Thursday, July 27, 2017

Getting There First With the Most

This article discusses why Russia's looming Zapad 2017 military exercise with Belarus and in areas near the Baltic states.

It's all very interesting in a discussion of drones and tactics (and you know my opinion on "hybrid" warfare) and whatnot (yet don't neglect the maskirova aspect of the exercise, which Russia knows NATO will closely watch), but misses the point that the exercise is dangerous for just one basic reason.

The reason is that Russia is close to--and America and the majority of European powers are far from--the potential theater of war in Poland and the Baltic states.

And an exercise can shift into an actual invasion of NATO in the blink of an eye.

That's it.

Russia is weaker overall than NATO, but Russia can send in overwhelming force to grab territory in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania before NATO can react.

Part of this problem is that if Russia uses the large-scale military exercise to move significant numbers of troops into Belarus and just leaves them there in new permanent bases, the threats to Lithuania and Ukraine are expanded and a new threat to Poland is created.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Reaching Into the Memory Hole to Yank Out the Plan

I get sick of people saying that America had no post-war plan for Iraq and authors that start with that nonsense don't encourage me to stick around for the rest of their argument.

Oh?

Imagine if, in 2003, the United States had invaded Iraq without a realistic, implementable plan for governance after the fall of Baghdad and Saddam Hussein. ... In fact, no imagination at all is required for the cases of Iraq and Libya. Both operations were undertaken with no serious regard to what would follow. Both produced disaster.

There was no plan for Libya, but the idea that there was no plan for Iraq is nonsense.

Allow me to again quote the New York Times on this issue:

President Bush's national security team is assembling final plans for administering and democratizing Iraq after the expected ouster of Saddam Hussein. Those plans call for a heavy American military presence in the country for at least 18 months, military trials of only the most senior Iraqi leaders and quick takeover of the country's oil fields to pay for reconstruction.

The proposals, according to administration officials who have been developing them for several months, have been discussed informally with Mr. Bush in considerable detail. They would amount to the most ambitious American effort to administer a country since the occupations of Japan and Germany at the end of World War II. With Mr. Bush's return here this afternoon, his principal foreign policy advisers are expected to shape the final details in White House meetings and then formally present them to the president.

But as I noted:

Boy were there problems. Chiefly Syria, Iran, and al Qaeda, who made sure that there would be people shooting at us and our Iraqi allies after Saddam was defeated.

And we did beat those many threats that erupted, you must admit, even before the slaughter that peaked in the latter half of 2006 that prompted our surge offensive to exploit the Awakening that flipped the bulk of Iraq's Sunni Arabs. We won the war.

The main problem is that Syria and Iran essentially invaded Iraq and we let them get away with it without punishing them directly for waging war on Iraq and our forces. Yet still we won in 5 years. Which is actually pretty amazing.

As for disaster? The Obama administration boasted of the Iraq success as it pulled out, and Vice President Biden boasted that Iraq would be one of their great successes.

And the fact that Obama initiated Iraq War 2.0 to save what we had achieved puts his stamp of approval on what we achieved.

So I didn't bother to read the rest of the article. If the author has to genuflect to stupid conventional wisdom, I can't bother with him.

But by all means, let's remain in Iraq this time after the jihadis are beaten down and scattered.

And work to expel Iranian influence, too, of course. They are the biggest external threat, denying Iraq full access to the Arab world for support because Arab states fear Iraq will be an Iranian puppet.

Sadly that can be a self-fulfilling prophecy if Iraqis turn to Iran in desperation because fellow Arab (but largely Sunni) states freeze Iraq out. Our State Department can help there, I hope.

We have a big job ahead:

Yet radical Sunnis, separatist Kurds and meddling Iranians will remain a problem, along with corruption and unstable neighbors.

Work the problems.

Punch Back Twice as Hard

Explain to me again why we aren't doing everything we can to help Ukraine and Syrian rebels send Russian body bags back to Russia?

The Taliban have received improved weaponry in Afghanistan that appears to have been supplied by the Russian government, according to exclusive videos obtained by CNN, adding weight to accusations by Afghan and American officials that Moscow is arming their one-time foe in the war-torn country.

America may supply weapons to Ukraine. I've long said that Ukraine can handle the big stuff (with help updating them from our new NATO allies who have experience with this) but that Ukraine could use help filling the gaps. Ukraine would like Javelin anti-tank missiles for their infantry. Ukraine should get them.

Don't make it easy for Russia to commit aggression in Europe and prop up a bloody dictator.

Unsmart Russian Diplomacy

The first deployment of an American armored brigade combat team is a learning experience:

With a large portion of the first ABCT positioned in the middle of Romania, the U.S. Army has been able to show “that we can have a heavy brigade presence here,” Walters said. “This is the first time heavy brigades have been operating in Eastern Europe … on a continuous basis.”

And while amassing a large amount of firepower in a complex scenario will be the Super Bowl for the brigade, just getting to Romania and around Eastern Europe and Germany has been an invaluable experience for units within the brigade, soldiers in the field told Defense News on Thursday.

The U.S. Army faced one of its biggest challenges in January as it relearned to rapidly deploy large units and all of its resident equipment back to Europe through seaports and by road and rail.

As I say, it is good practice.

If the Russians hadn't started acting like complete jackwads, the Army never would have bothered to relearn this stuff.

