Thursday, July 28, 2016

Urban Birds

I don't know why, but it always cracks me up when I see how animals adapt to urban environments.

Although for me, nothing beats birds using wires as feet warmers in the winter or squirrels using wires as bridges to cross roads.

What Were Our Assumptions in 2003?

In an otherwise interesting post on logistics, Strategypage has an aside about our military's assumption about the projected pace of the 2003 invasion. I'm rather stunned at the pessimism.


In 2003, most divisions marched, and often fought, nearly over 600 kilometers in 23 days. That's a remarkable campaign by any standard compared to other operations in the past century. ...

The original plan called for it taking about 125 days to advance on Baghdad and take it. Good military planning always starts with the worst case, and 125 days of fighting was as bad as anyone thought it could get. The coalition force was well trained, professional and well led, and prepared to take advantage of enemy mistakes and weaknesses. Thus the ability to quickly turn the 125 day plan into a 23 day one.

How "original" are we talking? The post-1991 plan sitting in a file gathering dust? Because I find it hard to believe that we seriously considered that it could take 125 days to reach Baghdad.

From my figurative basement clad in my figurative pajamas, I assumed we could achieve a rapid advance:

Overall, the antidote to Iraqi defenses is speed. We may not be able to afford a leisurely 37-day bombardment before we send the troops into Iraq. It all depends on whether the Iraqis actually do just sit and take it or manage some surprises as I've suggested. If they really do fight dumb, we can afford a little more time to soften them up. Still, it would be better to get it over fast. A lot of things can happen if enough time passes. A lot of those things can be bad for us. Push north, bypassing resistance and pummeling those bypassed with artillery and air power. Drive on Baghdad and try to bounce it before the Iraqis get set to defend it. I know the 2001 QDR says we no longer need to fight and win two nearly simultaneous major theater wars, but do the North Koreans agree? Let's not give them the time to mull that one over.

To paraphrase Napoleon, if we're going to take Baghdad, take Baghdad.

That was July 2002. I wasn't specific, but the thrust was clear: drive fast on Baghdad and try to take it on the run rather than settle in for a siege and deliberate assault.

The next month I was more specific:

One week of air strikes. Then a ground invasion that takes us a week to get to Baghdad. Then Lord knows. Could be easy or hard at that point. I don’t doubt we will be victorious, however. Just the time and cost is a question.

My views on how the campaign would unfold changed as the months before the invasion actually kicked off. Some of the assumptions are interesting to read now.

But I was consistent in thinking that we would drive fast to Baghdad, which we did in about a week before we paused to resupply and reform after the rapid drive north while repelling ferocious but ill-led Fedayeen attacks on our flank.

And we did bounce the capital when the Thunder Run showed the defenders to be fanatical but unable to stop us (and I continue to wonder why a movie hasn't been made about the battles at Larry, Curly, and Moe).

Of course, since the Russians leaked our plans to Saddam, perhaps this explains why Saddam thought he could survive our invasion (although Saddam expected--as I did!--that we'd have a major advance out of Jordan).

Perhaps Saddam thought he could have four months to shape the news coverage while secure in fortress Baghdad that we'd approach cautiously. With four months to conduct irregular warfare in the south with his Fedayeen and Baath Party operatives he could bleed us; and by conducting dead baby parades he could bleed international support for the invasion before it could penetrate Baghdad and end his regime.

Anyway, even though the "original" plan may have figured a war could go to four months to reach Baghdad, I sincerely doubt that by the time the offensive kicked off that we really believed the advance would take that long.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Tethered Wolf

First we had "lone wolf" terrorists operating on their own without foreign Islamist direction. Then we had "known wolf" terrorists committing terror despite being on the radar screen of government security organizations. Now we have the "tethered wolf:"

The Islamic State group said that two of its "soldiers" stormed a church in northern France and slit an elderly priest's throat on Tuesday, the latest attack in a country shaken to its core by repeated terror strikes.

In a revelation likely to fuel further questions about security failings in France, investigators revealed one of the attackers had been charged with terror links and was wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet after being released on bail.

What's the point of having a state of emergency if suspected terrorists are free to behead elderly French priests?

Jes suis screwed.

So Many Have Died, But This One Lives?

How this three-time insurrectionist is still alive to foment unrest for a fourth try is beyond me:

Powerful Shi'ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr instructed his followers on Sunday to target U.S. troops deploying to Iraq as part of the military campaign against Islamic State. ...

Sadr, who rose to prominence when his Mahdi Army battled U.S. troops after the 2003 invasion, posted the comments on his official website after a follower asked for his response to the announcement.

Iran's Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guards Corps) has their arm so far up Sadr's butt that they can brush Sadr's teeth from the inside.

I've long said we will regret letting this breathing piece of garbage walk free and we may yet see that SOB wreck Iraq.

