Sunday, December 21, 2014

Defining Acceptable Acts of War

If we don't respond to North Korea's cyber attack on Sony with enough impact to really hurt North Korea's rulers, don't we just green-light other countries like Russia--which is reeling under economic problems from their physical world aggression against Ukraine--that they can get away with acts of war outside of the physical world?

Did Who Do What?

This article asks if North Korea "blinked" (that is, backed down) by offering a joint investigation over the Sony hacking attack. Are you kidding me?

Offering to jointly investigate with America simply puts North Korea on par with a superpower, allows them to pose as a joint victim while deflecting any real progress in an investigation, and strings out our crisis response as if this is a police matter rather than an act of war.

Does this really seem like this is "blinking:"

"The U.S. should bear in mind that it will face serious consequences in case it rejects our proposal for joint investigation and presses for what it called countermeasures while finding fault with" North Korea, the spokesman said.

Whoa! I guess the president can break out the "mission accomplished" banner for this kind of retreat in the face of our power and resolve.

This is what really gets me:

“You don’t have a lot of good choices,” Martin Libicki, a cyberwar expert at the Rand Corp, told the Wall Street Journal. “We’re probably looking for something of a small, symbolic nature or a quasi-symbolic nature.”

Are you freaking kidding me?! Something quasi-symbolic?

Is that more or less than Secretary of State Kerry's "unbelievably small" standard?

And this excuse for passivity is just amazing:

For the US to retaliate by hacking North Korean targets could encourage further attacks against American corporation, institutions, and government entities.

There you go. Let them get away with it because if we retaliate they'll do it again.

And besides, what could we hack in North Korea? Dirt is not connected to the Internet, of course.

This cyber attack is an occasion for analysts to talk about how our enemies react "asymmetrically" against us to avoid our enormous military power.

Well you know what? Our enormous military power is our asymmetric advantage over North Korea.

North Korea didn't bomb Sony or send in commandos to attack Sony, but otherwise this is an attack on us and not a criminal matter.

We are fully justified in sending cruise missiles into whatever buildings that house North Korean hackers. Yes, their attacks take place in cyber-space, but the hackers live in a physical place.

Heck, we could use older model missiles to avoid giving China an opportunity to learn our technology should they have the opportunity to disassemble a dud or examine the components of those that do go boom. We don't need the new stuff to penetrate North Korean defenses.

If that kind of retaliation is too much for us (and for South Korea), let's ramp up the Proliferation Security Initiative that seeks to track down any WMD components that move in the physical world.

We've investigated or intercepted ships we believe are involved in North Korea's WMD programs (see here, here, and here).

And here's another interception that I thought I blogged about, but can't find anything.

So I suggest that we simply intercept and inspect every North Korean ship or plane that we can find, and confiscate legal goods, auction them off, and pay for the damage that North Korea did to Sony and to us as we respond to the North Korean attack.

And we keep the illegal stuff, too. But that wouldn't be in the reparations category.

And if North Korea launches another cyber-attack, start confiscating the ships and planes, too.

So Where's the Prototype?

Our Navy has a robot shark:

It is the latest offering in what the US military calls its science-fiction-turned-reality projects: the GhostSwimmer, a reconnaissance robot with an exterior shell built to look a lot like a shark cutting through the ocean depths.

In the ocean depths, what does it matter what it looks like?

And is this really meant to break the surface off of an enemy shore to scout out the place?

Because, obviously, when people spot a shark, they shrug and go about their wading business as if nothing is amiss.

If we wanted stealth we should have gone for a robotic patch of floating garbage.

Perhaps I was hasty in assuming the Egyptians were just being paranoid.

Are You Kidding Me?

In order to keep terrorists from funding plots, the federal government watches cash deposits of $10,000 or more.

Because terrorists know of this limit, the government considers cash deposits of less than $10,000 to be suspicious.

The government feels free to seize those deposits without any criminal conviction. (Tip to Instapundit)

I don't know how many terrorist plots have been harmed by this government program, but at least the government is able to nail lots of legitimate small businesses.

This is just one more way that forfeiture laws are nothing but legal theft.

Aside from passing the bill mentioned in that article, as a good initial step, no executive agency should benefit financially from asset seizure. If everything went to the general fund where the legislative branch would decide what to do with it, how many resources would police forces expend to grab that money?

I bet the life of Julia that President Obama designed didn't include having her dream of starting a small web-design business in her early 30s shattered by the government seizing her assets.

The federal government is just too big.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Cultivated Hate Blooms

The murderer might as well have yelled "Al Sharpton is Great!" as he shot and killed the two New York cops:

Two uniformed NYPD officers were shot dead Saturday afternoon as they sat in their marked police car on a Brooklyn street corner — in what investigators believe was a crazed gunman’s ­assassination-style mission to avenge Eric Garner and Michael Brown.

The killer took his own life when other police caught up with him.

What the Hell, people. Could the Ferguson protesters go the ef home and let the justice system work?

Tip to Instapundit.

