Saturday, January 21, 2017

Weekend Data Dump

Showing a peace sign with your hand could allow others to photograph your fingerprints and provide someone else with your key biometric measure. Even a phone camera with the right lighting might be enough. In the article, a group is working on fingertip obscurers to wear that would still let you use your prints for your own use but prevent others from taking your prints. You might want to read The Light of Other Days for a view on how people react to a complete lack of privacy. Tip to Instapundit.

Never mind: The government once said not to give peanuts to young children. "Now, 12 years later, health experts have reversed their advice on peanuts, urging parents to begin feeding foods containing peanut powder or extract during infancy in hopes of reducing a child’s risk for allergy." Both my children can eat peanut butter. I ignored the (old) advice.

Let's not forget the support that Putin (and the Soviets before him) has given to the far left here in America. It's nice to be able to bring this up without suffering derision from liberals, who are Born Again Cold Warriors.

More on the Ivory Coast unrest I noted in the last weekend data dump.

Strategypage looks at missile defenses.

I'm never really sure if Representative Pelosi is a partisan hack or just dumb as a rock. I suppose I could use the curing powers of "and."

Banning the burqa (the head-to-toe garment that prevents a sin-prone man from seeing even enticing ankle flesh on a woman) isn't just for raging Islamophobes, it seems. As a symbol of the faction of Islam most prone to producing and supporting jihadis, I guess Morocco doesn't want to take a chance. In an amusing editorial decision, the article says that Morocco is an "African" country. Yes, it is in Africa, but it is more accurately called an Arab country, like Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt.

We've missed something in physics if the EM Drive really works, as it seems to do on a small scale anyway. Fascinating. Tip to Instapundit.

The Clintons are discontinuing the Clinton Global Initiative. Which makes sense. Nobody on the globe has any reason to donate now that Hillary Clinton isn't going to reside in the White House. No word on whether the Clinton Foundation will refund money paid for that influence the donors thought they would get with their money. I guess the prospects of Hillary being mayor of New York or of Chelsea becoming a junior minority representative in Congress doesn't cut it, influence-wise.

Why do people make up hate crimes? Sadly, there is some hate out there--on both sides. But precious little in our large country, really. And all the high-profile "hate" crimes by Trump backers against minorities that have been shown to be false harm the ability to rationally discuss the issue. The Left doesn't care that the cases are false because they "know' they are fake but accurate. Those on the right are prone to dismiss calls to do something about hate because it is easy to assume that most that hit the news are fake.

Just as the pre-election outrageously bigoted expressions of hate against Trump supporters got me to be much more accepting of the Trump candidacy--despite my longstanding disdain for Trump--the post-election Democratic tantrum has put off my transition from being relieved that Hillary lost (and that Obama would leave) to worried that Trump won. I'm not alone in this.

The Russians are "hacking" the California secession movement. The Russians are also involved in Texas. Californians should be more careful. You know that Russian River? Yeah, Russian colonists used to live there. So Russia would have a basis to claim California if it secedes.

I freely admit I lack nuance.  Could somebody explain why it is sexist to call a female actor an "actress" but it is okey dokey--nay, necessary--to call a female Latino a "Latina?"

Sure, Japan has reason to worry if the Philippines under Duterte is going wobbly on China and if America under Trump reduces our Pacific role. But I think it is too soon to think those potential reverses are going to come true. But if Japan wants to keep arming up just in case, I'm fine with that.

Lithuania is building a fence along their border with Russian Kaliningrad to keep out smugglers--and other undesirable little green men types. This is no type of defense against armed aggression, but if it comes to that NATO forces should be the ones going into Kaliningrad and not vice versa.

I know I am nuance-deficient. But if the Trump candidacy was a racist reaction to the President Obama era, as leftists assert, why didn't the racists vote against Obama when he was, you know, running for the office? Face it, a ham sandwich with a (D) after it should have been able to beat Trump. Sadly for the Democrats, they ran Hillary Clinton.

Taiwan is updating their Chaparral air defense missiles.

Not that I'm going to defend the corrupt (Democratic) Chicago political machine, but given that statistics are the third form of lies, why didn't the Obama administration even bother to twist statistics to prove a pattern or practice of violence in the Chicago police department?

The United States Army has brought back the Volcano instant minefield system now that conventional war is back on its plate.

The liberal notion that the Obama administration was scandal-free requires you to argue that only a sex or money scandal counts. Hillary's multi-faceted email scandal doesn't count--including why other government officials who knew she was off-the-books didn't blow the whistle doesn't count? Fast and Furious gun-running to Mexico and the IRS targeting scandals don't count? Lying about the Benghazi terror attack doesn't count? A bunch of dead veterans at the hands of the VA doesn't count? I discount the OPM hacking so-called scandal because if mere ineptitude counts, like mass water pollution by the friggin' EPA, the sky's the limit. Good Lord, look what lefties consider Bush 43 administration "scandals." If that's your standard for scandals, the Obama list will include the OPM failure and a whole lot more. Sure, President Obama was not guilty of any personal sex or financial scandal. Bravo. But there were scandals. And part of the scandal is that the media doesn't recognize them. So yeah, the only sucking up for the president was done by our press corps. Again, bravo.

Russian military modernization continues to focus on upgrading older weapons rather than buying new advanced designs unveiled with much publicity. Which works for a while, of course. Just when will Russia be able to afford new weapons when the older weapons reach the limits of updates?

Ukraine is suing Russia for operating in eastern Ukraine. I still think Ukraine should be sending Moscow a massive bill every month for rent for illegally squatting in the Crimean peninsula taken from Ukraine.

Obamacare killed 300,000 small business jobs? So what? As Pelosi said, having health insurance would free people to pursue their dreams--like subsidized cowboy poets, I suppose. So we have that going for us.

American B-2 stealth bombers--plural--struck ISIL targets in Libya. Here's our press release. Not that we needed stealth to safely reach the targets. But it is nice practice. The Russians--who would love bases in Libya (as they had back in the Soviet days) to support their position in the eastern Mediterranean--probably noticed. Heck, perhaps General Haftar who is thinking of aligning his Libyan faction with Russia noticed, too. Although maybe this is leverage to get into the UN-recognized government. Heck, perhaps Egypt noticed, given that Russian influence with Hiftar will affect Egypt which has an interest in stability in eastern Libya.

After Turkey complained about the lack of American air support for Turkey's fight inside Syria--not so subtlely threatening our base at Incirlik and getting Russian air support--American aircraft struck ISIL targets around al-Bab to help the Turks. Yet still Turkey and Russia carried out a joint air strike. What part of being a member of NATO is unclear to Turkey?

Europeans continue their effort to stabilize Mali, which is in need of it jihadi-wise, ever since the French overran the jihadi north in January 2013.

Duterte may want to reconsider his anti-charm offensive against America given that efforts to get China to make nice on their claims against the Philippines won't work. Manila has noticed.

Iraq has mostly taken eastern Mosul and the Iraqis claim that most ISIL commanders in Mosul have been killed. Certainly the most recent phase of the Iraqi offensive has seemed to go more smoothly. I eagerly await the offensive on western Mosul to see where the Iraqis attack.

The World Food Program stopped dropping food in the isolated Assad enclave at Deir Ezzor due to ISIL advances. Which is an interesting example of how private aid organizations participate in wars. Assad doesn't allow the WFP to drop food to Syrians in territory besieged by Assad's forces. Assad is calling up civilians inside the enclave to fight and is apparently flying in reinforcements. Despite success at Aleppo, losing another isolated city would be bad for the morale of Assad's supporters.

If the status of Russian-occupied Crimea is non-negotiable as Putin says, Ukraine needs to build up their capability to attack Russia's bases there with long-range missiles and minefields at sea around the Sevastopol port.

Please remember that as Iraqi forces rely on American (and Western) advisors, that the reason we can rely on advisors and combat support  to enable the Iraqis to attack is that the liberation of Iraq created an Iraqi state and security forces capable of fighting. Sure, our departure in 2011 heavily degraded what we created. And I don't understand why our two years of efforts have failed to create more Iraqi units capable of attacking. But because of the liberation of Iraq we do have the option of supporting Iraqi forces rather than committing American maneuver units.

