Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Stupidity! It Burns!

Okay, fine. For the sake of argument lets say that it is completely irrelevant if Ramadi falls to ISIL. I think it harms Iraqi troop morale and perhaps cracks Sunni Arab willingness to re-Awaken to fight ISIL alongside the Shia and Kurds, but let's put that aside. Let's look at what we are saying about the effect on American air power.

Behold:

Still, military officers backed Gen. Dempsey’s assessment, arguing that if Ramadi does fall it won’t expose a weakness in the current U.S. campaign of airstrikes but merely highlight how Iraqi forces must refocus their efforts in Anbar.

The failure of American air power to be decisive around Ramadi shows us that Iraq's ground forces aren't worthy of our splendid air power that continues to perform splendidly?

How splendid for us.

This is kind of back assward, isn't it?

The point of air power in Iraq is to help Iraqi ground forces achieve their ground objectives.

It is beyond stupid to suggest that when the Iraqi  troops we are supposed to be helping defend Ramadi crack and run under assault by ISIL that we can still take comfort in the fact that our sortie rate is still right up there where we planned it to be.

And have we shown you our PowerPoint presentation on enemy things destroyed and bad people killed lately?

Say! We do have a BS PowerPoint presentation by CENTCOM farcically trying to prove that we've already pushed ISIL out of over 25% of the territory they once controlled since August 2014, right before we intervened!

Mind you, I'm no fan of Bill Arkin. And I'm not ready for a blanket condemnation of CENTCOM--they must (as they should) follow civilian instructions.

But the notion that we are driving back ISIL and we're 25% of the way to ejecting ISIL from Iraq is nonsense. If you didn't see this claim in the news recently it may be because even our inept reporting class that knows little about military matters wasn't fooled by this claim.

So don't you worry about the fall of Ramadi! It's a negative rounding error in our tide of driving ISIL back!

And don't you worry that the fall of Ramadi might allow Iran to crow about how American air power is insufficient when compared to the on-the-ground help of Iran for defeating ISIL. Oh no! That wouldn't be sporting of them at all.

Remember, the sooner we cripple ISIL in Iraq, the sooner we can restrain and disband the pro-Iranian Shia militias that have expanded to make up for the decline in Iraqi regular military power.

The Stupid seems more contagious than Ebola these days.

There Won't Be a Missile Crisis Over Iran

We will not have any crisis with Russia over their shipment of S-300 air defense systems to Iran.

Russia is now willing to ship advanced S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Iran. Given our strained relations with Israel, would I be wrong to assume that the Obama administration is actually happy with this development?

President Obama is convinced that he--and he alone--can make Iran our non-nuclear partner and eventual friend through the proto-deal with Iran that he has asserted is close to being finalized and signed.

Past Iranian actions and claims notwithstanding (they were--mostly--pre-Obama, so lacked the soothing effects of Hopium!).

Our president's fury at Israel for daring to oppose this world historic outreach is obvious.

Israel, with their (perhaps barely) capability to strike Iran's nuclear facilities, could undermine this vision for a glorious future by carrying out a strike despite a Kerry-signed Nobel Peace Prize-winning deal with Iran.

Given that our top general has confirmed that these missiles wouldn't stop us from carrying out a strike campaign (although the potential for more casualties is obviously higher), is the Obama administration secretly happy with Russia for denying Israel the option of striking Iran once the anti-aircraft missiles are operational?

That question was rhetorical, by the way. Does the president sound even remotely upset?

President Barack Obama says he's surprised that Russia's suspension of missile sales to Iran "held this long."

Well. We gave it the good old college try, what? Time to move on.

Syria Body Count

Are casualties in Syria high enough to be a factor in whether either side can keep fighting? I assume Assad's forces are more vulnerable to collapse, but am I right to think that is true?

Over 220,000 have died in the Syrian civil war, so far:

"We have counted 222,271 deaths since the start of the revolt in March 2011," the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdel Rahman, told AFP.

That underestimates the intensity because fighting really didn't get going until about three years ago.

They specify 67,000 dead civilians; 44,000 Assad regime forces; 700 Hezbollah; 2,300 other foreign fighters (of the Iran-organized Shia foreign legion); almost 40,000 rebels (I assume locals, of all varieties); and 28,000 foreign rebel jihadis.

This adds up to 182,000. Who are the other 40,000? Or are they simply unsure whether those dead are combatants or civilians? I assume that must be the case.

I assume that the real uncertainty must be whether military-age male casualties are rebel or civilians.

They don't count 20,000 missing. They also assume the death count is higher than what they've counted.

So what kind of burden do these numbers represent?

Assad can draw on a quarter of Syria's population for recruits--say 6 million. So they've lost 0.73% of their population.

The rebels have a pool of the rest--say 17 million. So they've lost 0.23% of their population. This is probably higher if you assume 40% of the uncategorized dead are actually rebels. Say a burden of 0.33%.

Hezbollah can draw on 1.6 million Shia Lebanese. So they've lost 0.44% of their population.

There are 1.6 billion Moslems globally (with maybe 10% Shia), so the foreign fighters have an effectively limitless pool for recruits limited only by individual calculations of glory or anonymous death as their destiny.

