Monday, December 11, 2017

The Fulcrum of Europe

What is going on with the West and Belarus?

Yauheni Preiherman, who heads the discussion platform “Minsk Dialogue,” believes Belarus-EU relations face three problems: a lingering deficit of mutual trust, institutional and personal interests set against the improvement of relations, and a lack of unity in the face of externally boosted geopolitical tensions (, November 25). The gist of the third problem is that Lithuania and Ukraine are too eager to portray themselves as last redoubts in the West’s “civilizational struggle” with Russia, so they do what they can to compromise Minsk as a loyal ally of Moscow. Illustratively, Lithuania’s losing battle with the Belarusian nuclear power plant has received half-hearted support from Brussels in favor of Vilnius (Delfi, November 22), and Ukraine is now embroiled in a full-blown spy-scandal with Belarus (see EDM, November 28).

I'm unclear if the argument is that Lithuania and Ukraine are trying to prevent Belarus from being accepted in the West or if it is simply an expression of their deep interest in the fate of Belarus as a non-Russian puppet.

If the former, huh? How is it in the interest of either of those countries to basically push Belarus into Russia's grip? That's insane. They need a buffer state around Minsk and so does NATO.

If the latter, well yeah, Belarus is probably the most important territory in today's Europe because a Russian army could hit Lithuania directly from Belarus and a Russiam army could outflank Ukraine's eastern front and threaten Kiev easily, stretching Ukraine's military perhaps to the breaking point in a general war.

The sad fact is that Lukashenko can be a son of a bitch as long as he is our son of a bitch.

Land Power in the Pacific

I shouldn't have let my email build up. Otherwise I would have read a December 7 AUSA email announcement a bit sooner that my paper "Fighting for the Land--from the Sea" was published by the Institute of Land Warfare.

The paper uses the Guadalcanal campaign of 75 years ago as a historical example to argue for multi-domain synergy that uses the Army's core competencies outside of the Korean peninsula.

Perhaps we don't want to fight a land war in Asia, but potential enemies shouldn't be able to count on that self-limitation.

This is the announcement and the paper is here.

It was just over 20 years ago that they published another Land Warfare Paper that I wrote.

UPDATE: I would like to note that an article on how to use the Army outside of South Korea was accepted for publication and should be out next year. This Guadalcanal paper was intended to complement the policy with a historical example. In the oddities of writing, I wrote this paper after the policy article.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

What Happened to American Military Readiness?

Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, and Islamist terrorists all threaten America yet we have a military strained to keep an eye on all of them let alone respond with sufficient force to the expanding threats. Sadly, you go to war with the military you have and not the military you wish you had built a decade ago, when America instituted our own "ten-year rule."

Are we having fun yet?

A quick scan of existing and emerging threats to the U.S. and its vital interests ought to end any lingering debate. The Pentagon must prepare to fight two simultaneous wars in two widely separated geo-political theaters.

Right now, I don't think we can do it.

Well, no. We can't. And if somehow we could the price we'd pay will be very high. We'd pay in blood for what we refused to pay in money before the shooting starts.

The Obama administration ended the goal of being able to meet even the theoretical ability to fight two medium level wars "nearly simultaneously" in favor of being able to fight a land war without serious naval opposition and a naval war elsewhere without serious ground force needs.

Yes, this current challenge was all predicable when the Obama administration instituted our own "ten year rule" in early 2009 that said we faced no threats justifying preparations for serious threats:

The administration has simply decided not to spend the money for future wars. That's the basic problem.

But we've made that decision to reduce defense spending and make sure this reduction doesn't affect the current war. Given this, the reason for my worry about the long-term spending is the whole "medium term" basis for all these decisions to slight our future (medium term) defenses. We assume no enemies will match us in the medium term. This is undoubtedly correct. But this also sounds too much like we're instituting the British Ten Year Rule from 1919.

It was a perfectly reasonable rule when adopted by the British government in 1919, which stated the British would not face a war in the next ten years. The rule was formally abolished 13 years later, in 1932. But defense spending did not rebound from its post-1919 collapse, and when war broke out in 1939, the British only barely proved they'd done enough to withstand the German offensive in the opening of the war.

Certainly, we won't face such a dramatic collapse in defense spending that the British military endured in the 1920s. My worry is whether we will do any better than the British did in recognizing when our version of the ten-year rule no longer holds true. When our national debt is scheduled to skyrocket even under optimistic administration projections, will we actually ramp up our defense spending once the medium term is over in order to maintain our military superiority? Or will we just continue to act as if the medium term never ends? That's what the British did. But they had the Arsenal of Democracy to back them up when they found themselves at war without the military they needed. We don't have such a back-up source of arms.

We've just instituted the Medium Term Rule on our defense spending. The problems that will flow from this plan won't show themselves in the near term. We can coast on our past progress in building the best military in the world. But have no doubt that our military strength will erode, and this means we are accepting risks in case we have to fight a conventional war in the medium term despite our assumption that we can still win such a war.

We won't cancel the Medium Term Rule until it's too late to do any good.

Excuse the lengthy quote from my own post. But warnings have not been heeded. I'm hoping it isn't too late to fix this.

One of my early published works (from 1997) focused on the insanity of the "nearly simultaneous" caveat for fighting land wars, I'll note.

But the situation got worse. And the threats have expanded. So there you go.

As an aside, I read one article that derided Trump for his defense promises because so far our forces aren't getting bigger. This criticism is way premature.

One, he hasn't had a budget yet.

And two, the first step is not to expand a force that is short on full manning, spare parts, training, and ammunition.

After fixing those unseen problems, then you can expand the force structure. Which also takes time, because Obama didn't build that military.

And so right now we have the military we wished to have back in 2009.

We Have the Credibility to Make This Threat

The Secretary of State told the Russians that sanctions will remain until they withdraw from Russian-occupied Ukraine.


U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson held his tough line on Russia during a visit to Europe on Thursday, saying in front of his Russian counterpart that Washington would keep sanctions in place until Russian forces withdraw from Ukraine.