Paranoid Russians might want to consider the possibility that if America really is out to get Russia, that putting Putin in charge of Russia fits into that ambition nicely.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

It's Good to Be the King

Yes, it benefits America to defend the global system we established after World War II.

This RAND study doesn't shock me:

On a crisp January day in 1949, President Harry Truman stood before an inauguration crowd still recovering from want and war and envisioned a “world fabric of international security and growing prosperity.”

That idea, that America has an economic interest in promoting a stable and secure world order, has helped guide nearly seven decades of U.S. foreign policy. But a growing debate over America's role in the world has called into question that basic assumption. Are America's international security commitments really worth the cost?

Researchers at RAND used decades of economic data and new numbers on U.S. troops and treaties to test that question. They found strong evidence that the economic value of those overseas commitments likely exceeds their costs by billions of dollars every year.

“We wanted to know, Is this a good investment for the United States?” said Daniel Egel, an economist at RAND and lead author of the study. “Are these overseas commitments really benefiting the U.S. economy?”

This doesn't even consider the losses we'd experience if America retrenched and a major war was the result of the security vacuums that would be created in a number of dangerous places.

If the methodology is appropriate, of course. But it seems self evident that the prosperity and great powers truce we have experienced since 1945 is reliant on the system we established after World War II and which we have defended ever since.

The problem is that people have grown so used to the system we built that they think its rules are intrinsic to the global system and so our prosperity doesn't rely on our defense of the system.

Break the Iran Deal Up for Parts and Start Over

Kill the Iran deal.

I've been willing to give the Trump administration the benefit of the doubt on whether it can enforce the Iran nuclear deal so strictly that the Iranians howl. So far I see no indication that we can do that.

And given that the up-front benefits to Iran have been squandered by Iran and their economy is still in rough shape even as Iran continues their reign of terror in the Middle East, I'd count those pallets of cash as an expensive lesson to America and start squeezing Iran again.

I'd rather junk the bad deal and start over working the problem without the delusion that we have s solution already.

Of all the reasons to keep the deal (from the American perspective), this is 100% non-persuasive:

Within the Trump administration, JCPOA supporters contend that rejecting the deal would harm the United States by calling into question our commitment to international agreements generally. There is ominous talk of America “not living up to its word.”

"America" did not give its word on this deal. Indeed, nobody did as the Obama administration admits!

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is not a treaty or an executive agreement, and is not a signed document.

President Obama gave his word. Or maybe not, really. The JCPOA is just a document that a bunch of people in the same room took home and filed away.

If America had given its word, the Senate would have ratified it as the Constitution provides for committing America to a deal with a foreign state.

We can break a wink and a nod with a rogue state with limitless zeal to harm our interests in the Middle East.

Are Carriers Obsolete?

RUSI argues carriers may be obsolete.

I agree. The United States Naval Institute bought an article of mine 20 years ago arguing that position in the light of network-centric warfare, but never published it.

Mind you, the "may" in the RUSI study may reflect the difference between the continued usefulness of carriers as a power projection platform versus their rapidly growing obsolescence as a sea control platform.

Say, isn't this a cool weapon we are developing?

Both the US and Australia have confirmed that they recently completed a series of mysterious hypersonic missile tests. ...

A hypersonic missile would fulfill the US military's goal of building a conventional weapon that can strike anywhere within an hour, and it would be virtually impossible to stop using existing missile defenses.

Is it still cool if our enemies get these missiles that can't be stopped? Is it cool that we have the biggest targets to shoot at?

Mass effects, not platforms, I say. The big carrier is the queen of platform-centric warfare that is rapidly fading.

China is welcome to build big carriers; and I'm sorry Russia won't even try because of the cost.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Hunger Games

North Korea's army is likely more eager to sign up for the all-you-can-eat buffet than invading South Korea:

Malnutrition is soaring in the North Korean military, and the parents of troops are stepping in to supply their children with food provisions, according to a Japanese press report.

I was not unserious when I wrote:

North Korea's army is in no condition to invade South Korea. Even if it managed to push into South Korea in the initial shock of invasion, the advance would probably fall apart at the first shopping mall the spearheads encountered, as the troops looted Heaven on Earth.

South Korea should probably subsidize massive numbers of Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants in the Uijongbu Corridor.

Heck, we might want to fatten up the "invaders" and send them back north. And that option is why I worry that North Korea might send their potentially dangerous army into South Korea for the purpose of being killed by South Korea and America--doing damage in the process--confident that nobody will want to invade and occupy the hollow husk of impoverished North Korea.

UPDATE: Now this is what I'm talking about!

A half-hour's drive north of Seoul, along a highway lined with barbed wire, lie two shopping malls the size of several football stadiums, a stone's throw from the world's most militarised border.

The malls are in the city of Paju, gateway to the U.N. truce village of Panmunjom, where military officers from the combatants of the 1950-53 Korean war discuss armistice matters - when the two sides are on speaking terms, which they aren't these days.

"Fairy tales come true in Paju", is the advertising lure from the Korean Tourism Board.

If the South Korean army completely collapses in the face of a North Korean ground invasion, the North Korean advance will grind to a halt as 13th-century poverty-stricken peasant soldiers of the North Korean army stumble into the ruins of a 21st century fairy tale stocked with consumer goods and Choco-pies that will still be more appealing than a new gray apartment building back home.