I suppose I could estimate the effective pool, but what percent of the global population of either Sunnis or Shias is jihad-friendly enough to count as the recruiting pool base? One percent? Ten percent? A third? The range is just too broad for me to even pretend that this can be calculated.

We broke them in Iraq by the end of 2007, but we broke them on the battlefield during the surge offensive and not by attrition.

By way of comparison, in Iraq from 2003 to 2011, America lost 0.0015% of our population (which is over more years), a level that threatened to break our will to fight.

Hezbollah's stomach for dying abroad is understandably weak by this point. Especially since they've killed no Israelis in this war.

Absent a battlefield victory or a loss of support by one side or the other that makes their cause look hopeless, Assad's forces are far more vulnerable to collapse from a war of attrition, it would seem.

By way of comparison, in 8 years of war, Iraq and Iran lost, respectively, 100,000 and 200,000 dead (the low end of the estimates, which I tend to assume even though it is common to say a million died on both sides--although if you assume 3 wounded per dead, you do get close to a million casualties).

The Iran-Iraq War of 1980-1988 might be a better point of comparison.

Iraq's 1988 population was about 17 million while Iran's was about 53 million. So Iraq suffered casualties representing 0.59% of their population. Iran suffered losses at 0.38% of their population.

While Iraq was routinely portrayed as on the verge of collapsing due to poor morale and casualties, Iran's forces broke first, despite being the side with the jihadi mentality that valued life less than the "secular" Iraqis (mostly Moslems, but without the high levels of religious war motivation).

Mind you, this was an inter-state war and not a civil war, so the Iranians--after 1982--also had the burden of carrying on in an offensive war while Iraqis were defending their border from attack.

(And note that Iraq's army did break in 1982 when their total casualties were still relatively low while trying to hold their Iranian conquests, but they recovered to hold the border.)

In the Syrian civil war, only the Shia foreign legion and Hezbollah can give up and go home. It makes sense that Hezbollah is getting shaky, since they've endured proportional casualties higher than Iran in 1980-1988.

And recently it seems as if Iran is worried about the steadiness of the Shia foreign legion.

For the locals in Syria, you either win or you lose and risk the tender mercies of the winners.

For Iraq from 1982 to 1988, that was their choice, and they successfully endured losses representing 0.59% of their population.

In the Syrian civil war, Assad's forces have lost above that burden measurement (0.73%) while the rebels have a lower burden using that metric (0.33% at the higher, more likely end). Does this mean Assad's forces should be on Collapse Watch as I think?

Although I've asked how much Assad's forces can endure, as long as they receive foreign support to give them the means to fight, they may be able to continue on even though the evidence of their shakiness is growing.

I don't know what the real red zone is for overloading a ground force's willingness to endure. I just know that it isn't a maximum of 0.59%, which Iraq endured by 1988.

And while the rebels seem to be on more solid ground morale-wise, I think that relies on them getting weapons and not feeling abandoned. Are we doing that? If not, the rebels could lose heart despite their relatively lower casualty burden.

Nor do I know whether the civilian dead should be factored in. I'm assuming just the combatants and their willingness to fight is key.

I know I promised there's be no math here. I just don't know what the math means at this point.

I do think it clearly could mean something.

Friday, April 17, 2015

So Who is Still Willing to Fight and Die for Assad?

Assad is running out of troops willing to die for him.

Assad has used Hezbollah and Iran's Shia foreign legion as shock troops to spearhead offensives so his own shaky forces can hold what is cleared by the shock troops.

Hezbollah has already shown signs of strain in carrying out this role.

Assad's troops are showing signs that they can't even carry out the less demanding role of "hold" without stiffening by the foreign fighters.

Now the Iranian legion is apparently getting tired of being the shock troops:

Iranian Revolutionary Guard troops fighting on behalf of the Bashar al-Assad regime have reportedly withdrawn from a number of battlefronts and redeployed to strategic points around the Syrian capital.

“The Iranian leadership has withdrawn [IRGC fighters] because there is no strategic advantage for the forces in many areas and they have suffered heavy losses,” Italian Adnkronos news agency (AKI) reported Tuesday.

“The IRGC has now based itself firmly [around] Damascus,” sources close to Hezbollah told AKI.

Unless Putin decides to send in Russian troops to stiffen Assad's forces--perhaps as a Plan B to simply have Assad hold a rump Alawite state friendly to Russia (and Iran)--just who stops the rebels?

(As an aside, I was close to predicting the Islamic State in that rump Syria post, as I pondered what might happen if Assad did officially abandon large tracts of Syria:

I find it hard to believe Iraq would want more Sunni Arabs, but would Anbar Province secede from Iraq if they could join with Sunni Syrians and declare their own state?

ISIL declared just such a state, no?)

I still bet that Assad's forces crack first.

Even if it is a good idea to support Assad in order to fight ISIL in Syria, I don't think Assad can hold up his end of such a deal.

Bug Meat is Murder!