Leftist masturbatory fantasies continued to the end. Keep it classy CNN. Worst come to worst, let's hope Ash Carter is the designated survivor.

American forces still sit in Kosovo, nearly 18 years after that war. Russian involvement with Serbia means we have to watch for another round of some sort. Please note that Bush 43 did not withdraw even though it was a war initiated by Bill Clinton (without UN or Congressional approval, I should add).

Annals from the "reality-based community" on health bankruptcies. Senator Elizabeth Warren has a starring role, so you know it is complete fantasy masquerading as fact. They just keep recycling their make-believe world where they are the heroes. Tip to Instapundit.

Jordan is beefing up their forces on their border with Syria.

Strategypage has some good overviews of Syria (and rebels still hold out in western Aleppo--who knew?), Afghanistan (where they say the government is doing better than the rebels, despite my worries), and Yemen (where a stalemate due to efforts to minimize casualties endures for now).

The permanent federal bureaucracy leans to the Democratic side. Enough so that the IRS was weaponized against conservatives. This will be a problem for Trump, as it was for Reagan. Which is why I've long said it is a fool's game to focus on capturing the presidency and assuming that will allow a conservative to easily move the federal government. It is far better to reduce the scope and depth of federal power to make it less important to control the executive branch. Tip to Instapundit.

An Iranian "frigate" (really just a corvette) and a supply ship, grandiosely called the 44th Flotilla, has been stuck in South Africa since November while the supply ship is out of the water under repair.

Russia already announced this, but Syria and Russia have signed an agreement to expand Russia's naval facilities at Tartus. The deal is for free use for 49 years with an option to renew for 25. Russia will expand it to hold up to 11 warships. The deal is likely part of an effort to portray the civil war as won, when rebels still have a lot of strength and Syria's forces are pretty battered. Will the rebels buy the notion that the war is over? Will foreign backers of the rebels agree?

The Danes are still involved in Iraq War 2.0. So thanks for that.

An American B-52 strike killed 100 al Qaeda jihadis in Syria. On top of the B-2 strike on ISIL in Libya (noted somewhere above), I wonder if this is an effort to knock back ISIL during the transition period? I thought much the same thing in the last transition about the surge in drone strikes on jihadis in Pakistan under Bush 43 prior to Obama's inauguration. The drone campaign continued, contrary to my expectation. Will the big bomber strikes continue, too?

Turkey's post-coup purge continues. If there was that much support for the coup, the coup would have succeeded. This seems more like a push to make Turkey a better fit for friendship with Russia than NATO. This is not good.

Why is it a shock that nationalist leaders are gaining popularity in Europe?  The European Union stands as a multi-national imperial project that would turn European nations into quaint tourist attractions with their cute postage stamps and local cuisine--but no actual power to frame how those people will live.

If Republicans had beclowned themselves 8 years ago the way Democrats are now doing (and beyond, into far Left violence), the media would consider it a national crisis rather than just another day of normal, reasonable news.

Liberalism is killing science, too. As I've said, the federal government is too powerful. If it was less powerful, politics wouldn't pollute so much of our lives. In the 1980s, I recall a friend describing how the big names in archeology squelched dissent from their theories on the origins of humans in the Americas. So the idea of the powers that be in an area of scientific inquiry defining what "science" is pre-dated the global warming extreme political distortions that we experience now.

The French carrier is not a joke. It is a small carrier that is able to carry out very real aviation missions. And until the British start operating F-35s off of their two carriers, only American carriers are better. Look at me, defending the French what with my nuance deficiency and all that.

Just Who Was the Blackmail Target?

Stratfor dismisses the alleged blackmail material that Russia supposedly had on Trump as part of the Peegate dossier kerfuffle.

Friedman notes that Trump has proven he is not embarrassed by anything and so even real information is likely futile (something I've mentioned, making the latest accusation akin to the effect of peeing in the ocean) and that Russia really just wants to attack our political system.

The Democrats are playing their part in this, you must admit; although the Russians may consider the newfound Democratic zeal to demonize Russia some major blowback.

What I don't understand is the idea set forth by Friedman that Russia could not have been out to blackmail Hillary Clinton because what was revealed wasn't that big a deal.

He has a point on the content of the leaked emails. They were embarrassing and did indicate or hint at violations of laws--but nothing big league.

But as a wiser man than I said, the very existence of the off-the-books easily hacked email system set up contrary to American law on handling classified material is the smoking gun about Hillary Clinton's failures to live up to proper standards.

And the dismissal of the material leaked neglects the possibility that Russia released what they did as a shot across the bow to warn Clinton that the Russians had far worse information that they hacked. As Friedman says, you can only blackmail with information not in the public domain.

So why would Putin bother to release the really damning information that might cause Clinton to lose when you consider the polling? Nobody thought Clinton would lose. Until election night.

But Clinton lost. So whatever the Russians have on her is wasted.

I seriously think that the Democratic zeal to investigate Russian efforts to intervene in our election will hurt Clinton far more than Trump. So have at it, I say. I certainly don't want Russia to meddle in our elections even if this time it failed. And if the Clinton racket is exposed while strengthening our system against tampering, that's a bonus.

As to Trump? Friedman writes:

The conclusion I am drawing is that there was no blackmail scheme and the Russians have no control over Trump, but they wanted to do whatever they could to weaken him. If I were the Russians, I’d want to do that. The Russians understand Washington well, and they understand the media.

So Democrats "resist" Trump in an extreme "by all means necessary" version of dissent, as is their right. Which suits Russia fine.

And of course, there are always the actual communists to stir up mobs. As I mentioned.

When You Strike a King, Period?

Strategypage writes that the Syrian rebels are pretty much beaten. Well, in the past Assad was considered pretty much beaten, too, so I respectfully disagree. We struck Assad and are failing to kill him.

The situation is grim for both sides, really:

With the victory in Aleppo the Assad government forces (over 250,000 full and part time fighters) control nearly half the country and about 70 percent of the population. Most government forces are for local defense. The rebels have about as many fighters as the Assads but they are not as well armed, trained or united. Only the FSA (representing about a quarter of the rebel fighters) is acceptable to all the nations supporting the rebellion (Turkey, the West and the Gulf Arabs). The Kurd coalition (the SDF) has about 20 percent of the rebels but is not recognized by the Turks because it contains a lot of Kurdish separatists. The Islamic radical groups (often referred to as the Islamic Front coalition) account for a third of the rebels and are still supported by some Arab nations and used to be (and might still be) supported by Turkey. The remaining 21 percent of the rebel fighters are the Islamic radicals who are out to conquer the world but split into several factions that are at war with each other. These groups have little outside support. The worst of them is ISIL, followed by the local al Qaeda franchise (formerly al Nusra) which is still cozy with al Qaeda. It was the Islamic radicals who, more than anyone else, prevented the rebels from uniting and overthrowing the Assads by 2014 or 2015.

If the side aiding the rebels would go all in to defeat Assad, it would help the non-jihadis again dominate the rebellion. The Obama administration has asked rebels to either fight and die to destroy ISIL--which aids Assad as a side effect; or to fight Assad in order to pressure him into negotiations.

But note this:

At least half the rebel fighters are more anti-Assad rebel that devoted believer in whatever other political or religious agendas the various rebel factions have. These rebels have switched from one rebel faction to another over the last few years, depending on which coalition seemed most likely to possess a winning strategy. From the beginning the two main coalitions were non-religious (seeking a democratic government) or religious (seeking an Islamic dictatorship or a democracy that recognized Islamic law). Since the Russian intervention in late 2015 and the Turkish invasion a year later, many rebels have switched back to non-religious coalitions like the FSA or SDF. [emphasis added]

Do read it all.

But is the rebellion over? I don't see why Assad's recovery must be the last change of fortune.

If we help the non-jihadi rebels, it will make them the strong horse at the expense of the jihadis. That will gain recruits for them at the expense of the jihadis. I've been arguing this for some time as opponents of arming Syrian rebels have instead searched for perfect rebels to back.