UPDATE: Via Instapundit, obviously, since this video wasn't made by anybody related to the Tea Party, it doesn't represent incitement or any kind of atmosphere of hate.

And perhaps the Bronx Public Defenders Office, which had a hand in the video, would like the voters to decide if they'd rather be protected by them or the police.

The Make-a-Liberal-Wish Foundation

What with illegal immigrant amnesty, a ludicrous carbon deal with China, and Cuba relations via executive decisions, will the last two years of the Obama administration be one long MoveOn.org multiple orgasm?

I guess we can look forward to presidential executive orders, memos, and knowing nods for a Keystone XL pipeline refusal, a coal-mining ban, recognition of Palestinian statehood, a faux nuclear deal with Iran, revision of Obamacare into formal nationalized health care, and major non-NATO ally status for Venezuela under the rule of that idiot Maduro.

The Obama administration is just going to be a Make-a-Wish Foundation for our Left.

UPDATE: This attitude (tip to Instapundit) is consistent with this view of "governing:"

He’s gone from thinking of himself as a sitting (lame) duck, they tell me, to a president diving headlong into what amounts to a final campaign – this one to preserve his legacy, add policy points to the scoreboard, and – last but definitely not least – to inflict the same kind of punishment on his newly empowered Republican enemies, who delighted in tormenting him when he was on top.

And if our president believes he is the rearguard of the Left, expect it to be a scorched earth tactic for two years.

Because sometimes you have to destroy the village in order to save it, eh?

#Whyrussiacanthavenicethings

Russia has identified the problem preventing peace in Ukraine:

Russia accused the West on Saturday of fuelling unrest in Ukraine by adopting anti-Kremlin sanctions that further erode the prospects of peace talks to end the separatist war.

Not quite. Russia's invasion of Ukraine has fueled unrest and has eroded the prospects of peace talks.

But the Russians really are unclear on who the victim is in all this, as they complain of sanctions on Crimea entities:

"That's why they chose the 'punishment' to be collective," it added. "It is sad that the countries which call themselves democratic resort to such methods in the 21st century."

Wait. What? Russia conquered Crimea and took it from Ukraine? Oh, that ...

What the Russians mean is that Western sanctions (and rapidly declining oil price which Russia assumes is an American plot) erode the prospect of a Russian victory over Ukraine in Putin's 21st century subliminal war of aggression.

This is why Russia can't have nice things.

An Appropriate Arms Source

Ukraine has large stocks of Russian (and Soviet-)-made weapons. For the big stuff, I think Ukraine should stick with those adequate weapons. It would be a waste to re-equip Ukraine with American or Western heavy armor and other systems. Our newer NATO members who are shedding Soviet stuff are an appropriate source of Russian-designed equipment with upgrades made since they joined NATO.

Poland is remaking their armed forces with Western weapons. They must have plenty of upgraded Russian weapons that Ukraine could use:

Poland is open to hold talks with Ukraine regarding potential sales of arms, Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski said on Wednesday.

In addition to selling Ukraine weapons to fill in gaps in their arsenal, Poland probably can offer upgrades to what Ukraine already has to make them more effective.weapons.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The LCS is Dead. Long Live the LCS Hulls

After sticker shock for our so-called low end warship that left us with under-armed and under-protected ships that we couldn't afford to build modular weapons systems to make them real warships, we will truncate production and replace them with modified LCS hulls.

The Navy's Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) will live on, sort of:

After rigorous review and analysis, today I accepted the Navy's recommendation to build a new small surface combatant (SSC) ship based on upgraded variants of the LCS. The new SSC will offer improvements in ship lethality and survivability, delivering enhanced naval combat performance at an affordable price. ...

The more lethal and survivable SSC will meet a broader set of missions across the range of military operations, and addresses the Navy's top war-fighting priorities. It will feature an improved air defense radar; air defense decoys; a new, more effective electronic warfare system; an over-the-horizon anti-ship missile; multi-function towed array sonar; torpedo defenses; and additional armor protection.

As multi-purpose warships, perhaps the fantasy that these are green or even--horrors--brown water ships will be quietly forgotten.

Without a market for the container-housed modules to equip LCS, I guess we can't afford to stockpile such modules to create Modularized Auxiliary Cruisers.

Be Careful What You Wish For--Cuban Edition

Okay, I'm going to feel a little sorry for President Obama in this post.

For decades, American leftists have been condemning America for our economic embargo on communist Cuba.

So President Obama decided to lessen Cuba's isolation within his powers outside of statutory provisions (well, so far he isn't issuing memos to amend statutes). Take that, future Republican-controlled Congress! I'm relevant! My base will love me for this!

Only Nixon can go to China? Child's play! Only Obama can go to Cuba! Can you say "legacy?"

Sure, the president probably got a momentary bump in popularity from the MoveOn.org crowd.

But then the Left realized that their long-held wish has a downside--Cuba might actually become prosperous! (Tip to Instapundit.)

Starbucks? McDonald's? In pristine, authentic Cuba? The horror!

Maybe our Left will get lucky and they'll get to go to Chebucks and McJefe's for their morning Jose' and a Maximo Mac with cheese.

