Monday, September 01, 2014

Then What Was the Bloody Point?

The president and his minions have been wont to say that bad actors on the world stage are swimming against the tide of history and that the 21st century has no place for them or their aggressive measures.

Indeed, the President himself recently said that the chaos we see around the world is nothing much new:

If the world seems troubled by all manner of calamities these days, President Obama does not want Americans to worry too much. After all, he said Friday, “The world has always been messy”; it is just more apparent because of social media. And, he added, today’s geopolitical threats are far less perilous than those of the Cold War.

On the last part, we'll see what Russia keeps doing and what China has in mind before we judge that.

As for the calamities that we see, now the president is telling us that this is just the way it is and that history will take care of the problems without our active efforts to bend events?

If so, then what was the bloody point of electing President Obama??!! Wasn't he the "change" we've been waiting for?

Now he's just the guy who watches what would happen anyway?

That view at least excuses all his golf, I suppose.

But no, I don't even need to remember 2008. We have the Internet. Barack Obama's message, as his giggly fanboys (and girls) insisted, was that President Obama was needed because Bush had caused all our problems:

This is the man who gave us the war in Iraq and Guantánamo and torture and rendition; who turned the Clinton economy and the budget surplus into fool’s gold; who dithered while New Orleans drowned; who trampled our civil liberties at home and ruined our reputation abroad; who let Dick Cheney run hog wild and thought Brownie was doing a heckuva job. [emphasis added]

The always-wrong Herbert even started of by painting a picture of Bush's failures that he was failing to address:

We’re still at war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Israel is thrashing the Palestinians in Gaza. And the U.S. economy is about as vibrant as the 0-16 Detroit Lions.

Today is way different after 6 years of President Obama. The Lions are doing better, thank you very much--but perhaps the faltering anemic economic recovery is still comparable.

Guantanamo Bay is still open; we have a "kill list" for terrorists (no more holding them prisoner!); who dithered while New Orleans drowned? (Democratic mayor and governor, anyone? At worse for Bush, it was shared failure); you want to talk civil liberties, do you? NSA? IRS?; Bush's budget deficits look pretty good now; and heckuva job, Biden!

I thought that the election of world-embracing, Islam-friendly, Barack Hussein Obama would restore our reputation abroad and lead us to a new age of diplomacy and global peace as the world came to understand that Obama--and not Bush--was at the helm.

But no, six years later, President Obama informs us that He isn't about to make the waters recede, after all. Nobody could really. That's just the way the world is.

So what was so darned important about electing him to office? Was the Bush-era rate of adding to our national debt really insufficient?

I'm Confused

I know I'm new to this whole nuance thing. And smart diplomacy eludes my grasp. In my defense, I seem to be immune to the soothing balms of hope and change. But perhaps it's just me.

When President Obama came into office, promising to be the anti-Bush, with a personal history of eating dog as a child in Indonesia and the middle name "Hussein" indicating a special ability relate to the Islamic world, President Obama gave his famous Cairo outreach speech to the Islamic world to highlight a bold new chapter in closer Western-Islamic World relations.

It's puzzling enough that the jihad has grown tremendously since 2009 after losing its allure to young Moslem men by seeing jihadis slaughter Moslems in Iraq and seeing American troops slaughtering jihadis in turn.

But why are so many from the West joining the jihad in Syria?

As many as 12,000 foreigners have gone to Syria to fight the government of Bashar Assad. Many have joined extremist groups, including the al-Nusra front, an al-Qaida affiliate, and the Islamic State group, which now controls a territory straddling Syria and Iraq.

I don't remember reading about many from the West flocking to Iraq during the Bush administration to fight for the jihad. But they sure are eager now:

The cause of all this angst is European nations facing a growing problem with young Moslem men being recruited by radical Islamic clergy to go fight alongside (and often against) the Syrian rebels. European intelligence officials believe over 3,000 European Moslems (including at least 500 from Britain) have gone to Syria so far and about ten percent have been killed. More than ten percent have returned and these jihad veterans often seek out new recruits. These jihadis are very effective at attracting new volunteers, although so far only about 10 per 100,000 Moslems have been persuaded to go. As small as that portion is, a far larger percentage (over ten percent) of European Moslems will admit to admiring the goals and methods of Islamic terrorists. Most of those who did go to Syria are now more radicalized than when they left and police fear they may contribute to more Islamic terrorism in Europe.

Has the president's "responsibly ending" our war in Iraq been viewed as a retreat?

Could it be that President Obama's "outreach" was viewed by Islamist-friendly Moslems as a sign of weakness?

When Bush 43 was viewed as a Crusader (with all the misinterpretations of Christian Europe trying to liberate lands lost to Moslem invaders notwithstanding), perhaps joining the jihad didn't seem like the best way to reach your 30th birthday.

But with America viewed as checked out of the war on terror except for drone strikes in distant Afghanistan and Pakistan, heading to jihad seems safer and more likely to be a success.

Somebody is confused. It might not be me.

Hearts and Minds?

This is wrong. The man's children got to witness this police abuse, for God's sake.

Often it seems, racism is invoked to explain away personal failure. If Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson show up, I assume it is a shakedown operation, I admit.

But it is hard to explain this incident--assuming the article and video explain the key parts accurately--away as anything but racial profiling when the man is coming from his job to pick up his children from school--unless you want to argue that police are overly aggressive with everyone.

We need police. I respect police. I assume most aren't like this. But I respect police who protect and serve, and not those that clear and hold in our own neighborhoods.

Keeping His Head in the Sand Trap

I know it's a Labor Day speech, but when the world is in free fall--even if Twitter makes us more aware of normal world "messiness" more than it makes us aware of naked celebrity photographs and YouTube kitten videos--couldn't a--oh, I don't know--Secretary of Labor--get the duty to make the case for a higher federal minimum wage?

Putin is issuing nuclear threats over Ukraine, China is pushing its neighbors around, Iran is going nuclear, Syria is slaughtering itself, Libya is in chaos, and Iraq is under siege by ISIL--formerly known as al Qaeda in Iraq--where our planes are in action again after several years.

But rather than take the time at the start of National Preparedness Month to at least discuss terror threats, President Obama is focused on the minimum wage:

President Obama on Monday will tout the progress made since the economic collapse during Labor Day remarks in Milwaukee.

A White House official said Obama will also honor working Americans and will reaffirm his commitment to ensure more Americans can realize their dreams.

During remarks at Milwaukee’s Laborfest celebration, Obama will again call on Congress to raise the minimum wage, the official said.

In the spirit of recent tradition of stage prop management, President Obama will have those working Americans on stage with him--both of them.

You have to admit, we knew this was coming. In the 2008 presidential campaign, even the financial collapse couldn't sway candidate Obama from his campaign schedule.

Whether or not you think McCain's suspension of campaigning to address the issue was right or wrong, McCain was at least willing to react to events as they broke.

President Obama won't interrupt a speech, fundraising event, or golf game in order to address a foreign crisis. No drama Obama? More like he just doesn't recognize drama when it hits us.

Senator Clinton asked in the 2008 primary who could be trusted to answer the 3:00 a.m. phone call. Now we know it goes automatically to voice mail. Press 2 to continue in French.

And someone will get back to you. After 18 holes.

It Could Be Worse

Does the British left hate England?

It’s often been observed that a certain type of British Lefty hates Britain – and that they reserve particularly hatred for Englishness. Back in 1941 George Orwell made this acute remark:

England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality. In left-wing circles it is always felt that there is something slightly disgraceful in being an Englishman and that it is a duty to snigger at every English institution.

So what’s new? The difference today is that this shame and self-hatred now dominates Left-wing thought, whereas it was once balanced by the decent Left: who were proud to inherit the noble traditions of radical English patriotism.

