Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Why Iran Will Cheat on the Nuclear Deal

As I've written, at best Iran is prevented from getting a nuclear weapon for close to a decade. But the commitment of America's left to the Iran nuclear deal (the JCPOA) exceeds Iran's commitments, making it unlikely that we will get that decade,

Actually, at best the nuclear deal prevents Iran from developing nukes with resources inside Iran. That's long been a weak spot in dealing with Iran.

The deal says nothing about Iran buying nukes from North Korea.

As for the actual deal, I think a recent Washington Post review slamming a book on how bad the nuclear deal is demonstrates why Iran can and so will cheat:

But the point isn't really about Solomon's reporting, or his sources, why, for instance, he spoke with this official and not another. Rather, as the conclusion to Sciolino's review makes plain, the main issue is to defend the nuclear deal—and not just against ideological opponents, columnists, and pundits. No, the much more dangerous threat to President Obama's signature foreign policy initiative and its supporters comes from those who have no ideological axe to grind at all—the wide array of experts and journalists who are simply relaying facts. They have to be silenced because there is too much at stake: money, prestige, and from the most paranoid corners of the pro-JCPOA community, world peace.

With America's Left so committed to defending the deal in Manichean terms--either the deal or war--the terrible enforcement terms of the deal will never be tested.

And you don't still believe in all that sanctions "snap back" nonsense, do you? How cute.

That is, no indications of cheating by Iran will ever be clear enough, or bad enough if true, or supported by a smoking gun, or worth the consequences (which backers see as war) to crack down on Iran for breaking terms of the deal.

Heck, the "deal" isn't even legally binding on Iran, truth be told. It was a gentlemen's agreement and we're short at least one gentleman on this.

Besides, these people believe, in a decade Iran will be a responsible regional partner because of the Smart Diplomacy that gave us the deal!

With Western liberals running interference for Iran in the belief that the Iran deal is all that stands between the demise of world peace (as if that exists!), Iran doesn't have to hide their cheating--just deny wrongdoing and cloak their cheating enough to create sufficient doubt for Western liberals to justify inaction.

Have a super sparkly day.

Hillary Nearly Closes the Deal

Hillary Clinton has just about persuaded me to vote for Trump.

As I've said, I can't stand Trump. But Hillary Clinton is too corrupt to contemplate as our president. So I will vote against her. I've said that if the polling shows the race close in Michigan, I will vote for Trump. If not, I will vote for Johnson.

I just think that Trump is more easily contained than Hillary because the courts, Congress (regardless of who controls it), the media, and the permanent federal bureaucracy will resist Trump far more uniformly and enthusiastically than they'd resist Clinton.

And lately I've started to worry that failure to stop Hillary just means that America's Lannisters will use that victory to groom Princess Chelsea for the job one day.

But Team Hillary's actions to carry the dead weight of their corrupt and awful candidate over the finish line by demonizing people who support Trump is getting close to bad enough to get me to vote for Trump regardless of the polls just to extend a big middle finger to Clinton and her backers. (tip to Instapundit)

Yes, the effort by Clinton to virtually deport 40% of Americans who back Trump (who have good reasons to reject the leadership of both parties who have failed to respond to--or even validate--their problems) by declaring them a "basket of deplorables" unworthy of being Americans (while simultaneously trying to import a better--from the point of view of Clinton--citizenry with open borders) is outrageous. And dangerous.

It's funny. Trump lacks the ability or characteristics to convince me to vote for him.

But Hillary's campaign and the illegal and immoral acts of her supporters could do the job.

Mind you, I still can't stand Trump and won't be a fan even if I vote for him. He is a clown. And unworthy of being president. His only saving grace is that he is not Hillary Clinton and is the only candidate who is not Hillary Clinton who could possibly stop her from being carried into the Oval Office with her pen and phone. I seriously wouldn't trust Clinton to run the post office of a medium sized city.

Yet Clinton is highly likely to win this election as things stand. If Wikileaks showed that Hillary and Putin exchanged sexting messages, her supporters would say it is understandable as long as Putin supports safe (for the mother, of course) and legal late term abortions.

And people say Trump's core supporters are loyal to a fault!

Oh, I think America will endure whoever wins, although either will make (different) things worse in the short run. We've endured invasion, civil war, a Depression, a Cold War, 9/11, and disco.

Hell, Carrot Top was only a momentary stain on our society, as I hope the Kardashian sisters will prove to be rather than signs of the Apocalypse.

So these two awful politicians shall pass. I'm just worried that my children will start their adult lives and careers while the impact of either horrible candidate lingers on.

UPDATE: Democratic dirty tricks weigh heavily on my judgment that Trump couldn't possibly be worse than a corrupt Clinton presidency.

Do You Wish to Share Your Location?

Could Chinese-made consumer electronics be a threat to our aircraft carriers?

The military doesn't trust Chinese-made electronic devices:

The [Department of Defense J-2] report warned that use of Lenovo products could facilitate cyber intelligence-gathering against both classified and unclassified—but still sensitive—U.S. military networks.

One official said Lenovo equipment in the past was detected “beaconing”—covertly communicating with remote users in the course of cyber intelligence-gathering.

“There is no way that that company or any Chinese company should be doing business in the United States after all the recent hacking incidents,” the official said.

Back in 2006 I speculated that the Chinese plans to sink our carriers with land-based ballistic missiles might shorten their kill chain (the process that starts with finding and ends with hitting a target) by putting a homing beacon on our carriers:

What if Chinese agents placed a signalling device on the keel of an American aircraft carrier while in port? Or a homing device in the galley's coffee machine before it is installed? Or buried in the storage bins of some bulk product? What if the Chinese maneuvering ballistic missiles were designed to home in on the signal of such a device and the Chinese had a means to turn on the device when needed?

We have few carriers at sea at any time, so the list of ships to be tagged is pretty small.

And given the Internet of things problems we are having with Internet-connected appliances being used for botnets, the coffee machine reference is no longer hyperbolic.

And since then, I've apparently (I say this because when I started this post I had forgotten earlier posts on the subject) noted developments that indicate that what was once considered fanciful could in fact work.

American efforts to break the Chinese kill chain to sink or disable our carriers (and I think my post compares well to a CRS look at the issue) would be less relevant if the Chinese manage to put a bunch of Chinese-made devices capable of "beaconing" on our carriers or even their surface escorts.