'Til the Tuesday After the First Monday in November

The Democratic National Committee put down the Sanders revolt and forced Bernie to bend the knee.

But the supporters of Bernie Sanders who fell in love with that cranky socialist are a little shell-shocked from the abuse they received from Hillary during the process, and many aren't in the mood to fall in line and become cogs in the Hillary! machine.

Remember, Hillary wants you. But only some of the time:

She wants you. If she can keep you in line.

Hush, hush. Keep it down now. Voices carry.

It's as If Freedom and Liberty are Important

 Perhaps there is a reason for this?

Republicans own the words "freedom" and "liberty," and their ability to take control over those and other terms reveals how successful the GOP is at "framing" political issues, the New York Times reported this weekend.

"[T]he right has been more successful than the left at framing issues related to abortion, health care, labor unions and the concept of government itself, among other issues, with carefully contrived catchphrases," the Times' Julie Bosman reported this weekend, citing University of California, Berkeley, professor George Lakoff.

Ah, professors. So many degrees. So little sense.

The Left is doing its best to recast words like "free" for Newspeak, no doubt. I guess they are getting all sad-faced for not succeeding yet.

That's okay. Democrats own the words "do what you're told" and "shut up."

So there you go.

When I read junk like this, I can almost understand why Maoists sent intellectuals to the farms to do labor during the Chinese Cultural Revolution.

Tip to Instapundit.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

You Go to November With the Candidate You Have

I've never had to vote against a presidential candidate as opposed to voting for a candidate--even if I lacked a lot of enthusiasm for Dole. This year I get to experience this kind of choice.

I'm not alone, it seems:

In a campaign between two candidates neither of whom a quarter of Americans say they like, it seems apparent this race will come down to whom they dislike less and whom they trust to be president — despite their personal distaste. But while many Americans will basically have to vote for someone they dislike, there are degrees of dislike. And voting for someone you strongly dislike is a much tougher haul.

Which brings us to this: Nearly half of registered voters strongly dislike Hillary Clinton, and nearly half of registered voters strongly dislike Donald Trump. As we noted for Clinton, it's 47 percent. For Trump, it's 49 percent. A virtual tie. That suggests getting majority support — or close to it — as most presidential elections have required will be a struggle for both major-party candidates this year.

Yes, I strongly dislike Donald Trump. I've made no secret of that fact even before this campaign season. I despise him and have zero respect for him.

But I don't fear Trump. He's a clown. Even on that metric, will he do more damage to the dignity of the office than the current president who let a woman famous for eating cereal out of her own bathtub (while in it) interview him in his reelection campaign? I think not. Bounce the rubble, Donald.

As I said, I don't fear Trump. Sure, liberals call him a fascist--just like they've called every other Republican of any stature over the years. Cry "wolf!" for this long and you lose credibility.

And have no doubt that the press, the permanent bureaucracy, and the other branches of government will constrain Trump if he goes off the rails.

But Hillary? She's the head of a criminal family. I truly fear Hillary Clinton's ability to finish off rule of law in this country by entrenching corruption in our government. Selling the Lincoln bedroom? Chump change. The Lincoln Monument will be up for sale and everything else in D.C., too.

Shoot, even the left-winger Bernie fans are with the Trump fans on Hillary! and her schemes.

A healthy nation would have rejected Trump, it is true. But a nation willing to elect the corrupt Hillary Clinton whose record (a long tradition of existence) should disqualify her for even the most entry level national security job let alone the presidency of the United States is no sign of health.

So I will vote against Hillary Clinton by voting for Donald Trump.

Although Trump doesn't make it easy.

Yet Hillary! has such a long history of avoiding the truth that even Trump has yet to make it impossible.

Besides, Hillary! is dangerously entangled with the Russians, too.

I did not get the candidate I wished to have (any of them). I just have the candidates we have. I do have a choice. And I've made it.

Any other vote or non-vote (and while I respect the sincerity of Republicans who say that they cannot in good conscience vote for either, my feeling is that not voting for Trump is as close to voting for Hillary as you can get without actually pulling the lever)  just hands the reins of power to a woman who makes Circei Lannister seem like a good alternative.

Tell me you doubt Hillary Clinton is willing to burn everything down around her to save her own skin and her family slush fund foundation?

And no, it doesn't matter what the definition of "is" is.

[Oh, and here's bonus video of Bernie Sanders losing the nominating battle with Hillary.]

UPDATE: And yes, as an abstract issue, it is good that a woman has earned the nomination of a major party. If little girls draw inspiration and confidence from that, that's a good thing.

The same is true of Barack Obama's nomination. But like Obama, I am truly sorry that Clinton has made history. We could have used much better than Obama and we could use much better than Clinton for setting history.

The first Clown American is obviously fitting, of course.