If so, be grateful that Scotland's response is to leave Great Britain rather than staying to rape English girls.

Change Wars: Return of the Sanity

Now witness the smart power of this fully hoped and inspirational administration!

Looters

Remember that Russian "aid convoy" that Putin sent to eastern Ukraine? It was just a clever ploy for a Russian heist:

Ukrainian authorities have charged Russian Kamaz military trucks - painted white and then sent illegally into Ukraine for what Moscow had called a "humanitarian relief convoy" to cities in the eastern region - with being a cover for wide-scale looting of defence plants before returning to Russian territory.

Overhead photos on numerous websites show the trucks parked outside some of these looted facilities, which include the Topaz Holding Company in the city of Donetsk, the Lugansk Cartridge Works (LCW), and one of the satellite production facilities of the Motor Sich aero-engine production association.

These plants appear to have been put on a Russian intelligence 'target list' of Ukrainian defence production sites that have strategic significance for Russia's own defence industrial base and were to be stripped of hardware and production documentation while the areas in which they were located were still under the control of the Moscow-trained and -supplied militias that are fighting the Ukrainian military.

Never trust the Russians. If they offer you a hand to lift you from the ground when you are hurt, check for your wallet.

Under Putin, they have two exports: energy and chaos.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Fostering Change

Before giving up on Iraq's army because a number of units collapsed in the north after our absence for 2-1/2 years, consider that after more than 60 years of working with the South Korean army, Japanese colonial practices continue to plague the South Korean army.

South Korea's army is still trying to learn modern ways:

South Korea has long been known for the brutality junior soldiers and marines had to deal with. As any South Korean veteran, and many American troops who have served in South Korea, can tell you; there's a lot of anger and violence in the South Korean military, especially among the lower ranks and in the barracks. Most of this is in the form of NCOs disciplining their subordinates. For over half a century, this situation was generally not publicized or talked about much. But in the last decade that has been changing. ...

The South Korean military traditions were largely inherited from the Japanese, who, before World War II, had a rather brutal attitude about how soldiers were handled. During World War II, many Koreans were allowed to join the Japanese army as support troops, and were subjected to the brutal Japanese discipline.

And this change is taking place slowly despite the fact that South Korean troops were directly attached to American units where they could see our practices in stark contrast to their own army's brutality.

So don't speak to me of how futile it is to train Iraqis to fight our enemies. We trained them. But too many seem to think that training an army (or any service) is something you do once and it just lasts.

Training is fragile as new troops without training enter the service while trained soldiers leave the service. Even good soldiers who stay can give up and succumb to laziness or corruption or bad habits--or just suffer from bad leadership and poor logistics. Training must be continuous or it fades away and is lost.

This is one reason I wanted to stay in some strength in Iraq after 2011.

Upping our Terror Levels

Britain increased their terror level to "severe." President Obama also increased our terror level.

The West may have deemed the war on terror over, but the terrorists strongly disagree. So we have this:

Islamist terrorists are "highly likely" to attack the UK as David Cameron announced the threat assessment has been raised to its second highest level.

It is the first time the threat level has been at “severe” since 2011 when it was reduced to “substantial” and reflects growing concern from the risk of British jihadists fighting in Syria and Iraq.

That's their second-highest level.

President Obama has also raised our terror warning level--to our highest one, Code Pink:

The highest level, Code Pink, is true emergency status meaning "Holy Cr*p, Not Even These Code Pink Hags Will Believe Us If We Say It Isn't Our Fault." This means we've been attacked again and remember that yes, we really are still at war with jihadis.

Bring it on, ISIL, we're ready.

Neither Full Nor Operational and Not Much of a Capability

As Putin rattles his nuclear sabre, NATO rouses itself:

Seven NATO allies plan to create a new rapid reaction force of at least 10,000 soldiers as part of plans to boost NATO defenses in response to Russia's intervention in Ukraine, the Financial Times reported on Friday.

The aim is to create a division-sized joint expeditionary force for rapid deployment and regular exercises. The British-led force would include air and naval units as well as ground troops, the newspaper said.

One, if the force includes air and naval units yet is only 10,000 strong, that is not a division-sized ground unit. Maybe we're talking a brigade of ground forces.

Two, what happened to the NATO Response Force that only 8 years ago was declared as having achieved full operational capability?

I'd keep 5 American brigades in Europe plus the ability to fly in troops for several more unit sets of heavy brigades. But nobody asked me.

On the other hand, war in Europe instigated by Russia means nobody needs to ask me to get the idea.

UPDATE: As I suspected, the force will be able to deploy up to a brigade of ground troops:

A senior NATO official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the spearhead force could range from "a very small size up to something potentially as large as a brigade size". A NATO brigade typically numbers between 3,000 and 5,000 troops.

The article notes that the existing NATO rapid reaction force can't react rapidly with a NATO force.

So we'll have a tripwire force designed not to halt the Russians but just to make sure that NATO troops from the western part of the alliance die on the first day of war.

And maybe that will deter Putin--he who has raised the threat of nuclear strikes over the conflict in eastern Ukraine which Putin denies Russia is even involved in--the thinking goes.

Kudos to the Filipino UN Troops

Perhaps all too aware of the power of the international community to help them if captured, the Filipino UN troops in the Golan Heights trapped in their positions by jihadis escaped rather than await their turn to die.

Very good, guys:

Under cover of darkness, 40 Filipino peacekeepers made a daring escape after being surrounded and under fire for seven hours by Syrian rebels in the Golan Heights, Philippine officials said Sunday, leaving 44 Fijian troops still in the hands of the al-Qaida-linked insurgents.

Sadly, the Fijians are in the hands of jihadis.

It was safe enough to be a peacekeeper on the quiet Israel-Syria frontier before a totally different war came to Golan. Habits fine for a quiet sector are not appropriate for a war zone filled with murderous jihadis.

Attitudes, capabilities, and rules of engagement probably need to change.

Or the UN peacekeepers need to turn over their positions to Israeli troops for the duration of the war in Syria.

Earn NATO Membership

Ukraine wants to join NATO now that they are in a desperate fight with Russia. But while they are at war, that isn't going to happen. No insurance company sells you insurance while your house is burning down.

So this is not happening any time soon:

Ukraine called on Friday for full membership in NATO, its strongest plea yet for Western military help, after accusing Russia of sending in armored columns that have driven back its forces on behalf of pro-Moscow rebels.

So Ukraine needs to bloody Russia and win their war before Ukraine can join. Prove they are not a charity case but a provider of security and they will be able to join NATO as a partner.

Mind you, I think NATO nations should move beyond sanctions and help supply--quietly (which makes it difficult for me to assume we aren't helping Kiev, and given shipments of tanks and helicopters to Ukraine I have reason to believe we are quietly helping)--weapons, equipment, and intelligence so Ukraine can defeat the Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine and inflict so many casualties on Russia that they think twice about going after Kiev--or a NATO state--again; and help Ukraine develop the capability to retake Crimea.

The article has a good idea for Ukraine:

Kiev hopes to get its message across to Russians that their government is waging war without telling them. Ukrainian Defence Minister Valery Heletey said many Russian soldiers had been captured and killed: "Unfortunately, they have been buried simply under building rubble. We are trying to find their bodies to return them to their mothers for burial."

If Russia can identify Russian corpses, their identities should be published so that Russian parents find out that they are at war.

For all that opinion polls show Putin gaining from success, on the surface it has all been a near-bloodless success. Crimea was the ideal war for Putin.

But eastern Ukraine is a different matter. Putin is not confident enough of the depth of his support to openly fight (with perhaps 5,000 Russian troops in what I assume are 5 battalion-sized task forces able to operate independently--making it easy to scale up involvement incrementally close to the border) Ukraine.

