Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Unclear On the Concept

The Navy ran into problems with their underwhelming LCS on firepower and survivability issues, with costs of under $600 million per ship. The Navy has responded with a frigate replacement for the remainder of the LCS production run canceled that is forecast (for now) at just under $1 billion per ship.


The Navy’s new class of 20 guided-missile frigates could cost an estimated $950 million per hull, the Naval Sea Systems Command FFG(X) program manager said on Tuesday.

To be fair, the Navy expects the average cost to be under $800 million per ship despite the formal cap of $950 million.

But that's the first optimistic cost plan before contact with the procurement/shipbuilding enemy.

How long before the costs approach the $1.8 billion cost of our existing Burke class destroyers?

I realize that even the low end of a high-low mix can't be like the small combatants of Eurasian states because our small ships have to cross big oceans before they fight. So there is a size minimum.

But the costs of this frigate will be too much for a true bulk ship.

If it was up to me I'd keep the ship's capabilities minimal for routine presence missions in peacetime; while leaving room to install shipping containers on the deck with added weapons in case of war.

If that container upgrade option allows the Navy to reduce the cost of LCS modules and make those ships more capable during war and allows the Navy (or Army) to outfit modularized auxiliary cruisers, that's a bonus to that approach.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Decision Time for Trump, Congress, and America

The Obama administration ignored the logical consequences of saying Assad had to step down by waging a parallel war as a de facto ally of Assad against the common enemy of ISIL that put off enforcing that declaration. The defeat of the ISIL caliphate has exposed the wide gap between the stated preference for Assad to leave and the focus of military action on ISIL only. So what do we do now?

Yeah, this is a problem for our military presence in Syria:

With the Islamic State (IS) on the run across Syria, the Donald Trump administration has committed to using US armed forces in the country to counter Iranian influence.

Its refusal to publicly provide details — or a legal justification — for its military strategy, however, is raising bipartisan concerns in Congress that the United States could be drawn further into conflict with a wide array of actors in Syria’s complex civil war with no timeline for withdrawal.

First, regarding that "timeline for withdrawal," just stop that "exit strategy" nonsense right now. It is stupid. My contempt for that thinking as an alternative to thinking about victory pre-dates The Dignified Rant:

Not wanting to repeat our experience in Vietnam, many speak of needing an "exit strategy" before committing troops. Such an approach seeks to minimize our losses under the assumption that we will at some point lose, so we had better know when to cut our losses and get out. It also assumes that the situation allows for an exit and that our enemy will allow it. The Iraqis desperately wanted out of the war they initiated in 1980 but were locked in by Iran in a death grip that allowed for no easy exit. While planning for a tough, resilient enemy is prudent, we must never become paralyzed by concentrating on how that enemy can hurt us. We need to keep our focus on achieving victory.

But in that first article there is a valid point about our military presence in Syria. We rightly want Iran out of Syria, but Assad is the recognized (albeit blood thirsty and cruel) leader of Syria and has the legal right to invite Iran to stay and insist America leave.

Yet abandoning our allies in Syria who helped us defeat ISIL to the tender mercies of Assad and his ruthless Russian and Iranian allies is no way to build credibility to encourage cooperation with America in the future.

This is why, after defeating ISIL in Iraq, building up acceptable local rebels in Syria, and defeating ISIL in Syria (the win, build, win steps I outlined), from the very beginning of our war against ISIL I wanted the removal of Assad to be the logical end phase of a war against ISIL in Iraq and Syria:

The fourth step is to continue the win over ISIL by helping non-jihadi Syrian rebels in the east, in the south, and in the north to overthrow Assad. I'm not sure the Obama administration is on board with this final step.

America avoided facing that question while in the first three steps (and I suspect avoiding that question is why Iraq War 2.0 has taken so long). We've finally finished the first three steps.

America now has to face the fourth step and either finish the job by targeting Assad and defeating Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah in the process; or by pulling out and accepting the consequences of Assad's continued rule, Russian and Iranian bases in Syria, Hezbollah's role on the winning side, and the loss of reputation by watching the Syrian Kurds and Syrian rebels we once supported get crushed by Assad and his allies.

Yet America has not yet committed to step four as the testimony quoted in that first link shows:

Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday, David Satterfield, the acting assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, outlined US goals in Syria as finishing off IS, stabilizing northeastern Syria and countering Iranian influence.

So far, we aren't abandoning our local allies but we are kind of pretending that they are just a vaguely Syrian border protection force that is perfectly normal for Syria to have (but don't ask if they answer to Assad who formally leads all of Syria):

The US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group said on Sunday it was working to create a 30,000-strong border security force in northern Syria, drawing sharp condemnation from Turkey.

With the offensive against IS winding down, the coalition and its allies in the Syrian Democratic Forces alliance were beginning to shift their focus to border security, coalition spokesman Colonel Ryan Dillon told AFP.

Note that the "border" includes the Euphrates River that runs through Syria, making it a de facto border defining the limit of Assad's control in the east (the DCL, for Deconfliction Line?).

The Turks, our NATO ally, have pledged to attack these forces--as just a first step. Seriously, if it was up to me I'd withdraw all of our nuclear bombs stored in Turkey.

What's it to be? And there is no point to complaining that Trump inherited this problem. I didn't like it when Obama did that and I haven't changed my position that every president inherits problems that haven't been neatly wrapped up by transition of power day. One can argue that a problem should have been solved already, but publicly complaining shouldn't be the president's focus.

So do we create concerns for our enemies and decide how to win?

Or do we decide how long we delay our defeat?

America can't put off this question any longer.

