we "responsibly ended" our war). If I may be so bold, read it all.

I know it is popular to say that regional states have just as much interest in defeating ISIL as we do. This is true.

But it does not mean that holding back our efforts to achieve our goals will lead these regional states (including allies of ours) to pursue objectives that match our own.

Our allies may well conclude--as they did before--that victory looks like convincing the jihadis to target somebody other than these regional states--like us, for example.

After all, many here say let them kill each other off rather than intervene. Why shouldn't regional states be just as coldly calculating?

So we must fight to achieve our objectives. This doesn't mean 100,000 troops on the ground. That is always the last choice when supporting allies already there can work. But our help has to leverage our allies into working for objectives that matter to us.

It's a Long War for a reason. Let's stop taking time outs while our enemies keep going.

Friday, September 12, 2014

A Plethora of Former Soviet Options

Estonia and Khazakstan may have to compete with the Caucasus for pride of place in Putin's territorial ambitions.

There he goes again:

In recent weeks, Moscow seems to have been aggravating a longstanding conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan while playing peacemaking overlord to both. In the first week of August, as many as 40 Armenian and Azerbaijani soldiers were reported killed in heavy fighting near their border, just before a summit meeting convened by Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin.

Well, if everyone will just be patient, I'm sure Putin will try to get to them all.

Narrow Front

The 475 American troops being added to Iraq (increasing our troop strength to 1,600) will help Iraq fight on a narrow front.


The new troops will arrive over the coming week to carry out a three-part mission: advising and assisting Iraq's security forces, supporting intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance flights from Erbil in northern Iraq, and staffing a headquarters to coordinate U.S. military activities throughout Iraq.

Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said Wednesday that 150 advisors and support personnel will form a dozen teams that will embed with Iraqi security forces at the brigade level and above. They will not be involved in frontline combat situations.

Others will staff drone units. Since others already operate at higher levels with Iraqi forces, this means we will be operating at a limited number of brigade and division headquarters.

Assuming, one division controls three maneuver brigades, that means we will support 3 Iraqi divisions with 9 maneuver brigades.

Unless some of our allies take on similar roles in other Iraqi units (and what about Kurdish forces?), the Iraqi offensive effort we are to support will be fairly narrow.

Fake But Accurate?

President Obama has stirred some outrage by saying that we are safer now from terrorism than we have ever been; and saying that we only think the world is more dangerous because of Twitter and whatnot making us more aware of disorder. Most narrowly, I imagine he is actually correct--and yet 100% wrong.

On world disorder, I have no doubt that a look at global statistics would show the world growing less violent over the last 25 years.

This is the peace dividend of our victory in the Cold War as Soviet support for violence around the world ended and the impact of that support dwindled over time.

Yet does less violence in much of the Third World mean anything for our security when we face increased threats in eastern Europe, the Middle East, and the western Pacific? These are the areas that matter to our national security.

As much as we (and those living in those areas) can be grateful that violence in sub-Sahara Africa and Latin America is down, that is not sufficient to make up for the increased violence and threats in our areas of interest.

Similarly, given the massive amount of money that we have spent to create a homeland defense apparatus (the civil liberties aspect of that aside), I have no doubt that the president is technically correct that we are safer now than in 2001.

But this reflects an ability to detect and repel attacks from a greater array of threats rather than a reduction in those overseas threats to us.

Would we pass out Kevlar body armor to the people of Chicago and then tell them that they are now safer because their chance of dying in gun violence is dramatically lower now?

What the president has told us is, at best, accurate but fake.

These measures the president cites are no reason to believe we are not still engaged in the Long War against Islamo-fascist terrorism that we realized we were in 13 years ago.

He Really Thinks a Lot of Himself, Doesn't He?

The idea advanced by President Obama's defenders that we aren't acknowledging that we are at war with ISIL because we shouldn't legitimize ISIL as a combatant and that doing so would raise the stature of ISIL is just nonsense.

Keep in mind that ISIL believes they are on a mission from God.

In what alternate world does ISIL value President Obama's description of them more than Allah's approval?