Alert PETA:

To meet the challenge of feeding the world in 2030, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has ruled in favor of the development of large-scale breeding insects. In anticipation of a possible development of these products in Europe or France, ANSES has made ​​an inventory of scientific knowledge on the risks associated with the consumption of insects.

This has Insect Apocalypse written all over it, doesn't it?

We bred them bigger for food. But their brains got bigger, too ...

And one day they decided they didn't want to be dinner.

Now we're on the menu.

Coming to a theater near you in Summer 2016, Associated Risks.

Can We Count on Russian Paranoia?

If President Obama decides to get a nuclear deal with Iran ratified by the UN Security Council rather than the United States Senate, I'd laugh a lot if Russia vetoed the deal, worried that we would use the resolution to attack Iran.

Remember, Russia did not use their veto and let a UNSC resolution pass on Libya that authorized a pointless no-fly zone--which President Obama promptly twisted into an air campaign in support of rebels who overthrew and killed Khadaffi.

What if Russia is so worried about being fooled again that they veto such an Iran deal authorization just in case?

Like the expression goes, I know they're paranoid. But are they paranoid enough?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Just Shut Up and Crown Her?

Alan Colmes annoys me. If the news of the day was that Hillary Clinton ate kittens for breakfast, he'd defend her by saying it lowers greenhouse gas emissions, or something.

Anyway, he recently defended Hillary Clinton's past record of scandals and evidence she might not pass a Turing test (although if this article is right, she would easily pass) by slamming the past of George W. Bush for "starting two wars."

One, I was--SQUIRREL!!--unaware Bush 43 was running again.

Two, wasn't one of those two wars the "good" war of Afghanistan?

Three, wasn't the second one--Iraq--actually good enough given that in 2014 President Obama sent our forces back to Iraq to defend what we won under Bush there?

And four, I count President Obama ahead in the war count.

But I guess I just never realized how cool war could be! Still, I have to admit that the difference between a good and bad war rests on some pretty nuanced distinctions.

PRE-POST UPDATE: Related: Fun game: Read stories on Hillary as if they are stories about a robot that is trying to become more human

Tip to Instapundit.

All Not Quiet on the Western Front

If more of western Anbar province falls to ISIL while Iraqi forces go north to fight for Mosul, Baghdad will be under siege by terrorist bombings launched from the Baghdad suburbs and Sunni Arabs may become too afraid of ISIL to help us.

Iraq's hold on Ramadi, west of Baghdad, is looking shaky:

Fierce fighting has engulfed Ramadi, which lies only about 70 miles (113 kilometers) west of Baghdad and is the capital of Anbar province, Iraq's Sunni heartland.

Essawi, the deputy head of the Anbar Provincial Council, told CNN from inside the city Wednesday that it's unclear how much longer government troops can hold their front lines against the ISIS offensive.

The politician said he was on a front line himself, armed with a machine gun. Security was "collapsing rapidly in the city," and he begged the Iraqi government for reinforcements and the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS for air support. He stressed that urgent support from the military and security forces is needed to save the city.

In the debate between American strategists who apparently want to head for Mosul first and Iraqi strategists who want to fight for Anbar, I'm firmly in the Anbar First camp.

The Kurds are holding their own up north. The Sunni Arabs who are needed to fight ISIL are not holding their own in Anbar.

Unless this is a faux debate meant to confuse ISIL about our next main front, I just don't get why American strategists would want to target Mosul over Anbar.

Am I missing something obvious?

UPDATE: Iraqis in Anbar say that Ramadi is in danger of falling without help.

Also, one of Saddam's henchmen, Ezzat Ibrahim al-Douri, was apparently killed in Iraq where he was helping ISIL. I know, that's impossible. Secular Baathist Iraqis working with bloody jihadis! The idea!

UPDATE: Let me just note that this is exactly what I've been talking about when I write that we lack a sense of urgency to defeat ISIL.

We're gearing up for our long-awaited "final offensive" to smash ISIL and seem to expect that ISIL will just sit and patiently wait for the killing blow to fall rather than try to seize the initiative and win victories that might preempt our offensive.

UPDATE: More bad news from the western front:

The Islamic State overran the headquarters of an Iraqi Army brigade stationed in the Thar Thar area northwest of Baghdad two days ago. The suicide assault marks the second time that the jihadist group has taken over an Iraqi military headquarters in the region in two months.

And it is disturbing that our top general is minimizing the importance of holding Ramadi:

At a Pentagon news conference, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, suggested that maintaining control of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, isn’t central to the U.S. and Iraqi aims of defeating Islamic State forces.

“The city itself is not symbolic in any way,” Gen. Dempsey said. “It’s not been declared part of the caliphate on one hand, or central to the future of Iraq.”

I sure hope that assessment isn't passed around the Ramadi defenders. I guess we can kiss this city goodbye, too.

At what point do we start acting like we are at war rather than refusing to let enemy initiative interfere with producing all of the required PowerPoint presentations needed to begin the Mosul offensive at some distant time when everything is perfect?

We need a little more Patton and a little less Montgomery here, I think.

Let the Air Force Aim High

We should just allocate the Air Force assets and resources (including budgets) for aerial ground support to the Army and let the Air Force head to space where it belongs.

