Saturday, April 30, 2005

Terrible Lessons of the Past

H.D.S. Greenway reflects on the fall of South Vietnam thirty years ago.

He indeed has learned terrible lessons from the past. So terrible are those lessons that he makes terrible conclusions about our current war in Iraq.

His preamble is merely worthless. It is only at the halfway mark that Greenway gets into the idiocy:

Today, 30 years on, we are embarked in another military action. Like Vietnam, the war in Iraq began with a falsehood. The Tonkin Gulf incident, the alleged firing upon American ships, turned out to be as bogus as weapons of mass destruction and Al Qaeda links would be in the present war. And in this war as it was then, there were towns that had to be destroyed in order to save them.

So let's see. First sentence is accurate. But then it goes downhill. Whatever one wants to say about the Tonkin Gulf Incident, there is no question that North Vietnam was carrying out aggression against South Vietnam. The larger truth existed despite the pretext nature of the incident. Was it really bogus in this light? I don't think so.

As for Iraq WMD and ties to al Qaeda, these are not bogus. Saddam did not help with 9-11. But he was dirty with terrorism and there were clearly contacts with bin Laden's group. As for WMD, Saddam used them repeatedly in the 1980s. That was not bogus. And Saddam retained the ability to produce chemical weapons and the resources to pursue bio and nuclear weapons if he could wriggle loose of the scrutiny of the international community.

And basing policy on a quote never verified and then applying it to the most precise war in history that left Iraq virtually untouched by our invasion is just ignorant.

Greenway makes a silly comparison between McNamara and Rumsfeld, as if war is predictable and the advice of opponents of the war was oracle-like. Had we heeded all that advice we'd still be working on that second resolution or stockpiling food and medicine for the refugees and disease that would have been rampant in their view once we invaded. As if war is scripted beforehand and as if we haven't adapted well.

This is the kicker:

Long after the Vietnam War, a former American ambassador to Saigon, Henry Cabot Lodge, asked some questions that we could be asking ourselves today.

''Was the United States mistaken in its determination to intervene? Was the United States engaged in an imperialist adventure far from our own shores? Or were we defending a small nation, pledged to a democratic government? Did the limitations placed on our use of military force keep us from a swift and decisive victory? Or were we engaged in a war that could not be won even with the most sophisticated and lethal weapons? Were the Vietcong freedom fighters seeking to liberate their country, or were they simply terrorists?"

Let me help Greenway out here.

We were not mistaken to intervene. We bought valuable time for the rest of Southeast Asia to develop to the point where they could resist communist aggression. We put the Soviets on notice that any adventure in Europe would be met with force as it was in South Vietnam. Europe too could draw comfort from our defense of the West in Vietnam, knowing our commitment was good. In the end we went home in defeat, but our delaying action preserved much more in Asia and Europe than most people realize.

There was no imperialism involved. That is just lazy hippy rhetoric. We attempted to defend a nation that while not free was certainly better than the North. Here is a war that had massive numbers of refugees and victors who sent the defeated to concentration camps for "forced reeducation on a crash basis." Much like South Korea and Taiwan evolved to democracies, so too would South Vietnam have done so had we not abandoned them in 1974 and 1975, cutting off all aid after we left.

And yes, the limitations we fought under did hinder our war effort. Yet they were probably unavoidable with China next door. Still, we defeated the Viet Cong insurgency and the Northern-staffed insurgency that followed the communist battlefield debacle of Tet. People too often forget that no ragtag guerrillas marched into Saigon in April 1975 to "liberate" their southern brethren. Northern mechanized divisions marched south to conquer the Republic of Vietnam. There were no flowers greeting these invaders and no happiness about their arrival.

The last question is easiest. While they existed they were terrorists. In the end, they were cast aside by Hanoi which absorbed the south as a conquest.

And if Greenway thinks these questions are some brilliant commentary on our war in Iraq, he needs some remedial history. Truly, he has learned some terrible lessons from the past.

Let us learn that we should not snatch defeat from the mouth of victory. Let us learn that when we turn our backs and walk away, evil people triumph and good people die as victims silently away from our cameras.

And learn that 30 years after we walk away, those people we abandoned will still be mired in poverty and dictatorship. What could South Vietnam be today if we had just helped Saigon defeat the Northern invasion in 1975? Shoot, what might the North be if it had to answer to its own people for a long war that had accomplished nothing?

South Vietnam was snuffed out thirty years ago. And it didn't have to end that way.

UPDATE: This article is a better analysis rather than Greenway's Magical Mystery Tour to his fun decade:

For all the claims of popular support for the Vietcong insurgency, far more South Vietnamese peasants fought on the side of Saigon than on the side of Hanoi. The Vietcong were basically defeated by the beginning of 1972, which is why the North Vietnamese launched a huge conventional offensive at the end of March that year. During the Easter Offensive of 1972 - at the time the biggest campaign of the war - the South Vietnamese Army was able to hold onto every one of the 44 provincial capitals except Quang Tri, which it regained a few months later. The South Vietnamese relied on American air support during that offensive.

If the United States had provided that level of support in 1975, when South Vietnam collapsed in the face of another North Vietnamese offensive, the outcome might have been at least the same as in 1972. But intense lobbying of Congress by the antiwar movement, especially in the context of the Watergate scandal, helped to drive cutbacks of American aid in 1974. Combined with the impact of the world oil crisis and inflation of 1973-74, the results were devastating for the south. As the triumphant North Vietnamese commander, Gen. Van Tien Dung, wrote later, President Nguyen Van Thieu of South Vietnam was forced to fight "a poor man's war."

The isolated South Vietnam fell to the North--not insurgents--because we abandoned South Vietnam. As Stephen Morris concludes:

In 1974-75, the United States snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Hundreds of thousands of our Vietnamese allies were incarcerated, and more than a million driven into exile. The awesome image of the United States was diminished, and its enemies were thereby emboldened, drawing the United States into new conflicts by proxy in Afghanistan, Africa and Latin America. And the bitterness of so many American war veterans, who saw their sacrifices so casually demeaned and unnecessarily squandered, haunts American society and political life to this day.

We didn't have to lose that war. But we lost our nerve. Yet another reason to despise "peace" protesters. They helped make nearly 60,000 dead Americans appear to be for no reason at all.

I'd like to point out one other bit from Morris that has relevance today:

Evidence from Soviet Communist Party archives suggests that, until 1974, Soviet military intelligence analysts and diplomats never believed that the North Vietnamese would be victorious on the battlefield. Only political and diplomatic efforts could succeed. Moscow thought that the South Vietnamese government was strong enough to defend itself with a continuation of American logistical support. The former Soviet chargé d'affaires in Hanoi during the 1970's told me in Moscow in late 1993 that if one looked at the balance of forces, one could not predict that the South would be defeated.

Those who think that counting weapons means you know the balance of forces fail to consider the morale aspect of war. This is why I'm worried about Taiwan's ability to hold off the Chinese should China invade Taiwan. In 1975, the South Vietnamese had the statistics that proved their superiority but the North had the will to win. The South felt isolated and abandoned and so did not fight. If we can't get into the Taiwan fight fast, the Taiwanese may feel very isolated and alone against 1.3 billion hostile Chinese.

I'm not confident that we can predict a Taiwanese victory.

Annoying Things

Ok, this is just really an attempt to get my List of Annoying Things stats back up from where they used to be prior to moving my defense and security blogging here, but since I just has a whack at Chris Matthews I thought I had to at least mention that page.

Point of Vulnerability

I've written about my worries that China could wage effective psychological warfare against the Taiwanese military to degrade its effectiveness by convincing commanders to either stay in the barracks or even defect while the Chinese land troops on Taiwan.

This development highlights the source of my worry:

Taiwan opposition leader Lien Chan and Chinese President Hu Jintao closed the book on decades of hostility on Friday with a simple handshake in Beijing's Great Hall of the People.

The civil war enemies agreed in a two-hour meeting that they described as frank and friendly to work to end enmity between the Kuomintang (KMT), or Nationalist Party, and the Chinese Communist Party and avoid military conflict in the Taiwan Strait, one of Asia's most dangerous flashpoints.

"The two parties will work together to facilitate the resumption of negotiations as soon as possible ... and facilitate the ending of a hostile state to achieve a basis for peace," Lien's spokesman told a news conference.

But that will depend also on Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), whose independence stance has heightened tension with a mainland China, which views Taiwan as its own and is bent on bringing the self-governed island back under its rule.

This isn't just a bout of detente. This isn't the ruling party trying to reduce tensions--this is the oppostiion party free-lancing a foreign policy! How happy would we be with such a development?

It may seem counter-intuitive to worry about the KMT succumbing to the call of the homeland. They were the bitter enemy of the communists for over 80 years now. But the KMT officially believes in one China. They theoretically wanted to rule all of China since being defeated and fleeing to Taiwan over 50 years ago. I think the KMT can be vulnerable to pressure on the point of Chinese pride in what the communists have built. Might they not see developments on the mainland as acceptable? Get rich and be part of a rising Chinese civilization once again. The KMT was not in favor of democracy until the last 15(?) years or so. Pride in Chinese civilization runs deep. Commitment to democracy is still shallow for many of the older KMT leaders.