Unfortunately, Ukraine is defined only as Russian-occupied Donbas and not Russian-occupied Crimea.

But given the long Cold War when we opposed and resisted the Soviet Union until they withdrew from Eastern Europe, our pledge has weight behind it.

As for Crimea? Well, when NATO won the Cold War, not only did the USSR lose Eastern Europe, they lost large chunks of the USSR itself.

So when Russia finally does retreat from the Donbas, they will probably have endured so much loss economically that they'll lose Crimea and other parts of Russia, too.

I chuckle to myself when people claim America lacks staying power and can't think or act long term.

Careless News Network

This is CNN, sadly enough.

No matter how many times CNN insists this is a banana, it is an apple.

UPDATE: Yes indeed, America's most busted news source.

UPDATE: It's the Charge of the Light Brigade with the media's bizarre focus on resisting the darkness they think Trump represents.

But the media is slaughtering itself in their blind frontal assaults.

It is magnificent, but it is not journalism.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Weekend Data Dump

The Obama administration turned from being "flexible" for "reset" Russia when Putin turned against Hillary Clinton? No. That pivot happened when Hillary lost the election. The Claudia Rossett interview at the first link is good.

America pulled out of a group negotiating a "voluntary" migration pact. If the people for the migration pact can't even agree among themselves whether the trend is a "positive story" or "hugely destabilizing" why would America want to voluntarily participate when cooperation will surely mean accepting some of those people--on top of what we already do--on the move? People seem confused by thinking that we have to accept as many people as want to come here.

A rally to help ensure the Alabama election of Roy Moore to the United States Senate was held in Detroit, Michigan earlier in the week.

When racist rally members in Charlottesville were confronted by communist/anarchist antifa thugs, the local police actively decided to let them fight, leading to the death of a young woman minding her own business at the protest. Not that this is a defense of the man accused of driving the car into the crowd and killing the woman. But the police should have been trying to prevent violence rather than planning to exploit violence.

She is a meat head, ironically enough. From the Journal of Feminist Geography, which refuses to study Florida.

The Saudis might have missed a missile launched in November from Yemen by Iran-backed forces. Which isn't a shock. No weapon is perfect (and some very far from it) and so a Patriot missing is hardly impossible. And let's not forget that the Yemen faction was aiming at a civilian target. But that's not a story, apparently.

In an effort to build on the buzz of Bitcoin, Maduro plans a crypto-currency to be called the Shitcoin Petro backed by Venezuela's natural resources. It won't work and should be backed by Maduro's good looks and personal charm for all this will achieve. Although it might have promise in the complementary digital crypto-food that his people will be able to buy with the new money. Mmmm, virtual rabbit.

Flynn copped a plea for lying to the FBI notwithstanding no underlying crime. Give the man a break, lying to the FBI is apparently a very new law.

I have little respect for Foreign Policy magazine. Regularly getting their email links doesn't help. This does not improve my view of their judgment. They aren't good enough to be in the echelon above reality. They're in the echelon in defiance of reality.

Russia says they are ready to exert their influence on North Korea over the nuclear issue. Given Russia's "help" to preserve Syria's chemical arsenal with a chemical weapons deal and given their "help" to enable Iran's drive to get nuclear weapons with the farcical nuclear deal, I'm thinking we should keep Russia out of this nuclear crisis to prevent more "help."

Egypt may allow Russian planes use Egyptian air space and air bases. Not that this is a one-way proposed deal! If Egypt ever wants to bomb Finland, Russia is granting Egypt the right to use Russian air space and air bases. We have a way to go in restoring our reputation in the Middle East if long-time ally Egypt is willing to work with Russia just in case. Unless Egypt is just negotiating with America by using the Russians to get a better deal.

Yemen's Iran-backed rebels have fractured and the Saudi coalition may have gained a vital advantage to press forward.  I never bought the notion that the Saudis were losing this war. Yes, it was stalemated because Saudi Arabia was unable to get enough locals on the ground for their air power to support. This may change that ground problem. I'm sure eventually talks will rearrange the name plates around the big table in the Yemen capital and this clusterfuck of a state, as this story about Saleh's history shows, will resume its usual programming of poverty, corruption, and the production of Islamists.

Will Democrats stop turning the dial to 11? This time people will die with festering boils because of the Republican tax cut bill. In the past when taxes went up the deficit went up; and when taxes went down, the deficit went up. While I'd like the deficit reduced, that isn't going to happen in the current political environment. So I'd rather have the deficit go up with the taxes lower, at this point.

Bike lanes are killing the planet. Who knew reserving disproportionate road space for a little-used vehicle would be environmentally counter-productive? Tip to Instapundit.

How is it possible that Britain is having more problems leaving the European Union than Eastern Europe had in escaping Soviet control in 1989??!!

The Fulani tribe are a problem in Nigeria as well as other places in the region. That's quite the rap sheet they have there. How Nigeria survives as a state with their problems is kind of amazing.

The FBI has pretty much wrecked the trust they built up by their wildly different treatment of Hillary Clinton and Trump. I realize most agents are honorable and this problem is based on the politics of relatively few. All the more reason the many should be the most outraged. The reaction to Trump is proving far more destructive to our country than Trump could ever be. Solid trusted institutions can check excesses. But if the institutions are corrupted in their partisan zeal, the ability to check anything truly dangerous in the future is crippled. This trend pre-dates the Trump-Clinton race, of course, as the whole IRS politicization makes clear. A lot of federal employees need to lose their jobs and face the criminal justice system as a warning to the rest that this is unacceptable. I have never been big into the "deep state" view (as opposed to bureaucratic interests and inertia) but the opposition is tipping into territory that makes that view more plausible to argue, I think. Our pride used to be peaceful transfer of power. Do we still have that fully?