UPDATE: I can hope that the final act of the Clinton Crime Family saga is yet to be written:

For now, the Clintons again have avoided the final wages of the classical sequence of overweening greed (koros) leading to arrogance and disdain (hubris) descending into a sort of recklessness (ate) and ultimately earning divine retribution (nemesis). But the tragedian Sophocles reminds us that for such people there is never self-reflection or enough money — and thus nemesis is still on the Clinton horizon.

Hillary could yet win. Her supporters who don't care about her corruption may prove to be enough to send her to the White House.

Which would demonstrate that absolute power corrupts (supporters of the corrupt) absolutely.

I Miss Armored Cavalry

In the past, recon units in peacetime tend to lighten up in armor and firepower, on the theory that scout vehicles should be "agile" and able to scoot in, have a look, and get out. Force-on-force combat tends to undermine that theory and lead to recon units adding firepower and armor until they look suspiciously like line combat units because it turns out that recon units usually have to fight to get close enough to have a look and survive that mission.

There is an effort in the Army to provide more firepower to our scout units:

Scouts need a specialized vehicle with enough firepower to destroy enemy recon formations, a point that [LTG] McMaster continues to emphasize.

"To overmatch that enemy in those encounter actions, you need some firepower," McMaster told the audience after watching the devastating effects of 30mm ammunition on rusted-out tanks down range.

"We are facing threats, enemies and adversaries who have watched us very closely in recent years and have adapted their capabilities and developed new capabilities that have resulted in our forces in the future potentially losing our ability to overmatch the enemy in close combat."

Personally, I'd have scout units equipped with tanks and cavalry fighting vehicles as the core. This light stuff is fine for battling insurgents when we also have uncontested air space to fly recon drones. It won't cut it when we are up against enemy heavy formations in the Suwalki Gap or further north in the Baltic NATO states.

I really miss our armored cavalry regiments and the squadrons that we had in our divisions. Our current scout formations seem like little more than glorified forward observers.

But hey, up-gunning the scouts is at least a start.

Reality is Dangerous Enough

One author notes the reality of Russian reorganization that some in the West have portrayed as both an increase in Russian troop strength and forward deployment against the Baltic states.

Russia is reorganizing but not increasing their army:

In military reforms initiated in 2008, Russia abandoned the division level in favor of smaller and more rapidly deployable brigades. Now, they are returning to the division structure, which indicates that the Russian leadership assesses the chances for a mid- to large-scale military conflict as more possible. This fact alone should cause concern.

However, that does not mean that Russia is creating additional forces. What is known is that already existing and deployed brigades will be merged to form two new divisions in the Western Military District and one in the Southern Military District. Furthermore, two brigades, currently stationed in the Central Military District, will be put under the control of the newly formed command structure.

It is not true is that that at least one of the divisions will be moved close to the Baltics. One will be stationed in Novocherkassk (Oblast Rostov), close to Mariupol, one in Boguchar (Oblast Voronezh) and Valuyki (Oblast Belgorod), north of Ukraine, and one in Yelnya (Oblast Smolensk), east of Belarus. Neither the Kaliningrad nor the Pskov oblasts, bordering Poland and the Baltics has (so far) seen a permanent build-up of Russian tanks and armored combat vehicles.

Which is what I thought when the reports of new Russian divisions being sent to their western front came out (and in an update, Strategypage confirmed that no new troops were involved).

Links in that post note the locations that seem far from the Baltics and that the Russians at least believe a bigger war is possible, requiring controlling army headquarters.

I note these things because it is good to have reassurance that I don't just repeat convenient news without judging it on its merits and whether it makes sense. It would have been easy to do what the media reports did and at least imply that the Russians are building up forces on the border with the NATO Baltic states. That did not seem to be the case, and that's what I wrote about.

The reality of Russia's actual military moves belies Moscow's propaganda claims that NATO itself is dangerously massing troops in the Baltics. What we have is a trip wire of up to 4,000 troops:

President Barack Obama said the United States would deploy about 1,000 soldiers in Poland under the plan "to enhance our forward presence in central and eastern Europe". Germany will lead the battalion in Lithuania, Britain in Estonia and Canada in Latvia. Other nations such as France will supply troops.

The units in the Baltic states will be multi-national while the American battalion in Poland will be a pure American unit because it represents an existing plan to put an American brigade there if needed:

The official said the United States ended up with the Poland assignment in part because it already had committed to putting the headquarters of the armored combat brigade team here and Poland has the necessary infrastructure.

I'm assuming that we will have equipment for the balance of the brigade placed there. So REFORPOL is beginning.

Russia implicitly agrees that our plans are no threat to Russia given that their troops are not heading to defend St. Petersburg.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Are You Freaking Kidding Me?