Of course, staying out of range of the DF-21 is the best solution.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

France is In to Play

France is committed to stabilizing west Africa's Sahel region:

France appeared on Wednesday to accept that it would need to keep thousands of troops in Africa's Sahel region for an indefinite period given the ongoing instability and preponderance of Islamist militants.

The region, a politically fragile area whose remote desert spaces spanning from Mauritania in the west to Sudan in the east host a medley of jihadist groups, is seen as vulnerable to further attacks after strikes on soft targets in Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast earlier this year.

That's good. This has traditionally been a French sphere because of former colonies in the region that France still has relations with.

And I assume that America and Germany wouldn't be committing forces to stabilizing the region without the French being committed to the same mission.

Winter is Coming

The Russians are up to something:

At the Kremlin’s Ministry of Emergency Situations, the Cold War is back.

The country recently held its biggest civil defense drills since the collapse of the U.S.S.R., with what officials said were 40 million people rehearsing a response to chemical and nuclear threats.

Videos of emergency workers deployed in hazmat suits or checking the ventilation in bomb shelters were prominently aired on television when the four days of drills were held across the country. Students tried on gas masks and placed dummies on stretchers in school auditoriums.

It should go without saying that America has no interest in nuking Russia. Unless the Russians are getting worried about Chinese intentions but are too afraid to openly discuss that motivation, the Russians are whipping up Russian fear of the West out of nothing. But why?

Perhaps this is just to scare the West into being more cooperative on Ukraine, Syria, and sanctions.

Perhaps it is just to rally the Russian people around Putin as the economy falters under the weight of--in descending order of effect--corruption, low oil prices, and Western sanctions over Ukraine.

But perhaps it is to prepare the Russian people for war with America or the danger of war arising from some small war that Russia hopes to isolate from American involvement.

I don't think that such a war would be expansive as this worst case scenario that I drew up, in case Russian rhetoric is telegraphing a dangerous decision for war made in secret.

But it could mean--in ascending order of danger of a war erupting with America over the action--a major effort to slaughter people in Syria to kill Assad's way to victory. We've tolerated several hundred thousand dead without effectively responding. (Why would a few more tens of thousands by Russia change that attitude?)

Or it could mean a major effort to defeat Ukraine's military and seize control of the entire Donbas region to convince Ukraine to give up the fight and concede control of their lost territories in Crimea and the east to Russia. (Heck, getting a peace deal that confirms Russia's conquests thus far seems to be our policy, anyway. What's a little more ground lost to Russia?)

Or it could mean a Russian effort to seize Narva, Estonia, with Russian "volunteers" and hold it with a couple of brigades of "volunteer" soldiers that look remarkably like Russian army units, daring NATO to take the city back.And if NATO does not meet the challenge, breaking NATO's credibility.

That would likely be a bridge too far for Putin's ambitions, that NATO could not let slide. But does Putin know that? Does he have anybody but yes-men around him eager to tell him that the West will bend to his iron will no matter what the provocation?

I know I've used this term a lot recently, but yes, my pucker factor is at elevated levels.

And yet our National Inquirer Election rolls on even as rumors of war overseas barely breach our level of awareness except when some photogenic dead or wounded child victim of war captures our attention for the amount of time it takes to post it on Facebook.

UPDATE: Putin has a weak hand to play:

Russia is an enormously weak country that Putin is working desperately to make appear far more powerful than it is. He is doing extremely well at creating that illusion. There is a saying that perception is reality. That saying is rubbish. If it were true, reality would never have caught up with the perceptions surrounding the subprime crisis. Germany would have won the Battle of Britain, and – for that matter – the Soviet Union would still exist. Perception can buy time and time can, sometimes, change reality. But sometimes all that perception puts off is the inevitable, and in my view that is the case with Russia.

And chest beating does bolster Putin at home. Do read it all.

If you've read this blog you surely know that I agree with that point. America alone is far more powerful than Russia, and adding even our relatively weak NATO allies adds to the imbalance.

But Russia does have superiority over weaker neighbors. And nukes to deter counter-attacks after Russia exploits the time they have to beat on a weaker neighbor before America can deploy significant combat power to roll back the Russian gains.

And all that talk of Russia standing up to the West could push Putin to war with a superior West if his supporters believe that the West is a threat and believe that Putin has rebuilt Russia enough to defeat that threat.

After painting such a threat and picture of a revived Russia, how could Putin refuse to defeat that threat without losing the backing of the people?

Like Japan in 1941 (or Iraq in 1980, for that matter or Argentina in 1982), Russia could start a war believing they have no choice, while telling themselves that early gains can be locked in before their enemy can work up the nerve and resources to fight back.

And while the reality of our power superiority would in the end lead us to victory over the perception that Russia is shaping, we'd have to fight a war to make reality defeat perception. That is hardly ideal.

(And yes, this is the exact same update to the previous post.)

UPDATE: The dangers of playing with fear.  (And yes, this is the exact same update to the previous post.)

So How Does Putin Feel?

I don't think sanctions are the critical element of Russia's financial problems, given that Venezuela has managed to screw up their country with socialism and low oil prices but without sanctions. But if Russia believes American-led sanctions are the real problem, Putin could do something really stupid.

Russia views sanctions as being key in their financial difficulties. And Putin is acting defiant about sanctions, when his future may depend on how Russia weathers this crisis:

Sanctions won’t make the Russian President behave in a more democratic way. He has crossed so many red lines by now that he cannot go back—at this point, Russia either becomes more authoritarian and dangerous, or Putin steps down. But what sanctions might do is lead to a change of direction for the whole of Russia down the road…

But Venezuela, which is not under sanctions, demonstrates how a screwed up socialist economy coupled with low oil prices that no longer mask the shortcomings of a screwed up economy can in fact screw up your finances.

I don't really believe our sanctions are decisive compared to the effects of Russia's corrupt crony capitalism that lower oil prices are shaking. Sure, sanctions add to the pain that would be there anyway. But they aren't decisive.

But Putin might believe our sanctions are decisive.

And if he does, he could see sanctions that he views as decisive as warfare by other means, which means he could respond with methods of warfare of his choosing.

Which means we could see Putin go down a different road to hold on to power by initiating a war despite his weak hand in the belief that America is unable to respond effectively. Perhaps Putin thinks our president is too weak. Perhaps Putin believes that an election campaign that is part of a transfer of power creates an opportunity that nullifies our ability to respond before he achieves his objectives.

