Thursday, March 31, 2005

My Irish First Policy

There are a frustratingly large amount of material I'd like to blog about tonight. But the call of Bass Ale from the local Irish pub is too strong.

The day I prefer sitting in front of my computer to getting out is the day I need to unplug and take a deep breath. I enjoy blogging but I enjoy other things.

See ya. I hope to get to the other stuff over the next few days. Perhaps taxes can wait...

Building an Alliance

China's rise could be good or bad. I tend to the bad side but the future is not carved in stone. But just in case I'm pretty pleased with recent news such as the warming relationship with Vietnam.

I'm extremely pleased that we are going to assist India in becoming a stronger military power. India is a natural ally that brings a billion people in a democracy to our side. They will be a power to be reckoned with along China's oil supply line to the Middle East and opposite Tibet and in supporting range of our forces in the Stans opposite Chinese colonies in the far west of China where ethnic minorities are under the domination of Han settlers from the east.

And with Japan moving closer to America and stepping up militarily as a resource on the other side of China, we have another anchor in an alliance to confront a potentially hostile and aggressive China. We support Japan's desire for a permanent Security Council seat and China is foolishly prepared to oppose this goal, bolstered by a state-organized grass roots campaign.

With India moving closer to the US and India also angling for a permanent seat, I bet we will see a Chinese effort to oppose that change, too.

Those sophisticated Chinese are doing a good job of driving two major powers into an alliance with us and against China. Can I get a "heh" from the audience?

UPDATE: The Chinese are not exactly leaping to support India's bid for a permanent Security Council seat:

We would like to see India play a bigger role at the UN as well as the Security Council," said China's envoy to New Delhi, Sun Yuxi, on Friday.

But Sun stopped short of expressing any direct support for India's candidature for a permanent UN Security Council seat.

Those crafty and patient Chinese! You can certainly see the fruits of an ancient civilization. We offer a strategic alliance and the Chinese stand in the way of Indian ambitions. Now that's wisdom beyond my comprehension!

Out of the Red

While I've seen some supportive posts on my Chinese invasion of Taiwan opinions, most have dismissed my view as unsupportable. So it is nice to have Strategypage getting my 6. They think that an out of the blue attack is what China is aiming for. The scenario they sketch is broadly what I envision is the plan, though I want to go into more detail on what I expect. Just as important as the idea that China seeks to invade is the reason China wants an invasion over fast:

Taiwan has always expected assistance from the U.S. Navy and Air Force. But without advance warning to get a carrier or two into the area, and a few hundred U.S. Air Force planes alerted for movement to Taiwan, Japan and Guam, the American assistance would be too late. Thus, for Taiwan, an OOTB attack, which the Chinese appear to be preparing to carry out, is something to worry about.

If we can get our power into the fight, we are likely to be able to defeat the Chinese--perhaps decisively. But if the war is over before we react, a free Taiwan is history.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The Great Leap Forward

The NYT reports that the Army is having problems developing the Future Combat System, the family of networked armored vehicles that will be light and lethal and which will replace our heavy armor.

Says the Times:

Paul L. Francis, the acquisition and sourcing management director for the accountability office, told Congress that the Army was building Future Combat Systems without the data it needed to guide it. "If everything goes as planned, the program will attain the level of knowledge in 2008 that it should have had before it started in 2003," Mr. Francis said in written testimony. "But things are not going as planned."

He warned that Future Combat Systems, in its early stages of research and development, was showing signs typical of multibillion-dollar weapons programs that cost far more than expected and deliver fewer weapons than promised. Future Combat is a network of 53 crucial technologies, he said, and 52 are unproven.

I've been a bit skeptical of the military's plans to dump heavy armor for light vehicles. I particularly noted the ambitious technology goals:

Although different authors project capabilities, some ordinary and some fantastic, the overall tenor of the debate has a science fair quality. If you could wish for a future combat vehicle, it would be nice to receive one that was beyond your wildest dreams. Reality is likely to be far less comforting in its ability to reconcile the Army’s need for power and deployability. It must not count on fielding a system that “pushes the boundaries of technology well beyond what is achievable today.” It may be as reasonable just to skip the inconvenient task of building an FCS and just wish for victory.

We make a terrible mistake if we assume that victory is a given and that we have only to get to the battlefield faster in order to harvest our assured victory more quickly. Worried about US forces going into battle with nineteen ton tanks? No problem, we'll just shoot the enemy first!

The wonder tank will not be built. We are pushing the boundaries of technology and we aren't meeting the timelines we assume we will make. We need a more evolutionary backup plan for the day when our Abrams and Bradleys wear out and the FCS doesn't quite pan out as we hope.

UPDATE: The New York Times editorializes about the dangers of the FCS program:

One frustrating thing about futuristic weapons is that the future does not always turn out the way people expected at the start of the decades it takes to design, develop and produce them.

Indeed. Our assumptions have changed. Look at what we have based on our old assumptions. We have a light Stryker that didn't need to be airlifted into Iraq fast being uparmored for combat and the armor is insufficient while harming the mobility of the vehicle. With the FCS, we want a 19-ton tank (it will have banded tracks, I just read, and not wheels) that can be easily airlifted to replace a 70-ton Abrams and its lighter cousin the Bradley. We may get a 40-ton tank that can't be airlifted and won't be protected enough. Much like the German World War II pocket battleships that were advertised as able to outfight anything it couldn't outrun and able to outrun anything it couldn't outfight. In practice, it was a ship that couldn't sink anything it could catch and couldn't catch anything it could sink.

Marriage of Convenience

As China seeks to project naval power, the last thing it needs is a formidable landpower on its doorstep that can withstand Chinese landpower. The Soviet Union and the Kaiser's Germany both foundered in their naval ambitions by their need to also field powerful armies to resist land enemies.

So when a US ship visits Vietnam, this is a good sign that in time we might have a tough ally on China's doorstep. With an army able to resist what China can throw at it, and naval and air bases able to flank Hainan Island, threaten China's interior, and interdict the South China Sea, Vietnam would make a wonderful asset to box in communist China. And since the Soviet Union went belly up and now sucks up to Peking, Vietnam could use a powerful friend.

Even without Vietnam, we have pressure points to fight China effectively. But having an ally that can inflict ten- to twenty thousand KIA on China in a month of fighting without even committing their first line divisions is an asset.

The Fontleroys Speak

A bunch of former properly trained (and named) diplomats don't want John Bolton confirmed as our ambassador to the UN.

Their biggest complaint? Other than his plain name, I mean. Really, Ambassador John? How pedestrian. So public school. Anyway:

Their criticism dwelled primarily on Bolton's stand on issues as the State Department's senior arms control official. They said he had an "exceptional record" of opposing U.S. efforts to improve national security through arms control.
I'd say Bolton's exceptional record of opposing unilateral surrendering with agreements that only we abide by is an exceptionally good reason to support Bolton! I love this guy!

And besides, isn't this concern over arms control a little--oh--1980s? I mean, isn't the nation we once negotiated treaties with eroding a little more every day? Literally shrinking? Just what arms control treaty do they have in mind and with whom will we negotiate?

And seriously, what's with the names?

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Eating Their Young

The Iraqi insurgents are turning on each other (via Instapundit):

'We know there is a considerable degree of animosity between the various groups that comprise the resistance and that is an opportunity for us,' said one security source.

One foreign intelligence report cites a recent incident in which members of the al-Dulaimi tribe, previously known for their antagonism to the coalition and the new government in Iraq, shot dead a number of Islamic militants from outside Iraq, whom they believed responsible for killing a senior al-Dulaimi sheikh. Although the sheikh was a senior police official and thus a 'collaborator', tribal elders felt that his death had to be avenged. The killings show tribal allegiances will triumph over any supposed 'international jihad', the report said.

The number of attacks on coalition forces has fallen since the election in January while strikes on the new Iraqi police forces and army have continued. Analysts say that this shows that locals - who favoured international targets - are abandoning violent tactics for the moment while the 'jihadis' - previously responsible for most of the attacks on locals - are still active.

I called this division back in June and predicted that this would be the enemy's critical mistake:

I think the main reason for our success is that the Islamists with their foreign jihadis have screwed things up for the Baathists. That is, if the insurgents (or regime remnants or whatever you want to call them) had been able to target Americans and our allies without other complications, the vast majority of Iraqis might have decided to sit out the war as neutrals and just watch passively to see who will win. Absent a really ruthless American campaign, we would never win if we fought enemies in a sea of apathy that slowly turned against us as the violence continued.

Baathists wanted to kill Americans and jihadis hit Iraqis. The Iraqi Shias became fed up with the jihadis and allied fully with us; and now the Sunnis are turning on the jihadis.

If we can exploit this, the insurgency will end a lot sooner than people think.

