Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Pretty Soon We're Talking About Real Weight

I can't put this any less bluntly. People who complain about the state of body armor for our troops are dumbasses. Pure and simple.

They have not one clue about warfare and are just seeking cheap political points. Our friggin' 60-ton Abrams tanks can be knocked out by weapons that penetrate their armor. Just how is a 200-pound soldier supposed to carry enough armor to deflect all blasts? And then fight?

Our troops will have five more pounds to lug around to defend against attacks, according to an Army press conference:


Well, you know, John, the -- as you appreciate and I think as everybody has read -- it's a -- what we're trying to do here is balance the mobility with protection. And soldier protection clearly is a key element, and it's very important to the Army in general and me personally. And I've personally spent a lot of time on it.

Now, we have continuously improved the armor that we provide for the soldiers from the beginning, starting with the addition of the so- called SAPI plate, Small Arm Protection Inserts. That was then without really a definite threat. We then changed to an improved material which we call ESAPI.

Then we provided -- which I mentioned -- these deltoid plates.


We're now in the process, based on a request from theater, providing side plates. Even though the evidence shows that this is not a major threat, we have an adaptive enemy that we're trying to get ahead of, so we are going to be fielding, starting next month, side plates.


So it's an evolving thing. That's going to add weight, of course. You've read where certain soldiers aren't happy about that, but we think it's in their best interest to do this, again, keeping in mind that they need the flexibility, they need the mobility and agility to be effective.


So as we've noted, you can have protection, but if you can't move, you may get shot in the leg or something because you can't move that fast. So it's a compromise.


Armor protection for our troops is great. And we always want it to be better. But killing the enemy is the best protection. Don't forget that our troops need to fight while armored, not wallow in protection that will not prevent them from getting killed by enemies we fail to kill. A pound here and a pound there, and pretty soon we're talking real weight, eh?

Of course, the attacks these side armor plates are really intended to stop are not actual attacks by the enemy but attacks by political opponents who will declare any amount of armor inadequate.

Haven't we learned from the history of armor in Iraq that our opponents can come up with ways to work around any defense?

Psyching Up

America and Britain really do seem to be gearing up psychologically for a military conflict with Iran. Gerald Baker writes:


No country in a region that is so riven by religious and ethnic hatreds will feel safe from the new regional superpower. No country in the region will be confident that the US and its allies will be able or willing to protect them from a nuclear strike by Iran. Nor will any regional power fear that the US and its allies will act to prevent them from emulating Iran. Say hello to a nuclear Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia.

Iran, of course, secure now behind its nuclear wall, will surely step up its campaign of terror around the world. It will become even more of a magnet and haven for terrorists. The terror training grounds of Afghanistan were always vulnerable if the West had the resolve. Protected by a nuclear-missile-owning state, Iranian camps will become impregnable.

And the kind of society we live in and cherish in the West, a long way from Tehran or Damascus, will change beyond recognition. We balk now at intrusive government measures to tap our phones or stop us saying incendiary things in mosques. Imagine how much more our freedoms will be curtailed if our governments fear we are just one telephone call or e-mail, one plane journey or truckload away from another Hiroshima.

Something short of military action may yet prevail on Iran. Perhaps sanctions will turn their leadership from its doomsday ambitions. Perhaps Russia can somehow be persuaded to give them an incentive to think again. But we can’t count on this optimistic scenario now. And so we must ready ourselves for what may be the unthinkable necessity.

Because in the end, preparation for war, by which I mean not military feasibility planning, or political and diplomatic manoeuvres but a psychological readiness, a personal willingness on all our parts to bear the terrible burdens that it will surely impose, may be our last real chance to ensure that we can avoid one.

These are all important points.

As I've written, our civil liberties actually rely on going on the offensive to win over there. Even with only conventional means, if we sat on the defensive we'd see our liberties eroded as laws were tightened to cope with the latest vulnerability highlighted. Since enemies will always find new vulnerabilities, there will be no end to this cycle. Imagine the security we'd need if our enemies can hit us with nukes? And in the end we'd get hit anyway. No liberty and no safety. How's that for a future?

And even if we are lucky and our enemies can be deterred from using nukes, the shield of nukes will allow our enemies to send run-of-the-mill terrorists against us with impunity. This is the strongest argument against the caution that attacking Iran will cause Iran to increase terrorism inside Iraq. We will get the increase regardless of what we do. So we might as well try to end it or make sure it can't be nuclear terrorism.

And what allies will cooperate with us--as they do now--to fight terrorists when the terror-sponsoring regimes have nukes to hold over their heads?

Baker is right as far as he goes that if you desire peace prepare for war. Against rational enemies, this might work. But the Iranians are nuts from our point of view. They won't believe any preparations are signals that we weak Westerners will fight them in the end. And even if they did think we will fight, they will believe their god is on their side and so won't care.

There is no way Iran will back down short of war. That is a hope beyond reality. But at least by looking at Iran's evil intent without flinching and looking away, we will be psychologically prepared to fight the mullahs to keep them from going nuclear.

The President's State of the Union address makes it seem that he is prepared to fight:

The same is true of Iran, a nation now held hostage by a small clerical elite that is isolating and repressing its people. The regime in that country sponsors terrorists in the Palestinian territories and in Lebanon — and that must come to an end. The Iranian government is defying the world with its nuclear ambitions — and the nations of the world must not permit the Iranian regime to gain nuclear weapons. America will continue to rally the world to confront these threats. And tonight, let me speak directly to the citizens of Iran: America respects you, and we respect your country. We respect your right to choose your own future and win your own freedom. And our Nation hopes one day to be the closest of friends with a free and democratic Iran.

Oh, and Iran seems to be getting ready too. They don't look like they will be cowed by mere diplomats:

At a London meeting that lasted into the early hours of Tuesday, envoys of Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States decided they would recommend Thursday that the International Atomic Energy Agency should report Iran to the Security Council. They also decided the Security Council should wait until the IAEA issues a report on Iran in March before tackling the issue.

Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, reproached Europe for the London decision and repeated that Tehran will resume suspended nuclear activities and bar surprise U.N. inspections of facilities if it is referred to the Security Council.

"In case of referral ..., we have to stop all nuclear work that has been voluntarily suspended and stop implementation of the Additional Protocol," Larijani told reporters.

Uranium enrichment is the chief activity that Iran has suspended, but Larijani stopped short of specifying a resumption of enrichment.

I've thought action would come soon before, but that was based on more subtle signs and assumptions. Things just feel like they are moving to war now.

God help us all.

UPDATE: Sides are lining up.

Now This is What I'm Talking About

Like I wrote before (and before then, too), I sometimes feel guilty about railing about the Left in regard to our foreign policy and the war. I don't mean to tar all Democrats with this anger or even all liberals. Though I do fear that too many of the Left's talking points resonate with liberals and Democrats. Once the Democratic Party stood for defense, too. But now a Democrat such as Lieberman is ostracized by the base Left.

And I don't want to go into domestic politics. If I did comment on domestic politics, I'm sure I'd rail against Republican positions on quite a number of things, too. And don't even get me started on the Buchanan wing of the Right--I have no use for them. But I make no claims of any particular expertise in this area. Opinions I have for sure, but everyone has those. So I try to stay in my lane in foreign policy and defense issues. But too often, domestic politics cross the water's edge. In these cases, I reluctantly comment. And it is the Left that draws my ire on this subject.

But I can't be too bad considering that even the Left doesn't like the Democratic Party and reasonable liberals:


Right on cue, liberal activists including Cindy Sheehan and Ramsey Clark gathered yesterday at the Busboys & Poets restaurant and bookshop at 14th and V streets NW for what they billed as a forum on "The Impeachment of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney." But the participants, while charging the administration with "crimes against humanity," a "war of aggression" and even "the supreme international crime," inevitably turned their wrath on congressional Democrats, whom they regarded as a bunch of wimps.


These people are just nuts. Even my history-major background allows me to make this diagnosis with little worry that I'm out of my league.

My basic worry is that this Left is increasingly driving the Democratic Party, and that liberals are not sufficiently motivated to put down this ongoing revolt against sanity in their party.

So really, I'm not trying to be dismissive of a broad slice of the political spectrum. Not that I'm defensive. Just seeking clarity. So if you are a Democrat or--God forbid--a liberal, don't take offense when I rail about the Left.

I mean, unless guilt is kicking in for tolerating them among you and letting them set the tone for your side.

The Iranian Missile Crisis

We cannot allow Iran to deploy nuclear weapons. With the missiles they have, they will threaten a huge region. Everything else that we do must flow from the basic objective of keeping the mullah regime from having nukes.

Sanctions won't work even if China and Russia don't veto the resolution in the Security Council. In time, money will find ways and the resolve of the sanctioners will erode.

And although I don't assume air strikes would alienate the Iranian people, this seems to be the conventional wisdom. So we will act on the assumption that this is true.

The more I think about it, the more I think that the war with Iran that appears to be coming will be in the blockade form with a limited invasion of Iran's Khuzestan to secure the oil fields until regime change allows a sane government to resume using them to export oil.

Letting the mullahs destroy their oil export capabilities during a militarized crisis even if we manage to support a revolution in Iran at the same time will doom the new government without revenue.