Russians, it seems, aren't eager for their sons to die for New Russia:

“All this time our authorities have been lying through their teeth, just like they did about Afghanistan back in the ’80s; and about Chechnya in the ’90s,” he wrote. “Today, they are lying about Ukraine. And while it goes on, we have been burying those on both sides who, until recently, we held as co-workers, friends and family.”

The reasons Khodorkovsky, and according to reports from a growing number of those inside the Russian information bubble, believe their nation is lying to them are growing.

We need to make sure Russians know that their government is getting their troops killed for the glory of Putin to inflame Russian sentiment against the lies.

Showing that Russians are inside Ukraine is a start--though I heard the Russians insist these are screen shots from a video game!

And we need to make sure that Ukraine can endure a long fight and inflict casualties on Russian troops to inflame Russian sentiment against deaths. Even the ultra-nationalists who push Putin to be more aggressive might recoil at failure.

Heck, even though we worry about Russia rebuilding the Russian empire, how sure are we that Russia is done fragmenting? Defeat in war could stress Russian unity.

Once Russia is shoved back, we can talk about NATO membership. But first things first. Russian soldiers need to be sent back to their mothers in boxes.

We managed this in Afghanistan in the 1980s. And Russia wasn't shy about arming our enemies in Korea or Vietnam, remember.

UPDATE: The last thing we should do is assume that we should abandon Ukraine's lost territories because Putin has no more territorial ambitions.

UPDATE: This author doesn't put it as crudely as I put it, but this is the right idea:

Mr. Obama is correct that the only plausible course is to increase the pain on Moscow to the point that Mr. Putin’s domestic position is substantially weakened. That means imposing a degree of isolation that would turn the country into a pariah state and make clear to ordinary Russians that Mr. Putin’s schemes will bring nothing but economic misery and more secret funerals. Moscow must be made to understand that the cost of its warmongering will be far greater than any potential gains.

Maybe Russians don't want to die for Putin's glory. Maybe economic recession is too much for the most nationalistic. Maybe the oligarchs tire of seeing their fortunes at risk.

Maybe just parts of Russia decide they don't want part of Putin's wars.

But costs must be paid.

UPDATE: This description of one Russian unit fighting pretty much defines our concept of "task force:"

"The battle between Ukrainian paratroopers and a reinforced tank battalion of the Russian armed forces is continuing with the goal of controlling the Lugansk airfield," military spokesman Leonid Matyukhin wrote on his Facebook page.

The question is how many of these reinforced battalions are inside eastern Ukraine?

Hammer Time?

Will President Obama fight and destroy ISIL?

I have to say I'm skeptical. The president would have to view ISIL as an enemy, first, rather than a friend we haven't made yet.

Sadly, when all you have is an organizer, every problem looks like a community.

UPDATE: Congressional overview of Syria.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Meanwhile At the Edges of the Caliphate

Iraq is beginning an operation to relieve the ISIL siege of Amerli, which lies more than 50 miles east of Tikrit:

The drive to break the more than two-month siege of Amerli came as an NGO said that the IS jihadist group, which has surrounded the Shiite Turkmen-majority town, sold at least 27 women in Syria after kidnapping them in Iraq. ...

Iraqi security forces, thousands of Shiite militiamen and Kurdish peshmerga fighters are all taking part in the operation to lift the jihadist blockade of Amerli, sources said.

We are helping:

At the request of the Government of Iraq, the United States military today airdropped humanitarian aid to the town of Amirli, home to thousands of Shia Turkomen who have been cut off from receiving food, water, and medical supplies for two months by ISIL. The United States Air Force delivered this aid alongside aircraft from Australia, France and the United Kingdom who also dropped much needed supplies.

In conjunction with this airdrop, U.S. aircraft conducted coordinated airstrikes against nearby ISIL terrorists in order to support this humanitarian assistance operation.

It's the oddest war. We can't seem to bring ourselves to kill enemies unless we also drop food and water to nearby civilians in need and can portray the attacks as related to the aid.

Just a suggestion: killing murderous jihadis doesn't require MRE drops. Just put all the jihadis on the "kill list," okay?

No word on the earlier efforts by Iraq to capture Tikrit from the enemy. But at least Iraqis seem active on the central front north of Baghdad.

And nothing seems to be going on around Fallujah and Ramadi, which jihadis took in January. Hopefully deals to deal with the jihadis with local Sunni Arabs upset at jihadi madness are being hammered out.

UPDATE: Iraqi forces entered Amerli, breaking the siege:

The military offensive to free the town was preceded by U.S. airstrikes at Islamic State positions. U.S., U.K., Australian and as well Iraqi forces also dropped aid to the residents of the town. Col. Mustafa Hassan, the Amirli area commander, said by phone that clashes were still "continuing" with Islamic State gunmen.

The difference American air power can make for local ground allies (physically and psychologically) should not be under-estimated. This should be a lesson for Afghanistan as we leave our Afghan allies without fire support to fight the Taliban.

UPDATE: Word about Anbar:

In the western city of Ramadi, where Iraqi forces have been battling Sunni groups dominated by IS since January, a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-packed Humvee military vehicle, according to two police officers and a medical official.

The blast, targeting an unfinished nine-floor building, killed 22 security personnel and 15 civilians, the medical and police officials said. The building, used by security personnel, was in the centre of Ramadi in western Anbar province.

The jihadis are active, anyway. No further word on the Re-Awakening.

Words Matter

Why Do the Ukrainians let Russia off the hook for their invasion of Ukraine?

From Ukraine (via Defense Industry Daily email):


It bugs me that the Ukrainians keep calling their enemies "terrorists."

I know. Terrorists are bad (really, Code Pink, they are) so bad guys must be terrorists is compelling logic.

But Ukraine would do themselves a world of good, I think, by calling their enemies in eastern Ukraine "Russians" and "Russian proxies."

UPDATE: Ask and you shall receive!

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko accused Russia on Monday of "direct and open aggression" which he said had radically changed the battlefield balance as Kiev's forces suffered a further reverse in the war with pro-Moscow separatists.

Russia has invaded Ukraine (and has since February when the "little green men" moved into Crimea). Why cooperate with Russia in hiding that fact?

Fall!

What If Assad's Support Collapses?

One argument against opposing Assad while ISIL is strong in Syria is that ISIL will take advantage of Assad's weakening. So we should not harm Assad, at least in this thinking, and think of Assad as an anti-jihadi partner at most. What if Assad collapses regardless of what we do?

Assad's forces have been bleeding away at an astounding rate and the loss of Tabqa airbase in Raqqa province has shaken Assad's supporters:

A mounting death toll in President Bashar al-Assad's armed forces is causing alarm among some government loyalists who are worried about Islamic State's territorial gains and are turning their anger on the authorities in Damascus.

The execution of scores of Syrian soldiers taken captive by Islamic State at an air base in Raqqa province has triggered unusually harsh social media criticism of the Damascus government by people who have taken its side in the civil war.

I noted these factors recently.

At this point, Assad's small base of support could collapse even if we decide (foolishly) that Assad is a partner. That would lead ISIL to be the strongest force in Syria.

Remember, Hezbollah's support is faltering and the Iranian-organized Shia foreign legion fighting for Assad has gone home to Iraq to fight ISIL there. Assad is left with his mostly demoralized forces to hold the west (which I also called in January 2012 as his only hope for success).

I'll repeat what our strategy should be for ISIL, since the president oddly addressed the nation to say we have no strategy.

We should focus on rolling back ISIL gains in Iraq while bolstering non-jihadi rebels in Syria.

While we do these things we should conduct recon and intelligence missions over Syria, limiting strikes to key people and weapons if they attempt to enter Iraq. Meanwhile let ISIL battle other jihadis and Assad. A pox on both of them. Do not give Assad's backers any reason to hope we will help Assad.