As I've long said, the federal government has grown too big a prize because of its increasing power over so many areas of our lives to be healthy for our country. It is clearly the center of gravity for our entire nation. It obviously draws too much political attention. In regard to the chart in the article above showing the extreme tilt in favor of Democrats as demonstrated by federal employees by department, is it really that bad? Is this the top level of civil servants only? That's bad enough but wouldn't reflect the bulk of people in the organizations. Although I don't know why civil servants are allowed to make political donations or have political opinions in public. Or are the donations from the top levels that are appointed and so in 2016 obviously Obama appointed?  I just don't know what the significance of this is. But for me, given I was diligently nonpartisan in my career in the state legislative branch, the possibility of bias as extreme as that chart shows is extremely disturbing. The civil service system may have failed completely and been corrupted by the political competition that has grown so extreme to control the federal government.

So you want to know why I have long (for decades) mistrusted our press corps? As the media constantly looks for Republican scandals--real or imagined--it has downplayed Democratic scandals (opting instead to focus on Republican "overreach" in response). And worse, the media ignored the sexual abuse scandal that they all knew about in their own industry. They all knew. And they said--and published--nothing. In what way have they earned my trust? Yes, I rely on them. And they often do good work. And practically speaking, they're the only game in town for news. But treat them as suspect until proven otherwise is always a safe approach.

Nancy Pelosi promotes ethnic cleansing. She really is a deplorable character.

Good Lord. Moore and Franken look better by contrast every day. They keep saying "icon." I don't think that word means what they think it means.

I see the Remain camp has gained some new recruits to oppose Brexit. I hope May doesn't really believe Trump's tweets are the biggest British problem.

When I heard of Libyan slave markets, it didn't even occur to me to blame President Obama. Yes, I think the Libya War was a mistake. I figured that if the issue was so important to Europe, they could have dealt with it. And if Europe couldn't handle rebellion-wracked Libya, they should be ashamed. France didn't help in Iraq, after all, so have a ball. But we took part. So I wanted America to win. You certainly couldn't claim the war to overthrow a dictator was immoral. And I thought Europe should take the lead for post-war work. Europe didn't. And here we are. But the fact is that the slave trade is the fault of slave sellers and slave buyers--not Obama or America or Europe or the West. The sad fact is that slavery was not invented by America and continues to exist in parts of the sainted Third World.

The persecution of Lindsay Shepherd demonstrates how oppression is perfectly compatible with a reputation for politeness. Here is her recording of her inquisition. Listen to those whiny proto-Red Guards grind her beneath their Birkenstocks. If they could send her into the countryside to toil her way to proper thinking, they would. (Nobody expects the Canadian Inquisition. But you should. Fascism is always descending on America; but it always seems to land elsewhere.) You wonder where the Gestapo  or the Soviets got their camp guards? From people like these petty tyrants.

Wealthy liberals can use their wealth to live a carbon-spewing lifestyle and then buy "carbon credits" with their wealth so they can feel ecologically and morally superior to a young working man driving to work in an old car that lost its emission control systems long ago. So Lena Dunham's rage against Republicans is kind of like a feminist carbon credit to "make up" for (in her mind?)  her unwillingness to go public with what she knew about the abuse by liberal Weinstein of women in her own industry.

A preview of the newest American anti-ship missile, the LRASM.

Europeans basically despise Israel and--if they believed in God--granted sainthood to whatever terrorist is speaking for the Palestinians, yet still jihadis slaughter them in their cities. So don't expect ritual denunciations of Trump's Jerusalem (sort-of) decision to shield Europe from religious violence.

Perhaps I'm unclear about crypto-currency, but isn't hacking them and stealing them supposed to be impossible, which is the appeal of the concept?

If Iran won the first round over Lebanon in the Hariri crisis, the Saudi-Israel coalition still has a trump card to play to cripple Hezbollah and reduce Iran's influence in Lebanon. And with the U.S. secretary of state meeting with Hariri to encourage him to stand up to Iran, are we sounding him out on his abilities if the balance of forces inside Lebanon suddenly tilts against Hezbollah? And is America taking precautions to make sure Hezbollah survivors from Lebanon don't make it to the Western Hemisphere to seek revenge for Iran?

The first time I taught a class my mouth got so dry that I could barely pronounce words. I'm surprised it happened to Trump but when I watched his Jerusalem announcement I assumed that the high stakes of this move caused unusual nervousness and a resulting dry mouth. But question Hillary's health last year?

Senator Franken announced his intention to resign from the U.S. Senate over sexual harassment-related conduct.  The day after the American embassy opens in Jerusalem? Or will that plan be put off if Moore wins? The apology was more "I'm sorry this horrible thing happened to me," but who's perfect? Regarding Moore, I suspect if he is elected he will be ejected for some reason or another to let Alabama have a redo with an actual Republican rather than electing a Democrat by punishing Moore in the special election. Moore is a piece of work without his girl fixation. Don't we have enough Democrats in Congress with views like that without adding Republicans to the ranks?

I generally watch Fox with a large component of CNN thrown in. But MSNBC is never on my TV given that they are so unclear on the concept that their idea of an expert on terrorism is a terror apologist and outright liar. WTF, people. Has MSNBC decided to compete with al Jazeera for market share?

It's kind of funny to see China experiencing the joy of Pakistan as a frenemy: "China on Friday warned its nationals in Pakistan of plans for a series of imminent 'terrorist attacks' on Chinese targets there, an unusual alert as it pours funds into infrastructure projects into a country plagued by militancy." It's so odd. How can any Moslems be mad at China when China didn't invade Iraq or recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital! I thought those were the approved reasons for being a terrorist! Given this Islamist threat, the Chinese are going to be aghast when they find out that terrorists will use the road link China is building between Pakistan to the sea at one end and China's restive Xinjiang province at the other. Also, Pakistan is "plagued by militancy"? That's like saying I'm plagued by beer on game night. Just who did that to me and why can't I stop them?