Face It, Zumwalt Isn't a Combat Vessel

The 3-ship Zumwalt class of super destroyers won't have a round for its gun. Face it, the ship is really only suited as a platform to test new technologies and not a part of the fleet.

Thus ends the Zumwalt combat mission:

A year after the Navy decided to abandon the Long Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP) for the Zumwalt-class guided-missile destroyer, there is no plan in place for a replacement round for the Advanced Gun System (AGS) the ships are built around, service officials said on Wednesday.

Instead, officials at Naval Sea Systems Command and the Chief of Naval Operations staff will monitor new technologies that could be incorporated into the BAE Systems-built 155mm AGS.

Without mass-producing the ships, the cost of the rounds is prohibitive. And apparently putting a 5" standard gun in the turret isn't an option for whatever reason.

The article notes that the ship is formally an anti-ship platform now rather than a shore-bombardment ship--a change that makes only a bit more sense. The earlier mission was nonsense while the new mission is impractical.

The only real mission for such a small class of ships that don't work well with other non-stealthy ships is to be a technology test platform.

Now if we could get rail guns to work, that would be a fine addition to a network-centric anti-ship capability. (That post is so old that Zumwalt is called DD (X).)

Don't Open the Door to Endless Brexit Do-Over

Prime Minister May rejected calls for another Brexit referendum. That this came from some on the Brexit side is mind boggling:

Earlier, Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage said he was warming to the idea of holding a second referendum, arguing that another vote would see “Leave” win again and end the debate.

The fact that Remainers are eager for another vote should tell you all you need to know.

Consider the situation. Brexit won the close vote, and the difficulties of disentangling from the European Union have yet to be overcome. Any commitment to voting again would just give those who prefer to remain in Europe the incentive to stall negotiations until frustration moves a small amount of the electorate away from exiting the EU.

Voila! Britain remains in the EU.

And the notion that another Brexit victory in another vote would settle the question seriously underestimates the ability of the Remainers to keep resisting. Have the Brexit backers not noticed that the pro-EU forces tend to make voters vote until they get the "right" outcome, at which point further voting is unnecessary?

If Remain win the new vote, all progress toward Brexit would end and the Remainers would know what ties they need to strengthen to stall a break with the EU until frustration builds up and the Remainers can call for another vote--if they even make the mistake of allowing another vote.

Which the won't, because they will term their victory a "final" judgment of the people who love the idea of "ever closer union."

Britain needs to get out of the EU whatever the terms, and work on improving the terms with future negotiations from the safely independent position of being a non-EU state.

Vote again? Good Lord, are they insane?

Monday, January 15, 2018

Secure the Backbone for Innovation

The Army abandoned the problem-plagued WIN-T tactical Internet and is looking for a better tactical network that can resist enemy hacking and jamming:

The Army is holding its first industry day focused on its tactical network as part of a new Army-wide construct to help the service modernize and improve its systems procurement process.

A secure and robust tactical Internet network is a basic necessity if the Army is to use suggestions like my "reachback for the squad" idea to preserve infantry lives while heavy forces are on the move.

Degree of Difficulty High

Right now the risk level for America versus Japan and South Korea in regard to dealing with North Korea is immense.

It seems as if the consensus that North Korea has not yet mastered the technology of ballistic missiles that could hit America. But North Korea may have nukes that can reach Japan and South Korea.

That's what I've been assuming, and Strategypage notes that North Korea's arsenal is "believed to be as many as twenty" warheads.

Which means that if America launches an attack to disarm North Korea, any failure to get them all means that Japan and South Korea rely on missile defenses to get any that are launched in retaliation.

It is possible that North Korea will just absorb the hit and rebuild--or possibly wait to launch when South Korea or Japan are less vigilant.

So the fact that Japan and South Korea are cooperating with us is kind of amazing all things considered. They have every reason to be extremely cautious about attacking North Korea.

Although I can't rule out that they believe striking now with the risk is superior to waiting until North Korea has a bigger nuclear arsenal.

And it is possible that Japan and South Korea are actually eager to strike now while North Korea can't strike America because when North Korea can hit big cities in America, America might be unwilling to launch an attack on North Korea to disarm them.

I have no idea what we or our allies want to do.

But what I do know is that if North Korea has as many as 20 nuclear warheads that could be launched at shorter ranges, we missed the Holy Imminent Standard that our Left assured us was the proper standard for launching a preemptive strike on a hideously evil regime pursuing nuclear weapons.

Surely, the combined power of Western intelligence agencies can see that phase when it happens in time to take action, amiright? What could possibly go wrong?

As a related aside, I thoroughly oppose the concept of a "bloody nose" strike on North Korea to warn them of future pain if they don't agree to abandoning their nuclear plans.

This is nonsense. Everyday life without American precision munitions hitting is a constant bleeding out on the pavement. Small strikes would add nothing to the national pain.

As a rule, if you strike a king, kill him. So if we lead a strike on North Korea's nuclear arsenal the strike should be planned to destroy the nuclear infrastructure in its entirety. We might be wrong on our ability to achieve that, but we should plan on doing that as best we can, if we choose that route.

Have a super sparkly day.

Again, A Feature and Not a Bug

This is hilarious and kind of cute in its basic failure to comprehend the basic reality of the European Union and where it is going if left alone:

The leaders of Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain have said EU citizens should have more say on EU policy to combat populism.

They said in a joint statement at a summit in Rome on Wednesday (10 January) that so-called 'citizens' consultations' were needed to "foster democracy and citizens' participation."