Islamists have the job of screening refugees for resettlement in the West. Seriously.

Well, this certainly explains a lot:

There are other reasons why Western nations are increasingly reluctant to accept refugees from Moslem nations, especially Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq. One reason is that the UN has shown itself incapable of screening out refugees likely to be Islamic terrorists or supporters of Islamic terrorism. Then there is the fact that the UN rarely recommends Syrian and Iraqi Christian refugees for resettlement in the West despite the fact that these non-Moslem refugees have the most to fear from Islamic terrorism. The United States also noted that among the first thousand Middle Eastern refugees it accepted only two were Christian and all the rest were Moslem. Further investigation (often by journalists or other non-government groups) found that the UN run refugee camps were dominated by Islamic radicals who not only persecuted non-Moslem refugees but coerced the UN officials to select refugees for resettlement that were approved by the Islamic radical thugs. Refugee camps worldwide, whether they are administered by the UN or not, tend to be terrorized by local criminals and when Moslem refugees are the majority the gangs tend to be run by Islamic terrorists or other Islamic radicals. These groups control the selection of refugees for admission to Western nations despite the fact that the camp administrators assure Western nations that the refugees they recommend are screened to eliminate criminals and Islamic terrorists. In fact the gangs that dominate the camps often sell “approval” to refugees who can pay, even if the payment is supplied by criminal gangs or Islamic terror groups. [emphasis added]

If you don't read Strategypage every day, you really should.


It's kind of funny, really. President Obama has very much wanted to pull American military power out of the Middle East as part of his legacy.

But rather than support Israel as a pillar of stability, we have undermined Israel.

Rather than support the fledgling Iraqi democracy to build it into a pillar of stability, we walked away and watched Iraq disintegrate.

We have tried to turn mullah-run Shia Iran into a responsible regional power to provide stability by green-lighting their eventual nuclear weapons status (and Iran's smuggling efforts show that "eventual" isn't soon enough for them).

The Arabs were expected to go along and shut up, kept quiet with large arms sales (intended to block Iran).

We embraced the "tame" Islamist Erdogan of Turkey to provide stability from the Sunni side.

And we hoped we could deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan and so stabilize that region.

But it isn't working out.

Iran under the mullahs is no friend, seeks nuclear missiles, and foments unrest.

Turkey under Erdogan is no friend and post-coup attempt no bastion of stability.

And non-reset Russia is making trouble in the Middle East, with spillover in Europe.

So instead of being able to pull out of the Middle East and enjoy the peace and stability, we have had to get more involved again as the death toll continues to rise.

We are in Iraq War 2.0.

We are at war in Syria. 

We've scaled back plans to get out of the Afghanistan War.

We support Arab states waging war in Yemen against pro-Iranian Shias. And we continue to strike al Qaeda there.

We continue to strike jihadis in Pakistan.

We are getting more involved in Libya's civil strife (and ISIL presence).

We have sent troops to bolster Jordan (and fight ISIL in Syria).

And this is called "smart diplomacy" which will define a presidential legacy.

Indeed it will.

Warning Shot

I think the notion that WikiLeaks disclosure of DNC emails shows that Putin favors Trump is nonsense.

Putin has much worse information from Hillary's personal server used while she was secretary of state, and this DNC mail leak is just a shot across the bow by Putin to warn Hillary to provide "flexibility" for Russia as president if she wants to avoid even worse information coming out that might keep her from the White House.

Would an old KGB hand like Putin really do something supposedly pro-Trump when it is so obviously traceable to him?

Isn't it more likely that by seeming to attack Hillary that Putin is hoping for a backlash against Trump as the candidate of Putin--as Hillary Clinton's supporters are already claiming?

Which would mean that Putin would rather have Clinton in the White House.

As long as the Clinton's pay the protection money in currency Putin demands--flexibility in bending to Moscow's objectives. 

So while talk of Trump being pro-Putin and Trump's failure to appreciate the value of NATO are disturbing, I at least believe Trump can be persuaded by the rest of our government and military to fall more within the lanes of our foreign policy when faced with the reality of Russian actions.

Hillary can be blackmailed by Putin, and I don't think persuasion will affect that kind of control.


So it seems possible, and maybe even likely, that our two main choices in November will be a woman who’s subject to blackmail by the Russians, and a man who generally sympathizes with the Russians. That’s good news for Putin, but probably not such good news for the rest of us.

Maybe, Professor Reynolds writes, the media will support Clinton in denying any damning Putin leaks, making them harmless; or maybe Trump will change his mind when briefed.

Have a super sparkly day.

UPDATE: Bonus what-makes-Democrats-mad territory:

Let’s face it: Democrats don’t distrust Moscow for their militarism, their occupation of Crimea, their threats to NATO or their cooperation with the Iranians and Syrians. The Democrats are finally angry at Vladimir Putin and Russia because they think they’ve done something to help the real enemy, the Republican nominee.