Assad has few ground forces suitable for offensive action or even the ability to move around the country in reaction to threats. So reconquering lost territory and people is not a given.

If the foreign states backing the rebels increase support for the rebels, it will add to the financial burden on Russia and Iran which provide that offensive power.

If we add to the financial pressure on Russia and Iran, we make it tougher for Russia and Iran to afford to pay for that offensive units of Iranian, Russian, and Hezbollah assault troops plus the Shia foreign legion that Iran has organized.

And Hezbollah has bled a lot already and doesn't seem fully on board their cannon fodder role any more.

Maybe if we had information war operation where Iran recruits Shias we could reduce that capability. We should be praising Iran and the dead for sacrificing Arabs and other non-Persians for the greater glory of Iran. Make it obvious that Iran is willing to fight to the last Arab Shia for their imperial glory.

We also need to help the rebels build their own mobile force that can both react to Assad offensives and, more importantly, hit Assad weak points to attack them.

We also need to work on keeping the Kurds from cutting a deal with Assad that takes them off the board. We can't count on Kurds to march on Damascus with other rebels, but we might at least keep them from helping Assad once the fight against ISIL is largely won.

If we can continue to build up the Arab forces now helping the Kurds fight ISIL, we may overcome the loss of the ISIL forces in fighting Assad.

Remember, while Assad may control territory with 70% of Syria's population (I assume that means 70% of what is left inside Syria), Assad still has a smaller recruiting base for reliable troops. And that base has suffered enormous casualties. I don't assume they will continue to fight and die for Assad if the war drags on without that light at the end of the tunnel which Assad, Russia, Iran--and now Turkey--want all Syrians to believe is the end of the civil war in sight.

If Assad wins, it will be another 30 years before resistance to Assad from the Sunnis can rebuild.

And in the meantime, Assad will take revenge on America. We won't get any credit for refusing to "further militarize" the struggle, as our government famously said early in the civil war, by deciding not to go all-in to defeat Assad.

No, Assad will seek--again--to kill Americans and undermine our position in the region with their friends the Russians, the Iranians, Hezbollah, and sadly Turkey perhaps.

We struck a king (Assad). We should kill him or expect revenge.

UPDATE: Another overview of the situation.

This claims more Assad forces and far fewer rebel forces--although the latter could be a problem of not counting rebel part-timers who would be in the local defense forces that predominate (on both sides).

And the article clarifies that the population control is of those who remain in Syria.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Thanks Obama!

Will President Trump move our embassy in Israel to Jerusalem?

You know, the funny thing is, our Arab allies have been so rattled by the Obama administration's dramatic tilt toward Iran that they'd probably accept this move quietly if the Trump administration promises to restore our Middle East policy to pre-Obama days and bring Israel firmly into an alliance of Arab states, Israel, and America to roll back Iranian advances.

Smart Diplomacy might live on.

During Eight Years

I'm happy to see President Obama leave office. And I'm ecstatic that Hillary Clinton will not be president. No matter my worries about Trump (and I do have some worries), this end of an era is a good thing (tip to Instapundit):

There was a time, early in Barack Obama’s presidency, when it was considered outrageous to worry out loud that the new president might treat enemies better than allies, run down friends and elevate foes, show solidarity with anti-American leaders, maybe even release dangerous terrorists or sympathize with traitors.

And here we are.

Indeed. And here's a Washington Post tour of presidential whoppers to remember. I especially appreciate the rebuttal of the president's defenders that President Obama did indeed immediately call the Benghazi attack an episode of terrorism. It was a frustrating example of believing my lying eyes over the assertions of Nuanced Americans.

But let me at least note some things that I think President Obama did right in foreign policy over his two terms.

In no particular order:

The Ebola response that included the dispatch of American troops to west Africa worked far better than I feared.

We have backed Ukraine in their war with Russia. I never thought we needed to send big-ticket items to seriously help Ukraine. Although our help is tied to restraining Ukraine, too, which is unfortunate. So this is partial credit.

The administration did not feel the pull of coming to a fake agreement with North Korea over their nuclear weapons program. Heck, I feared the Bush 43 administration might be tempted to go down that road.

The administration forged closer ties with India, which I feared would be a casualty of being associated with Bush.

The already ongoing "pivot" to Asia was continued even though it was more spin of a continuation of post-Cold War trends than some innovation.

The re-engagement with the defense of NATO Europe and closer ties with non-NATO Sweden and Finland.

The waging of Iraq War 2.0, however much I think we have been too slow in engaging the enemy there. At least it admits that we achieved something in Iraq War 1.0 and that it was an error to leave too early in 2011.

The deployment of sea- and land-based missile defenses in Europe (making up for the cancellation of the Bush plan in Europe). Missile defense in Europe (and in general) is progressing despite the early cancellation of the Bush plan to defend Europe and North America with sites in eastern NATO countries. Eventually the Obama plan is to get to that stage. We'll see if it does. But it is making progress.

The continuation of Bush-era support for Colombia's fight against communist and drug gang terrorists.

Tighter ties with Japan and South Korea in the face of Chinese and North Korean threats.

Closer ties with Vietnam to counter China.

We've kept our distance from the Venezuelan regime despite the love affair America's left wing has had with that repulsive and inept socialist government.

Then there is the killing of Osama bin Laden. Although that was a symbolic move that isn't significant unless paired with a serious effort to confront and defeat the ideology that spawned that slimeball. So call that a partial credit, at best. New slime balls--as the rise of ISIL shows--will replace individuals if the ideology can continue to spew out jihadis.

Our energy situation has improved dramatically. Mind you, this was despite the president's inclinations and policy. But it happened on his watch. On the other hand, since much of the world still needs oil from unstable sources and we need the world, we can't walk away from stabilizing the unstable oil sources.

And we do have a "kill list" that our armed drones use to thin the herd of jihadi leadership. That should never be our total war policy, but it doesn't bother me one bit the way it bothers a lot of the usual suspects.

And I'd be remiss not to mention that just being the first African-American president was actually a big deal that America can be proud of. And he was reelected. Given that, charges of racism shaping our most recent election that are flung around when no African American was on the presidential ballot are especially sad. But it was a milestone. I'd have preferred Colin Powell to have that honor, but you reach your milestone with the president you had and not the president you wish you had.

Of course, I realize that this list is a lot like finding your husband cheated on you with hookers, the neighbors, his yoga instructor, and even your sister; but that he takes out the garbage, is a good provider, loves your children, has a perfect driving record, and never forgets your birthday and wedding anniversary.

And a parting note: I know I have mentioned this before, but if I was a gambling man, I'd bet that Barack Obama, Global Citizen that he is, becomes Secretary General of the United Nations at some point.

So I Should Worry Trump Will Be Too Pro-Russian?

I appreciate Democratic concerns about  whether Trump will stand up to Russia. Their sudden conversion--from the very top--is welcome.

But I'm supposed to worry now?

When we had the Clinton-carried "reset" after Russia attacked Georgia?

After the Obama administration canceled the Bush missile defense plan in Eastern Europe on the anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939?

When the New START nuclear agreement gave Russia an advantage in intermediate range missiles and when the administration has been ignoring Russian cheating?

When the Obama administration invited Russia into Syria with the Kerry-Lavrov faux chemical deal--and Assad continues to use chemical arms?

When that invitation to enter Syria gave Russia openings to expand influence in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, and Libya?

When we have practically speaking allied with Russia to save Assad by hitting ISIL while Russia hammers other rebels?

When our president promised--on video--"flexibility" to Putin after our 2012 election?

When President Obama reduced American military strength in Europe until Russia invaded Ukraine?

When our president has done little to help Ukraine fight Russia to recover lost land in Crimea and the Donbas?

And Democrats are worried Trump will favor Russia?? Good grief, what more could Trump do to help Russia that hasn't already been done?


Russia is giving Donald Trump the kind of fawning television coverage usually reserved for Vladimir Putin, with its most popular propagandist hailing the president-elect this week as “a man of his word.”