The lack of democracy and citizens' participation is a feature and not a bug of the EU as I've noted for a long time:

The [EU] elites are pretending that the public is bloodthirsty and that only erasing democracy in a smothering European bureaucracy can prevent future bloodshed.

Imagine that, the Europeans looked to their past, noticed that the rulers of Europe often rallied their publics into repeated wars against each other and the rest of the world, and concluded that the key failure in this is their own public that failed to stop the leaders! Never mind that it was the leadership that led Europe to fight. I just want to know how putting an elite that has been prone to war back in complete charge will end European wars? Isn't this recreating the Europe of divine right rulers that created the bloody swath that Europeans cut across the globe?

The participation of France in this statement is kind of funny. For a long time France thought their elites could hold the reins of West Germany and lead the EU from behind.

But a united Germany with the weakened Russians a safe distance away doesn't take to the bit like they once did.

So now France joins with the southern Europeans to raise concerns about the level of democracy in the EU.

Good luck with that. 

Although their idea of democracy doesn't seem to include the nation-states of Europe as the basis of that democracy. The French have proposed and their southern partners endorse  plan to "create transnational lists of members of the European Parliament for the 2019 EU elections[.]"

Further, is France seriously arguing that transnational parties will increase democracy?

Won't that just dilute the democracy of politicians responsible for their local constituents, thus ratifying the same feature of the EU that subordinates nations to the proto-imperial bureaucracy?

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Weekend Data Dump

Egypt suggested his media personalities not blast the decision to move the American embassy to Jerusalem eventually. I guess Sisi has wondered just who made the Palestinians queen of the prom that makes their problems so much more important than every Arab state's problems, including Egypt's jihadi problem in the Sinai that bleeds into Egypt's core.

Some are more equal than others, comrades. How is setting up your own server obviously intended to bypass State Department security systems and procedures not punished?! How is that alone not a smoking gun?!

Joe Biden says of Howard Dean "Tell Howard I can take him physically, okay?" in response to Dean's statement that old leaders in Democratic Party should step aside. Yet Liberals don't explode in outrage at such a violent threat that is unpresidential in nature. Clearly it isn't a big effing deal for them.

From U-Boats to No-Boats. The sad tale of how all six expensive German submarines are all useless because of failure to spend the relatively trivial extra amount for sufficient spare parts. If that was the only sad tale about the German "military" it wouldn't be so bad. At sea they are capable. Stuck in port they have a technical term for them: "targets,"

I am amused that after Democrats complained that Trump is a celebrity president with no background to govern, Democrats are swooning over Oprah after one "speech" at a celebrity event. Mind you, I think Trump was a response to Obama who was a celebrity politician without a background to govern (no, I don't count 2 years in the Senate after a number of terms in the Illinois state legislature as background to govern). Trump was a Republican response to Democrat Obama and now Oprah is the Democrats' response to Trump. I'll repeat that I think it is good that America showed we would elect an African-American president. But I don't have to like the man's policies. I hope we will stop trying to out-celebrity the other side for presidential nominations.

On the other hand, would a President Oprah Winfrey have a press conference in which she promises our enemies, "You get a JDAM! You get a JDAM! You get a JDAM!"

Remember when we had to halt global warming to save the polar bears? Well, the polar bears are thriving. Does that mean the government should subsidize SUVs rather than electric vehicles?

The idea that American infantry need light tanks--oh, sorry, mobile protected firepower--to match Russian airborne light tanks is insane. Those American light tanks will be hit by enemy heavy tanks and will be flaming torches. Followed by the destruction of the leg infantry the light tanks are supposed to protect. The MPF won't be protected; won't have the firepower to defeat Russian tanks; and will be immobile flaming piles of junk when the battle is over. I almost literally weep at this idea.

If North Korea participates in the Winter Olympics in South Korea next month, plans to change the biathlon competition to one involving cross-country skiing and shooting down ballistic missiles will be cancelled. And really, it's an honor just to be invited. But seriously, is there really a chance because of North Korean participation to negotiate a deal that trades verifiable North Korean nuclear disarmament for guarantees that we won't try to change the regime? Nobody in the West wants North Korea or wants North Korea to have nukes, so it would be win-win for the West (which includes Japan and South Korea) and China, too. But would North Korea make that trade? And make it before our calculations tip to favor destroying North Korea's arsenal before it can reach American cities? After all this time such a hope seems too good to be true, honestly. I suspect North Korea just wants to stall American attacks with talks until it is too late. But I hate to miss a real opportunity. I'm glad I don't make these decisions.

California municipalities apparently use one climate model for suing oil companies for future climate change damages and another for getting people to loan them money. Fancy that. Tip to Instapundit.

Ah, tolerance! Yeah, there's a lot of that going on since the election of Trump. As I've long said, it is a crime against language that "liberal minded" is taken as a synonym for "open minded." Bonus for the description of the traditional liberal view of conservatives that I constantly heard on NPR when they had so-called debates on conservative views: "Republicans: evil or just too ignorant to know better?" And Hell, for progressives today you don't need to wait to airbrush history of badthink--you can edit it right out of your everyday work life! Ah, tolerance! But there is a sign of hope. You don't have to like Trump to like his policy results or to at least recognize that the policies are well within American debate parameters and not part of a Nazi/Confederate/KKK/Russian plot to subvert American democracy.

If Trump is truly creating a better business environment to end the low-growth rate we've experienced in the last 7 years or so, the bedrock of American military power will be shored up. In the long-run, that's more important than the latest gadget we produce for the military.

Strategypage notes that in 2017 that the Palestinians are losing the support of Arab governments. Like I've noted, people have started wondering just who voted the Palestinians as the queen of the victim prom.