As I've noted, the Chinese communists need to capture Taiwan before democracy becomes too embedded in Taiwanese thinking to easily absorb without infecting the rest of China. The DPP stands for democracy. The KMT will become more committed as the older age cohorts move on and younger descendents of the KMT refugees grow up knowing nothing but democracy, but we apparently aren't at that point yet.

This also highlights another problem for us. How much advanced technology do we sell Taiwan? We want Taiwan to be able to defend itself. But if Taiwan is vulnerable to a civil war that provides the opening for China to invade and conquer the island, we hardly want to provide a massive military technology infusion and intelligence bonanza as the Taiwanese arsenal and government files are turned over to the Chinese. Sadly, our Plan C (If Plan A to stop an invasion and PLan B to liberate the island if conquered fail) may be to bomb everything we've sold to the Taiwanese into small pieces.

It isn't easy. All the more reason to break out of the Taiwan Strait confrontation path we are on and reshape the strategic environment in a high stakes Great Game.

This decade sucks. I've mentioned that, right?

World of Hurt

The Land Warrior program is supposed to create super troopers that will be plugged into the networked Future Force:

The Land Warrior system is a high tech "system of systems" designed to provide every soldier with overmatch capabilities. This integrated, soldier-fighting system dramatically increases the combat soldier's lethality, battle command compatibility, survivability, mobility, awareness, sustainability, and combat effectiveness.

Land Warrior enables soldiers to engage and defeat enemy targets while minimizing friendly casualties. The Land Warrior system is modular to permit tailoring for mission requirements, minimize the combat load, and facilitate maintenance. Land Warrior enables command, control, and sharing of information, thus providing "total battlefield visibility" and integration into the digitized battlefield with a consistent and intuitive interface for use under combat conditions. The system integrates previously distinct components such as protective clothing, communications, sensors, and power, to enhance capabilities without adding weight. These components are integrated into a system that can make the dismounted combat soldier lethal, survivable, and informed.

Each individual soldier on the battlefield can easily and clearly communicate with others in the squad by voice, visual and text data. The soldier always knows his precise location, where his buddies are, the mission plans and known enemy positions. He can accurately engage targets from cover — day or night — even around corners, without exposing himself to the enemy fire.

I guess I hadn't realized just how advanced the program is (via National Review Online). I'm especially impressed with the personal shield.

Our enemies are in for a world of hurt.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Quality People

I am quite heartened to read that one old lesson of warfare has really sunk in because of the Iraq War and the fight against the insurgents in Iraq after major combat operations ended:

The army was also relieved to see that their long, and costly, investment in training, and careful selection of recruits, was working. This angle never got much press, it never does. And despite ample historical evidence, generals are always tempted to shortchange training in favor of new gadgets. At least you can show off the hardware to Congress, when you go begging for more money. No one has yet found a way to show off training, short of an actual war. And even then it’s difficult. But this time around, many more generals, and civilians in the Pentagon, became believers.

In 1997, the Association of the United States Army published my "The First Gulf War and the Army's Future" as a Land Warfare paper. It was about lessons from Iraq's invasion of Iran in 1980 for the Army. I stated (pp. 14-15, sorry--not online):

Iraq's failings highlight the advantages the United States Army derives from its modern equipment and realistic training. Although there appears to be a consensus among military strategists and policy-makers that the United States must maintain its technological edge, the troops must be trained and motivated to take advantage of that technology. The critical advantages provided by highly trained soldiers with good morale are not easily quantifiable in peacetime. The lack of quality becomes quantifiable, indirectly, when one counts the burned-out armored vehicles of an army whose troops did not know how to use their equipment and who lacked the will to fight on in adversity.

The Importance of this invisible edge that the United States Army works hard to maintain cannot be overestimated. The disasters that can follow from incorrrectly
believing you have a trained army are appalling. Iraq's experience in 1980--having its presumed blitzkrieg lead to a grinding eight-year war of attrition, heavy casualties and debt, and the long-term mistake of trying to reverse the losses of the 1980s by invading Kuwait in 1990--should serve as a warning to us.

I'm very happy to read that this lesson has taken hold. It may be forgotten in the future as it often is, but for now we are on the right track. Well-trained soldiers, Marines, airmen, and sailors are the high tech weapon we must rely on for victory.

The Pescadores Stepping Stone

In my Taiwan crisis Part III about an invasion scenario, I wrote about China capturing the Pescadores Islands at the outset:

The PLANs amphibious warfare ships will be used to lift the Chinese marines to the Pescadores Islands to seize that position as a staging area for helicopters and air cushion vehicles to shuttle follow-up forces to Taiwan itself. This will also have the effect of nullifying the anti-ship missiles based there.

Today, Strategypage emphasizes this point as well:

Discussion of China’s plans to invade Taiwan often ignore the smaller, Taiwan controlled islands, that the Chinese invasion forces will either bypass, or hit first, on their way to Taiwan. The smaller islands, Quemoy and Matsu, are within artillery range of the mainland. But a group of larger islands, the Pescadores, are within artillery range of Taiwan itself. The Pescadores have an area of only 127 square kilometers, and a population of 90,000. There is also a military garrison on the island, including an armored brigade, plus anti-aircraft missiles and mobile anti-ship missile units. The Pescadores are doubly important, as they are opposite the most important landing beaches on Taiwan.

Of course, quickly getting troops on Taiwan itself in large numbers means the Chinese can't afford to wait until the Pescadores are captured, as Strategypage quite correctly notes. Speed is China's answer to our naval and air superiority. If China wins fast then our intervention is moot.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Stay Alert

I don't know why the insurgent attacks are up in Iraq this last month. On the bright side, it has been a while since there has been a report of a large platoon-sized attack on any Coalition forces. I was disturbed that the enemy was able to mass that large a force early in the month. Where did they gather prior to the attacks. Did they train for the attacks? If they did, where did they train without being spotted?

Is handing off security duties to Iraqis allowing insurgents some more freedom of action with fewer US troops out going after the insurgents? Not that we should reverse this, since as others have noted, it is better for the Iraqis to fight the war tolerably well than for US forces to fight brilliantly. The Iraqis can't rely on us. If they do they'll watch the fight between us and the Baathists and stay neutral. I've argued for this for nearly two years and I'm pleased we didn't fall for the siren song of pumping up troop strength in Iraq. We'd have taken over the war and exhausted ourselves. We can get tired and go home. By contrast, the new Iraqi government has nowhere to go. If the Iraqis fight the insurgents, they have to win or die. The only question is how ruthless will the new government have to get to suppress the Baathist revolt with their jihadi buddies? And will true democracy be crippled? Whatever is there at the end of this insurgency will be better than Saddam but I've gotten my hopes up and would like some form of democracy functioning in Iraq at the end of the day.

With the Iraqi economy growing and the Iraqi military and governmental institutions being built, this war is being won. Even with attacks roughly the same this month as a year ago, in April 2004, the insurgents were on the offensive and the Iraqi government was a glimmer in our eye. Some were thinking of our side bugging out. Now the Iraqi government is growing stronger every day and the insurgents have seen our side take their best shot and keep going. The insurgents are looking for a way out. The insurgents haven't been able to stop this progress.

But I'm not sure what is going on in the field. I'm just a little nervous.

UPDATE: All those car bombs came from somewhere. Fallujah was a car bomb factory and we eliminated that sanctuary. The jihadis and the Baathists built those things somewhere and with so many, it must be relatively secure.

Turning over security to Iraqis will leave a problem. In the short run, the Iraqis will be less effective. But we can't keep the job just because we are more effective in the short run. There will be a learning curve for the Iraqis and we must let them learn. We can help the Iraqis find this latest sanctuary and destroy it. But in the long run, Iraqis must win this war.

No Time for Patience

On the question of Taiwan, some people who don't think China could attempt to invade Taiwan seem to assume that since growing Chinese power will allow Peking to absorb Taiwan, it would be foolish to risk war with America in the near term. I don't have any examples but I've noticed this. Part of the myth of infinite Chinese patience born of an ancient civilization.

This article from a couple years ago (sorry, I can't remember who to thank for this link) argues that Chinese power is at a relative peak right now and that after 2008, US power relative to China will begin to grow as various US weapons go online; and that Taiwan will begin to close the China-Taiwan gap as it acquires new weapons and absorbs them. The authors conclude:

First of all, however, U.S. civilian and military leaders must dismiss the fatally flawed theory that time is on China’s side in the struggle over the strait and recognize that the real danger of a PRC attack is in this decade, when Taiwan is most vulnerable, not in the next. Only then will Washington and Taipei act and plan according to a shorter, realistic time line.

As I've mentioned, the US and Taiwan need a sense of urgency. Even if China has little chance of winning a war against Taiwan and deterring or slowing US and Japanese intervention, if time is not on China's side, China may decide to try even a slim chance of successfully invading if the passage of time will make that chance disappear.