It's starting to seem like the intensive "obstruction of justice" investigation of Trump's team over an issue of "collusion" that isn't even a crime and doesn't seem to have happened is just an exercise of "the best defense is a good offense." Doesn't it? Tips to Instapundit.

"The Resistance" is just silly in its worry about Trump trying to impose fascism on America. It's not happening. But when Trump leaves office and our checks and balances are intact, I have no doubt that the Left will proudly boast that their tactic of turning everything to 11 to stop fascism worked great!

I still have no idea if the Cuba "sonic attack" issue is even real or who did it. It should go without saying that communist Cuba can't be trusted to provide answers.

You have to admit, if the email actually had been sent 10 days earlier, it might actually have been a story! Not even close to being an apple, CNN. The orange blinded you.

I'm not sure how the candidate who was ahead in the pre-election polls actually winning indicates voter fraud in Honduras. Although running for reelection does seem illegal. But abroad I'm not ashamed if a pro-American candidate wins in a shady manner when foes of America have been winning in a shady manner in the region. I'm not proud of this "hypocrisy." But I'm not happy with the anti-American winners, and those types seem to end up way worse in how they treat their own people.

Go Army! Beat Navy! Two in a row. Never forget that those players are officers going to war. 

Dunkirk II

It looks like an actual Brexit deal is in reach.


Britain and the European Union struck a divorce deal on Friday that paves the way for arduous talks on future trade ties, easing immediate pressure on Prime Minister Theresa May and boosting hopes of an orderly Brexit.

More from the BBC.

I figured the European Union would cut a deal. They've proven willing to let Iran go nuclear if Iran will sign trade deals with Europe before the nukes fly so why should the EU be bad ass conquerors if Britain wants to leave?

What I didn't know--and still don't know--is whether Britain can get out before British Remainers sabotage the process and reverse the Brexit vote by hook or crook.

And don't be fooled by the soft fantasies being peddled of a safe play pen built on ever expanding cheese regulations.

The EU royalty may say they want a United States of Europe by 2025, but what they really want is a Union of Servile Socialist Republics.

Brexit is a warning to grip the provinces tighter in "ever closer union" while they can to preempt that sort of dangerous thinking. I mean, what might happen if more Europeans remember they live in states and not provinces?!

Does Britain really want to be a mere province of the EU imperial state? Get out whether orderly or not! Just escape and rebuild from the mistake of joining a free trade pact that morphed into an oppressive continental empire so slowly that the British barely noticed in time.

UPDATE: How cute! German conservatives think the EU cares what they think!

Senior members of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives on Saturday rejected the vision for a "United States of Europe" put forward by the Social Democrats (SPD), with whom they are hoping to form a governing coalition.

Yes, "ever closer union" is very interested in Germany.

If So, the Sooner the Better

I don't think the North Koreans thought through their most recent nuclear rage:

North Korea says a nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula has become a matter of when, not if, as it continued to lash out at a massive joint military exercise between the United States and South Korea involving hundreds of advanced warplanes.

That undermines the claim of many in the West and North Korea that it needs nuclear weapons to deter an invasion of that jewel of northeast Asia.

Also, if a nuclear war is inevitable, shouldn't America thoroughly nuke North Korea right now?

I mean, if the North Koreans are correct, it would be worse for America and our allies to delay a nuclear war and allow North Korea to build up their arsenal. Right? We should strike first based on North Korea's stated belief.

That is the logic of the situation.

And there is added incentive to hit North Korea first with a non-nuclear strike campaign.

The stealthy F-35 could in theory loiter unseen over North Korea to shoot down North Korean missiles when they launch. Here's more not behind a pay wall. (Tips to Instapundit.)

In practice this would have to be as part of a strike campaign to go after missiles our strikes miss because such patrols can't work indefinitely.

I have mentioned this capability before--going back years pre-F-35 if you follow links. So I don't know why "eyes rolled" when this possibility was recently raised by Representative Hunter because without any special briefings I read about this possibility many years ago late in the Bush 43 administration (or maybe very early Obama administration).

And if North Korea is so sure there will be a nuclear war next door to China, was the message of recent Chinese aerial exercises one that defends North Korea or threatens North Korea?

Because while I've stopped trying to find signs that North Korea's regime might collapse from economic problems, the greater problems and regime work-arounds that undermine control seem to indicate a regime that could be pushed over from the outside by China.

UPDATE: North Korea reacts with their usual flair for the dramatic:

North Korea said Friday that President Donald Trump has effectively declared war on supreme leader Kim Jong Un’s government by gathering the U.S.’s Pacific allies to surround the Korean Peninsula and restrict trade.

Not that the North Koreans don't have a point, as I've noted before:

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

North Korea could strike first, firmly believing they are under attack. And they'd have a point. The failure of sanctions isn't the only way to get a war.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Straining Credulity

I find this hard to believe:

Speaking at the 2017 Reagan National Defense Forum in California, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster said that “about 80 percent of Assad fighters are Iranian proxies in Syria to establish a land bridge over into the Mediterranean,” as he warned of the “prospect of Iran having a proxy army on the borders of Israel,” The National reported on Sunday.

I read this statistic in a Strategypage post on Iran, but had to see where that came from.

No way does Iran control 80% of Syria's troops. Has the Syrian army really basically dissolved so that local militias paid by Iran, the Shia foreign legion, and Hezbollah represent 80% of Assad's ground forces?

I sincerely doubt this claim, and suspect that the context is that Iran pays for 80% of Assad's offensive forces capable of moving around the country, setting aside the vast majority of Assad's exhausted forces that are capable of statice garrison duty only or the technical arms in the artillery and whatnot that support the frontline fighters.

Is it possible that Iran now pays the salaries of 80% of Assad's troops? Could that be the basis of the claim?

If even this "control" measure is true, just how many plane loads of cash exactly did the Obama administration ship to Iran?

Seriously, how bad was the Iran deal if Iran can afford to basically pay for the military of another state engulfed in a civil war (a multi-war, really)?