Bias in polling language. Why is there no choice of simply "boycotting NFL games in protest of anthem kneeling?" Why add in "in support of Trump" language if not to polarize and reduce the number of people giving an anti-kneeling reason? My opposition to kneeling has nothing to do with Trump and I'd have never have said it was in defense of him. But the polsters sure do give a lot of nuanced options for the pro-kneeling reasoning, eh? And why even poll non-NFL fans to see why preexisting non-watchers don't watch? Garbage in, garbage out, I say. The poll doesn't "reveal" motives of NFL boycotters as much as it reveals the motives of the poll takers.

I'd worried about Thailand moving toward China. But given past growth that worked when in alliance with America, Thais seem to be having second thoughts about how that will work out.

Fighting cluster fire with cluster fire.

Is Afghanistan a war without end? I don't think so. It's a long war, to be sure. Although one point bolsters my belief that a surge in Afghanistan was unnecessary. In the end it was to fulfill a campaign pledge by Obama to focus on the "real" war in Afghanistan rather than the "war of choice" in Iraq. My objective is just to leave national and regional entities strong enough to keep the jihadis down without too much direct American help. And eventually to have the option of ending even that. But what is the alternative even if the war is endless? Let jihadis win and reestablish a sanctuary to attack us at home? Withdraw and nuke the place from orbit as the only way to make sure there is no threat?

Some wealthy liberal Westerners are just too stupid to live. Yeah, none of those woke dotards are allowed to lecture me on respect for science.

If Trump called certain poor countries "shithole countries," that was a diplomatic error needlessly insulting friends and allies. Although it would be unknown to them if not leaked to the media and so widely reported, so who did the harm? But it was hardly racist. Some countries really are awful places to live in and that is no criticism of the people unfortunate enough to live in those conditions. The fact that Africa's best and brightest come to America kind of demonstrates that, no? So a merit-based immigration policy would draw Africans of this caliber, wouldn't it? Which is fine by me. My criteria for immigration and citizenship doesn't rest on skin color or religion. Trump denies he said it the way it was reported, BTW.

I resent the faux Resistance and their inability to avoid turning the outrage dial to 11 for everything Trump related. But for that, the above paragraph would have ended after the first sentence

Seriously, who can doubt that there are a lot of countries that not even the most woke of our progressives would live in as a local lives if given the choice? Hell, I'd trade one-for-one any random resident of San Francisco for any random resident of a so-called "shithole country." I'm not defending the term, mind you (preferring "Third World Hell hole" as my go-to term for such countries). There is a reason that when two diplomats scream at each other they will say they had a frank and open exchange of views. Polite lying matters when you represent your country. So yeah, Trump shouldn't have used the term--and certainly shouldn't have trusted Democrats not to blab. I truly wish he could get a little self-control over his language. But the bi-coastal Left has treated flyover country with far more contempt for less reason than the alleged Trump utterance, making their outrage a little much to take. Really, I thought the term "shithole" was reserved for describing red states in flyover country. Get a grip, people. Trump unfortunately just added another chapter to the history (tip to Instapundit).

The amount of money I may save on taxes due to recent tax cuts may be "crumbs" to a wealthy person like Nancy Pelosi, but it matters to me. But I don't dine in restaurants that would use up all of that savings with one meal for two with a fine wine.

Yes, correct any problems that exist. But let's not forget that friendly air support with dumb bombs was something that our troops almost feared more than enemy fire. The bigger picture is that the Air Force has done a tremendous job--whether or not they are eager to focus on it, as the A-10 issue shows--in providing accurate fire support for troops in combat. Let me note that I have a tiny amount of Lockheed stock. That does not affect my judgment but I like to note that when it occurs to me if that company is part of the story.

Vieter in, Vieter out.  If you ever wondered why our Smart Diplomacy was so garbage-like during the Obama administration. These people were so inept that they had no idea how inept they were. The unfounded self esteem they have is mind boggling. And here's a reminder of an outrage by Iran the Obama administration overlooked to get their Nobel Peace Prize-justified shithole nuclear deal.

Climate change activists mocked skeptics of the global warming gospel who noted the recent extreme cold spell. The activists said that climate change actually predicts such cold snaps because of increased variability. Funny enough, the recent cold spell really was a fluke and had nothing to do with either climate change or lack of human-induced climate change.

We need  regime change in Iran. Yes. A lot of problems would be eased if Iran's mullah regime is overthrown. And as I've mentioned before in response to objections to regime change that it won't get rid of Iranian nukes, even if it is true that post-mullah Iran would still want nukes, the nature of the government matters inasmuch as I lose no sleep knowing that France has nuclear weapons.

India is leaning forward more along their border with China to prevent China from being able to establish positions across the line when nobody is looking.

Are companies like Google or Facebook wrong to discriminate against conservative users and views? I think so. Which is why I didn't jump on the defense of the wedding cake bakers for refusing to bake a cake for a gay couple, citing religious freedom. I'm highly annoyed the dispute became a matter of law and a major point of political debate. It should have been settled privately with a baker request that they not be required to violate their own views; and the customer respect for that and interest in rewarding another baker more disposed to a gay wedding. But push comes to shove, I support requiring the baker under law to supply any customer with a cake. It shouldn't be an issue for the law to resolve, but if it is, what can you do? Are we really willing to go down that path for everyone and not just Christian bakers? I don't think we want that.

Well that's pretty darned odd, you must admit. Tip to Instapundit. Also, Hypatia Stone would be a great stripper name, I think. But perhaps I've shared too much.