I think that time is on our side but for different reasons. I think that the longer democracy is cultivated on Taiwan the less China can afford to bring that virus into communist China and infect 1.3 billion Chinese with the desire for freedom. Nor will Taiwan endure year after year of invasion threat without going nuclear. This article by Bernier and Gold adds another conventional military reason why time is not on China's side.

And there's that year 2008 popping up again. Huh. Is an invasion prior to the Olympics really so far fetched?

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

All The Bias That's Fit to Print

The New York Times has an excellent idiotorial.

First they say that the Shias are the greatest threat to Iraq's future. And the Kurd's have their own agenda, too, so watch out for them! So who should be in the government? Why those poor misunderstood, disenfranchised Sunni Baathists!

There have been particularly disturbing calls in recent weeks from leaders of the main Shiite political bloc for a far-reaching purge of former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party from all government, military and intelligence posts. That would be an injustice for the many Iraqis who joined the party just to keep their jobs, and would further estrange an already deeply alienated Sunni community.

Are the writers of this editorial crack heads or crystal meth users? Can they possibly be upset that the former victims of Saddam's Baathists thugs (who represent 80% of the people) will dominate the government? Is it really possible for them to say that breaking the monopoly of power that the minority Sunnis wielded with brutal efficiency is an injustice??!! My God, I think the Shias alone could work up the 60% to break a Sunni filibuster for Pete's sake. Honestly, it is just revolting to see who the Times writers reserve their sympathy for. It is shameful.

And what to make of this?

The only plausible reason for keeping American troops in Iraq is to protect the democratic transformation that President Bush seized upon as a rationale for the invasion after his claims about weapons of mass destruction turned out to be fictitious. If that transformation is now allowed to run off the rails, the new rationale could prove to be as hollow as the original one.

Freedom was seized on after the fact? Give me strength to fight three-year old battles once again. Prior to the war, I recall the anti-war side railing against the multiple reasons given to overthrow Saddam's regime. They complained that the pro-war side couldn't settle on a single reason. And now the anti-war side denies there was more than one reason! And they've picked the one reason and asserted it was wrong.

Let's set aside the very name of the invasion, "Operation Iraqi Freedom." Could be a coincidence, right? But peruse Instapundit's compilation of arguments made prior to the war for fighting for freedom in Iraq. Not so hollow, eh?

As for WMD being fictitious, all I have to say is bull. I expected to find chemical weapons in Iraq. Why? Because Iraq produced them and used them in the 1980s so it didn't take a wild leap to assume Saddam still had them. Nukes? I expected some level of program but given the fact we missed the program in the 1990s I was unwilling to trust it was at a low level. Bio weapons? I didn't expect weaponized bio crap but given that such a program would take very little of a footprint I was unwilling to take a chance.

We still cannot close the book on Iraq's WMD:

The media spin on WMD remains in full force. The truth is that without a full reckoning and complete access to the entire Southwest Asia area, no WMD search could possibly be complete. Nor does the evidence in the report support a conclusion that the WMD did not exist, as the above quote shows. Duelfer and his team did not stop because the WMD didn't exist; they stopped because they had run out of time, resources, and jurisdiction. Duelfer recommends further investigation, a clear indication that he believes the question remains open on WMD transfers to Syria, a recommendation that CNN and other media sources predictably leaves out of their reports.

Yes, freedom for the Iraqis was one reason for overthrowing Saddam's regime. And yes, the question of Iraq's WMD was a good reason to destroy Saddam's regime. We will find out what happened to the WMD given enough time. And we will create a better Iraq given time.

What we will never find is the Times credibility to accurately report news.

A Big 'Well, Duh' Moment

Iran is going nuclear.

The EU is trying soft power to stop them.

Others are positive that force is not the answer in any way. Or as they put it, violence is the "last resort." We all know that "last" means "never" in practice. There is always one more thing to try short of force, eh? Even if that means sending Jimmy Carter and Jesse Jackson to Tehran at the same time! Oooh.

Well what about those measures short of force? Would Iran be impressed? Well you decide:

Day after day, Iranians shrug off the prospect of U.N. sanctions, Washington's key threat against Iran's unwillingness to abandon nuclear ambitions — and for good reason: Tehran has powerful friends with keen financial interests in blocking such punishment.

But even if Iran cannot secure a Russian or Chinese veto of any attempt at imposing U.N. Security Council sanctions, it has weathered an American embargo for 25 years. Many Iranians, while acknowledging some pain, credit the U.S. embargo with making them more self-reliant.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman, exasperated by repeated warnings for Iran to end its nuclear ambitions or face U.N. sanctions, said recently that "we don't know with what language to tell the Europeans and Americans that Iran is not afraid of the U.N. Security Council."

"We have been subject to sanctions in the past," Hamid Reza Asefi added. "In the short term, it has put us under pressure. But in long term, it has helped our economy to flourish."

Tehran doesn't fear UN sanctions. Tehran has several lines of defense. First, China or Russia or perhaps France will run interference. Second, Tehran can count on ineffective sanctions. Third, Tehran can count on people to cheat on the sanctions.

Ah yes, the power of the combined actions of the vaunted "international community." Does anybody seriously think that Tehran can be talked out of nuclear weapons?

Regime change is the only answer to Iran's threat to world peace. This does not mean invasion. It does mean supporting people who oppose the mullahs.

And soon. We're running out of friggin' time.

The Wonder Tank Will Not Be Built

That's what I concluded in this article. We are trying to build a revolutionary Future Combat System (FCS) that would indeed be amazing if built:

Building the FCS, however, is a high-risk venture. The Army should not spend whatever it takes attempting to meld multiple revolutionary technologies into one vehicle for all missions. The FCS should be different from the Abrams and Bradley but must be designed with near-term technology that incorporates modular improvements if the Army is to turn "gee whiz" ideas into actual hardware. Separated missiles and a sensor grid; active defenses; EGTs; and exotic engines, fuels, and weapons can be retrofitted to defeat more capable enemies. 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.

Strategypage has more:

The army is trying to build a next generation tank, as part of the FCS (Future Combat System) series, that will weigh less than the M-1, and have better armor protection. Aside from active protection systems (that detect incoming projectiles and fire little missiles at them), the FCS tank is depending on “armor” materials that exist only in theory, or laboratory samples. The current attitude of the manufacturers is to have the army throw them enough money, and they will make it happen, one way or another. That has worked in the past, but that approach has often failed as well.

A lot appears to ride on this approach. But what if we cannot provide protection without weight?

There has to be a next generation tank, and no one wants to just build a better M-1. But unless these new protective technologies show up soon, the future tank is going to be an improved M-1, or something that looks a lot like it.

Victory in battle is not our birthright. We cannot simply assume that whatever we send to war will trounce the enemy in a networked blur of killing and so all we need to do is make our military vehicles easier to transport long distances. Let's not get ahead of ourselves. We need tanks--or something an awful lot like them--to defeat our enemies.

Or maybe we will build the wonder tank. I've certainly been wrong before. Yet we assume that our enemies will have present day technology. But what if wonder tank technology grafted on to sheer size creates a high tech monster? Our enemies don't have to go far to fight us. We're the ones who have to go to them. We may worry about weight but our enemies don't.

Will even a successful FCS be able to fight our enemies who copy our technology?

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Common Enemy. Common Ally

Japan and India are talking. China may have tried a charm offensive on India and unleashed protesters on Japan to break up the growing anti-Chinese alliance in Asia, but with the United States not far away, Japan and India are chatting:

"Japan is ready to provide strategic orientation to the existing global partnership (with India) with the concept of a new Asian era in mind," [Japanese ambassador Yasukumi Enoki ] told a news conference ahead of Koizumi's visit which begins Friday.

The two leaders will discuss trade, military ties and terrorism and a bid by both nations to secure a seat on an expanded United Nations Security Council.

With the United States moving closer to Japan and India, having Japan and India move closer to each other is good news for the guys in the white hats.

The Great Game in Asia continues.

Oh, and a permanent seat for Brazil? Come on! And Germany? Yeah, right. Germany has not stepped up to accept the responsibilities of a great power but wants the perk? Forget it. Enjoy your EU status, Berlin.

We support our allies who want permanent seats.

Is Assad Defeated in Lebanon?

I've not been optimistic that Syria will be easily defeated in Lebanon. As long as Hezbollah will act as Syria's agent in Lebanon, it seems that a peaceful resolution will be vey hard. And although the army is out, are Syria's intelligence agents really out?

This article says that Assad is truly defeated and that the defeat could follow him into Syria:

Dennis Ross, a former Middle East mediator, said Syria's pullout "is the beginning of what is going to be a pressure for change, one way or the other."

"It could end up being a coup against the current regime," Ross said.

Or, he said, "It could end up being Bashar himself acting against others who he feels have held him back."

I hate to refuse to recognize victory when it is staring me in the face, but although Assad may be a babe in the woods, he's surrounded by pretty ruthless operatives who can't view threats to their minority rule without wanting to act.

I'll keep my fingers crossed and I think we need to keep the pressure on Syria, but I won't pop the champagne quite yet.