Monday, March 28, 2005

This Violates Article 147

Axis of El Vil number two man, Hugo Chavez, will not tolerate any criticism by the media in his rapidly deteriorating country. The media has a lot to write about given Chavez's misrule and thuggery:

The former coup-plotting colonel is well on his way to destroying what was once the most stable and prosperous democracy in Latin America.
Chavez could have just been an annoying little despot that attracted Hollywood swooners, but instead he is becoming a serious threat to the region and our interests.

We will have to deal with him sooner or later. I hope we can strengthen the local opposition to take down that vile man, but one way or the other, Chabvez has to go down. The only question is whether we will need to take action. Will Chavez force our hand?

But I'm biased. Hell, I'm probably violating Article 147. Normally I wouldn't worry, but with our Supreme Court looking to other countries for precedent, perhaps I'm being naive.

It's the Regimes, Stupid

The WMD report will be out in a few days:

The nine-member panel led by Republican Laurence Silberman, a retired federal appeals court judge, and Democrat Charles Robb, a former Senator from Virginia, is expected to issue its report on weapons of mass destruction next week. It's unclear how much of the report, which may run into the hundreds of pages, will be available to the public.

"I think questions had to be answered as to why we were so wrong," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a member of the commission. "We needed to have recommendations as to how to prevent something like this from ever happening again."

The commission also is highly critical of the agencies' performance on Iran, North Korea and Libya, individuals familiar with its findings said on condition of anonymity.

I've long been on board for figuring out why our intelligence was apparently so wrong on Iraq. We thought Iraq had chemical weapons on the eve of war, as did virtually everybody else too, I should add. We still don't know if North Korea has a nuke although in the run up to the Iraq War, critics of dealing with Saddam claimed North Korea would have multiple warheads by summer 2003 as we dithered in Iraq. And we never did know about Libya. And is Iran 3 months or three years from the bomb? I'm really amused by the idea that we still don't know exactly what Iran and North Korea are doing. So many Iraq War opponents tried to feign toughness by claiming they really supported action against more imminent threats than Iraq. But the intel on Iran and North Korea will take a hit, too, in the report. Oh, and there's that Pakistan and India thing from several years ago--oops, missed those, too.

So we have a lot to work on. I do want to know why we apparently missed the Iraq situation. Though I am not convinced that Iraq's WMD weren't scrubbed in the long telegraphed punch we delivered.

But I think a lot of the commentary misses a major point. Is the lesson from this that we shouldn't do anything when we think an odious regime is pursuing nuclear or other unconventional weapons? Are we still on that silly "imminent" standard where we have to have a clear picture of somebody turning a wrench on an obvious bomb and then we bomb the offending threat as they fuel up the missiles? Is our solution going to be strengthening our ability to make a prosecutor's case against the offending regime?

Look, it is easy for a sovereign nation to hide its activities and keep the evidence ambiguous enough to prevent a clear picture from emerging until it is too late to do anything about the offending nation going nuclear. Even with inspectors crawling over Iraq and intelligence agencies from around the world looking at Iraq, we never knew that there were no chemical weapons in firing condition as the Coalition went into Iraq.

Our only option is to forget about trying to establish clear proof of nuclear guilt and focus on the regimes. Your country is a collection of nutballs that make aggressive statements and you appear to be pursuing nuclear technology, missiles, and other weapons? Then your regime should be history and we will work for that result. We won't take the chance that you will get something that makes your threats real.

Good enough for government work, as they say. It's the regimes, stupid. Change them.

Sunday, March 27, 2005


The North Koreans have announced that bird flu appeared in that gulag with a UN seat.

We shouldn't worry because the authorities have the situation well in hand:

"Bird flu has recently broken out at a few chicken farms including the Hadang chicken farm," it said, quoting members of the communist state's emergency veterinary committee as saying.

"Hundreds of thousands of infected chickens have been burned before their burial at the relevant chicken farms."

First of all, can we believe that no human victims are there?

Second, in a land of famine, can we believe that hundreds of thousands of chickens have been killed and buried?

It seems to me that the temptation to save some chickens to sell will be too strong in such an impoverished state when the absolute fear of the government is waning.

What I don't know is whether a possible spread of the flu is a threat to the Pyongyang regime's stability or is it a broader health threat to the world?

The problem is that we can't trust anything that the regime says. An interesting complication to say the least.

Checks and Balances

As the Iraqis set up a new government and we pay close attention to the negotiations between Shias and Kurds with the Sunnis considered too, let us not forget that the real check to abuse of power by the central government is not the three main ethnic/religious groups, but the local governments:

When villagers saw the cloud of dust from an approaching U.S. convoy, they hoped Iraq's new powerbrokers had come to solve problems: a broken well, a dilapidated school. But the U.S. soldiers, mindful that their eventual departure hinges on robust local governments, directed villagers to local officials and elected representatives — a mind-bending concept for Iraqis formerly accustomed to all power flowing from Saddam Hussein in Baghdad.

I like it that we are not merely trying to reform the center. Even a well managed center is a center that can be taken and misused as Saddam shows. But diffuse power and the habit of self-rule to the far corners of Iraq and a future strongman wannabe will have to contemplate more than just a palace coup to gain control of the country.

Bend their minds. Break the dependency on Baghdad.

Trouble to the South

The number two man in the Axis of El Vil will become a problem for us. I've noted that Hugo Chavez of Venezuela was setting up his own fedayeen by arming his supporters. I noted they could be used to bully the civilian opposition.

Strategypage has additional information. The regular armed forces are suspicious of the move and resent Chavez's moves toward the Russians (and presumably Cuba and China, too). Cubans are reportedly (and there is no surprise here) involved in setting up the organization. Says Strategypage:

This sort of mass organization has been used before in Latin America, by both leftist and rightist dictators (pro-fascist Juan Peron of Argentina, and communist Fidel Castro of Cuba.) But by passing out guns to his most dedicated followers, Chavez is angering the military, making the middle class even more nervous, and setting the stage for a bloody civil war.

You know, over the last couple years I've looked at Chavez as an annoyance rather than a real threat, mocking him as part of the "Axis of El Vil" ("El Vil" means "the vile one" in Spanish, at least that's what my Google translator tells me). We had more important things to worry about, like jihadi nutballs and the seriously dangerous Axis of Evil.

But with Venezuala flirting with China and getting support from Cuba (honestly, I don't worry about the Russian angle, they aren't a superpower any more), we could face disorder in our own backyard that ties down significant military power that would be better used overseas. Our military isn't large and every division, carrier, or air wing tied down in our own hemisphere could make the difference in an overseas crisis.

The good news is the Venezuelan armed forces aren't a creature of Chavez and the middle class does oppose Chavez. The bad news is that no insert-your-color-here peaceful revolution will succeed in Venezuela. Chavez will look to the Chinese example and order his fedayeen to slaughter any unarmed protesters who get too dangerous.

What will the Venezuelan military do then? And what will we do?

We'd do well to keep our east coast Marine Expeditonary Force loose as well as the 82nd AB division. You never know. With the balance in Venezuela, our intervention could be critical to making sure the opposition isn't destroyed for a generation.

Crud. This decade really does suck.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

The Will to Be Free

I've noted that I worry that the Taiwanese may lack the desire to be free that would steel them to resist an invasion of their island of 23 million by the forces of the 1.3 billion mainlanders.

I still worry about Taiwan's failure to spend what is needed to build an adequate military and I still worry about the apparent poor training of the Taiwanese military, but when a million Taiwanese march to show China that the Taiwanese will not be cowed, I could be wrong about their will to be free:

"China is a violent country. We want nothing to do with it," said Wu Chao-hsiung, a carpenter from Taipei who attended the protest. "We have to insist on the freedom to determine our own fate."

Behind her, U.S. and Japanese flags flew below a green protest banner. Many Taiwanese see those two countries as the island's most likely allies in any military conflict with China.

I still think that prompt intervention by the US and/or Japan is necessary to halt a Chinese attack without seeing a war drag out into months and years, but the Taiwanese may be getting used to being free.

That too, is dangerous, too, since the Chinese may well fear that absorbing Taiwan will be too tough if the Taiwanese grow too attached to freedom. Really, as long as Taiwan was a KMT authoritarian regime, the Taiwanes people just might have not cared which ruler told them what to do.

Taiwan is now free. We need to keep it this way. Time is on our side, I believe.

Who Matters

This article rightly notes the reduction in US casualties since the January election. Although it correctly notes that last February, our casualties had dropped even more before the spring uprisings in Fallujah and by Sadr's goons, the article makes a grave error:

"I think what you get is a mixed picture in Iraq," said Pena of the Cato Institute. "Whatever progress we're making in terms of violence against U.S. troops, it is being offset by violence against Iraqis and Iraqi security forces."

This seems to be arguing that the reduction in US casualties is irrelevant because Iraqi civilian and security force casualties are increasing. Thus a net constant loss number.

