Friday, October 31, 2008

Secondary Explosion?

I wondered if our recent raid on the Syrian rat line safe house would lead to new raids based on information we retrieved with our ground assault.

So is this operation a result of that raid?

Iraqi forces hunting al Qaeda members arrested 220 people in a raid in western Anbar province, a former insurgent stronghold, the province's police chief and the U.S. military said Friday.

Police backed by the Iraqi army stormed houses in the village of Owesat, in southern Anbar where they believe the Sunni Islamist insurgents were hiding, Thursday morning, Anbar police chief Major General Tareq Yusuf told Reuters.

"Those gunmen were controlling this area and they thought it would be safe for them there. We took the initiative and executed a bold raid," he said.

The area is in a zone along the Euphrates river by the border between Anbar and Babil provinces, dubbed the "triangle of death" by U.S. forces in the years after the 2003 invasion for its stubborn insurgency, although it is now quieter.

The Syrian-based operation had to have information on where the jihadis were going inside Iraq. I'd bet this is one of those places.

Speed Bumps

Chinese submarines are more active off of Japan and have followed one of our carriers in the region:

Japan has increased anti-submarine patrols in international waters, just outside Japanese territorial waters. Chinese submarines are apparently exercising there more frequently, looking for Japanese, South Korean and American warships to play tag with. The U.S. has also redirected more of its space based naval search capabilities to assist the Japanese.

Chinese Song class diesel electric and Han class nuclear powered boats were detected and tracked recently. One of each of these was spotted stalking the American carrier USS George Washington, as it headed to South Korea for a visit.

Remember, China isn't near to having the ability to defeat our Navy and control the western Pacific. Heck, the Chinese aren't near the ability to beat the Japanese navy alone.

But China doesn't need to beat us. China needs to beat the clock by keeping us at arm's length from Taiwan long enough for China to defeat the Taiwanese. Do that and the Chinese defeat Taiwan.

For this purpose, the Chinese don't even need to keep their submarines quiet. Indeed, the Chinese would want to be discovered. If the Chinese want to make us too cautious to race in and defend Taiwan, the Chinese would want us to be aware that their submarines will line the route from Japan to Taiwan.

A logical deduction from this desire to buy time is that China will not attempt any military action designed solely to intimidate Taiwan like a missile barrage or blockade. Either of those attacks would not require a rapid American response--only a certain American response--to bolster Taiwanese morale to endure for the short run until help arrives.

Only a full-scale invasion makes any sense to me as a Chinese military option to absorb Taiwan. And China's submarines are a speed bump on the road to Taiwan, clearly marked for our Navy to see.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Bloody Border

The Syrian Baathist regime is upset with us after we nabbed an al Qaeda in Iraq thug inside Syria:

Syria threatened Wednesday to cut off security cooperation along the Iraqi border if there are more American raids on Syrian territory, and the U.S. Embassy announced it would close Thursday because of a mass rally called to protest a deadly weekend commando attack.

Reduce security cooperation? That's a threat? What cooperation? Syria is already letting a reduced amount of jihadis cross into Iraq. Are they under the magical number of acceptable murderers allowed to sneak into Iraq to kill and maim? So we should just be friggin' grateful that the Syrians aren't killing more people inside Iraq right now? Maybe instead, Assad should be grateful that we don't match them aircraft sortie for suicide bomber infiltration.

Good God, another Baathist regime needs to have a ruler hanged, I think.

Michael Yon puts it well:

The insurgency in Mosul is the last big thorn left in Iraq’s paw. That we struck targets in Syria does not surprise me and I am not appalled. I am appalled that Syria allows these groups to use its territory as a base and conduit to destabilize Iraq. A Syrian government that allows these groups to penetrate Iraq’s borders and murder Iraqis and Americans doesn’t have much moral standing to complain about an incursion into its territory.

Still, now comes the political posturing. The Iraqi government has condemned the action and is claiming that they didn’t authorize the U.S. attack. Of course Syria is doing the same. That’s okay. This is one way we give the new Iraqi government cover to do what has to be done. We can take the blame; they have to coexist with their neighbors. So we are a convenient public bad guy for both sides. But there is little doubt that Iraqis are taking some comfort that the “bad guy” is not respecting a border that is violated repeatedly by Syria. Syria has played a dangerous game, with few consequences until yesterday. If Syria wants its border to be respected, it will have to respect the border with Iraq.

Heck, who are we fooling? In three months the Syrians will have a higher level of acceptable bad behavior and there probably won't be any threat of American military action at all--or even any threat of consequences, period. That is appalling.

Living to Run Another Day

Are the French even serious about fighting in Afghanistan?

This incident should be embarassing:

French officials said they were not concerned that the Taliban had captured a Milan anti-tank missile launcher, and two missiles. This happened during an operation in the Alasai Valley, north of Kabul, on the 18th. About a hundred Taliban attacked 300 French troops and the French withdrew, leaving behind the missiles in their haste. Smart bombs were used to kill at least 14 of the attackers. French officials said all the French troops got away, and that the Taliban would not be able to use the Milan missiles without special training.

Wow. Three hundred French troops managed a harrowing escape in the face of about one hundred Taliban. As Napoleon explained, the morale is to the physical as three is to one.

Our troops recently managed to fight and win when heavily outnumbered.

This is just a reminder that although even our Left claims they support victory in Afghanistan (if barely and I doubt for long), the rest of the world doesn't think Afghanistan is the "good war." The French were unwilling to fight because they don't really feel at war there. And the departure of George W. Bush in January won't change that fact.

Would it be cruel to note that the French had special training in using Milan anti-tank missiles yet managed not to use them? I dare say the Taliban will manage to use their new missiles.

War tourists. Nothing but war tourists.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Litter Bugs

North Korea's leaders are clearly scared.

South Koreans who feel their oppressed northern brethren have been living in an isolated Hell hole have sent balloons north with news of the outside world and of their own rulers:

South Korean groups have been sending the leaflets into the North for years. Analysts said the recent wave appeared to have touched a nerve because they mentioned a taboo subject in the North -- the health of leader Kim Jong-il.

These litter the countryside, apparently. So what's a psychopathic leadership do when faced with such tactics? Why, threaten nuclear war, of course:

"We clarify our stand that should the South Korean puppet authorities continue scattering leaflets and conducting a smear campaign with sheer fabrications, our army will take a resolute practical action as we have already warned," the official KCNA news agency quoted the military spokesman as saying.

At a rare round of military talks on Monday, North Korea complained about the leaflets while South Korean activists sent a new batch of 100,000, despite warnings from Seoul not to do so.