Liberals leaping to say Norwegians don't want to move America pretty much prove the point of Trump that Norway is a much better place to live than Haiti, for example. You won't see an article filled with statistics about why people living in Haiti don't want--or need--to move to America. Note that I don't trust those cited global comparison statistics that downgrade America without more information. I recall one health survey that basically measured how much the government controlled the health care system as a measure of quality. Wrong. I suspect the gender equality score includes such factors as laws requiring quotas of women in their parliament. But I quibble. I'm sure Norway is a fine place to live regardless of real ranking.

Trump is "slashing" the federal bureaucracy. In part this is coming into office at the right time. Early in the millennia, looking ahead to 2017 I considered seeking a job in Washington, D.C. as a second career path. Despite being older, I had read that based on age ranges in the federal workforce there would be a lot of retirements around this time and going forward. So that would be an opportunity. That plan didn't work out (in my experience, despite many life plans, my life followed different paths. Good paths, mind you. But not according to my plan of the time!). Anyway, just not hiring will reduce the federal workforce from normal attrition. Actively seeking to cut it will do more. Tip to Instapundit.

British naval aviation is returning. Although the plan is to only have one carrier in operation at a time, so the plan to not fully equip each carrier with a full air wing isn't a problem since the non-deploying wing can send planes to the deployed carrier in an emergency. And American Marine planes and pilots would be a reserve source in war, I suspect. But with the carriers representing such a high proportion of the shrinking Royal Navy, I worry that this is a false dawn of British seapower.

I hear the African Union is demanding an apology for Trump's "shithole" comment. He should do that. Although in an alternate world where diplomacy doesn't demand a simple apologiy, it would be funny given the faux outrage ginned up for political purposes (no Africans would have been offended if a Democrat hadn't run to CNN to tattle, which then broadcast the news 24/7) if the apology continued with, "Yes, your countries are all wonderful and so America is slashing all foreign aid to your governments which have made Africa great again!"

Hollywood is composed of sexual predators, victims of sexual assault, and active and passive enablers of sexual assault. Naturally the industry is posing as the hero of this tragic criminal enterprise story. I don't think people find this script believable. Acting! Brilliant! Thank you!

Or do you actually expect stars to be ripped out of the Walk of Fame any time soon?

Former President Obama is right as he recently said that you live on a different planet if you watch Fox News rather than listen to NPR. As one who has consumed both for a long time, I can confirm that this is true. Although I think the Earth broadcasts are from Fox.

The Right Moment?

America is arming the Lebanese army so that it could take on Hezbollah which functions as a state-within-the state and which controls southern Lebanon where it prepares for war on Israeli civilians with a massive rocket arsenal. But the Lebanese army still requires somebody else to take down Hezbollah to fill the vacuum and try to prevent Hezbollah from rebuilding.

Strategypage writes:

At the end of 2017 the U.S. agreed to provide Lebanon with another $120 million in military aid. This includes six MD530G helicopters, six Scan Eagle UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicle) and assorted special communications and related equipment for ground troops to call in air strikes effectively.

Since 2006 the United States has provided over $1.5 billion in military aid (weapons, equipment, construction and training) to Lebanon. This was all in an attempt to restore peace in southern Lebanon and weaken the Iran backed Shia Hezbollah organization. The main goal of the U.S. aid was to revive the Lebanese army. ...

The Lebanese accepted the initial American offer, but there was considerable political blowback, and military threats, from Hezbollah. The Lebanese Army did not roll over, but they did not move on Hezbollah either. A frustrated United States stopped the aid effort at times, but then resumed because many in the Lebanese Army wanted to confront Hezbollah but cautioned that they had to wait for the right moment. That moment may be approaching because since 2011 Hezbollah has been increasingly sucked into the Syrian civil war. This is at the behest of Iran, who has financed, armed and trained Hezbollah since the 1980s.

I've written that I think the Israelis learned their lesson after screwing the pooch in their 2006 war that tried to rely on air power to stop Hezbollah and punish Lebanon into controlling Hezbollah. The next war, I think, will involve a large Israeli ground offensive that pushes all the way to Baalbek in what will be a large raid to really tear up Hezbollah infrastructure and kill as many of Hezbollah's army as they can before pulling out.

Since Iran sent Hezbollah to war in Syria on Assad's behalf, I figured the best timing for the Israeli strike would be when the war is winding down so that Hezbollah has experienced maximum damage there but before it can return to Lebanon and recover from the war.

Also, I've noted while discussing this possibility that Lebanon would have the opportunity to fill the vacuum after Israel withdraws. If the Saudis pull good chunks of the Arab world to back the Israelis in this anti-Iran operation--and Israel focuse on Hezbollah alone--Hezbollah might be destroyed as an Iranian proxy force.

Armed and Dangerous

This author calls for using LCS at armed amphibious transport ships, citing World War II APD experience using older destroyers and destroyer escorts modified to function as troop transports:

A third potential LCS mission harkens back to a World War II concept and could fill a current void in U.S. Marine Corps littoral warfare capabilities. The U.S. Navy was often short of dedicated amphibious and inshore warfare vessels from 1938 through 1944. One solution to this shortage was the conversion of older destroyers into High-Speed Transports (APDs) that could deliver small teams of Marines, Underwater Demolition units and Army Rangers to hostile territory. These ships often carried up to a company-sized unit and had enough onboard weaponry to provide limited fire support to their embarked units.

I cited the same experience in calling for new APDs (sorry, USNI membership needed for online access) for disaggregated Marine operations. I suggested using old Perry frigate hulls (I think we have 7 available) to experiment with the concept before building them from the keel up. I also suggested experiments with the LCS using modules to convert those ships to armed troop transports. Despite my worry about that class' survivability close to shores, the ability to put modules into the ship would more easily enable peacetime experiments with the concept than rebuilding a Perry.