But the very fact that the insurgents are targeting Iraqi security forces and civilians is significant. Before, the US forces were the key force preventing the Baathists from winning. So naturally, our forces were the target of the attacks. Now, with the new Iraqi government shaping up, the insurgents can see that the key force preventing their victory is the Iraqi government and its security forces.

As long as American troops were the key factor keeping the Baathists down, attacks against our forces could hope to destroy American morale on the home front. Now, the price paid in blood by the insurgents for attacking tough US forces is no longer purchasing the possibility of victory by driving America from Iraq. Instead, free Iraqi forces will beat the Baathists and the Baathists can see that. This is the political victory that we need and not a mere military victory, as General Casey noted:

"The average counter-insurgency in the 20th century was about nine years, so it takes time to snuff out the insurgency. And also, I think you know, most insurgencies are defeated by political means rather than necessarily by military means," Casey said in Washington earlier this month.

But you know what? I think Casey is too pessimistic about how long it will take to beat the insurgents. This insurgency we fight is narrowly based and brittle, and lacks enough outside support to carry on in the absence of local support. This insurgency will collapse faster than people think.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Places East of Incirlik

Instapundit notes that Austin Bay has noted this article about the US and Turkey repairing our relations and essentially reactivating the important air base at Incirlik, which is along the Mediterranean across from Syria.

The article states:

Turkey is planning to accept “very soon” a U.S. request to use the critical air base at Incirlik in southern Turkey as a logistical hub for operations east of the country, a Turkish official said late March 23.

The purpose?

[Murat] Mercan[, deputy chairman of Turkey’s ruling party] did not elaborate, but other Turkish officials in Washington said that Ankara was preparing to accept Incirlik’s use as a logistical hub for U.S. missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

You don't need to go as far east as Afghanistan or even Iraq to see a country that might be nervous about this development.

More pressure on Syria even if no American airplanes or American ground forces ever land there in large numbers. Assad has to look over so many shoulders that his head must be spinning.

Oh, and Iran is east of Incirlik, too. Just so you know. You know, in case the Gulf Arab states are too uneasy about a regime change in Iran it would be nice to have another staging area into Iraq and then on into Iran.

I'm just pointing out the geography.

I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!

Strategypage has an interesting post about a Chinese airmobile division:

March 25, 2005: China has, in addition to its three airborne divisions, a division of 11,000 airmobile troops. The airborne soldiers belong to the air force, while the airmobile division is all army. And a strange unit it is. The division consists of two brigades, and two separate battalions. The units is equipped for urban combat, riot control and movement by air. The airmobile division is considered the most elite in the army, with the troops being paid five times the normal military pay. In other words, if there is a problem in any city, with demonstrators, riots and the like, the airmobile division can quickly get reliable, well trained and effective troops on the scene to deal with the problem. Each of the two 4,000 man airmobile brigades have one mechanized (using wheeled armored vehicles) and four infantry (trucks) battalions, plus a light artillery battalion, an engineer battalion and some other support units. The two independent battalions have 500 men each, organized into one mechanized infantry company, one infantry company, one reconnaissance company and some support troops. The brigades take turns being in Hong Kong, or at another base in Shenzhen. The two battalions rotate between Macao and Zhuhai. The divisions name translates as "Urban Light Cavalry."

Urban light cavalry?

Call me skeptical, but the People's Armed Police, the primary units for internal control, have been reinforced by taking the dreg infantry divisions of the PLA and putting "police" patches on their uniforms. When China wanted to slaughter thousands in 1989, they sent in heavy armor to support the infantry. Why five times the pay for a single division? I'm to believe that a single airmobile division is intended for riot control? In a country of 1.3 billion? Troops at five times the pay of the ordinary soldier? And that the Chinese decided that a riot control unit should be airmobile rather than using, oh, roads or railroads to move them around in China? And that they should haul around light artillery, too? And engineers? And they decided to base it down around Hong Kong? Oh, sure, should there be a problem up in Peking they'll just hop on the Hong Kong-Peking shuttle and fly on up.

Let's look at it from a capabilities point of view. Motorized and mechanized infantry. Engineers. Light artillery. Airmobile. Based across from Taiwan.

Call me suspicious, but wouldn't a follow-on force able to come into airfields near Taipei that are captured by China's three parachute divisions be really useful? I mean, a loyal and elite division of 12 maneuver battalions able to storm an important urban center wouldn't be an ideal mission? Parachutists could take airfields but couldn't move on Taipei on foot. A motorized infantry unit could move on the capital.

Look, they could call it a name that translates as "Don't Even Think That This Might Be Airlifted to Taiwan to Take Over That Rebel Province" Division.

That unit is designed to be an elite strike force for a Chinese inside-out regime change on Taiwan.

Riot control, indeed.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Better Than the Enemy

A recent Army press conference brought up an issue that never fails to annoy me--the pretend controversy over how many "trained" Iraqis there are.

Army Secretary Harvey starts this thread with this:

One of our primary missions is to build Iraqi divisions and brigades that are capable of conducting independent counterinsurgency operations. The strategy of an Iraqi armed forces taking the lead in fighting the insurgency is well under way. To date, we have trained and equipped over 145,000 Iraqi security personnel organized into 96 battalions -- 52 army, 44 police; and another 50,000 are either in training or awaiting training. These battalions are engaged in operations across Iraq, both in concert with coalition forces and independently. As proof of their growing capability, an Iraqi brigade recently assumed responsibility for a large portion of Baghdad, a significant milestone in the history of the new Iraqi army. Equally encouraging, the Iraqi army is having no difficulty recruiting. Young Iraqis are turning out by the thousands to join the army and help defeat the insurgency.

Then the press jumps on that:

Q A moment ago, you said that there are 145,000 Iraqi security forces trained and equipped.


Q A few weeks ago, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Dick Myers said of that, there are only about 40,000 who are up to speed enough to go anywhere, do anything, in terms of taking on the insurgency and the terrorists. Did you get a better idea of that number, those that can operate pretty much at full capacity?

Good grief. Can the press please move on to a real issue?

Many in the press seem to believe that troops are trained only if they reach US standards. But there are different levels of training. Ask a regular Army about the Guard and the regular may have a different idea of what properly trained is. Ask a Ranger about the regulars and they might think the regulars could use a bit more training. Ask a Special Forces operator about the last two categories and they could have an even different view. Heck, from their vantage point, regulars are just a few months past being civilians!

There are 140,000+ trained Iraqis and if the press had a collective clue, they would understand the difference between what different people in the military say. Trained to go anywhere and do anything? That would be the Iraqi army guys. They are trained, equipped, and mobile. The fact that there are 40,000 of them doesn't mean the rest aren't really trained. The rest are trained and equipped but lack the mobility to move easily from the area they operate in. This doesn't make them less trained or useful. The insurgents aren't all that mobile, either, so having largely strategically immobile security forces combating equally static insurgents is just fine.

Remember, too, that we take care of their logistics so the Iraqi battalions represent the line strength of 9 division equivalents. We provide the supplies and we supply the firepower if they need it.

Most importantly, the whole training controversy ignores the most important factor: the Iraqis don't need to be trained to be US equals, the need to be trained to be better than the enemy.

Part of making sure the Iraqis are better than the Baathist insurgents is our campaign to atomize the insurgents and deprive them of sanctuaries, supplies, and outside support. If the insurgents can mass in company sized units, with ample weapons, they can overrun isolated Iraqi government outposts and keep the government on the defensive and looking weak.

We've broken up the sanctuaries, hammered the enemy and broken them down, interdicted supply lines from the outside, and pressured Iran and Syria.

The Iraqis will be able to handle the task of hunting down the declining Baathist and isolated jihadi insurgents, with our forces holding the ring and ready to intervene should the enemy mass enough force to cause problems. In time, the Iraqis won't even need that aid.

Just another plastic turkey issue that distracts from the bigger picture that we are winning and the insurgents and terrorists are losing. It may not be long before even these pretend issues can't attract any attention.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

My, That Was a Good Idea

China is honoring the Americans who flew for China before the US was pushed into World War II by Pearl Harbor:

China has erected a memorial to the Flying Tigers, a band of U.S. fighter pilots who defended China against Japan during World War II, the government said Tuesday.

The Flying Tigers were only about 100 pilots and 55 planes sent secretly by the US government (Hey, are you going to compare FDR to Hitler over this? Roosevelt lied! People died!), but provided much-needed air support to the Chinese government.

Given the importance of air power to dominate the Taiwan Strait and the shortage of Taiwanese pilots, I wonder if it isn't time to resurrect this fine idea and recruit retired American pilots (or other Westerners who have flown F-16s) to fly for Taiwan.

Taiwan might one day erect a memorial for the the Flying Falcons.

In an ideal world, all 1.3 billion Chinese might honor the Flying Falcons.

Moore's Minutemen in Action

First of all, excuse me for mentioning that vile piece of living garbage in the title.

But the depravity of the enemy cannot be underestimated:

ABC News has learned that a State Department document indicates the insurgency's tactics are continuing to evolve. These new techniques include using children to carry explosive devices and booby-trapping corpses with bombs.