But inside the Kremlin, the initial euphoria over having a Putin admirer in the White House is giving way to skepticism that any meaningful detente with the U.S. can be achieved, according to four senior officials in Moscow.

So is the brilliant plan to prevent Hillary Clinton from being president falling apart even before Trump is sworn in? Is the vaunted Russian intelligence not as good as their image says?

Or is it more likely that Russia wanted a Clinton presidency all along? After all, if Hillary scared Putin so much, why didn't the Russians try to get Comrade Bernie the victory in the primary season when nobody gave Trump any hope at all of winning?

Seriously, if--as Democrats claim--Hillary Clinton scared the Russians so much that they helped Trump win, why did the Russians rely on Trump to win, when all the polling showed he would lose easily to Clinton? Why wouldn't the Russians have tried to stop Hillary earlier when Bernie--he who honeymooned in the Soviet Union, for Pete's sake!--was a real threat to Hillary's coronation?

Isn't it more likely that the Russians wanted to show a "rigged" American system conspiring to deny Trump the presidency; and then the Russians would have a politically damaged Clinton in office--a Clinton vulnerable to pressure from whatever emails the Russians have that they did not release to WikiLeaks?

But Russia got Trump who the Democrats say the Russians must be delighted to have. And the Russian people have to be prepared to have a President Trump not anywhere nearly as friendly to Putin as Russian propaganda had suggested he would be.


Thursday, January 19, 2017

Not Quite the Sanctuary City as She Was Led to Believe

Behind every great man terrorist killer, there is a woman:

Noor Salman, the wife of Pulse nightclub shooter Omar Mateen, was arrested in the San Francisco area Monday. She faces federal charges that include obstruction of justice and aiding and abetting her husband's material support to ISIS.

San Francisco? I guess that whole sanctuary city thing doesn't live up to the hype.

I guess we'll find out whether she was a victim as she claims or a key enabler.

So ... We Have These Things Called Ground Forces

This article goes into all the missiles in Russia's Kaliningrad exclave that could make life Hell for NATO in a war. It's a funny kind of war that the author assumes for a small piece of territory surrounded by NATO nations.


In the event of a military conflict over the Baltic States, Russian missiles in Kaliningrad could target NATO troops heading from Poland. That could slow reinforcements were Russia to invade Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. ...

Kaliningrad’s missiles pose a serious complication to NATO. The enclave is practically loaded with them.

For an article that starts by noting the deployment of an American heavy brigade to Poland, the author's view of war is very one-dimensional.

Yes, the Russians have lots of missiles in Kaliningrad. But the funny thing is about launching positions is that you have to control the launch sites to launch missiles.

Which is why in a war with Russia the first thing NATO should do to counter those missiles is overrun Kaliningrad with ground units.

For all those missiles that Russia has that are clearly a problem for reinforcing Poland, Russia's ground forces are rather limited:

At the beginning of 2010 the number of ground forces in the Kaliningrad special district was 10,500 ground troops (excluding the 1,100 in the Marine Corps), divided into one motorized infantry brigade, one mechanized infantry regiment, one missile brigade with 12-18 defense systems OTR-21 Tochka, one artillery brigade, one helicopter regiment, one defense team.

That's a bit old, but the total is about 3 brigade equivalents of maneuver units. Which are weak compared to Western brigades. The number of armored vehicles there are way in excess of the units assigned.

Also, I have no idea what that blue box means when it claims Russia has 225,000 military personnel in the exclave. There is no way Russia has close to a quarter of their total active manpower in one small, isolated territory. And if so, with only 3 combat brigades to protect them, all those purported Russians would be POWs before too long.

So yeah, Russia has a lot of missiles in the region. Russia can do stuff to NATO that will hurt. That's what makes Russia a threat. Especially in the Baltic states that border Russia but far are from NATO reinforcements. The geography sucks.

But don't forget that NATO can do a lot against Russia when the geography tilts our way.

UPDATE: Yes, the missile threat from Kaliningrad is real. But unless Russian troops hold the ground, there is no threat.

Don't over-complicate this with talk of battling their missiles with our missiles. Occupy the missile sites with NATO troops if it comes to war.

Silly Refugees, You Already Live in Paradise!

In the closing days of his tenure, President Obama made it more difficult for one class of refugees to gain sanctuary in America. The sound of crickets you hear is the response of the open borders people on the left who oppose any efforts to regulate who can and who cannot enter America under our laws.

Tip to Instapundit.

UPDATE: Via Instapundit, America has committed to working with Cuba's oppressive communist regime to return Cubans who no longer have special status under our refugee policies:

The U.S. State Department signed a new agreement on law enforcement cooperation with Cuba on Monday, seeking to further deepen ties with the communist island just four days before the end of the Obama administration.

The agreement outlines U.S.-Cuban cooperation on a wide range of criminal and security-related issues, including terrorism, narcotics, cyber-security, immigration, money laundering, smuggling and human trafficking.

So with Cubans hitting our shores now unable to claim refugee status, our government now has a means of working with Cuba to send them back.

We have a New Fugitive Slave Act in effect with the slave masters of Havana.

UPDATE: Could Florida declare itself a "sanctuary state" for Cubans fleeing Castro until the new administration sorts out that kind of secessionist nullification sentiment in the entire country?

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Russia Wants a Piece of the Action

Russia will likely interfere with any Cyprus unification efforts to ensure their interests in the eastern Mediterranean Sea:

What has been billed as the last chance for Greek and Turkish Cypriots to reunite the island nation appears to be tantalizingly within reach -- but it might not get there without a nod from Russia. ...

If reunification does finally take place, Russia will need to know how its interests will be protected. What it clearly doesn't want is for NATO to be strengthened and for Cyprus to join it -- a possibility after unification. If Moscow is not satisfied, it could undermine the deal both inside Cyprus and in the UN.

Russia has financial interests in divided Cyprus. Lots of Russians live there. And Russia has port rights on this island that nicely complements a base in Syria.

With Crimea newly conquered and built up, Russia has more ability to project power into the Mediterranean Sea.

With Assad secured for now in western Syria, Russia is able to build up their bases in Syria on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean.

If Russia can upgrade access in Cyprus to a base, Russia would gain both a shield for their Syrian bases and an advanced base to project power further west in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

So Russia will seek to secure their interests in Cyprus.

And as long as we're talking bases, to finish a line of supply from Crimea to Syria, I'd bet the Russians would love to eject NATO from Crete and have their own access to bases there at the mouth of the Aegean Sea.

So how's Greece feeling these days as full partner of Europe? On the bright side, Russia cozying up to Turkey makes NATO look better.

Something to Watch

Alert Rosie O'Donnell:

Senegal's forces are at the Gambian border and will enter at midnight if veteran Gambian President Yahya Jammeh refuses to leave power, Colonel Abdou Ndiaye, a spokesman for the Senegalese army, told Reuters on Wednesday.

Jammeh, who lost a Dec. 1 election to opposition leader Adama Barrow, said he would not step down, citing irregularities in the vote. His official mandate was due to end at midnight GMT.

I guess somebody--not America--will get O'Donnell's dream of a military coup to halt a peaceful transfer of power.

Nigeria has deployed combat aircraft to Senegal to support the intervention, which has the backing of the west African bloc ECOWAS.

More from the BBC and AP.

I wonder if America's rapid reaction Marine force mostly in Spain might be used to evacuate American citizens from there if there is an ECOWAS intervention? V-22s and C-130s could likely stage to Senegal for operations into Gambia.

UPDATE: The new Gambian president sworn in to office in the safety of Senegal calls for the loyalty of his countries military; and Nigeria says it is deploying "troops"--which I assume refers to ground forces--just in case.

UPDATE: I knew I had a post on this (quoting Stripes):

Senegal, Ghana and Gabon are playing key roles as hosts to so-called cooperative security locations, which function as bare-bones launching pads for quick-reaction troops called upon to secure U.S. diplomatic facilities in the broader region, Rodriguez said.