When ISIL is ground down and ejected from their control of Sunni Arab Iraq and with non-jihadi rebels strengthened in Syria, we can turn on ISIL in Syria with our air power.

The non-jihadi rebels should be strengthened by our aid and by seeing ISIL getting hammered. Joining the strong horse is one thing. Joining the dead horse another.

With ISIL then crippled, and other jihadis hopefully heading for the exits or seeing less committed jihadis switch to the non-jihadi rebel groups, we can finally look to making good on President Obama's wish that Assad must go.

Face it, Assad's forces are bleeding heavily. It's wrong to side with Assad and it is likely a mistake to assume he is someone we can rely on.

If we simply ignore Syria, ISIL could be the last man standing by default when Assad's regime collapses.

Behold the Awesome Power of the Liberal Plan for Libya

As America has withdrawn from the shores of Tripoli, lets ponder the Libyan intervention.

I don't think I commented on this at the time. Crises elsewhere have overshadowed our withdrawal from Libya. Goodbye and thanks for all the fish:

At the request of the Department of State, the U.S. military assisted in the relocation of personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya on Saturday, July 26.

All embassy personnel were relocated, including the Marine security guards who were providing security at the embassy and during the movement.

The embassy staff was driven in vehicles to Tunisia.

During movement, F-16's, ISR assets and an Airborne Response Force with MV-22 Ospreys provided security.

The mission was conducted without incident, and the entire operation lasted approximately five hours.

America's leading-from-behind moment is apparently at an end.

Just why would we leave?

An Islamist armed group carried out a videotaped execution of an Egyptian man in a football stadium in Libya, in what Amnesty said Friday highlighted the country's descent into lawlessness.

Even the Libyans have decided Tripoli isn't very safe:

The newly elected (and much more anti-Islamic terrorist) parliament is now operating in Tobruk, far away from the violence in the two largest cities; Tripoli (the capital and 1,600 kilometers west of Tobruk) and Benghazi (in the east and long dominated by Islamic terrorist groups.) Parliament has condemned the militias, especially the Islamic terrorist ones and called for NATO (or any international body, like the UN) to come back and help impose peace. The parliament has singled out Islamic terrorist groups Fajr Libya (based in Misrata as the Misrata Union of Revolutionaries) and Ansar al Sharia (based in Benghazi) as most responsible for the current violence.

Keeping American troops out of Libya hasn't had any of the calming effect that the Left claimed.

What's really kind of funny is the lesson that President Obama learned from the war he launched:

Obama recently told New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman that he learned an important lesson from the U.S.-led intervention in Libya when, after the death of Moammar Gaddafi, the United States and allies didn’t do more to rebuild the North African country, which is engulfed in an extremist uprising.

Now when he considers intervention, he always asks, “Do we have an answer [for] the day after?” he said.

Huh. I thought that the Left learned that lesson from Iraq? Amazingly enough, President Obama even assumed that by the force of his aura and stature that this liberal lesson of Iraq (which isn't a true charge, in any case) did not apply to him!

I assumed that since the Libya War was the Left's war for Responsibility to Protect that the post-war plan for Libya would be awesome.

Behold What is Possible Without America

America's Left wanted us to leave Iraq, and we're getting the opposite of what the Left said would result.

Jihadis in large numbers--including more Europeans--have flooded Iraq to seize large portions of the country's Sunni Arab areas in cooperation with Baathists still stinging from losing their grip on power. Kurds, Shias, and Sunni Arabs aren't getting along, to say the least. And religious minorities are being slaughtered.

I'd just like to remind people that our anti-war Left told us that the presence of American combat forces in Iraq was causing jihadis to flock to Iraq and that if only we left Iraq, Iraqis would work out their differences and figure things out.

Hell, it might be a Smurfy kite-flying paradise again.

We pulled the last of our combat forces out of Iraq in December 2011.

For the record.

Justice Friends, Assemble!

World Citizen Barack Obama, who appealed to the entire world to support him because he is one of them despite having to sit on the mere American throne, is looking for allies to fight the Islamic State in Iraq. Oddly, the consensus is that He will have problems doing this.

Despite responsibly ending the Iraq War, President Obama inconveniently finds the Iraq War raging in ways harmful to us.

Obviously, the president wants allies:

"Any successful strategy ... needs strong regional partners," Obama told reporters Thursday.

If we had a strategy, of course. The president boldly stated to the world at the podium the other day that we do not.

But no matter. When the best minds of the most left wing president in our history get together, I'm sure the plan will be friggin' awesome.

Say, as an aside, how about including in that strategy the notion that Iran is not a good ally waiting to be made? I can't believe I once thought President Obama might cut the Gordian Knot that would alleviate a whole lot of our Middle East problems.

But back to the coalition of the swooning waiting to be assembled:



Naturally, his nuance-oozing Secretary of State is on the job:

President Obama’s assignment to Secretary of State John Kerry to build a coalition of countries willing to join the United States in taking on the Islamic State extremist group in Iraq and Syria will be no cake walk.

Allies. Where could we get some of those?

Hey! I have a binder full of allies here. Perhaps Secretary Kerry could peruse them for candidates?

If we'd kept troops in Iraq after 2011, a lot of them would already be assembled in Iraq, no doubt (although if that happened we wouldn't face today's problems requiring us to assemble the Justice Friends, of course).

I mean, if a unilateral cowboy like George W. Bush could organize a coalition of this size to invade and hold Iraq, surely the fully nuanced and world-embracing not-Bush Barack Obama can scrounge up a basketball team's worth of allies to defend Iraq, eh? Just who could question The One's motives for fighting in Iraq?

Friday, August 29, 2014

Seriously? Is Code Pink Insufficient?

I don't like Ron Paul. I at least had hopes that Rand Paul is better than his father on politics. But he didn't fall far enough from the tree, it seems.

Rand Paul goes and embraces the "why do they hate us?" question with a conviction that we are the reason.

Leaving jihadis alone does not persuade them to leave us alone. Use of military force against jihadis is not counter-productive. As I've long said, use of ineffective force against jihadis is counter-productive.

You can argue that we have reverted to ineffective use of force. But simply saying use of force against murderous enemies is the problem is wrong.

Like the Self-Flagellation Brigade needs new members from the Republican Party. That's just great.

American Hulls Matter

Our Navy is shrinking, and hoping that focusing on quality will allow an emergency expansion for quantity more easily than reversing our priorities. I still think that Modularized Auxiliary Cruisers can provide the peacetime numbers we still need.

It makes sense that we'd prefer fewer good ships and subs. I freely admit that it is easier to build a lot of cheap ships to get the numbers we need in war rather than build the really good ships we'd also need. So in one sense I have no problem with this approach:

Described by the CNO as “building appropriate capability, then delivering it at a capacity we could afford”, there is “betting on the come” quality to this approach, one in which the Navy sacrifices numbers (ships, submarines, aircraft) in order to ensure those platforms that remain are technologically advanced and field the latest weapons and sensors. Presumably, when the economy improves and fiscal order is restored to Washington, the resulting architecture would “fill out” with numbers (returning again to the emphasis on an industrial base that could support such increase). All things being equal, this approach privileges war-fighting over war deterrence, which the Navy has for decades asserted is the by-product of numerous ships forward deployed in peacetime. In fact, peacetime presence (and its deterrence/assurance qualities) has served as a significant force sizing rationale for the Navy.

I had to look up "betting on the come." Pardon me if I use other descriptions.

As long as we keep these fewer, but more complex, ships maintained well with high quality crews, this is the best option.

But we can't forget that it isn't optimal. Quantity has a quality all its own, and numbers of hulls are needed for peacetime presence that keeps our hand on the pulse of the world and reminds friends and foes that we care about what is going on where we sail.

Yet even our "low-end" Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) has proven to be too little bang for too much buck for providing those numbers.