It's almost enough to make me support torturing the SOBs. Not for any information they might have. Just for some justice.

But I'll settle for defeating them.

The Sweet Stench of Failure

The Iraqi insurgency continues to show signs of breaking up.

In what appears to be a major battle, the Iraqis, backed by US troops that stayed in reserve plus US air power, smashed up an insurgent training camp in the Sunni Triangle (and isn't it good that they didn't have a sanctuary in which to complete their training and then fan out?):

U.S. and Iraqi forces killed 85 militants at a suspected training camp along the marshy shores of a remote lake, one of the highest guerrilla death tolls of the two-year insurgency, officials said Wednesday.
This article suggests that maybe the battle wasn't quite the decisive Iraqi government victory as it appears.

Still, the original article cited states that 7 Iraqi soldiers were killed in the battle, indicating that there was some significant action; and the statement that for 18 days locals provided information on the camp indicates that somebody was there.

In addition, this intervention by ordinary Iraqis to fight back against insurgents showing up in their neighborhood is another good sign:

"We attacked them before they attacked us," Dhia, 35, his face still contorted with rage and excitement, said in a brief exchange at his shop a few hours after the battle. He did not give his last name. "We killed three of those who call themselves the mujahedeen. I am waiting for the rest of them to come and we will show them."

It was the first time that private citizens are known to have retaliated successfully against insurgents. There have been anecdotal reports of residents shooting at attackers after a bombing or assassination. But the gun battle today erupted in full view of half a dozen witnesses, including a Justice Ministry official who lives nearby.

The insurgents are fading fast. If this trend keeps up, those murdering SOBs will be history sooner than we may have hoped.

Fortunes of war ebb and flow, so this spate of success may not last as the enemy adapts to changing circumstances, but since the insurgency is so narrowly based on a minority of a minority backed by foreign killers, the insurgency could collapse faster than the average insurgency.

These are hopeful days.

End of the Decade

My Jane's email update offers this tidbit:

OPINION: Alarm bells ring as China builds up its armoury on a massive scale

Before the end of this decade, China will have achieved stunning military hardware advances that will have significant implications for Taiwan and the US - as well as neighbouring countries.

[Jane's Defence Weekly - first posted to - 11 March 2005]

But the spring of 2008 is nowhere near "the end of this decade," right?

Look, my guess about China invading Taiwan before the Olympics is admittedly speculation. Though there are reasons for my speculation, as I've noted. The important part of my point is that the Chinese are Hell bent on building the capability to invade Taiwan and will exercise that ability at some point.

Chinese actions and intentions are not the only factor in determining whether China will invade or whether China will succeed. Our decisions and Taiwan's decisions will affect the calculations.

Two decisions that have helped us is our pressure on Europe and their decision to keep their embargo on arms sales to China for at least another year. We need time to help Taiwan build defenses against an invasion. This European decision helps us buy that time.


From my Janes email news updates:

Juniper Cobra under way in Israel

Israeli and US air-defence forces on 10 March began a month-long multi-phased joint exercise aimed at improving co-operation in ballistic missile defence. Israel Defence Force (IDF) and US Army Patriot air-defence batteries, along with an Israel Air Force Arrow 2 ballistic missile defence battery and a US Navy Aegis-class destroyer, ...


Eventually, if it becomes necessary to overthrow the mullahs in Iran, the mullahs may lash out as they go down. A shield will be useful to ward off any last ditch spasm of death.

And of course, a reminder of our sword is never a wasted effort. (via Winds of Change)

Monday, March 21, 2005

Fading Fast in Iraq

The signs of insurgent defeat seem to be growing. This Burns piece from the New York Times is certainly getting some notice.

Note this about the Baghdad area known as Haifa Street:

For now, the days when rebels could gather in groups as large as 150, pinning down American troops for as long as six hours at a time, have tapered off. American officers say only three Haifa Street mortars have hit the Green Zone in the past six months; in the last two weeks of September alone, 11 Haifa Street mortars hit the sprawling zone.

As the LTC who commands the American battalion that is pulling back to let two Iraqi battalions take over noted:

"I've got the enemy to the point where he can't do large-scale operations anymore, only the small-scale stuff," he said recently, during one of his last
patrols, at the head of a company of 120 soldiers.

And note this ambush that went awry for the insurgents south of Baghdad:

U.S. soldiers, ambushed by dozens of Iraqi militants near the infamous "Triangle of Death," responded by killing 26 guerrillas in the largest single insurgent death toll since last fall's battle for Fallujah, the U.S. military said Monday.
Note a few things. One, our guys ripped apart the direct-fire ambush. Of 30-40 attackers, 26 were killed.

Second, the fact that it was a direct-fire ambush is odd:

"I was surprised at the numbers," said Staff Sgt. Timothy Nein, a squad leader for the 617th Military Police Company of Richmond, Ky., and a native of Henryville, Ind., involved in the firefight. "Usually we can usually expect seven to 10."

Why wasn't it an IED ambush? And why so many? Are the bomb-makers getting knocked off? Are their supplies drying up? Did they risk so many of their gunmen because they had no choice but to mass a platoon's worth to have a shot at doing some damage?

Third, note that we suffered 7 wounded in winning this small battle and then note:

Reporting on Sunday's big firefight, the U.S. military said MPs and artillery units from the Kentucky National Guard were traveling along a road 20 miles southeast of Baghdad around noon when 40 to 50 militants emerged from a grove of trees and a roadside canal firing automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades.

No offense to the National Guard is intended, but we decisively beat the insurgents with our reserve troopss. Some of whom were part of an artillery unit!

Then note this article:

Hundreds of thousands of rusty munitions — leftovers from the Iran-Iraq war — are scattered across the green fields and gentle hills of the two countries' common border. Long ignored, they are now being harvested by insurgents who recycle them into crude but highly deadly bombs to use against U.S. and Iraqi troops.

This is a far cry from the use of ammo looted from Saddam's arms dumps or weaponry flowing in from Syria and Iran. The insurgents are scavenging old ammunition from two-decade-old battlefields.

Smaller groups of insurgents. Poor insurgent skill levels. Poor supply.

Right now it looks like the enemy is fading. If this holds for awhile, we may be able to reduce our troop presence far sooner than people think.

If it holds.

Check Our Pulse

Last summer I saw a lot of bloggers talking about Summer Pulse '04 and how we threw the fear of the US Navy into the Chinese by massing over a half dozen carriers near Taiwan.

That assessment was dead wrong.

Now, I'm seeing such claims again in relation to how the US Navy could mass quickly to crush any Chinese attempted invasion of Taiwan, citing the exercise that demonstrates the Fleet Response Plan (FRP).

The assumption that we can quickly mass seven carriers is still wrong.

The FRP has a goal:

Under the FRP construct, the Navy can provide six CSGs in less than 30 days to support contingency operations around the globe, and two more CSGs can be ready in three months to reinforce or rotate with initially responding forces, to continue presence operations in other parts of the world, or to support military action in another crisis. “Summer Pulse 04” will exercise the logistics and shore infrastructure necessary to execute a large scale surge operation, stress the operational concepts in the Navy’s Sea Power 21 strategy, and improve Navy interoperability with numerous allies and coalition partners as well as other U.S. military forces.

This is what we did in Summer Pulse '04:

The seven aircraft carriers involved in “Summer Pulse 04” will include: the Norfolk-based USS George Washington CSG and the San Diego-based USS John C. Stennis CSG, both currently deployed, and Yokosuka, Japan-based USS Kitty Hawk. The Mayport, Fla.-based USS John F Kennedy CSG will begin a combined and joint exercise early this month, followed by a scheduled overseas deployment. The Norfolk-based USS Harry S. Truman CSG will conduct a scheduled training exercise followed by overseas pulse operations with the Norfolk-based USS Enterprise CSG, beginning early this month. USS Ronald Reagan will conduct operations in the U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Southern Command theaters during the ship’s interfleet transfer from Norfolk, Va., to its Pacific Fleet homeport of San Diego.

Notice all those home ports and where they exercised? If this isn't clear that the carriers were spread around the globe, this story is a little clearer:

"Summer Pulse 04" continues through August, with seven carriers conducting joint exercises and international exercises with allies from the Americas, Europe, Africa, Australia and Asia, officials said.

"The ability to push that kind of military capability to the four corners of the world is quite remarkable," Navy Secretary Gordon R. England said when he announced plans for the demonstration last week in Washington. "Several years ago, we could deploy only two" carriers at the same time.

Of course, John Pike's statement in the article could lead you astray:

"If anybody anywhere gets any ideas - if North Korea gets frisky or the Red Chinese get too risky- they might have a half-dozen carriers show up on short notice."

Pike has a point. If we can surge seven carriers in 30 days or so from their homeports, within another month we could have seven carriers anywhere on the globe.