The Air Force doesn't want to support ground troops, as their single-minded obsession with killing the low-flying A-10 demonstrates.

Robots don't mind flying low:

The Office of Naval Research has unveiled what it is calling the future of the American military’s drone technology—lightweight, flying killer robots that can swarm and overwhelm an adversary.

More on LOCUST here.

And we have problems up high:

COLORADO SPRINGS: Citing “increasing threats” against America’s satellites, Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work said here today that the US military “must be able to respond in an integrated, coordinated fashion” to attacks on US space assets and he used the charged term “space control” in making his argument.

As I've long advocated, the Air Force should truly aim high:

I think the Air Force needs to go up to space and let the ground guys take over the aerial missions needed to directly support the troops.

Air superiority (including counter-air missions against enemy airfields), space control (both offensive and defensive), ICBMs, air transport, and electronic warfare should be the Air Force missions.

Why not give the A-10 squadrons to the Army? Most could go to the Army Reserve (Not to the National Guard, which could lose its existing A-10s, since governors are unlikely to need air support) while only some are kept in active service units.

I say this not to punish the Air Force, but to both let the Army do what the Marines already do--provide their own air support--and to allow the Air Force to focus on missions it would rather do and which they need to do better in an era when potential enemies can challenge us for control of the air, space, and cyber-space.

Make the Air Force the Aero-Space Force in charge of anything soaring over the Earth-Moon system's ground.

UPDATE: Aim higher, guys in blue:

Last year, the Defense Department conducted a strategic review of the space portfolio. One conclusion was that current space systems were designed in an era when space was not contested or congested. "This is no longer the case," James said.

"We need to ensure that our mission can get done despite what could be a very challenging environment in space to include challenges of one day having warfare effects in space," James said. "We must not let potential adversaries ever deny us the use of space."

We have a rare convergence. The Air Force doesn't like flying low to help the Army and we need the Air Force to go higher. Surely there is room for mutually beneficial divisions of responsibility.

Once More, With Feeling

I at least remain grateful that John Kerry hasn't focused his vast diplomatic skills on the Hamas problem.

Here they go again:

Since last summer's war, things have been quiet along the Israel-Gaza border. But the calm is deceiving. No sooner had the fighting halted than Hamas was once again making preparations for its next war with Israel. Those efforts are now well underway, and while the international community's attention is elsewhere, Hamas is busily rearming, retraining, and rebuilding the system of offensive terror tunnels from which it has launched previous attacks on Israeli border communities. Indeed, in recent days, Hamas's armed wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, have boasted that their bases close to the Israeli border have been repaired and are ready to confront Israel's military.

Yeah, that's quite the brutal "blockade" that Israel imposes on Gaza, eh?

At some point, if I was in charge of Israel, I'd use the pretext of mobilizing to (again) play whack-a-mole with Hamas in order to mobilize a ground force large enough to hit Hamas in stride while they drive all the way to Baalbek in Lebanon to really tear up Hezbollah while they are busy dying for Iran's war to save Assad, the tormenter of Lebanon.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Compare and Contrast

As I hoped, our approach to helping Iraqis in combat has been shown to be better than Iran's approach. Our approach could also lead to much more rapid success than anyone appears to think.

I hoped our approach to helping Iraqis retake land from ISIL would show that fewer Iraqis die than with Iran's "scream and leap" method.

And yes, our way worked better as Strategypage explains:

Prime minister Abadi made it very clear that he had requested American air power to be used at Tikrit to support Iraqi Army units attacking the city. ...

In Tikrit Iraqi forces reached the center of the city. Iraqi troops suffered 17 dead and 100 wounded in the last three days fighting their way in from the outskirts. The low casualties were largely due to the air support (which included a few sorties from Iraqi aircraft firing Hellfire missiles). Iraqi troops counted far more dead ISIL men, most of them killed by the smart bombs and guided missiles. ISIL had prepared elaborate defenses using remote controlled bombs and mines along with captured ATGM (anti-tank guided missiles) to discourage the use of armored vehicles to lead the advance. These defenses could be blown apart by one or more smart bombs.

As I've written, I hope we publicize this contrast by praising all the Iraqi martyrs who died in large numbers under the direction of Iran's commanders who sent them to glorious death without those tools of the modern world that would have tainted their glorious sacrifice.

And our way reassured Sunni Arabs and harmed Iran and their local militia allies (including Iranians sent in to--unconvincingly--pose as local recruits):

Thus Abadi won a double victory (over Iran and ISIL) at Tikrit. Neither of the losers took it well. Abadi also won support from Iraqi Sunnis for standing up to Iran and for ordering the army to halt the looting (by criminal gangs and some Shia militias) and revenge murders that followed the army occupation of the city.

I also think that there is reason to believe that if hit hard enough with good enough troops, ISIL's defenses could collapse.