Right now, because we can't provide our own numbers, we count on a virtual navy of allies to provide those numbers:

China’s naval buildup is eliciting countervailing forces, including Japan’s naval expansion, which [Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan] Greenert says includes ships as capable as ours. Japan’s constitution restricts the nation’s Self-Defense Forces to just that — defensive activities — but the constitution can be construed permissively to allow, for example, defenses against ballistic missiles and the protection of allies. This is one reason Greenert says it is reasonable to speak of a 1,000-ship naval force encompassing the assets of nations — such as India, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Australia, South Korea and the Philippines — that have no agenda beyond maintaining the maritime order on which world commerce depends.

That's great that we have friends and allies. But they aren't American hulls and we can't rely on "sailing from behind" other navies' ships. When we need a ship at Point X, can we really count on even a good ally to put the type of ship we need there when we need it and do what we need it to do?

Which is why I'd rather have a thousand-ship American Navy:

We need another option to provide low-cost hulls capable of a broad range of missions in war and peace. The Danish flexible support ship RDN Absalon, built in a civilian shipyard, is designed to use “modularity and scalability” to carry out a variety of combat and support missions at low cost. Using self-contained modules that “contain entire warfighting systems,” Absalon can be quickly reconfigured. Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winters was impressed by the ship, stating:

There are definitely lessons here that we can use in the U.S.

Modularity and scalability applied to civilian hulls could provide affordable Modularized Auxiliary Cruisers.

The system modules for Modularized Auxiliary Cruisers would have to be self-contained because they would not be installed on a ship designed to incorporate the modules, as the LCS is envisioned. This limits capabilities to what the modules contain, but auxiliary cruisers have never been intended to replace warships. Modularized Auxiliary Cruisers would be plugged into our naval network to fight within a task force or for missions not needing the capabilities of a conventional warship.

I will always regret that the LCS was not designed to use modules designed to fit in shipping containers.

Perhaps if we use Modularized Auxiliary Cruisers, the existence of the system modules for use on container ships taken into Navy service (or Army or Marine vessels, for that matter) will be an incentive to design a cheap, easily built warship hull meant to handle these containerized modules to add needed capabilities.

Then expanding the Navy in an emergency would be more easily done.

If we're to rely on a virtual thousand-ship Navy for our peacetime presence needs, we should at least make sure it is a virtual thousand-ship American Navy.

The Great Model-Proxy Rumble

Climate scientists have spent a lot of effort using proxies to recreate the past climate record. How else do you tell if the planet is warming or cooling unless you know the past temperatures, right? I may have issues with the accuracy of those proxies, but I'm a "denier." What's with the climate modelers challenging that record?

The models say that the historic temperature reconstuctions are off. Say it ain't so!

The new paper concludes, “If the [Holocene temperature] reconstruction is correct, it will imply major biases across the current generation of climate models. To provide a credible benchmark for future climate models, however, the proxy reconstructions will also need to be reexamined critically.”

I can't say I have a dog in the fight when tenuous proxy models are put up against flawed computer models. But you have to like the modelers' confidence in their ability to say what the past 11,000 years should be when they (as a group) haven't gotten the last 15 years right.

Tip to Instapundit.

Simply Astounding

You have to love that one of the defenses of the world seemingly spinning out of control around us is that President Obama has the misfortune of living in a more complicated time compared to the "simple" tasks of fighting either Hitler in World War II or the Soviet Union in the Cold War.

Don't blame our woes in the president who once believed his mere presence would change the course of the world--and beyond mere foreign policy problems, end the rise of the freaking oceans, if you'll recall!

“Republican jingoists scapegoat President Obama for all the world’s ills and try to impose a simple story of weakness and strength on events of stupefying complexity,” Kuttner added, complaining that today’s wars lack the grandeur and moral simplicity of the Cold War, and of course World War II. “Who are the good guys and bad guys in Syria and Iraq?” Corn concurred: “Barack Obama is in charge .  .  . at a time when the world seems to be cracking up more than usual. .  .  . There are no simple fixes to these nuance-drenched problems. .  .  . None of these matters are easily resolved.”

Those lucky, lucky, bastards, FDR and Truman, leading us through simple World War II! The moral simplicity of allying with the Soviet Union's Stalin! The simplicity of Fascist Italy switching sides! The simplicity of storming Normandy and blasting Japanese troops out of bunkers from island to island across the Pacific! The simplicity of using the atomic bomb!

Also world devastation and 50 million dead--but President Obama has the really tough job. (Hey, if it's so nuanced, he should spend a little less time on the golf course and more studying the Presidential Daily Briefings, eh?)

As for the Cold War? I lived during the Cold War. And this supposedly morally simple struggle sure seemed to confuse a lot of our liberals who claimed the Soviets were the wave of the future and really kind of admirable--as they also thought of other blood-drenched Communist thug states in the Third World. Then the simplicity was assuming America was on the wrong side of history.

Do you forget how the Left mocked President Reagan for calling the USSR the "evil empire"?

In 1983 President Reagan gave a famous speech in which he outraged American liberals, and warmed the hearts of conservatives, by describing the Soviet Union as an “evil empire.”

College faculties were pretty uniformly left wing in the 1980’s, and reflexively hostile to anything anti-Communist. Professors on campuses all around the nation reacted to the President’s speech with outrage.

I went to college in the 1980s. I remember the apologists for the Soviets very clearly.

Yet now to defend The One (yeah, kiss his place on Mount Rushmore goodbye) the Left honors the simplicity of opposing the obviously bad Soviets? Really?

And what is so freaking nuanced about our current crises?

Putin has invaded a sainted member of the international community in violation of the UN Charter and the promises Russia made in the Budapest Memorandum to guarantee Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

(With bonus collateral damage to President Obama's US global nuclear disarmament goal--for which he got an anticipatory Nobel Peace Prize--because in exchange for that worthless Russian pledge, Ukraine agreed to give up their sizable nuclear arsenal inherited from the USSR.)

China is pushing neighbors around and trying to expand their country.

Iran wants nuclear weapons.

Our southern border is porous and we spend too much money.

And who are the good or bad guys in Syria and Iraq? Are you kidding me? When one enemy, ISIL, is so evil that it is virtually comic book-level simplicity (as was al Qaeda when so many on the Left urged us to "understand" them and figure out "why do they hate us?" don't forget)?

The president called the Islamic State a “cancer” that had to be eradicated. Secretary of State John Kerry referred to it as the “face of . . . evil.”

Although most people across the ideological spectrum see no problem with calling the Islamic State evil, the change in rhetoric elicited a predictable knee-jerk response. ...

Who are you saving the word for if “evil” is too harsh for the Islamic State? More to the point, since when is telling the truth evidence you’ve stopped thinking?

If you have trouble rousing yourself to fight ISIL because the question of good guys versus bad guys is just too nuanced for you to figure out, you have no business writing about foreign affairs.

It's just about come to this for Obama defenders:



It's not his fault!

And more to the point, I'll start taking lessons in moral clarity abroad from our Left just after I take their advice on military matters--which is three days after never.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Rape Culture?

Tip to Instapundit, an actual culture of rape. And here. Strangely, the Left is uninterested in this "war on women (and girls)."

Perhaps the Australians and British will put their college administrators in charge of solving the problem.

UPDATE: Thanks to Pseudo-Polymath for the link.

UPDATE: One weeps to think that Britain once produced Charles James Napier:

"Be it so. This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs."

Today's Britain built gibbets to hang those who'd interfere with widow buring.

Can Two Play the Escalation Game, Or Not?

Putin needs to worry about what Ukraine can do to him.