That author calls the Perry old and worn out (yet our allies seem to be able to use them refurbished), but the purpose of adapting them to APDs would be to experiment prior to designing dedicated APDs.

And as long as we are discussing mission modules that are built in standard shipping containers, my modularized auxiliary cruiser suggestion has merit for lesser threat environments where longer endurance is required.

UPDATE: The Navy and Marines lack the hulls to even practice large-scale amphibious warfare, and are worried that threats require those skills on a larger scale:

They agree that the Corps’ Marine Expeditionary Units are well-trained, but near peer threats such as Russia, China, North Korea or Iran would require the use of a Marine Expeditionary Brigade or even a Marine Expeditionary Force.

Enemy anti-ship assets will have to be suppressed long before the large hull amphibious warfare ships get close enough to shore to disembark Marines.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

In Hot Water--And Loving It!

I had my first hot shower in 6 days. The price I paid for my unique circumstances (I am lucky that the water heater installed in 1994 lasted until this year) were fully justified in those minutes of bliss.

Mind you, I've learned lessons. This was the first time in my life I've had to replace a water heater. I paid the obscene price given that I have a daughter who won't like lack of hot water. So by the time I have to replace this water heater, I will be more willing to wait and shop around.

The actual installation seems to have been fine. So no complaints on the installers.

But my mistakes?

One: Assuming a big box store that does installation would be both reputable for installing a gas heater without risking explosions and be in the ballpark for costs.

I may have gotten the former; but the later was way off. There were two added layers (the retailer and the scheduling company) between the installers and the people I paid, which naturally added costs.

Two: I could have saved a quarter of the cost if I had moved the stacked washer-dryer. I didn't think that I could but learned that I really could have. I now know how. So I'll have that going for me.

Three: As I noted, I should have taken the time to look at options. Without children at home I'd be more willing to spend more time looking for a better deal. And maybe I'll get lucky enough to lose hot water in August rather than January.

But I did not have that knowledge or options so I got hosed big time.

Yet my feeling is that if you have a problem that can be solved by money you have to spend, it really isn't a problem. So no problem.

Not that I didn't have small tactical victories.

One: I upgraded the water heater when I noticed that the increased cost of the better water heater was trivial compared to the total cost that included installation and moving stuff out of the way. So it should last longer, spreading out my costs.

Two: I bought my own drip pan that saved me money.

Three: While the washer was pulled out, I replaced the ancient rubber hoses with new stainless steel hoses rather than paying the installers. That saved me a hundred bucks for what was just removing the old hoses from the wall and putting the new ones on in the right position.

As a bonus, should I finally have to replace my dryer, I think a friend and a pizza will be enough to remove the old one and mount a new one without the added costs I balked at paying late last year in favor of soldiering on with the ancient one for now.

Also, I learned that installing a tank-less water heater would have been way more expensive than what I paid for.

And now I have hot water and don't repel women. Well, not by my hygiene, anyway.

Excuse Me While I Change My Underwear

Actually, it was a drill.

Yeah, take a little more care with that next time.

UPDATE: There really was a lot of distress out there. (And my post was entirely sincere and not mocking, BTW.)

We're lucky no deaths have been attributed to this mistake.

Explain and Ask for Service

The National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service wants to find out how to increase willingness to join the military:

Next week the U.S. will launch a two-year effort to find ways to increase military and civic service among its citizenry, especially U.S. youth.

The effort will be spearheaded by an 11-member commission that will travel the country in 2018 and 2019 “to ignite a national conversation around service and develop recommendations that will encourage and inspire all Americans, particularly young people, to serve.

I actually made an effort to contribute to this inquiry last summer with my article "Course Could Be a Lifesaver for Recruiting" (sorry, not online--you'll need a physical copy of the July 2017 Army magazine):

It is about using a civilian version of the Army combat lifesaver course to both build a capacity in our cities to respond to casualty events, whether natural, criminal, or terrorist; and to provide avenues to recruit in regions that are not well represented in the Army by telling the Army story to potential recruits during the training.

The program would target regions--especially cities--that don't provide many recruits as a percent of their population compared to the Army's traditional recruiting base in the south (where many Army bases are located).

Actually, in an ideal world this would be a joint Army-Homeland Security program that could expose more Americans to public service but at worst provide civilians with lifesaving skills useful for disaster response or for coping with terrorism or crime scenes--or even accidents.

A draft in peacetime should be ruled out given that so many would need to be given exemptions because so few are needed compared to the entire population of potential recruits. So far the military is managing to recruit enough, don't forget, even though it is getting harder to do. So if there is a shortfall it won't be by much. You really want a massive draft bureaucracy to get the last few percentage points of recruits?

And no, it isn't better if most drafted are funneled to civilian service. That sounds like involuntary servitude. Which isn't "encouraging and inspiring service," at all. Seriously, just who do you think will get the cushy jobs volunteering in Hawaii or in Denver or Miami soup kitchens rather than being sent to boot camp?

This should be a military recruiting issue only.

And remember, to justify the draft bureaucracy cost you don't want to draft all military recruits instead of recruiting volunteers and thus forfeit willing recruits to get more unwilling recruits. So I disagree with the notion that a draft would increase the quality of the recruits over the volunteer system. That's the exact opposite of our experience going from a draft to a volunteer military.

Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil About Evil

Thanks allies!