So our forces could go right to Senegal in case we face a crisis in Gambia.

UPDATE: The ECOWAS operation to seat the newly elected president in office in Gambia has begun.


West African armies halted an operation in Gambia aimed at installing the country's new president, Adama Barrow, on Thursday so regional leaders could make one last attempt to convince longtime ruler Yahya Jammeh to step aside.

When you start to take Banjul, take Bamjul.

UPDATE: Perhaps the Gambian military isn't ready to fight for Jammeh.

And more here.

UPDATE: The head of Gambia's military pledged allegiance to the new president Barrow. Apparently there will be little resistance to the ECOWAS force.  Is this just a case of Jammeh trying to get a better retirement package? Assuming he didn't grow rich as president with a bit of traditional corruption, that is.

Army Hope Springs Eternal

The Army is exploring concepts for a new tank to replace the Abrams that is reaching the limits of its design to update for new threats.

As an Army that has to send its tanks around the world to Eurasian battlefields to fight, the Army is (understandably) always tempted by the siren song of "light and survivable."

Yeah, good luck with that:

A lighter weight, more high-tech tank will allow for greater mobility in the future, including an ability to deploy more quickly, handle extremely rigorous terrain, integrate new weapons, cross bridges inaccessible to current Abrams tanks and maximize on-board networking along with new size-weight-and-power configurations.

Although initial requirements for the future tank have yet to emerge, Bassett explained that the next-generation platform will use advanced sensors and light-weight composite armor materials able to achieve equal or greater protection at much lighter weights.

Here's a thought. We find a way to save 40 tons of weight by putting on new armor that equals the current heavy plating that the Abrams has. Voila! We have a lighter tank that can take on the enemy!

Which is nice if we maintain technological superiority over our enemies in armor design.

In the short run, enemies who don't have to build tanks to be sent (and supplied) several thousand miles away build anti-tank weapons large enough to punch through the new armor. They may build the tank large enough to hold such a weapon without worrying about the need to ship the tank around the world.

And if the enemy manages to equal our armor technology, they simply load more of it on their tank to make their tank even more impervious to our weapons than our tanks are to their weapons.

Face it, every time we save a ton of weight we will need to add that weight back on--and still have to endure the strategic mobility problem. The Army needs to build a tank that can survive and win; and let the Navy worry about moving and supplying the damn things.

And even active defenses will not save us from needing sheer bulk of passive armor given that there is more than one way to skin a cat in this survivability problem.

The appeal of building a light but survivable tank lives on. But the wonder tank will not be built (see "Equipping the Objective Force")

Oh, and I issue a hardy laugh at the idea that a faster tank is more survivable. Please examine British World War II experience with their cruiser tanks. Speed never replaces armor. No tank will ever be faster than a shell or missile.


If it is true that a two-state solution cannot divide the region of Gaza, Israel, and the West Bank into to states--Israel and Palestine--because of competing geographic needs of each party that cannot be compromised, what can be done?

This analysis does not bode well for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict:

The Israelis cannot give up the Jordan River line since it is their main defensive position. Nor can they accept a westward shift of the border toward the 1948 lines, as it would make the Israeli heartland (the Tel Aviv-Haifa-Jerusalem triangle) vulnerable to the kinds of rockets fired from Gaza.

The Palestinians can’t accept a state divided between Gaza and the West Bank, without any transport under their control. Nor can they accept Israeli control of the Jordan River line, as that would mean that they remain isolated except for Israel permitting movement – and would mean the Israeli army moving through Palestinian territory. Finally, such a geography would be economic insanity. Palestine would remain dependent on Israel, with its population employed in menial jobs in Israel, passing through Israeli checkpoints.

Those who want Israel to retreat from the Jordan River--even if some would let Israel keep outposts along that line to monitor the region--argue that the world had moved beyond land as a basis of power and security. The position of rocket launchers in Gaza and Hezbollah-controlled southern Lebanon--would seem to negate that optimism.

But what if a two-state solution partially retreats from the territorial basis of states?

Could a Palestine complete with a UN seat be created in pockets of territory controlled by Israel, plus Gaza, while granting Palestinians who live in territory controlled by Israel, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan Palestinian citizenship?

The focus of citizenship would be transferred to the Internet, for taxation, voting, incorporating companies, and civic groups.

Could Estonia help with this type of focus given their reputation as E-stonia?

By removing these now-Palestine citizens from the local governments, they would be a lesser factor in local politics. For generations, Arab states have refused to grant the descendants of refugees permanent residence status or citizenship. Wouldn't this option be attractive to these states?

Those Palestine citizens would have to be given the option of seeking citizenship in the local government. Perhaps with conditions and numerical ceilings, in a wider "right of return" with limits.

International financial and technical support could be shifted from "refugee" support to state-building on the Internet and in legal matters in states that host the most Palestinians.

Perhaps this could go global with states allowing Palestinians to be residents without being on a citizen track. Again, national limits could be assigned so this isn't just open borders globally for Palestinian citizens.

Sure, the Palestinians would be subject to the friendship or hostility of host nations. But how different is that from the current situation?

We are building an Internet of things, now. Could we build an Internet of a State to get around the problem of two people fighting over control of one piece of land?

I haven't tried to think through the intricacies of such a solution. But I thought I'd throw it out there.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Female Privilege

Man sentenced to 35 years for espionage; woman sentenced for same crime released after serving 7 years:

US President Barack Obama on Tuesday commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning, who is serving 35 years behind bars for giving classified US documents to WikiLeaks.


UPDATE: And of course, freeing Manning kind of interferes with the Democratic blood and guts reaction against the Russian-aligned Wikileaks that opened up Democratic party emails.

So update your slogans, comrades! We have always been at war with Eastasia!

As for Republicans who are fine with the Russians messing with us--even though I do not believe Putin was trying to get Trump elected--how's that position now?

Embracing the Stupid

Truly we are a lucky and free country when the frowny-faced gaze of Oppression Aficionados focuses on the evil of fashion trends.

I bet that this type of fashion oppression won't be discussed at their splendid "teach-in."

Real evil and oppression exist. They are not in the Macy's clothing department.

Those morons at GVSU need a good (figurative, of course, oh Snow Flakes) beating with the clue bat which might help them grow up.

Arming The AFRICOM Queen

The Navy has finalized the mine-sweeping package for the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), which are designed to have systems housed in shipping containers inserted into the hull to allow them to carry out different missions.

The package can also be used on land to protect port access because it is based on helicopters (and aerial drones?) and unmanned vehicles.

The Navy is also looking at what other platforms could support the package as of now designed for the LCS:

[MG Christopher] Owens said the Navy would have to study other classes of ships to determine if they could support the mine countermeasures package, which includes aviation assets and unmanned surface and underwater vehicles.

Might I suggest a modularized auxiliary cruiser as an appropriate type of ship that could be used as a platform.

So Just Assured Destruction, Then

One of the most interesting side effects of America's missile defense programs that promise to provide a thin shield to allies in Europe and Asia is the reaction of Russia and China to these minimal defenses.

As South Korea plans to buy American THAAD missile defense systems to guard themselves against North Korea's budding nuclear arsenal, Russia and China have raised a stink:

China and Russia have agreed to take further unspecified "countermeasures" in response to a U.S. plan to deploy an anti-missile system in South Korea, state news agency Xinhua reported on Friday.

This follows Russian complaints over the last decade that inconveniently highlighted Russia's intense desire to be able to efficiently nuke Europeans without the worry that some of their missiles might be shot down.

Who knew the Russians were so eager to commit mass murder of Europeans, eh?

And now China has joined the Russians in horror that South Korea might not be completely vulnerable to anybody that wants to nuke South Korea.

And it upsets them so much that Russia and China will not only work on counter-measures to penetrate those thin defenses but will work together to be able to nuke South Korea if they choose without the horrifying inefficiency of losing some missiles to missile defenses.

Call it a policy of Mutual Assured Destruction.

You'd think our information war operations could exploit this.

Win, Build the Wrong Thing, Lose

American special forces carried out a ground raid in Syria against ISIL that was a success. So what are we doing in Syria, again?