Mind you, while I suspect the context is missing, I obviously lack the knowledge McMaster has.

Perhaps the Syrian army really has collapsed and militias, the Shia foreign legion, Hezbollah, and Iranian advisors and special forces truly represent 80% of Assad's ground troops.

I don't know. But it strains credulity. It is certainly on my radar screen going forward.

About That "Regional" Problem

America is now trying to approach Afghanistan as a "regional" problem. In fact, "regional" is just a way of saying "Pakistan" without being rude to Pakistan. This is a hard approach to take even if it is absolutely necessary.

I've long viewed Afghanistan as a problem with a major component in Pakistan that largely immune to our pressure given the line of supply through Pakistan to landlocked Afghanistan that we rely on.

And alternative line of supply through Iran is possible if Iran was more friendly than Pakistan. And a northern route pretty much relies on Russia, with all the problems that reliance creates.

Which is one reason I dismissed harping that Iraq "distracted" America from Afghanistan. Without the Iraq War being fought, we still couldn't have committed the resources to win in Afghanistan--as we showed after the 2009 surge orders--because of the "regional" nature of the Afghanistan problem.

I've long seen Pakistan as our black sheep problem child ally--a frenemy that both helps us fight jihadis in Afghanistan and sustains jihadis and their ideology. But frenemy is better than enemy. You deal with what you have and not what you wish you had.

So, yeah:

U.S. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis arrived in Islamabad on Monday to ask Pakistan's civilian and military leadership to do more to rein in militants accused of using the country as a base to carry out attacks in neighboring Afghanistan.

More than 100 days since President Donald Trump announced his South Asia strategy, however, U.S. officials and analysts say there has been only limited success and it is not clear how progress will be made.

While Iran is a problem in Afghanistan, Iran pales in comparison to the Pakistan problem of sanctuary and active assistance to jihadis.

I hope we can solve the Pakistan "regional" problem and finally put Afghanistan on a path to stability without a major American commitment of resources and attention. But if it was easy, Bush would have done it in his tenure.

COIN 101*

Nigeria will resort to classic population protection methods in the Boko Haram-vulnerable region. Will this be done correctly or counter-productively?

In theory this is excellent:

After eight years of conflict with Boko Haram, Nigeria has a new strategy to protect its citizens from the terrorist group: fortress towns.

Some of the nearly 2 million displaced people who have fled rural areas in northeast Nigeria now will be housed in fortified towns, ringed by farms, with the rest of the countryside effectively left to fend for itself.

This is classic counter-insurgency. You separate the people in the towns from the insurgents out in the countryside. This either protects friendly people from the insurgents or terrorists; or it keeps hostile people from working with the insurgents or terrorists.

In theory you use the concentration of people to screen the people brought into the defended towns at night so that the towns really are secure.

During the day the people have to be out and about doing their business and living their lives as friendly forces patrol and go after the enemy insurgents in the countryside.

The enemy is denied support (supplies, recruits, and information) from the people as much as possible with this approach and friendly forces hunt down the insurgents who are running out of troops, information, and supplies.

All in theory. But there is a footnote. When you look at the fine print in the footnote, there are obstacles to the theory.

When done badly, friendly forces hunker down in the fortified towns instead of seeking out the enemy in the countryside, and this devolves into a passive defensive strategy.

When done badly, the countryside is treated as a free-fire zone because all of the "good" people and your troops are behind the fortifications.

When done badly, the people can't leave the safety of the fortified towns even during the day to live their lives.

When done badly, in summary, the fortified towns that concentrate the people become concentration camps (not death camps) that punish the people rather than protect them, pushing more people to support the insurgents despite the efforts to separate the people from the insurgents who now control the countryside and effectively besiege the fortified towns, which the insurgents can approach to launch suicide attacks, indirect fire attacks, and eventually conventional assaults to try to take the demoralized and cut off fortified towns held by increasingly demoralized friendly troops.

Nigeria has levels of corruption that make me worry that they will be unable to successfully carry out this strategy rather than doing it correctly.

Thursday, December 07, 2017


Based on changes starting at the end of the Obama administration and accelerated by Trump, the Taliban momentum in Afghanistan has been checked and reversed.

Coalition-backed Afghan forces have been able to go on the offensive this year:

So I did want to talk about this year or so. So we went into the year, again, with the lowest level of capability, highest level of risk. But the Afghans performed quite well, from my perspective as the commander.

Why do I say that? They went on the offensive in ways that they haven't done previously. We had offensive operations being conducted in all six of the corps simultaneously. We saw a decrease in casualties that occurred in September. So, even though there was some very tough fighting, the enemy was unable to accomplish any of their objectives this year.

As you -- as you saw last year, we had eight attacks on cities around the country. This year, we only experienced one, and whenever the enemy attempted to mass, he was subjected to U.S. airpower and suffered heavy, heavy casualties -- much higher than the Afghans.

This separate press conference by the same general reinforces the point:

It's been a tough fight. In the last year, we've seen offensive operations, kind of unprecedented over the last few years, by the Afghan security forces. At one point, we had all six corps conducting offensive operations simultaneously around the country. And this I would contrast with last year -- in 2017, when in October, we saw attacks on cities -- four cities simultaneously, at the same time, so big change from the past.

The special forces, the special police, the air force have all continued to grow in capability, and they're -- and they're all making great appearances on the battlefield. The commandos in particular have never lost a battle against the Taliban, and we are doubling the size of the commandos. So that is going to be a significant addition to the offensive arsenal of the Afghan security forces.

I did worry that efforts to pull Afghan forces back from exposed static outposts to gather forces would fail; and I worried that relying on expanding special forces would be insufficient.

It is working so far.

And note that the added air power is helping with the problem I noted that the Taliban could mass forces at will to hit the Afghan outposts and continue the attacks until victorious.

Air power is countering both of those problems, on top of gaining some measure of the initiative.