Does peace really rely on Putin's grasp of reality and restraint?

UPDATE: Putin has a weak hand to play:

Russia is an enormously weak country that Putin is working desperately to make appear far more powerful than it is. He is doing extremely well at creating that illusion. There is a saying that perception is reality. That saying is rubbish. If it were true, reality would never have caught up with the perceptions surrounding the subprime crisis. Germany would have won the Battle of Britain, and – for that matter – the Soviet Union would still exist. Perception can buy time and time can, sometimes, change reality. But sometimes all that perception puts off is the inevitable, and in my view that is the case with Russia.

And chest beating does bolster Putin at home. Do read it all.

If you've read this blog you surely know that I agree with that point. America alone is far more powerful than Russia, and adding even our relatively weak NATO allies adds to the imbalance.

But Russia does have superiority over weaker neighbors. And nukes to deter counter-attacks after Russia exploits the time they have to beat on a weaker neighbor before America can deploy significant combat power to roll back the Russian gains.

And all that talk of Russia standing up to the West could push Putin to war with a superior West if his supporters believe that the West is a threat and believe that Putin has rebuilt Russia enough to defeat that threat.

After painting such a threat and picture of a revived Russia, how could Putin refuse to defeat that threat without losing the backing of the people?

Like Japan in 1941 (or Iraq in 1980, for that matter or Argentina in 1982), Russia could start a war believing they have no choice, while telling themselves that early gains can be locked in before their enemy can work up the nerve and resources to fight back.

And while the reality of our power superiority would in the end lead us to victory over the perception that Russia is shaping, we'd have to fight a war to make reality defeat perception. That is hardly ideal.

UPDATE: The dangers of playing with fear.

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Building Blocks of a Modularized Auxiliary Cruiser

A South African company has developed a drone optimized for use in Africa, the Viper 1000C. The drone isn't of interest to as much as the command system.

The Viper 1000C is controlled by crew in a truck trailer:

The manufacturer also offers a control trailer suited to operating the 1000C in remote areas. The 6x2.56x2 meter (19.5x8.3x6.5 feet) trailer contains radio and satellite communications gear, local weather monitoring equipment plus pilot and payload operator stations. There is also a generator, water and fuel tanks plus kitchen, bunks, a toilet and a shower.

Putting the control equipment in a trailer is what is of interest to me, given my interest in a modularized auxiliary cruiser using military components housed in standard shipping containers (20ft or 40ft long x 8ft wide x 8ft 6in high) mounted on leased container ships.

While I originally looked at the concept as a Navy asset, I eventually viewed the concept as an option for AFRICOM (United States Africa Command) to project land and air power around the continent of Africa's coastal regions. (And see here for the Military Review article.)

And then I noted that it would have use in South America by SOUTHCOM (United States Southern Command)--which could use it for both naval and land-focused missions.

A lot of stuff can be put in shipping containers. And a container ship has room for a lot of shipping containers, even if you don't stack them.

Make That Six

All hail the Nobel Peace Prize-winning president who has responsibly ended our wars and through his outreach to the Islamic world, has built a foundation for peace where a past warmongering president (who probably just liked bombing brown people) just made things worse:

In an election flush with conspiracy theories, here's one that's real: Both major party nominees, as well as the journalists who cover the election and moderate the debates, are actively conspiring to avoid talking about the fact that the United States is waging war in at least five countries simultaneously: Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, and Somalia.

The author asks, "Why won't anyone admit that America is fighting 5 wars?"


With US air strikes beginning in Syria, President Obama is fighting wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia (a half war), and now Syria.

Which puts him in the lead over that warmonger Bush who only managed the first three.

UPDATE: Really, who can be surprised at this record given that President Obama bombed the Moon early in his first term?

That was two years ago. Since then we added Libya back into the mix.

But considering the premise of the article, how could the author leave out Afghanistan?! Is that war which we have been waging since 2001--and which President Obama escalated dramatically in 2009 and 2010 to win the "real" war of "necessity"--forgotten already? When our people are still fighting and dying in that war?

Is the Afghanistan campaign really covered by the "at least" caveat that I assume is reserved for some quiet intervention that we might not know about?

So make it 6 wars at once, padding President Obama's lead by two in two years.

Oh, and the Obama presidency isn't over, giving potential foes to add to the record:

We do not know what other plans our opponents have to take advantage of Obama’s shortcomings as the clock slowly runs down on his time in the White House. Putin clearly hoped that his interference could muddy the waters of the American presidential race; the Russians believe that Trump is if anything less capable than Obama, and that a Trump presidency would give Russia four more years to work at dismantling American power and the European Union. As Putin now contemplates the likely frustration of those hopes, he is likely to think harder about how he can use the time remaining on Obama’s watch to further weaken the United States and erode its alliance system.

Personally, I think Putin will be just fine with a Clinton presidency--which I think has been the point of Russia's cyber-espionage and email leaks, rather than representing a ham-handed effort to elect Trump. But the real point is that enemies may think they have a limited amount of time to get in on the action and make some gains while America is fighting in so many locations.

Which makes it easy to understand how President Obama will become the first American president to lead a nation at war for two full terms, which means as far as he is concerned, he had endless war.

I never get tired of that picture. Leftists campaigned against endless war in 2008, and that is what they got. Unexpectedly.

The Short-Selling of America Continues

Our NATO ally Turkey bombs our Kurdish allies on the ground in Syria; and our ally Oman looks the other way as Iran supplies their allies in Yemen who fight our Saudi ally and shoot at our ships. "Leading from behind" is no sort of leadership, after all.

Feel the smart diplomacy:

Turkish jets pounded a U.S.-backed group of Kurdish-led militia fighters in northern Syria with more than 20 air strikes overnight, highlighting the conflicting agendas of the two NATO allies in an increasingly complex battlefield.

The jets targeted positions of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in three villages northeast of the city of Aleppo which the SDF had captured from Islamic State, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said late on Wednesday.

And behold the nuance in action:

Iran has stepped up weapons transfers to the Houthis, the militia fighting the Saudi-backed government in Yemen, U.S., Western and Iranian officials tell Reuters, a development that threatens to prolong and intensify the 19-month-old war.