"The puppet authorities had better bear in mind that the advanced pre-emptive strike of our own style will reduce everything opposed to the nation and reunification to debris, not just setting them on fire," the spokesman said.

Touchy, eh? To threaten nuclear retaliation, these leaflets must be hitting quite a nerve.

And besides, the threat simply must be bogus. North Korea has already agreed to disarm their nuclear weapons programs, right?

UPDATE: Well, this might explain the touchiness:

New South Korean intelligence indicates that ailing North Korean leader Kim Jong Il suffered a serious setback in his recovery from a stroke and has been hospitalized, a newspaper reported Wednesday.

The North Koreans probably don't know about their ruler's health and the regime isn't about to sharing information now.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Persian Chutzpah?

Our raid into Syria that targeted the smuggling network that feeds Sunni Arab jihadis into Iraq seems to have hit something of value:

The Syrian government said Sunday's attack by four U.S. military helicopters targeted a civilian building under construction in Sukkariyeh shortly before sundown, and killed eight people, including four children.

However, local officials said seven men were killed and two people were wounded, including a woman. An AP reporter saw the bodies of seven men at the funerals Monday.

Amateur video taken by a villager on a cell phone Sunday showed four helicopters flying overhead as villagers pointed to the skies in alarm. The grainy images, viewed Monday by the AP, did not show the helicopters landing.

Another villager told the AP he saw at least two men taken into custody by U.S. forces, and whisked away by helicopter. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared for his life.

I've mentioned before that if you believe our enemies, we have child-seeking missiles. The Syrians claim half the dead are children. Witnesses contradict this allegation.

And we pulled out prisoners, it seems. I hope we grabbed computers and flash drives, too.

I remain astounded that the Syrians dare complain about our single attack after five and a half years of Syrian actions that supported a terrorism campaign inside Iraq that killed Americans and a lot more Iraqis.

The Iranians, too, are amazingly enough, complaining:

Spokesman Hasan Qashqavi told reporters on Monday that a violation of the territorial integrity of any sovereign state is unacceptable.

Excuse me? And Iran is doing what in the region?

Iran is supplying weapons to "liberation armies" in the Middle East, a top Revolutionary Guards commander said, offering the first official confirmation the country provides weapons to armed groups in the region.

This activity has been clear for some time and I've wondered what the mullahs are up to.

The world is funny that way. One strike and we've launched a war. But Iran can wage war on us for years and even decades, and prepare for a regional war, and nobody seems to notice.

I'd call it supreme Iranian chutzpah, but is it really when the world refuses to acknowledge what they do? I mean really, why on earth should Ahmadinejad be exhausted?

Sunday, October 26, 2008


Syria has been hip deep in efforts to kill Americans and Iraqis inside Iraq. They've funneled jihadis into Iraq since before Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Four years ago, I wrote that things really needed to start blowing up inside Syria to stop the Syrians from destabilizing Iraq:

Perhaps Syrian territory should be subject to attack when we see suspicious activity. And it might be a good idea for some things inside Syria to mysteriously start blowing up.

I'm not sure what we can do, but there must be consequences for siding with our enemies.

Well, we defeated the Syrian-supported al Qaeda terrorism campaign in Iraq. But Syria continues to push jihadis into Iraq. Even though the numbers are down and those who enter find themselves hunted rather than plugged into a functioning system to attack us, these jihadis still kill innocents in Iraq.

I've never been averse, in theory, to flipping Syria. But I think Syria hitched their fortunes to Iran and that option is now closed. Syria decided to be our enemy.

So, we finally struck Syria. Or rather, we hit a position inside Syria we believe was used to funnel jihadis into Iraq. One report says helicopters struck (probably with missiles) the target. But there may have been more:

A resident of the nearby village of Hwijeh said some of the helicopters landed and troops exited the aircraft and fired on a building. He said the aircraft flew along the Euphrates River into the area of farms and several brick factories. The witness spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.

That's interesting. I wonder what our troops collected? And will this lead to further strikes in the next weeks?

The Syrians displayed what can only be called chutzpah given their years of aggression against both Iraq and Lebanon:

Syria's Foreign Ministry said it summoned the charges d'affaires of the United States and Iraq to protest against the strike.

"Syria condemns this aggression and holds the American forces responsible for this aggression and all its repercussions. Syria also calls on the Iraqi government to shoulder its responsibilities and launch and immediate investigation into this serious violation and prevent the use of Iraqi territory for aggression against Syria," the government statement said.

One can wish for a Spartan pit of death for such envoys. Sadly, we are too civilized for such methods. But I hope the foreign ministry official at least gets a solid "bugger off" from our charges d'affaires.

The article at least hints at the history of Syrian aggression that came before our attack:

The area targeted is near the Iraqi border city of Qaim, which had been a major crossing point for fighters, weapons and money coming into Iraq to fuel the Sunni insurgency.

Not to worry, however, I'm sure our press corps will highlight the years of gross Syrian violations to place our single strike in context.

After years on defense, the first tentative counter-attack has been made. If the rat lines that run through Damascus are not ended, the threat of more attacks has been set out for Assad to see. In 5 or 10 years, Iraq itself could be strong enough to seek its own revenge if Syria is still around.

Consider Syria on notice.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

In for the Kill?

I must say, I'm impressed with the steadfastness that Pakistan is displaying in their frontier offensive against the Taliban-friendly tribes there:

Pakistan's army captured a militant stronghold near the Afghan border, the military said Saturday, a breakthrough in an offensive against the Taliban and al-Qaida that has sent nearly 200,000 civilians fleeing for safety.

Maj. Gen. Tariq Khan said government forces captured Loi Sam, a strategic town in the Bajur tribal region, earlier this week "and killed the militants who were hiding there."

Bajur is part of Pakistan's tribal belt that has become the refuge of Taliban and al-Qaida fighters waging an intensifying insurgency on both sides of the frontier.

Pakistan's army launched an offensive in Bajur in early August, saying the region had become a "mega-sanctuary" for militants who had set up a virtual mini-state.

Pakistan has to stay in these areas and really suppress the jihadis, and not just consider this a punative mission. If Pakistan pulls out soon, all their work will be undone.

If the Pakistanis finally realize this is a fight to the death, Pakistan will win.


As the war dragged on in Iraq, the Army resisted adding more soldiers to increase the number of combat brigades. The Army worked on moving slots to civilian workers and eliminating unneeded combat units in order to create nine new combat brigades.

The Army consistently worried that if it added more soldiers to their end strength, when the Iraq War ended, Congress would squeeze the Army of funding and those extra mouths to feed would risk a hollow Army in future years.