ISIL is having motivation problems:

American intelligence analysts, based on surveillance photos, electronic intercepts (of Internet, radio and cell phone discussions), captured documents and prisoner (and deserter) interrogations, believe that ISIL is now definitely on the defensive in Iraq, despite recent major attacks in Anbar. Although foreign volunteers continue to get to ISIL held areas in Syria and Iraq most of them have few useful skills (combat and otherwise). Meanwhile ISIL is suffering heavy losses (from combat and desertion) among its experienced fighters and specialists. There are growing discipline and morale problems that the senior leadership have few good solutions for. Executing commanders who do not win and lecturing the others is a short term solution that makes things worse in the long term.

And when that kind of morale problem happens, good troops with good fire support can have rapid and decisive effect even against the "God is with us" crowd, as the French achieved in Mali in 2013 and as we achieved in Afghanistan in 2001 when we routed the Taliban.

Do read all of Strategypage's posts in that link.

I suspect that when we finally get the offensives that we are working on into gear, we could have some very rapid advances into western and northern Iraq even if chasing down the remainder of ISIL's scum jihadis drags on for a couple more years.

UPDATE: This story, about American troops returning to Iraq to train Iraqi troops, is depressing to read:

Most of the American soldiers were intimately involved in training Iraqi forces before, too. “When I left in 2009,” Major Modlin said, “they had it, they really did. I don’t know what happened after that.”

What happened is that we left. We were not there to keep the training going and identify corrupt officers and keep up the pressure against jihadis.

And no, I don't want to hear from Obama loyalists that Iraqis didn't want us to stay after 2011. Some wanted us to go. Iran wanted us to go. But many Iraqis wanted us to stay.

And President Obama wanted us to go. So that's what happened.

Remember, President Obama ran his presidential campaign demanding we get out of Iraq. Once he ordered us out of Iraq the president boasted that he got us out of Iraq.

But we're supposed to believe that between the demanding and boasting he really, really tried really hard to achieve the opposite of his earlier demands and later boasts?

You may be hopped up on so much hope and change that this avoidance of presidential responsibility is credible to you, but it is nonsense.

UPDATE: Yep: "If only Obama had paid attention to Iraq ... But his only interest in Iraq was in ending the war."

We're back in Iraq. So President Obama didn't even succeed in ending our part in the war that continued to rage after we left in 2011.

He just let the enemy, who appear to be completely immune to the soothing balms of hope and change, recover from their earlier battlefield defeats.

UPDATE: To be fair to the Obama administration, maybe he wouldn't have been the best candidate to teach the Iraqis about rule of law.

UPDATE: And remember, we are in competition with Iran over Iraq's future. Which means we need to engage Iraq to defeat Iran rather than isolate Iraq because Iran is seeking to dominate Iraq.

That would be a self-fulfilling prophecy, no?

And rather stupid considering we have 4,500 troops in Iraq to help the Iraqis fight ISIL.

Mighty Mouse

Kim Jong Un is quite the man:

A new North Korean teacher's manual that claims North Korean leader Kim Jong Un learned to drive when he was 3 and raced a yacht when he was 9 has been distributed to schoolteachers.

Drove a car?



Raced a yacht?



Hey! Kim Jong Un is Stuart Little!

So let's not forget the time the supreme leader survived the washing machine incident.



If he wasn't such an evil bastard, this news would be funny.

April 15th--NHL Playoffs Start!

I already have my tax refunds. So today is no day of anguish for me.

This year I managed to avoid putting off the task.

And I discovered (or perhaps it is new) that I didn't need to fill out one form for interest income since interest income is so pathetically low these days, given the rates so low as to be virtually identical to zero percent.

So I did not send in that form--and nobody wrote to complain! Woo hoo!


Next year will be a pain, I assume, with my first child in college. I have to figure out the tax implications of several means of funding that.

Is it too much to hope that what I learn next year will still be valid when my youngest goes to college?

I still don't use any type of tax preparation help. It seems outrageous that a college-educated blogger should need to hire a person or buy software to do what should be a straightforward task--determine the tax I owe.

And let me thank the state and federal governments for forcing me to take a step back this tax season.

The previous couple years I was able to use online forms that I could type data into and then print out nice and neat.

This year, I could not find anything but static forms to print and fill out by hand. Why did they do this?

I guess I should be grateful that filling out forms by hand and mailing them in isn't illegal yet.

Anyway, I'll have to start work on next year this summer by making sure I know what I need to save and document for whatever tax angles there are for payments to the university starting in the fall.

Because if I can't figure this out, I really should just stock up on ammo and canned food, and take to the hills.

So tonight I'll be watching hockey without being distracted by efforts to find Form 1040QWERTY during intermissions.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Oh Snap!

President Obama says that sanctions on Iran will "snap back" if Iran breaks a nuclear deal with the West:

"If Iran violates the deal, sanctions can be snapped back into place," Obama declared last week.

Already, Russia has announced that it is willing to ship advanced S-300 air defense systems to Iran that had been held up because of sanctions:

The original sale was agreed in 2007, and was only called off by Russia two years later as a "voluntary" move to show its dedication to the nuclear talks, in which it is working alongside fellow UN Security Council permanent members the US, Britain, China, and France plus Germany.

Pray tell, if Iran violates an agreement and we actually have the nerve to call them on it, will these delivered missiles "snap back" to warehouses near Moscow?

No? Oh snap.