UPDATE: Hah! Suckers!

Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, used the language at least three times during his daily briefing with reporters. “The U.S. is at war with ISIL in the same way the U.S. is at war with al Qaeda,” he said, using an alternate acronym for the group.

Minutes earlier, a Pentagon spokesman, Rear Adm. John Kirby, used similar terminology. “This is not the Iraq war of 2002,” he told reporters. “But, make no mistake, we know we are at war with ISIL, in the same way we are at war and continue to be at war with al Qaeda and its affiliates.”

I welcome the administration's acceptance of the "war" issue.

And I relish that in doing so the administration just threw under the bus all those loyal "reality-based" minions stubbornly defending the refusal to call our actions a "war" to avoid raising the stature of our enemy.

As a point of order, I'd like to note that there was no Iraq War of 2002 unless you count the ongoing post Persian Gulf War no-fly zone enforcement over Iraq. We invaded Iraq in 2003.


Scottish pro-independence advocates should keep in mind before the vote the real William Wallace of today rather than the fictional one:

William Wallace: Aye, Stay in Great Britain and your postage stamps may die. Leave, and you'll cheer... at least a while. And dying in your NHS beds, many years from now, would you be willin' to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our pro-independence brethren that they may take our postage stamps and other pointless symbols of independence, but they'll never take... OUR SUBSIDIES!

[Scottish army cheers]

William Wallace: Alba gu bràth!

Which I believe means, "Jessica Alba go bra-less!"

Which could explain the odd desire of so many in Scotland to go their own way when it could ensure their poverty for a generation--assuming they eventually restore the influence of another Scot, Adam Smith, in promoting economic growth.

I surely wish the Scots well, regardless of their choice. Everyone will muddle along regardless, in time, I imagine.

But just for defense issues alone, I can't be for Scottish independence when it will roil the waters defense-wise for a generation as the terms of the separation are hammered out. When Russia is reviving their ambitions, this seems unwise. I couldn't care less if Belgium splits. Britain is another matter altogether.

UPDATE: Worries about defense issues.

But if the worry is whether an independent Scotland could join the European Union, I say don't worry--Brussels likes its members small and weak.

Because I'm Basically an Optimist

Instapundit notes four presidential speeches about bombing Iraq. The theme is that we clearly haven't gotten the job done because this keeps happening. I have a different take.

Yes, just comparing the speeches shows that the first three were serious endeavors while the last by President Obama was just a time-limited, scope-limited military action speech--with a shout out to Ebola since a planned three-year fight was viewed as insufficient to interrupt prime time TV, apparently.

But I'm an optimist at heart.

Note that President Obama gave the first speech that announced our bombing at the side of an imperfect Iraqi government against beastly jihadis rather than the first three who announced the bombing of a perfectly beastly Saddam regime.

More importantly, note that the first three presidents emphasized the WMD threat that Iraq posed to the world. President Obama did not need to mention WMD in connection to Iraq and had to mention Ebola for an equally scary (and irrelevant to the mission at hand) threat.

Funny about the WMD angle given all that the anti-war side has said since 2003 about the false threat from Saddam's Iraq of WMD.

So despite worries that President Obama isn't up to the military task he has announced, take heart that the degree of difficulty and danger is far lower than the first three presidents faced.

I really am an optimist.

It Takes a Village to Rape a Child

The rape ring scandal in Rotherham (and do you really believe it was just in that city given the factors that allowed it to continue so long?) is not only revolting for what the Pakistani Moslem thugs did to the non-Islamic British girls and the shameful ability of so many to look away rather than effectively dealing with the crime wave and actual rape culture against vulnerable girls, but for what the authorities believed was an effective response.

Bureaucracies often descend into measuring inputs rather than outcomes because inputs are so much more easily measured. It was no different when confronting the problem of raped girls than with any other issue:

The goal was multitudinousness itself: Where two or three agencies are gathered together in the name of tackling CSE [Childhood Sexual Exploitation], there must be something productive going on. In business, after a point, the teamwork approach will be measured against a goal that can be enumerated: Sales must grow or production time shrink. If the goal is not attained, the collaborative effort withers away. But no social agency, policeman, town councillor, or inspector ever mentioned a numerical goal, such as reducing the number of victims or increasing the number of arrests—with the exception of adequate budgeting for staff.