So we will wage war--but of the blockade variety that will be, in effect, a siege on Tehran's mullahs. We won't hit them with air power except where we must fight to gain our siege outposts in Khuzestan, on Kharg, and in other Gulf islands. And then we try to collapse the mullah government while we press them hard economically.

If Iran retaliates as they say they will, it will give us the pretext to really go after Iran's nuclear facilities and military assets in a strong aerial campaign.

The State of the Union address should be interesting in this light.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Growing Consensus

The American people seem pyschologically prepared to fight Iran in order to keep those nutcases from going nuclear:

Despite persistent disillusionment with the war in Iraq, a majority of Americans supports taking military action against Iran if that country continues to produce material that can be used to develop nuclear weapons, a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll has found.

The poll, conducted Sunday through Wednesday, found that 57% of Americans favor military intervention if Iran's Islamic government pursues a program that could enable it to build nuclear arms.

This rather surprised me. But as I said, it just feels as if war is imminent. This will be ugly, I think, but unless we decide that a nuclear-armed Iran isn't so bad, it is better than doing nothing.

What choice do we have? It is a case of stop them now before they get a nuke or nuke them later after they use a nuke.

The New USAREUR

As more details of the Army's restructuring in Europe come out, the less it seems like an abandonment despite the drawdown in troop strength. Right now we have five brigades (four heavy and one airborne).

I wanted a lighter corps in Europe to replace heavy V Corps and suggested five brigades of troops, settling in at an airborne brigade, two airmobile brigades, and two Stryker brigades as a core expeditionary force able to launch into the arc of crisis from West Africa to Central Asia.

Initial reports said we'd have just a Stryker brigade and an airborne brigade for Europe.

Strategypage says we will have three ground brigades--one airborne and two Stryker, with an option on another Stryker brigade:

The 2nd Cavalry Regiment (Stryker) and a Combat Aviation Brigade are in Germany. The 173rd Aviation Brigade is in Italy. Another Stryker brigade will be the core of the Eastern European Task Force (EETF), and will be based in Romania. There may be another base established in Bulgaria for the EETF, which may be expanded to a second brigade. The new force will leave only about 24,000 American troops in Europe by the end of the decade.

So we may be up to four light and deployable maneuver brigades in Europe by the end of the decade. Keep a set or two of equipment for heavy brigades in Europe--perhaps in Italy and Poland--and we'll be set, I think.

We are adapting to the post-Cold War world but we are hardly abandoning Europe as I feared we might after we concluded we did not need a Cold War Army in Europe anymore.

Get Real

I understand that the size of our ground forces is a debatable issue. It is separate from the debate over how many troops we need in Iraq to win.

So I am not too shocked that some analysts argue for more troops. But Krepinevich really has me scratching my head when he argues for more troops to handle these missions:

To Krepinevich, that difficult task serves as a warning about the types of challenges US forces could face in future conflicts. In countries prone to Islamic radicalism - such as Iran, Pakistan, and Indonesia - any military venture would probably involve a lengthy peacekeeping after the war is won. Moreover, since these countries are far larger than Iraq in both size and population, it would take a far larger force to control them.

If a country such as Pakistan collapses, he says, there is the possibility that Muslim radicals could seize a state with nuclear weapons - something the United States would not tolerate. Unless the US could get major help from its allies, it is unprepared for such a scenario, he adds.

We're supposed to size our Army to occupy these countries?

Iran? With about 80 million people? Call it 1.6 million troops to pacify. Or maybe only 800,000 if we assume only the Persian half really resists. At a 2:1 ratio for rotating troops, say 2.4 million to 4.8 million troops. And we'd need another 100,000 uncommitted to deter others, right?

Or maybe Pakistan with what? 150 million people? There's a good 3 million troops, or 9 million with a rotation base. Plus extras.

Or how about Indonesia? With, say, 230 million people, we'd need 4.6 million troops to occupy them and pacify them. With a rotation base, call it 13.8 million troops. Plus whatever we'd need to deter anybody else on the ground. Make it a round 14 million just for fun.

Can anybody really be arguing for an Army of 1945 size to pacify these large countries? Are they seriously thinking these are the reasons we need a larger military?

Look, I am sympathetic to the idea that we need more combat units. I just figure we can, at least for the time being, build those combat units within our slightly elevated end strength authorized by using existing forces more efficiently:

The Pentagon disagrees. Defense officials insist that the size of the force in Iraq is what the generals want, and as the Army transforms, the process will free more soldiers to fight - creating the more-agile Brigade Combat Teams, moving troops out of jobs that can be done by civilians, and rebalancing Army and reserve duties.

I don't know, but I don't think that planning for an occupation of Indonesia is the wisest planning yardstick. You'll need a better reason than that to convince me that we should increase our Army end strength significantly.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Stupid or Foolish? Why Choose?

John Arquilla (via RCP) thinks we make a mistake dismissing Osama's truce offer out of hand.

He thinks we should accept it:

In sum, the practical upside of giving peace a chance looks very attractive. Our ethical obligation to try in good faith to negotiate is even more compelling.

Twenty months ago, I suggested in Insight that an era of perpetual warfare need not be our only future and observed that the peace process might begin simply with the release of a conciliatory tape by Osama bin Laden. He has just done this.

Now it's our turn. Reconsidering the immediate dismissive response to his overture is the necessary next step. I pray we have the courage and compassion to take it.

I am dumbfounded by this man's thought processes. The last time I ran across one of his articles, I concluded he was a netwit. He wanted a negotiated settlement with the terror boys then, too. Actually, I've heard of him before and I think little of his analytical abilities on defense issues. Perhaps it is only a coincidence that I only catch his really stupid pieces. Perhaps.

I stand by my earlier conclusion. God help us, but he is a professor of defense analysis at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey.

Jumping Off Point

I read that our troop strength in Iraq is down to 136,000 now. Would I be assuming too much to think that at least some of the 24,000 troops we had there for the elections are still in Kuwait "waiting to return home" and massed together in brigades, doing maintenance on their vehicles and equipment? And could any more troops pulling out to Kuwait in the next month be available to confront Iran if needed?

Because Iran's oil fields are very close to Kuwait. And the Iranians are convinced we and the British are up to something in the restive province:

A top Iranian commander accused U.S. and British intelligence agents of fomenting unrest in southwestern Iran and threatened to respond with missiles if attacked.

Iran's improved version of the Shahab-3 missile can strike more than 1,300 miles from their launch site, putting Israel and U.S. forces in the Middle East in easy range.

Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, the chief of the Revolutionary Guards, said the United States and Britain were behind bombings Jan 21 that killed at least nine people in the southwestern city of Ahvaz, near the southern border with Iraq where 8,500 British soldiers are based.

"Foreign forces based in Iraq, especially southern Iraq, direct Iranian agents and give them bomb materials," he said in remarks carried by state-run television.

"We have no intention to invade any country. We will take effective defense measures if attacked," he said. "These missiles are in the possession of the Guards."


We very well could be having a look around in Khuzestan. And chatting with Iranian Arabs unhappy with mullah mis-rule.

Having troops able to seize these oil fields would help a Western blockade of Iran a great deal.

And the Iranian threat to use their missiles if attacked argues for a more robust strike campaign than just hitting Iran's nuclear facilities, in conjunction with this blockade operation .

Just wondering. About a couple things, I guess.

What Is His Job Description?

I have to wonder about ElBaradei's job description when I read about him proposing this:

U.N. nuclear chief Mohamed ElBaradei on Friday called on the United States to provide Iran with nuclear reactors and urged Tehran to declare a moratorium on enriching uranium for at least eight years.

ElBaradei said that amount of time would enable the country to earn the confidence of the international community that it was really interested in nuclear energy — not nuclear weapons.

I know I must be confused about his job because I thought he was supposed to impede nuclear weapons proliferation. When you talk about buying time and Iran, the only one buying time is Iran. And the mullahs aren't trying to use that time to build confidence. Unless by "confidence" you mean "nuclear missiles capable of incinerating infidels and Jews."

Luckily, American leaders are not confused:

U.S. Sen. John McCain (news, bio, voting record) appeared to rule out negotiations.

"They're interested in acquiring weapons of mass destruction and dominating the Middle East," McCain, R-Ariz., told a panel. "I don't know of any carrot that works."

Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, said in Washington that comments from Iran indicate that it appears "to be playing more games with the international community."

"We remain in discussions with our partners and others about the best way to send a clear message to the regime in Iran that it is unacceptable to have nuclear weapons," McClellan said.


This just feels like a pre-war period. I don't think Iran will forego nuclear weapons. I don't believe our government will allow Iran to go nuclear without a fight. And I don't think there is any chance the Russians or anybody else can do anything to stop Iran from going nuclear or stop us from acting.

Decked

I've expressed my concerns about big-deck aircraft carriers surviving in a network-centric world:

We need carriers, I think, but the huge ships we plan may be too big to survive in a network-centric battlespace and too expensive to risk losing. And they may be irrelevant to fighting anyway as surface combatants and submarines with networked missiles and long-range cannons create the ability to mass effect without the need to have the projecting assets massed on one platform. Smaller carriers able to deploy smaller numbers of manned plans plus unmanned aerial combat vehicles, and able to double as amphibious warfare platforms, may be more appropriate for a networked Navy.