Oh well. And neither will the Nobel Peace Prizes bestowed on Secretary Kerry or President Obama snap back to Oslo.

So there you go.

UPDATE: Speaking of North Korean-Iranian cooperation:

North Korea supplied several shipments of missile components to Iran during recent nuclear talks and the transfers appear to violate United Nations sanctions on both countries, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

Since September more than two shipments of missile parts have been monitored by U.S. intelligence agencies as they transited from North Korea to Iran, said officials familiar with intelligence reports who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Details of the arms shipments were included in President Obama’s daily intelligence briefings and officials suggested information about the transfers was kept secret from the United Nations, which is in charge of monitoring sanctions violations.

And yes, I was speaking of North Korean-Iranian cooperation.

UPDATE: Uh oh:

"With the progress of the Iranian nuclear track -- and that is obviously positive -- we do not see any reason to continue to keep the ban (on the delivery of the S-300) unilaterally," Putin told his annual marathon call-in show with Russians.

We and the Iranians don't even agree on what our proto-deal says we are committed to agreeing to when talks resume (to say nothing of our allies' views), and Putin rewards them with advanced air defense missiles?

What will Putin give Iran when we have an actual deal? Nuclear-tipped ICBMs? "Well, Iran's willingness to limit nuclear work proves they can be trusted with nukes," he'll say at his next call-in show.

Breaking The First Rule

The American public got the White House talking points about the nuclear proto-deal that Iran disputes. So naturally, Congress gets the details behind closed doors:

Secretary of State John Kerry, Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz will hold a closed-door meeting on Monday for members of the House of Representatives, according to Lew’s published schedule. A similar briefing for senators will be held Tuesday.

The deed is done. Let's see what leaks out.

We can be sure they won't use big words or big thoughts that scare and confuse our State Department:



It's no wonder President Obama didn't want to reveal the actual terms of the Iran deal outside of closed doors.

After all, the first rule of Flight Club is "don't talk about Flight Club."

The most transparently inept administration in history.

The Great Shoal of China

It is irrelevant that these newly built islands create no new legal basis for China's claims to the South China Sea. They allow China to defend their claim to the South China Sea:

In recent years, China has laid claim to the South China Sea with increasing fierceness, challenging the counterclaims of neighboring states and confronting their fishing boats on the open water. But new satellite photos have provided the most dramatic evidence yet of just how aggressively China is acting to establish a sphere of influence in the South China Sea and reduce the possibility of a diplomatic resolution of the territorial disputes there.

The photographs, which are available on the web, were taken by DigitalGlobe, a commercial satellite imagery provider, and analyzed by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. They show that since January China has moved with alarming speed to dredge huge quantities of sand from around Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands and use it to create a more substantial land mass. A few existing shacks were replaced by buildings, and what appears to be an amphibious warship has been seen patrolling nearby.

Of course, China just sees these as new subdivisions in the city of Sansa!

Fear? No. Respect? Yes

This article asks if we should fear China's military and answers by saying "no," we will figure out how to mitigate our counter China's threats. This is a little short of the respect I'd hope we'd have for China's military.

I'm on board with not fearing China's military, but that shouldn't mean we don't respect it as a potential foe that could inflict defeats on us:

Washington must take a balanced approach towards China’s A2/AD challenge—not overhyping the threat, but certainly not underappreciating the challenge, either. In the very near future (some would argue even today), American strategists must now factor in the challenges presented by an increasingly robust Chinese military that holds growing capabilities to effectively deny large sections of the Pacific Ocean to U.S. forces. American defense experts are already at work recognizing the challenge and are developing the tools to negate such a scenario. Washington clearly realizes A2/AD weapons and strategies are diffusing around the globe, putting American and allied forces in danger, unless they evolve or adapt.

I've even mentioned that the DF-21 is hardly revolutionary because we've faced other land-based threats to our naval power (and China will face it, too). There are points of vulnerability in the kill chain.

But I worry a lot that we are trying to evolve or adapt a platform-centric weapon system that just cannot evolve or adapt to face this type of network-centric threat.

And I worry that we need a point to sailing into the western Pacific.

And China can inflict defeats on us in the short run in the western Pacific because of the simple geography that China is capable of seizing the initiative by initiating the war and is concentrated there while our forces are scattered around the globe.

This should not be a difficult concept to grasp since we faced it in NATO before (and may again if Putin gets his way).

So a little less fear is in order. And perhaps a little more respect is needed. And we certainly need to examine whether our notions of evolving or adapting are sufficient to actually meet the new challenges.

I have seen a glimmer of hope recently. But I've also been disappointed.

Monday, April 13, 2015

If It is War

This author wonders why opponents of the Iran deal who want force on the table shrink from discussing what it would look like. He thinks that if we use force, we have to be prepared to bomb until Iran breaks. I don't think that is enough.

Is force the last and only option on the table given that the "best deal" we could get leads to Iran having the ability to get nuclear weapons?

If so, do we need to be prepared to bomb until we get what we want?