In reality, the number of victims grew every year, and the number of arrests was vanishingly low. But the inspectors continued to praise Rotherham’s “commitment to safeguarding young people”; continued to measure commitment by the quality of collaborativeness itself. In 2003, the SSI praised “examples of innovation, moves towards integrated services and new preventive strategies.” In 2010, Ofsted was delighted by “effective, creative multi-agency work” to prevent sexual exploitation, and even more so by “cross-agency training.” Two years later, Ofsted smiled upon “good collaborative work between the local authority and the Police resulting in a targeted approach.”

Barnardo’s experts admired the joint “commitment to addressing CSE” on the part of the town council and social services agencies, a commitment expressed vividly in “their plans to widen the inter-agency partnership.” Barnardo’s left Children’s Services with this praise ringing in its ears, and with an advanced model for calculating risk of CSE, which it had sold to management. Social workers dealing with girls in the field found the Barnardo’s model consistently understated the degree to which their real-life cases were exposed to rape and abduction, but were made to use it, even though it undermined their recommendations.

The Inspectorate of Constabulary praised the collaborative disposition and, of course, the commitment of the South Yorkshire Police’s CSE work. Not only was everyone “conscientious, enthusiastic, and focused,” but “the force had improved its engagement with other agencies working in this field and had co-operated with them in developing strategies.” The strategies thus developed did not require constables to arrest specific sex traffickers who had been pointed out to them by material witnesses: According to the Jay report, they systematically refused to do so, using a variety of excuses that may have been developed on an interagency basis.

Read the whole thing.

The authorities may not have arrested the rapists or protected the girls, but all the authorities worked together commendably.

And their computer model of their coordinated activities (inputs) said that they were reducing the problem of CSE. Which took precedence against actual reports from the real world where girls continued to be serially raped by men whose granted victim status made inconvenient to arrest.

The Left likes to say it takes a village to raise a child. In practice, it takes a village to rape one--or more precisely, hundreds or thousands over more than a decade.

There are different villages, to be sure (tip to Instapundit), but none so wrapped in victimhood as the Rotherham rapists.

Pity the girls weren't targeted by a UKIP gang. Then the problem would have been ended in 1997.

UPDATE: Thanks to Pseudo-Polymath for the link.

Missile Bait

Vietnam is buying submarines to provide a weapon that can hurt China despite China's far more powerful navy. That's good, but submarines are only effective at sea. Vietnam needs to maintain these boats and keep them at sea as much as possible. The temptation for China to launch a preemptive strike on Vietnam's boats while they sit in port is highly correlated with the power of those boats to hurt China when at sea.

Vietnam is serious about holding off China in the South China Sea. And Russia is not shy about providing these weapons despite their sometimes friendly relations (which is really a form of appeasement by Russia in the face of the conventional power imbalance in the Far East) with China:

Vietnam will soon have a credible naval deterrent to China in the South China Sea in the form of Kilo-class submarines from Russia, which experts say could make Beijing think twice before pushing its much smaller neighbor around in disputed waters.

Vietnam has 2 now and will eventually have 6. If Vietnam manages to keep a third at sea, that means all this fuss is for 2 subs capable of shooting at the Chinese in time of war. Unless Vietnam builds hardened shelters for the 4 subs undergoing maintenance in port, what is at sea at the start of the war is what Vietnam will have to fight the war, assuming China strikes the ports where the subs are sitting nice and vulnerable.

And if Russia is willing to sell boats to Vietnam whose only possible foe is China, why shouldn't Russia sell boats to Taiwan, which really needs the capabilities that is being touted for Vietnam in the face of China's military power and aggressive use of that power?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

An Arms Control Victory?

President Obama on September 10th:

It is America that helped remove and destroy Syria’s declared chemical weapons so that they can’t pose a threat to the Syrian people or the world again.