Well, Congress, under control of the loyal opposition, increased Army end strength anyway. This was done despite the obvious silliness of their argument that Iraq tied down our Army and we needed more just in case. Who's fooling who, here? The loyal opposition is unwilling to use the Army in defense of our national interests anywhere.

And with the new brigades still being added to the Army, the loyal opposition is already threatening to cripple the Army:

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) said Democrats will push for a stimulus package after the November election, and called for a package reducing defense spending by 25 percent while saying Congress will "eventually" raise taxes.

And he wants to get out of Iraq fast, regardless of the threat to our accumulating victory there. So we get defeat in Iraq, a demoralized Army, and a defunded Army that will wither. Bravo, Representative Frank. Bravo. Quite the hat trick of undermining our national defense.

Explain to me again just how our Left "supports" the troops.

An Oil Shock--For Some Anyway

Notwithstanding the opinion of rich Westerners who live in large cities and don't drive much anyway aside, cheaper oil is good for the world.

When oil prices are lower, poor nations are not further impoverished and rogue nation oil exporters have less cash to cause us problems.

So it is good to read that oil prices continue their rapid decline, to the mid-$60s per barrel. This is less than what some rogue nations need to properly fund a proper terrorism campaign/influence peddling racket while keeping the local folks content enough not to revolt.

And the next time that someone says increasing production of oil here in America will have negligible effects on oil prices, recall how far prices have fallen since July with a fairly negligible decline in usage.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Surge Right Now

Next year, we are supposed to have a surge of forces in Afghanistan.

As Pakistani border tribes sign up to fight jihadis, I speculated that it made sense for us to be behind this move:

I suspect that we are behind the money. It is not in our interest to admit we are payng them, but we have the most interest in hiring them and the most resources to pay them. Which is why I assume we are paying them.

These lashkars could be a different kind of awakening for a new style of campaign to beat the Taliban and al Qaeda in their Pakistan sanctuary.

Well, it seems we are:

Pakistan has persuaded some of the tribes in pro-Taliban areas to switch sides. This is often not too difficult, as the tribes along the border spend more time fighting each other than in going after outsiders. The U.S. is providing money and weapons for these pro-government tribes, as well as tribesmen who join the Frontier Corps (the locally recruited security force that watches the Afghan border.)

It could be a hammer and anvil strategy that plays out in 2009 to break al Qaeda and the Taliban.

By Our Actions They Shall Know Us

I know our Left likes to assert our troops just air raid and burn villages in the middle of the night, but the reality is that our troops fight honorably almost without exception. Remember, our Sunni Arab enemies inside Iraq defected to our side despite years of fighting us.

Iraqis may want us out of Iraq eventually, feeling they can soon fight on their own, but the Iraqis don't want us out because we have been evil. They admire our troops:

Many Iraqis have become infatuated with the American military. Not just the efficiency with which they fight, but also how they go out of their way to avoid civilian casualties, and try to help Iraqis recover from decades of tyranny and terrorism. This doesn't get a lot of publicity, but it is changing Iraq on a fundamental level.

Seeing how well Americans fight, Iraqis copy our style and movements. To fight effectively, Iraqis must train like Americans. To supply their troops effectively, they must organize their military like Americans. To keep the money flowing to the miltary, they must suppress corruption in their civilian government.

Our military has not only defeated our jihadi enemies, they've planted seeds that could make Iraq a strategic asset if the Iraqis build an enduring democracy.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Being There

A RAND study looks at Chinese anti-access strategies (Tip to Michael Turton for his link to Guambat Stew) and worries that in time the Chinese will be able to hold off our air power long enough to conquer Taiwan.

We are right to worry about this. I've long written that our worry shouldn't be that China can beat us in all-out war, but that China can delay us long enough for China to beat Taiwan.

The problem is that getting to Taiwan in time to hold off the Chinese is getting tougher as Chinese strength increases. The RAND report lists things that we could do to counter Chinese anti-access strategies to reduce the impact of these Chinese efforts:

The United States can, however, can take a number of actions to counter Chinese antiaccess threats, including the following:
--strengthening passive defenses at air bases
--deploying air and missile defense systems near critical facilities
--diversifying basing options for aircraft
--strengthening defenses against attacks by covert operatives (PLA special operations forces or covert agents under the control of China’s nonmilitary intelligence services)
--reducing the vulnerability of naval forces to attack while in port
--reducing the vulnerability of command, control, communications,
computer, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems
--taking steps both to deter and to mitigate the potential effects of high-altitude nuclear detonations
--bolstering allied capabilities. (See pp. 95–103.)

These are all fine ideas. But aren't we just trying to keep up with a faster conveyor belt rather than trying to change the problem?

If the very nearby Chinese can build up anti-access capabilities well enough to delay our distant military power, should our response continue to be trying to penetrate those capabilities to reach Taiwan in case of war?

Why don't we put some of our capabilities very close by, say on Mobile Offshore Bases east of Taiwan. Or maybe even on Taiwan itself?

Right now, our response has been to make Taiwan harder to take in order to extend the amount of time we have to reach Taiwan to do any good and to increase our ability to penetrate Chinese anti-access assets.

In the long run, this strategy will be a loser and the RAND study shows this well. Time to change the game operationally. If we can't get to Taiwan after the shooting starts, the correct response is to be on Taiwan before the shooting starts.

And change the game strategically, too, while we're at it.

Is Mexico Burning?

I've got a bad feeling that we don't need to look overseas for the next major crisis. Strategypage has some disturbing posts:

October 23, 2008: It's not quite "stay out", but the latest State Department warnings about travel in Mexico are pretty stiff. For example: "The situation in northern Mexico remains fluid; the location and timing of future armed engagements cannot be predicted…While most of the crime victims are Mexican citizens, the uncertain security situation poses risks for U.S. citizens as well."

October 19, 2008: The government put the death toll in the Cartel War for the first two weeks of October 2008 at "almost 400" (387 according to one unofficial count). Since January 2008 almost 3800 people have been killed in Cartel War-related violence. Most of the deaths have occurred in northern Mexico, which is the major drug war battlefield.

October 18, 2008: The US Congress has authorized over $400 million in support funds to help Mexico combat drug gangs and achieve security goals. ...

Can Mexico handle this crisis on their own? It's been a long time since we faced a military crisis on the Mexican border. Will we face refugees pouring north and Mexican gangs trying to operate inside America as a rear area for their fight in northern Mexico?