Air warfare must convince Iranian leaders that capitulating to American terms represents their least painful option. That’s asking a lot considering how much Tehran—and the body politic—treasure the nuclear option. Landing hammerblows on many targets at a time offers the best prospects for success from the air. Go big, go fast, keep up the pressure—and think about what comes next should the air campaign fall short.

I think the we need to assume the air campaign falls short. One fake "baby milk factory bombing" among a plethora of denial and deception options and our will to inflict hammer blows will collapse.

An air attack on Iran's nuclear facilities needs to include Iranian command-and-control plus military assets in order to protect our aircraft and to limit Iran's counter-attack options, as well as blockade Iran. It will look a lot like war.

We also have to reinforce our ground forces in Kuwait because Iraq--even before the June 2014 collapse--can't hold off the Iranians if they invade. With a lot of Americans in Iraq without ground power to protect them from more than terrorist threats, this will be a difficult mission, especially since Iran is intermingled with the Iraqis now to battle ISIL.

A blockade probably isn't sufficient. We should lay siege to Iran by occupying Iranian territory to deny them their oil export options from the source.

Since our combat brigades are out of Iraq, I'd leave out the occupation of Iranian territory on the ground and limit our operations there to a no-fly and no-drive zone that attempts to keep Iranian forces away from Iraq; while capturing Kharg Island and other Iranian islands in the Gulf until Iran capitulates on the nuclear issue or the mullah regime falls.

The current oil glut gives us more freedom of action for military action that in the past was constrained by the prospect of losing Iranian oil exports on the world market.

If we decide that force must be used, we must also decide that we are at war with the mullah-led regime of Iran and not think of an attack on Iran's nuclear infrastructure as a silver bullet that ends the threat for good, as I note near the end of this longish post.

It's a big decision. Have no doubt about that. And it might not be big enough to win the war.

But deciding we can live with a nuclear Iran is a big decision, too. That's probably a decision for war, too.

UPDATE: It's come to this:

Five groups - CREDO, Daily Kos, Democracy for America, MoveOn.org Political Action and USAction - sent a letter warning Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Minority Whip Richard Durbin and other Democratic Senate leaders that they would hold them accountable if they backed legislation seen as detrimental to the talks.

Defining Leftism as defending Iran's path to nuclear weapons. Who will hold these groups accountable, eh?

Who's Ready for Hillary!

Putin is Ready for Hillary!

Assad is Ready for Hillary!

Khameini is Ready for Hillary!

Kim Jong Un is Ready for Hillary!

Admittedly, Khaddafi is not Ready for Hillary!

But neither is Chris Stephens.

Still, a lot of important people are declaring that they, too, are Ready for Hillary!

Are you Ready for Hillary!?

And is that an invitation or a warning?

Once Again, #whyrussiacanthavenicethings

Russians really are clueless about why much of the West sees them as Vodka-addled brutes.

Seriously?

Russia's Foreign Ministry said on Sunday that moves by Finland and Sweden toward closer ties with NATO were of "special concern".

The comments were published in relation to an article in the newspaper Aftenposten, where in a joint declaration, the defense ministers of Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Iceland said northern Europe must prepare for possible crises or incidents because of Russia.

Yeah, why would Baltic states worry about Russia?

"We have noticed again support for the separatists, with weapons, troops and training. Russia is still sending troops and arms from one side of the open border with Ukraine to the other," a NATO official, who was not named, told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

There is that.

Yet despite the threat of Russia and unrest in other parts of the world that threaten our Western world, we also have this:

World military spending was largely unchanged in 2014 as lower spending in the United States and Western Europe was matched by increases elsewhere, prompted by conflicts in the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Africa, an arms watchdog said Monday.

European countries closer to Russia are increasing spending, but they are small and the exception for the West in a time of increased danger.

So Russia might be able to take things, despite their paranoid delusions that they are under siege by the West. We'll see if that brings Russians prosperity.

And we'll see who they blame when they answer that question.

UPDATE: Russia is ready to sell anti-aircraft missiles to Iran, dangerously intercepts an American recon aircraft over the Baltic Sea, and lets their little hand-puppet "rebels" ramp up ceasefire violations in eastern Ukraine.

You can see why the Russians are upset and confused that people see them as a threat--angels though they are.

UPDATE: Let's talk real "special concern:"

Six servicemen were killed and 12 wounded in eastern Ukraine in the past 24 hours despite a ceasefire deal, Ukraine's military said on Tuesday, as both sides in the conflict accused the other of increasing attacks and building up weapons on the frontline.

Which is why this is important:

Dutch troops gathered at an air base on Thursday as part of an 11-nation exercise to test NATO's new rapid response targets that have been tightened following concern over new Russian assertiveness.

Given just 48 hours to deploy, around 200 soldiers arrived at the air base near Eindhoven with the vehicles, weapons, equipment, food and water they would need if they had to fly abroad at short notice to confront an emergency.

Yeah, let's justify the adjectives.

UPDATE: Okay, one more display of either lying or complete ignorance of what they are doing:

Recent draft legislation in Romania to authorise the stationing of allied troops and materiel on its territory is stoking a new round of inflamed rhetoric from Russia, which lambasts Bucharest for erecting a US-NATO "bridgehead" and "sacrificing stability" in its corner of Europe.