The increased pace of transfers in recent months, which officials said include missiles and small arms, could exacerbate a security headache for the United States, which last week struck Houthi targets with cruise missiles in retaliation for failed missile attacks on a U.S. Navy destroyer.

Much of the recent smuggling activity has been through Oman, which neighbors Yemen, including via overland routes that take advantage of porous borders between the two countries, the officials said.

These are both logical results of our policies that allow Russia and Iran to violently pursue their interests while sowing death and destruction in their wake.

Allies of ours who once would have followed us in resisting Russia and Iran now see that we won't lead them. No, we'd be happy to see them resist Russia and Iran while we do little more than sell them the weapons to do so.

But instead of being led from behind, our once-allies decide not to stick out their necks for our benefit where potent enemies could harm them while we are safely urging them on from behind.

Not that Turkey and Oman have turned against us. But they do see the need to cut deals with enemies as a little bit of insurance in case we can't be counted on to be an ally when the chips are down.

It's a funny thing. Allies threatened by foes with troops, ships, and planes value simple hardware-based signs of our alliance rather than nuanced "smart diplomacy" that downgrades simplistic things like troops, ships, and planes in favor of attempts to turn enemies into friends through concessions, and which dismisses the worries of our allies over the hostile intentions of the new friends we're trying to make.

Wars start this way. Just as Japan in 1941 saw all of our economic and military power yet discounted that power through the belief that our poor quality men and leadership nullified our physical strength, enemies now can tell themselves that our power is meaningless because we won't dare risk our comfortable lives to resist foes with the faith and confidence to take action against us.

Sure, after Japan hit us on December 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor based on that belief, we mobilized and drove back the Japanese, crushing their military and nuking two of their cities (while also sending combined forces across the Atlantic to smash German and Italian forces that had overrun important chunks of Western Europe).

But we had to send our military to fight and die to demonstrate that our people and leaders did not have values close to zero that virtually nullified our physical advantages.

So keep that in mind when you hear people say we remain the most powerful nation on earth (true on paper) and that no nation would be foolish enough to take us on (false in the real world).

UPDATE: More on Turkey's ambitions along their southern border that seems to be moving further south. Note that rather than being a mini-world war, I look at Syria as (broadly) more like another Spanish Civil War.

And I'll say again, when we decline to lead to achieve objectives we can live with, allies who would normally follow our lead become free to lead on their own--for their own objectives.

Oh, and I had noted Turkey's apparent intentions a little while ago. I do worry that Turkey and Russia could come to an agreement to expand both of their influence in the region at our expense.

UPDATE: Related.  Although I don't blame Duterte's antics (and I don't assume this will amount to anything in practice) on President Obama--other than the creation of a "safety in numbers" environment of once-loyal allies hedging their bets where Duterte feels more free to slap America around verbally.

UPDATE: And Russia continues to adjust their border at Georgia's expense:

Marked in places with barbed wire laid at night, in others by the sudden appearance of green signs declaring the start of a “state border” and elsewhere by the arrival of bulldozers, the reach of Russia keeps inching forward into Georgia with ever more ingenious markings of a frontier that only Russia and three other states recognize as real.

Yeah. The 1980s called. They want their Soviet Russian border back.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Paging General Jack (D) Ripper

Democrats have clearly all gotten the memo to ignore answering anything substantive about the damning information found in the Wikileaks releases by attacking the now-evil Russians as the source of the information and questioning the patriotism of anybody who isn't outraged about that origin alone.

Which is kind of funny coming from the party that only four short years ago mocked Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney for saying the Russians are our number one geopolitical foe.

Since then the Russians have invaded Ukraine (which is ongoing), intervened in Syria on behalf of a monster with their signature "we have to destroy the city of Aleppo in order to save it for Assad" approach, threatened NATO allies and friendly non-NATO friends with nuclear weapons, cheated on nuclear weapons limitations, buzzed our ships and planes in a dangerous fashion, harassed and physically attacked our diplomats, and waged cyber-war on our presidential election process.

And now Russia is a threat, notwithstanding its conventional military and economic weakness compared to America and the West.

Yeah, our president isn't equipped to lecture anybody on foreign policy. The second decade of the 21st century called, Democrats. It wants our 1980s foreign policy back.

That ill-informed mockery that the Left embraced at least fit well with the late Cold War Democratic tendency to see the evil Soviet Union as morally equivalent to free America. Republicans say the Russians are our enemies? Oh no, our flaws are so much more worse, the Democrats said. America is unworthy of opposing them, they argued.

But now, in response to Russian hacking of Democratic emails, these Democrats are suddenly hard-line Code Warriors ready to go toe to toe with the Russkies in cyber-space to protect their precious bodily emails.

To be fair to the Democrats, it has to be unfamiliar territory to have Russians trying to undermine Democrats rather than undermining Republicans, as the Soviet Russians regularly did during the Cold War with their propaganda efforts that our Left ate up like organic kale.

I assume the Russians have Republican emails, too. And I do want our government to stop the Russians.

But the information is out. And it is damning, if true. The Russian origin isn't a reason to avoid fixing the broken system that created political operatives that these emails reveal.

One can't rule out that the Russians have altered some of the emails--perhaps subtly--to get that forged information warfare bullet circulating among the real email leaks.

After all, how do the Democrats reveal only the real emails they possess to show that altered emails leaked by the Russians are false without exposing that they have other real emails to compare that would verify the majority of leaked emails?

And do Democrats really want to stick to the party line that the Russians took everything but Hillary Clinton's State Department emails housed on her bathroom server that bypassed State Department security systems and procedures?

Still, this is progress. I am a glass half-full kind of man, after all. So welcome Democrats to the American faction that doesn't look at the Russians with weepy-eyed, Reds-tinged admiration.

Maybe Democrats will now condemn that Russian espionage tool Edward Snowden who stole information for the Russians from our NSA. Hope springs eternal.

Light Resistance

I am well aware (although not from personal experience, I hasten to add) that a staff daily report that says troops advancing are facing "light resistance" looks a lot like Hell on Earth to the troops at the pointy end of the stick where the small-scale fighting is taking place. But with that caveat in mind, the Iraqi offensive toward Mosul is facing light resistance.

The offensive is moving forward, on schedule if slowly, according to reports. ISIL is resisting:

Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, commander of the US-led coalition, said Saturday that jihadist resistance was stiff.