But if you are talking about having this kind of firepower off of Taiwan in a week, forget it. In the short run we are talking one or at best two carrier strike groups plus a wing of fighters from Japan and whatever Marine aircraft are on Okinawa. Five years ago this would have been enough for us to win. Maybe it is today. In a few years it may not be enough to win control of the air.

If the Chinese are willing to give us a warning and then hold off attacking Taiwan, then hey, a couple months will be fine to mass our naval power. But the Chinese may have figured out that they need to strike and win quickly. And if they do that, Chinese defeat relies on how quickly we can get significant power to the Taiwan area to take them on.

This speed of intervention relies on two things--our decision to promptly intervene and then get our power there. And the ability of the Taiwanese to hold off the Chinese until we get there in strength.

In regard to speed of intervention, I hope we could decide to intervene quickly rather than sit around and await developments. Because even a prompt decision to intervene might not allow us to surge naval power in time. A delay culd be fatal.

And why could a delay be fatal? Because I have little confidence that the Taiwanese could hold alone in the face of a really massive attack. The Taiwanese are simply not Far Eastern versions of the Israelis. The Taiwanese have many deficiencies in their training and equipment and I'm not at all sure that the Taiwanese have the morale to hold fast until we arrive. We need to be there fast just to keep Taiwan fighting, in my opinion.

So remember that we did not surge seven carriers off of Taiwan last summer. We could put seven carriers to sea, but it will take quite a while to get them all in one spot.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Chavez's Fedayeen

Yes indeed, not content to be the number two in the more-pathetic-than-dangerous Axis of El Vil, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez is seeking to fill that number three slot in the Axis of Evil. He is setting up paramilitaries, surely in a sign that his boasts about his military defeating America should we attack are obviously hollow:

Chanting "fatherland or death," dozens of President Hugo Chavez's supporters lined up in formation, vowing to defend the country if the United States tries to invade. Led by an army reservist, the volunteers in black caps said their numbers would swell in the coming months.

And of course, since an invasion by the US is unlikely (unless he starts a serious campaign to become truly evil and dangerous), these thugs will most likely be used to intimidate his opposition.

Oil. Sham elections. Ties to China and Castro. Paramilitaries vowing death. Admired by Jimmy Carter and Global Exchange. Yep, serious Axis of Evil wannabe attributes. Syria is surely breathing a little sigh of relief that others are in a healthy competition for the Axis of Evil.

Chavez will one day be a serious problem for us.

Peace Activist?

Secretary Rice encountered a protester in South Korea while highlighting South Korean freedom.

In Seoul, Rice conducted an unusual press conference with Korean Internet reporters. The event, meant to highlight the freewheeling nature of computer communication in an open democracy, got off to a bad start when American security guards tackled a peace activist as he shouted to get Rice's attention.

"Miss Rice, the North Korean people are dying and they are crying for your help," yelled the activist, German physician and former aid worker Norbert Vollertsen. He held up a poster that read "Freedom for North Korea: 50 Years Overdue," until a State Department employee ripped the poster in half.

Sure, there was the intrustion, yelling in a European accent, and a poster, so it is easy to understand why the immediate reaction is "there's a peace activist," but is he?

He called for freedom for North Koreans. Heck, if a Bush administration said that, well ... I guess he'd be John Bolton. But my point is that "peace activist" seems to be a really inexact term. Let's just say that Vollertsen wants freedom and food for the North Korean people and opposes the Pillsubury Nuke Boy's brutal regime.

I am upset that a State Department official ripped the poster in half. Sure, hustle him out of there since at best this was rude. It isn't as if we are doing nothing about North Korea. But I'm sure that North Korea will mention this once or twice and highlight the poster ripping as a sign that the US is afraid of or supports North Korea's regime. Or maybe State still thinks that freedom is not 50 years overdue in North Korea. If so, Rice has a lot more work to do.

Back to my original point, more generally, just call them protesters and mention who they support rather than tagging them as "pro-peace" which they are almost never are.

Just a suggestion. You know, for accuaracy and my blood pressure.

Why it Feels Like Winning

I noted that it just feels like we are winning in Iraq so I've felt little need to blog about it in the last few weeks.

Via Instapundit, this article was noted by Belgravia Dispatch (and shockingly, the NYT buried it):

The top Marine officer in Iraq said Friday that the number of attacks against American troops in Sunni-dominated western Iraq and death tolls had dropped sharply over the last four months, a development that he called evidence that the insurgency was weakening in one of the most violent areas of the country.

Crushing Fallujah, training Iraqi security forces, and elections for a free Iraqi government have combined to drain the swamp a bit more. Even Zarqawi seems dispirited.

There could be a last-ditch attempt to mass forces for an insurgent attack to reverse their defeat, but the signs look very good of late. It is too soon to do the dance of joy for final victory but it may be that people will have to reassess this last year that was reported as American defeat after defeat. Did our defeats lead to our victory?

Too many soldiers and Marines have died to feel real joy in any case. While it is true that the toll has been light by history's bloody standards, those who have died are our countrymen (and women) and I cannot possibly offer meaningful thanks right now. The pain is still too close.

But one day, as we now look at past battles and victories, we will thank them and their families will finally draw strength and comfort from knowing that their loved ones did a great thing and defended our nation in an hour of need.

What our military has achieved since September 11th is breathtaking. They will be our greatest generation.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Well They Can Just Bite Me

How is it possible for tens of thousands to march in the belief that overthrowing a madman like Saddam Hussein, freeing 25 million people by ending his bloody rule, and ending his clear desire for nuclear weapons were wrong?

I have such utter contempt for so-called "peace" protesters.

Two years ago we began the liberation of Iraq. By God, it was done in my name. And I'm glad that those I hold in such poor regard continue to oppose the good that we did.

Screw them all. May they experience the joy of living under one such as Saddam.

Maybe that would provide justice all around. Set up Saddam and his bully boys in some empty quarter of the planet and ship off the protesters who cry for the Baathists there to be his subjects. We will promise that we will never intervene to protect his new subjects from his depradations.

My that would be justice, wouldn't it?

This is Asia

Secretary Rice is bolstering and rewarding Japan while challenging China to embrace democracy and their mini-me, North Korea, to return to talks to end their nuclear goals:

Condoleezza Rice, on her first foray into Asia as secretary of state, outlined a new U.S. vision of Japan's increasing global importance Saturday and challenged China to "embrace some form of open and generally representative government."

Rice unambiguously supported Japan's bid for a permanent seat on the U. N. Security Council ...

We are helping a Japan that has stepped up as a true ally to help us on the ground in Iraq and to confront North Korea and China with a solid alliance. Japan deserves a permanent seat.

India, too, will one day get one with our support. But Japan must be first to reward restraint in the nuclear area. India went nuclear and must wait a little longer for that complication to a volatile region of the world. Friends and allies we will be, but a permanent seat must wait.

China, which seems to have snuffed Liberty's flame in 1989 with the blood of thousands of Chinese citizens, has been reminded that we are not unaware of their government. We may deal with them but we know who they are. Perhaps this reminder will help rekindle the desire for freedom that once led the Chinese to parade under Lady Liberty before the tanks rolled in.

And North Korea? Rice spoke soft words even as we squeeze them. They will collapse and they won't even realize it until it is too late.

Not a bad day's work.

This is the Asia we will be working with and against for many decades.

Too Hasty, I'd Say

Is Russia helping China practice for an invasion of Taiwan?

That's what the Russian press says but the Russian government denies it:

[Gen. Yuri ] Baluyevsky dismissed as "pure fiction" reports by Russian media that the exercises were a rehearsal for an invasion of Taiwan, the self-ruled island that the communist Beijing government claims as its territory, the Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported.

What will the two countries do? Well:

The exercises will involve Il-76 transport planes with paratroopers, Tu-95MS bombers firing cruise missiles at targets in the sea and Su-27SM fighter jets simulating coverage of ground forces, according to Russian media reports.

Paratroopers, ground support, and anti-ship exercises.

Fascinating. One would think the Russians wouldn't want to encourage China to pursue claims to land outside China's current borders.

You'd think.

What is This? January 1941?

I am amazed that a number of people have been mortified that I suggest China could be aiming for a summer 2008 invasion of Taiwan.

I've read assertions that China lacks the logistics but no actual supporting arguments. Heck, I don't blame them since large staffs are needed to compile massive loading and movement schedules. I'm just an old Signalman and not a logistician, so I'm not going to try it.

I've read that the Taiwanese are perfectly capable of defending themselves though this DOD assessment certainly highlights problems that the Taiwanese have in a number of areas.

I've read that all our satellites would detect the Chinese before they could get going; but aside form the fact that sats are predictable and can be fooled, strategic surprise is more about letting your target fool themself than hiding your own efforts. If your target believes this is just as exercise or a bluff since they've been talking for 50 years and never did anything, then analysts will place any data into this view until actual shooting starts--and maybe even for a while after that.