I hope nobody tells the Democrats that the Russians have single-gender bathrooms--the Dems might put the bombers in the air!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Gift of Time

It may seem like I complain a lot about how long it is taking to eject ISIL from Iraq. But my reason is that by taking so long to defeat a clearly inferior enemy trying to hold territory, we grant our enemy the precious gift of time.

Yes, one aspect of granting our enemies time is the carnage in cities as ISIL is able to plan or just inspire terror attacks against Westerners.

But we also ensure that we'll be facing more jihadis long after we crush the caliphate, as information we've gained from ISIL indicates, according to a Defense Department briefing:

We've mentioned recently the significant amount of intelligence about Daesh that has come out of the Mara operation so far -- or the Manbij operations so far. More than 10,000 items, including more than four terabytes of digital information, have been seized and are being examined to exploit the information.

We are learning more about Daesh at all levels from this. On a broad scale, we see Daesh has plans to insert their personnel into every facet of people's lives, as one would expect a totalitarian state to do.

We've learned about how they organize their governance structures to ensure they can completely control all aspects of daily life, from religious practice, to education to tax collection and management of central services.

We also see indoctrination of the young by rewriting text books with the language of hate for those not following the prescribed Daesh way of life written into it. [emphasis added]

That control of daily life for the last two years will indoctrinate a lot of impressionable minds in Iraq.

Yes, many around the world and in Iraq will find their faith in the ultimate victory of the caliphate weaken when the caliphate is shut down.

But some number who have been indoctrinated in Iraq will continue to wage their jihad after ISIL is defeated in Mosul.

Heck, by granting our enemy the precious gift of time, it isn't just longer range problems we are creating. ISIL might even come up with ways to prevent the fall of the caliphate.

Like that shaky dam upriver of Baghdad.

Because we've granted ISIL the precious gift of time.

UPDATE: I'm just happy that something can get the Obama administration to have a little more sense of urgency:

Some U.S. officers in Baghdad believe the Obama administration is rushing plans for a Mosul offensive so it takes place before the November presidential election, a retired general says.

If the offensive to take Mosul back from ISIL starts by November, it will have taken almost as long to launch that offensive as it did to build a military and then launch the D-Day offensive following Pearl Harbor! This is rushing things??!!

I'm with this officer:

Col. Garver said Army Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, the in-country commander, wants to accelerate the timeline to increase pressure on an enemy that has lost territory. The Islamic State retreated from three major towns in Iraq — Tikrit, Ramadi and Fallujah — as well as from territory close to Raqqa, its so-called capital in Syria.

“When you have an opponent on the ropes, you don’t let him off the ropes; you press the attack,” he said. “This prevents the enemy from reconstituting his force and rebuilding combat power. We believe we — the coalition and the Iraqi Security Forces — have the initiative and are gaining momentum. To keep that momentum moving in our favor, we will do what we can to accelerate the campaign.”

We should get on with it. ISIL's Iraq forces haven't shown much desire to die for their caliphate over the entire year and extending back to the liberation of Sinjar and Ramadi at the end of last year. Are we waiting for ISIL to rediscover the will to fight and die?

If we don't have sufficient planning under our belt by now, why don't we?

Holding the Line

Afghan security forces are holding in the south:

Afghan security forces backed by U.S. air strikes have beaten back Taliban attacks on a vulnerable southern district, government officials said on Wednesday, after a relative lull in fighting over the month of Ramadan.

In recent days, Taliban forces launched attacks on the Sangin district center, an outpost in Helmand province repeatedly threatened by militants over the past year.

The situation seems to be stabilizing and tilting toward the good guys:

U.S. and Afghan forces are accelerating plans to decapitate the Taliban insurgency, expanding a new offensive strategy that appears to be stumping the group’s efforts to make dramatic gains on the battlefield.

After 15 years of war and several failed attempts to reach a negotiated peace deal, the dynamics of the conflict changed in the spring, when President Obama for the first time ordered a U.S. airstrike to kill the Taliban leader in Pakistan. Over the past four months, Afghan special forces have also killed more than three dozen senior and mid-level Taliban commanders in targeted airstrikes or raids, according to an Afghan security document obtained by The Washington Post.

The operations are part of a broader effort by Afghan forces, backed by increasing U.S airstrikes, to treat the Taliban more as a foreign enemy than as a domestic insurgent group worthy of some military restraint, according to Afghan officials and analysts. As a result, they say, there are signs the Taliban is under strain this summer while Afghan security forces, at least the elite ones, are finally becoming a battle-ready force. [emphasis added]

I'm not sure if characterizing the change as now treating the Taliban as a foreign enemy is terribly accurate. This depiction, although coming from Afghan sources, seems like a cover for a change in American fire support policy that has rejected fantasy and recognized reality.