Also on Wednesday:

On Wednesday, a report by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), following an investigation by its own fact-finding mission, concluded that it has "compelling confirmation" that a toxic chemical has been used "repeatedly" as a weapon in Syria. ...

Philip Hammond, the British foreign secretary, condemned the Assad regime's use of chlorine gas.

"The systematic and repeated use of chlorine in northern Syria and the consistent reports from witnesses of the presence of helicopters at the times of the attacks leave little doubt as to the Assad regime's culpability," said a Foreign Office statement.

The Kerry-Lavrov deal on Syria is something the Obama administration boasts about.

God save us from more such victories.


President Obama has committed America to fighting ISIL in Iraq and Syria through at least 2017.

At the same time he has confirmed we will leave Afghanistan in 2016.

I guess Iraq is still distracting us from winning in Afghanistan.

Baghdad ... Shit. I'm Still Only in Baghdad

When he became Secretary of State, John Kerry thought he'd wrap up an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement in short order and orchestrate an Iran nuclear deal to earn a Nobel Peace Prize. He had his acceptance speech for Oslo written before he selected the drapes for his State Department office suite. Instead he finds himself stuck in Iraq.

Could he look sadder? I mean more than usual.

He's still only in Baghdad:

US Secretary of State John Kerry held talks with Iraq's new leaders Wednesday on their role in a long-awaited strategy against Islamic State jihadists to be unveiled by President Barack Obama.

Kerry wanted a mission. And for his sins President Obama gave him one.

It's Kerry's own fault, of course. He should have studied harder.

UPDATE: Thanks to Pseudo-Polymath for the link.

Why We Still Fight

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Shot Across the Bow

Japan will develop offensive capabilities. China protests that Japan should not have the capabilities that China has been building for the last two decades.

Japan has an advanced and large economy that could support a larger military than the one it currently deploys. Japan is crossing a threshold that until now it has refrained from approaching:

Japan and the United States are exploring the possibility of Tokyo acquiring offensive weapons that would allow Japan to project power far beyond its borders, Japanese officials said, a move that would likely infuriate China.

While Japan's intensifying rivalry with China dominates the headlines, Tokyo's focus would be the ability to take out North Korean missile bases, said three Japanese officials involved in the process.

This will complement US-South Korean efforts to take down North Korea's nuclear capabilities.

But as China recognizes, Japanese offensive capabilities that will work against North Korea will work against China, too.

And why is Japan seeking to arm up?

Part of Japan's motivation for upgrading its capabilities is a nagging suspicion that the United States, with some 28,000 troops in South Korea as well as 38,000 in Japan, might hesitate to attack the North in a crisis, Japanese experts said.

I won't say that this is purely President Obama's fault. China's rising military power--even if it is not as great as it appears--is real and threatening to neighbors. Anyone would arm up.

As an aside regarding that "paper tiger" article, while China is surely not a near-peer competitor to America and far from a global power, China doesn't have to be a near peer or a global military power to threaten our interests--many of which lie very close to China.

Japan was quite the threat to us in 1941 when Japan's GDP was just a tenth of ours. How much more of a threat is China--weaknesses and all--when it will surely match us in GDP in the not-so-distant-future?

Is China to be dismissed as a threat until the chance of us fighting a Chinese expeditionary force of 100,000 troops on Mexico's Baja Peninsula is as likely as us fighting China on the Korean Peninsula?

So sure, China is not a near-peer competitor to us--I've never argued that. But it does not follow that China is a "paper tiger."

Back to the point, Japan sees an America explicitly trying to "lead from behind." And when you face a nutball nuclear regime on your door step, that isn't as comforting as you might think. If America won't lead, is Japan supposed to just accept being hit by nukes (again)?

So Japan will have offensive precision missile capabilities, in time. If they had more confidence in us leading and acting on Japan's behalf, Japan's reaction to China's rising power and North Korea's nuclear threat might be more general military capabilities rather than offensive missile capabilities.

China should count themselves lucky that Japan hasn't reacted to China's little nuclear pet nutball regime by going nuclear.