Our planned CVN-21 will be large and expensive. But this comparison chart from Defense Industry Daily does give me some reason to doubt what the solution is to operating in a network-centric environment.

--At one end of the scale at what I feared is too big is the full-deck CVN-21 at 90,000 tons, which will carry 90 aircraft.

--At the other end is the small British jump-jet carriers at 20,000 tons and 22 small, less capable aircraft.

--In the middle is the full-deck French nuclear carrier at 45,000 tons and 40 aircraft.

--The planned British-French full-deck carrier, CVF, will be 65,000 tons and 40 aircraft.

So from the CVF to the CV-21, we go up only 25,000 tons to more than double aircraft capacity? Is this design limitation or a continuation of the decades-old difference in design philosopy between American and British carrier designers? Historically, we put more planes on the same tonnage.

Could we put more than 40 planes (or whatever UCAV number that is equivalent) on a 65,000 ton hull if we went smaller? If we couldn't, it may well make sense--if we should have carriers in a network environment--to go up to 90,000 tons. In for a penny, in for a pound, as the saying goes.

The PRC Without the People?

Is it just me or is this something that should really worry the Chinese rulers?

These "sudden incidents" or "mass incidents," in official parlance, are presenting Chinese officials with a serious problem that goes beyond the negative image of China they project to the outside world. The sheer numbers are noteworthy. In August 2005, the country's public security minister, Zhou Yongkang, announced that some 74,000 such events had taken place in 2004, an increase from 58,000 the year before. According to Zhou, 17 of the 74,000 involved more than 10,000 people, 46 involved more than 5,000 people, and 120 involved more than 1,000 participants. But many believe the actual figures are higher.

And given that the central authorities don't like to hear news like this, those who believe the actual figures are higher are probably right. How many local party officials are keeping inconvenient statistics to themselves?

The article goes on to note that the People's Armed Police are being trained and beefed up. Will this do any good? The PAP are largely the old rabble infantry divisions of the PLA who had their "army" badges and insignia replaced with "police" logos when they were transferred out of the army. Are the PAP really up to snuffing out serious and simultaneous "sudden incidents?"

As I've noted, for all the talk about our having insufficient troops to police 5 million angry Sunnis (and I strongly disagree), just how many troops would Peking need to suppress even half of their 1.2 billion people? Or even a quarter? Or even ten percent?!

I mean, really, 74,000 incidents in 2004! Just the high-level incidents numbered give us 520,000 protesters, at least. If the other odd 73,000 plus had only 100 people each on average, we can add 7.4 million more! So there might be 7.5 million people protesting in 2004. If the numbers are not under-reported.

Really, just what is a "normal" amount of protest in China that the body politic just shrugs off as the cost of doing business? And when does it get serious?

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Ban Their Exports

The Danes have defended free speech by refusing to prostrate themselves before the Mosle world over editorial cartoons that had images of Mohammed in them. The Saudis are leading the charge to punish the infidels (via Instapundit):

The Saudi Arabians have withdrawn their ambassador to Denmark. Not much of a loss, you may think, but those free-spirited open-minded 21st Century Saudis have been influential in getting other Middle Eastern countries to boycott Danish products. Again, as the main Danish exports are bacon, Danish ham and lager, not much of a loss, you may think. But Arla products (including Lurpak butter) are a big export earner and at least one Saudi supermarket has cleared its shelves of their products.


Good grief. Modern Europeans don't believe in their own God anymore yet they're supposed to worship Islam's?

I hope Denmark holds firm. And I hope we and Denmark's other allies will do the right thing and explain to the Saudis that they need to pipe down and back off.

And if they don't, the Danes can always ban the major export of the Islamic world--young Moslems seeking entry to Europe. And if the Danes decide to clear their shelves of this import, the Moslem world will not be happy at all.

As for me, eating more Danish beer and bacon shouldn't be too much of a hardship to show support.

When Your Only Tool is a Hammer

Carpenter spoke on his new book about surrendering now to China over the Taiwan issue while we can make it look like a policy choice. MeiZhongTai recounts the event:

As the United States has limited control over Chinese or Taiwanese foreign policy, averting conflict can only occur by shifting American policy in Carpenter's view. Therefore, he recommends that the American policymakers view Taiwan as but a peripheral issue to the United States, not the vital concern it is often characterized as. As such, America should continue selling defensive arms to Taiwan to allow it to defend itself but explicitly rescind any American security guarantee to the island. To put it simply, we care about Taiwan enough to sell them arms but not enough to put American sons and daughters in harm's way.

Carpenter is really missing the point. Deciding to "characterize" the Taiwan issue as peripheral rather than vital is all well and good when you, as Carpenter does, think that America should not address any threat to us at all. But shouldn't we actually analyze the issue to decide if the threat is real or not?

I happen to think of Taiwan as a sort of canary in the coal mine type of thing. Yes, we have a moral obligation to provide Taiwan with the means to defend themselves. And we even have a moral obligation to intervene, I believe, at some level to help the Taiwanese defend themselves.

But what I mean by the canary comment is that if the Chinese attack Taiwan and capture the island this represents a worrying level of hostility and capability. A China willing and capable of launching an attack on Taiwan despite our commitment to Taiwanese independence and freedom is a China willing and able to take on America, Japan, and other nations in the region over other issues. We know what they intend on Taiwan. The Chinese say it often enough. But if doing what they say only depends on Peking getting the means to carry out their intent, a lot of nations in the area need to seriously worry about China.

So this means we must fight over Taiwan regardless of Taiwanese views. Even if the Taiwanese believe we will rescue them and so refuse to adequately defend themselves or psychologically prepare themselves to fight China, we will need to fight.

Taiwanese who believe we will rescue them no matter how ill-prepared they are should not draw comfort from this. Since the question of America fighting over Taiwan is at its core a matter of national security for us and not just a moral commitment to help a democracy, if Taiwan will not or cannot defend themselves, we will fight just to increase the price China must pay to take Taiwan. Taiwan will be a battlefield and not an ally to be defended. We must do this so that we don't appear to be a paper tiger and discourage other allies currently willing and able to defend themselves from remaining our allies after China takes Taiwan. Just because the Taiwanese might not want to defend their democracy doesn't mean we should let their defeat undermine other nations who might wish to defend themselves if only they see us willing to help them.

Losing well and making sure China doesn't win easily to discourage future adventures will be our objective if we cannot help Taiwan defend itself.

Again, I don't panic over China's potential rise. China will not become a peer competitor to us in my lifetime if ever. They may even crumble. Heck, they may even become a democracy. Who knows?

But they don't need to be equivalent in power to be a real threat to our interests. They certainly don't need to be as strong as us to be a threat to their neighbors.

But Carpenter doesn't care. Nothing is of interest to us, according to him. So he has only one solution to every foreign threat or potential threat. We are doomed and should just surrender now. Get used to losing and learn to love it. We are supposed to just draw a line 3 miles off our coasts and generously inform potential enemies that we don't care about anything outside those lines. Go to town, guys. Friends? You're on your own. This approach pretty much guarantees that eventually we'll see those threats sailing three miles off our coasts one day.

Carpenter sees a very strange set of nails around the globe. While I would be rude to suggest he is an actual "tool," I will say that he only seems to have one tool to use--a very strange hammer that only pounds on America.

Defanged?

Is our Army reorganization into brigades making our combat units too fragile?


One of the centerpieces of the US Army's transformation plan has been its proposal to break down divisions into something called "Brigade Combat Teams." The idea is that the US would be able to deploy the brigades with minimal support from higher-level HQ, something like the US Marine Corps' pioneering MEUs. By expanding the number of brigades in the army, moving some dedicated support units into the BCTs, and increasing each brigade's UAV, reconnaissance, and C4SI capabilities, the idea was that the US would effectively have more deployable combat units.

Now some studies prepared by the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) on behalf of the Pentagon's Program Analysis and Evaluation Directorate make the case that the result will actually be something else: growth of HQ staff at the expense of combat troops, reducing maneuver batalions by 20% while growing headquarters by 11.5%.

So will our new brigade combat teams be too fragile because they have only two combat battalions? Good question. When I proposed organizing more but smaller divisions (two brigades each) to be more deployable and provide a better rotation base, I also proposed a structure that would allow an additional brigade to be plugged in if the division faced high intensity combat.

But consider our new battalions will have four line companies instead of three. So we are really going from 9 line companies in a brigade to 8. (Although the Stryker units will retain three maneuver battalions with the traditional three companies I assume) Plus, we have included a reconnaissance battalion (called different things in the heavy, Stryker, and infantry brigades) to call in the awesome firepower we have available. Now, this unit is quite light (and I suspect too light). In the past, recon units that started light have heavied up to become virtually indistinguishable from combat units.

Indeed, our old armored cavalry regiments--which are reconnaissance units--are outstanding brigade-sized combined arms units that might have served as an adequate organization for our new units. We shall see if networked fighting makes more sense with the new brigade combat team organization.