UPDATE: The Syrians have not removed all their intelligence assets from Lebanon:

"In the many years the Syrians have been there, they've inserted themselves pretty deeply in Lebanon, including in intermarriage," said a senior State Department official, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the subject. "They've abandoned their headquarters, but they're still integrated in Lebanese society in a way that can be difficult to detect. So even though their formal presence is over, there is still a significant residual presence we need to look at."

Refugee camps are suddenly bigger. Who are these new refugees?

And of course, as long as Hezbollah works for Damascus, Syria has considerable street muscle to influence and control events as much as they can.

We have a long way to go. Will the Lebanonese people be up to the challenge of standing up to the forces Damascus still controls?

Monday, April 25, 2005

Who Fears Whom?

Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to be nostalgic for the Soviet Union:

Putin, who served as a colonel in the KGB, has resurrected some communist symbols during his presidency, bringing back the music of the old Soviet anthem and the Soviet-style red banner as the military's flag.

In the 50-minute address at the Kremlin, Putin avoided mentioning the need to work more closely with other former Soviet republics — in contrast to previous addresses — and he made passing reference to the treatment of Russian-speaking minorities in former Soviet republics.

"First and foremost it is worth acknowledging that the demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century," Putin said. "As for the Russian people, it became a genuine tragedy. Tens of millions of our fellow citizens and countrymen found themselves beyond the fringes of Russian territory. The epidemic of collapse has spilled over to Russia itself."

Russia regularly complains about discrimination against Russian-speaking minorities, particularly in the Baltic countries of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia.

First of all, it's a good thing that China isn't involved since the lack of any regret for the crimes of the Soviet Union should require lots of apologies from Putin. Japan must be envious of Putin's freedom of expression.

Seriously, though, Russia never has come to grips with its bloody past. It is disturbing that Putin seems to be calling for mother Russia to protect the ethnic Russians caught on the wrong side of the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Or is he? Putin included this bit:

"The epidemic of collapse has spilled over to Russia itself."

Is Putin staking out grounds for intervention in the "near abroad" or is Putin expressing fear that the unrest that stripped Moscow of its Eastern European empire and then the non-Russian republics of the Soviet Union might spread to rump Russia itself?

Some argue that it's only a matter of time before the revolutionary tide sweeps over Russia. Several of the country's 20 ethnic republics have a similar political profile to Kyrgyzstan, with a long-time ruler monopolizing power and often extending corrupt tentacles into business. "Events around the former Soviet Union have raised the possibility that similar things can happen here too," says Andrei Piontkovsky, director of the independent Center for Strategic Studies in Moscow. "The situation in several of our republics, including Tatarstan and Bashkortistan, look very much like Kyrgyzstan."

Perhaps Putin fears that the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of this century is yet to happen in Russia. Of course, if this fear leads the Russians to try and recreate the Soviet empire, this will be a problem. I'm glad we've pushed NATO east while we could under the circumstances!

Sadly, as a former KGB agent, Putin is unlikely to see democracy as the means to avoid such a catastrophe. We need to watch this train wreck waiting to happen. And strengthen democratic institutions inside Russia. I want Russia to be our friend and ally. But attitudes such as Putin expresses are a huge problem to being real allies.

UPDATE: Well that was quick. An article in the Times about protests in the Bashkortostan region within the rump Russian state where democracy is denied to the provinces:

In mid-April, with no elections on the horizon after two months of protests, some 200 opponents flew to Moscow to make their case, holding a rally and presenting to Mr. Putin's administration a petition with what they said were 107,000 signatures calling for Mr. Rakhimov's dismissal. Meanwhile, rallies here continued, and another is scheduled for May 1.

Mr. Bignov said the opposition leaders had made their case directly to Mr. Putin's aides, though he declined to say whom in the Kremlin they had met. Mr. Petrov said Mr. Putin was unlikely to agree, for fear that a precedent set here would ignite protests against other unpopular leaders.

Since Mr. Putin abolished regional elections, which he defended as a means to strengthen executive power, protesters in three other southern regions - Karachayevo-Cherkessia, Ingushetia and North Ossetia - have unsuccessfully demanded the dismissal of their leaders. So far, though, the protests here have been the most significant and sustained.

"We are facing a new wave of social activism," Mr. Petrov said. "And it is dangerous, because there is a lack of democratic institutions through which this energy can be channeled."

Putin is squeezing the people and trying to centralize power; but is the Russian state capable of wielding the tactics of the old Soviet Union to quell calls for democracy?

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Shovel the Snow in Asia

We need to get China focused on the Asian interior so that we are not on the verge of war with China over Taiwan.

The United States remains a Pacific and Asian power. Japan is a Pacific power. India is rising as an Asian power and China is forging ahead to become an Asian power with ambitions to superpower status.

The Great Game is underway in Asia and we must play:

It is no longer enough for a lightly engaged Washington to support Japan reflexively, coax China warily to be more responsible and pay lip service to a "strategic partnership" with India. The administration must now decide whether U.S. interests will be best protected by trying to maintain the present rough equilibrium of forces in the Asia-Pacific region, or by intervening to alter the balance of power.

The Russians are already playing the game and have been successful in keeping China pointed towards Taiwan and therefore America, Taiwan's ally. As a reader noted, the Russians did this once already in Operation Snow, which succeeded in getting Japan to go south in World War II instead of north into the interior of Asia where the Soviet Union was.

We have reacted by trying to arm Taiwan with better weapons and to whip the Taiwanese military into shape to actually fight off an invasion. We've pulled Japan into the arena with a commitment to defend Taiwan and we are making a major play toward incorporating India into our alliance system. We have Australia on board and our forces are based in Central Asia.

While all this looks good for building an alliance to fight and defeat China, this is not playing the Great Game. This is making the best of a worst case scenario--war with China. Sure, if we must fight I'd rather win, but just going to war is going to cost us in lives and money.

One can say that we hope that by becoming strong enough we deter the Chinese but this is still only second best. A deterred China will always be on the verge of attacking, just waiting for the moment when we cannot stop them for one reason or another and so cannot deter them for even a short window of opportunity.

No, defeating China makes the best of the worst case and deterring China makes the best of the second worst case. We need to shovel the Snow back north. We need to play the Great Game in Asia to achieve our best case--a China pointed away from the south--Taiwan and the United States and our other allies--and pointed toward the north and the interior of Asia.

So how do we do this? Well, China has one great weakness that we must use to move China north. China needs imported energy:

Service stations across China are starting to run short on diesel this spring, while electricity blackouts here in southeastern China are growing worse as power stations cut back on purchases of fuel oil.

The Chinese, as part of their southern strategy, are trying to build a navy that can protect their lines of supply to Middle East oil supplies. Bases in Burma and Pakistan plus friendly relations with Iran, Sudan, and Saudi Arabia are part of the effort. This effort is, however, quite futile. The Chinese simply cannot secure oil tankers travelling from the Middle East through our Fifth Fleet, get by India's navy, transit Indonesian waters without friendly Thailand, Singapore, Malaya, Indonesia, and Australia, and then get by Taiwan and the American Pacific Command with Japanese assistance. In any long war with America, the American Navy with the Air Force in support, could throttle China's oil imports even if every potential ally of ours bowed out.

China must know this yet they still look south and they still seek sea routes for oil imports. Taiwan is part of the draw, too, of course. As long as they are building a navy to take Taiwan why not try to secure oil lines of supply.

But what if we could get China to look north for oil supplies? Not to Russia mind you. I'd rather have Russian oil go to Japan as it looks like it will rather than south to China. If China gets dependent on Russian oil, China will get nervous that Russian controls this vital resource and will think of securing the supply. They will be able to conquer the Far East of Russia. With a Russian-Japanese oil link, Japan will have an interest in defending Russia and Russia will have an interest in keeping their customer more secure. Perhaps this will help get Russia to slow their arms sales to China that feed Peking's southern strategy.

But to get China looking north to Asia for oil supplies, perhaps we should try to encourage oil pipelines throughPakistan to Iran and through Central Asia to the Caspian Sea regoin. If China gets oil through this route, paying for a navy with no task other than taking Taiwan may not make as much sense as it did when the navy was needed for oil supply security too. This could suck China into Asia and perhaps make the Europeans nervous enough about the Chinese coming up a new silk road that Europe will feel they need America again as an ally.

We might even be able to work out something with the EU which desperately wants to sell arms to China. What if we can figure out a list of arms that will encourage the Chinese to look to Asia's interior while still banning EU sales of arms that propel the Chinese south to the sea? Europe won't look ahead 50 years to worry about the Chinese in Central Asia and the Caspian Sea. Europe will be happy to sell arms with our blessings.

And I think our air power would be able to disrupt these new oil routes just as our Navy can savage the sea lines of supply. As long as we retain our influence in Central Asia and the Middle East, we will still retain leverage over China in the event of a long war.

Of course, we must still make Taiwan a hard target and our response an iron clad defense of Taiwan to add further reason for China to go north. But just preparing for war with China is only making the best of a bad situation.

Like I said, we need to start shoveling the snow back north. The Great Game is on and we need to play to win the game and avoid war; and not just play to win the war that we should avoid fighting.