Perhaps conventional offensive capabilities will be a shot across the bow to China to behave more responsibly in regard to North Korea and threats to regional stability, in general.

A September 10th Speech?

I fear that President Obama's speech tonight will be dangerously infused with September 10th thinking.

Six years after George W. Bush left office, 5 years after President Obama's Cairo outreach speech to reset relations with the Islamic world and undermine support for jihadis, 3 years after "responsibly ending" the Iraq War, and 2 years before he "ends" the Afghanistan war, President Obama discovers that the Long War against jihadis is still going on because they still hate us (and everyone else, it seems).

Tonight, the day before the 9/11 anniversary, the president will speak to the nation about what we will do do fight ISIL, which has erupted from Syria to take over large parts of Sunni Arab Iraq.

Is it too much to hope that the president will be bludgeoned by reality into recognizing we are at war--a Long War?

Or will the speech fall somewhere in the continuum ranging from "we will degrade them on the beaches" to "why do they hate us (and how can we stop doing what they hate)?"

Actually, my worst fear is not that this will be a "September 10th" speech that, as if it was the day before the September 11, 2001 attacks, fails to recognize we are at war with Islamist terrorism.

My biggest worry is that it will be a November 4th speech--mere words designed to bolster his party's Senate chances in the fall election, which will be followed by little long-term action to actually win the war he is re-declaring tonight.

I will watch the speech. Assuming I have power, given the gathering storm approaching Michigan today. Bigger storms are afoot, of course.

UPDATE: Wow. Already President Obama has made me grit my teeth. We will go back into Iraq because we failed to stay to defend our gains; and the president boasts that we will end the war in Afghanistan in two years. Somehow he doesn't see the connection between leaving too soon and risking defeat.

UPDATE: Reality grasping eludes our president, still. Assad was prevented from gassing his people by our efforts? We rallied the world to stop Putin in Ukraine? We are so screwed.

UPDATE: This was not a war speech. This was a time-limited, scope-limited military action speech.

UPDATE: This is the heart of the plan:

First, we will conduct a systematic campaign of airstrikes against these terrorists. Working with the Iraqi government, we will expand our efforts beyond protecting our own people and humanitarian missions, so that we’re hitting ISIL targets as Iraqi forces go on offense. Moreover, I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are. That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq. This is a core principle of my presidency: If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.

Second, we will increase our support to forces fighting these terrorists on the ground. In June, I deployed several hundred American servicemembers to Iraq to assess how we can best support Iraqi security forces. Now that those teams have completed their work –- and Iraq has formed a government –- we will send an additional 475 servicemembers to Iraq. As I have said before, these American forces will not have a combat mission –- we will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq. But they are needed to support Iraqi and Kurdish forces with training, intelligence and equipment. We’ll also support Iraq’s efforts to stand up National Guard Units to help Sunni communities secure their own freedom from ISIL’s control.

Across the border, in Syria, we have ramped up our military assistance to the Syrian opposition. Tonight, I call on Congress again to give us additional authorities and resources to train and equip these fighters. In the fight against ISIL, we cannot rely on an Assad regime that terrorizes its own people -- a regime that will never regain the legitimacy it has lost. Instead, we must strengthen the opposition as the best counterweight to extremists like ISIL, while pursuing the political solution necessary to solve Syria’s crisis once and for all.

Third, we will continue to draw on our substantial counterterrorism capabilities to prevent ISIL attacks. Working with our partners, we will redouble our efforts to cut off its funding; improve our intelligence; strengthen our defenses; counter its warped ideology; and stem the flow of foreign fighters into and out of the Middle East. And in two weeks, I will chair a meeting of the U.N. Security Council to further mobilize the international community around this effort.

Fourth, we will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to innocent civilians who have been displaced by this terrorist organization. This includes Sunni and Shia Muslims who are at grave risk, as well as tens of thousands of Christians and other religious minorities. We cannot allow these communities to be driven from their ancient homelands.

I cut out the parts that are either BS or things separate from the military campaign that one would do regardless of whether there is an active military campaign.

Of course, the goal the president sets makes the plan harder:

Our objective is clear: We will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy.