The Nuance of George W. Bush

Despite the cries of many on both the left and right over the last seven years for President Bush to take a harder line on Saudi Arabia's role in promoting extremist views of Islam, it would seem that the president's quiet approach is working to undermine the ideology of hateful Islamo-fascism:

Saudi Arabia, capitalizing on its success in suppressing al Qaeda in the kingdom, has turned to the mosques and universities to halt the spread of Islamic radicalism. This is a big deal, because Saudi Arabia is the most religious state in the Moslem world, and the home of the most sacred shrines. For that reason, Saudis were prominent among the first wave of Islamic terrorists. This was disturbing to the Saudi royalty, as many of these Islamic radicals were calling for the establishment of a religious dictatorship in Arabia, and the destruction of the Saudi monarchy.

Now the government has warned the imams (clerics) of the kingdom's 15,000 mosques that they had best tone down promotion of Islamic radicalism, or else. This is not an idle request, because the kingdom pays for the mosques, and pays the salaries of the imams. The monarchy also decides who can run a mosque, so the threat is real. The government has already removed several of the most rabid Islamic radicals running mosques, and the new rule is that many more will get punished if preaching does not push a softer and gentler version of Islam.

The universities are also held responsible for the spread of radical religious ideas. Until recently, the universities taught a lot of religion, and a disproportionate number of students, and graduates, shunned science for religious studies and non-science degrees. This will change.

Long ago I wrote that one day we'd need a reckoning with Saudi Arabia for their role in training the jihadis to hate. But I recognized that a combination of more immediate problems and Saudi Arabia's vital role in the oil industry argued against rash actions.

We did not take rash actions. And now the Saudi rulers are doing what we want them to do with the determination of those convinced their own survival is at stake, rather than seeing their actions as a favor to us.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Shhhh! Don't Tell Our Left

I know that even the mere mention that Iran is waging war against us in Iraq sends our Left into spittle-flecked bouts of outraged denial, but can we finally admit the obvious? Iran is helping to train and arm enemies inside Iraq:

Now, more than 80 pages of newly declassified intelligence documents for the first time describe in detail an elaborate network used by Iraqis to gain entry into Iran and train under Iranian supervision. They offer the most comprehensive account to date to support American claims about Iranian efforts to build a proxy force in Iraq. Those claims have become highly politicized, with Bush administration critics charging that accounts of Iranian involvement have been exaggerated.

The prisoners’ accounts cannot be independently verified. Yet the detainees gave strikingly similar details about training compounds in Iran, a clandestine network of safe houses in Iran and Iraq they used to reach the camps and intra-Shiite tensions at the camps between the Arab Iraqis and their Persian Iranian trainers. ...

The documents portray an Iranian strategy to use Iraqi Shiites as surrogates, in part to avoid the risk of Iranians being captured in Iraq. In one of the intelligence reports, a prisoner tells his captors that “Iran does not want to fight a direct war” with American forces in Iraq because Tehran worries that the United States would destroy Iran.

Our Left just won't admit that Iran is killing Americans and Iraqis. One would think a group of people self-touted as the "reality-based community" wouldn't be so difficult to convince.

Iran is waging war against America in Iraq--and arguably has been waging war since they seized our embassy thirty years ago.

Iraq is quieting down. Afghanistan should never absorb the same level of ground forces that Iraq has. So what will the next president do about Iran? Come on people, this behavior is even apart from Iran's drive to get nuclear weapons. You want these nutballs to have nukes?

About That Global Test

Well, now we know what that global test that Senator Kerry talked about 4 years ago is. Austin Bay explains.

I guess not everybody in the world is looking for a reason to love America again.

The War of Zhang Mingqing's Inner Ear?

Increased interactions between Taiwan and a China that does not renounce force to absorb Taiwan provide dangers for Taiwan:

A Chinese official who was pushed to the ground by anti-China activists on a visit to Taiwan cut his trip short on Wednesday because he said he felt sore and dizzy.

Protesters attacked Zhang Mingqing, vice chairman of China's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits, in the city of Tainan on Tuesday, leaving him lying on the ground, his glasses at his side, television pictures showed.

Taiwan's leaders see talking as a way to reduce tensions. Today, this incident is just an embarassment for Taiwan. Should China ever seek a pretext to attack Taiwan, such an incident will do very nicely.

There is a long tradition of such things.

UPDATE: Note, too, that an incident wouldn't have to be one that the government exploits to start a war. With Chinese authorities relying more on xenophobic nationalism for communist party-rule legitimacy, the Chinese public might become so outraged over a future incident that they demand war against Taiwan to protect their honor. "Remember the Zhaing!" could be the battle cry. Could the rulers resist such pressure even if they didn't want war at that moment?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

What Happens in Taiwan, Stays in Taiwan

Strategypage writes about how Japan and South Korea might react to a Chinese attack over Taiwan:

South Korea and Japan are concerned about the Chinese military buildup, because the most likely Chinese strategy calls for attacks on U.S. aircraft stationed in Japan and South Korea.

Strategypage says that China would likely strike our bases in South Korea and Japan to keep our air power away from Taiwan. The Question is whether the Japanese and South Koreans would take the strike yet do nothing, hoping to stay out of the war.

I'm not so sure that Japan would stay out even if South Korea might. I'm more interested right now in the assumption that China will make a military analysis of the forces in the region and preemptively strike our air power in the western Pacific. If this was a standard military problem, I'd say sure, that's likely.

But this assumption relies on thinking of the issue as an international and miliary issue. China does not see it this way.

Taiwan is an internal Chinese matter as far as Peking is concerned. Why would China make the conquest of Taiwan an internaional issue by striking American bases in Japan and South Korea, making the conflicrt internaional from day one? Such an attack would simplify our thinking and instrad of perhaps a weeks-long debate in America over whether to intervene, we'd remember Pearl Harbor and gear up for a serioius shooting war with China immediately.

China wants to delay our entry while they blitz Taiwan. Loudly proclaiming it is an internal matter while throwing submarines and mine fields in our way and air planes over Taiwan to dare us to shoot first, China will buy time as we discuss whether to fight China over Taiwan.

I don't think China makes this an inter-state war right off the bat. I could be wrong, so I'd still harden our airfields and aircraft shelters while improving missile defenses in those locations, mind you. But that is a wise precaution regardless since once we are at war should it come to that, those bases would be attacked by China, I'm sure.

China wants a Taiwan Crisis to be a Taiwan only crisis. They may be willing to fight us over the status of Taiwan but Peking won't seek to start a war with us over the island.

Thank Goodness That's Settled!

Never mind! Taiwan Strait worries are gone--for the next four years anyway:

Taiwan's president says there will be no war with rival China in his first four-year term.