That is, we have been fighting the war based on the nonsense that American forces should only fight al Qaeda and ISIL--international jihadis--while trying to talk peace with the Taliban--local jihadis who don't pose a threat to America or the West.

I'm sure the Afghans appreciate the distinction, eh?

Kabul was plunged into mourning Sunday after its deadliest attack for 15 years killed 80 people and left hundreds maimed, reigniting concern that the Islamic State group was seeking to expand its foothold in Afghanistan.

The death toll wouldn't have been easier to accept if the terrorists had been Taliban rather than the "international" jihadis of ISIL.

This distinction between the two types of jihadis was nonsense. Remember that the "local" Taliban hosted the international al Qaeda prior to the 9/11 attacks. And that distinction meant that Afghan forces were under heavy pressure from the "local" jihadis while we reserved our power for fighting the international jihadis. Just how would we fight the international jihadis if our allies fell to the local jihadis, I asked.

And either type is willing to kill Afghans who are conveniently nearby.

The spin of the article seems more intended to cover the mistake rather than inform readers.

This news indicates that our efforts to transition Afghan forces from a vulnerable checkpoint army constantly on the defensive to one that has reserves capable of reacting to enemy attacks and going on offense seems to be working.

UPDATE: This article describes our enabling of Afghan forces to go on the offensive:

In an acknowledgment of the deteriorating security situation, President Barack Obama last month gave a green light to a more assertive role for U.S. troops, though still short of direct combat. With that boost, Afghans are shifting back on the offensive.

The upcoming anti-IS operation announced by Ghani, dubbed Shafaq — or "Dawn" in Pashto — will see the head of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, Gen. John Nicholson, implementing an aggressive new strategy. U.S. airstrikes on Afghanistan are likely to become more frequent, as the strategy shifts from using airpower only to defend U.S. and NATO positions to striking in support of Afghan offensives.

But then they go and ruin the ride:

According to the Western diplomat, the aim of the Afghan forces' more aggressive stance is to convince the Taliban they cannot win but should instead join a reconciliation process, beginning with direct contact with the Afghan government, possibly as early as fall.

It's always a great comfort to an enemy to know that we aren't trying to kill and defeat them. For the Taliban, why not fight hard when your choices are victory or joining a reconciliation process?

Divide Libya

Libya might be better off split into three--or more if the Libyans choose--parts, in a loose confederation. The author is probably right.

I've said the same for Somalia. And for Libya. And Somalia.

And even Syria if we can't overthrow Assad. If the alternative is Assad controlling Syria, I'd rather have Assad just control a rump territory of his supporters in the northwest.

The split of Czechoslovakia didn't bother me.

And I couldn't care less if Belgium fractures.

I've supported British withdrawal from the European Union but hoped Scotland would remain within Great Britain.

I was pleased that eastern European countries escaped the Soviet Union; and the break up of the Soviet Union was a victory for peace and stability.

But I have opposed division of Iraq. That country I've argued should be united.

Am I inconsistent? No, I don't think so.

If people want to divide up, I'm generally in favor of letting them decide freely to do so.

But if division is contrary to American interests, I oppose it. Conversely, if I think union is in our interests, I support it.

Mali's Tuaregs can make a case for independence of the north. But could it escape jihadi dominance if it goes its own way? The answer to that question will guide my opinion on separation.

And if it is not a critical region, like the split of Czechoslovakia or the potential division of Belgium, why should I really care?

In the absence of compelling reason to support either division or union, I figure it is up to the people themselves.

And for those in East Africa, just how important is their nation?

The fact that so many East Africans struggle to celebrate their countries’ Independence Days ought to clue us in that, in this region, non-national identities—ethnicity, clan, tribe, religion—matter much, much more.

As I've written before, I think a united Iraq is in America's interests.

A divided Iraq would leave a rump Shia state vulnerable to Iranian dominance through a violent minority without Sunni Arabs and Kurds to oppose Iran.

A divided Iraq would leave an impoverished Sunni Arab western Iraq vulnerable to Islamist dominance--which has happened twice since 2003 (al Qaeda and the successor ISIL).

A divided Iraq would put a target on the Kurds of Iraq who would be seen as a threat to Iran and Turkey.

I like having a united Iraq to block Iran.

And these are the issues after the massive bloodshed to align groups with new borders. Other minorities will be on their own, of course, since the Sunni Kurds, Sunni Arabs, and Shia Arabs are just the three biggest groups in Iraq.

So I'd rather have Iraq remain united.

Yet I've also written that after the fighting is over and passions cool, if the Iraqis decide to go their own ways, who am I to object? I'd still oppose it for the reasons given but the Iraqis do have the choice.