We're Really Really Sorry You're Communists

Japan has apologized (again) for their aggression in World War II. Said President Koizumi:

"In the past Japan through its colonial rule and aggression caused tremendous damage and suffering for the people of many countries, particularly those of Asian nations," Koizumi said at the summit's opening ceremony. "Japan squarely faces these facts of history in a spirit of humility."

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan said China welcomed Koizumi's apology — but said more need to be done.

"That President Koizumi expressed this attitude in this arena is welcome. We welcome it," Kong told reporters at a summit of Asian and African leaders in Jakarta. "But to express it is one aspect. What's of much more importance is the action. You have to make it a reality."

China wants what? All of Japan to commit ritual suicide? Isnt the aid Japan (still, I think) lavished on China enough? Aren't the many apologies enough? Isn't the fact that Japan has clearly turned its back on aggression enough?

But China isn't interested in an apology. Or reality. China just wants a club to beat Japan into sending more money and giving more concessions. And as an excuse to veto a Japanese Security Council permanent seat.

So I was happy to see the Japanese give the Chinese a little back. The foreign minister complained about Chinese textbooks. And this is getting media play:

There was also criticism of Chinese textbooks in Japan's media. The Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan's biggest newspaper, said in an editorial Sunday that China should also change the way it teaches history.

"China should halt its nationalistic and anti-Japanese education with action," the conservative daily said. "It is also starting to be pointed out in the United States and Europe that history instruction in China is distorted to suit the convenience of the Communist Party."

Machimura said Tokyo would officially inform Beijing what it thought of China's textbooks after it fully reviews them. Machimura said Tang Jiaxuan, China's state councilor and a former foreign minister, had invited him to do so during a recent discussion about teaching history.

So China wants Japan to reflect on the suffering that Japan caused others in World War II, especially China?

Well I'm fine with that. After that unit of instruction, we'll need about a dozen to reflect on the Chinese communist role in inflicting death and destruction and tyranny on the Chinese people since the Japanese were defeated in World War II.

Japan's crimes are at least for the history books. China adds new chapters of crimes every year.

I'm glad to see Japan isn't just taking Peking's BS.

FLASH Message to EU

Iran is hell bent on going nuclear.

The EU is negotiating with the Iranians to end Iran's suspected nuclear weapons ambitions. The Europeans like to believe that their awesomely big brains with polished sophistication and deep understanding will lead Iran to strike a bargain that will do what American cowboy actions cannot.

That's their theory anyway. So while the following story is no surprise to myself and lots of other Americans, the EU (and EU at heart) may wish to sit down before reading further about Iran's intentions to resume uranium enrichment:

"As long as the negotiations are continuing, the suspension will continue," said [Iranian] foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi.

"We have put enrichment on the agenda and it must start in a while. If the negotiations work out or fail, we will resume," he added, also warning that Iran "will not accept the negotiations carrying on longer than a reasonable amount of time."

"It is obvious that the suspension cannot last too long," he said. "If Iran feels the EU is tending to kill time to prolong the negotiations, Iran will obviously not wish to continue the negotiations."

Iran and the European Union, represented by Germany, Britain and France, have been involved in lengthy negotiations, with the EU demanding that the Islamic republic abandon nuclear fuel work to guarantee it will not make atomic weapons.

Iran suspended enrichment last November as a confidence-building measure to start the talks with the EU, which is offering Tehran trade, security and technology rewards if it makes the suspension permanent.

Iran is suspending enrichment only long enough to extract trade, security, and technology rewards from Europe. Europe will grant them if only the Iranians will lie better. Because that's all the Europeans really need--plausible lies by the mullahs about Iran's future good behavior.

Unfortunately for the EU diplomatic set, the Iranians are quite forthright on occasion about their absolute determination to follow the nuclear weapons path.

Let me write his in crayon so the nice bold colors will stand out:

Iran will go nuclear if we follow the soft power path.

Iran makes that clear. Darned inconvenient for the well-dressed Euros with quill pens. No agreement will stop Iran and no amount of wax stamps and bright ribbons can conceal this fact.

God help us if we aren't preparing for regime change in Tehran.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Comedy Club

Life is funny. What else can one conclude about this report about unrest in Iran's Khuzestan province and Tehran's decision to suspend al Jazeera activities in Iran:

"The situation is under control in Khuzistan province right now," Interior Ministry Jahanbakhsh Khanjani said Monday. "The province is calm in general but unfortunately two people were killed during last night's violence in Mahshahr."

Violent demonstrations erupted Friday and Saturday in the oil-rich city of Ahvaz after rumors spread of an alleged government plan to move non-Arabs into the city.

Al-Jazeera, which is popular among Iran's Arab-speaking minority, is believed to have been the first news outlet to broadcast news of the unrest. The station's commentators discussed the clashes on talk shows as well.

Tehran on Monday ordered the station to cease operations until the network explained the motives behind its coverage, which Tehran believes inflamed the violence.

"If it is proved that Al-Jazeera committed a crime, it will be prosecuted," an official at Iran's Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry, Mohammad Hossein Khoshvaght, told state-run TV on Monday.

"We suspended its activity in Iran to investigate the network's role in unrest in Ahvaz. We expect the network to respect Iran's national integrity and security."

Iran tried to foment unrest in Iraq to drive us out and defeat a free Iraq; and now ethnic Arabs in Iran are creating unrest themselves. In a multi-ethnic empire such as Iran, this can't be a happy development for the mullahs.

In addition, having exploited al Jazeera to foment unrest inside Iraq, the mullahs find that the cameras are pointing at Iran now. And the mullahs don't like that.

Life is funny. And sometimes we get to chuckle a bit.

I believe we have room to operate to support such unrest and fan the flames of dissent that want the mullahs gone. As much as I am amused by this turn of events, this is deadly serious. Those idiotic Europeans think they can strike a meaningful deal with the mullahs to end their nuclear threat but the only question is whether the Iranians can lie convincingly enough and whether the Europeans are able to feign belief in those lies when they talk to us.

The Strategic Petroleum Reserve is near capacity. By the fall it will be full. We'd better be planning action. Will al Jazeera help us here? Will the Iranian people? They just might. These could be two clubs with which to bash the mullahs out of power. I won't ask about Europe--they won't help. As I said, life is funny.

EMP Test

Jane's reports the following information:

In-flight explosions that terminated several tests of Iran's Shahab-3 ballistic missile might indicate that Iran is developing an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) warhead. Testifying before the US Senate Committee on the Judiciary's Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security on 8 March 2005, Peter Pry, a senior staff member of the Congressional EMP Commission, said that these flights were reported to have been terminated by a self-destruct mechanism on the missile. "The Western press has described these flight tests as failures because the missiles did not complete their ballistic trajectories," he told the subcommittee. "Iran has officially described all of these same tests as successful. The flight tests would be successful if Iran were practising the execution of an EMP attack."

While Israel probably needs to worry about this if it works--perhaps an EMP attack would precede a nuclear attack in the hopes of derailing an Israeli counter-attack--I worry more about where Iran got this stuff.

Given the links between the unsavory Iranian regime and the totally morals-free Chinese dictatorship, I worry that whatever Iran is playing with is already in the Chinese arsenal. I mentioned that EMP strikes could be part of a Chinese attack on Taiwan. Is this an Iranian test or a Chinese test?

Or does it matter?

Our enemies prepare to defeat us. They aren't impressed by our power. They think they know our weaknesses and they believe they can exploit them. Even if they are wrong, it means war will come eventually. We need to stay alert even as we are on the path to victory in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Fuck-Up Fairy Pays a Visit

John Bolton is running into trouble with Senate confirmation hearings. Bolton is seen as a man as stable as most senators and as someone who will be America's ambassador to the UN and not vice versa:

"This nomination is not doomed, but it's on life support and the plug may well be pulled any day," said Allan J. Lichtman, a political history professor at American University.

GOP support for Bolton cracked during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing early last week, so the chairman decided to postpone a vote that Bolton would have lost.

Since then, the White House has defended Bolton daily and blamed Democrats for playing politics with the nomination. Yet each new day has brought fresh allegations that Bolton dressed down subordinates or behaved, as one former colleague claimed, "like a madman," when he was crossed.

The charges come on top of unease over Bolton's past hostility toward the United Nations and allegations that the political appointee tried to pressure career intelligence analysts into twisting the facts for political reasons.

I think we need Bolton at the UN as a needed hammer to bang some sense into that body. It would be nice to strengthen its ability to do humanitarian work and take the politics out that let thug states have the same influence as real democracies when it comes to deciding global consensus.

The people who think they are defending the UN by opposing Bolton are stupid. Seriously stupid. They've clearly been visited by the F-U Fairy who sprinked pixie dust in their eyes. If the UN continues on the way it is, it will be more easy for us to ignore it and act unilaterally (and I mean really unilaterally, not the "those allies don't count" form of unilateralism we are accused of practicing). When the raping, lying, cheating, and stealing UN just goes on its merry way, there will be little penalty for the US to ignore the corrupt body.

So it is kind of win-win for the United States. Either Bolton is confirmed and he makes some headway into cleaning up that cesspool; or he is not confirmed and it becomes easier for us to ignore a morally challenged institution when the likes of Zimbabwe and China claim to wave the banner of the international community.