Whew! And here I thought the communists in Peking were the ones with the power to decide to invade. Silly me, President Ma exercises veto power over that particular decision and he's having none of that!

Well, at least in his first four-year term. We'll reexamine the situation again at that piont, eh?

... But This is Ridiculous

The Russians carried out a large military exercise. I know that NATO has expanded a bit in the last decade or so, but Russia's claim is rather far fetched:

A huge exercise, called Stability 2008, spread tens of thousands of troops, thousands of vehicles and scores of combat aircraft across nearly all 11 time zones of Russian territory in the largest war game since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

There was no specified enemy, but the Russian forces appeared to be enacting a nationwide effort to quell unrest along Russia’s southern border — and to repulse an American-led attack by NATO forces, according to experts in Moscow and here.

In a grim finale, commanders launched three intercontinental ballistic missiles, the type that can carry multiple nuclear warheads. It was a clear signal of the drastic endgame the Kremlin might consider should its conventional forces not hold. One of the missiles flew more than 7,100 miles, allowing Russian officials to claim they had set a distance record.

So NATO, led by America (so we're not tied down in Iraq?) might invade across the southern border of Russia? Even if Georgia enters NATO, this adds nothing that the presence of Turkey in NATO provided, threat-wise, from the south.

I actually call this exercise a bit of progress. Moscow may not be willing to name the actual military power that poses a threat to Russia, but by using a scenario where the Russians are defending their entire southern border by suppressing local unrest (from Chinese immigrants?) and capping it off with nukes that represent Moscow's only real counter to an invasion by China, I'd say this message was directed right at Peking. Even if the troops repelling the invasion were in European Russia facing west, this would be an appropriately sized theater for the Far East along the Manchurian border.

I don't know what those so-called experts here are talking about when they say this was NATO-centered. NATO has expanded a lot, but NATO isn't capable of sending much more than a token force to Afghanistan let alone invading Russia.

Still, with Russia apparently paying more attention to their ground defenses against China, perhaps we can finally point China inland and away from the sea and Taiwan.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Testing--But Not a Test

The V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft is a complex piece of machinery that trades added mobility for complexity and potential risk because of that complexity.

After a year in Iraq, it seems to be doing well in that environment:

After a troubled history, the V-22 Osprey — half-helicopter, half-plane — has been ferrying troops and equipment across Iraq for just over a year without a major incident.

Critics say the Osprey, which was designed to replace transport helicopters, lacks firepower for defense in heavy combat.

But pilots say the Osprey makes up for that in speed, which one of them says can take the plane "like a bat out of hell" to altitudes safe from small-arms fire.

Since arriving at this sprawling desert base in western Iraq, a dozen Ospreys have been ferrying troops and equipment at forward operating bases. One even took around Barack Obama during his tour of Iraq earlier this year.

But on only a handful of occasions has the aircraft faced any serious enemy fire.

Still, without actual shooting enemies, this is more of a very demanding test environment rather than combat testing. Lack of weaponry could be a problem in combat. Being hit could reveal more problems than mere wear and tear reveal. And saying that we don't plan to put the aircraft into situations where it could get hit can be said for our transport helicopters, too. But enemies like to shoot at our aircraft anyway. We can't assume we can avoid all enemy fire.

Just doing well in real world situations is a major test. But without accomplishing missions against an enemy that can shoot at it, this is still just a very rigorous peacetime test, in my opinion.

Yes, They Probably Will

Ralph Peters takes a brief tour of foreign policy issues that could pose a challenge to America in the next four years.

It is a good list. I'd add Eritrea who may spark war with Ethiopia or escalate in Somalia, the Taiwan Strait if China attacks Taiwan, China elsewhere (perhaps the South China Sea), Zimbabwe imploding, Nigeria fracturing, Cuba imploding, Egypt in chaos or revolt, and of course, some damn thing in the Balkans that Russia decides requires Slavic solidarity. Also, while Ukraine is a potential target for Russia as Peters notes, I'd guess Belosrus as a more likely first target for anschluss.

Some may think that our problems stem from others hating us. But the next president will find that plenty of hatreds in the world roll along just fine without any push from America.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

When Silence Isn't Enough

Germany has been noticably reticent about fighting--even in the "good war" of Afghanistan that is only "good" officially among America's Left. Our right supports this war as much as Iraq, and Europeans and Canadian public opinion does not support the fight in Afghanistan. Our Left will stop supporting the Afghan campaign sometime around January 2009, as a guess.

So a report that German special forces have sat out the war in Afghanistan as much as their regulars is no shock:

GERMANY has admitted its Special Forces have spent three years in Afghanistan without doing a single mission, and are now going to be withdrawn.

More than 100 soldiers from the elite Kommando Spezialkrafte regiment, or KSK, are set to leave the war-torn country after their foreign minister revealed they had never left their bases on an operation.

This is too easy to believe. Call me an idealist, but even though I've complained about Germany's war tourism by sending troops to Afghansitan who will not fight, I don't believe that Germany's KSK spent three years in Afghanistan playing HALO, lifting weights, ironing their uniforms, and watching every other special forces outfit in the world conduct missions.

I think the Germans were out in the field these past three years, but that the KSK are taking a spear in the chest to cover their politicians who officially oppose fighting in Afghanistan. Other special forces get to just remain silent. Our German friends don't get that luxury.

So based on nothing more than a guess, I thank the KSK for their service in Afghanistan. I'm sorry that your exploits have to be denied and that your last Afghanistan mission is posing as a bunch of pansies too timid to fight.

But that's the sort of men you are. Mission first. Your exploits will be known only among your comrades in the special forces community for many years until it is safe to disclose your real missions.

Strategy and Operations

A couple weeks ago, General McKiernan, commander of ISAF, hits three issues that are critical for thinking about the war in Afghanistan:

GEN. MCKIERNAN: I think first of all, I find it sometimes not very helpful to try to compare Iraq and Afghanistan. I think they're two very different environments. But as I said earlier, I believe that in looking at what is winning the campaign in Afghanistan, a couple things are important.

First of all, it's important that winning is seen in Afghan terms. It's about extending a viable level of governance in Afghanistan which is -- meets the needs of the people and provides for certain level of security and economic promise for the future.

I also believe that part of that solution in Afghanistan must be seen as a regional problem set. I've consistently said that it's very difficult for me to imagine the right outcome in Afghanistan without the right outcome in the militant sanctuaries on the Pakistani side of the border.

So I think it's a regional problem set that will require regional solutions. And I think that stability in that region is of a vital national interest to this country.