Note this too from another press conference:

So, as I said before, there's a regional dimension to the strategy, to limit interference and seek cooperation with Afghanistan's neighbors. We have to realign resources and to execute this strategy well across the whole of the U.S. government and, of course, the coalition, if we are to succeed.

I'd point out that the military effort is necessary but, by itself, not sufficient for success. We must work together with all of the parts of the U.S. government and the coalition in order to be successful.

It has been just under a hundred days since the announcement, and we can see the impacts already, especially in terms of our adversaries' reactions.

So we saw two changes to the enemy's strategy over the last year. As you know from 2016, they started off trying to seize provincial capitals. They suffered heavily when they did so, so they therefore shifted their strategy in 2017 from attempting to seize capitals to a district-focused strategy.

And then by August, with the losses that they suffered with that approach and the announcement of the U.S. policy in September, we saw another enemy shift to a guerrilla-style of warfare, with hit-and-run attacks, suicide attacks, et cetera. Each of these shifts represented to us a lowering of ambition by the enemy.

Air power and the initiative are pushing the enemy down the escalation ladder--from massing to attack provincial capitals, down to massing to attack district capitals, and down to more traditional insurgent and terror operations. That is the best thing that can happen to the ability of Afghan forces to hold their positions as anything I've seen in a while.

Note that part of the Afghan forces are the very necessary local defense forces--the Afghan Local Police:

The ALP unit in Achin is part of a project started in 2010 with American money and support from the U.S. Special Operations Forces. The idea was to create, train, and arm local units that could defend their own neighborhoods against the Taliban and other militant groups, particularly in areas where the government’s security presence was weak.

Not that these aren't a potential problem in the future when the lose their local defense role and can become warlords that threaten the peace rather than defend it.

And note that Pakistan is not yet playing ball in the new game we are trying to impose on the Afghanistan problem:

The top U.S. general in Afghanistan said on Tuesday that he had not seen a change in Pakistan's support for militants so far, despite President Donald Trump taking a tougher line against Islamabad.

U.S. officials have long been frustrated by what they see as Pakistan’s reluctance to act against groups such as the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network that they believe exploit safe haven on Pakistani soil to launch attacks on neighboring Afghanistan.

In August, Trump outlined a new strategy for the war in Afghanistan, chastising Pakistan over its alleged support for Afghan militants.

That's from the most recent press conference.

The general noted the importance of changing leadership in Afghan forces, reflecting the idea that there's no such thing as bad troops--just bad leaders. So troops will fight better and more resolutely when they have more trust in their leaders' skills and relative honestly.

Adding to the effectiveness of leadership and fire support will be a newly trained and deployed American "advisor" brigade troops:

They are part of the Army's first security force assistance brigade.  The Army will produce six of these.  These brigades are made up of volunteers who are then specially trained in a range of skills to provide combat advising at the tactical level.  So they'll go down to the kandak level, the battalion level, which is really where we have operated successfully for the last couple of years with our special forces advisers.

So these advisers will operate in teams.  So you'll have a team that would go to the kandak.  We will move these teams to those units that are conducting offensive operations, and then those teams will be backed up by U.S. combat enablers, not only for the protection of our own force but for the support of the Afghans as well.

And so, this will enable us to help the Afghans with their offensive operations simultaneously in multiple corps.

I'll add that the general clearly accepts that Afghanistan is not a unified nation controlled from the center. If we understand that as our goal as I expressed at the beginning of the Obama administration, that's bonus good.

We really are recovering from the low point of our involvement in Afghanistan over the last several years as we drew down our support too far and too early.

Before the Shooting Starts

Senator Graham, on the Senate Armed Services Committee, thinks American military dependents should be cleared out of South Korea just in case:

“It’s crazy to send spouses and children to South Korea, given the provocation of North Korea. South Korea should be an unaccompanied tour,” the South Carolina Republican said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” ″So, I want them to stop sending dependents, and I think it’s now time to start moving American dependents out of South Korea.”

The problem of getting Americans civilians out of the way of a shooting war while bringing in troops and weapons through the same ports and airfields--while potentially under fire--is big enough that it would be good to have the civilians out of the way before shooting starts.

Are we getting closer to the point where shooting starts?

Because this looks an awful lot like something that would be nice to do right before a strike campaign on North Korea:

Millions of residents of Tokyo are to take part in evacuation drills simulating a North Korean nuclear attack on the Japanese capital.

The national and city governments are to carry out a series of exercises between January and March to prepare for a potential attack on Tokyo, the Sankei Shimbun newspaper reported, the first time that a major Japanese city will have carried out responses to a simulated attack.

Towns facing the Korean Peninsula have in recent months conducted similar drills, with residents instructed to seek shelter in response to sirens warning of an imminent missile strike.

Holy shit.

The news that South Koreans have been doing something similar is something I did not know.

At the conclusion of the biggest drill, the Japanese could quietly tell those people to just stay in their evacuation locations a little longer "just in case" rather than return home. While obscuring the fact that people aren't really going home, another "drill" in another area will take place.

I have said I have a hunch we told China to deal with North Korea before North Korea gets nukes that can reach America or we will deal with North Korea sometime early in 2018.

Graham's comment  and the extraordinary Japanese "exercise" seem like the sort of thing that comes out when the word is spreading among those in the loop that military action is being readied.

In completely unrelated news:

Hundreds of aircraft including two dozen stealth jets began training Monday as the United States and South Korea launched a massive combined air force exercise. The war games come a week after North Korea test-fired its most powerful missile ever, an ICBM that may be able to target the eastern seaboard of the United States.

Integrating non-stealth aircraft into a strike campaign so they exploit the capabilities of the stealth planes rather than compromise the stealth capabilities by being inconveniently seen before their time is a good thing to do before the shooting starts.

As I've noted, after deterioration of American military readiness and logistics depth under the Obama administration, it will take time to prepare for a campaign against North Korea that included preparations in case the strike campaign escalates into a bigger war or in case the strike campaign leads to a North Korean collapse.