A counter-terrorism strategy relies on simply killing our way out of a problem without trying to secure the people and territory which the terrorists operate in.

Obviously, the Kurds and Iraqis want to reclaim the territory and people. This requires them to conduct a military campaign of movement to retake enemy-held ground and to focus on the Sunni Arabs to get them to switch sides (again) to reject the jihadis of ISIL and their Baathist friends.

So right off the bat, there is a disconnect between what we say we will do and what our allies on the ground want to do.

I suspect--since the president also spoke of arming local Sunni Arabs in both Syria and in Iraq, that framing our involvement as a counter-terrorism approach is pure politics designed to deny that we are fighting in Iraq the way we did from 2003 to mid-2009 when our combat role came to a formal end.

The president spoke of hitting ISIL in Syria as needed while hitting ISIL in Iraq on an expanded rate. I think this is good.

I know military experts have spoken of the need to hit ISIL everywhere hard, that otherwise sound advice doesn't apply to the current situation. ISIL is not a single problem.

ISIL is an Iraq problem and a Syria problem. Destroying ISIL in Iraq as soon as we can will allow Iraqi and Kurdish forces to reclaim ground.

By contrast, a rapid destruction of ISIL in Syria--even if it is possible without reliable friendly forces on the ground--means Assad's forces can reclaim ground. We shouldn't want that.

So my view is that the war should be sequential: win, build, win.

Defeat ISIL in Iraq while striking targets in Syria only to the extend that it helps win in Iraq; build up the Syrian non-jihadi opposition with real and sustained material and other help; and then defeat ISIL in Syria so that the non-jihadi rebels rather than Assad can exploit our air offensive in Syria.

I suspect the military plan that the president announced could fit with my notion. So as far as that goes, I think it is good.

While the last two stages could fill out those years the president says this will take, there is no reason that the defeat of ISIL in Iraq needs to take that long. If local ground forces to exploit air power can be organized and if Sunni Arabs can be re-Awakened to reject the jihadis (likely to be more easy in Anbar than in the north in the near term), ISIL's control could potentially collapse rapidly the way jihadi control collapses in Mali when the French struck in 2012 and the way Taliban control collapsed when we struck in 2001.

But by trying to disassociate our efforts (just counter-terrorism to kill jihadis--like in Yemen and Somalia!) with efforts to reclaim Iraqi land from ISIL and help non-jihadis rather than Assad take over Syria land, the president refrained from trying to really rally the American people for renewed war against the jihadis.

And he still fails to understand that this is a Long War for the soul of Islam. We've done much. Much more needs to be done:

We've made a good start. But we need to accomplish a lot. Stand fast, people. This is the Long War. Even if we get tired of fighting, our enemies do not tire of trying to kill us. We have no choice but to seek out the terrorists and kill them, destroy the regimes that refuse to halt their support of those terrorists, discredit and marginalize the ideology theat propels stone cold killers, and for God's sake, prevent insane regimes from going nuclear. No matter how tough the fight proves to be or how long it takes.

President Obama says that ISIL does not represent real Islam. But that's the question in debate, isn't it? ISIL (and other jihadis) consider themselves the Moslem wing of the Moslem Ummah. If the jihadis win, they will impose their version of Islam as the real form of Islam, won't they?

While we battle the actual jihadis, we need to help Moslems reject Islamist ideology and seek to give Moslems an alternative to living in Islamist states or autocratic states.

I know it is popular to dismiss the Arab Spring as a failure. But at least it was a realization by Arabs that they need a third alternative--democracy they hoped--to Islamism or autocracy. Islamists have taken advantage of the unrest and the autocrats are not willing to go quietly, but the third option was raised. In Tunisia, it may work.

Heck, in Iraq it is working at least partially despite our failure to support rule of law in Iraq after 2011, and Iraq could work even better if we succeed in our new Third Iraq War.

It's a REAL Coalition! It's a REAL Coalition!!

It doesn't matter how big or small President Obama's coalition against ISIL becomes. It is now a real coalition!