Truly, our president is justified to think, "I just can't win with these guys!"

As much as I think the president's move is a mistake that achieved nothing for us, I eagerly await the annual reports on Cuba's carbon production increases in future years.

I'm disappointed that I didn't see this reaction coming.

Don't Count on China's Distance

China is fed up with North Korea and has kind of placed North Korea outside of China's defense perimeter:

North Korea is angry at China for not coming to their aid over recent war crimes accusations. North Korea is even angrier, and very shaken that a retired Chinese general said [publicly] that China would not come to the aid of the current North Korean government if the government collapses or starts a war. China often makes official announcements via public “comments” by retired senior government or military officials. This makes it easier to, if need be, back off from the new policy. China has not backed off this one. China is telling North Korea to do what China wants or else. China wants work on North Korean nuclear weapons stopped.

Distancing themselves from North Korea is nice, and all. But right before the Korean War we placed South Korea outside of our defense perimeter yet still intervened quickly when the North Koreans--backed by the USSR and China--invaded South Korea.

So if North Korea goes belly up and South Korean troops possibly aided by American forces cross the DMZ to protect Seoul from artillery bombardment and to grab North Korean nuclear facilities, don't be too shocked if China intervenes anyway to prevent a perceived hostile force from marching up to the Yalu River.

Remember, the Chinese just won't intervene to protect the current North Korean government. That's a bit different than saying they won't intervene on the peninsula.

And the Chinese could change their mind, of course.

As an aside, I wonder if China let semi-official hackers inside China go after Sony for North Korea as kind of a consolation prize of weakened Chinese support for the North Korean regime.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Christmas Guide to Global Air Space

While Santa can expect a friendly reception in American air space this Christmas as the NORAD Santa operation kicks in on December 24th, Santa needs to worry about other countries' efforts.

Noradsanta.org is the best-case situation for Santa.

ADIZsanta, run out of China, claims the North Pole (within their 9-Dashered line) as a core Chinese interest that has historically always belonged to Peking, and which has been renamed the city of Santasha.

And Littlegreenmensanta, run out of Russia, has shipped anti-aircraft missiles to ethnic Russian Elves who wish to secede from Santa and have Russia annex them and establish a military base there.

I'm thinking Santa needs to reduce his gift payload in favor of some chaff and flare dispensers, just in case. IFF is tricky stuff.

And for God's sake, snuff out that red nose that Rudolph sports (that's Buk bait, people) and barrel that sleigh in so low!



So Hell yes, Santa has a chance!

Boots on the Ground

Iraq's hold in Anbar is getting rather shaky. American forces seem to have fought ISIL to help hold an Iraqi base there.

US forces are reported to have fought ISIL in Iraq:

American troops in Iraq had their first actual battle with ISIS troops after the Islamist militants tried to overrun a base, an encounter that left the ISIS troops decimated and in retreat.

The attack took place near the Ein al-Asad base, which includes close to 100 U.S. military advisers. The U.S. troops, armed with “light and medium weapons,” and were able to inflict casualties against the ISIS fighters, forcing them to retreat, Shafaq News reported.

I'm not sure of the reliability of that news site or the news site that is the source of the report. I await information from our people about what happened.

This intervention of our troops is significant and shows what I've noted before--whatever we planned to do when we first intervened, Anbar province must be the first target unless we want the local Sunni Arabs hostile to ISIL to be terrorized into passivity.

Even if the report is false, just having such a story highlights the need Iraq has for help in the region:

No matter how many bombs Americans drop on ISIS forces, Iraqi troops are losing ground. If al-Anbar is lost, the entire Iraqi front dynamic will shift to favor ISIS again, and months of the U.S.-led air campaign will have been wasted.

If Iraq loses their hold on the fraction of the province they still hold, Baghdad becomes the front line and Iraq's already depleted ground forces will need to be committed even more strongly to fighting for Baghdad itself. That will leave fewer troops available to attack.

And a potential Jordanian commitment to fight ISIL in Iraq will have farther to go (I keep flogging that idea, I know, with nothing more than hints and hunches to support my notion) before linking up with Iraqi troops.

We may want to wait until all our plans are perfect before beginning an unstoppable offensive, but the funny thing about war is that enemies want to win, too.

And they usually don't cooperate by sitting there until we are ready to crush them. Not every enemy is as cooperative as Saddam was through two wars against us. We need to break that bad habit, no?

The Kurds Attack

The Kurds with our air support are making a move on Sinjar, Iraq:

Kurdish Iraqi forces launched a major operation Wednesday to retake the militant-held town of Sinjar in northern Iraq, part of a push to secure the road that leads directly to the Syrian border.

Peshmerga forces, backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, moved into the town, which has been under the control of the Islamic State group since August, a statement from the Kurdish Regional Security Council said.

I dare say this isn't part of the integrated plan to defeat ISIL. The Kurds are better prepared than the Iraqi army and probably don't want to wait for the big offensive that is scheduled to take part some time in 2015 after the Iraqi army is re-trained.