And oddly, completely unrelated news that it is, the above article notes Graham's comment on American dependents for some odd reason.

I know I am connecting dots because I am looking to confirm a picture I already drew. But my pucker factor is getting higher.

Have a super sparkly day.

From the Echelon Above Reality

I find it amazing that the prospect of Saudi Arabia fighting back against Iranian aggressive action in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Yemen (in addition to just being a nutball nuke-seeking regime inside Iran) is met be a call for the Saudis to step back.

Oh good grief:

The United States should encourage Tehran and Riyadh to settle their differences rather than facilitate aggressive Saudi action. Otherwise, the region will be plunged into an even bigger crisis without an end in sight.

What part of Iranian aggression and destabilization is unclear? The fact is that Iran is already waging war on Saudi Arabia--including Saudi Arabia's call for the Saudis to lose their status as custodians of Mecca and Medina (and yes, Iran says, if you insist we'd step up for that honor).

How is it possible to basically think of all that Iran is and does as the steady-state "normal" that any Saudi resistance would destabilize?

What part of what Iran is doing right now isn't already a dangerous destabilizing crisis?

How is it possible to think that Iran with their record of aggression in other countries would step back from that in negotiations? "Oh, sorry. My bad. Was that wrong? We'll stop."

Sometimes experts seem to live in the echelon above reality.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Little Green Athletes

Russia will have to send "little green athletes" without national insignia to the 2018 Olympics in South Korea because the International Olympics Committee has banned Russia from sending a national team due to widespread state-sponsored doping and cheating:

The International Olympic Committee has banned Russia from competing at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, following a vote on Tuesday.

However, it allows for individual Russian athletes "under strict conditions" to compete as an "Olympic Athlete from Russia [OAR]" without their national flag or anthem, according to a release from the IOC.

Russia may simply boycott the games rather than endure the humiliation of being caught in their massive cheating.

I'm not joking when I say Russia could respond by giving North Korea military aid for air defenses. I don't think the Russian rulers are quite vodka-addled enough to accelerate North Korea's nuclear problem. But who knows?


Next Decade in Jerusalem

President Trump has decided to move our embassy to Israel to their capital, Jerusalem. This is probably the best opportunity the Palestinians have of getting an actual state since the Clinton administration.

The Palestinians, who clearly should have a state if they can give up dreams of killing the Jews, now have a deadline to reach a deal with Israel. Will the Palestinian rulers who benefit from the current stalemate reach that deal?

I'd be persuadable that I should be outraged at President Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital if the withholding of that status for so many decades had prodded the Palestinians to be anything but mind-boggling stupid and violent in negotiating a real peace treaty with Israel.

Instead the Palestinians sow violence in Gaza, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Yemen; managed to support Saddam Hussein when he invaded and annexed Kuwait in 1990; and are basically an Iranian proxy force.

Perhaps the realization that Palestinian prospects can get worse if they don't seriously talk about compromise rather than hoping somehow Israel will be destroyed can move the region closer to peace. Withholding recognition of the capital certainly hasn't helped.

Oh, and how does threatening violence with "days of rage" over this decision help the reputation of the Moslem world for peaceful coexistence and the potential of peace? The decades of rage have existed with our embassy in Tel Aviv. Not much change in the rage issue will take place after this decision, in the long run.

But yes, added security for our embassies that could experience spontaneous rage like Benghazi on September 11, 2012 would be wise. This type of mobile platform to house and deploy reinforcements would be nice, no?

And how can liberals here rage when the U.S. Senate voted 90-0 in the summer to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital? To be clear, no Democrat (or anyone) voted against the measure and a lot had to vote for it even if you assume a unanimous Republican vote for it.

The Israelis owe us big time for this decision. I wonder what Trump got for it? I assume there was a deal. After all, the Israel-Palestinian issue is basically a real estate question, is it not?

Remember that the actual embassy move will take years to take place. If the Palestinians come to their senses over the next several years and reach a real peace deal with Israel that cuts ties to Iran and terrorists rather than hoping one day to kill the Jews and drive them into the sea, the physical move can be cancelled.

Or it won't matter because even the Palestinians will establish their embassy there.

And the Israelis have to know that failure to reach a deal with the Palestinians in the same time frame could lead to delays in actually moving the embassy--delays as indefinite as the until-now refusal to order the move.

There are a lot of unknowns. But catering to the Palestinians over this issue hasn't worked to achieve peace.

UPDATE: Iran's reaction is laughable:

Iran "will not tolerate a violation of Islamic sanctities," he said in reference to Trump's Jerusalem announcement.

Iran killed a couple hundred thousand Iraqi troops with repeated offensives named "Jerusalem" during the Iran-Iraq War, clothing their attacks behind the claim that Iranian forces were only trying to get at Israel though Iraq. Hah.

Iran has always been willing to fight Israel to the last Arab, truth be told.

UPDATE: It is interesting that we could have shifted almost immediately to Jerusalem by changing the name of our large consulate in Jerusalem.

Almost nothing of substance has changed as of today. Will violent rage really be the normal response to this decision?

UPDATE: How dare Trump disrupt a five-decade "peace process" that was humming along just fine without his intrusion, thank you very much!

A Tweet Too Far

Not that Britain (as well as others in Europe) doesn't have a serious problem with radical Moslems in their society. They do. And they know it. But retweeting a post from a far-right group highlighting that real problem should be unacceptable.

The first rule in our diplomacy should be that we don't make trouble for our best ally:

US diplomats have dropped plans for Donald Trump to conduct a visit to Britain in January amid a war of words between the two countries’ leaders.

The war of words waged over the Tweet by the president that in the big picture of the internal Islamist threat is correct on the one hand and on the other hand Prime Minister May who rightfully rejected the source of the Tweet  is ridiculous (although May should remember that when Churchill vowed to fight enemies in the streets, before it got to that he promised to fight them on the beaches and landing grounds as the enemy entered Britain). Trump should fix this friction.