Q General, Gerry Gilmore, American Forces Press Service. Is it plausible to -- I hate the word speculate, but -- are we going to try to use these additional troops to hammer these militants that are operating along the Afghan-Pakistan border with Pakistani help, in other words, more unity of effort with the Paks as well? Do you see like a hammer-and-anvil type of scenario?

GEN. MCKIERNAN: I think -- I think there is certainly an opportunity for greater coordination on both sides of the border on military operations and objectives, as well as mutual border security concerns. We are just scratching the surface, if you will, on how the Pak military and Frontier Corps, Afghan military and ISAF coordinate mutual border security concerns along a very porous, historically open border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. So I think there is a potential for increased military synchronization in the future.

One, our objective in Afghanistan is far more limited than in Iraq. We don't need to think of the need to develop democracy in Afghanistan the same way we do in Iraq. A democratic Afghanistan will not be an example for the Arab Moslem world. And Afghanistan's problems can be addressed with a far lower objective: a viable government responsive to the people with certain level of security and hope for a better economic future. We just don't want Afghanistan to be a sanctuary for terrorists and I've always felt that pushing hard for more than this is a potential waste of our efforts.

Two, the problem in Afghanistan cannot be addressed just in Afghanistan. Indeed, it is risky to our military to focus on Afghanistan alone. Pakistan must be addressed if our limited objectives in Afghanistan are to be achieved. A lesser problem unstated is Iran's involvement in Afghanistan. But Pakistan's frontier area where jihadis thrive and surge into Afghanistan to kill is the biggest problem.

Third, since the Afghanistan problem is in Pakistan, adding US troops to Afghanistan only makes sense as a hammer and anvil strategy, as we achieved in Iraq in the surge, where our troops on the border are the anvil and Pakistani forces, whether lashkars that we organize for a new type of campaign that bypasses the Pakistani government, or--as seems the case now with their surprisingly persistent military campaign--by the Pakistani military itself, are the hammer.

I feared we'd need the alternate hammer but it looks like the Pakistani government is doing the job, now. Next year could see a stronger anvil on the Afghanistan side of the border. If Pakistan renews the offensive next year, maybe this will be the last jihad.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

When Did NATO Stop Being a Military Alliance?

This Economist article about Russian-NATO competition in the Arctic had a head-scratcher that goes far beyond the Arctic Circle:

How to deal with Russia after its war with Georgia in August has become a key issue for NATO, whose defence ministers met in Budapest on October 9th. America wants the alliance to drop its taboo on making contingency plans to defend members that feel threatened by Russia, such as Estonia.

Excuse me? NATO has a taboo against making plans to defend its members from a Russian threat? Not that I think that NATO is in danger of a Russian drive west, but this is outrageous.

Amidst all the cries about the danger of extending NATO's security guarantees east, we collectively decided that we'd extend the guarantees east but not extend east the actual basis for making good on those guarantees? What kind of rock-pounding stupidity is this? When did NATO just become a geographic term?

I guess I know why we don't have anything in place even remotely like REFORPOL to defend our eastern allies. Our old European allies have forgotten that NATO is a military alliance. Or at worst, Old Europe has decided that NATO is a two-tiered alliance after all, with the nouveau-Nato countries just not our kind of people, if you know what I mean.

Heck, what could possibly go wrong by placing our Eastern European friends outside our defensive perimeter?

Fighting With the Tray Table Down

Aviation Week's blog describes our F-35 joint strike fighter as a plane that will not need to maneuver to fight enemy aircraft:

Moreover, DAS is expected to track with enough accuracy and tenacity to permit a safe high-off-boresight, lock-on-after-launch (LOAL) missile shot with any datalink-equipped missile. Indeed, Northrop Grumman's DAS business development leader, Pete Bartos - who was part of the initial USAF JSF requirements team - says that this was basic to the F-35 design and the reason that it did not need maneuverability similar to the F-22. Rather than entering a turning fight at the merge, the F-35 barrels through and takes an over-the-shoulder defensive shot. As a Northrop Grumman video puts it, "maneuvering is irrelevant".

I'm nowhere near close enough of an expert on airplanes to really judge this claim, but 40 years ago, we thought dogfighting was obsolete with air-to-air missiles in our arsenal until cheap enemy fighters over the skies of North Vietnam disabused us of that notion. Forty years is a long time, of course, and times change. Perhaps no enemy can get close to us again to shoot us down with old-fashioned cannons or shorter-range missiles.

The technology that supposedly makes maneuver irrelevant does seem impressive:

DAS comprises six fixed, wide-angle infrared cameras that constantly image the entire sphere around the F-35. It's been publicized in the past for its ability to allow the pilot to "see through the floor" in a vertical landing, and one of its functions is to provide imagery to the VSI helmet-mounted display. Another is missile warning. But one of the DAS' most interesting capabilities is that it can constantly track every aircraft in the sky, out to its maximum range - which varies but, absent clouds, covers the within-visual-range envelope.

Will an enemy really be unable to come up with counter-measures that degrade our visual-range envelope? Will there always be natural conditions that don't allow an enemy to close with our F-35s and engage us first? I'm not really qualified to judge these claims.

I guess I know enough air power history to be nervous about the claim, however.

Unrequited Love

China will not halt their deployment of surface-to-surface missiles aimed at Taiwan (registration required) even though Taiwan is determined to make Peking love them and respect them:

Xu Caihou, vice chairman of China's Central Military Commission, told a visiting delegation from Japan's Self-Defense Force in July that even though the more moderate and cautious Kuomintang Party had come to power in Taiwan, the hostile relationship between the two sides had not ended and China would not downgrade its military preparedness with regard to Taiwan.

That's how the Taiwanese media interpret the statement, although I don't know why the Taiwanese would interpret the apparently broad statement about military preparedness to only the narrow issue of missiles.

It's almost as if the media insists on believing that the Chinese military threat consists of a mere drive-by shooting rather than an invasion threat (which would still look like this regardless of when it is executed).

Taiwan needs to keep their powder dry and mentally prepare for the worst.

So, Army Morale is Poor?

Iran is exercising their army and air force in their Kurdish regions. I found this bit from Iran's state-run television rather interesting:

The broadcast says the exercise is aimed at boosting Iran's defense capabilities, upgrading the morale of the army and displaying the might of the country's air force.

Upgrading the morale of the army? That's an interesting admission. The regular army has never been trusted by the mullahs.

As to displaying the so-called might of the air force, I'd think the Iranians would do better to conceal from foreigners that precise assessment.

I do hope, against all apparent hope, that the Iranian army will have better political masters in the near future.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Most people just don't appreciate the restrictions we accept as we wage war against ruthless enemies.