Ready to Rumble?

I get the impression that China is ready to to battle with India over the confrontation at the Doka La Pass which is now a war waiting a spark to set it off.

The Chinese seem eager to demonstrate resolve:

"Shaking a mountain is easy but shaking the People's Liberation Army is hard," ministry spokesman Wu Qian told a briefing, adding that its ability to defend China's territory and sovereignty had "constantly strengthened".

Early in June, according to the Chinese interpretation of events, Indian guards crossed into China's Donglang region and obstructed work on a road on the plateau.

Seven years ago I wrote that India had decided to redress the imbalance in their northeast.

My guess is that the work is far from done.

I guess this because India's defense bureaucracy is awful and because the Chinese seem awfully confident.

And consider that China has experienced several losses lately:

--Myanmar doesn't act like the proper tributary state it once was.

--Taiwan is buying arms from America and shows no sign of succumbing to China's charm offensive to accept voluntary reunification.

--Hong Kong residents continue to embarrass China by refusing to be happy to have Peking as the landlord.

--America has resumed true freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea to reject Chinese claims to control the region.

--The Philippines flirted but ultimately spurned Chinese diplomatic advances.

--And that after China lost an international court ruling on a dispute with Manila in the South China Sea.

--Japan is rearming to defend its islands (that China claims) in the East China Sea.

--South Korea put in place THAAD missile defenses.

--North Korea has thumbed its nose at China, showing China to be powerless to influence Kim Jong-Un.

And now India is giving China grief neat Tibet?

India may find that China giving in to India over this border issue is one setback too many for China's leaders to bear right now. Bad luck, that.

I don't expect full-scale war. But I would not be surprised if China gives Indian forces a bloody nose in the area and then pulls into a defensive posture in full control of the disputed border area and road.

Does India then attempt to escalate with more ground troops when I bet China has superior ability to reinforce the region and supply the forces?

Or does India attempt to strike back elsewhere on the border to get a bargaining chip?

Does India block Chinese ships traveling the Indian Ocean?

Does India focus on the Doka La area but attempt to use air power to hurt China's logistics capacity in the region?

What does China do if there is that kind of escalation? Try out their ship-killing ballistic missiles on Indian navy vessels in the Bay of Bengal?

By the way, India and China are nuclear-armed powers.

Have a super sparkly day.

UPDATE: From Strategypage:

China and India had signed an agreement in 2012 to respect the existing Bhutan border. But like most Chinese territorial claims revived recently incidents like this serve to make the Chinese government look like it is “serving the people” and are carried out at little cost in lives or money. So thousands of Chinese and Indian troops have been moved to this inhospitable part of the world because the Chinese government wants some good publicity inside China.

That's a dangerous way to get good publicity.

UPDATE: More here and here. You wouldn't think it is worth it to fight over that small piece of land. But it may happen yet because each side considers a Chinese advance the first small step to gain much more, and it could escalate.

India doesn't want to retreat and encourage the Chinese to take far more by setting this precedent.

China may want a victory somewhere. And even if they aren't that ambitious, at this point they may not want another setback. Which gets to the same point.

We may be at the point of "if you want war, let it start here and now."

Tweet Softly and Carry a Big Stick

If I thought Trump was going easy on Russia at America's expense, I'd be furious. But let's not go full-on Democratic Red Scare over Russia at the expense of other threats.

America is not exactly going easy on Russia under Trump notwithstanding the surprising anti-Russian rhetoric coming out of the Democratic Party that accuses Trump of going easy on the Russians.

Sure, in isolation I might be worried about this:

President Donald Trump's persistent overtures toward Russia are placing him increasingly at odds with his national security and foreign policy advisers, who have long urged a more cautious approach to dealing with the foreign adversary.

One, I find it tough to take from Democrats, of all people.

Two, our actions don't match the soft words. We are continuing to build up forces in eastern NATO; Trump continues to push NATO--whose basic purpose is to contain Russia--to spend more on defense; we have sold advanced air defense missiles to Poland and Romania; Trump, in Poland, explicitly endorsed NATO's common defense provision; and America is back on track to halt and reverse our military decline.

Do you really think the Russians are comforted by the Tweets when the actions are concrete?

I'm hoping it might push Russia to some sense. They are relatively weak overall and strong only when confronting the vacuum of NATO power in the east. And the Russians are no doubt cheering Democrats here:

The Russians are delighted that they have convinced some that they control Donald Trump. Not only does this breed instability in the United States, but it gives a sense of overwhelming, if covert, Russian power.

I don't always agree with Stratfor (I think Syria serves to extend Russia's buffer zone to the eastern Mediterranean Sea; and I don't see why the West has to go along with Russia's perceived need for buffers to the west), but they are a valuable source of analysis.

Perhaps when we help fill that void, Russia will stop threatening NATO because there might be consequences.

And then the soft words might have an effect on getting America and Russia to cooperate in ways that benefit America.

Remember, I've long been in favor of resisting Russian aggression. But let's not forget--the way Russia is forgetting--that the major growing threat is China in Asia. We should not overreact to Russia's threats at the expense of Asian defenses.

And there is the American role in the Islamic Civil War to minimize the collateral damage until the jihadis can be defeated, suppressed, and discredited.

Where Do They Sail and Fight?