"It's pretty significant, we are talking about enemy indirect fire, multiple IEDs (improvised explosive devices), multiple VBIED (vehicle-borne IEDs) each day, even some anti-tank guided missiles," he said in Baghdad.

Sure, it is stiff for the troops encountering the resistance. Any of it would be terrifying on the receiving end.

But indirect fire, IEDs, "multiple" VBIEDs, and "some" anti-tank missile fire is not so much resistance as it is delaying and harassing tactics.

Especially when you consider that we estimate 3,000 to 5,000 ISIL fighters are in Mosul and 1 or 2 thousand are on the outskirts as Iraqi forces are still approaching the city. So even 2,000 ISIL troops are not defending a main line of resistance outside of the city. They are leaving small forces in cities and towns that Iraqi forces appear to surround first--showing the lack of a main line of resistance forward of the city--before clearing them.

And as I noted earlier, the ISIL counter-attack on Kirkuk was insignificant. About 50 enemy ISIL gunmen were killed and the few who weren't killed seem to have fled. This was nothing more than a one-way suicide mission raid that had no effect on the advance. Nor did a suicide attack on the Iraq-Jordan border have an effect.

Heck, even setting fire to a sulfur plant is nothing more than a delaying tactic by ISIL:

Up to 1,000 people have been treated for breathing problems linked to fumes from a sulfur plant set ablaze during fighting with Islamic State in northern Iraq and U.S. officials say U.S. forces at a nearby airfield are wearing protective masks.

A cloud of white smoke blanketed the area around the Mishraq sulfur plant, near Mosul, mingling with black fumes from oil wells that the militants torched to cover their moves.

This kind of terrorist action is more akin to reacting to an industrial accident than a chemical strike, which requires putting down a sufficient density of gas on the ground to kill and wound troops to take them out of the fight.

At worse, civilians are injured--not killed except for the very young or old, or already sick--and so the government military forces are compelled to divert some troops to cope with the civilian casualties.

But it does not strike me that any real delay has been imposed on the slow, tidy advance the Iraqis have planned by this sulfur cloud.

Burning oil is also just an inconvenience and may harm the jihadis more than the Iraqi forces advancing, given the ability of Western sensors to see through the smoke. Recall that during the 2003 invasion, a huge sand storm swept across the area of operations and Saddam's forces believed they could move under its cover--and were smashed up by our air power which was not blinded by the dust.

So far ISIL has done nothing to derail the lumbering offensive approaching Mosul. And short of blowing a major dam (that is already shaky enough to fail on its own) that inundates Baghdad with a surge of water or a pro-Iran coup in Baghdad by pro-Iranian Shia militias, I'm not sure what could do the trick and compel a halt to the offensive to direct the troops to flood relief or protecting the government.

But the light resistance by ISIL combined with Iraqi caution in the advance is giving ISIL time. And when you can't buy victory, you buy time to see if opportunities or errors can be exploited to buy that victory.

UPDATE: The ISIL attack on Kirkuk was by 100 men--a company-sized unit. And it was defeated without affecting the Iraqi advance. So this is a bit hyper-ventilating:

The scale of the operation - the largest of several by Islamic State to divert an advance on their stronghold in Mosul - shows how tough the battle for Mosul may become and points to a continued ability of the militant group to undermine security across the country even if its northern bastion falls.

Strategypage has a nice and thorough post that notes that the advance is faster than ISIL anticipated. And I don't think the Kirkuk suicide raid shows how tough the battle for Mosul will be:

Outside of Mosul there are about thousand ISIL men left trying to delay the advance. That ISIL delaying forces was supposed to be larger but in addition to combat losses this force has suffered a lot of desertions. Evidence of this could be found in the captured tunnels recently built under some towns and villages. The tunnels were built to hold far more men than the advancing troops were encountering and some documents and graffiti left behind indicated that ISIL morale was declining as was the number of ISIL fighters willing to stick around for the final battle. The advancing Kurds and Iraqis report that they have killed over 800 ISIL men so far and while there are still plenty of landmines and roadside bombs there are fewer snipers or ISIL defenders of any sort.

ISIL surely has some portion of their force that is eager to die for Allah, but over the last year the ISIL forces have not shown that virgin-anticipating eagerness for death that is supposed to make the battle for Mosul so hard.

I could be wrong, but I don't see ISIL dying in place in Mosul. This is no Stalingrad 1942. Or Berlin 1945. Or Aachen 1944. Or Manila 1945.

Although given how the press keeps talking about delaying actions as heavy resistance, I suppose the battle for Mosul will be described as tough no matter what.

In Putin's Russia, We Reset You

What information about Hillary Clinton do the Russians have that they aren't leaking?

I haven't mentioned much about leaked Democratic emails that the Russians have no doubt stolen and released.

One, I really do try to avoid domestic politics. But it does draw my interest because the president is the commander in chief of our military, which is in my lane.

Two, it is distasteful to use that information even though it is damning of the Democrats and even though the Russians are doing what the press should be doing. I certainly don't believe that the Democrats were uniquely vulnerable to this kind of theft. If Russia doesn't have Republican emails, it is only because they don't see a need for it now.

And three, the leaks tell me nothing new. Of course Hillary Clinton is corrupt. If you don't understand that you don't want to understand that, and no revelations will make her corruption apparent or disqualify her for office in your mind.

I know Democrats are avoiding talking about the content of those damning emails by highlighting the source of the information and claiming that the Russians are trying to get Trump elected.

I doubt that motive is true. Trump is a wild card.

I figure the Russians would rather have the Devil they know (so to speak). Who is Clinton. She's a known quantity.  The Russians have decades of Clintonology to fall back on to predict her decisions.

And she is really known now because the Russians have so many of her emails.

Really, are you going to claim that the Russians took all those Democratic party emails but never managed to penetrate Hillary Clinton's off the books bathroom server to get her unsecured private emails, which she used instead of official email, that discussed State Department business?


And if the Russians are releasing all of this information now, can you imagine what information they are keeping under wraps to use against Clinton after she wins the election?

With a Clinton victory, the Russians will get a tainted American president weakened domestically by suspicions of her corruption revealed to be true, while retaining enough information to blackmail her into being more "flexible" than President Obama ever could manage voluntarily.

It will be quite the day when the Russians quietly inform the Clinton administration that they kept that "reset" button that Secretary of State Clinton gave to Lavrov in 2009; but that they rewired it to ensure her flexibility.