To remind you why I've noted options for Ukraine to match Russian escalation in eastern Ukraine with their own escalation away from eastern Ukraine, let me repeat my warning that if Ukraine tries to match Russian troop commitments into eastern Ukraine with their own troops, Ukraine just invites Russia to expand the war by carrying out a wider encirclement that traps a good portion of Ukraine's army in a Donetsk Pocket:


And there is also the outrage that Russian-controlled Crimea and Transdniestria are somehow supposed to be out of bounds in the scope of a war with Ukraine that Russia alone gets to define.

Legacy

Living hero. Dead zero.

We are free in America to decide how to define our lives. Some choose well. Some choose poorly.

And some choose evil. In a just world, these are the ones who die.

History Returns

I think we can safely say that the post-Cold War era is over. The question is what do we call the era that began on February 28, 2014? And let's hope that the "post-Cold War era" isn't renamed by future historians as the "inter-war period."

People are finally starting to speak of the Russian invasion of Ukraine:

Determined to preserve the pro-Russian revolt in eastern Ukraine, Russia reinforced what Western and Ukrainian officials described as a stealth invasion on Wednesday, sending armored troops across the border as it expanded the conflict to a new section of Ukrainian territory.

I'll also note that the New York Times article reports that elements of the 9th brigade from western Ukraine is fighting in the east. So that area's corps isn't out of action.

And despite Russia's denials and blatant lies about their invasion, proof is out there for all but the most dense or Putin's apologists to believe, and now we have another piece:

Russia has consistently denied sending tanks into Ukraine, arguing that any vehicles used by separatist forces there must have been captured from the Ukrainian army itself.

But now experts at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London have told the BBC that they have identified a Russian tank in a separatist column in eastern Ukraine that they say could only have come from across the border in Russia.

Why Russia's capture and annexation of Crimea isn't the obvious evidence of Russia's ongoing invasion, I don't know.

And the retreat of bloodied Russian troops in Russia has been reported:

The Reuters reporter said the column was made up of two armored personnel carriers, six military trucks and one military excavator. The troops sitting on top of the armored personnel carriers had dirty faces, and one had a bandage on his face.

One of the trucks had a smashed windscreen and smashed headlights and was being towed by a second truck. A Mi-8 military helicopter with red star insignia landed at a nearby camp manned by men in camouflage fatigues without identifying marks.

I suppose it helps that Russia has expanded their role so much that they can hardly bother to hide it. But they'll still just deny they are doing anything.

I'm not sure of the hesitancy to finally say Russia has invaded Ukraine, since I called the invasion on February 28th:

Good grief. Did Russian Spetsnaz just seize Crimea airports?

I even called the scope, despite reports that our intelligence agencies doubted Russia would invade:

I don't think Russia could occupy all of Ukraine. But Russia could grab chunks in the east and in Crimea. Does that count as an "invasion" in our intelligence agencies?

Now we have to get on with the dirty work of seriously helping Ukrainians kill Russian soldiers, because appeals to the judgment of history and decency have no effect on Putin.

I've already noted that Hungary is apparently shipping T-72 tanks to Ukraine. And we are enabling Croatia to ship helicopters to Ukraine:

US and Croatian officials have discussed a deal that would send American UH-60 helicopters to Croatia, while Croatia would send Mi-8MTV-1 aircraft to Ukraine.

So good for us. I hope we are giving Ukraine all the intelligence and recon information that they need to fight the Russians.

What this era will be called depends on whether China sits it out, strikes east to the sea, or strikes north and west while Russia is occupied in self-destructive confrontation with NATO and the West. And Iran is a minor question mark (relatively minor--amazing what a few years can do to the major problem we faced) for this era-defining question.

But I do know that this will not be known as the Era of Hope and Change. The pen may be mightier than the sword, but the teleprompter clearly is not mightier.

Explaining Failure

I was at the Royal Ontario Museum this summer. At one Byzantine coin display, the placard said that during periods of inflation, coins were debased (with lower gold and silver content).

And I'm thinking, if our Western economies fail it will be because we didn't recognize that debasing the currency causes inflation, and not the other way around.

Responsibly Ending the Post-Cold War World?

I suspect that President Obama's legacy won't be the renewal of NATO, but the recognition that during his term everyone else realized that NATO is not obsolete and set the stage for others to renew NATO.

I haven't been in the "NATO is obsolete camp." NATO (with a strong American presence) is a bargain form of insurance as far as I'm concerned.

I think my decade-old article on the Army in Europe is as good a place to start as any, although my view of Russia's threat was clearly in the "just in case" category of worries as part of hedging against future unknowns.

The arc of crisis that Army units in Europe can react to now extends from northern AFRICOM into CENTCOM and then north of the Greater Middle East into EUCOM all the way up to the North Pole, I think.

So yeah, I think the value of NATO has been recognized again. But I sincerely doubt that President Obama will take the lead in revitalizing NATO.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

France Did Not Liberate Iraq

America is seeking allies to deal with the Islamic State. Could we get reporters with a little more memory than is required to write this?

It's unclear how many nations will sign up. Some such as trusted allies Britain and France harbor bitter memories of joining the U.S.-led "coalition of the willing" in the 2003 invasion of Iraq that included troops from 38 nations.

I nearly spewed my drink on my screen at that one.

While Britain did indeed commit an entire ground division plus supporting air and naval forces, France's contribution to the 2003 coalition was a sneer and--well, just a sneer.

France sat that war out. Although France almost participated, we weren't quite sure what their game was.

I did not bother to read any more of the story.

Enemies Approach

In Year Six of the Era of Hope and Change, it does seem all chaos-like out there, doesn't it?

Just a partial list of the troubles we face abroad is impressive for an administration that believed we were the problem:

As I write, the foreign policy of the United States is in a state of unprecedented disarray. ...

Above all, progressivism believes that the United States is a country that, in nearly every respect, treads too heavily on the Earth: environmentally, ideologically, militarily, and geopolitically. The goal, therefore, is to reduce America’s footprint; to “retrench,” as the administration would like to think of it, or to retreat, as it might more accurately be called.

Yes, in retreating, enemies eventually follow. As I wrote nearly five years ago, during that period of retreat when the enemy has yet to follow, you can believe you have peace:

Saying that foreign policy is a distant second in priorities for this administration might seem an odd thing to say for a president who has travelled abroad so much already.

But it makes sense if you think of the trips abroad as efforts to disengage from foes and retreat a bit by giving our foes what they want in order to buy time to pass domestic legislation.

Understand that when you retreat, it takes a while for an enemy to pursue you and fill the vacuum. And that time it takes for the enemy to re-engage will surely be much quieter.

And if you want to, you can argue that the period of quiet while the enemy approaches is actually "peace." It isn't peace, but you can pretend for a while that it is so you can focus on domestic issues.

Clearly, we aren't the problem.

The quiet is over. And multiple foreign problems compete for the attention of the president, who seems far more interested in golf.

Will Putin Climb Mt. Niitaka?

As we see sanctions against Russia as an alternative to military response to Russia's aggression against Ukraine, don't forget that sanctions that are tough enough to hurt could be tough enough to seem an act of war to the target nation--and so prompt a war:

Washington has not tried to compel another major power with sanctions since 1940-41, when America imposed them on Imperial Japan, culminating in an oil embargo and the seizure of Japanese assets in July 1941. At that time, the United States sought to deter Japan from seizing Southeast Asia and demanded that Tokyo withdraw from Indochina and China. Japan in turn concluded that American sanctions made the occupation of Southeast Asia essential, as well as the devastation of the United States Navy.

I've noted this before:

There's nothing wrong with raising the cost of acting contrary to our wishes and interests. And sanctions certainly set us apart from the target nations' actions. So there's value there.

But sanctions are unlikely to achieve our objectives peacefully for the simple reason that any sanctions that hurt a target nation enough to compel them to change their priority policies more to our liking will be sanctions tough enough to seem like an act of war to the target nation's leadership. So sanctions tough enough to work will likely just compel the target nation to escalate to military action as their response.