Anyway, that's how I stand on dividing states.

Although an interesting variation might be a nominally unified state with regional armies--like our state National Guards?--to reflect the reality on the ground:

The United Nations envoy to Libya said Wednesday that its reconstituted army could be decentralized, an idea aimed at easing the political gridlock surrounding an internationally-backed unity government.

In an interview in Cairo, Martin Kobler confirmed reports that the formation of military councils representing Libya's western, eastern and southern regions is being discussed.

What of a navy/coast guard? The south obviously wouldn't need that.

So would a navy and/or coast guard and perhaps an air force and even a small special forces capability be a national force with basic ground forces being regionalized?

Perhaps ground force training is centralized at the national level as well as procurement?

Interesting notion.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Forever War

I saw a Prius with an old "end this war" bumper sticker where the red "this" was added above a crossed out "less". You remember that call for retreat during the Iraq War, which we fortunately ignored until we won that war (well, until we almost lost it after we left in 2011 and began Iraq War 2.0 to salvage our victory).

But the red "this" as well as the red cross-through line had faded to near-white, so the bumper sticker just read "endless war".

Which was rather prophetic--if you add in the weathering--considering the president's war record.

I'm not saying the war won't end. It just won't end during the Obama administration.

Conflict of Interest

I don't buy this author's defense of the 2006 Israeli campaign against Hezbollah in Lebanon (the Second Lebanon War). He ran that pooch-screwing operation, after all.

Amir Peretz, the Israeli defense minister in 2006, writes:

The Second Lebanon War ended with a feeling of disappointment in Israel, but as time passed and the dust settled the achievements become more obvious and significant.

In historical perspective the Second Lebanon War created a deterrence against Hezbollah, but also gave an unequivocal message to other terrorist organizations, especially Hamas.

Seriously? The war taught a lesson to Hamas in Gaza?

Israel has gone to war with Hamas three times since the 2006 war with Hezbollah! Just what lesson did Hamas learn? That fighting Israel is no big deal to survive and that friendly civilian casualties are a feature rather than a bug to support your own regime?

As for Hezbollah, as I noted here, how shellacked were they from the 2006 war given that they intervened in the Syrian Civil War and have been fighting and dying in large numbers for Assad for years now?

Israel did not pound Hezbollah into passivity. Israel is lucky that Hezbollah is otherwise distracted with the Syrian Civil War and doesn't want a second front.

In the end, the author hides his sad war record by reducing the 2006 war to nothing but a symbol of all wars:

At the end of the day, there are no good wars. The Israeli leadership’s task is to create new political opportunities, as Israel tries with moderate Arab countries in the Middle East. When it comes to extremist enemies like Hezbollah, Israel should maintain its redlines, but also work together with the international community in order to prevent the next war and provide this troubled region with the possibility of a brighter future.

That's nonsense. At the end of the day, there are victories and defeats in war. The Israeli military leadership's task is to win them when they must be fought, and Peretz failed to provide a meaningful victory, winning on points only.

Sheer Israeli power advantages bulldozed their way to a nominal victory over Hezbollah that failed to build deterrence against future wars because Hezbollah gained the satisfaction of enduring the bombardment and holding off the half-hearted ground assault that Israel belatedly mounted.

Hamas has gone three more rounds with Israel since 2006. And Hezbollah is ready for another round but is otherwise occupied in Syria--with no credit to the 2006 war--preventing them from joining the party.

The man has a lot of nerve defending his war policy. He screwed the pooch and now he's putting lipstick on the dog to seem like something better.

Knitting the Pieces Together

I've never been in the camp that says President Obama is failing Ukraine by refusing to sell big ticket weapons systems to Kiev. Ukraine has most of the pieces they need to fight Russia. Ukraine needs the ability to improve and mesh what they have.

Artillery has been a big factor in the Russia-Ukraine Donbas War. So this American help will have an impact:

The U.S. Army delivered AN-TPQ-36 Firefinder radar systems to the Ukrainian military, the service's Security Assistance Command said Wednesday. ...

The delivery was part of the Fiscal 2016 Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, part of a larger package that includes communication and medical equipment, night vision devices, personal protection equipment and military training, a program that totals more than $200 million.

Ukraine has lots of heavy army equipment that, if repaired and upgraded, can meet the Russians in the field. Ukraine doesn't need our tanks and planes when Ukraine has a lot in storage and when incorporating our gear in place of the Soviet-origin equipment would take too long to make a difference in the war going on now.

And Ukraine has lots of small arms.

Although I'd certainly make an exception by supplying infantry anti-tank weapons.

As long as we are encouraging our eastern NATO allies who have experience with Russian equipment to work with Ukraine to upgrade Ukraine's existing tanks, armored vehicles, and artillery, our "non-lethal" help can help pull all the pieces together and make Ukraine's military far more lethal.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Blacklisting the Varsity Team

We strike a blow against the jihadis!