"Madam President, in Russia, we reset you. And yes, we will "overcharge," as you foolishly labeled that button. But you will pay the price we demand."

UPDATE: Related.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Weekend Data Dump

Oh good grief. If men don't want to raise boys because they "fear" raising them, I think it speaks more about the so-called men than who boys are. For the record I have a great son and a great daughter. The only thing I have ever feared is letting them down.

The idea that Trump's complaints that the election is "rigged" amount to an assault on our democracy is just ridiculous. Clearly, there is some voter fraud and illegal voting that always seems to tilt in favor of Democrats; and there is media bias that overwhelmingly favors Democrats on both the writing of stories and the choice of stories covered or ignored. And these two factors converge with media efforts to portray efforts to ensure that only legal votes are cast (why this is controversial whether fraud is large or small is beyond me) as "voter suppression." This is not a conspiracy against Trump. It is the environment Republicans operate in--although to be fair, that now involves government-sponsored voter suppression. Trump has been a far more potent thorn in his own side than this dual problem. Trump would be advised to refer to this election as being "tilted" rather than "rigged." But coming from the side that screamed "selected not elected" and "Diebold!" after two Bush 43 elections, this complaint about an assault on our democracy is pretty funny. Vote counting will be legitimate regardless of who wins, in a "good enough for government" sort of way. UPDATE: Huh. And in bonus territory, candidate Obama used my preferred term, although as a euphemism.

America will rotate 300 Marines through Norway, where we have a brigade's worth of equipment stored. Which is nice given that Norway's security may not be as up to snuff in peacetime as I'd like.

The Obama administration wants the glorious international community to pressure Syria to get rid of chemical weapons. Given the glorious deal we made with the Russians that the administration claimed rid Syria of chemical weapons already, I have to ask how many chemical weapons deals are necessary to empty Syria of chemical weapons?

American air strikes were hitting ISIL in Libya pretty hard this last week, prior to the big offensive in Iraq.

Russian propaganda has been aimed at Finland, even questioning Finland's 99 years of independence from Russia. Russia's firehose of falsehood has many targets for reuniting with Russia, and not just Ukraine. UPDATE: Strategypage discusses Russia's revived Soviet playbook for information warfare.

Ponder the wisdom and leadership qualities of someone who alienated her own security detail.

Strategypage takes a tour of that broken state Yemen, including the ramp up of Iranian support enabled by the nuclear deal's cash infusion and the missile attacks on our ships in the Red Sea.

Whether it is seeing how Hillary Clinton is covering up email security crimes or how her campaign conducts dirty tricks against opponents (and one man at least is no low-level flunky), it becomes clearer that Clinton's time on the Watergate Committee was not a lesson to her on the importance of honest government, but a debriefing on how to avoid the mistakes of Nixon in getting away with committing crimes and dirty tricks.

If ISIL's response to the Mosul offensive remains as weak as a platoon-sized attack on Kirkuk, the Iraqis will win this campaign no problem.

A basket full of stupid? A woman berates a meeting and smears peanut butter on participants' cars, in the belief that she is striking a blow against Donald Trump. Sadly for her brave stand, she did not understand the difference between a "conservative" group and a "conservation" group. 

Provocation Theater?

An American destroyer sailed near a Chinese outpost in the South China Sea. I'm still uncertain about whether we carried out a freedom of navigation operation.

On the surface, this seems good:

The U.S. action was the latest attempt to counter what Washington sees as Beijing's efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters, U.S. officials said.

The Chinese Defense Ministry called the move "illegal" and "provocative," saying that two Chinese warships had warned the U.S. destroyer to leave.

The guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur challenged "excessive maritime claims" near the Paracel Islands, among a string of islets, reefs and shoals over which China has territorial disputes with its neighbors, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The latest U.S. patrol, first reported by Reuters, is expected to anger Beijing and could further escalate tensions over the South China Sea. The destroyer sailed within waters claimed by China, close to but not within the 12-nautical-mile territorial limits of the islands, the officials said.

The Pentagon said the Decatur "conducted this transit in a routine, lawful manner without ship escorts and without incident." One official said the ship, which sailed near Triton and Woody Islands, was shadowed by three Chinese vessels and that all interactions were safe.

The article says it was a freedom of navigation operation, but I've yet to read any confirmation for this or other missions to indicate that it is indeed a freedom of navigation operation.

We say we conducted a transit in a lawful matter. Which can mean a warship going through territorial waters as long as the warship keeps all its weapons and related gear "off" so as not to be a threat. I believe that is called "innocent passage" (I'm basically a ground guy and going on memory).

The Russians, I am sure, are conducting innocent passage through the English Channel rather than challenging British or French control of territorial waters in that body of water:

Royal Navy destroyers have been sent to 'man-mark' Russian warships that are on course to pass through the English Channel, reportedly heading towards Syria to support the final assault on Aleppo.

Sailing through territorial waters is not in itself a challenge to sovereignty. The Russians are simply passing through on the way to somewhere else. There is no message on legality being sent.

So until I read that an American warship is sailing withing 12 nautical miles of a Chinese outpost while operating weapons (in training, of course), I'm not going to sit here and say we are conducting freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea.

This might be provocation theater, in which we pretend to challenge Chinese sovereignty and the Chinese pretend to be outraged at our presence.

Riddle Me This, Nuanceman

I've read that the Iran nuclear deal is going to prevent Iran from going nuclear over the next decade; and that even when Iran is cleared of all international restrictions, by then Iran will have been brought into the community of nations and won't be a nuclear threat to anyone.

Yet so far, Iran is continuing its hostile policy more than a year after the deal was announced. Iran has been getting worse, fomenting unrest in Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, Yemen, Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia.

They've captured more of our people and had their sock puppets fire at American warships in the Red Sea. In the Persian Gulf, they've fired near our ships, carried out mock attack runs, and captured two of our vessels that broke down in the Gulf--humiliating our crews in the process.

So that magical reset has not occurred yet despite supposedly clearing the decks for restoring American-Iranian relations.

Clearly, Iran still views us as hostile.

Yet they agreed to the nuclear deal. Why?