Just on the principle that hypocritical double standards shouldn't derail this nomination, I hope that a whole bunch of people get a spine infusion and learn that giving in won't earn them any good will from those who oppose Bolton.

It sure as heck won't save the UN from itself.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Truly Sick of North Korea

I am truly sick of North Korea's tantrums and blackmail.

The Pillsbury Nuke Boy regime's latest hissy fit:

"If the United States shows sincerity by its actions — such as changing its policy of squashing to death by nuclear (weapons) and assuring peaceful coexistence — the nuclear issue between (North Korea) and the United States can be resolved smoothly," the North's official Rodong Sinmun wrote in an editorial.

The United States has repeatedly said it has no intention to attack the North, and has sought to convince Pyongyang to return to international disarmament talks that have been on hold since last June. North Korea said in February it would indefinitely boycott the meetings and claimed it had nuclear weapons.

The editorial Thursday, carried by the North's Korean Central News Agency, also said a change of U.S. policy would "provide a gauge whether the United States is serious about resolving the nuclear issue and a nuclear-free (Korean) peninsula." The North also reiterated that it possessed nuclear weapons in self-defense.

Give me strength to go on.

They claim nukes in self defense yet we've never gone after them--let alone with nuclear attacks--for the decades they had none. But still they demand more assurances we won't nuke them.

The refuse to talk about nukes until we send money and food in quantities they deem sufficient.

Yet as annoying as the North Korean nutball regime is, how much more annoying are our experts?

Selig Harrison, of the Washington-based Center for International Policy, said Pyongyang was ready to return to six-party talks, but that the opportunity to persuade it to dismantle its nuclear programs had been lost.

The best that the United States, Japan, Russia, South Korea and China could now hope for at talks that have been stalled since last June was a freeze of existing programs, and time was running short even for that, Harrison said.

"There has been a major policy shift in Pyongyang in recent weeks. The hardline elements there are riding high, the army has increasingly asserted its control over nuclear policy," Harrison told reporters in Beijing.

"Now North Korea is not prepared to discuss dismantling its nuclear weapons until complete normalization of all economic and diplomatic relations with the United States," he said.

Harrison made the remarks after his ninth visit to North Korea, where in 1972 as a journalist for the Washington Post he and another U.S. journalist became the first Americans to visit after the Korean War.

He has contacts with several senior officials in Pyongyang and on his latest visit he held talks with senior leaders including parliament head and number two leader Kim Yong-nam and First Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Sok-ju.

North Korea has demanded an open and explicit apology from the United States for calling it an outpost of tyranny before it comes back to the table.

But Harrison said leaders hinted they could be satisfied with another gesture of respect or statement it sought peaceful coexistence, not regime change, with Pyongyang.

What is it with some experts? Why do so many believe that the best use of their expertise is to identify the proper officials to whom we should surrender? Why do they think we need to know the precise language and manner of our surrender notice so that we don't offend them with our crude ways? Is Selig serious? Accept their nukes and just try for a freeze? What is with trying to find out what is "acceptable" to the Pillsbury Nuke Boy? What gesture could hardliners in North Korea possibly accept? No apology, even with our best "we really, really mean it" demeanor would ever be believed. No gesture would be seen as anything but a sly cover for our true intentions to smash them. Why should I listen to anything the self-appointed Harrison says?

And is North Korea still going on about their demand that we apologize for the outpost of tyranny remark? Why? Are they offended at the bleeding obvious? If so, we'll be on the apologypalooza circuit for quite some time soothing their ruffled feathers. Good grief, could John Bolton spare a moment from the farcical Senate confirmation hearings to verbally slap the North Koreans around a little? For old times sake?

Contain North Korea. Squeeze them while providing only nominal aid to keep their hopes alive that we will break first and shovel in the loot. I don't want Pyongyang to think they've finally reached the point where they must go to war (like Japan in 1941) our fall. And in this light, don't refer the question to the UN Security Council. Give the nutballs of the North the feeling of some victory. After all, just what would the UNSC do anyway? Not much is my guess.

No, count on the North Korean people who seem to be finally figuring out that their leaders are liars and who seem to be losing their fear of the regime. Count on the security services to be too demoralized to obey orders to suppress the revolt when it comes.

So ignore those pesky thugs with thin skins and fat bodies who prosper while their people starve. The thugs aren't even clever anymore. Shoot, I hardly even pay attention anymore if the Pillsbury Nuke Boy doesn't threaten to turn something into a sea of fire.

Figure out how to beat them--not satisfy them. Both North Korea and our self-appointed emissaries.

Draining the Swamp

The title is as close as I'm going to get to an Earth Day event. I suppose I should have called the swamp a wetland and then pledged to preserve it at all costs instead of drain it. Hmm, perhaps the latter would explain a lot about the anti-war Left.

But I digress.

Reverend Sensing has a good post about denying the insurgents support as the key to winning a counter-insurgency campaign:

Iraq under Saddam was literally a secular version of Islamist fanaticism. Replace Afghanistan’s cult of Quran with a cult of Saddam and that was Iraq. Perhaps it was even worse, since Saddam’s security apparatus was even more comprehensive and ruthless than the Taliban’s. Civil services under Saddam were not much better than they are now and in fact services in many parts of Iraq now are enormously better than they ever were under Saddam. That’s drying up the lake in which the Iraqi insurgencies swim - and note the plural, “insurgencies.” There’s more than one, and that’s the topic of an upcoming post.

This is why I've never thought lack of troops was a problem in Iraq. This is why I didn't like the idea of body counts to measure success in Iraq.

Sure, killing the active insurgents is a necessary component of defeating insurgents but it is not key. Look at the war from our point. Despite what opponents of the war call "heavy" casualties, our troop strength in Iraq has not dropped one bit. We replace our losses and keep fighting. The insurgencies (as Sensing notes) needed not to kill our army but kill our ability to send troops to Iraq. Attrition simply could not wreck our ability to send troops. Only killing our morale so we didn't want to send more troops could reduce our strength.

Likewise with the insurgents. Kill off their fighters and they recruit more (through ideology, fear, or importation), and they keep fighting. Kill a lot and they simply hunker down until they recruit more. The key has always been drying up the recruits and support--draining the swamp.

We are doing this. Our non-military efforts from medicine to reconstruction to elections have made joining the insurgencies less appealing. On the military side we did not declare free-fire zones and create more insurgents than we killed by indiscriminate military actions.

And on the other side, by not flooding Iraq with troops, we avoided providing too many soft targets as support troop levels would have surged. And we made our support troops harder targets with secure bases and rigorous convoy training. We added rapidly evolving training and tactics to outfox the enemy as they adapted. So our efforts kept our troops heading to Iraq to fight.

Of course, killing the insurgents is still necessary. It is a war.

Sunshine Patriots

We are winning the war in Iraq and the wider war on terror. The war is not won, of course, and we could blow it, but we are winning.

We were winning six months ago and a year ago despite the complaints over the past year.

And we were winning two years ago, when we smashed Saddam's regime.

The alternative is to think that we were losing up to two months ago and then all of a sudden our enemies have faltered. So is the enemy weaker than believed the last two years or have we waged war more effectively than our military has been given credit for?

VDH addresses a pet peeve of mine. While I have tried to be careful to balance confidence against blind cheerleading, I've been annoyed at the shallow supporters of the war who went wobbly at the first--or perhaps 100th--car bomb. Said VDH:

One of the most disheartening things about this war is the realization that on any given day, a number of once-stalwart supporters will suddenly hedge, demand someone’s resignation, or bail, citing all sorts of legitimate grievances without explaining that none of their complaints compares to past disappointments in prior successful wars — and without worry that the only war in which America was defeated was lost more at home than abroad.

Yet if we get through all this with the extinction of Islamic-fascist terrorism and an end to the Middle East autocracy that spawned and nurtured it — and I think we are making very good progress in doing just that and in less than four years — it will only be because of the superb quality of the American military and the skilful diplomacy of those who have so temperately unleashed it.

War is not and never has been a static contest. Both sides adapt and both sides attempt to win. We are adapting better than our enemies and we are better trained and better equipped.

And we have a far better cause. When victory comes, even the sunshine patriots will admit this truth.

We have much to do before we can rest. Both in Iraq and in the wider war.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Pillsbury Nuke Boy Gets a Reprieve from My Ranting

Blogger exploded on me in the middle of a North Korea post. Too tired to rewrite.

I hate it when I get sloppy and fail to paste a post into Word just in case Blogger blows up. I've had a run of good luck so didn't bother with my safeguard. Big mistake ...

Tomorrow, for sure.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Oh Canada!

Way to go, Canada!

Canada is rejoining the Western alliance, it seems. Canada will move to become more active in the world, including gearing up their military capabilities:

The defense portion calls for doubling the military's deployment capability in five years and $10.3 billion in new military spending, as well as adding 5,000 more new full-time soldiers and creating a new rapid-response force and buying new ships, aircraft and vehicles. It also pledged to strengthen defense cooperation with the United States, noting Ottawa would create a new command center, the Integrated Threat Assessment Center, to gather and distribute intelligence on potential threats to the continent. It would also establish overseas task forces and a special commando unit.