Not that the Kurds could probably move on Mosul yet, but if the Iraqi Kurds can push toward the Syrian border, the Kurds might not need Turkish cooperation to reinforce their brethren in Syria fighting ISIL.

Imagine Their Victories When They Have Nukes

Okay, moviegoers, be prepared for movies where only the British--or perhaps Luxembourgers--are considered safe enough to be villains.

Amazingly enough, Sony has halted the Christmas release of their movie that included the assassination of Kim Jong-Un:

Until this week, “Guardians of Peace” had limited itself to corporate espionage, hacking the computers of Sony Pictures Entertainment, embarrassing studio execs for their snide remarks about Hollywood stars, revealing company spreadsheets, and setting off lawsuits by employees whose personal and financial information had been hacked. North Korea, never known for its sense of humor, is the prime suspect. On Wednesday evening, The New York Times reported that intelligence officials confirmed that the North Korean government was in fact behind the attacks.

But on Tuesday, “Guardians of Peace” escalated its attack on “The Interview,” posting a message on the text-sharing site Pastebin: “The world will be full of fear. Remember the 11th of September 2001. We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time. (If your house is nearby, you’d better leave.)”

It wasn't that long ago that North Korea was the safe alternative to having the Chinese as villains in Red Dawn. Now, North Korea is in the game.

One can only imagine their dreams of what they can do when they have nuclear missiles.

It's humiliating. When others don't like us, the response is "why do they hate us?" as if we're at fault.

When North Korea is viewed as a barbaric basket case of a nation led by a mad man, their response (it seems likely that North Korea subcontracted the hit) is "why don't you shut up--or else."

And in the case of Sony--a Japanese company (although it would be shameful if we had a hand in their decision)--they shut up.

Gosh, remember when it was considered ridiculous to claim North Korea is in an "Axis of Evil?"

UPDATE: And why wouldn't North Korea believe that they could get away with this kind of threat when we've already stated that movies with far lower production values can justify an attack on America that we will apologize for.

UPDATE: North Korea has officially pushed us down and stolen our lunch money:

US cinemas have now pulled screenings of hit comedy Team America, reportedly as a knock-on effect of the Sony hacking.

And the villain market could dry up:

Hollywood loves its overseas villains. Evil forces from Russia, China and North Korea have tirelessly menaced our big-screen heroes in recent years. But, in the wake of the startling cancellation of "The Interview," an entire species of movie baddies might be in danger of extinction.

I see a future of Republican Christianist villains.

If even North Korea sees us as too weak to stand in their way, how many other real-world villains will take their shot over the next two years?

Kim Jong-Un is why God gave us JDAM.

UPDATE: I'm not filled with confidence:

A White House official said on Thursday that the administration was considering a “proportional response” against those who hacked into Sony Pictures computers, a retaliation that could thrust the United States into a direct confrontation with North Korea.

A "proportional" response is just another word for "ineffective." A response should be enough to make Kim Jong-Un believe that messing with us is a really bad idea.

I half expect President Obama to lift all sanctions on North Korea, arguing that since they haven't worked so far, why not try something new?

Do We Understand What Russia Is and Is Not?

Stratfor has an interesting discussion of Russia's view of the Ukraine crisis.

Friedman points out that Russia is flat and considers it a necessity to push their western border as far from Moscow and the Russian heartland as possible. Not that this excuses Russia's actions, but that it is a basic reason why they are pushing west now that they can.

Which should also tell you that they will push more when their military is in better shape relative to their targets.

He also notes that he thinks Russia can endure Western sanctions without public opinion turning on Putin to compel him to reverse his Ukraine policies.

I think he is right, but it does not speak to whether the sanctions could compel other members of the ruling class to turn on Putin to change policies in order to protect their own interests.

Indeed, I am also worried that sanctions effective enough to compel change--regardless of who in Russia is affected--could be indistinguishable from an act of war to Putin and his people around him.

Further, these issues show that they simply think differently than we do. We have to be careful about assuming we know how the Russians will react to what we do--or don't do.

I do find it amusing (in worried sort of way) that the Russians use Quebec's status in Canada as an excuse for the Donbas having more autonomy.

Forgive me if I missed it, but did France invade Canada to achieve that Quebec autonomy?

Perhaps the Russians are still mad at Canada for this helpful map aid to the Ukraine Crisis:


Even more important for those who do wish to excuse Russia's actions against Ukraine as just something Russia naturally must do to protect themselves is Friedman's description of our own interests in Europe:

The United States has spent the past century pursuing a single objective: avoiding the rise of any single hegemon that might be able to exploit Western European technology and capital and Russian resources and manpower. The United States intervened in World War I in 1917 to block German hegemony, and again in World War II. In the Cold War the goal was to prevent Russian hegemony. U.S. strategic policy has been consistent for a century.

I've mentioned this many times--usually as I express bewilderment that we still officially support the creation of a powerful European Union central government--but rarely do I see this mentioned by others.

Sanctions and the collapse of energy prices are surely seen from Moscow as evidence of our plots against them.