But my point is that with an additional battalion of light recon in the brigade combat team that doesn't seem to be counted as a manuever unit, we may yet be able to heavy this unit up to maneuver unit status to allow it to slug it out with peer units while delivering firepower. Then we might have units with more maneuver companies than current brigades. And have more brigades.

So I don't assume the new brigades are more fragile and could yet evolve into a more robust unit if we rethink what the recon battalion should look like. Or we might decide to go back to the triangular structure like the Stryker brigades retain.

UPDATE: The Weekly Standard blog reports on a critique of the reorganization. I believe I addressed these concerns above. The criticism focused on reductions in maneuver battalions.

Well let's look at line companies. With 33 brigades in a triangular structure (3 companies in each battalion and 3 battalions in each brigade, resulting in 9 companies per brigade) we have 297 line companies. With each division having another cavalry squadron (battalion), add 30 more companies. So call it 327 line companies under the old organization.

With 42 new BCTs each having two maneuver battalions of 4 companies each, we have 336 line companies. Since the five active Stryker brigades retain the triangular structure, add 5 more line companies for a total of 341 line companies. This is 14 more companies than the old strcuture. Where is the reduction in combat power?

Now I do have concerns over the new recon battalions. They are way too light, I think, and I'd rather they have Bradleys and Abrams. If you add 42 of these battalions that will be in each BCT and heavy them up so they can maneuver against the heaviest enemy, with even a triangular structure we'd have 126 more line companies.

I'm just not convinced that the Army is defanged.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Strategypage comments:

Traditionalists in the army don’t want to give up the three combat battalion brigade concept. This has been around for about 90 years. Before that, there were four battalions per brigade. Before that, it varied a lot. One thing is certain, there are historical trends at work here, as well as fear of new ideas. The historical trend has been one of putting fewer and fewer troops into the combat zone, and substituting technology for those missing troops. This trend has been particularly visible in the last century.

Like I said, I have some concerns, too, about the loss of a third maneuver battalion; though the presence of a third battalion--the recon unit--allays these concerns, and I think they could evolve into a manuever-capable unit as our current cavalry squadrons are (recall how 3rd ID's cavalry squadron took apart Iraqi units it encountered in 2003). Plus, remember that German World War II regiments contained either two armored or two infantry battalions per regiment by later in the war. They managed to slug it out on the Eastern Front in very high intensity operations because of their artillery support.

Electing Good Men

So Hamas won the Palestinian elections. They will run the Palestinian Authority.

Clearly we have to cut off aid to this government. They are terrorists and we must not just accept them as worthy of our aid.

But this does not mean we do not trumpet free elections in Palestinian territory. Think of the street cred we get in the Moslem world by showing that our promotion of democracy is not just code words for putting in puppets. If Moslems want to elect whackos, they are free to do so. But the lesson should also be that then they are on their own to enjoy their chosen representatives.

And we can afford to make this statement with the Palestinians. This isn't Saudi Arabia after all. At worst, if the Hamas-run PA decides to carry out its vision of killing Jews, the Israelis will have a green light to use their military power to smash up the PA instead of negotiate. Heck, back in 1990 or 1991 when the Algerian Islamists won elections, I thought that with the end of the Cold War and the end of high stakes geo-politics, it would have been better if they had been allowed to take office rather than have the Algerian government cancel the elections and crack down (not that I'm saying we could have stopped it). Why not let them prove themselves incapable of ruling or see if governing might moderate them?

So now a small and weak PA has elected nutballs. Maybe this was a reaction to Fatah corruption. Maybe the Palestinians really do want death to the Jews. Better to know, right? If the former, in time more rational leaders may be elected. If the latter, better to have the veneer of civilization stripped away from the government so everyone can see who they are.

So let's cut off aid to the PA but funnel it to NGOs that build democratic institutions and civic organizations. Our goal should be to promote democracy. So rather than trying to nullify this election result, we should make sure that there will more elections, and that those results will be honored by even a Hamas government that loses.

We can't make them elect good men. But we can insist they keep holding elections until they decide to elect good men.

And think of the effects in other more imprtant countries that see that we really do support democracy even when we don't like the results. This could be revolutionary in its impact.

UPDATE: Not everyone is thrilled with our pursuit of democracy. One NRO writer is not and includes this definition of democracy as a reason not to like elections: "If you define democracy as a balance of forces in which no group's rights may be trampled with impunity[.]" No, I don't define democracy that way. The point that democracy requires more than voting and must have a civic society that accepts give and take; and accepts losing with confidence that there will be another round of debate is well taken. And I noted this fact. But democracy does indeed require actual "voting" done in a free manner. Trying to promote democracy without voting is just ridiculous.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Ultra Gizmo

This is impressive as all get out:


The Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle program is exploring high-speed air vehicles designed for rapid, around-the-world reach. Project goals are to develop hypersonic technology for a glided or powered system, as well as advance small, low cost, and responsive launch vehicles.

A Falcon Hypersonic Test Vehicle-1 (HTV-1) is now on the books for a less than one-hour flight in September 2007. Attaining Mach 19 (19 times the speed of sound), the glided air vehicle will briefly exit the Earth's atmosphere and reenter flying between 19 and 28 miles above the Earth's surface. This inaugural voyage of HTV-1 would end in the Pacific Ocean.

This is pretty cool. The ability to fly from America around the globe at high speed and unload a lethal payload on our enemy is a tremendous military capability. And will scare the kung pao out of Peking, no doubt.

But just remember it is of little importance to fighting the fanatic wiring up an IED with a garage door opener in his basement. Never lose sight of the fact that to beat the enemy's low tech gizmos we need sufficient numbers of well-trained killers kicking down doors and shooting our enemies five yards away.

UPDATE: Ralph Peters rightly notes that we can't rely on technology alone. Fanatics mess up the cold calculations we are comfortable making. However, his discussion of war with China and how we could not wage total war against them misses the point. Absent an Army sized to 1945 standards, there is no way to wage full non-nuclear war against China. We should not use that as the standard. Surely, have enough depth to fight protracted regional wars on the periphery in restricted areas (Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam), but don't think we could prepare for or afford to prepare for general war. And remember, China is in even less of a position to fight a wide war against America and our allies even off their own shores.

Nuts

Victor Hanson writes that no matter how many Democratic Underground talking points Osama regurgitates in his tapes, that swine deserves no quarter, no pity, and no encouragement from us:

Bin Laden ends his maudlin nonsense by telling us Americans that "there is a lesson for you."In fact, there are three lessons: Al Qaeda terrorists are losing. Their only hope is to mimic critics in the United States for ideas about derailing American military and diplomatic efforts that are destroying them. And as they go down, they play the victim in desperate search of pity and thus reprieve.

For most Americans--nice try, but still no cigar.


While some Americans may want to negotiate or accept his offer out of pity or a feeling of guilt that he is right about his criticisms, we should never offer him a reprieve. Our only reply can be the one we gave to the Germans at Bastogne in December 1944 when the Germans offered us honorable surrender:

"Nuts!"

This has the further advantage of being an accurate psychological assessment of our enemy, too.

Reality-Based Analysis

Just go read all of Orson Scott Card's latest piece on Iraq.

I'll admit it. I like it because he hammers on points I've been making for more than two years now on this blog. From disbanding the Iraqi army, to casualties, to "lies," to de-Baathification, to our troops numbers, and to how we are fighting the war.

His concluding section puts it well:

Fortunately, we have a President today who understands what winning this war requires. As long as the American people don't lose sight of the goals of this war and continue to give him a Congress that will support the war, then we will continue to make progress toward victory.

The problem is there is little chance that we will break the back of international Islamist terrorism before the end of 2008. That means that there is a very good chance that, without a pro-war incumbent, we will find ourselves with a new president who won't have Bush's spine.

Or President Bush's vision. Because for all that the Left has loved to call him dumb, the only people I hear saying truly stupid things these days are those that the Left considers smart -- or at least smarter-than-Bush.

Well, dumb-guy Bush and his team have been leading us in the best-run war in American history -- not a flawless war, but one with far fewer and less costly mistakes than the norm. (Dear Furious Letter Writers: Don't even bother arguing this point with me until you've studied the mistakes made in all our other wars so you have some kind of perspective.)

Sadly, I don't see either party advancing candidates for the presidency who show any sign of being as smart as Bush about what our national security requires.

The "best-run war in American history." I will enthusiastically second that assessment. The critics haven't a clue. Even the Persian Gulf War is not better despite its overwhelming nature simply because it was so limited and so short that it didn't rise to the level of a war, really. It was a giant tank battle that was finished in one continuous 4-day assault.

And we are truly fortunate to have this president at a time of war. Sadly, I too worry about how this war will be fought after the 2008 election. I won't panic, mind you. Even a president who fails to fight this war will find that they will have to fight or lose their job. We may lose time and people--we can be hurt--but we are too powerful to be beaten by our enemies. If hit hard enough, our people will insist we fight and then we will go after our enemies again. If we need to be hit hard by our enemies to remind us we must crush them, I have no doubt our enemies will oblige if we let up on them. I wish this not so, but it is. And then we will redouble our efforts.