China's second carrier is afloat. So what does China intend for these carriers?

As things now stand, the Liaoning and the new carrier can launch strikes with their J-15s operating at less than maximum range and with less than maximum payloads. They can accommodate antisubmarine helicopters. Their defensive capacity is limited by the lack of fixed-wing early warning aircraft, though in time they presumably will operate Ka-31s or their equivalents. They certainly will impress the smaller countries around the South China Sea. In a game of appearances, the presence of two or three impressive-looking Chinese carriers ought to carry considerable weight. It remains to be seen whether China’s neighbors (especially Vietnam) consider their submarine forces and land-based aircraft adequate counters.

Probably the most important role of the Liaoning and her new sister is that they will provide the Chinese Navy with experience operating carriers and air wings. A lesson of previous carrier navies is that without experience aircraft carriers can impress unsophisticated neighbors but will not provide combat power. With experience, the Chinese Navy can make good on its claim that its role is to protect Chinese vital interests abroad, beyond the first island chain to the east and to the Middle East.

In light of the distinction between power projection and sea control, the question of what the Chinese intend for the limited-capability carriers is important.

They are clearly outclassed by America's carriers and their well-trained crews. They seem unlikely to be the decisive factor in defeating the United States Navy to control the seas. They seem unlikely to be decisive for defeating the Japanese navy, for that matter.

And these carriers face their own anti-access/aerial denial threat approaching the Philippines, Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea that our carriers face approaching China--missiles and planes from land bases.

In theory the carriers could provide fleet air defense. But again, they are inferior for that purpose and Chinese ships would be better served relying on land-based combat air patrol.

I will say that if supported by submarines and land-based Chinese anti-ship ballistic missiles, the Chinese carriers could have a shot at challenging India's fleet if the Chinese avoid Indian land-based aircraft as much as possible.

Yet even if successful, unless Indonesia cooperates, China still can't exploit the victory to control the sea lines of communication back to China. So nice effort and all that, but what of it?

So sea control seems generally pointless as a carrier mission. China's better option is their missile-armed surface ships and submarines plus land-based anti-ship assets.

Then there is power projection. The small carriers could play a decisive role in taking small islands in the South China Sea from smaller neighbors with competing claims. As long as America doesn't intervene.

The carriers could play a role in anti-piracy patrols off of Somalia. China just sent its first troops to their new base in Djibouti.

And in general, they would be useful in show-the-flag missions up and down the west side of the Indian Ocean from South Africa to the Arabian peninsula. They would be powerful in any dispute with an African coastal state.

The carrier and its task force could also sail up the Red Sea and beyond into the Mediterranean Sea to show Chinese power at the end of their New Silk Road.

And a carrier would be useful in all of these areas to help evacuate Chinese citizens in case of a local crisis. China would probably be happy to have more options than they had in Libya in 2011 when their citizens had to get out of Dodge in a hurry.

So the new limited capacity Chinese carriers have little role in sea control, a minor but real role in power projection, and a major role in diplomacy and crisis management.

Of course, I can't ignore the possibility that the purpose of these Chinese carriers--which will be second line once China starts to build carriers with catapults and more capable air wings--is to distract the United States Navy with a chance to relive the glory years of smashing Japanese World War II carriers while the Chinese conquer Taiwan.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Iran Survey

Strategypage has a good piece surveying all things Iran.

Let me pick out some bits that I found particularly interesting.

Iran at least hasn't been able to really exploit the Iran deal to fix their economy yet.

Rebuilding the Persian empire isn't a high priority for most Iranians.

Despite Iran's hatred of Israel, all Iran is doing is pushing Israel and Arab states closer to resist Iran.

Hezbollah, which has 8,000 fighters in Syria, has suffered 2,000 KIA and 6,000 WIA as the spearhead of Assad's offensives. Iran continues to fight "Israel" to the last Arab.

Assad has turned over an air base in central Syria to Iran, which wants 5,000 Shia mercenaries to staff and protect it as a new Hezbollah in Syria.

Including Hezbollah, Iran has 24,000 mercenaries fighting in Syria, mostly from Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

Assad has 200,000 troops, mostly suitable only for garrison duty. I assume this includes Syrian militias.

Iran is abiding by the nuclear deal to end their nuclear programs, they say. I don't think the narrow issue of abiding by the nuclear agreement is true. And the deal is so bad that even rigorous and successful enforcement of the deal terms won't stop Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons in facilities off limits to the provisions of the deal.

Saudi Arabia has lost their dispute with Qatar. (I still think Qatar will be moved somewhat off the fence toward the Gulf Arabs and America).

One of Iran's S-300 batteries is missing. So where is it?

Many Iraqis--even in the militias--are wary of Iran.

Iranian Kurds seem to be back in the armed resistance stage.

When Iran fired 6 ballistic missiles at ISIL in Syria in retaliation for terror attacks inside Iran, 4 of the missiles missed Syria and struck Iraqi territory according to the Israelis who pay close attention to these things.

There is more. That stuck out.

Basically, Iran under the mullahs is no friend and I don't think they can be.

University Echelon Above Reality

America is the leader of the West. Period.

I laughed when I read this:

Europe faces messier world as it takes its fate into own hands[.]

Oh please. I see Australian academics can live in fantasy world as easily as American academics.