And Russia is hurting, have no doubt. But is this really how Putin's choice is framed in Russia:

The Putin government has come to a fork in the road—and both of its choices look unpleasant. It can accept that the oil price collapse is forcing it to change paths in foreign policy and give up (at least for now) on its dreams of geopolitical revenge for the defeat in the Cold War—or it can double down on the fight against the West and the world system.

The first course is obviously the smartest from the standpoint of Russian national interest, but the second may make more sense in terms of the personal fortunes of one Vladimir Putin—and unless something changes in Russia, Putin is firmly in charge.

I don't think that most Russians even remotely think changing paths is obviously in their national interest.

We surely risk war by resisting Russia. But the problem is Russian aggression and not our reaction to it.

We also risk a bigger war later by a more powerful Russia if we ignore or downplay Putin's aggression and hope that he simply stops having territorial ambitions at our expense.

Isn't it smarter to make sure that Putin knows that we have--and will enforce--red lines in Europe that it is not safe for him to cross?

But will Putin believe we have--and will enforce--such red lines when the declarations are made by this administration?

Have a super sparkly day.

UPDATE: A political opponent thinks that Putin could be forced to step down, since he will not be able to win a free election should he fail to cope with economic problems:

A prominent opponent has warned Vladimir Putin his days in power are numbered, as Russia awaits the president's response to the dramatic decline of the rouble.

Well, free elections are a big "if" to bank on, eh? I imagine Putin will only be forced out if his allies decide they'd be better off without Putin in the front office.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Backlash Arrives

The Left has long worried that Moslems in America could experience a backlash for their views. The dread backlash arrived at the University of Michigan.

Do those people who lashed out at the conservative/libertarian Moslem realize that they are apparently ratifying this behavior as appropriate punishment for Moslems who stray from accepted thoughts?

Tip to Instapundit.

UPDATE: And of course, this is another reminder that "liberal minded" is not actually the same as "open minded."

Reajustar!

Putin is smiling at our new Cuba policy. I have mentioned before that my sympathy for the president is inversely proportional to the time since I've last heard him speak on a policy issue, right?

After more than 60 years of sanctions on Cuba for their oppressive communist system and their hostility to us, President Obama announces we will end this pressure to become a decent nation that respects its people.

As we rely on sanctions to counter Russia's invasion and annexation of Ukrainian territory, President Obama has just announced that if you just endure our initial sanctions, eventually they will peter out and ultimately be cancelled--with many Americans calling you the victim of all this--without you having to change your course, at all.

The lack of self-awareness reaches levels not seen since President Obama's September 10th speech in which he announced we had to return American troops to Iraq this year after leaving in 2011 and in the same speech announced we'd withdraw all our troops from Afghanistan in two years.


I wonder if Kerry will take a Reset Readjustar button to the Castro regime?

Good grief, I really do look back on the Carter era as a time of relative foreign policy sanity compared to the idiocy we have now.

UPDATE: Here's the White House page on this.

UPDATE: It is obscene and ignorant to compare the easing of sanctions on Cuba to tearing down the Berlin Wall:

"Today another Wall has started to fall," EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement. "These moves represent a victory of dialogue over confrontation."

Well, I've long said that "Europe" can't be our friend even though European states can be.

In twenty years, nobody will be saying "only Obama can go to Cuba."

UPDATE: Stratfor has thoughts on the impact on Venezuela.

They also note that Cuba, which turned to Venezuela for financial support when Soviet support dried up (when the Soviet Union disappeared), finds that Venezuelan financial support probably isn't that secure given Venezuela's own financial implosion.

So Cuba hopes that we can provide the financial help to save Cuba's dictatorship. Hey, we provided the help that is keeping Iran's head above water. Why not Cuba, too?

I understand that in theory we may hope that opening up Cuba will undermine their dictatorship. But Cuba clearly believes that they can maintain their dictatorship and save it with this restoration of relations.

So just who do you really believe is practicing "smart" diplomacy?

UPDATE: I imagine the president is disappointed that his action came too late (see the first update) to be considered for this year's Confucius Peace Prize.

UPDATE: Not so long ago, I noted that Cuba was screwed as they lost paying patrons, and wondered if China would be so bold as to pick up the tab.

I did not suspect that we'd bid for the honor.

Breaking Apart at the Seams?

As I've been speculating, somebody else is arguing that the Assad regime is under a great deal of stress as it begins to alienate supporters in a desperate effort to get bodies into the military which has suffered mind-boggling casualties just to try to control a core Syria of western Syria:

After three years of grueling warfare against armed opposition fighters, the Syrian regime faces a dire internal crisis not witnessed since the initial months of the conflict.

Do read it all. By the time we get to the Syria part of our anti-ISIL war, ISIL might have swept into Damascus.

In Idlib province, where jihadis took two Syrian bases recently, reports are that the Syrians lost 100 men, had 120 captured (who were abused on video), but 100 escaped south.

How long can Assad's army hold together with defeats like that? There is another Syrian base hanging on in the east that is probably one big assault from being a massacre.

Remember, during the long Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns, we never once lost a base to enemy assault.