Oh, and Card relates one of the many reasons we are better than our enemies and deserve to despite the apologists here who only seem to want to "understand" our murderous enemies:

Some American soldiers on the street of an Iraqi city are near some Iraqi schoolgirls when a truck carrying insurgents pulls up to block the intersection: An ambush!

The Americans immediately and instinctively grab the girls and put them behind them, so that the Americans are shielding the girls with their own bodies.

This is not what the anti-American propaganda says Americans will do. And the insurgents, for reasons known only to them, get back in their truck and drive on.

Instead of vast arrays of storm troopers, they see young Americans behaving decently and bravely and kindly. It's part of our strategy. It works.

We're winning and we deserve to win. In what world is this not crystal clear?

But as I said, go read it all.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

If You Can't Say Anything Nice

So what if they gave a war and nobody came to cover it?

Via a Howard Kurtz column, comes this information about news coverage in Iraq:

Getting a room wasn't a problem; while the hotel used to be full of journalists, many either left the country after the December elections or were pulled out by their publications, which have been cutting back on Baghdad staff as things have gotten progressively more dangerous. The day I checked in, the only people I saw were a few middle-aged Iraqi men in leather jackets forlornly smoking by the front desk, and a lonely cafeteria attendant, sitting at his cash register watching a soap opera.

In fact, I didn't see any Westerners at all until my second day, when I contacted the acting bureau chief for an American paper who was staying in my hotel. As we were discussing the state of reporting in Baghdad and Iraq in general, he told me that I was a little late to the game. These days, more American reporters are leaving Iraq than arriving. In large part, for the U.S. press, "The party's pretty much over."
You know, I could beat my head into a wall despairing of the media understanding warfare and reporting on what is happening as opposed to just police-blottering the war.

But I guess the enemy's continued targetting of journalists for kidnapping or death (35 died in Iraq in 2005), like its targetting of Moslems in terror attacks, will backfire on them too. By driving out most of the clueless reporters, there will naturally be a decline in clueless reporting. Absent any prospects for good reporting, I guess I'll settle for less reporting.

Remember what mom said. If you can't say anything nice about somebody, don't say anything at all.

Personality Clash

Mark Steyn says Osama doesn't matter anymore in a practical sense:

In the old days he was a smarter than average nutter. He created a terror organisation whose diffused structure made it hard for its enemies to tell whether they were winning against it. But, by the same token, that structure also makes it hard for him to tell whether he’s winning against us. And right now, as that whiney loser cassette tape suggests, they’re the ones who could use a victory. Osama bin Laden is, in that sense, just another symptom rather than the cause of our recent troubles. The spread of Wahabism, which Prince Turki and others persuaded the CIA to use as a strategic asset of convenience, is a bigger problem. And the Saudi-funded radicalisation of Muslim populations around the world is a bigger one still, and may yet prove terminal for parts of Europe.

But a man in Waziristan or Overtheristan watching Cindy Sheehan on CNN? He’s not what it’s about any more.

This is basically true. I want Osama dead mind you. Head on a pike stuck in the ground and all that, of course. But his life or death is important only in that his continued evasion of capture or death gives the anti-war side a club to beat President Bush with. They are wrong, but they say the war cannot be won until he is dead or caught.

This of course makes me think of the good old days in the good war of 1991--the Persian Gulf War (aka Desert Storm). Then, the loyal opposition slammed President Bush the elder on a daily basis for "personalizing" the crisis as one between himself and Saddam. How simplistic, they said. President Bush calls President Hussein merely "Saddam" in a show of disrespect, they said! Never mind that is how Saddam called himself.

I never believed it was really just about Bush versus Saddam despite those charges, so the new policy of ignoring the enemy hiding in a cave poring over CBS polling data is no big deal to me. But to the opposition, you'd think this change in emphasis should be considered a great leap in formulating sophisticated, big-brained, foreign policy based on their old complaints.

But as the saying goes, "Damned if you're President Bush; and damned if you're the other President Bush."

Getting Closer to Version 5.0

I'm still waiting for the final word on what happened to Saddam's WMD:


So excuse me if I refuse to join the new conventional wisdom that says Saddam was toothless when we invaded. We found too much damning evidence of WMD programs after we conquered Saddam's regime even with the big scrub the Iraqis carried out (with French or Russian help to hide their tracks?) for me to believe Saddam's regime was innocent. We saw too much in the inspections as Tierney describes in the article.

This groupthink that Saddam had no WMD in March 2003 replaces the conventional wisdom that Saddam's scientists were all bluffing a psychopathic mass murderer by pretending to have WMD programs; which itself was a replacement for the theory that Saddam was purely bluffing all of us. And this, of course, replaces the conventional wisdom held by both parties for nearly a decade that Saddam had WMD in defiance of UNSC resolutions demanding he disarm.
I just don't believe every intelligence agency was wrong on Iraq prior to the war.

On the heels of an Israeli general's comments on weapons going to Syria, there is (via The Corner) a new book out by a former Saddam air force commander:

The man who served as the no. 2 official in Saddam Hussein's air force says Iraq moved weapons of mass destruction into Syria before the war by loading the weapons into civilian aircraft in which the passenger seats were removed.

The Iraqi general, Georges Sada, makes the charges in a new book, "Saddam's Secrets," released this week. He detailed the transfers in an interview yesterday with The New York Sun.

The general speaks only of chemical weapons, which adds credibility since chemical weapons were the only WMD I was positive Saddam had (since he had them in the past and used them without a doubt). If the general had spun tales of nuclear warheads being spirited away, we could disregard his story. So perhaps there are Iraqi WMD in Syria. Or maybe buried inside Iraq still. Or both, I suppose. If Saddam paid Syria to hide his WMD, after the experience with Iran keeping all the planes that Saddam sent in 1991, I doubt Saddam would have given up everything for safekeeping inside Syria.

Give an enemy time and they just might use it to their advantage, I always say (and frankly, it annoys people that I always say that). I think Iraq used the time we gave them in our long-telegraphed punch in March 2003 to hide their chemical weapons and scrub evidence of their stockpiles and programs.

Conventional Wisdom 5.0 is yet to be released. It will be a great improvement over the current version.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Next Step?

I truly fear that this is the next step for the loyal opposition on the war:

Well, I think I said it clear in the column, too. I don't have a...if you are for the war in Iraq, I think obviously, then you should support the troops. My problem is the people who are against the war and support the troops anyway, I think that's kind of an excuse. I think that's a way of making you feel better about your guilt, and I think that's kind of a lazy form of pacifism.

I've always been grateful that opponents of the war in Iraq either truly support the troops or feel constrained by the bounds of proper dissent to say they do. As much as the issue of our stretched Army gets coverage, I worry far more about our stretched society.

But the moment that war opponents aren't constrained by either motive, our home front will get very ugly (and probably violent) as the anti-side begins to wage war against our military personnel rather than "just" against the Bush administration.

The anti-war side saves its real venom for domestic opponents rather than enemies abroad who have killed us and who seek to kill even more of us.

You May Fire When You are Ready, Gridley

Our choices regarding Iran are all in the ugly range and only luck can spare us from choosing one of them:


In sum, a terrorist-sponsoring state led by an apocalyptic lunatic will soon have the ability to incinerate Tel Aviv or New York. The International Atomic Energy Agency is concerned enough to convene an emergency meeting on Feb. 2 to discuss a referral to the U.N. Security Council. This is not a prospect to make the mullahs quake. They know perfectly well that no serious sanctions are likely. Their business partners in Russia and China will see to that. Nor do the Europeans have any interest in embargoing Iran's main export — petroleum — when oil is more than $60 a barrel. The most that might happen is that some Iranian officials might have their foreign accounts frozen and their foreign travel curtailed. That seems a small price to pay for nuclear glory.

What might stop Iran at this late date? Some conservatives have pinned their hopes on another Iranian revolution. The CIA and other agencies should do everything possible to encourage such an uprising. But the chances of regime change in the near term are not high. Even less likely is a U.S. invasion; the U.S. military is overstretched as it is.

That leaves only one serious option — air strikes by Israel or the U.S., possibly accompanied by commando raids. It is doubtful that bombs could eradicate Iran's nuclear program, but they could set it back for years, possibly long enough for the regime to implode.
In Provocation, I noted that it may be that Iran must galvanize us into facing the threat that the mad mullahs present to our nation and the West in general. But I worried about what could provoke the Iranians in time to allow us to deal with them.

Well, Iran may be screwing up their courage to mess with us:


[I]f Europe does not act wisely with the Iranian nuclear portfolio and it is referred to the UN Security Council and economic or air travel restrictions are imposed unjustly, we have the power to halt oil supply to the last drop from the shores of the Persian Gulf via the Straits of Hormuz.

If the hollow UN route can provoke this, it will be worth it.

And once Iran commits an act of war, we should respond not with escorts alone as we did in 1987-1988 during the Tanker War, but with immediate offensive action that sinks the Iranian fleet and destroys their air and missile forces. No proportionality, here. Hammer them until they have nothing left that sails or flies through the air.

And as long as we're in their air space, their nuclear facilities, too.

No Regrets

Sometimes, in the face of South Korean refusal to confront the North Korean nuclear threat, I'v felt a little guilty for noting that if any confrontation gets out of control, our South Korean friends will suffer if North Korea lashes out while we and Japan will likely be able to shoot down any missiles heading our way.