The United States on Wednesday blacklisted three members of al Qaeda living in Iran, saying they had helped the Islamist militant group on the battlefield, with finance and logistics, and in mediating with Iranian authorities.

Iran has held several al Qaeda high-ranking members and lower-level militants since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, though U.S. officials say the precise conditions of their confinement are unclear.

Wait. What? There are any al Qaeda members who aren't blacklisted? Shouldn't they all be on the "kill list" as legitimate targets during war?

What is on our State Department's mind? Do they think there are "moderate" al Qaeda members who we can deal with?

And two, Iran is detaining al Qaeda members? If they are truly detained, why isn't the Global Left protesting this apparently open-ended detention as vigorously as they condemn America's Guantanamo Bay?

This Will Be Interesting to Observe

Russia doesn't need to use their aircraft carrier to support Assad. They'd be better off sending the air element to a land base if they really need it. But it is good practice--and a good opportunity to see if they have a clue about sustained carrier operations.

This has to fall more in the area of practice rather than warfare:

Russia's state-run TASS news agency recently announced that Russia's sole aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, will deploy to the Mediterranean from October 2016 to January 2017 to fly sorties against the enemies of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. ...

This deployment will mark only the fifth deployment of the Kuznetsov since it's launch in 1985. All previous deployments only lasted a few months were also in the Mediterranean.

We require constant practice to retain proficiency in carrier operations. With only 5 non-fighting deployments in three decades by the Russian ship, this could be an ugly sight.

Although the refueling issue is minor. Remember that only our carriers are nuclear powered. The surface escorts do need refueling, just as Kuznetsov needs. I dare say our escorts need more frequent refuelings.

NATO electronic eavesdropping planes should orbit the ship 24/7 while it is at sea in the Mediterranean and vacuum up every electronic emission the ship makes.

With fighter escort, of course.

Affording the B-21

If the new Air Force long-range bomber, being called the B-21, is really just a scaled-back version of the B-2, costs per unit could be kept down enough to buy replacements for the aging B-52 and B-1 still in the force structure.

Promised costs of new weapons usually go up--sometimes a lot. This is nothing new and even our early-history wooden frigates cost more than promised (70% more than originally calculated). That's a couple centuries ago.

So designing an affordable B-21 would be an achievement:

Aviation Week last week quoted a USAF program executive (paywalled):

‘[The B-21] leverages three decades of small-scale but persistent bomber work since delivery of the Northrop B-2 Spirit in the 1980s and ’90s, particularly advances in flying wing designs. The B-21 uses mostly mature, existing technologies…’

In short, I think it’s possible that the USAF has reached the point with bombers where it’s being driven to the ‘80% solution’. The B-21 might well be a B-2 ‘mini-me’. Modern computerised design and production techniques will certainly make production of a B-2-like aircraft less costly than it was 20 years ago. If that’s the case, it’s smart—silver bullets have simply gotten too expensive. The USAF might have realised that it has to choose between quantity and ‘quality’ (aka sophistication)—and has chosen the 80% solution this time. The B-21 might be to the B-2 what the Virginia class submarine is to the exquisite but prohibitively expensive Seawolf class—good enough to get the job done and affordable enough to buy.

This could also be an example of using past research for a failed program--in the case of the B-2 "failed" means too expensive to build a lot rather than the poor quality of the plane itself.

As I wrote not too long ago about our procurement system that seems to encourage cost overruns:

I don't know if [recent cancellations of needed but too expensive systems] is hope as much as it is gaming the system.

Seawolf is grossly too expensive to build? Cancel it. Then when we build the new Virginia class subs that use lots of technology developed for Seawolf, the Virginia class sub looks downright frugal by comparison.

Spend ungodly amounts of money on Crusader? Well, the one "bright spot" in Army procurement is the new Paladin PIM self-propelled howitzer that uses the Bradley chassis along with--as I've read elsewhere--technology from the Cancelled Crusader project. Voila! Fast, cheap, and effective!

I'm sure that the 3 DDG-1000 destroyers we will build will live on in future Navy ships as technology developed for this ship is made available for future ships but which will not be cursed by having the development costs of that technology put on their bottom lines.

I just wish the Air Force could at least manage to get in on this. Or will F-35 technology find its way into advanced armed drone aircraft?

Anyway. I'm no procurement expert. But we're either getting good at making weapons lemonade out of technology lemons; or our procurement bureaucracy and their industry partners have gotten good out of making program lemonade out of procurement system lemons.

I think the Air Force may be managing this type of exploitation of past research already spent to buy a "more affordable" "new" plane. Good.

I wish our accounting system separated out the Research and development from the actual production costs, but this is better than nothing.