We could use more troops in Afghanistan to secure the population from bad tribes, drug gangs, Taliban bands, and al Qaeda terrorists. But putting many more troops into Afghanistan when our supply lines run through Pakistan (and our back up line goes through Russia!) is not a good idea in my opinion. If putting more troops into Afghanistan leads to success in the short run, like if the Pakistanis seriously work on their side of the border, it could be a good risk. But if the troops are just sitting on defense for a decade or more, something bad could happen to our supply lines in that decade.

But it would be better if more troops came from Afghanistan itself. We are building Afghan security forces. Which our enemy knows is a problem for them. Having more Afghan troops to work with us is a good thing. Which is why the enemy likes incidents like this:

An Afghan policeman hurled a grenade and opened fire on a U.S. military foot patrol in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday, killing an American soldier and raising fears that insurgents have infiltrated the police.

It was the second attack by a policeman on U.S. soldiers in eastern Afghanistan in less than a month.

Of course the enemy is trying to infiltrate the security forces. Each attack like this undermines trust between American/Coalition forces and Afghan forces. That is the point of these infiltrations. The enemy did it in Iraq, too.

In Iraq, it was not fatal and we are winning. As long as our troops maintain good relations with "their" Afghan partners, this will not erode our ability to fight the enemy. But the enemy will try hard to break the bond between our forces. But we will carry on because we won't suppress the enemy old school by turning Afghanistan into a dessert and calling it peace, as the old Roman saying has it.

The enemy is having more success in building a global integrated air defense network against our very lethal air power in Afghanistan. Unable to shoot down our planes or avoid our planes, the enemy seeks to get world opinion to ground our planes:

These air attacks have a devastating effect on the Taliban, al Qaeda and bandits that NATO, U.S. and Afghan troops encounter. The best defense the enemy has come up with is to take shelter in a compound or building filled with civilians. But many of the civilians have come to realize how this works, and will often flee when the bad guys show up looking for a place to stay. That often results in the Taliban forcing the civilians to remain, often at gunpoint. The Taliban know that mingling with civilians will sometimes cause the Americans to not bomb, and that if they do bomb, the dead civilians are turned into powerful propaganda ("American war crimes…"), that puts more pressure on the U.S. to further tighten the ROE (Rules of Engagement, under what circumstances bombs can be dropped.)

It's gotten to the point where no bombs, or even cannon fire, are allowed if civilians are present and U.S. ground troops are not in immediate danger. In many cases, the bad guys use this opportunity (troops outside the compound, bombers overhead, civilians all about) to sneak off into the night and get away, and kill another day. The ground commander can often get permission to bomb before the target flees, but only if the right people in the chain of command (sometimes going all the way back to Washington) are awake and reachable in time. But more and more often, the bombs are not dropped, and the Taliban win another one.

So we work with the bad result of idiots who comprise "world opinion" and our forces and innocents pay for this opinion. It may not be enough to stop our planes, but it is bad for the good guys to have to operate under idiotic rules of engagement.

And as the enemy tries to keep us from killing them, our lovely domestic legal system falls prey to enemy lawfare to make it difficult to even capture them:

Last June, five Supreme Court justices dreamed up a constitutional right for aliens held as enemy combatants to challenge their wartime detention in court. Now the bitter fruits of the Boumediene decision are plain to see: In Washington, a federal judge has ordered the release — into the United States — of 17 men captured near Tora Bora after the American invasion of Afghanistan.

Can you believe this? We have an entire Homeland Security department meant to keep out men like these 17, and our federal judges have demanded we put these men inside our country!

Before this gets too ugly, why don't we release these 17 men outside that federal judge's home so those men can properly thank the judge? Ah, screw it. That's the frustration talking. We'll have to waste resources tracking these men who should be watching for unknown terrorists.

All in all, it's like "our side" doesn't want us to kill enemies or capture them. What? Is the only allowable option left surrender and submission to them?

But we'll fight within the restrictions we face because we are a nation of rules just trying to do the right thing--even when the rules are twisted against us. We'll trust our Afghan friends, refrain from dropping bombs, and follow the rulings of judges, and hopefully still win a war that our friends oppose almost as effectively as our enemies.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Disasters Drawing NIE?

New National Intelligence Estimates are coming out on Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and they seem gloomy:

A U.S. official who participated in drafting the top secret National Intelligence Estimate said it portrays the situation in Pakistan as "very bad." Another official called the draft "very bleak," and said it describes Pakistan as being "on the edge."

The first official summarized the estimate's conclusions about the state of Pakistan as: "no money, no energy, no government."

Six U.S. officials who helped draft or are aware of the document's findings confirmed them to McClatchy on the condition of anonymity because NIEs are top secret and are restricted to the president, senior officials and members of Congress . An NIE's conclusions reflect the consensus of all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies.

The NIE on Pakistan , along with others being prepared on Afghanistan and Iraq , will underpin a "strategic assessment" of the situation that Army Gen. David Petraeus , who's about to take command of all U.S. forces in the region, has requested. The aim of the assessment — seven years after the U.S. sent troops into Afghanistan — is to determine whether a U.S. presence in the region can be effective and if so what U.S. strategy should be.

I'm close to the point of thinking that NIEs are worthless--or at least the media's description of the NIEs. If disaster is drawing nigh according to the consensus of our intelligence communities, I'm almost convinced we should declare victory.

Most fascinating is that the NIE on Pakistan, for all its apparent gloom, doesn't worry about Pakistani nukes falling into the wrong hands. Do we have our hands on those weapons somehow as I've heard rumors asserting?

And I'd like to point out that if Pakistan--which is our supply line for our troops in Afghanistan--is in danger of collapsing as the NIE seems to assert, why would we pour troops into a potential Stalingrad pocket?

Less Worthy than Saddam?

Austin Bay writes that the next phase of the war in Iraq that the next president will face will be about helping democratic Iraq defeat Iranian aggression:

The next president's war will measure America's commitment to defending democracy and promoting genuine international security in the 21st century.

The Iraqi perspective differs a shade. Iraq's war will be yet another Iran-Iraq War, but one where the Iraqis will have an organizational advantage and a significant ideological edge.

Iraq's organizational advantage has two components. First and foremost Iraq engages Iran with the U.S. as an active ally -- unless the next U.S. president proves feckless and makes the inexcusably stupid mistake of denying Iraq American diplomatic and military support in a crisis.

Much of our Left spent their time in the debate over the liberation of Iraq arguing that Saddam "contained" Iran and our destruction of Saddam's sick and bloody regime was somehow a favor to Iran's mullahs.