The idea that Europe is stepping into a void left by Trump is ludicrous. And basing it on the then-failure of Trump to explicitly endorse NATO's common defense position is just dumb. As I've said, America is in NATO--not Trump. The Article V provision is binding on America which ratified the treaty under our Constitution. It does not depend on the whim of one man. I guess some got used to pen-and-phone rules under Obama.

Also, Article V isn't as iron-clad as this criticism would lead you to believe. It just requires a formal response and not full mobilization and sending in every swinging dick (or flapping ...) you have in uniform to the front. After Europe's World War I experience, no European state was going to commit to automatic responses to a threat.

More basically, Europe doesn't have the military capability to take its fate into their own hands. Their spending on defense is low--although rising in response to Russia. And they get little for what they do spend because most of their militaries are composed of civil servants in uniforms. Pockets of excellence demonstrate they have the potential. But the siren song of the welfare state will keep Europe from having a serious military required to back a serious independent policy.

And that assumes that "Europe" can act with one voice as a political Europe under to proto-imperial order of the European Union.

It also assumes that Europe would collectively decide to act more decisively than the America of their imaginary fears of America's retreat. Are we going to pretend that Europe has been uniformly solid in resisting Russian aggression against Ukraine and Putin's general aggressiveness? Seriously?

And Merkel (who I don't dismiss given the alternatives to her imperfect governance) is simply bashing Trump for domestic political purposes.Who seriously expects militarily weak Germany to provide leadership? Merkel is leading her reelection campaign.

Europe can't take their fate into its own hands. Won't spend what it needs to do that. Hopefully won't be politically unified to try to do that. And will need America to avoid being a victim of foreign powers.

And for the nervous types who think American treaty obligations are only good if it gets repeated endorsement by every president, President Trump actually did that since the article was written.

So never mind, I guess.

America still leads the West. In Asia and Europe. For those this year who fret America won't lead, put your defense money where your complaining mouths are and follow, eh?

The Russia Slider?

So the newly proclaimed "Malorussia" (Little Russia) has the same tyranny, dysfunction, and poverty as the big Russia, only smaller?

“We, the representatives of the former regions of Ukraine, with the exception of Crimea, declare the establishment of the new state, which is the successor of Ukraine,” [the leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), Alexander Zakharchenko] said in a statement on the rebel-aligned Donetsk News Agency. “Ukraine has proved to be a failed state and demonstrated a failure to provide its citizens a peaceful and prosperous present and future.”

The Russians deny an collusion with this announcement:

The proposal for Malorossiya was nothing more than a “personal initiative” of the rebel leaders, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Russians might wince at that proclamation given that failing to provide citizens a peaceful and prosperous present and future hits a little too close to Moscow for comfort, don't you think?

With those standards, if the West can push Ukraine to suppress corruption, Ukraine could have a claim on Russia if Russia looks more like a failed state, eh?

I'd like to think the CIA had a hand in crafting that statement from the Russian handpuppets. I wonder if a Russian assassination team makes him pay for going off-script?

In related Russian expansionist projects:

Russia has been slowly taking land from neighboring Georgia for years, and Moscow appears to have done it again in early July, moving its borders about 2,300 feet into the former satellite state, according to Yahoo News UK.

On July 3, Russia troops simply picked up a border sign and moved it farther into Georgian territory, Yahoo reported.

Georgia's security agency said the land grab was "illegal," according to The Independent.

I've noted this Russian aggression before.

Perhaps the West can belatedly use the continued land grabs to sanction Russia further and make up for looking the other way in 2008.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Weekend Data Dump

Ukraine's trade deal with the European Union begins in September. I think little of the EU, especially its likely evolution into an imperial state if left unchecked. But right now it is part of the West and is far superior to Russia. So this is progress in making Ukraine a Western state. And the EU is right: corruption holds back Ukraine. Both economically and militarily. Which should make rule of law a higher priority given that Russia occupies Ukrainian territory and continues to wage war on Ukraine.

Law enforcement is a core function of government. And government is screwing up forensic science that is the basis of convictions. Maybe if government didn't expand into so many areas to show how much it "cares," it wouldn't screw up basic functions. Also. The government said it was science. But it wasn't. And guilty people went free while innocent people went to jail. Heck of a job!

Collusion with Russia. Tip to Instapundit.

At a time when many conservatives continue to turn against the Iraq War, I shall restate that America was right to fight and win the war.  Victory was an opportunity we squandered. President Obama validated the war by initiating Iraq War 2.0 to defend what Bush achieved. May Trump stay to defend what Bush--and ultimately though belatedly Obama--achieved. We still have a great interest in a prosperous democratic Iraq that provides an alternative to autocracy or Islamism for governance in the Moslem Arab world.

Haiti's government wants an army. Haiti does not need an army. Anyone dumb enough to want to invade is too dumb to succeed in holding Haiti. Seriously, add to the national police if Haiti authorities want to patrol the border and help with natural disasters. Heck, most armies are nothing more than police capable only of defeating poorly armed civilians anyway. Why pretend?

When even Snopes is willing to defend the president against outrageous charges ... (while noting many are true, of course).

Yet another case where the well-meaning cure was worse than the disease. On the bright side, proponents can congratulate themselves for being such wise supporters of "good government."