If Iran sees America as a threat, why would Iran agree to even suspend nuclear work for a decade? Doesn't that just lock in a period of Iranian vulnerability to an American attack on Iran? That's why many leftists in the West say Iran needs nuclear weapons. Remember? The Iraq War proved why enemies need nukes. That's how the left excused Iran's nuclear ambitions (even as Iran denied having such ambitions).

And no, it doesn't work to say only factions of the Iranian government are attacking us. If the government that agreed to the deal can't control all the state organs, why did we bother with a deal?

Would America get away with signing a deal with Iran and then say that Air Force bombing runs on Iranian targets don't nullify our agreement because the fly boys are just a faction of the government?

But we're supposed to ignore the hostility of factions by maintaining the deal so we don't undermine so-called moderates and interfere with the healing balms of hope and change as they do their work to reset Iran as a non-nutball country?

Couldn't mere factions in Iran continue nuclear work in critical areas, too?

And might not this faction believe we'll look away from violations absent a flashing and smoking gun given how we've looked the other way in regard to ballistic missile development despite saying that would be limited too outside the nuclear agreement?

The revelation of recent days that, back in January, President Obama agreed that the United Nations should lift its sanctions against two Iranian state banks which financed Iran's ballistic missile development puts the lie to Washington's claims – stubbornly maintained for more than a year – that it was determined to rein in the Islamic Republic's expanding missile program.

In fact, the president's decision reflects a larger pattern of U.S. backtracking over Iran's ballistic missiles – one that dates back to well before the landmark U.S.-led global agreement with Iran over its nuclear program in July of 2015.

Maybe the Iranians agreed to a nuclear deal that would help protect them from attack by America because they don't see the deal as stopping Iran from pursuing their nuclear goals in any significant fashion--any more than our opposition to missiles is real.

Indeed, the deal may be a better shield against American attack than nukes in the short run, as Iran ramps up their aggressive actions fueled by deal-released cash while America refuses to do anything to stop Iran that might prompt Iran to walk away from the deal.

Heck, the deal may not have strengthened so-called "moderates" at all in Iran:

Iran’s supreme leader implemented a dramatic overhaul of Iranian military leadership in June 2016, and in so doing, effectively consolidated control of the Iranian military into the hands of a small network of senior Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) commanders. This same network of IRGC commanders have been the driving force behind Iran’s recent provocations in the Strait of Hormuz, and they are likely to use their increased influence to further institutionalize this behavior in Iranian military doctrine.

Huh. Iran gets a nuclear deal that at worst (from Iran's point of view) delays Iran's indigenous nuclear drive by perhaps a decade, grants Iran lots of money to foment unrest and perhaps purchase nukes from North Korea, and ties America's hands in the face of increased Iranian actions to dominate the Middle East.

Why would that record of achievement discredit the Shia Islamist hardliners and put non-nutball Iranians on the road to running Iran?

Friday, October 21, 2016


Admiral Tidd, who commands Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) which directs American military operations in South America, needs ships. He wants innovative solutions to get them in an age when his command is low priority for Navy hulls. I suggest modularized auxiliary cruisers as one solution.

Yes, SOUTHCOM isn't likely to get Navy ships any time soon as the Navy pivots to the Pacific while forced to deal with Iran and cope with a newly aggressive and hostile (well, a new level of aggression and hostility, anyway) Russia.

But SOUTHCOM still needs ships:

U.S. Southern Command wants to be a hub for innovation, both in serving as an early tester for new technologies and ideas that can be brought into theater and also in seeking creative ways to get more ships into theater to train with regional partners.

SOUTHCOM Commander Adm. Kurt Tidd said today at an event co-hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the U.S. Naval Institute that his theater has changed drastically from the days when leadership focused primarily on interrupting the narcotics trade and could do so primarily with frigates and maritime patrol aircraft. Instead, the threat set has grown increasingly complex – networks are engaged in moving illicit goods, trafficking both criminals and refugees, laundering money and more – and ships and planes at SOUTHCOM’s disposal are all but gone, due to both the retirement of the frigate fleet and more urgent needs for ships in the Pacific and Middle East.

Tidd said he doesn’t need a carrier strike group to counter this more complex threat – and he noted that he wouldn’t get one if he asked for a CSG – but he does need ships to go on presence missions, to train with regional partners and to help search for sophisticated semi- and fully submersible vehicles now used to move people and drugs into the United States.

Sure, perhaps he could leverage a loan of ships transiting to other commands for brief visits as our 6th Fleet gets in the Mediterranean Sea with ships transiting the area between our east coast and CENTCOM. But that won't be any kind of persistent presence for engaging with regional partners.

I suggest using leased container ships equipped with shipping container-housed systems to turn the ships into auxiliary cruisers, which are civilian ships equipped to supplement fleets (usually during wartime) and which have a long tradition in naval warfare.

I thought that Africa Command--AFRICOM--could exploit this opportunity given their low priority for naval assets, and focused on them in the article "The AFRICOM Queen" that Military Review published earlier this year, which was a play on the Humphrey Bogart movie The African Queen.

But SOUTHCOM is even lower on the priority list than AFRICOM. Indeed, in the article I quoted a prior commander of SOUTHCOM who said that his naval needs were basic. Said Marine General Kelly, “So as I said, I don’t need a warship. I need a ship, something that floats, with a helicopter.”

I thought that was a great argument for my suggestion. He didn't need something fancy. He needed something.

A modularized auxiliary cruiser for SOUTHCOM could be equipped with missiles, guns, boarding parties, air and sea drones, and helicopters, using standard shipping containers mounted on the deck as the building blocks of mission packages, which would vary depending on the missions envisioned for the cruise.

The modularized auxiliary cruiser could be equipped with medical and classroom containerized mission modules to host regional partners for training on the vessel--or to provide medical help instead of sending a hospital ship.

And as I noted in the article, mission packages consisting of different containerized mission modules could be unloaded to perform a mission in one location while the modularized auxiliary cruiser continues on to other locations for other missions with different partners.

I wrote about the concept for Africa Command because I'm more familiar with the security issues of that region rather than South America, because there are more landpower missions in AFRICOM, and because of the opportunity to use the title, truth be told.

But SOUTHCOM could easily be the pioneering command for the use of modularized auxiliary cruisers if Admiral Tidd wants his command to be a hub of innovation.

NOTE: Speaking of SOUTHCOM as having South America as its region was just shorthand--its area of responsibility goes north of that, too.