If Assad's forces crack, could he still hold in the Alawite heartland back to the coast even as mostly jihadi rebels sweep into the rest of western Syria, leaving just our southern front to screen the Jordanian border?

UPDATE: More. Assad is struggling to keep ground troops on the line and his base of support is wavering in providing the cannon fodder:

Many Alawites and other minority groups are frustrated with their “sons going out to die at such a heavy rate,” Kozak said, adding that “at some point the population will reach a tipping point where the cost of war has been too great to bear for the community.”

This is a problem. Even when the rebels were reeling and the Assad forces were on visible offense, I doubted that his troops could endure the casualties needed to finally win the war.

Note the control map the Institute for the Study of War provides:


Note the concentration of regime-controlled areas from the coast inland. This would be the core of a final stand if Assad decides he can't afford to control the capital, Damascus, and points south and east.

The problem is that Assad might not be able to retreat his ground forces in good order after taking a beating when he might have successfully retreated to this core Alawite Syria a couple years ago.

UPDATE: To be clear, if Assad has to shrink down his area of control to a core Alawite Syria, I imagine Homs would be the southeastern point of that kingdom, with the Damascus region and the border regions with Lebanon and Israel south of there abandoned.

So watch to see if Assad transfers the capital to the coast, or someplace near that.

Plans, Enemies, And Mutual Contact

As much as many Sunni Arabs in Iraq's Anbar province may wish to fight ISIL, they are so far too weak to resist the jihadis. We can count on their support if we lead an offensive into Anbar, but we can't count on the locals to be the offensive force that retakes Anbar.

As we slowly prepare for an Iraqi offensive in the fullness of time and Western training efforts, the proto-Awakening in Anbar is being slaughtered and intimidated:

As Sunni tribes have been forced to choose sides – pro-IS or anti-IS, with many shades of gray in between – new divisions have brought accumulating blood feuds and a scale of slaughter in Anbar Province that is tearing at Iraq’s Sunni social fabric like never before.

Local leaders say IS intimidation is undermining the ability of any tribe to fight back, by using sleeper cells and systematic cleansing of anti-IS figures within the tribe.

The result is that IS is proving much more difficult for the tribes to take on than was Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) , whom home-grown Sunni groups fought during the Sunni “Awakening” of 2006-2008 with support from the US.

Why yes, this is a problem:

ISIL is too powerful in the Sunni Arab regions that ISIL controls for the Iraqi Sunni Arabs to risk rising up absent powerful Iraqi government forces coming to their rescue.

Thus, the hope that Iraqi forces could sail back into their lost regions taken by ISIL on a wave of Sunni Arabs angry at ISIL cannot take place. Angry the Sunni Arabs may be at ISIL brutality. But the Sunni Arabs cannot risk rising up before liberation is at hand.

So now we have the task of mounting an offensive into ISIL-held territory to the north and west of Baghdad, with Sunni Arabs at best rising up once the frontline reaches them.

The destruction of potential Sunni Arab allies and their alienation from a Shia-led Iraqi government that fails to support them against ISIL is one motivation to rush a planned offensive into Anbar earlier than we think Iraqi troops will be ready.

Will we rigidly stick to the plan timetable that calls for retraining before moving while potential allies needed for the fight and vital for the post-fight rebuilding of Iraq are destroyed by ISIL?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Sounds of Angels Singing

I had to switch to high speed Internet from my DSL when the latter failed.

One thing that this seems to have solved is my Netflix problem on my TV.

Now Netflix turns on very rapidly and works just fine.

I still don't get why I had a problem. I know that Netflix said the problem was with my wifi signal, but why did every wireless device in my home (phone, iPod Touch, tablet, and laptop) work with Netflix just fine while only the TV could not use it--after years of the TV working just fine, too, until early this year?

Regardless, it works. And I'm happy about that.

All is forgiven. Let's not bicker and argue over where the problem was.

This label is now non-operative.

To the Shores of Lake Chad, They Ain't

The Boko Haram jihadi marine corps came up a little short this week.

This is an epic jihadi fail:

Cameroon authorities say at least 600 suspected Boko Haram fighters crossed Lake Chad and simultaneously attacked several villages and towns Friday, leading to the arrests of 25 of the insurgents and the drowning deaths of hundreds of others. ...

[Cameroon's Minister of Communication] Tchiroma said Cameroon's military arrested 25 of the attackers and killed several. Hundreds of others were swallowed by the waters of Lake Chad after their boats capsized or sank when they tried to escape.

Emulating Osama bin Laden, who we dumped at sea, I see.

Apparently, Boko Haram should stick to picking on helpless girls in the halls of Nigerian schools.

This could be a joke. Question: What do you call several hundred dead jihadis at the bottom of Lake Chad? Answer: A good start.

UPDATE: The scummy bastards in Pakistan stuck to easier targets:

At least 132 students and nine staff members were killed on Tuesday when Taliban gunmen broke into a school in the Pakistani city of Peshawar and opened fire, witnesses said, in the bloodiest massacre the country has seen for years.