And this isn't window dressing:

Steven Staples, a defense analyst with the Polaris Institute in Ottawa, said Canada appeared to be giving up its traditional role as peacekeeper for U.N.-led operations, adopting the Washington mode of offensive action.

Of course, this needs political will to carry out and fund, but I am pleased as can be that Canada will rebuild its ability to project military power. Once, an entire Canadian army marched across Europe to defeat threats to world peace.

All I ask for is a brigade combat team. Add air and naval and special forces and I'll be positively ecstatic!

Missing the Bleeding Obvious

Intelligence reform is all the rage. I can hardly be against it though I do not consider myself informed enough to offer more than mere opinion. I wonder about concentrating authority when diversity of opinion may be better. And I wonder about the new groupthink that says we (and everybody else) were wrong about Iraqi WMD.

Nonetheless, I think that in concentrating on the mote in our eye we are ignoring the plank stickiing out of the other.

I wrote recently:

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.

I was therefore heartened to see a kindred spirit:

At base, threats to international peace and security emanate from aggressive, authoritarian regimes that oppress their people and overtly threaten their neighbors — as did Hitler, Stalin, and Saddam, for all their differences, and as do the leaders of North Korea, Iran, and Syria today. We don't need perfect intelligence to know that.

It is not simply power but how a malevolent regime seeks to use it that matters. Democratic France is no danger to America despite its nuclear arsenal; Saddam's Iraq, by its very nature, was a danger with or without WMD.

We will make a grave mistake if we focus so hard on trying to get the ability to extract the damning memo signed by the despot to develop WMD that we ignore what is in the public domain. We only need to watch cable news to identify the threats to world peace.

Well, and then have the conviction to act on that knowledge.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Is This Al Tet?

I've noticed that our casualty rate is up this month. I've also noted that the insurgents are attacking in platoon strength in departure from past practice. The Baathists and their jihadi friends seem to be trying to reverse their declining fortunes with a dramatic success. So far no luck for them. The insurgents recently hit the Marines in the west:

"I think they're losing, so they're looking at the big attacks to gain some omentum back," said Marine Capt. Frank Diorio, commander of India Company at Camp Gannon, the Marine base near the city of Qaim on the border with Syria. "I give them credit it for it; they're looking for a big score. We're going to see this a lot more. But now we know so we can address it."

So is this their big offensive? Is this it? It is a far cry from their April 2004 offensive that had the MSM wetting their pants. Getting waxed attacking US bases is no way to win a war.

Still, this is a change and the fact that insurgents are willing to mass to attack hard targets indicates a determination that we should not discount. In the face of defeat, despite negotiations with some Sunnis to end the insurgency, some Sunnis will need to be killed and captured because they are willing to die rather than accept Shia dominance. The jihadis too will need to be killed off. They bought the all-day ticket and aren't about to quit Jihadworld alive.

I still think the odds of the insurgency ending soon are greater than the odds of it dragging on for a decade (on other than annoyance levels) but the hard core fighting this month so hard need to be pursued and hit before they attack. One day they might get lucky and that could reinvigorate the morale of the remaining insurgents. I still remember how the Iranians regained hope of victory after their Fao victory over the Iraqis in 1986 and so fought for another two years thinking victory was at hand.

China Survey

Winds of Change has a wide ranging survey of things Chinese. Quite interesting.

More interesting is this article from Real Clear Politics about China mucking around in Latin America.

It is no coincidence that China is positioning itself in the Gulf of Mexico, Panamanian Peninsula, Canada’s British Columbia, and Venezuela. It is also no coincidence that the Chinese are spending billions of dollars to upgrade antiquated Soviet military facilities in Cuba. Not surprisingly, escalating Chinese economic involvement in Latin America since the 1990’s has brought with it a resurgence of socialist behavior and empathy.

Recent actions by the Chinese in the Western Hemisphere are designed to secure state-sponsored outposts at strategic “choke” points that one day can be used by Beijing to place acute pressure on the US and its allies. In this regard, recent comments made by Chinese sympathizers such as Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez that a “new geopolitical map of alliances is emerging” support a troubling trend of inflammatory comments by Latin leaders. Otto Reich, a Cuban-born US diplomat under the first President Bush stated in March.

"The US needs a secure and prosperous hemisphere not only to ensure a peaceful neighborhood in which to live, but also to be able to project its power to the farthest reaches of the globe."

We could well have another crisis over Cuba and their backer. Or Venezuela could be the crisis point.

The Chinese sure pick thuggish friends. Look around the world and what do you see? Whether it is North Korea, Burma, Zimbabwe, Sudan, or Cuba, to name a few, you find outposts of tyranny. That alone should tell us a lot about China.


It is looking more like the Air Force will get enough F-22 Raptors for two wings and training/spare aircraft. And we are looking into reopening the F-15 assembly line.

This is what I called for two years ago (scroll down to July 31, 2002).

It makes sense. Our strength is our system: pilots, training, tactics, command and control, refueling, and all the doodads that make our Air Force more than a description of the most advanced plane in it. New F-15s with modern avionics and missiles would do great against any opponent. The Raptors are a hedge against uncertainty ten or twenty years down the line.

The technology is pretty darned fragile if you ask me (from the Times):

Recently, a Raptor training flight was delayed for a day when a faulty sensor was discovered on one of the two planes now housed at the base. The replacement took only a few hours, but because it involved removing a panel on the jet's outer surface, part of the plane had to be repainted in Daig's shop and allowed to dry overnight. Any such piercing of the plane's smooth exterior must be carefully repaired, including applying a new coat of paint, to ensure it retains the stealth quality that lets it avoid radar detection.

Good grief, opening a friggin' panel requires a repainting? Overnight? Reopen the F-15 line. The F-22 is good once its gets in the air, but we need something more reliable for daily use. The Raptor will be best for planned high-risk missions in high-threat areas.

And for God's sake, stop calling them F/A-22s. I still get the image of Me-262s with bomb bays added to turn a superb fighter into a crappy bomber. Leave the bomb hauling to the rest of the Air Force. The F-35, for example. The Raptor is a plane killer. Leave it that way.

Monday, April 18, 2005

But for the Grace of God

VDH reminds us of the wise men who have predicted failure. Scowcraft, Brzezinski, and Albright are three he highlights:

For the last year, such well-meaning former "wise people" have pretty much assured us that the Bush doctrine will not work and that the Arab world is not ready for Western-style democracy, especially when fostered through Western blood and iron.

But too often we discuss the present risky policy without thought of what preceded it or what might have substituted for it. Have we forgotten that the messy business of democracy was the successor, not the precursor, to a litany of other failed prescriptions? Or that there were never perfect solutions for a place like the Middle East — awash as it is in oil, autocracy, fundamentalism, poverty, and tribalism — only choices between awful and even more awful? Or that September 11 was not a sudden impulse on the part of Mohammed Atta, but the logical culmination of a long simmering pathology? Or that the present loudest critics had plenty of chances to leave something better than the mess that confronted the United States on September 12? Or that at a time of war, it is not very ethical to be sorta for, sorta against, kinda supportive, kinda critical of the mission — all depending on the latest sound bite from Iraq?

VDH also reminds us of those who have counseled that we change course in Iraq lest we fail miserably:

We are at the crossroads of history, thanks largely to the resoluteness of the United States military and its commander-in-chief. Contrary to the advice of D.C. pundits, CIA apparatchiks, and the beltway brain trust, the president grasped that Islamic fascism was not a criminal justice matter. Nor was the plague of fundamentalism to be redressed through a Marshall Plan of American largess. Stopping bin Laden was certainly not grounds for appeasing Yasser Arafat or Wahhabist Saudi Arabia.

Rather, al Qaeda was best understood as an inevitable symptom of a larger Middle East disease, endemic to the region's failed autocracy and cured only by real transparency that follows from democratic reform. Note too that all the past expert advice — set a time-table for withdrawal, delay the elections, trisect the country, invite in "moderate" Sunni participants from neighboring countries, and turn over the "occupation" to the U.N. — has in retrospect proved flawed and is now quietly abandoned.

When some complain about the mistakes we have made in this war--as if mistakes in war are unique--remember the mistakes these purists urged us to make these last years and decades. We are still winning despite our mistakes. I shudder to think where we'd be if we made the mistakes they advocated. I hope we continue to give their advice all the consideration it's due.

We make mistakes when we fight. But at least we fight. And by finally fighting and going after our enemies, we can finally win.

The Military's Role

I am amazed at the calls by some, often on the left but not exclusively so, for the military to obstruct civilian orders on the assumption that the military will make it impossible to carry out orders that opponents of the government don't like. A David Ignatius column is the latest to argue the military should push back when it disagrees with civilian orders. This is crud. This is dangerous crud, in fact. A military more interested in pushing back than in winning wars is a military that is on the road to being just a political party with all the guns. Mackubin Owens has a good piece opposed to this idea:

Of course, it is the soldier’s duty to convey his concerns to civilian policymakers forcefully and truthfully. But the American traditions of civil-military relations requires that he not engage in public debate over matters of foreign policy, including the decision to go to war. Moreover, once a policy decision is made, the soldier is obligated to carry it out to the best of his ability, whether his advice is heeded or not. Ignatius’s call for “push back” seems at odds with this tradition.