Britain, France, Germany and the European Union made a joint call to the United States to protect the Iran nuclear pact, saying Tehran had a right to benefit from the lifting of sanctions tied to it.

The "right" to sanctions relief for participating in an awful deal that at best delays Iran's ability to go nuclear--an ambition that Iran never even admitted to having. And in the meantime Iran gets better at the mechanics of nuclear engineering with the other parties obliged to help Iran.

All that was missing from the performance was a boast that the deal provides peace for our time.

As for their joint call?

One, none of those entities are the primary target of future Iranian nuclear weapons.

Two, none of those entities would have to take part in a military action to deal with Iranian nuclear weapons.

And three, given Iran's aggressive support for terrorism and their drive to improve conventional military capabilities, why does Iran even need nukes?

It seems to me that just having a so-called nuclear deal is all the protection Iran needs to shield their actions from counter-measures by Britain, France, Germany, and the EU--and if they have their way, America, too.

Oh, and fourth, I expect better from Britain, which seems to be sliding back into accepting vassal status within the EU again.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Appeasement Personified

The European Union is more comfortable resisting America which won't attack them than they are in resisting autocratic aggressors, who might hurt them if the EU raised a mild objection to them.

Tell me again how a more powerful European Union would be a solid ally of America, given their leadership:

If Federica Mogherini didn't exist, the world's autocrats would be trying to invent her.

As the European Union's high representative for foreign affairs, she is a tireless advocate for engaging rogue states. Few diplomats though have pursued this kind of engagement with such moralizing puffery. In Mogherini's world, diplomacy with dictators should not aim to transition these countries to open societies, but rather to prevent conflicts at all costs.

The future imperial socalist EU state won't be any less hostile to American interests than the current proto-empire it is, with the subjugation of European nation-states still incomplete.

The EU imperial state the apparatchiki in Brussels want to build through their "ever closer union" project will be bad for America, bad for Europe, and horrible for Europeans who still value freedom.

China Goes to Sea

Is China really building enough large carriers to intimidate neighbors but not to fight America? That seems odd to me.

Strategypage looks at Chinese carrier developments. They are getting larger and more capable. But why?

China is building carriers but does not yet seem committed to having a lot of them to confront the U.S. but rather just a few to intimidate its neighbors.

The large carrier has a great role in projecting power ashore as long as the enemy doesn't have anti-ship and recon assets to target the expensive ships with cheap precision missile volleys.

The problem is in using them for sea control because by definition in that case your enemy has enough ship-killng power to contest control of the seas.

It's an apples and oranges argument.

Is China really building carriers to intimidate smaller powers with a power projection mission?

In part that relies on keeping America away with all of our ship-killing power. How does a small number of carriers achieve that?

And doesn't China's planned carrier fleet, if small, just encourage potential targets to build up anti-access/area denial weapons and systems along the lines China has made to keep the U.S. Navy out of the western Pacific?

Or is China just building the carriers to keep up with the Joneses because big carriers are symbols of a superpower?

I thought the Chinese excelled at long-range thinking? Are carriers really a wise investment when network-centric warfare challenges their survivability in a sea control clash?

Especially when America will retain an advantage in carrier clashes because of superior proficiency from long experience and practice.

If China is challenging America's carrier fleet, making it seem as if China will only build a small carrier armada will give the Chinese the edge before America can react if it becomes apparent that China is seeking parity or superiority in this weapon system.

Strategypage does make a good point that China's commitment to a navy (apart from the question of carriers) will endure despite a history of not having a navy because now China needs a navy.

This is different from Russia which had a Soviet heritage of building a blue water navy to contest control of the North Atlantic to keep America and Canada from reinforcing NATO in war. Russia just doesn't need a major blue water navy now, especially given their insufficient land power to defend their land borders. So their blue water navy dwindles.

Echelon Above Agility

The Russians are preparing their army to use more firepower on a broader front:

Donbas is driving the localized restructuring of the Ground Forces and the need for improvements in artillery and armor. ...

Essentially, this is the argument in favor of divisions over brigades. In late December, Colonel General Oleg Salyukov, the commander-in-chief of the Ground Forces, noted that both divisions and brigades will be retained in the future for these reasons, but he made no mention of the continued reliance upon battalion tactical groups or explained the circumstances in which an entire division would be deployed.

Years ago (pre-9/11), I argued for more but smaller American divisions based on two brigades (See "The Path of the Future Army") that would be easier to deploy but which would accept a third brigade in case more depth and resilience was needed. If divisions were bulked up to three brigades, the Army would have extra division headquarters and divisional units to expand the Army more easily, pulling in National Guard brigades in the short term and forming new active units in the longer term.

In case of heavy combat I wanted the depth that the division could provide to support subordinate brigades rather than the "Breaking the Phalanx" independent brigades offered as an alternative and which we did adapt to ease rotation of units in Iraq.

I've noted the resurrection of the army headquarters in Russia, with divisions within it, and find it interesting that based on their combat experience in Ukraine the Russians think the division is useful.

America crushed the Iraqi army with divisions in 2003.

Was the decision to go to self-contained brigades, which made it easier to rotate units, just another example of how the counter-insurgency campaign unbalanced the Army away from conventional warfare?

Today our "divisions" are more like the corps of old that commanded self-contained divisions, but now with self-contained brigades augmented with higher level assets as needed.

Is the Russian lesson something the United States Army should consider? Should the Army again be division-based if the anticipated mission is high-intensity conventional warfare?

As an aside, the lack of mention of the battalion tactical group is interesting given the rage that the BTG seems to be experiencing with Army discussions.

I have never seen the Russian BTG as some miracle unit that crushes American battalions as much as I've seen it as the only usable portion of Russian brigades.