Unable to defeat the Pakistani military that has gone after them lately, the Taliban decided that killing children of military personnel was more in line with their skill set.

I've long said that Pakistan can't make a deal with the Devil by refraining from taking on the jihadi scum and killing them.

UPDATE: And back in Nigeria, having learned a lesson from their Cameroon expedition, Boko Haram takes on easier foes:

Suspected Boko Haram gunmen kidnapped more than 100 women and children and killed 35 other people on Sunday during a raid on the remote northeast Nigerian village of Gumsuri, a security source and resident said on Thursday.

Jihadis: defeating the Crusaders one dead woman and child at a time. Allah must be so proud.

How a War Can Start

We may be pretty certain that if China starts a war with us right now that we'd win that war.

I suspect that China, by virtue of its geographic advantage of being far closer to the western Pacific than we are, would get in some good licks--hopefully not decisive--before we can mobilize and concentrate our globally scattered power and defeat them.

But this does not mean that China will not start a war with us.

The Chinese have to believe that if they start a war with us that they will lose the war. Otherwise, even if we do win that war as we expect, we will still have to fight that war--with all the death and costs that represents--to win the war.

Losing a war is surely worse than winning a war, but just fighting a war is not good, to state the obvious.

But it gets worse.

Not only do the Chinese have to believe that they would lose a war, but as I've noted before, that knowledge has to be shared by the Chinese military leadership and not just the political leaders.

And that's where it is still worse. After a couple decades of dramatic Chinese military improvement, China's generals are feeling their power--a bit too much:

But while the Chinese troops are much better, they are not as good as they think. This is what worries Chinese leaders because many generals and admirals are now clamoring to be turned loose on real or imagined Chinese enemies. More thoughtful political leaders realize that the Chinese generals and admirals probably overestimate their capabilities and that could lead to economic and political disaster if China suffered humiliating defeats as a result of being too aggressive in combat. The CCP leaders are having an increasingly hard time dealing with their aggressive military commanders, who are sometimes acting first and conferring with their political bosses later.

If the Chinese generals have to learn that they are not as good as they think, may it be in a war with a country that isn't us or one of our allies.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Destroying His Army to Destroy a City

Assad is still fighting in an effort to capture the northern city of Aleppo, after more than 2-1/2 years of effort. Is it worth it?

In the largely stalemated fight for control of Aleppo, land changes hands and casualties rise, but Assad still does not control the city. Lately he has made some gains:

Syria's army seized an area north of Aleppo on Sunday and killed insurgents as fierce battles raged over the strategic territory, a group monitoring the war and state media reported.

Syria's second city is at the heart of clashes between pro-government forces and a range of insurgents, including al Qaeda's Syria wing, Islamist brigades and Western-backed rebels.

This has been going on for a long time, and I have long doubted the objective is worth the effort:

I think Assad might be biting off more than he can chew. Sure, it is a big and important city with regime defenders to protect, but it is close to Turkey and adds more people to the defense perimeter of Core Syria than I think Assad has the forces to pacify.

While Assad has largely abandoned large parts of Syria to focus on a core Syria stretching from the coast down to Damascus, there is still resistance within that core Syria, making the Aleppo effort a dangerous diversion of military manpower; and Assad still tries to hold a major outpost in the east.

Meanwhile in the nearby north, jihadis inflicted a significant defeat on Assad's forces:

The Syrian army on Monday lost control of two strategic bases in the northwestern province of Idlib to coordinated assaults by Al-Qaeda and other Islamist groups, a monitoring group said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Al-Nusra Front, an Al-Qaeda affiliate, in coordination with Islamist rebels of Jund al-Aqsa and Ahrar al-Sham, seized Hamidiyeh and Wadi al-Deif bases, the biggest regime positions in Idlib.

Why we aren't working to support whatever acceptable rebels there are up there to keep Assad fighting in the north while denying jihadis a chance for victory should Assad fail to take the city, I have no idea.

Even if Assad takes Aleppo, can he afford to spare the troops to defend the city and keep whoever remains under control?

We're Going to Need More COEXIST Bumper Stickers

There's nobody dead yet, but at the very least an Islamist-inspired crime seems to be taking place in Australia:

Australian police locked down the center of the country's biggest city on Monday after an armed man walked into a busy downtown Sydney cafe, took hostages and forced them to display an Islamic flag, igniting fears of a jihadist attack.

Police said they knew of one armed assailant involved in the incident at the Lindt chocolate cafe in the heart of Sydney's financial district, but there could be more.

Unless this is all a deep crime, like Die Hard, with political motivation as a mere cover story.

UPDATE: News reports say that the possible terrorist is an Iranian cleric. I assumed or thought I heard that the flag flying was the black flag of Sunni Arab jihadis, but perhaps I'm mistaken.

But if so, isn't it a wonderful example of ecumenical outreach by a Shia Persian to Sunni Arabs?

News also says that the police don't assume this is terrorism.

UPDATE: Australians just stormed the building, so check your news.

UPDATE: The hostage situation is over. No word about the "self-styled sheikh"--not a mullah--whose criminal background may be an example of jihad being the last refuge of a scoundrel.