Kudos to the military for this operation:

U.S. Special Operations troops carried out a ground operation in eastern Syria aimed at capturing an Islamic State militant, U.S. officials said Monday.

The raid took place Sunday near a small town along the Euphrates River valley, in the vicinity of the city of Deir al-Zour and deep in the heart of Islamic State territory, according to the officials and Syrian activist groups.

The troops, who landed on helicopters, spent about 90 minutes in the area, then left carrying Islamic State captives and bodies, according to witnesses quoted by the website Deir al-Zour 24, which monitors Islamic State activity in that province.

But I don't know why we are fighting ISIL in Syria for Assad's benefit.

Russia has no shame in focusing on non-ISIL enemies of Assad in their effort to defend Assad.

What Russia cares about is that they will get to keep their bases in Syria:

Russia plans to improve and expand its naval and air bases in Syria, Interfax news agency reported on Sunday, citing an unnamed source, as Moscow cements its presence in the Middle Eastern country, its only overseas military deployment.

But the Russians really don't care much about helping Assad deal with ISIL in the east:

Islamic State has launched its fiercest assault in a year against a besieged Syrian government enclave in the city of Deir al-Zor, trying to cut it off from a nearby military air base in a battle that has killed dozens.

Nope. Russia is happy to carry out an exit strategy now, if they can, while their image is good after the fall of Aleppo to Assad's forces.

Much as we took advantage of the murderous and odious Soviet Union waging war on just as odious and murderous Nazi Germany in World War II, I don't know why we would try to keep ISIL from fighting Assad.

From the beginning, I've been in favor of defeating ISIL in Iraq first.

While doing that I thought we could build up the non-jihadi resistance in Syria, attacking ISIL there only to support the operations against ISIL in Iraq or to shape the future battlefield in Syria.

Strikes to protect our Syrian rebel allies from ISIL would be an example of that latter kind of effort.

Then, after the non-jihadi resistance to Assad was built up and after ISIL in Iraq was defeated (and turned into a terrorist problem rather than a caliphate occupying territory), we could focus on defeating ISIL in Syria, confident that the defeat of ISIL would not be a favor to Assad.

I called this Win, Build, Win.

So far we are relying on Syrian Kurds to fight ISIL in the operation to take Raqqa. But the Kurds are not going to fight Assad for us. The Kurds will fight ISIL as long as those jihadis are a threat to Kurdish regions in Syria. The Kurds will not march on Damascus.

The Kurds will happily make a deal with Assad for autonomy as the price of sitting out the rest of the war after the Kurds have what they want secured. No Kurdish leaders are going to send their forces all the way to Damascus while Turks loom over their Kurdish proto-state in northern Syria.

So completely defeating ISIL will simply take an enemy off the board in the fight to unseat Assad--who our president seemingly a million years ago insisted had to step down--without building up an acceptable rebel force that can take its place.

Defeating Iran by defeating Assad should be a higher priority than defeating ISIL in Syria.

Simply defeating Assad who has plenty of American blood on his hands from Lebanon to Iraq from his support for jihadis who killed our troops alone should have a higher priority than beating ISIL in Syria.

Remember, when ISIL is gone, who will want to keep fighting to get rid of the butcher Assad who will reassure everyone that he'll be very busy rounding up people in Syria and so no threat to them?

Contrast that to all the nations that will work together to fight ISIL after the Assad regime is defeated to stop terror attacks at home. Even France is on board that fight.

Is this order of operations really so hard to appreciate?

Monday, January 16, 2017

This, Too, Shall Pass?

I've been worrying if Erdogan would take Turkey out of NATO in order to team up with Russia over Syrian issues, in an effort to make Turkey a major regional power that plays off America, Europe, Russia, and China against one another.

Sometimes I read things that say that Turkey is really just trying to gain some leverage against NATO and that the mutual outreach is nothing to worry about. I'd like to think that is true. Turkey under Erdogan is a highly flawed ally but they are an ally rather than a foe. So there's that. I feel much the same way about Pakistan. Or Saudi Arabia, for that matter. Things can always be worse.

So here's another entry in the don't-worry-about-Turkey camp:

The harsh Turkish critique of the Obama White House should be seen as a gambit for the incoming Trump administration. Ankara is hoping that the incoming administration will not be invested in supporting Syrian Kurds and, therefore, will be more amenable to prioritizing Turkish interests. In view of Donald Trump’s conviviality toward Putin, Turks may also be counting on Russian support for Ankara’s new position with Washington. ...

Still, it would be foolhardy to suggest that Erdogan would contemplate abandoning NATO. Turkey lives under the shadow of the Russian giant — its anger at the United States and its Western allies notwithstanding, it needs the protection the alliance offers. Without it, the Russians would be able to intimidate Ankara at will. ...

For now at least, two repressive populist leaders, Erdogan and Putin, have struck up a marriage of convenience.

Of course, Russia no longer borders Turkey. That lessens the Russian threat that once existed when the Soviet Union (and Czarist Russia before it) controlled both Turkey's eastern border and the access through the Balkans to the European Turkey and the Turkish straits. Unless you really believe Russia would nuke Turkey over some issue.

So I'm not so sure that Erdogan is convinced Turkey needs NATO any more.

And Lord knows what Erdogan will think is a good solution out of the financial mess he finds himself in that could result in a crisis this year:

Turkey has yet to make the tough decisions that will mend its economy. And, it seems, it will not. Erdogan prefers to blame economic problems on a nefarious conspiracy of international financiers. Though there is a consensus that the only remedy in the short run is for Turkey to raise interest rates dramatically. Erdogan is against it because, obviously, high interest rates will prevent economic growth.

The danger now is not only that Turkey’s economic growth will stop, but that it will stop under rising inflation. The worst-case scenario for economists — stagflation — might be awaiting Turkey.

I had heard Erdogan say that currency problems were like a terrorist attack on Turkey, but didn't realize there was a real problem here (and the problem isn't that Turkey is under financial assault).

But Erdogan may believe his rhetoric. What might he do?

And even if the Russian-Turkish detente is "a marriage of convenience" that is only temporary, I recall that some really bad things happened because of another marriage of convenience between two repressive regimes to reconcile differences over a third country that turned out to be temporary--the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939.

So I remain far from comforted about recent trends in Russian-Turkish relations.

An Upmarket Rosie O’Donnell

I used to read Paul Krugman. I never agreed with him but it was sometimes fun (if that is the right word to use for columns that figuratively led me to pound my forehead into the wall) to attack his columns. At some point--perhaps even before the Times put their columnists behind a pay wall for a while--I stopped reading him as a complete waste of time and possible health hazard.

Whatever Krugman's talents as an economist in a particular narrow area that got him a Nobel Prize, he long since abandoned economics as a discipline in order to use his Nobel credentials as a sword and shield to be a partisan political hack in the battle to advance liberal Democratic policies.

Behold the issue of deficits:

Like homelessness and military casualties, U.S. government deficits are an issue that bleep into visibility on the progressive radar almost exclusively during Republican presidencies. On October 23, 2016, Professor Krugman wrote that the “debt scolds should be ignored,” and that Hillary Rodham Clinton, then presumed to be the next president, should engage in “years of deficit-financed infrastructure spending, if she can.” A grand total of 78 days later, Professor Krugman declared, “Deficits matter again.”

The science of economics cannot explain such a dramatic shift. It is pure politics.

And I freely admit that Republicans who decide to spend freely under the guidance of a Trump administration--if that is what happens, of course--are guilty of politics.

But how many Nobel Prizes in economics to those politicians have?

Which is why I've often said that the best way to tame the federal government isn't to put Republicans in charge of the same programs that Democrats ran, but to reduce the scope of the federal government so nobody runs the non-existent programs or is tempted to simply add their own "good" program to the mix.

Be Careful What You Wish For?

The notion that Putin backed a Trump presidency to get a friendly administration is shown to be nonsense as the Senate confirmation hearings demonstrate.