Allied and Romanian officials reject the accusations out of hand, saying Romania's preparations are purely defensive and directly spurred by Russia's disregard of international law and its obligations under the NATO-Russia Founding Act of 1997.

So reacting to Russian aggression "sacrifices stability?" Romania should just sit there and avoid eye contact with Putin, hoping he will have no more territorial ambitions by the time he reaches Romania's border?

Catastrophic Failure

I find it amusing (in a God, we're screwed sort of way) that defenders of President Obama's proto-deal with Iran on their nuclear programs like to attack critics of the deal by saying what is your better deal?

How can they say this? Even the president has said no deal is better than a bad deal. So pointing out how the deal is bad should be all that is needed to stop this deal.

After all, if a brand new bridge collapses for no apparent reason and I say that the bridge was poorly designed or built, is my criticism invalid because I don't also tell you how to design and build a bridge properly?



Even a history major like myself can recognize that something is terribly wrong with the bridge.

We need a new deal that is completely stable because something is terribly wrong with the proto-deal with Iran. That should be the most important observation at this time.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Fuckup Parade Gets Bigger

We have a policy of pivoting to Asia and the Pacific.

As the regions we pivoted away from--Europe and the Middle East--experience increased violence and instability, let us ponder our new priority theater where China is in the process of a subliminal conquest of the South China Sea:

"Where we get concerned with China is where it is not necessarily abiding by international norms and rules and is using its sheer size and muscle to force countries into subordinate positions," Obama told town-hall event in Jamaica ahead of a Caribbean summit in Panama, where he hopes to reassert U.S. leadership in Latin America.

Does pivoting to the Asia-Pacific region just mean we get to lay down meaningless red lines for our foes to cross without consequences there, too?

Given two more years, and it will be a 12-dash line down there, eh?

Or are we on the cusp of a pivot to Latin America? God help us all if our president applies what he knows about the world to this region, too.

POLARCOM and Not POLARAD

NORTHCOM sort of has responsibility for the Arctic. That's not good enough.

I'm glad Admiral Gortney is puzzled by his Arctic responsibilities:

The next one after that is the Arctic; assigned a responsibility as the advocate of the Arctic, which is kind of hard doctrinally. We don't have a term. We don't really understand what "advocate" means. It has no -- I can't mandate anybody to purchase or train to capability, but we are the advocate for DOD for all of the agencies in the services, and we're studying that real hard. And we'll be reporting that out this spring.

Rather than a Polar Advocate, we need a Polar Command, I think. And that is true regardless of whether the Arctic ice melts or not.

UPDATE: He has a point about our lack of capabilities in the Arctic:

China is conducting Arctic research in an area considered the extended undersea shelf of the United States, while Russia is able to move across the frozen regions in 27 icebreakers.

Meanwhile, Adm. Paul F. Zukunft, commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, said the United States is practically a bystander in the region.

“We sit here on the sidelines as the only nation that has not ratified the Law of the Sea Convention,” Zukunft told a gathering Tuesday at the Navy League’s annual Sea Air Space exposition and conference at National Harbor, Maryland. “Our nation has two ocean-going icebreakers … We’re the most prosperous nation on Earth. Our GDP is eight times that of Russia. Russia has 27 ocean-going icebreakers.”

But he's spouting BS about the Law of the Sea. In what magical world does ratifying that treaty provide more icebreakers for the Arctic?

Or constrain China or Russia?

China signed the treaty yet doesn't obey it. Why isn't the treaty solving the South China Sea problem when regional states are also part of the treaty?

It won't help resolve China's claims in the South China Sea or East China Sea.

Indeed, I think there is a strong argument that the Law of the Sea has made territorial disputes at sea worse by increasing the stakes for owning tiny specks of land (or creating tiny specks of land).

Military might and not this treaty will protect our access to the sea. If the other 160+ nations that signed the treaty haven't constrained China's interpretation of the treaty, why will our objections within the treaty have any more effect than our objections now?

Face it, much like a dollar and your personal charm will get you a cup of coffee, our military power and ratification of LOST will get China to stop unilaterally interpreting the treaty to benefit them.

The treaty is bad for America on a number of fronts.

The Real Main Foe?

India really needs to step up their procurement game now that China rather than Pakistan is their main foe for setting their force size and composition.

India does not have the margin of error for this kind of nonsense:

India's effort to build six French Scorpene submarines under license has been delayed once again. That previous delay was in late 2014 when India said the first Scorpene would enter service in late 2016. Before that (2012) it was announced that the first Scorpene sub would not be ready until 2015. The most recent delays (caused by problems procuring components) will delay the first Scorpene until 2017, or later. The problem is mainly poor management by the Indian firms building the Scorpenes. One of the worst examples of this occurred in 2013 with the departure of ten Spanish technical advisors for the Scorpenes. Their contract expired at the end of March 2013 and, despite the expiration date being well known, Indian bureaucrats were unable to get a new contract in place on time. Similar avoidable delays have occurred several times already and the price has gone up with each delay.

China's defense budget is three times that of India's. India's military may have to conclude that their main foe is their own procurement bureaucracy.