I've read that the US Navy could rip apart the Chinese invasion effort even though I thought I was pretty clear that we could do that if we can get into the fight quickly enough. I could write those arguments fairly easily myself using terms like "Los Angeles class subs" and "Harpoon" and "Aegis." The US Navy is so much better than the Chinese fleet that if it gets into the fight we will decimate the PLAN. Heck, the Japanese navy is superior to the Chinese fleet. My major fear is that the Chinese, knowing the problems of taking on the US in a protracted struggle in the air and at sea where our advantages are greatest, will try to force a fast decision on the ground where the Chinese see their advantage.

In addition, all the discussion about how an invasion would fail all seem to assume that the invasion starts next week. Have I not mentioned that I'm looking to 2008? And that Chinese shipbuilding seems to have a number of elements coming out in the 2006-2008 timeframe? I suppose one could look at our amphibious capabilities in January 1941 and easily conclude that it is ludicrous to imagine we could invade a heavily defended northwest Europe in June 1944. (One day I may try to find and list all my China posts, but Google "China" and "Taiwan" and "Olympics" and "2008" along with "The Dignified Rant" to hit most of them. Do all of them for the most comprehensive results)

So, let's establish some groung rules, eh? In 1996, the Chinese could not invade. Nor could they hold off the US Navy long enough even if they could have invaded. Indeed, the Chinese were horrified that they could not even locate our two carriers let alone target them during the 1996 missile crisis. (And we were horrified that we couldn't easily communicate with the Taiwanese, making it possible we were visibly backing the Taiwanese when they might have been preparing to strike without our knowledge. Hence our current hotline). And at some point in the future, the Chinese will have the ability to invade without a doubt given their trend lines. Some say a decade. Some say two. (I say sooner) Fair enough?

So at what point does the Chinese capability tip from can't to can? That is a reasonable question that I have posed. And I am happy to take hits if this discussion takes place rather than a blanket dismissal of the very idea.

One more thing about the tipping point. From the cited DOD report above:

If all other military options for subjugating Taiwan failed, Beijing could try to occupy the entire island of Taiwan. Such an operation would require a major commitment of civilian air and maritime transport assets, and success would not be guaranteed. The PLA's success in a D-Day-style invasion of Taiwan would rest on a number of variables, some tangible -- principally lack of amphibious lift -- as well as a number of intangibles, including personnel and equipment attrition rates on both sides of the Strait; interoperability of PLA forces; and the ability of China's logistic system to support the necessarily high tempo of operations. For an invasion to succeed, Beijing would have to conduct a multifaceted campaign, involving all of the above options in concert. The PLA most likely would encounter great difficulty conducting such a sophisticated campaign throughout the remainder of the decade. Nevertheless, the campaign could succeed -- barring third-party intervention -- if Beijing were willing to accept the political, economic, diplomatic, and military costs that an invasion would produce.

DOD recognizes the problems China would have. But barring third-party intervention (that's us, people), China could succeed (no guarantees in any war) if they are willing to accept the various costs.

I think they are willing to accept those costs.

I really will get on the ball to write up my part III for a Taiwan war, a scenario for a successful invasion (surely no more speculative than the scenarios I've read of Taiwanese forces trouncing the Chinese or rapid US intervention to do the same). Until then here's my Part I about intentions and Part II about one historic example of an invasion in the face of enemy naval superiority without any amphibious capabilities and a small parachute capability.

No promises on timing. Certainly before summer 2008.

Thursday, March 17, 2005


You know, I'm not posting very much on Iraq these days. Good news about the new interim parliament and establishing a new government? Ho hum. General Myers speaks well of the security situation in Iraq and says the insurgents are losing? Well, sure. And democratic rumblings are taking place in the Middle East (and let's not even suggest that US actions led to this--pure coincidence!).

It just feels like victory. I feel free to move on to other topics. Not that the war is over. The enemy might still pull a Battle of the Bulge counter attack that hurts us, but the war is won.

An Invasion Prior to the Olympics?

One of the problems of many people dropping in to read a post as many did to read Ready. Set. Go? is that the readers don't see the many posts that led to that post. Invade before the Olympics? He's just pulling that out of his hat!

I admit, back in early 2003 when I first broached the subject, it was a guess based on my disbelief that China would want a long drawn-out conflict fought with missiles only. Taking Taiwan fast to avoid US intervention made sense to me. After all, China was building up and so was Taiwan. It seemed like the end of the decade was the time when both sides would be armed up. So I figured, wouldn't it make sense for China to strike before Taiwan integrated the weapons we are selling them? Doesn't delay risk Taiwan becoming too strong and maybe going nuclear? Heck, isn't delaying too long risky from the standpoint of letting democracy get entrenched on Taiwan? Would China really want to absorb 22 million democracy advocates who might spread the disease to the mainlan if brought under Peking's loving embrace?

Then I considered Khe Sahn, where a couple NVA divisions distracted the US into thinking it was a major operation designed to pull a Dien Bien Phu on us. In reality it was a distraction that was purchased at the price of two northern divisions cut up by our forces. I read that they figured no Western general would suspect that an enemy would sacrifice two divisions just for a diversion.

So what diversion could work just prior to the end of the decade?

Hmm. There are the summer Olympics in Peking in 2008.

And Taiwan may be working on a new constitution in that year.

So I made a wild ass guess based on what I would do in their shoes. I'd invade before the Olympics when absolutely nobody would think that China would spoil their pageant.

As time went on I looked for evidence about this. In December 2003 (scroll down to December 3--this is pre-anchor days) I noted this:

[Major] General Peng listed the Olympics, loss of foreign investment, deterioration in foreign relations, economic slowdown or recession and "necessary" casualties by the army as costs China would willingly bear to reunify the mainland. He belittled the idea that China would not dare use military force against Taiwan before the 2008 Olympics, which it campaigned for many years to hold.

Then on July 29, 2004 I noted this:

Chinese diplomats have let it be known that retired generals recommended to Jiang Zemin, the Chairman of the Central Military Commission and former head of state, that China “settle the issue of Taiwan well ahead of the 2008 Olympics to be held in Beijing.”

Two days later I noted this:

A senior Chinese official warned that Beijing won't rule out war with Taiwan if the island's president pursues his plan to adopt a new constitution by 2008, the government's China Daily newspaper reported Friday.

As time went on I also noted that Chinese procurement and building plans seem to be scheduled to finish near the end of the decade. Indeed, recently I've read that some of our assumed timelines were off by a couple years and stuff may come out earlier. Like by 2008. Hmm.

So China is willing to endure losses and lose the Olympics and sees 2008 as a potentially decisive year.

Am I really being paranoid? Or are the Chinese out to get Taiwan. Soon. They've only spent 50 years telling us they will absorb Taiwan.

I believe them.

Assumptions Have Changed

A few years ago, Military Review published an article of mine about the next generation armored fighting vehicles (the future combat system: FCS) to replace main battle tanks.

I accepted that a lighter vehicle was needed to bridge the gap between leg infantry and heavy armor for specific missions, but I did not think it was safe to abandon heavy armor for light weapons on the assumption that nobody will get a shot off at us anyway so why waste resources on armor when it just makes it tough to get to the theater. The FCS could be useful but the MBT like the Abrams seemed likely to have a role far past the assumptions about their imminent dinosaur status.

I believed that heavy armor could continue to be vital if it too evolved with technology. I concluded:

Barring successfully fielding exotic technologies to make the FCS work, the Army must consider how it will defeat future heavy systems if fighting actual enemies and not merely suppressing disorder becomes its mission once again. The tentative assumptions of 2001 will change by 2025. When they do, the Army will rue its failure today to accept that the wonder tank will not be built.

The Iraq War and the Phase IV pacification was yet to come but I was not ready to assume victory was our birthright and so getting to a theater fast was the only concern we had. We have discovered the value of heavy armor in these campaigns. A lesson forgotten since the Persian Gulf War--or perhaps not learned even then.

It seems that the Army may be realizing that armor is not obsolete (from Instapundit):

The Cav lost 28 main battle tanks. He said one of the big lessons learned is that, contrary to doctrine going in, M1-A2s and Bradleys are needed, preferred and devastating in urban combat and he is going to make that point to the JCS next week while they are considering downsizing armor.

I was too optmistic about how long it would take for our assumptions to be turned upside down.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Catch 22

Another scandal is erupting over the administration's conduct of the Iraq War! Listen up:

In the weeks after Baghdad fell in April 2003, looters systematically dismantled and removed tons of machinery from Saddam Hussein's most important weapons installations, including some with high-precision equipment capable of making parts for nuclear arms, a senior Iraqi official said this week in the government's first extensive comments on the looting.

Hear that? US forces were not ordered to secure sites that included equipment capable of making parts for nuclear arms!