So the proper measure of comparison is what our brigades can field versus what the Russian brigades can field--a full brigade versus a reinforced battalion team.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Hope Amidst the Ruins

Strategypage writes about the top ten military developments of 2017. The top story is the defeat of the ISIL caliphate.

I will only note the beginning of their comments on ISIL:

The most extreme Islamic terror group on the planet, hated by all other Islamic terrorists, was defeated but not destroyed in 2017. It was driven underground where, if tradition holds, it will fester for a generation or so and then revive and repeat. In effect this is a chronic problem. It is an unending Moslem civil war between those (mainly Islamic terrorists) who want a worldwide religious dictatorship run by themselves, versus those representing the majority of Moslems who are getting tired of being threatened and murdered by Moslem religious fanatics.

I've noted that jihadi violence is mostly a civil war within the Islamic world and that the West is collateral damage.

But Moslem popular reaction against the jihad has to continue even when "only" other people are killed by jihadis. That's been a problem. Yet there is hope on this issue.

That's why I continue to have hope that the Arab Spring reflected a basic impulse to cure the ills that cause the Islamic Civil War with democracy (and the all-important rule of law that makes sure voting doesn't just create a tyranny of the majority) rather than alternate between autocrats and mullahs to rule Arabs.

And I hope that leaders in the Islamic world (like in Egypt and in Saudi Arabia, which is the most important place for such reforms to succeed) see that real change away from that traditional choice of governance must happen for self preservation if not for idealistic reasons.

UPDATE: Protests and violence over prices and taxes in Tunisia, where the Arab Spring of 2011 first began.

Will the only success story of that era be undone? Will use of force destroy progress toward rule of law and democracy?

The Pakistan Problem

The basic problem with Pakistan is that America needs them despite their concurrent actions that undermine American interests.

I'm not willing to say the American-Pakistani alliance is over (well, on the way to being over). But yes:

Pakistan crafted a strategy of cooperating with the U.S. in Afghanistan without going so far as to anger its Islamist elements. It walked a very fine line, and the government frequently went too far one way or the other. The United States understood the Pakistani dilemma and saw a stable and vaguely pro-American Pakistan as more important than a total commitment of Pakistan to the American war. Each was forced to get less than it needed from the other.

It is certainly true that the collapse of the USSR has freed democratic India to forge closer ties with America. And that threatens to isolate Pakistan as the odd man out.

Yes, Pakistan can look to China. But China is more focused on building up their economy to bolster their legitimacy. I'm not sure if China wants to take on the huge job of propping up Pakistan.

So I don't see the end of reasons for America and Pakistan to cooperate.

America does need Pakistan's help to prevent Afghanistan from being a haven to launch terror attacks abroad.

Pakistan does need American weapons and switching over to China after losing American support to maintain the weapons will not be easy.

And Pakistan can't afford to let "tame" Islamists gain too much power lest they go feral and turn fully against Pakistan.

Further, America does offer a way out:

"Our expectations are straightforward: Taliban and Haqqani leadership and attack planners should no longer be able to find safe haven or conduct operations from Pakistani soil," said Army Col. Robert Manning, who is the director of defense press operations at the Pentagon.

"This suspension is not a permanent cutoff at this time," Manning said. "Security funding and pending deliveries will be frozen, but not cancelled or reprogrammed at this time."

And I noted that America has long had to settle for a frenemy Pakistan who I've long described as the "black sheep" of our alliance structure.

Remember, even though pressuring Pakistan to be better is fully valid and needed, Pakistan could be far worse:

But I will caution that if Iran looked like Pakistan--a nuclear power with a troubled relationship as a frenemy--we'd call our Iran policy a tremendous success.

And we do need Pakistan for supply lines to Afghanistan.

And some help with Afghanistan is better than full opposition.

Yet we need more help from Pakistan to shut down jihadi sanctuaries in Pakistan that enable Afghan jihadis to fight on. That's the real point of a "regional" strategy for Afghanistan.

Perhaps the alliance is doomed to eventually end. But for now I imagine we'll muddle along. Because we both need to.

As an aside, the crucial role of Pakistan in if we are to resolve the problem of jihadi warfare in Afghanistan is one reason I rejected the notion that America was "distracted" from Afghanistan by the Iraq War. Half a million American troops in Afghanistan would still confront the Pakistani sanctuaries keeping the war going. And be reliant on Pakistan supply lines.

We'll see if Pakistan will take decisive action against the jihadis in Afghanistan who have shelter in Pakistan.

UPDATE: This kind of faux outrage is not a path to resolving the Pakistan problem:

Pakistan's army chief told a top U.S. general the nation "felt betrayed" at criticism that it was not doing enough to fight terrorism, the military said on Friday, after U.S. President Donald Trump accused Pakistan of "lies and deceit".

The nation of Pakistan is betrayed by the fools who sponsor jihadis as a means to maintain power and wealth at the expense of the rest of Pakistan.

America is their only hope to escape that betrayal.


The Putin Telegram

Russia appears to be trying to stir up trouble on America's southern border. A century ago that kind of effort just pissed America off.


U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said in a speech last month to the Washington-based Jamestown Foundation that there was already evidence of Russian meddling in Mexican elections set for July.

"We've seen that this is really a sophisticated effort to polarize democratic societies and pit communities within those societies against each other," said McMaster in a previously unreported video clip from Dec. 15 that was posted on Twitter by a reporter with Mexican daily newspaper Reforma on Saturday.

That didn't work out well for the last European state that tried to stir up distracting trouble on America's southern border.