Our military is superb. But it must obey civilian orders. Period. Give advice. But when the orders come down, salute and carry out those orders. We aren't some banana republic and the military needs to remember that it is not the guardian of the decisions of our republic, it is the guardian of the republic from extenral enemies. Should an officer be so opposed to a policy then that officer can resign their commission. But push back? On that day my pride in my military service ends. On that day my pride in our military that has done so much to protect us will die.

Our military has never sullied its history with such a view of its role. Keep this proud tradition alive. Our military must never betray the trust our people have placed in its hands by pushing back.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Well Slap Me for Stupidity

This article notes that China has the choice of a "northern" strategy aimed at Central Asia and Russia or a "southern" strategy aimed at the sea (and therefore the US ultimately):

Today much of the attention regarding China is on the "south." It is assumed in the West that China naturally looks toward the South China Sea and beyond to the waters of Southeast Asia and perhaps even the Indian Ocean. The region is economically vibrant. There are commercially successful ethnic Chinese enclaves all over the area, controlling much of the national wealth in countries like Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore. Furthermore, the area serves as a vital conduit of foreign trade for China, taking Chinese products westward and bringing much needed natural resources like petroleum through the strategically important Straits of Malacca. Expecting China's strategic influence to head south is a good bet.

Still, the possibility that China could press northward should not be entirely discounted. There are some good reasons why China may do so. Russia remains weak both in economic and military terms in the region and will be so for the foreseeable future. The area is vastly endowed with natural resources, especially energy that China's growing and hungry economy enviously eyes. At the same time, the region is largely unpopulated, an attractive condition for over-populated China.

I've noted these alternatives, of course. But other than noting that China seems fixated on Taiwan and noting that Russia is foolishly selling arms to a China that might eventually take a northern strategy that would harm Russia, I didn't think too much about it. I figured eventually Russia would see that China is far more of a threat than the West and so would grow more friendly to us as the Chinese threat became obvious. This article prompted me for some reason to consider that Russia is not acting stupidly--or at least not too stupidly.

Russia knows it is too weak to stop China if China goes north. At least for a good many years until the Russians can rebuild their army. Knowing this, the Russians are aiming the Chinese away from themselves. They arm China not because Moscow doesn't know that China is a threat to Russia's far east, but because the Russians are painfully aware of their own weakness.

Notice what Russia is selling to China:

Over the past decade, Russia has steadily increased its arms sales to China. The Chinese air force received its first Russian-made Su-27 in 1992, under a deal to sell 20 Su-27SK fighters and six Su-27UBKs. China was later supplied with another 50 Su-27s as well as 57 Su-30MKKs. In 2003, China is expected to receive 19 Su-30MKKs, according to earlier contracts. On the other hand, in 1996, Russia and China inked a $2.5 billion deal to manufacture 200 Su-27SKs under license at a plant in Shenyang.

In addition, last year agreements were signed for the shipment to the Chinese navy of two ship-based S-300F Reef anti-aircraft missile systems. These systems are designed to provide major naval task forces with air defense.

In 1999-2000, Russia sold two Project 956E Sovremenny (Modern) class destroyers to China in a $603 million deal. In January 2002, the two countries clinched yet another $1.4 billion contract to build another two Project 956EM destroyers. The destroyers are equipped with Sunburn anti-ship cruise missiles. China has also been supplied with two Project 877EKM diesel-electric submarines and two Project 636 vessels (an upgrade of the 877EKM). In May 2002, a $1.5-billion contract was signed to build another eight Project 636 vessels. It has been reported that China plans to procure Russian Akula nuclear submarines to supplement its ongoing purchase of eight Kilo-class conventional submarines, as well as two Slava-class cruisers armed with 16 P-500 anti-ship missiles with a range of more than 500 kilometers.

Russia has sold eight regiments of the S-300PMU1 long-range anti-aircraft missile system and 27 short-range Tor-M1 systems for China's air defense. In 2001, Russia and China reportedly signed a $400 million contract to supply another four regiments of the more modern S-300PMU-2. China has also been reported to be considering the purchase of MiG-31M interceptors, Tu-22MZ bombers with Granit cruise missiles, Project 949 nuclear missile subs with 24 Granit cruise missiles, and Project 1144 nuclear cruisers with 20 Granit systems.

What's the common factor here? Well, they are all geared toward supporting a southern strategy. Missiles, planes, and ships. No tanks. No armored fighting vehicles. No anti-tank weapons. No armed helicopters. Nope. Those would be appropriate for land warfare and a northern strategy.

Those clever bastards in Moscow are trying to make up for their current weakness by encouraging the predators in Peking to look south. I can't believe that this didn't occur to me until I read the north-south article. Doh. The Russians aren't stupid. They aren't some rube Third World nation. They were recently a superpower and they aren't deluded here. Sure, there's some appeasing here, but a good part is making sure China goes for somebody else--Taiwan and therefore Japan and America, too.

Not that Russia compelled a Chinese southern strategy. I think China was disposed toward that strategy anyway. But Russian arms sales have certainly reinforced the southern orientation.

And how is China doing? Well, as I wrote in Ready. Set. Go? I think the Chinese are getting ready to invade by 2008. Janes writes, in China: Ready, steady go ... , that China is making strides:

An emerging consensus among long-time PLA observers, including within the US intelligence community, is that the Chinese military has successfully achieved a far-reaching qualitative advancement in its warfighting capabilities since the beginning of this decade. The PLA is quickly becoming an increasingly credible threat against Taiwan and could even begin to pose a challenge to US military preponderance in East Asia in the next decade if the momentum is sustained.

One day soon--if they aren't ready already--China will be able to defeat Taiwan and delay US intervention until Taiwan is beaten. A good chunk of the reason for this momentum is Russia's decision to arm a southern strategy.

Still, if we make a southern strategy too dangerous by making sure Taiwan is prepared and we are set to move in fast, the Chinese may find their southern strategy unworkable.

One day, Russia will need America and Japan as China turns toward Russia. Sure, we'll help Russia, I imagine; but it might not be east of the Urals. As I said, Russia may be being too clever by half.

UPDATE: Arthur K emails me that the Soviets pulled this gambit before World War II with Operation Snow. The Soviets worked to engineer a US-Japan clash to keep Japan away from the Russian Far East. Either I never knew this or I forgot about it. Fascinating. I'm not paranoid, just forgetful.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Our Common View

Although this article highlights an apparent disagreement between the United States and South Korea over updates to Op Plan 5029 in case we need to invade North Korea following their collapse, what is really significant is that both Washington and Seoul assume that a collapse is possible and that we'd need to move north in response:

Under a bilateral treaty, the South Korean military comes under U.S. command only in times of war.

Analysts said the U.S. military may have wanted control of South Korean forces to handle massive disruption envisaged by the potential collapse of impoverished North Korea which has been in a standoff with the outside world for more than two years over its nuclear weapons drive.

The goal of the top secret military operation, code-named 5029, would be to secure North Korea’s nuclear weapons sites and materials, they said.

We want to go north. And South Korea would too:

South Korea’s own secret plans on how to react to a sudden collapse of the North were revealed in October.

Under the plan revealed in a newspaper report, South Korea would move swiftly to take control of its communist neighbor, installing a top Seoul official as governor and opening camps for 200,000 refugees.

I find our common ground far more significant than the question of who commands South Korean forces moving north.

New High Ground

The US is increasingly reliant on space to maintain our dominance on the battlefield. Communications, command and control, and reconaissance enable our small military to move quickly in battle and smash conventional enemies. So of course, we seek to preserve this new high ground against threats:

"Because we depend so heavily on space capabilities, we must be prepared when directed to confront adversaries on the high ground of space," acting Air Force Secretary Peter Teets told Congress last month. "If [diplomatic or nonlethal] measures fail, we reserve the right under international law to take defensive action against an adversary's space capability."

While I would expect rivals or potential enemies to try and block efforts to defend our space assets, I am amazed that some over here would also oppose our efforts:

Yet critics suggest that it is a small step from monitoring US satellites to attacking other satellites. To them, the administration is overreacting. China and Russia, they note, are pursuing new laws to outlaw weapons in space, and would be drawn into a space arms race only if the US went first.

"They will go there if we go there," says Theresa Hitchens of the Center for Defense Information here. "If somebody else did go first, we could go second very quickly and probably better."

China and Russia only proposes international laws to hobble us until they can compete. They will go there whether we do or not. It is absolutely silly to think otherwise and it is amazing that an American would suggest we should let a potential enemy gain the advantage on the assumption we will simply catch up! Even several years of disadvantage could be exploited to our disadvantage. And if we fall behind, why would we automatically catch up?

Seize the high ground. This is what we've done. Now we must defend it. I won't trust the good will of other potential space rivals.