I am sick of the media's jihad on President Trump based on standards they never enforced on Democrats via their newfound hatred of Russia. Or did I miss the collusionpalooza about Obama's "flexibiliy" in exchange for Russian "space" offer conveyed to Putin through Medvedev? I am also sick of Trump feeding them ammunition. Not that feeding my preexisting disdain for Trump personally will get me to switch support to the Democrats who are the only alternative and who have zero credibility to govern given their decent into left-wing insanity and street violence. I'm not sure what this situation pushes me to, but supporting Democrats isn't going to be it. Perhaps there is hope if the media gets tired of their personal struggle for self improvement. Actually, I might be pushed to just not watching television news. I'm tired of the attacks with little substance and I'm tired of the exasperated defenses. It's exhausting. My life isn't following this circus orchestrated by the media. Although it might not officially be coordinated as it was in the past as much as it is just the herd instinctively running the same way--off a cliff if my exhaustion is not unique. LATER: Since I wrote this, I've cut the cord. I turn on the news in the morning for any overnight breaking news and then news at 6:00. Other than that, silence or music. Rot in ratings Hell for all I care.

If the ability to see problems in anything isn't a super power, I don't know what is. Woke-Man? Wonder Woken? To Hell with those people. Why does anybody pay any attention at all to them? Tip to Instapundit.

This is what it is like to live under a 1984 regime that seeks out and punishes thought crime and bad thoughts. And these idiots voluntarily live in this environment! Worse, they want all of us to live under an actual government (that they run) with those powers. To Hell with them.

Democrats who hate Trump are looking forward to the 2018 and 2020 elections. Why? They loudly and constantly shriek that Trump is a fascist who is imposing a dictatorship on America. Under the circumstances, why do Democrats believe there will be honest elections? Or any elections at all? And I'm the one lacking nuance?

Yes, China's new base in Djibouti changes things, symbolizing a China that wants to extend its influence beyond the range of shore-based aircraft. But you have to be able to hold the base. America had bases in the Philippines and Britain had bases in Hong Kong and Singapore. But neither country could hold them in the face of Japanese power in war time. Don't panic. Work the problem.

I don't care why she went away. I'm just happy she went away. No loss to the university, I say.

I still don't see any issue with all the Russia stuff. But with so many Republican pundits saying there could be something, I remain unsure despite not seeing what the problem is with listening to someone as any campaign would do when given an opportunity for dirt on their opponent. That's a sad but real fact of life in politics. Funny enough, the Republican pundits in their new angle haven't persuaded Republican voters that there might be something to the Russia stuff. Which is kind of funny when you remember that Democrats claim that Russian "fake news" persuaded enough Democrats to vote for Trump in 2016 to swing the election to him.

Me thinks the man has been partaking of the medical marijuana too much.Tip to Instapundit.

Iran is not following the Iran nuclear deal--and this is just what we can see. Why pretend they are following it by certifying them as compliant? Doesn't that just set the standard that sort of following the agreement is fine? Doesn't certifying Iran as compliant when they are not just encourage them to see what other line they can cross? Of course, if we just plan to hit Iran hard then the look of surprise on the mullahs' faces will be all the more special.

About that Constitution-flouting president. That's okay, a pen and phone are much better protection for our liberties.

I think I'd pay good money if navies would establish a surface ship classification largely based on displacement (carriers and amphibs are different, of course) rather than seemingly randomly defining ships. Frigate, indeed.

Actual collusion between Americans and Russians.

And collusion between an American administration and the Chinese. The media yawned.

So does the threat of being called a stooge of Trump's pro-Russian so-called collusion push people to be overly focused on calling Russia our primary enemy? Perhaps. But you won't notice that here. I think I've been pretty balanced in assessing the threats.

What is "feminist geography?" That's easy! It means Florida can use whatever bathroom it wants.

So Democrats are getting the vapors over the thought of Senator Kid Rock? I have sympathy, of course. But the Democrats have former SNL star Senator Al Franken, so they're up by one with clowns in the Senate, you must admit.

The Russia connection hysteria wouldn't even be possible if Hillary Clinton hadn't had a private server outside of government control while Secretary of State and then deleted 30,000 emails she claimed were personal in nature rather than let the State Department make the decision of what was an official document and what was a yoga scheduling email. Who wouldn't have wanted that information if they thought it was out there, "unbleached?" And remember, President Obama knew that Hillary was using an unofficial email server that bypassed government security systems and procedures but did nothing. So President Obama did nothing to stop Russian cyber interference and did nothing to stop our secretary of state from being vulnerable to Russian hacking. That's not collusion, but it is a whole lot of incompetence that is good enough for Russian government work.

It's nice to see Afghan forces with the initiative around Lashkar Gah.

Mercenaries are perfectly valid to supplement our armed forces but not a substitute. 

It annoys and offends me when people say the Republican Congress must prove it can "govern." No! Legislative bodies legislate. They write the legislation that becomes statutes which guides the executive branch in executing the laws as written, or governing--like governors at the state level, for example. Legislative bodies do not govern. We don't want executive branches legislating, after all. Why talk of legislators as the executive branch?

I still don't understand why it was collusion for Trump's people to listen to the Russians who might have evidence of Clinton crimes or collusion. Which actually existed, you must admit, even if we don't have those 30,000 Hillary emails from her time as secretary of state scrubbed from her personal server rather than turned over to the State Department for review.