Of course, I've noted that the South Koreans have a similar attitude toward North Korean nuclear missiles that can reach beyond South Korea or North Korean weapons sold to the highest bidder.

Strategypage reminds me again that I don't need to feel guilty:

South Korea, for fear of upsetting the north, has refused to participate in PSI (Proliferation Security Initiative). So far 16 nations have joined PSI, which set up a communications network between naval forces and holds drills covering stopping and searching ships thought to be carrying weapons of mass destruction, components or delivery systems. Another 60 nations have expressed interest in PSI, but not South Korea.

Not that I blame Seoul. But they can hardly get too huffy as we look to our own interests. It is hardly reasonable for us to paint the target grid on our cities so South Korea's can avoid them.

Gulagle

No Profile in Courage to be found here:

Google announced that it is officially launching its services in China, a move that will require the Internet firm to subject itself to self-censorship.

Well isn't that lovely? This should provide plenty of bricks for the Great Firewall of China.

Google staff must be so proud! But they can hate George Bush all the more to make up for their decision. Can't have them thinking they aren't progressive, now can they?

UPDATE: I do believe I may have coined the term "Gulagle" first, having posted it in comments on Caerdroia and Mad Minerva early on January 25th. Interestingly enough, Google doesn't show this post when earlier it was the only post it showed on a search of "Gulagle" related to Google. I hope this spreads. Rather fitting.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Add Another Straw

This post says we should support Hong Kong democrats. I agree.

But this part made me think that the Peking government is giving us the benefit of that support without our providing much of it:

The administration of Chief Executive Donald Tsang, squeezed by the growing demand for democracy in Hong Kong and ongoing disdain for it in Beijing, proposed some Beijing-backed political 'reforms' that were defeated recently by pro-democracy members of the Legislature Council.

Beijing officials reacted to the defeat by accusing the U.S. of making 'rash comments on Hong Kong affairs for quite a period of time, violating the principle of non-interference in other countries' internal affairs.' Referring to Hong Kong as 'China's Hong Kong' and 'China's internal affairs,' Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang asked the U.S. to refrain from any comments or acts that would interfere in China's internal affairs and place obstacles in the way the Hong Kong government operates. A Hong Kong government official also expressed 'disappointment' with the U.S.: 'We would not wish any foreign governments to give the impression that they were meddling in Hong Kong's affairs.'
We really haven't done much. But if mainland setbacks are blamed on the effectiveness of American intervention, won't Hong Kong democrats draw comfort and encouragement from that support no matter how low-level it really is? And how much more impact could we have with even incremental increases in support for democracy groups in Hong Kong?

Are the geriatric communists of the PRC helping us to help their people? You never can tell what particular straw will be too much for the camel's spinal cord to endure.

Mature Weapon System

Updates to the Abrams will make this superb weapon a part of our arsenal until 2027. DID describes some upgrades and summarizes:

These measures, plus ongoing electronics upgrades, are expected to sustain the U.S. Army's fleet of almost 7,000 Abrams tanks into 2027.

Barring some new weapons that truly make it obsolete, that is. But contenders for the title of furry little mammal that destroys the dinosaur tank have all ended up in the tar pits so far.

The durability of this platform is amazing. The Abrams has grown in protection, firepower, and electronics, of course, since first introduced; but we wouldn't have considered that tanks of 1917 suitable for the battlefield of 1967. Yet this tank could be a major part of our Army in 2027.

The main battle tank may very well become obsolete. No weapon is immune to technological progress. As long as we don't need to face an enemy air force like our own, however, the only tanks that likely will be obsolete in the near future are those of our potential enemies.

Democracy in Action

Well, it isn't like our democracy but it is a democracy. Canada will have a change in government after yesterday's election. I find it odd that the government will be led by a the winner with all of 36% of the vote, but that's the system so that's the result.

Congratulations to Stephen Harper and me he have success.

For me, I don't expect much. Canada cannot possibly make their military a force to be reckoned with as it once was despite my wishes. Canada can only improve things a bit in the short run, although I hope they do make some improvements. If this plan is serious, Canada's military could again be a good force.

Canada can keep gay marriage and check for guns at the border heading for Canada, for all I care. They just aren't high priorities for me to worry about.

My only real hopes are that Canada will let us use their airspace for missile defense systems that will protect both of us.

And that they will track Islamist terrorists more closely so they don't slip into America.

Perhaps we can give on the soft woods issue to give Harper some protection.

So I'm not ecstatic or anything. Just satisfied at a turn in a better direction. Although I'm still not happy with coming down with Bell's Palsy on my last trip to Toronto, I don't hold a grudge or anything. I just hope it isn't something in the beer. Hate to relapse...

Oh, and Mad Minerva answers a question about what all those Leftist Americans who fled a fascist America will do now that fascism has followed them to Canada.

The fools. Did they think that Moose Jaw was far enough to run? Muhahahahaha!

UPDATE: I have great respect for Canada's military personnel. Their history is one they may be proud of. And I can say that I have a work of military fiction describing the Canadian brigade in NATO in the 1980s which is a great reflection on this history of excellence. Canada's military can be great again, even if it will never field an army that strikes fear in the so-called hearts of fascists.

Army Surge Capacity

While it would not be easy to do or particularly healthy for the Army, we could deploy a considerable ground force if we had to do so.

This is explained in this Army press conference. The Army secretary demonstrates that we are not in fact without a ground option for any crisis, and explains our surge capacity:

We have a readiness deployment tool which really -- a fundamental tool by which we operate the Army. We call it the Army Force Generation Model, which, God bless you -- which you may be -- it is called -- (inaudible) -- which you may be familiar with. And this is a model in which we take the forces, both in the Reserves and the active, and we rotate them through various stages prior to deployment: a reset, remanufacture stage, recapitalization stage, and then followed by -- part of that training, rest, refreshment, all in the first year. Second year: intense training. Third year: deployment. So -- that's for the active.

So if you have in today's world 18 to 20 brigade combat teams deployed, we can surge, with the Army Force Generation Model, another 18 to 20 brigade combat teams.

So as these forces come around these circles of deployment, these cycles of deployment, they go from low stages of readiness in the first year and to increased readiness, and then, in mid-second year, they're ready to go. And the Reserves -- so one year deployed and two years at home station is our baseline cycle for the active, and one year deployed and five years at home station is the baseline cycle for the National Guard and the Reserves.

So we have the capability -- to answer it straightforward -- to surge to any crisis that the president may ask us to do.

So with active component forces planned at 42 brigades, we could surge 14 brigades on top of 14 deployed. This would leave 14 recovering from deployment. With our planned 28 Guard combat brigades, we'd have 4-5 available in any given year. One could add three Marine regimental combat teams based on the Army active component ratio and another 1 or 2 reserve battalions. This is illustrative only since the Marines operate on different schedules. And even the Army numbers are not good now since we don't have 28 Guard brigades ready (we have 15 enhanced separate brigades and I think 18 other brigades in the divisions that are at much lower readiness and not easily deployed for combat missions and a couple other separate brigades at lower readiness) and we don't have 42 active brigades yet. I think we're up to 40 or will be this year anyway.

Still, there is no question that our Army is stretched right now. But I'm always suspicious of Krepinevich's work. I'm not sure why, but when I read his material I often have to go "huh? Is he serious?" This article is no exception. Our Army is well trained and equipped and is gaining valuable combat experience as an institution and for the individual soldiers in the Army.

It is true that this operational tempo could eventually break the Army, but we don't know when that point will be reached. And until that point is reached, our Army is getting better--much better. Heck, our Army was in a race against time by the end of 1944. We didn't have a rotation base. Hell, we didn't have a strategic reserve of ground troops. Everything was committed and the Army was running out of steam. We were in a race between winning the war and breaking the Army. Luckily the Germans wore out even faster. And luckily we didn't have to transfer the European Army to the Pacific. I wonder if it could have handled this stress. But I digress. The problem our Army has is nothing new.

Not that it means we can ignore the issue. It could become a serious problem. But don't get your panties in a twist quite yet (or organize the retreat party under the guise of "saving" the Army). With more brigades being created and a smaller commitment in Iraq and Afghanistan, we can reduce the stress and keep the Army the best fighting machine on the planet. But remember that the Army exists to protect the nation. The nation does not exist to support a pristine Army never exposed to danger. If the Army looks in danger of breaking while we are at war, the proper response is to fix the Army and not end the war short of victory.

So if we do surge brigades for an Iran crisis, for example, we would probably have to do a general mobilization to put enough troops in the field for Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran, plus have some troops in reserve for North Korea (or Venezuela for that matter). On the bright side, the Guard would be better prepared to put effective brigades in the field once mobilized.

Or maybe we really are prepared to overthrow the mullahs despite the appearance of inactivity.

UPDATE: Secretary Rumsfeld defends the Army's status and this exchange confirms that the reports only suggest the Army could break if the status quo keeps going:

Q Mr. Secretary, I want to ask you about this report that the Pentagon paid good money for from Andrew Krepinevich, and two things of that --


SEC. RUMSFELD: (Inaudible.)