Preparing for Mobile High Intensity Combat

Fighting enemies rather than fighting disorder has reappeared on the horizon as Russian aggression in Europe yanks us back from counter-insurgency focus since 2003. So we need the tanks again.

I wrote that while upgrading our Stryker vehicles to 30mm cannons is nice, it is not enough to make our Stryker brigades capable of standing up to heavy armor. It would be necessary to attach Abrams tank units to the brigades to make them more than speed bumps, I thought.

The Army tested out adding tanks to Stryker units, and not too surprisingly, tanks made a difference:

This article explores the experiences of 3-2 SBCT, 7th Infantry Division during National Training Center (NTC) Decisive Action Rotation 15-08.5 at Fort Irwin, Calif. Here, 3-2 SBCT had the unique opportunity of task-organizing tank platoons to a Stryker rifle company within the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment. The creation of Stryker-tank company teams provided the brigade commander with a more lethal strike force and created unique opportunities to experiment with maneuver tempo across restrictive terrain and during a combined arms breach. The addition of armor assets significantly increased the company’s sustainment requirements, specifically for Class III and IX, and also presented challenges for breaching operations.

Not surprisingly, the addition of heavy Abrams tanks greatly increased logistics needs of the unit.

Disturbingly, the mission command systems of the Abrams and Stryker units could not communicate with each other. It's bad enough when Army units can't operate with Marines or allies (highlighting an underappreciated role of NATO in pushing common system capabilities and procedures), but when our own Army units can't work seamlessly with different Army units, that's seriously messed up.

It was good to read this. When the threat of conventional war rears its ugly head, killing off the end of history, it's good to have heavy armor around.

Really? This is Your Complaint?


U.S. President Barack Obama said Donald Trump's embrace of Russian President Vladimir Putin was unprecedented and said he was troubled that other Republicans were supporting the Republican presidential candidate's positions on Russia.

So wanting to reset relations with Russia after Russia invades a friend of ours is unprecedented?

Yeah, remember the "reset" effort with Russia mere months after Russia invaded and dismembered our friend Georgia?

Good times. Good times.

Unprecedented, indeed.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Who Fact Checks the Fact Checkers?

According to the logic of an AP fact checker, if you said America fought Japan in World War II, because we spent far more effort fighting the Germans in World War II your statement would only be partly true.

I'm hardly going to defend the Syrian government or call them a reliable ally, but come on!

AP deleted a tweet saying Trump was wrong that Syria's Assad is fighting ISIS. His remark is only partially true. A new tweet is upcoming.

Once again, my nuance deficiency is highlighted, I suppose.

I never consider the verdict of a so-called "fact checker" as the final word on any left-right issue.

They usually try to make the left accurate with all the "context" that is necessary to bring in, while never giving someone on the right (which Trump is considered at the moment by the media, notwithstanding my opinion that Trump is just a Democrat wearing a Republican skin suit after he killed and cleaned the carcass of the party) any benefit of reasonable interpretation.

Where the Visible Hand Crushes Hope and Life

Watch out! Venezuela is gaining on South Sudan and Congo!

Venezuela’s overall infant mortality rate—defined as deaths within the first year of life—is currently 18.6 per 1,000 live births, according to the most recent government statistics. That is well beyond the upper range of 15.4 Unicef estimates for war-torn Syria.

Venezuela is falling apart under their countries batshit crazy socialist rulers have effed up a wet dream--because sometimes war and natural disasters aren't enough to destroy a society.

UPDATE: Yes indeed, socialism kills more babies than war:

There is a lesson to be learned from these data points: economic policy matters. While Venezuela’s socialism has managed to kill more infants than a full-blown war in Syria, Chile’s incredible success story shows us that by implementing the right policies, humanity can make rapid progress and better protect the youngest, most vulnerable members of society. Today it is hard to believe that infants in Chile were once more likely to die within a year than their contemporaries in Venezuela and Syria.

Young people--who not that long ago believed in Santa Claus--flocked to Bernie Sanders' banner in the mistaken notion that his talk of caring for people would actually lead to people being taken care of, when people are far better off when they are enabled to take care of themselves.

A Newfound Respect for Intelligence Consensus

I find it amusing that Hillary Clinton belittled Trump for refusing to believe the American intelligence agencies who think Russia is behind the hacking of Democratic email systems.

Not that I doubt the Russians are involved up to their hips, contrary to Trump's disbelief of what Hillary said:

"We have 17 intelligence agencies, civilian and military, who have all concluded that these espionage attacks, these cyberattacks, come from the highest levels of the Kremlin, and they are designed to influence our election," Clinton said. "I find that deeply disturbing."

But I recall when our intelligence agencies said it was a "slam dunk" that Iraq had chemical weapons ready to go prior to the 2003 Iraq War (as did the agencies of our allies), yet when we did not find recently manufactured chemical weapons after we defeated the Saddam regime (which was horrible on many non-WMD levels, too), Democrats slammed President Bush for believing that intelligence even though Democrats believed Saddam was a WMD threat, too:

Deeply disturbing, indeed.

This is Either Sadly Deluded or Sadly Transparent

Seriously, South Korea?

South Korea's military is planning to significantly enhance operational capabilities to strike the North Korean leadership should Pyongyang be first to launch a nuclear attack.

So if North Korea sets Seoul--which has a quarter of South Korea's population--on nuclear fire, South Korea's plan is know exactly where Kim Jong Un and his top leaders are bunkered and guarded deep in North Korea and to helicopter in special forces to kill them?

So America's nuclear umbrella is insufficient to deter North Korea from nuking South Korea but a threat of a commando raid will be? No?

Okay, then this really is the retaliation plan?

Even if such a raid works, China might consider that a great trade: Seoul is smoldering, glowing wreckage and the difficult North Korean leadership is dead, making it easier for China to get a more compliant leadership in the north.

Will South Koreans consider that a good trade?

The only way this story makes sense is if the raiding capability is a part of a decapitation strike on North Korea prior to North Korea using nukes on South Korea in order to stop such a strike, using a joint American-South Korean ground division to occupy nuclear launch sites while South Korean forces carve out a no-launch zone north of the DMZ to protect Seoul from conventional fires.

Although pray tell, how will we defend the nuclear threat as imminent and so justifies decisive military action?

Mind you, I can understand why South Korea doesn't want to admit what it might want to do and so sticks with this story. But I don't buy it.