But wait, isn't this a dilemma for the Bush Lied crowd? Well I suppose it is. Hitchens notes:

The overall pattern of the plundered sites was summarized thus, by reporters James Glanz and William J. Broad:

"The kinds of machinery at the various sites included equipment that could be used to make missile parts, chemical weapons or centrifuges essential for enriching uranium for atom bombs."

My first question is this: How can it be that, on every page of every other edition for months now, the New York Times has been stating categorically that Iraq harbored no weapons of mass destruction? And there can hardly be a comedy-club third-rater or activist in the entire country who hasn't stated with sarcastic certainty that the whole WMD fuss was a way of lying the American people into war. So now what? Maybe we should have taken Saddam's propaganda seriously, when his newspaper proudly described Iraq's physicists as "our nuclear mujahideen."

My second question is: What's all this about "looting"? The word is used throughout the long report, but here's what it's used to describe. "In four weeks from mid-April to mid-May of 2003 … teams with flatbed trucks and other heavy equipment moved systematically from site to site. … 'The first wave came for the machines,' Dr Araji said. 'The second wave, cables and cranes.' " Perhaps hedging the bet, the Times authors at this point refer to "organized looting."

Somebody was calm and collected enough--and organized enough--to carry out this mission even as the Baathist regime crumbled. Who did it? And where is the stuff?

I do want to know why our forces didn't secure this stuff. Perhaps when no weaponized WMD were found, nobody figured the manufacturing machinery would walk off so it was not a priority. Perhaps. I do want to know. This was a mistake in securing Iraq after defeating Saddam's military.

But I can still ask this question without it interfering with my support for the war.

How can those who think the US lied to go to war manage to complain about this lapse without undermining one of their main reasons given for opposing the war?

I have to admit I'm enjoying this part.

But enough pleasure, back to business. Once again we have indications that Iraq had WMD programs. Where is that stuff and why didn't we guard it?

And if this WMD machinery could be moved out, is it really so hard to think that actual WMD could have been spirited away to be hidden inside Iraq or sent to another country?

One For You and One For Me; One For You and Five For Me

As the insurgency in Iraq started to kick into gear, I noted that the insurgents had lots of cash. I wondered at what point the money men would start to see that they were losing the war and start thinking about keeping the money instead of doling it out to the little guys doing the killing. After all, it is one thing for Baathists to spend when they thought it would lead to their return to power when a little extra neck stomping would repay their generous loans. It is another when they start to think that the money will run out and in the end they won't be back in the palaces. Oh what to do? Oh what to do? Well, they could just keep the money:

As the tide turns, many of the terrorist paymasters are shifting their spending to themselves and their families. With war crimes trials now under way, and more Iraqi police out there knocking on doors, paying for dead cops and American soldiers is becoming a dangerous proposition. Too dangerous for a man of means.

As the shift continues, it won't be long before the paymasters cut off those pesky--and losing--gunmen.

Better to retire to a country that won't ask questions as long as you have plenty of cash.

Information Leak

Building on other bits I've read about, the NYT describes how information is leaking into North Korea to show the long-isolated North Koreans that life on the outside is not the desperate scratching and clawing for sheer existence that the regime has claimed it to be. In fact, that description seems to describe their workers' paradise.

And the US is helping this process along:

Aggressive moves by the United States have added to the information leaking into North Korea. Last fall, Congress unanimously approved the North Korea Human Rights Act, which provides for increased Korean-language radio broadcasting to North Korea and for helping North Korean refugees in China.

The law has been a favorite target of harsh denunciations from North Korea. In January, the official radio network blamed the United States for societal decay, accusing Washington of increasing the broadcasting hours of Radio Free Asia toward North Korea and "massively infiltrating" into North Korea "portable transistor radios and impure publications and video materials."

The Pillsbury Nuke Boy can't be happy:

"They [the North Korean people] are gradually learning about South Korean prosperity," Dr. Lankov said. "This is a death sentence to the regime. North Korea's claim to legitimacy is based on its ability to deliver the worker's paradise now. What if everyone sees that it is not delivering?"

I hope the South Koreans stay vigilant as the North implodes soon. The Dear Leader might try to make his demise a murder-suicide pact with the South.

Message Problem

Zarqawi seems like he wants to go to greener pastures since his Iraq adventure is not inspiring the locals like he hoped.

He is also upset that the recruits don't seem to be flowing in like he thinks they should:

Al-Zarqawi's aide also revealed that his boss, after pondering the absence of attacks in the U.S. in recent years, concluded that a lack of "willing martyrs" was to blame. Al-Zarqawi believes, according to his lieutenant, that "if an individual is willing to die, there was nothing that could be done to stop him," even in the U.S.

Yet the recruits stay away. Zarqawi might want to check with his guys over in Propaganda Central and get his Recruiting Guys to have a word with them. The story being put out to sway the Euro and Moslem street is not exactly a "Be all you can be" story from the recruiting point of view:

Deaths from Taliban and al Qaeda violence are running at about ten a week. This is less than the deaths from warlord gunmen and common criminals. The Sunni Arab media, especially the satellite news networks, do what they can to stress real or imagined abuses against Taliban and al Qaeda captives. This is a classic tactic. When you are losing, try and turn your defeats into crimes being committed by your foe.
Get that? The propaganda guys are putting out the story that their glorious foot soldiers are not only getting beaten silly by the infidels but are being tortured and abused as well! Join and die in defeat! Or if you survive--get tortured!

Yeah, that will bring a flood of recruits for Zarqawi's latest game plan, eh?

Monday, March 14, 2005

Dealing With the Dysfunctional Village

VDH has an excellent article on the war so far. I especially like his support for the idea that adding troops to Iraq was always a bad idea--a position that I have advanced for a year and a half in what seemed like a lonely outpost but for occasional support from the likes of VDH.

It has far too much to try to summarize so just read it.

But I would like to highlight one part:

However dire were the threats of the autocracies of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, and despite their long-proven record of harboring terrorists of all sorts, the administration always talked in a larger strategic context of freedom and democracy in the Middle East. Thus rather than seeing the events that led to September 11 in a narrow frame of bin Laden alone, strategists rightly diagnosed the pathology of something far more insidious and of a much longer pedigree: a deep-seated anti-Americanism that transcended September 11 and was explicable in terms of who were, rather than what we did. We ignored, in other words, Bill Clinton's post 9/11 apologies for everything from slavery to General Sherman and his most recent praise of the murderous Iranian mullahcracy, as well as cheap shots like "taking our eye off bin Laden."

The Left likes to say we are insufficiently complex in our thinking about the world when it is the Left that is simplisme. In thinking that this war is about a mass murder and getting one man--Osama bin Laden--they betray a lack of understanding about the root causes of this fight.

The US has correctly seen that it takes a village to raise a suicide hijacker and we are out to save the village from itself by giving them the opportunity to embrace freedom. We aren't going to apologize to the village for imagined sins.

We can't impose freedom but we sure can support it. Our strategy includes a robust military component but it is not blind fury lashing out at enemies. We seek freedom in the Islamic world that lets them take responsibility for their own societies without the luxury of blaming--and killing--others for their failings. We will help them succeed instead.

The village that has allowed its youngsters to go forth on jihad had best take this opportunity to create a better village, because we have another village lesson we can apply if we really have to:

We can destroy the village in order to save us.
I want to fix the village. But one way or the other, I insist that we save ourselves.

Is It Still the Classic Mistake if China Starts a Land War in Asia?

The Chinese have alarmed the region with their transparent efforts to put the color of law into their planned invasion of a free and democratic Taiwan:

China's threat Monday to oppose Taiwanese independence with military force triggered a call for peaceful dialogue from Japan and a discussion of Australia's treaty obligations should a war break out. But Russia and Pakistan supported Beijing's new legislation.

Japan and Australia look to be on our side of the issue.

Pakistan and Russia look to be on China's side.

I'll take this line up any day. Plus add India, Singapore, South Korea, New Zealand, and Thailand to our side. Toss in a good chunk of the Cental Asian "Stans" where we have bases plus Afghanistan. Maybe Malaya, Vietnam, and the Philippines.

Add North Korea (until they collapse; though when they do take South Korea off our our side too since Seoul will be quite busy coping) and Burma to the Chinese side. Oh, and Europe sort of as they sell arms to Peking.

What kind of picture does this paint? A China nearly surrounded by our forces and those of our allies. China has a shrinking Russia selling them arms and a shaky Pakistan held in check by India even as the Indian navy teams up with the US Navy to cut off China's oil imports at the source. But hey, they'll always have Burma, right?

We have a neutral official Europe at our rear with some European states friendly to us. Weak Mexico and Canada on our borders that don't tie down any of our forces. And only Cuba and Venezuela to be an annoyance further south. Out on the front lines we have allies in a nice southern arc from the Stans to Japan. In time, Russia will realize its error of arming a large China that may want to regains some of Russia's sparsely populated far eastern provinces seized from China when China was weak. Then China will be completely screwed with enemies 360 and 24/7.