Q -- two -- two things that he said that I'd just be curious about. First of all, all these reports make a distinction between how the U.S. Army is performing now and what they're -- what the risk is in the future. And one of the central premises of this report is that recruiting and retention problems are going to get worse, and that's why there's a danger of breaking the Army in the future.


SEC. RUMSFELD: Okay, they don't say it's broken, as was characterized.


Q Not what I've read.


SEC. RUMSFELD: Okay.

Um, well duh. But things won't stay the same. Deployments will hopefully drop. Recruiting will be addressed. More brigades will be added. We will react to the potential problem. Like I said, something to worry about but get off the kitchen stool and stop shrieking. Another bloody plastic turkey issue.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Creating the America Desk

I recently wrote that Secretary Rice's proposals to revamp our State Department are radical departures from over three centuries of assumptions about the primacy of the state.

Ralph Peters (via RCP) agrees that the proposals are ground-breaking in their scope:

If Rice can implement even half of the changes she proposed before an irate diplomat shoots her for canceling his assignment to Vienna, her effort may become State's equivalent of the Army's crucial Root Reforms of a century ago (diplomatic practices are more than a hundred years out of date). And the truth is that a functional State Department is essential to America's role in the world.

Nice to see somebody noticing. It is revolutionary after all. Imagine the State Department advancing American interests? In a reflection of the world we must live in and not the world the Foreign Service operatives were trained to operate in?

It almost seems too good to be true.

WMD in Iraq

As I've repeated before, it is not accurate to say we have not found any WMD in Iraq. Even aside from the evidence of programs, we've found actual weapons. Strategypage writes:

American troops in Iraq have run across chemical artillery shells on quite a number of occasions. There’ve never been more than a handful found in any particular cache, and all of them have been old, easily dating back to the period of the ’90-’91 war. These shells were probably stashed away for “safekeeping” and then forgotten. Apparently none of the shells are usable, and in most cases the chemicals have deteriorated or leaked away.


Yes, these chemical warheads don't work. But the point is that they remained hidden even when we were driving around for years in some cases without finding them. If these shells could remain unfound, what else is out there?

Iraq is a big country and I don't assume we've had the chance to find everything there is to find out there. I'll wait for the new conventional wisdom on Iraqi WMD to develop. We will find them.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Reality? Really?

Since when did it get to be conventional wisdom that the Iranian people will hate us for destroying their nuclear program?

Fareed Zakaria (via RCP) says we need to face reality and accept Iran's bomb. We should "contain" them.

Writes Zakaria:


At best a strike would set back Iran's program by a few years. But it would inflame public opinion there and unify the nation in its determination to go nuclear. It is a substantial country—with three times the population of Iraq, for example—that has a powerful sense of national pride. And Iran would have many ways of retaliating, especially with 140,000 American troops next door in Iraq.

I happen to think that the nutballs of Iran want nukes to use them. They are not containable.

And I think that setting back Iran's nuclear program is preferable to accepting their nuclear ambitions and just getting used to them.

And most importantly, I deny that "reality" requires us to accept Iranian nukes. Who says the Iranians see 140,000 American troops next door in Iraq (and 20,000 more in Afghansistan) as a target rather than a threat? If we didn't have troops next door, we'd be told how realistically speaking we have no way to invade. And if we buy those few years by striking Iran's nuclear facilities, I bet our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan will have some free time as the Iraqi and Afghan governments run more of their own security.

But back to the conventional wisdom being peddled. Who says the Iranians people will hate us for knocking out their nuclear weapons program? Why will they be more upset at us for eliminating a threat from a regime that those people hate as much as we do, and who are forging ahead with a program that is making them a target and isolating them?

Why won't our attack inspire Iran's regime opponents to question why we hate them?

Let's look at the history of inflaming enemies.

We smashed up the military of Japan, fire-bombed their cities, and then nuked two in 1945. Yet instead of a proud people hating us forever, the Japanese supported our war effort in Korea in 1950, and became a close ally.

Or take the Germans. Please. No seriously. We invaded them, bombed every above-ground structure they had, aided their hated communist Russian enemies, starved them, and also tried and executed their leaders in the post-war years. Yet by 1955 the proud German people joined NATO and became a primary Cold War ally.

Or take Iraq. We invaded them in 2003 to depose their regime but the Kurds and Shias managed to forgive us anyway. Do they lack pride?

Heck, the Iraqis even forgave us for taking out their nuclear programs in 1998 air strikes!

Let's get real. There may very well be a momentary reaction against us if we hit the regime's nuclear facilities, but the people's hatred of the regime and the people's fear of that regime will make sure that in the end, the people go back to hating the mullah regime and welcoming our aid to weaken the mullah regime. Don't let any mythical "rallying" effect stay our hand if we otherwise conclude we must attack to save ourselves.

And as I've written before, I will draw no comfort if we don't attack out of fear of alienating the Iranian opponents of the regime, and those people become really, really sad after the mullahs slip a nuke into Charleston harbor.

If you have any doubt about how people who hate their government react to an enemy attack, recall our own 9-11 experience. For about three weeks, even Leftist opponents of President Bush were all weepy with the "we are all Americans" sentiment. But by the time we went into Afghanistan, many recovered their wits to oppose our action. More defected during the Iraq debate and in the last year. And today we have our Left back to where they are most comfortable--opposing what our government does and forgiving our enemies for any transgressions. Short rally, eh?

I suppose you could argue that the Iranian people are less rational than our Left, but I don't want to go there. It might be both wrong and racist.

And if we want to demolish Zakaria's so-called realism, let's end with this assessment he makes in support of containment:

The United States should begin the construction of an alliance to contain Iran. Our goals should be to prevent or massively slow down the weaponization of Iran's nuclear program, and to frustrate its meddling in the region, support for terrorism and opposition to a peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Wonderful ideas, each and every one of them. We've done so well on all these things up until now. But "realistically" he thinks now is the time all these things will fall into place bolstered by newly cooperative allies and a China and Russia chastened to realize what their obstruction has wrought!

Just who has a grip on reality here?

Better Than Nothing

I despaired a few months ago that we aren't sinking pirates on sight.

We are acting against them off of Somalia, at least, though hardly in the manner they deserve:

The guided missile destroyer Winston S. Churchill and other U.S. naval forces located the vessel after receiving a report of an attempted act of piracy, but it failed to respond to orders to stop.

"Churchill began aggressive maneuvering in an attempt to stop the vessel. The vessel continued on its course and speed. (Then) Churchill fired warning shots," said a Navy statement.

"(Later) Churchill fired additional warning shots, and at that time the crew of the suspect pirate vessel established communications by radio and indicated that they would begin sending personnel to the Churchill via their small boat in tow."

The crewmembers were seized and U.S. Navy sailors who boarded the vessel discovered small-arms weapons on board, the statement said. It did not say how many suspects were held.

I'm glad we acted. But I'm upset that we would fire warning shots at pirates when traditional methods should have been used. I don't know why we needed to fire more than one shell right into the hull. Consider that a warning shot to other pirates.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Monkey in the Middle

The showdown with Iran seems imminent.

The Iranians are pushing us to take action to stop them from getting nukes by making it clear that they are--and let me use a technical term here--completing friggin' nuts.

The Israeli defense minister stated they are getting ready:

"Israel will not be able to accept an Iranian nuclear capability and it must have the capability to defend itself, with all that that implies, and this we are preparing," Shaul Mofaz said.

And the Europeans who had put such stock in their ability to persuade or bribe the Iranians seem resigned to at least passively supporting military action:

Germany's defense minister said in an interview published Saturday that he is hopeful of a diplomatic solution to the impasse over Iran's nuclear program, but argued that "all options" should remain open.

Asked by the Bild am Sonntag weekly whether the threat of a military solution should remain in place, Franz Josef Jung was quoted as responding: "Yes, we need all options."

Indeed, the French are downright cowboyish in their attitude:

French President Jacques Chirac said Thursday that France could respond with nuclear weapons against any state-sponsored terrorist attack.

The Israelis who will act if we don't are pushing us to act. The Russians and Chinese will save us from going the futile international community route to dealing with the crisis. And the Europeans seem like they will accept what others will do.

The State of the Union address may give clues to our position in this jostling for position.

Guard Equipment

The Guard is depleting its weapons by fighting in Iraq and the military is planning to correct that. An interesting Army press conference addresses this:

Remember, during the '90s, not to get into the details, the Army was underfunded in terms of equipment. We are currently still making up for that. So the stay-behind equipment is one way to manage that. It also is a very good -- it's very good management in terms of logistics.

In the FYDP, there is $20 billion for the Guard equipment. So the Guard will be equipped -- the Guard is going to be organized and equipped in the same way the active Army's going to be organized and equipped.

The brigade combat teams, the organizational structure of -- everything in the Guard is the same as it is in the active; the numbers are just different. But they will be fully resourced. Again, the principle that the chief and I developed is fully resourced and ready Army in terms of manning and equipment, again, supported by a very robust and comprehensive modernization program, which for the ground forces is called the Future Combat Systems program.