And Japan attacked us in 1941 despite having a GDP of only a tenth of America's. Because they believed they could get in a hard blow and deter us from retaking what we (and others) lost. And they assumed that without nuclear weapons, obviously.

So let's not assume that our rational is Putin's rational. He might believe a short, victorious war against a NATO member will break our resolve to sanction him and pave the way for more gains to roll back NATO expansion and isolate Ukraine from the West to allow Russian pressure to absorb the country proceed without our opposition.

To add to the fun, what if Putin believes that his flexibility in dealing with America is at its peak? What if he worries that whoever replaces President Obama in 2017 will react against the drift of American resolve?

What if Putin decides that he has a window of opportunity that ends in 2016 to inflict a local blow that will cripple NATO despite Russia's conventional military inferiority?

Have a super sparkly day.

UPDATE: Canada's NATO contingent has a helpful map for Putin:


Yeah. We're gonna need a bigger map.

Tabqa is Less Alamo and More Dien Bien Phu

I don't think we know how bad Assad's defeat at Tabqa air base was.

It sounds bad enough:

The [Syrian Observatory for Human Rights] said 346 Islamic State fighters were killed and more than 170 members of the security forces had died in five days of fighting over the base, one of the deadliest clashes between the two groups since the start of the war.

I thought maybe that prior reports of Syrian reinforcements, combined with relatively low casualties reported for the loss of an air base, indicated that the report was cover for a withdrawal.

But the Islamic State showed a pilot who earlier had been on state TV boasting that the base couldn't be taken.

So Assad intended to hold the base. And the death of 170 security forces indicates that a whole lot more are unaccounted for. I don't know how many held the base, but 170 plus a couple dozen survivors held by IS terrorists are enough for a combat outpost and not a major air base. And other reports said the terrorists captured a lot of Syrian equipment.

Where are the rest of the Syrian base defenders and air crews?

It seems that the Syrian public knows this is really bad despite government efforts to focus on purported successes elsewhere while not talking about Tabqa:

Although it is not clear how widespread public anger in Syria might be about the fall of the airbase, some people supportive of the army expressed anger on social media.

The Facebook page "Eagles of the Tabqa Military Airport, Men of Assad," reposted the photo showing the apparent execution of the soldiers and wrote "No comment. They sold you for cheap, God damn all traitors." ...

Some people on Twitter called for the resignation of the defense minister, with the hashtag "Minister of Death" in Arabic.

One activist who is from the same Alawite sect as President Bashar al-Assad but opposes him said people in the Alawite community in the coastal town of Tartous felt scared and angry. ...

"A lot of loyalists here are optimistic after [Foreign Minister] Walid al-Moualem's speech. They're hoping the world will come to help Assad in his fight against terrorism," he added.

Assad's backers are shaken. They are enduring tremendous casualties that raises the question of how long they can endure without victory in sight (quoting Strategypage here):

The death toll for over two years of fighting is now at least 110,000. Most of the dead are rebel fighters and pro-rebel civilians. But it is believed that 27,000 soldiers and 17,000 pro-Assad militia have also died, along with over 21,000 rebel fighters.

That was a year and 81,000 casualties ago. If the casualty pattern holds, Assad's forces have lost 76,000 troops and militia so far. That is a level to break an army. Was the Tabqa air base garrison just the canary in the coal mine?

And with the mostly Iraqi Shia foreign legion going home to fight ISIL in Iraq and with Hezbollah sending children to Syria to fight for Assad, Assad has far fewer shock troops to spearhead his shaken forces in their fight with the rebels. I think it is quite likely that the jihadi rebels are doing more damage to the non-jihadi rebels than Assad's force are, at this point.

Assad's backers now think that the West will ally with them against those that inflicted this defeat on Syria's forces. Deny Assad's backers that light at the end of the tunnel.

UPDATE: One jihadi video shows 135 captured Syrian soldiers:

A video posted online by Islamic State supporters on Thursday appeared to show members of the group making scores of Syrian army captives walk and run through the desert in their underwear.

Reuters could not confirm the contents of the video, which was posted on You Tube and social media. It showed at least 135 men, some with their hands on their heads, running barefoot through a desert landscape as armed men jeered them.

The article also says that ISIL has murdered "dozens" of captives. There may be a lot of Syrian troops fleeing the area hoping to reach safety. Or more are already dead or captured.

Also, welcome readers from ... somewhere. This has gotten a spike of hits, but I don't know who is linking to this.

UPDATE: The base apparently had 1,400 troops in the garrison. The Syrians lost 170 in the final battle. Half fled, and 200 of them were caught and murdered by ISIL, leaving 500 still trying to escape.

This leaves the fate of 530 in question. If half fled and 170 died in battle, that leaves 530 on the base either dead, wounded, or captured, doesn't it? Do the 250 that ISIL boasted they killed after the battle come from these troops?

Or maybe some troops were evacuated by air as the base fell. But there is no mention of that. Earlier I heard that the Syrians flew many planes out of the base. If some were transports or helicopters, they could have taken some out along with the crews.

Regardless of what the reality is, this is bad for Assad. I know Assad seems to be losing at least a thousand soldiers per month, but losing a base like this is bad for morale, to say the least.

Yes. Next Question

This is going to be the easiest question I'll answer all day (even easier than "Would you like another Bass Ale, sir? They always call me "sir." Why do they do that? Oh yeah, I've gotten to the "sir" stage of life): Can US defeat Islamic State without help from Assad?

If I may be so bold, yes we can.

Do recall that we defeated the previous incarnation of these jihadi nutballs when they were called al Qaeda in Iraq and when Assad was actively hosting their Baathist allies in Syria and facilitating the funneling of suicide bombers into Iraq.

So yeah, we can defeat ISIL in Iraq and bomb ISIL in Syria without Assad having one goddamn thing to say about it even as we offer aid to non-jihadi Syrian rebels, too.

I actually have some hope for sanity from that article which started off with such a poor title question:

After a flurry of speculation recently that President Obama might overcome his distaste for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to go after Islamic State militants in their base inside Syria, the White House is speaking out: There will be no cooperation with the Assad regime.

I've long since abandoned hope of American smart diplomacy. Now I just hope that not doing stupid stuff is within our grasp. Refusing to rescue Assad would be a nice start.

Next question, please.

UPDATE: This article warns us against falling into Assad's trap of saving his odious regime to work with him to attack the Islamic State in Syria. Indeed, we must put Assad under greater pressure to keep him from exploiting even our strikes on ISIL in Syria without Assad's cooperation:

How to avoid the ambush? Demonstrate real hostility toward Assad, whose removal for the sake of neutralizing ISIS is even more justified than the ouster of Iraq's Nouri Al Maliki.

If we fall for Assad's trap, Assad really will have given us a lesson in smart diplomacy.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Slothkrieg

From little green men to big green tanks in Ukraine:

[The] armored column that appeared on Monday in the far south-eastern corner of Ukraine, where it abuts the Russian border, was unusual because the spot was far removed from any territory held by the separatists.

It was therefore difficult to see how the column could have appeared in Ukraine without having come across the Russian border, unless it made an amphibious landing from the nearby Azov Sea which is improbable given the number of heavy vehicles witnesses said they saw.

Also noted is the Ukrainian capture of some Russian soldiers. I imagine these guys honestly did cross the border by mistake.

But note, too, that the unit was on a three-day 70 kilometer road march exercise.

Nice practice which would get Russian units from the border to Donetsk, by coincidence.

The slow-motion, almost imperceptibly escalating Russian invasion of Ukraine is amazing, including how it is largely ignored by everyone but the Ukrainians fighting back.

I mean, what's the opposite of blitzkrieg?