I said that if Putin was trying to help Trump become president he'd be a fool to expect that being seen as a Trump fan wouldn't create a backlash against Trump for that reason.

The more logical explanation for the leaks of Democratic emails is that Putin wanted Clinton in office, and the obviously Russian-supplied leaks about other Democrats were a taste about what could be done to Clinton herself (remember her poorly secured private email system that she used for classified information while Secretary of State?) once in office if she didn't self-reset relations with Russia again.

That whole Trump-loves-Putin image Russia inspired with Democratic help would push Trump to be more anti-Russian just to negate such charges. That extends to his appointee, eh?

So how's that supposed Putin plan going?

Retired Gen. James Mattis on Thursday cruised toward likely confirmation as Donald Trump's defense secretary, easily prevailing in a Senate vote granting him an exemption to run the Pentagon as a recently retired officer. At his confirmation hearing, he called Russia the nation's No. 1 security threat, accusing its leader of trying to "break" NATO. ...

As he spoke, Trump's choice to run the CIA, Rep. Mike Pompeo of Kansas, sided with intelligence officials who claim the Kremlin was behind the election cyberattacks, adopting a similarly tough stand against Russia in his confirmation hearing.

Putin the old KGB man didn't anticipate this? Really?

And for more fun for Putin, how do suddenly anti-Russian Democrats oppose Trump efforts to resist Russia after the Democrats have loudly condemned Russia?

Putin hoped to get a compliant Clinton atop a pacifist Democratic base that would be happy to avoid conflict with Russia over anything, while painting the American political system as one that plotted against Trump at every turn and engineered Hillary's win.

Instead, Putin got a Trump win when all the establishment powers were against him and who can't afford to be seen as friendly to Russia. And Putin got a Democratic party suddenly all militant about stopping the dread Russkies from carrying out their diabolical plots.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Weekend Data Dump

I don't understand why Americans who are opposed to a wall on our porous southern border are so committed to thinking anyone who supports a wall is anti-immigrant. America was built by immigrants. I'm a fan. My family came to America. But what I am also in favor of is sovereignty that gives America the right to say which and how many immigrants get to come in. Remember, we all agree immigration built America. So setting the terms of immigration to make sure that immigration continues to benefit America should be a no-brainer--even for opponents of the wall. In time, if given the opportunity, immigrant communities assimilate. We are a nation of ideas and not of blood and soil, so anyone can become and American. I support a wall--or more accurately, immigration controls. It could include walls where appropriate. And a wall has to be defended, of course, or it is worthless. But it has to be one part of controls that include visa over-stays and fines on businesses who hire illegal aliens. I want immigration. And I want it on our terms. [Okay, I just noticed that I basically wrote this in the last weekend data dump without remembering it. Grant me I am consistent, at least!]

American tanks and heavy equipment are heading to eastern NATO to begin exercises at the end of the month. There was a time prior to Russia's invasion of Ukraine that we had no heavy armor in Europe after pulling the last tanks out. Yet the Russians claimed we were out to get them. And now the tanks are back in small numbers. More will arrive if Putin keeps acting the way he is.

Stratfor writes about China's attempts to break out of the island chains that could allow America to strangle Chinese trade, especially vital imports. It's interesting--although I question the aside that America is bad at counter-insurgency. We did win in Iraq--the Obama administration boasted about it. And even in Vietnam we defeated the insurgency. Sadly North Vietnamese armor led a conventional invasion that conquered South Vietnam. But I digress.  The interesting thing about sea lines of communication is that they go from China to some other destination. While we would want to hold the line at the offshore island chains for many other reasons, even if China captures all of them via alliance or invasion, our fleet and air power could operate in the western Indian Ocean or eastern Pacific to halt oil exports to China very far from China. And that's apart from our ability to take the ports with ground troops and prevent the tankers from sailing. China's ports are vulnerable to strikes and minefields. So China hasn't even solved their end of the sea line of communication issue, let alone the distant ends.

Here's an interesting piece on British trade options post-Brexit. Assuming the empire lets Britain go, of course. Which I don't assume is a given. Plenty of Brits still want to bend the knee to Brussels, remember.

For all the worries about whether President Trump will stand up to Russia in NATO, our NATO allies in the Baltics are worried right now about whether President Obama will provide leadership to protect them: “,They’re scared to death of Russia,' Army Gen. Raymond Thomas told The New York Times after a visit to Lithuania. 'They are very open about that. They’re desperate for our leadership.'” Tip to Instapundit.

It won't happen, but if progressives in California who feel so alienated get their wish and secede from the United States of America (tip to Instapundit), they will be abandoning their progressive brethren to Republican rule for a generation at least.

As Republicans learn to love Julian Assange and Democrats learn to hate the Russians (and the reverse), I like to think that my even keel on my views earns me credibility. Whether or not I am right or wrong, I do not blow with the wind on such basic things just because it is politically convenient. I'd like to think I'd be that way even if I wasn't a nonpartisan research analyst for a couple decades.

I assume that Yemen government operations (backed by the Saudi coalition) against Iranian supported Shia rebels near the Red Sea are being done at our government's urging to help protect our ships that have come under fire in the region from Iran's Houthi allies there.

Strategypage has more on the analog drones we sent to Ukraine that Russians promptly hacked. I guess we didn't want to risk our digital drones. But isn't that a good reason to send them now to see if they can survive in a Russian hacking environment rather than blissfully go on unaware of flaws until revealed in a war we are in?

Is it any wonder our reputation in the Arab world is reeling under President Obama? Now we find that we actually sent Iran--the prime enemy of many Arab states--at least $10 billion in cash, gold, and other assets--on top of the economic relief and green light to Iran's nuclear program that Iran swears has nothing to do with nuclear weapons. Tip to Instapundit.

When the band played their rifles.

To help Afghan forces defend Helmand province, we decided to send 300 Marines there.

Indonesia has a lot of people. So it isn't shocking that some will become jihadis. The Indonesian government continues to battle them.

Meryl Streep complained that Republicans are against foreigners in America. As I noted at the first data dump above, it seems that the Left really has a problem distinguishing between being against illegal immigration and for controlling our border to regulate legal immigration as we see fit on the one hand, and being against "foreigners" or all immigrants on the other hand. Those are different things. I'm for controlling our borders and I'm for regulated immigration. Streep and her cheering fans can't see that? Why? I thought they were the ones who intuitively grasped nuance. Was Streep really suggesting that those foreign actors in Hollywood are here illegally? Tip to Instapundit.

Oh come on! This kerfuffle has to be an example of the dread "cultural appropriation," no? At least President Akufo-Addo didn't talk about his ancestors' long days in the coal mines and playing football after.

Our new Iranian pals essentially made a mock attack run with their small boats at one of our warship in the Strait of Hormuz. This stuff is common and so just makes the data dump. When the Iranians actually fire at or ram one of our ships, rest assured I'll bump it to its own post.

So Meryl Streep defended the honor of Hollywood against Donald Trump who said women would let a powerful man grab their p***y and who seems to have mocked a disabled man, which deeply troubled Streep; but Hollywood pretty much considers an actress "handicapped" if she is over 35 and Streep herself gave a child raper a standing ovation. I don't want to hear one damn word about morality from her ilk. Tip to Instapundit.

I think anyone who has served in uniform can share the joy of ending the scourge of Aquaflage for the Navy.

Stereotypes held by the well-educated deplorables. This is true: "[The working class] are also widely thought to be intolerant. But as far as I can tell, no class and no political faction dominates the market in intolerance." Indeed. As I've said many times on this blog, it is a crime against language that "liberal minded" is considered to be the same as "open minded." Tip to Instapundit.

Do liberals still want us to be more like sophisticated transnational Europeans? "EU Commissioner Guenther Oettinger defended himself on Monday over controversial remarks he made about women, homosexuals and Chinese people." But I freely admit I am deficient in nuance.

This Strategypage post on Segway-based target robots to train marksmanship to American troops is pretty awesome. I just had pop-up "Ivan" targets way back when.