Come on. There wasn't a better source for the same message that the president couldn't have substituted if he gave a White House intern 10 minutes to find?

May has enough political problems trying to engineer Brexit, and we would expect her to let this slide?

A special relationship demands more than what the president gave it.

The Augury is Unclear

Is this missile defense news an indication that America will try to deter North Korea rather than attack, misdirection to make a pending attack look unlikely, or pressure on China to solve North Koerea which doesn't want American missile defenses to degrade their relatively small nuclear arsenal's deterrence value?

The U.S. agency tasked with protecting the country from missile attacks is scouting the West Coast for places to deploy new anti-missile defenses, two Congressmen said on Saturday, as North Korea’s missile tests raise concerns about how the United States would defend itself from an attack.

A new site wouldn't be in place for years, keep in mind. And North Korea's threat to nuke America seems likely to be real in less time than that.

And it seems odd that the site "would likely include" THAAD. But THAAD is for shorter range missiles, and not ICBMs. Would a site also include the BMD missiles mostly based in Alaska to cover ICBMs with the THAAD handling shorter-range sub-launched missiles?

But I have no idea what this means given the valid reasons that initially came to mind (and there are others, including simple inertia from past work that only seems significant because of the crisis with North Korea).

UPDATE: The story doesn't seem to be accurate, with the inability of the THAAD to intercept ICBMs just one part.

And the Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) missiles I referenced are called GMD--Ground-based Missile Defense.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Message Received

China carried out a large air exercise in the Yellow Sea and Sea of Japan (East Sea)*:

Beijing-based military expert Li Jie said the drills were intended to show that the People’s Liberation Army Air Force was making strides in joint operations, which are an important part of modern warfare.

He added that Monday’s announcement was also aimed at sending a message to the United States and South Korea.

“The timing of this high-profile announcement by the PLA is also a warning to Washington and Seoul not to provoke Pyongyang any further,” Li said.

Was the message "hands off North Korea?"

Is China really sending a message to America and South Korea that they should not threaten North Korea over Kim Jong-un's nuclear program? Really?

The message is that China is ready to support all measures short of actually stopping North Korea?

Or was the exercise a message to Washington and Seoul that China is ready for its part in a multi-national strike campaign against North Korea's nuclear weapons sites that China is prepared to join?

Operating in the seas would mean they demonstrate the ability to fly a certain distance south that if over land would cover parts of North Korea.

I don't know what the message is, obviously. But I think the question of what message was sent is valid.

*One question: the article initially mentions the Yellow Sea and East Sea--which for the latter would mean Chinese planes likely would have to fly over Russia or North Korea. Which seems unlikely to me.

Later the article mentions exercises over the East China Sea. This wouldn't be the first time that an article mixes up the East Sea (South Korea's name for the Sea of Japan) with the East China Sea.

Or was the exercise geographically larger than just the Korean peninsula region?

Red Line

Setting a red line is easy. Enforcing it is harder.

This seems to be a pretty clear warning of consequences for Iran:

[CIA Director Mike] Pompeo, who has voiced staunch opposition to Iran, said he sent the letter to Gen. Qassem Soleimani, a leader of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and elite Quds Force, but the general didn't read it.

"I sent a note. I sent it because he had indicated that forces under his control might in fact threaten U.S. interests in Iraq," Pompeo said at a defense forum at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute in Simi Valley, California. "He refused to open the letter — didn't break my heart to be honest with you."

"What we were communicating to him in that letter was that we will hold he and Iran accountable ... and we wanted to make sure that he and the leadership of Iran understood that in a way that was crystal clear."

That's good. There is a reason Iran was named as a founding member of the Axis of Evil and a reason why making the Iran nuclear deal with them was a massive mistake.

We should sink Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guards) military assets if we have to enforce that red line.

When Tradition is Just Acceptance of Reality

In an era of armed drones, "hybrid" war, precision weapons, cyber-war, stealth, and hyper-speed missiles, a better pistol to engage in close-quarter combat is still important:

Soldiers with the Army’s 1 01st Airborne Division have been the first to receive the services’ new high-tech 9mm pistol engineered to give dismounted infantry a vastly increased ability to fight and close with an enemy in caves, tunnels, crawl spaces, houses and other close quarter combat scenarios.

Service weapons developers and soldiers say the new M17 and M18 pistol, designed as a next-generation handgun to follow the Army’s current M9 Beretta, is expected to substantially change combat tactics, techniques and strategies for dismounted soldiers on-the-move.

All the advances and close-quarter combat where killing an enemy within arm's reach is still a priority problem. Go figure.

Jobs, Promises, and Cash

India's procurement industry is just about the biggest threat to India's national security that exists out there.

Whenever I read about the latest exploits of the clusterfuck known as the Indian Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) I wonder which foreign enemy was behind its establishment:

In mid-November the Indian procurement bureaucracy won another victory and persuaded the government to cancel a half billion dollar deal worked out in 2016 for an Israel firm to set up a factory and team with an Indian firm to produce Spike ATGMs (anti-tank guided missiles). The army has been warning for over a decade that without a new ATGM India would be at a serious disadvantage. But the procurement bureaucracy and DRDO (the Indian Defense Research and Development Organization) said it could develop and build a comparable ATGM in four years. This was an absurd claim, even by DRDO standards.

So India's army will go even longer without an effective infantry anti-tank weapon.

DRDO again proves it is just a jobs machine that provides money to cooperative politicians for nothing but promises of actual weapons that actually work.

Of course, India is still trying to get a new fighter as their older Russian planes quite literally fall out of the sky as they get too old to fly.

If India can screw the pooch on a big ticket crucial item like a new fighter, effing up a mere anti-tank missile is child's play.

But I joke. DRDO isn't the biggest threat to India. Only China and Pakistan have actual nuclear weapons. So there you go.

UPDATE: While America can be relieved our procurement process isn't that bad, our warship industry has lost its edge. And we could see the result in a generation if we don't fix it.