UPDATE: Ukraine surely understands that failure to defeat Russia in eastern Ukraine invites future aggression from Russia looming over them:

Mr. Poroshenko said in his speech that Ukraine, which is nearly bankrupt, would nonetheless spend nearly $3 billion over the next three years to re-equip its army. “It is clear that in the foreseeable future, unfortunately, a constant military threat will hang over Ukraine,” he said.

Despite Germany's efforts to negotiate a ceasefire, Russia continues to escalate their involvement showing that Putin is not to be trusted on this. A ceasefire isn't meant to be a pause to negotiate a real peace but a time to rest and entrench in order to resume the conquest when Russia is in a stronger position and Western attention has wandered off.

Putin, in short, does not want peace in eastern Ukraine--he wants victory:

Any outcome that freezes the military situation in eastern Ukraine as it is today amounts to a win for the Kremlin: all Ukrainian territory not controlled by Kiev turns into “something other” and becomes the basis for eventual separatist claims.

However, President Putin in turns knows that any outcome that allows Kiev to reassert control over all its territory other than Crimea is a Kremlin defeat.

We must help Ukraine inflict that defeat on Putin:

The only way forward -- even if it is complicated and costly -- is to stand firm at Ukraine's side and help pursue a decisive victory. For that, the Europeans need to stop trying to tie Poroshenko's hands and undermining Ukrainian morale. They also need to be ready to impose additional sanctions against the Russians and provide more economic assistance to Kiev.

So far, Russia has had the call for whether the war escalates or not--surely greater Ukrainian efforts to reclaim their own territory can't count as "escalating" a fight.

Russian forces are now involved in the fight since proxies and patsy locals proved insufficient. Russian escalation seems guaranteed.

Ukraine needs to create the ability to escalate on their own. I suggest three options for Ukraine:

One, declare the port of Sevastopol closed and announce that the approaches to the port are mined. Ukraine should attempt to plant mines with whatever assets they can use--warships, civilian ship conscripted to service, and aircraft. It doesn't have to be a thick minefield--but it should be drizzled in to make sure there is always a threat to ships using the port.

Second, organize the ability to counter-attack Russia's holdings in Crimea.

Ukraine should strengthen their defenses across from Crimea in the narrow isthmus and behind that shield deploy artillery to bombard the Russian troops who hold that neck. Let's see if Russia can do a better job of knocking out rockets and artillery than Israel has when up against Hamas or Hezbollah.

Ukraine should gather up and deploy--with air defenses to protect them--long range missiles to strike Russia's Sevastopol base--the big prize of Russia's Crimea conquest.

If the fight gets this far, Ukraine should husband their air force for use in Crimea rather than throwing them into battle in eastern Ukraine into the teeth of Russia's air power and air defenses.

Third, Ukraine's western forces are pretty much out of the fight except for defending Odessa. These forces should plan for the invasion of Russia's enclave at Transdniestria in the west.

Perhaps Russia needs to worry a little more about what Ukraine can do to them rather than just calculating how much Ukraine can endure from Russia.

And of course, if Russia escalates to capture eastern Ukraine, Ukraine needs to make the region a bleeding ulcer for Russia by keeping resistance alive by pushing in to Russian-occupied eastern Ukraine special forces, National Guard troops, and supplies for locals--supported by Ukraine's regulars from outside (artillery and drone recon, for example).

UPDATE: Those fucking Russians:

On Tuesday, a number of Russian soldiers were reportedly captured in Ukraine just hours ahead of meetings between the Russian and Ukraine heads of state. Russia said they had wandered into Ukraine "by mistake" while on patrol. On Wednesday, however, Ukrainian officials said there were more Russian troops operating in eastern Ukraine, this time in army vehicles.

Stupid me. I gave the Russians the benefit of the doubt over Ukraine's capture of a small number of troops. I thought it plausible that they'd accidentally crossed the border. How dumb am I?

But no, the Russians are invading more overtly. We need to do what it takes to get arms to the Ukrainians and provide intelligence, logistics, and planning help.

This is a good start:

The Hungarian Ministry of Defence has announced that they’ve sold 58 T-72 tanks to a Czech company, Excalibur Defense Ltd., who has begun transporting them into the Czech Republic. ...

The right-wing Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita believes that the tanks are destined for Ukraine, which has been looking for compatible second-hand Soviet-era equipment that they can use right away.

This fits what I've said all along--we don't need to sell large weapons to Ukraine because it would take too long to integrate them into Ukraine's military. Ukraine needs Russian-made weapons that Ukraine already knows how to use and maintain.

An Affordable Russian Navy?

It is interesting that lately I'm getting hits from Moscow on various posts about the concept I raised of modularized auxiliary cruisers using standardized shipping containers to house systems and assets.

Russia already has a missile-in-a-box, I'll note.

As a land power with long borders, Russia can ill afford to divert resources from their ground forces and air power designed to support them to build a vanity navy.

Could this be how Russia can increase naval power without gravely weakening their land power?

The Great Mall of China

The Chinese are planning--on a grand scale--classic counter-insurgency population protection in order to defeat separatism in their far northwest.

Protecting the population from insurgent attack and influence--or, alternatively among a hostile population, separating the population to keep them from supporting an insurgency--by gathering them in locations where they can be protected (or watched) is classic counter-insurgency.

In Cuba, the Spanish called them "concentration camps"--but running them badly gave that name a very bad name, of course.

In South Vietnam we called it "strategic hamlets."

We used this in Iraq using the "oil spot" strategy as many called it--or a "population-centric" approach that viewed securing the people rather than killing the enemy as the main metric of success. Both are ultimately necessary and reinforce each other.

China, as a big country that built the Great Wall, is thinking big to cope with the non-Han in Xinjiang:

Dozens of new cities and towns will be built from scratch in China’s remote and restive far west as part of the country’s intensifying “people’s war” on terror, according to reports in the state media. ...

The bingtuan’s move to build dozens of new cities fits into a “very ambitious” 20-year plan urbanisation plan unveiled by Xinjiang’s government in 2012, said James Leibold, an academic from Australia’s La Trobe University who studies China’s ethnic policies.

“Xinjiang must march onto the road of new style urbanization,” says the plan, calling for 68 per cent of inhabitants to live in cities by 2030. ...

The bingtuan’s cities would also “try to integrate Uighurs more closely into Chinese society,” as a way of potentially guarding against increasing religious radicalisation and reducing ethnic violence between Uighurs and China’s Han majority. “But they don’t have a track record of being very good on this,” Dr Leibold added.

If things work out as expected, the rural swamp is drained and the people are put in cities where the people can be controlled, bribed with the amenities of cities, and indoctrinated.

Of course, the problem is that China's rulers may be trapped in the template of their rural-based Communist past that mobilized peasants to win the cities. Today's cities are capable of being centers and targets of insurgencies.

It may be that the Chinese should be thinking in terms of rural-based strategic hamlets rather than building new cities that may just create large urban battlefields.

Perhaps the Chinese need to pre-wire these new cities with massive camera surveillance systems and intrusive wiretapping built into communications networks to help cope.

Will the Great Mall of China pacify the Uighers?

Rubbing Our Nose in Failure Stuff

In the aftermath of ISIL's rapid conquest of northern Iraq by exploiting armed local Sunni Arab forces and adding this territory to their Syrian expanses, we are at least thinking about the problem of Syria and Iraq as one linked issue.

Which is progress to seeing these problems as just two components of one big problem centered on Iran's destructive influence that affects our interests from Egypt to Iran (and Afghanistan, too, as we prepare to withdraw), and one that if we win it even dents Russia's confidence that they own us (thank you Kerry!).

President Obama's desire not to do "stupid stuff" has just created an environment where others feel more free to do evil stuff. This is a disorganizing principle, at best.