First of all, it isn't really fair to blame the shortages on the 1990s lack of procurement. The Cold War ended suddenly and with the reduction in forces, we were able to use existing stocks to improve all forces by retiring older models. Had we not gone to war, we would have never noticed the lack of procurement as we developed and fielded new equipment at a peacetime pace. It is only because we are using up those stocks produced during the Cold War pretty quickly in war (mostly due to wear and tear but also some to combat losses) that we are seeing some shortages. The Clinton administration was lucky to be able to rely on the stocks produced already, and I imagine any administation would have done the same.

Leaving equipment in Iraq for follow-on troops or for eventual transfer to the Iraqis also makes sense even if particular units come home stripped of their gear. Further, it makes sense to use up existing older equipment as long as it is replaced with the new stuff in a timely fashion, and as long as we still have enough of the old stuff around to fight with until the new FCS are fielded.

In theory, as this spending is completed, we'll have a National Guard equipped like the active component and focused on being capable of keeping a small portion of its troops continuously on active duty to supplement the active component to fight in the war.

We shall see if recruitment can keep pace with a semi-active reserve force.

I suspect we may have to develop a two-tier reserve force with higher pay and benefits for the semi-regulars and traditional compensation for the traditional reserve forces that are not expected to be mobilized short of a national emergency and general mobilization.

Aim High

Strategypage notes that the Air Force is at risk of losing missions to Army-controlled UAVs. Bombing with JDAMs and scouting are migrating to UAVs that the Air Force do not need to control:

The way things are going, the air force will soon be nothing but ground crews for unmanned aircraft. Not that this is anything new. Back in the 1960s, when it became clear that the ICBM was a superior nuclear weapon delivery system, the air force generals had to grin and bear it, although they kept building manned bombers. But now, all a bomber has to do is drop a GPS guided smart bomb. A UAV can do that. In fact, one of the few things a UAV has not proved itself good at yet is operating helicopter gunships or ground attack aircraft (the A-10 and AC-130), aircraft mostly of use just to the army.


Even the Navy wants to control all the fighters and ground attack aircraft!

Strategypage notes:

Who needs the U.S. Air Force, when you have your own (but minus the pilots, which seems to work out so much better.)

So does that leave the Air Force with just transports, ICBMs, AC-130s and A-10s for ground support, and electronic warfare aircraft?

Well, the Navy isn't going to get all the fighters and ground attack aircraft. And the day we find ourselves in a war without aerial supremacy on day one is the day people stop wondering what the Air Force is useful for. I may not think we need many F-22s but we'll be glad we have some along with F-35s and F-15s.

But the Army and Marines are going to get more UAVs flown by sergeants. So the Air Force will lose jobs. Right now the Army is happy to have Air Force planes dropping JDAMs but the Army is getting long-range GPS-guided rockets that will match accuracy and UAVs to provide the bigger JDAMs and the recon that the Air Force now provides.

So does the Air Force vainly battle for shrinking market share?

Or does the Air Force migrate to other jobs?

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

Air superiority (including counter-air missions against enemy airfields), space control (both offensive and defensive), ICBMs, air transport, and electronic warfare should be the Air Force missions. Missions that are directly in support of ground forces should be controlled by those services with either helicopters or UAVs.

Science fiction calls space assets "ships" but there is no reason we must have a space navy in the future. Aim high, Air Force. Space Force has a nice ring, too.

Tis But a Flesh Wound

CENTCOM's translation of bin Laden's generous offer of a truce is here.

Reverend Sensing's translation of bin Laden is here.

Really, what's he going to do? Bleed on us?

More seriously, it is kind of amusing that bin Laden recounts the history of our actions in Iraq from the Persian Gulf War to the Iraq War (and, by the way, uses the Iraq War as part of his excuse for 9-11 one-and-a-half years earlier) and only seems to mention President Bush and his father:

This means the oppressing and embargoing to death of millions as Bush Sr. did in Iraq in the greatest mass slaughter of children mankind has ever known, and it means the throwing of millions of pounds of bombs and explosives at millions of children -- also in Iraq -- as Bush Jr. Did, in order to remove an old agent and replace him with a new puppet to assist in the pilfering of Iraq's oil and other outrages.

“So with these images and their like as their background, the events of September 11th came as a reply to those great wrongs, should a man be blamed for defending his sanctuary?

Bin Laden doesn't mention that actual Persian Gulf War, so I guess he's in agreement with a lot of war opponents here that the 1991 war was just. Or perhaps it is just an oversight.

So where is President Clinton in this stretch of time from 1992 to 2003? I mean, did the pilfering and other outrages stop from 1993 to January 2000?

But really, bin Laden is in danger of running afoul of McCain-Feingold regulations if he keeps repeating Howard Dean talking points without reporting his funding sources.

Spfffhhhhhttttt!

Via my Weekly Standard newsletter I was notified of this silly piece about Taiwan's plans to deploy conventionally armed cruise missiles capable of reaching China:


Taiwan's decision to produce no less than 500 cruise missiles capable of threatening southern China dramatically escalates its missile arms race with the People's Republic of China and may tempt China toward taking preemptive military action in the 2008-2010 period.


According to the author of the UPI article (a senior news analyst, no less), this is highly disturbing:

Even with only conventional warheads, a massive cruise missile force deployed on Taiwan could pose a very serious national security threat to China: The reported 360-mile range of the Hsiung Feng would put the Hong Kong and Shanghai, the financial hub of China, within its range.


Also, Taiwan's cruise missile force might not stay merely conventionally armed. Taiwan's advanced industrial economy already has nuclear reactors and, like Japan, South Korea and many other advanced industrial nations, Taiwan has capability to develop its own nuclear weaponry probably within only a few months if its leaders thought it faced an overwhelming national emergency.


The bottom line?


Would China sit back and allow Taiwan to effectively guarantee its perpetual de facto independence for the foreseeable future by deploying the kind of missile capability that, it could be argued, would be comparable to the one the Soviet Union tried to place in Cuba in the early 1960s to threaten the United States from close at hand?

President John F, Kennedy did not sit back and allow the Soviets and their communist Cuban allies. Instead, he risked a full-scale nuclear war in the Cuban Missile crisis of 1962 to force the withdrawal of the missiles. Will China's President Hu Jintao go as far as JFK did in dealing with the missiles of Taiwan? Or might he even go further?


Excuse me while I wipe away the Labatt I spewed on my screen when reading that part.

What is the author talking about? Is he serious? I recall the Janes news item and it did not prompt me to haul out Missiles of October to recall our brush with a nuclear war. Why? Because just because we had a "missile" crisis in 1962 does not mean that a story about "missiles" in 2006 is the same thing. For as the article notes, Taiwan has not in fact put nuclear warheads on the missiles. Nor does Taiwan currently have nuclear warheads. Nor is anyone claiming they are trying to do so, though if anybody can claim to need a deterrent force against a larger enemy committed to its conquest it is Taiwan.

And I do believe this forgets who the communist aggressor was in 1962 and who is the communist aggressor in 2006. If the planned 500 Taiwanese cruise missiles to be pointed at China and fired in retaliation (and remember that by 2010 only 50 are actually planned) are such a terrible thing armed with conventional warheads, why aren't the 700 existing Chinese ballistic missiles pointed at Taiwan (augmented by 50 a year, it seems) a terrible thing right now? When China already has nuclear weapons it could presumably add to its force? When China is the one that might use them first? I mean, we do have an actual island in both cases, but if this is the key then Ceylon, Madagascar, and even Britain must be terrible threats to the mainlands they loom over.

Why is a democracy planning to defend itself "destabilizing" when the plans of a dictatorship to conquer or intimidate a democracy is not?

And why does this threaten to drag in America any more than China's long-standing determination to absorb Taiwan whether the Taiwanese assent or not?

Look, 500 conventional warheads are not going to smash China. They won't. It is silly to assert they would. How much tonnage did Germany drop on Britain without destroying the British? How much did we drop on Germany or Japan? Or on North Vietnam? If these missiles carry one-ton payloads we have only 500 tons of high explosives. Or a little over 8 pounds per person. I think China's economy can handle this attack potential as something a little less than a threat to its very survival.

Certainly, if Taiwan can accurately target Chinese ports or airfields, Taiwan will be better able to disrupt any invasion debarkation points and better defend itself.

But I don't see how this is in any way bad. It is certainly no crisis.

Mad Minerva is, well, rather mad, at the cited article and gives it both barrels and a beating with the cluestick:

I am tired of analysts and pundits and various windbags pontificating on the cross-Strait situation as if the "bad guy" is Taiwan. I am sick of these same blowhards implying that it is up to Taiwan and/or the United States to prevent a cross-Strait war with China. Hello, people, China is just as involved as Taiwan and the US -- and, I'll argue, more so. Lest we all forget, China's the one who has 700+ missiles pointed at Taiwan and the saber-rattling, bullying rhetoric to go with them.

Who's the "bad guy," the "aggressor"? Oh, let me see . . . A tiny, free, democratic island of 23 million or an unrepentant autocratic behemoth of more than 1 billion. I won't even start on human rights abuses in China or the 2+ million troops in the PLA.

As MM notes, war is not inevitable. Although Russia, I think, would be happy if America and China went to war and dropped each other down a few rungs on the power scale.