France's foreign minister said Wednesday his country is ready to take part in airstrikes against extremist fighters in Iraq if needed.

Laurent Fabius called for international mobilization against "this transnational danger that could reach all the way to our soil."

Oh my God! We finally passed that "global test!"

Gosh, the last time the French went on about a "transnational threat," they meant America under George W. Bush!

UPDATE: France is willing to strike targets in Iraq but not Syria:

France offered Wednesday to take part in airstrikes against extremist fighters in Iraq if needed, but insisted on a more careful tack for Syria.

It is interesting. France would not participate in destroying the Saddam regime. But now that Saddam is gone, France will participate to defend the new government.

So I guess the destruction of the Saddam regime was okay, after all, from the French point of view.

Paper Trail?

Because not all damning IRS evidence is digital?

President Obama hosted "a private dinner with a group of foreign policy experts," the White House announced last night. Among them: Sandy Berger, who was caught stealing and destroying classified documents that related to President Clinton's record on terrorism issues.

Advice on pants stuffing techniques might be important if all the IRS records on their scrutiny of conservative election groups aren't digital and vulnerable to loss, scrubbing, and physical destruction of drives and devices.

Putin Turns on the Charm

Putin committed a faux pas recently--he told the truth and said way too much in the process:

At a summer camp north of Moscow attended by youth vetted and groomed by Kremlin-sponsored organizations, Russian President Vladimir Putin was warmly welcomed when he visited recently, taking questions from campers, including one about Kazakhstan.

After complimenting longtime leader Nursultan Nazarbayev, Putin then insulted him, dismissing the history of Central Asia’s largest country.

“He created a state in a territory that had never had a state before,” Putin said during the Aug. 29 visit, according to a Kremlin transcript. "The Kazakhs never had any statehood. He created it.”

Ah yes, all your Slavs are belong to us!

The comment reached Kazakhstan:

The comment touched a major nerve in Kazakhstan, where Russian actions in Ukraine are being watched with fear and where ethnic Russians make up nearly one-quarter of the population.

Touched a major nerve, eh? You think?

Look, I have limited sympathy for the Kazakh government which has played footsy with Russia. If Russia wants to play in Kazakhstan's backyard, I say have at it.

Sorry to throw Kazakhstan under the bus, but I've got bigger things to worry about.

NATO is in America's Interest

I know NATO's European members largely do not spend enough to defend themselves and do not spend their money wisely enough to provide real military capabilities (instead of a vast uniformed jobs program--both for good weapons and few good troops to use them). But our participation in NATO isn't a charity case. NATO serves our interests.

Sure, it helps keep Russia out--well, less so recently, it seems.

And it is a power projection platform for operations in an arc of crisis from west Africa to Central Asia (and the Arctic now)--as even President Obama is discovering with the rise of ISIL/ISIS.

And it is a means to make sure that whatever real military capabilities NATO states have can operate with American forces.

But at the most basic, NATO helps keep Europe from becoming a hostile shore.

It is in our interest to keep Europe--a major center of industry, people, and technology--from falling into enemy hands. If a hostile power controls western Europe, we are potentially screwed.

We fought two wars to stop Germany from being that enemy power and one Cold War to stop the USSR from being that power.

Now we have to worry about Russian ambitions again.

There is also the worry that Europe could be Finlandized Mohammedized into being so wary of offending the Easily Offended that they cannot resist jihadis and refuse to work with us at all to fight them.

With so many Europeans joining the jihad in Syria, Europe could (again) become a sanctuary for terrorists to attack us--but even bigger--if European governments reduce their cooperation with us in the mistaken belief that if they cover up and don't make eye contact with the nutballs, that the nutballs will move on to hurting only America (and Israel).

And, as I've long written, we need to worry about the European Union being that potentially hostile power if it ever builds upon ever-expanding cheese regulations to become the real government of Europe, leaving national governments as mere executing bodies for EU power delegated to them.

NATO is our institution for keeping us in Europe and slowing the rise of the EU until Europeans come to their senses before it is too late; and to ward of Russian efforts to rebuild the empire.

NATO isn't charity on our part. This is a core American interest.