A nice overview of Russia's enemy-producing foreign policy. Short version: Russia is corrupt and broke, too weak to compel Ukraine to submit, scaring even Finland and Sweden to work with a strengthening NATO to resist Russia, losing ground to China in former Central Asian Soviet republics, and too weak to stand up to China short of nuking them. Oh, and their sub-based nuclear arsenal is having problems, too. If the Russians keep up their brilliant diplomacy, Belarus will petition for NATO membership within a decade.

After a relentless media frontal assault on Trump 24/7, Trump is still more popular than Hillary Clinton. Is there nothing America can do to compel that awful politician to just go away? Tip to Instapundit.

Oh, this isn't "useless." How do you put a value on demonstrating your moral superiority over the rest of us? Tip to Instapundit.

Huzzah! The end of the (relevant) world predicted at the latest for 2018 has been cancelled! Reset your doomsday plans for 2168. Which is smart because by then the scientist making the prediction will be long dead unlike today when he has to face the error of his earlier prediction.

The Trump administration may sanction Venezuela if that moron Maduro goes ahead with dictatorial plans that keep the socialist Hell hole in place. As Colombia emerges from long insurrection to prosper, Venezuela prepares to descend into chaos and violence. I remain concerned that Maduro will target the Netherlands in a desperate attempt to rally his people around his failing regime. The Dutch should check their ammo.

Britain is gathering the crumbs into a full loaf of bread, with the Joint Expeditionary Force of Baltic state nations that now includes Sweden and Finland. I noted this development.

Apparently Iran needs more pallets of cash given that it is essentially kidnapping Americans again.

Senator Schumer calls on Republicans to work with Democrats to pass a health fill that "lowers premiums, provides long-term stability to the markets and improves our health care system." Wait. What? Obamacare didn't do that already? And here I thought they cared. Failure to repeal Obamacare doesn't mean Obamacare continues. It just means it collapses without a replacement.

George Friedman's (of Stratfor) view on Trump six months into his presidency and why he has difficulty pushing his agenda.  For those who think the Trump dictatorship is charging onward and upward, this may be hard to digest.

I'd like to think that draconian executions for minor offenses is a sign that North Korea is unstable enough to implode. Do strong rulers really execute people for watching the wrong TV shows? If the reports are reliable, of course. Are we lucky enough to escape the choice of attacking North Korea or accepting them as a nuclear state (with Iran a customer)?

So many female Western politicians and wives of male politicians cover up when visiting Moslem countries to be "sensitive." But Moslem women are pointing to the First Lady and daughter visiting Saudi Arabia as Western women uncovered to defend Saudi women being picked on by religious police over dress. Discuss.

The Left is nuts and intrinsically pushed to even more nuttery.  I will always cherish a CNN report about an anti-meat protest some years ago. You could see the young woman who claimed "meat is murder" to the camera subsequently struggling to control her inner nut yet finally blurted out "milk is murder!" CNN subsequently edited that out for future airings.

American, NATO, and other European forces are exercising in eastern Europe. Putin will soon have "3,000 Russian troops and 800 tank" in Belarus for Zapad 17 exercises. The figures are confusing. Just crews for 800 Russian tanks would be 2,400 men; and consider that 800 tanks is darned close to our entire inventory of tanks in all of our active Army brigades. If Russia is putting 800 tanks into Belarus, a whole lot more troops than 3,000 will be involved and it is disturbing that Russia is claiming such a small troop number. Something on the order of 70,000 is more likely. It isn't the exercise that is the problem. The problem is that invasion preparations could be made under the cover of exercises done on a large scale. Let me just note that the CBS article goes out of the way to highlight Trump's campaign questioning of NATO without also noting that Trump sold advanced Patriot missiles to Poland while in that country to give a speech in defense of the West. Why imply American commitment is less than solid?

Why does San Francisco hate women so much?

History is hard: Leftists oddly think slavery was uniquely American (and neglect how many Union soldiers died to end it) rather than a widespread crime.

I hope the movie Dunkirk prompts the British to relearn the lesson of getting off the continent to save themselves as Brexit talks bog down.

"Americans are feeling better about their own lives than they have in over a decade." So not since the Bush administration, they're saying? Huh. I'm not sure why this is shocking. Since Trump was elected, half the population is happy to have a government more willing to leave them the eff alone; and the other half can safely pretend they are resisting a dictatorship (safe because the government aims to leave them alone), thus fluffing their egos.

Iran is again mucking around in Kuwait.

I assume colluding with a communist military threat to undermine the American government's policy is okay in this case.

The Charge of the Fright Brigade. Why have Filipino jihadis decided to fight to the death in Marawi?  Have the jihadis experienced Mosul Envy and decided to get the glory of dying for the caliphate?

Senator John McCain has brain cancer. He says he will be back soon. I hope so and wish him well. But this situation highlights my refrain that the Republicans need a sense of urgency about passing legislation given their narrow edge in the Senate that could evaporate at any moment. Does anybody remember the Scott Brown special election that threw Democratic plans into chaos?

Hezbollah, which has lost 2,000 KIA and 6,000 WIA in service to Assad under Iran's orders, is still spearheading Assad's offensives in the core of western Syria.