China sent their Liaoning carrier task force--or just a group of ships if I overstate their ability to fight as a unit--through the Taiwan Strait. Taiwan sent planes and ships to watch the transit. This was propaganda because China would no more risk their carrier so close to Taiwan than we would send ours close to China.

Give the Littoral Combat Ship time. Sure, I'm on board the notion that the new LCS can work through the teething problems of this new type of ship. But I strenuously deny that the LCS can ever be a replacement for smaller vessels like the Cyclone class for working close to enemy shores. The LCS is too fragile and too expensive to be considered a ship for working in the littorals. Ever. Under virtually any circumstances.

The Germans are expanding their military presence in Mali (to 1,000 troops). Think of it as the first line of defense to prevent mass migration that affects Germany. 

Will the Democrats so eager to investigate the possibility that Russia has compromising information on Donald Trump have the same enthusiasm for looking into what all those deleted "personal emails on Chelsea's wedding and yoga lessons" that Hillary Clinton wrote on her personal, off-the-books private email server contained and whether the Russians have had compromising information on Hillary and other Democrats? That question was rhetorical, I hasten to add. 

Jonah Goldberg writes that the president's farewell rally--in addition to being a big wet kiss to himself--demonstrated how President Obama believes that democracy works when you agree with him but fails when you resist. It has always been a matter of the Progressive Borg assimilating all resistance. As I wrote in 2011, that whole post-2008 election "52 to 48" campaign where tilty-headed leftists asked McCain voters to "join" them was always a thinly disguised offer to accept the complete surrender of conservatives--not any type of offer to work together. The whole misbegotten Obamacare legislation process showed that.

Rail guns continue to be developed, although there are a lot of engineering problems to solve before they are a weapon and not a science fair project. 

Defense policy made me a Republican when I was young. As the Democratic Party demonstrates its utter contempt for working class people who refuse to shut up and remain on the liberal plantation, my politics are anchored more fully. And it increases my sympathy for Trump, who I long detested. Liberal elites have long enjoyed despising the working class, which feeds their wholly unearned sense of superiority. I find it kind of funny that poor white Democrats in the 19th century South backed their wealthy slave-owning elites at least in part because the existence of slavery gave even the poorest free white person a class of people they could look down on. Break into small groups and discuss.

I have no problem with an investigation into the FBI's conduct during the election if it includes the underlying illegal Clinton email server (and illegal transmission of classified material and illegal erasing of emails) and the question of whether the Attorney General Lynch-Bill Clinton tarmac meeting that both parties insist did not involve any "discussion" of the Hillary email case was legal. In particular I want to know if the denial that they "discussed" the case is a denial limited to spoken communication. Was there written or other communication on the subject in that highly problematic encounter? Or will Bill Clinton insist he had no "communication relations with that woman--Loretta Lynch" on that plane? The blinders of the established press is amazing. In asking why President Obama did nothing to stop the known Russian efforts prior to the election, Ignatius doesn't even consider the possibility that the efforts were having zero effect on voters. Of course, there is a reason why the press doesn't even think to ask some questions.

America approved sending an additional 130 tons of Uranium to Iran, on top of what they had and have purchased. No worries, in it's "original form" it is harmless, the Obama administration claims! Iran would never ever use it for nuclear warhead. Or send it to their close friend North Korea to make nuclear warhead for Iran, eh? This article says the shipment is meant to encourage Iran to remain "committed" to the agreement. Wait. What? We have to keep bribing them? I must admit I'd be pretty committed to a deal that gave me everything I want. What's next, sending the mullah nutballs a fully functioning squadron of Minuteman III nuclear missiles to keep Iran "committed" to the deal?

The 2011 Arab Spring was a disappointment for those who wanted democracy and rule of law. It showed a longing for an alternative to autocracy or Islamist rule. Which is a good sign for the long run. But in the short run we have civil war in Syria and budding civil war in Libya, with Egypt right back where they started with autocracy. Only in Tunisia was there some success. And there, resentment over lack of economic progress for rural Tunisians has sparked new protests and riots. Could there be an Arab Re-Spring?

I'd be shocked if Russia didn't have something to do with this provocation: "A Serbian train halted at the border with Kosovo and bearing signs reading "Kosovo is Serbian," has fueled a major crisis in the Balkans and escalated a potential Russia-West row over dominance in the heart of the Balkans." Remember, Russia recently "donated" MiG-29 fighters and T-72 tanks to Serbia, as I recently noted. UPDATE: More on the potential crisis. Russia is not mentioned as a potential instigator. UPDATE: Remember that Russia has long wanted "revenge" for the Kosovo War.

The Post-Khadaffi Struggle Continues in Libya

So how does the Libya suspended civil war stand now that ISIL has been dispersed after the capture of Sirte?

Bloomberg has a good map in an article that discusses Putin's new support for General Haftar who dominates eastern Libya:

The international community continues to force a national government on Libya, but the situation on the ground reflects my early Libya War assessment of the conditions for an east-west civil war.

The factions identified on the Bloomberg map, in light of my post on how the coastal populations would need to reach deep into their southern territories to make sure they control oil resources all the way to the ports in order to afford to contest for control of the country, make for an interesting board.

Haftar's (or Hiftar's) LNA in light green needs the Tebu in purple to solidify his oil for his export access.

Getting the Tebu would also help Haftar harm the GNA in tan to consolidate their oil resources.

The GNA also need the Zintanis in dark green for oil reasons.

The Tuaregs in light blue and the Benghazi Defense Brigades (my have they been driven into the wilderness, eh?) in pink seem mostly irrelevant to a civil war in regard to oil to be able to finance a civil war.

Although at least taking the BDB territory allows the LNA to push west in the interior to link up with some of their guys out by their lonesome.

It is interesting to see that control in many areas is just a line indicating control of roads in the wastelands away from the coastal strip where most people live.

Western Libya where the GNA dominates does have an electricity problem, it seems:

According to officials at Al-Zawiya oil refinery , an armed militia shut the gas pipeline that is feeding the power generator at Al-Hersha power plant, which feeds large parts of western Libya including Al-Zawiya and Tripoli.

The result?

Western Libya was plunged into darkness late on Saturday as a blackout already affecting the south spread to the capital, Tripoli, and other major cities, the national power company said.

The blackout extended from Libya's western border with Tunisia to the city of Ajdabiya, nearly 900 km (560 miles) to the east, national power company GECOL said in a statement.

The electricity grid had collapsed because a number of cities in western Libya had rejected terms for sharing out power cuts, it said.

Clearly, the GNA has a lot more work to do than the LNA to consolidate their portion of Libya before turning against the other for control of the entire territory of Libya.

And our friends the Russians who seem to be exploring options to aid (and gain favor with) the LNA could cause a problem for Europe:

A Russia-backed Libyan warlord could start a “civil war” in Libya, increasing refugee flows to the EU, Malta has warned.

The danger comes as the Libyan commander, Khalifa Haftar, advances on Tripoli, the seat of the UN-recognised government, Malta’s foreign minister, George Vella, told press in Valletta on Friday (12 January).

“Haftar with his army is moving gradually, slowly from the east to the west … and possibly, eventually linking up with his colleagues from the west, from Zintane, and advancing in a pincer movement on the region of Bani Walid, and Misrata, and Tripoli”, Vella said.

Ouch. The Zintanis are friends of Haftar? That's going to be a problem for the GNA in a civil war scenario.

Which makes the life expectancy of the BNB holding those roads between the main factions rather short, I should think.

And why we stiff-armed Hiftar is beyond my comprehension.

Of course, there is a bright spot in Russia's effort to be Haftar's friend (from the Malta article):

Haftar, on Thursday, toured Russia’s aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, as it was sailing from Syria and held a video call with Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu.

The Russians think their floating slum is impressive? Good Lord.

Italy, which would see a wave of refugees if Libya gets worse, is worried enough to re-establish their embassy in Libya. We'll see if this kind of problem can be solved by diplomats.

Strategypage has more on the situation and the oil factor.

At what point did this war stop being a shining example of "leading from behind?"

UPDATE: The Russians plan to arm Hiftar's faction, according to Hiftar.