UPDATE: Streaming news from Australian television. One hostage appears to be dead as well as the terrorist/hostage-taker.

They hate everybody. Stop worrying about why they hate us.

UPDATE: Oh my God. My title was prescient:

Australians have used social media to show their support for Muslims after an Iranian gunman seized a Sydney café, fanning fears of an potential anti-Islam backlash.

The hashtag #IllRideWithYou took off Monday local time in Australia and quickly trended worldwide, generating 40,000 tweets in just two hours and more than 170,000 overall.

Obviously, all Moslems are not guilty for the acts of some (thank goodness that Sydney guy wasn't in a college fraternity, however, eh? #IllPledgeWithYou?).

Yet a nutball Moslem strikes Sydney and the first impulse of some in Australia is to worry about the dread "backlash."

UPDATE: Late news that the whole "I'll ride with you" incident was made up--slacktivism (existing in the virtual world only) at it's best.

An imaginary "Islamophobic" backlash was met with an imaginary act of liberal outreach.

The Baltic Front

The Poles have noted increased Russian military activity around the Baltic Sea:

Poland's defense minister on Thursday complained of "unprecedented" activity by Russia's navy and air force in the Baltic Sea region in recent days.

Tomasz Siemoniak said the majority of the incidents involved Russian operations in international waters, and that Sweden was the country most affected.

The Swedes are also taking notice of Russia's leaning forward:

Following this week's decision, the Swedish armed forces can oblige 7,500 Swedes -- who received military training between 2004 and 2011 -- to participate in training exercises from the end of 2015.

The measure is a sign that traditionally pacifist and unaligned Sweden, which marks two centuries of continuous peace this year, is weighing new options.

"It's fully possible that Sweden becomes a NATO member and that we reintroduce conscription and build up our defence," said Hedlund.

Well, it was a nice two-century run, you have to admit.

And what is it with Russian hostility to civilian airliners?

For the second time this year, a Russian military aircraft turned off its transponders to avoid commercial radar and nearly collided with a passenger jet over Sweden, officials said Saturday.

Others are feeling the bear's breath, too:

Russia's meddling in Ukraine has delivered a wake-up call on defence spending to small Baltic states which spent half a century under Soviet occupation and now fear the Kremlin's territorial ambitions.

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are on heightened alert as Russian military planes and warships skirt their airspace and sea borders on a daily basis in what they call "unprecedented" Russian activity.

And let's not leave out the Finns:

“The past few days have seen unusually intense Russian air activity over the Gulf of Finland and the Baltic Sea. Air activity intensified on December 6 and has continued during the first days of the week. No violations of Finnish airspace have been observed,” said the Finnish military in a post on Dec. 12.
They've released photos of their encounters.

Were I God of NATO, I'd have Sweden and Finland in the alliance to hold the northern shore of the Baltic Sea;

Hopefully, Sweden, Finland, and Norway can also keep Russian attention distracted and pinned in place from Leningrad to Petsamo on the Barents Sea;

I'd have Estonia and Latvia build up the equivalent of armored cavalry to attrite and slow down, but retreat before a Russian heavy force invasion;

I'd have Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania train with US and other Western special forces to have stay-behind irregulars to lead resistance to Russian control;

I'd have a US Marine Corps prepositioned stock in Riga, Latvia, to create a stronghold to defend Tobruk-like (or Sevastopol-like, if you prefer, although some of the language in that entry sound like Putin defenders did a little editing ... )--and where Estonian and Latvian conventional forces could retreat to--even as Russian mechanized forces push south;

I'd have a Lithuanian army designed to hold the shoulder long enough to get NATO troops there to hold the main line of resistance there and prepare for a counter-offensive north;

I'd have the first NATO offensive mission be to seize Russia's Kaliningrad enclave to secure our flank and to serve as a bargaining chip;

I'd move in prepositioned stocks for American, British, and German heavy forces in Poland so they can more rapidly counter-attack into the Baltic States. Say, what's that about three "ghost" airports at Lodz, Rzeszow, and Lublin in Poland with hardly any traffic? Let's start with a brigade set at each airport;

And I'd have NATO forces prepared to push naval and amphibious forces into the Baltic to threaten the flanks of Russian forces battling in Lithuania at the main line of resistance while supporting the Riga enclave and supporting irregulars battling inside Estonia and Latvia.

I would make it clear that we did not intend to take and keep Russian territory and that the return of Kaliningrad to Russia on the basis of the territorial status quo ante is our military objective.

I'd also bomb and mine the Russian base at Sevastopol and wage an air campaign against their Black Sea Fleet.

I would try to keep the Pacific quiet and not expand the war beyond Europe if at all possible. Russia has nukes, remember. Let's try to keep their paranoia at a dull roar, eh?

If I was God of NATO planning, of course. Which I'm not.

UPDATE: I didn't really mention naval and air operations, but I assume NATO can defeat Russia's Baltic Fleet to allow support for the Riga enclave and that NATO air operations will gain air superiority over the Baltic region, given time.