China is stone cold stupid to be pushing for a crisis over Taiwan when our spine is stiff enough to embolden China's many natural enemies into standing up to Peking's bullying.

I'm just not that impressed with the results of the wisdom that comes from having an ancient civilization. Looks like rookie mistakes to me. But what do I know? I'm only 43.

Hugo Chavez Seeks Promotion

Chavez is apparently tired of his number two slot in the number two league of villains that I call the Axis of El Vil (Cuba is the head and Haiti's Aristide is the junior, semi-retired member) and is strutting his stuff to get noticed by the major league Axis of Evil thug state Iran. He is bucking for promotion by backing Iran's nuclear ambtions:

Chavez, whose country is a leading U.S. oil supplier, announced his stance after meeting Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, who declared that both governments will stand "firm against any aggression."

"Iran has every right, like many other countries have done, to develop its atomic energy and continue its research in this field," Chavez said after top officials from both countries signed 20 cooperation agreements in areas from petrochemical projects to agriculture.

"Venezuela and Iran agree in firmly rejecting the imperialist policy of the United States."

Can't we please plot against Chavez? What's the point of being an all-knowing, string-pulling hyperpower if an annoying tinpot thug like Chavez can talk and act like this?

I mean, imperialist policies aren't what they're cracked up to be if this doesn't resolve in our favor.

Not Going Away

After the Syrians sent Hezbollah and a bunch of Syrian illegal immigrants into the streets in a show of strength and support that dwarfed the earlier anti-Syrian protests, it looked a little rough for the pro-independence side in Leganon.

But then the pro-independence side mobilized perhaps twice as many Druze, Sunnis, and Christians for another demonstration against the Syrians:

The rally, perhaps the biggest anti-government demonstration ever staged in the Arab world, was the opposition's bid to regain momentum after two serious blows: the reinstatement of the pro-Syrian prime minister and a huge rally last week by the Shiite group Hezbollah.

Protesters — some bused in from across Lebanon — jammed Martyrs' Square and spilled into nearby streets. They chanted, sang and shouted in a mix of the Arabic accents of the country's regions, demanding Syrian troops depart and that their government be purged of Damascus' influence.

The Syrians would be more than happy to start and win a civil war if their proxies the Shia Hezbollah will go the distance. I'd mentioned that the pro-independence side needs to split away a number of the Shias in order to deny the Syrians a solid proxy. Appealing to the Shias to avoid doing Assad's dirty work in Lebanon while Assad kills Iraqi Shias should be possible, I think.

So this bit is encouraging:

The turnout was broader than earlier opposition protests, with more Sunni Muslims in particular joining the Christians and Druse who have formed the bulk of past anti-Syrian rallies. Even some Shiites joined in.

Who breaks and who shoots first? It could go either way. I wonder if Damascus can gain the support of a major player and break our line of backers.

Oh, and this bit from another article is quite interesting regarding Syria itself:

"If the pressure grows and the Americans begin to hint at regime change, some here may be tempted to think they are the substitute the United States is looking for," George Jabour, a member of Syria's parliament and an eminent political scientist, said from Damascus.
Don't the opponents of doing anything except issuing apologies for things we didn't even do tell us that if the big bad Americans say they want something then that something is automatically "tainted" by association with us?

Apparently not. I'm still not optimistic that the guys with the guns and willingness to kill are going to lose this round, but the pro-freedom side doesn't seem too ashamed to take American encouragement. Darned shame we alienated the Arab world by liberating Iraq. Darned shame.

The thirst for freedom is not going away.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Reality Check

What is our esteemed steward of the glorious international community talking about?

Kofi Annan also said in his report that the scale and sophistication of insurgent attacks were increasing, worrying signs as Iraq's new leaders prepare to take power. Earlier Thursday, a suicide bombing at a Shiite mosque killed at least 47 people, and on Feb. 28, a suicide car bomber killed 125 people, mostly Shiite police and National Guard recruits.

First of all, since he thinks the Iraq War was illegal, he should welcome this development. Perhaps he does. So first of all, I don't care what he thinks. He can go rape a Congolese toddler or whatever it is the UN does nowadays to earn its keep.

But let me address his claim of scale and sophistication of the insurgents. Do not mistake bigger bombs aimed at civilians as sophistication. Iraq's insurgents are in fact descending the ladder of violence as they lose the fight with the Coalition in Iraq. Think about it. Back in the early days of the insurgency, Iraqis would launch direct attacks in platoon and even company strength. In a classic insurgency, the insurgents would have started operating in larger units until they had battalions and regiments and even divisions attacking our forces. These larger units would make it tough for our side to spread out and pacify large areas since small garrisons would be toast at the hands of large units.

Instead, we've seen direct attacks dwindle to be replaced by ineffective drive by shootings or indirect fire or roadside bombs and suicide bombers. I haven't read about a decent sized insurgent attack since before the First Battle of Fallujah. Large numbers massed in the August Sadr battles and inside Fallujah for the Second Battle of Fallujah, but those were targets and not organized forces attacking us. As we have atomized the enemy and punished them for attacking American troops, the insurgents have switched to attacking Iraqi troops. And now, with the Iraqi security forces getting better, the insurgents are resorting to reliance on terrorism against civilians.

If the scale and sophistication of insurgent attacks were going up, we'd see atrocities against civilians as we do now, but we'd also see large units of insurgents roaming the countryside, picking off our outposts and setting up sanctuaries of controlled territory.

No, Kofi, we are winning. No thanks to your fine body of thugs and cowards.

I'm just about ready to nominate the UN for the open slot in the Axis of Evil.

Truly, Their Intellect is Stunning: Part Two

I get annoyed when people talk about how China looks to the long view and thus will run circles around us with our insufficient vision. Usually this seems like an excuse to see a deep thought behind inaction and is also an excuse not to do anything to thwart China based on the idea that they won't do anything for another fifty years or so anyway in their long view. Even when they seem in an awful damned hurry, this does not seem to dent the idea that they have special insights based on their ancient civilization.

So in this light, I enjoyed this piece immensely. Rober Kagan starts:

For the past few months I've been hearing from a bevy of China experts about how subtle and brilliant Beijing's diplomacy has become in recent years. Sophisticated and confident, Chinese diplomats have been running rings around the United States, winning friends and influencing people throughout East Asia and the world. So I can only marvel at China's latest diplomatic gambits, whose brilliance and sophistication must be so subtle as not to be susceptible to normal modes of analysis.

Chinese saber rattling over Taiwan is getting the attention of its neighbors. And it isn't terribly subtle:

The threat also comes as some of China's neighbors, notably Japan and, more quietly, Australia, are evincing some nervousness about China's growing power and muscle-flexing. Japan has recently sought to broaden the scope of its security ties with the United States and for the first time has explicitly discussed joint U.S.-Japanese cooperation in the event of a crisis in the Taiwan Strait. What better way for China to soothe Japanese nervousness than to appear even more belligerent?

But Chinese subtlety doesn't end there. According to a report this week in The Australian, Chinese officials have recently demanded that the Australian government "review" its 50-year-old treaty with the United States. Australia "needs to be careful," Beijing Foreign Ministry official He Yafei reportedly warned, lest it wind up in a confrontation with China as part of its treaty obligations to the United States. Now, anyone who knows the Australian character knows that this kind of blunt "warning" and demand for a loosening of security ties with the United States is precisely the wrong tack to take if you really hope to influence Australian policy. So the Chinese must be operating on an entirely different plane of diplomatic sophistication.

One could almost get the idea that taking Taiwan is warping every Chinese thought process as they fixate on this one big goal:

It is possible that China hopes to get what it wants by bullying alone and that the Chinese leadership has no real intention of making good on its threats. It is also possible, however, that the Chinese are laying the groundwork for an eventual military assault on Taiwan. Who knows? Either way it would be foolish and dangerous to ignore Chinese threats. The best way to avoid war in the Taiwan Strait is to make clear that the United States will abide by its defense commitments, together with its Australian and Japanese allies. Let's not be too subtle.

He's absolutely right. We can't afford to be subtle with the Chinese so focused on Taiwan. They won't notice anything short of a 2 x 4 slapped across their backside. Build up our fleet and air power in the Pacific. Build alliances with Japan, South Korea, Australia, Singapore, Thailand, and India. And anybody else who wants in.

And we may have to consider recognizing Taiwan as an independent nation. As long as we pretend not to notice that Taiwan is a free and democratic nation, why should the Chinese recognize reality. While our current arrangement may have been necessary in the Cold War when our power was at its nadir compared to the Soviets and when we needed Chinese help; I fear we made a mistake not recognizing Taiwan in 1991 when the Soviets were gone and the Chinese still too weak to think about invading Taiwan.

I'm not prepared to say we should recognize Taiwan, But we should think about the implications of doing so--and of failing to do so.

And remember, the ability of China to remember and hold grudges over events centuries past is not the same as deep thinking. The former is just damn annoying.