Here's the Mad Scientist tag at Small Wars Journal, which includes the top 8 entries in the science fiction contest. My entry didn't make the cut. I think it might still be published online but I'm not sure if that will happen, or when it will happen if it does happen.

While I remain ecstatic that Trump continues not to be Hillary Clinton, and though good things continue to be done that wouldn't have been done under Clinton, Trump has yet to make me like or respect him. Extremist attackers and defenders of Trump are really just off-putting. So cutting the cord of the media continues to be refreshing. I don't rule out that Trump could be more than just non-Hillary by the end of this term. I worry the unhinged resistance could be more than slightly violent.

Damned If We Do

One of the problems with liberating a Moslem-majority country from a thug autocratic ruler is that Saudi money and influence enters the vacuum to bolster the worst sort of Islam. Kosovo was an early alarm bell for this problem.

Anything we can do to leverage opposing Iran in a Saudi-led coalition should be done to pressure the Saudis into cutting off that money and ideology flow.

Of course, the other problem is that failure to overthrow a thug ruler in a Moslem-majority country is that the corrupt and harsh autocratic  rule encourages support for Islamists who promise that "pure" Islam can restore the country's greatness.

So anything we can do to keep the price of oil low should be done to reduce the amount of money available to send to Islamists.

And trying to strengthen the yearnings of Arabs who rose up in the desire for democracy--as poorly as they understood it--as an alternative to autocracy or Islamism as means to govern their countries should be a priority if we want to end the threat of the jihad.

Islam has a problem. A problem that mostly inflicts death and misery on Moslems.

But the West is suffering collateral damage from this struggle over whether the problem is crushed or becomes the norm in Islam.

China's Most Core Interest

China has made it clear that it wants Taiwan absorbed into the mainland's totalitarian government, snuffing out freedom (oh, does Taiwan think they are special?):

Beijing has ramped up diplomatic, economic and military pressure on Taipei to accept its “One China” point of view and it is driving the United States to better define what that means in Washington, experts on cross-straits relations said Thursday.

Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington, D.C., think tank, Zhao Suisheng, a professor at the University of Denver, said in answer to a question that while peaceful unification still is official policy and mainstream thinking among the Chinese leadership and public, President Xi Jinping has in several recent speeches signaled that he wanted to see the matter resolved between 2021 and 2049, marking the centennials of the founding of the Communist Party and its successful revolution[.]

The issue “has brought two strong leaders [Xi and Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen] to stalemate.”

China insists on progress toward absorption. Stalemate is unacceptable.

Taiwan needs to arm up because they can hardly expect other people to care more about Taiwan's democracy and independence more than the Taiwanese do.

Although countries who could be next on the list as the most core interest of China like India, Japan, and Russia have a lot of incentive to help Taiwan resist the Chinese.

Taiwan needs to remember that China's charm offensive was just an effort to get Taiwan to submit without the expensive use of force and risk of escalation. When China accepts this smiling charm offensive has failed, the bared teeth remain.

The war option remains because the Chinese marines aren't the main tool for taking Taiwan, and don't let people fool you that invasion isn't possible.

Friday, July 21, 2017

The French Connection

This article urges President Trump to push France to back efforts in Syria and Iran to fight terrorism.

While I welcome French diplomatic support on those fronts, I've long felt that France, building on their former colonial role in much of the region and on their Mali expedition, should take the lead in fighting jihadis in Libya and points to the west and southwest.

America, with our other allies, has the military power to handle Syria and Iran without the relatively small increment that France could add.

I'd rather have France take the lead to prevent northwest Africa from becoming a problem that requires our serious intervention.

France and Europe would benefit from a calmer and more prosperous Africa that doesn't send jihadis and mass numbers of migrants poorly equipped to assimilate into Europe.

Given that Macron has abandoned the goal of removing Assad from power in Syria, I'd rather have the French involved where we can more closely align our interests.

Macron should open the French front in Africa. For the glory of France, of course.

Science On the Rocks

Global warmers: Huge iceberg calves off of Antarctica! Surely it is the work of global warming!! Except:

In 1956 an iceberg broke off from Antarctica which was 200 miles long and sixty miles wide. It was the size of “Massachusetts and Connecticut combined”.

That’s six times the size of the one which broke off from the Larsen-C ice shelf in Antarctica this week.

Another iceberg broke off in 1927 which was four times the size of this week’s iceberg.

No one is disputing, then, that a big chunk of ice broke off Antarctica this week.

But it wasn’t unprecedentedly large and it wasn’t anything to do with climate change.

Even global warming science only says mankind began influencing the climate in the 1950s. So this is kind of a normal thing.

Never mind.

Getting Old Before They Get Rich

An aging population will slow China's rapid growth rate:

As China’s labor force becomes smaller and older, the country’s potential economic growth rate will decline. The IMF’s research into population aging finds that a larger share of older workers in the labor force means lower productivity, but also lower labor force participation, which will ultimately reduce China’s potential economic growth rate by between 0.5 percent and 0.75 percent per year between 2020 and 2050.

This is one factor of many that explains why forecasters like the OECD are expecting China’s growth to slow from 6.6 percent on average between 2011 and 2030 to 2.3 percent per year between 2030 and 2060.

The costs of taking care of an aging population will hit at the other side of the ledger.

Dealing with China's basic problems without an advanced economy will be a problem.

Which is why I haven't panicked about China's (for now) rise.