Well now that we've just about won the war in Iraq, will our Left see a newly democratic Iraq, despite it's taint of having been built with George W. Bush's help, as worthy of support in their effort to contain Iran's aggression?

Don't be shy, boys and girls. Are democratically elected Iraqi leaders more worthy than Saddam of American backing?

A Good Jihadi

We killed the number 2 al Qaeda in Iraq leader, a Moroccan called Abu Qaswarah:

The man, who the military said was known as Abu Qaswarah, died Oct. 5 during a raid on a building in the northern city of Mosul that served as a major "command and control location" for the region. Four other insurgents were killed in the operation, the U.S. said.

I assume we spent the last ten days exploiting intelligence we gained when we killed the terrorist.

It was a great honor to hold high slots in al Qaeda back when beheadings and chlorine poison gas bombs were on your daily agenda. Now, the job seems to be running until we kill them.

Which is good. The only good jihadi is a dead jihadi.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Economic Warfare

Iran is worried.

ThreatsWatch reports:

Iran’s break-even price is $90 a barrel, and that is a big issue in Iran right now. … If prices dip below $90 a barrel, and we have seen it touch $89 earlier this week, then they would have to tighten their public expenditure policy, and probably cut subsidies, which would be an issue for the government there – the public would not be content.

I believe oil prices dropped under the $75 per barrel level today. During the First Gulf War (a.k.a. the Iran-Iraq War), part of the war strategy against Iran was producing oil to reduce the price of oil. Iraq could borrow money to finance the war but Iran needed to sell oil to finance their war. The price drop (which interestingly enough was greatly helped by the new Alaskan North Slope oil fields coming on line) devastated Iran's war effort.

We shall see if we can keep the price low enough for long enough to undermine the Tehran mullahs.

The 100 Billion Dollar Parachute

The Marines are continuing to push for a space plane:

Marines launched the concept after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. They needed the "capability to transport small, mission-tailored units through space from any point on the globe to a contingency at any other point on the globe" within minutes of an order, according to a Marine document.

A Marine squad is what the planned space plane program (called SUSTAIN) would be able to move.

I mentioned this before, but noted it in light of my view that our Air Force should become our Space Force.

But on the specifics of the plan, I think it is ridiculous. As a commenter noted, don't you think someone might hear it landing? How would a Marine squad carry out a mission with that kind of entry? And how would we keep the space plane safe to extricate the team? The hot glowing embers of the landing spot just might be detectable by infrared sensors.

If we need to move that fast, use a ballistic missile with a conventional warhead and a twenty minute flight time.

If we need a squad to move in quietly, we'd best plan to have them around the globe ready for more conventional insertions.


Attention puny mortals! The Dear Leader's regime has made an announcement! Sit down, shut up, and listen:

North Korea has threatened to end all relations with South Korea, a major supplier of aid and cash to the impoverished state, Yonhap news agency reported on Thursday, quoting official North Korean media.

Look, "relations" between North Korea and South Korea consist of South Korea sending money and aid north and North Korea pointing thousands of cannons and rockets south.

I'd say South Korea could use a little less "relationship" with the North Koreans. Bring it on.

Honestly, who do the North Koreans think they are fooling. The Daring Porcupine is off is game today.

On Duty 24/7

An agreement on keeping American forces in Iraq after the end of this year appears to be close, with our side agreeing to language that in theory puts our military personnel under Iraqi jurisdiction in specific circumstances:

During months of negotiations, which began early this year, the most difficult issue proved to be the question of who would try American soldiers and Pentagon contractors for offenses such as the killing of Iraqi civilians.

U.S. negotiators demanded exclusive jurisdiction over all soldiers and contractors, presumably to protect them from politically motivated charges. But Iraq insisted on a role to convince the public that Iraqis — and not Americans — are in charge of their country.

Under the compromise, the U.S. would have the primary right to try troops and Pentagon contractors for alleged offenses committed on American bases or during military operations, the officials said.

Such language would presumably shield troops from prosecution for accidentally killing civilians caught in the crossfire during authorized combat operations.

But Iraq would have first crack at trying U.S. military personnel and contractors for major, premeditated crimes allegedly committed outside American bases and when they are not on an authorized mission, the officials said.

Most of the estimated 147,000 U.S. troops rarely leave their bases except on authorized missions, so it is unclear whether the change would send a significant number of Americans before Iraqi judges.

I seem to recall being on duty 24 hours per day and seven days per week. Being in the military isn't just a job where you become a civilian after 5:00 PM until 9:00 AM the next morning.

Just when would our troops be under Iraqi jurisdiction? I'm not complaining, mind you. Bravo on the wordsmithing, I say.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Osama Surge

Jihadis are focusing on Afghanistan since we knocked them down in Iraq:

The top U.S. commander in eastern Afghanistan, Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser, told The Associated Press last month that he is seeing a spike in the number of foreign militants — including Arabs and Chechens — flowing into Afghanistan. He said militant Web sites have been encouraging fighters to go to Afghanistan instead of Iraq.

The Afghan defense minister agrees:

"The success of coalition forces in Iraq and also some other issues in some of the neighboring countries have made it possible that there is a major increase in the foreign fighters," Wardak told a news conference. "There is no doubt that they are (better) equipped than before. They are well trained, more sophisticated, their coordination is much better."

Unless you listen to Leftist military "analysis" you might think that this means Iraq had been the main front in the war against al Qaeda until we clearly defeated them last year, which led al Qaeda to cash in their chips in Iraq and head for Pakistan and Afghanistan in a jihad surge. The shift began with our Iraq surge's beginning in early 2007 and accelerated through this year.

The result of this surge--this jihadi shift in emphasis from Iraq to Afghansitan--has certainly been higher level of fighting and death in Afghansitan, which had already been increased by the Taliban sanctuary built in Pakistan that fed jihadis into Afghanistan.

Wikipedia says 4,400 Afghans died in 2006, with more than 1,000 being civilians and 2,077 being enemy forces. I assume the rest are security forces.

In 2007, 7,468 Afghans died. This includes 1,980 civilians and 4,478 enemy.

Through August 2008, 1,445 innocent Afghan civilians have died; and overall, over 4,200 have died--with most being enemy deaths.

So if casualties stay at this pace, for 2008 we'll see over 2,100 civilian casualties among Afghans and 6,300 total Afghan casualties, including enemy forces who comprise most of the casualties. The innocent civilian casualties in 2008 won't be much different from 2007 although both 2007 and 2008 are higher than 2006. And this in a country of about 30 million people. If the pace per month continues, we could see casualties a third higher than last year's, but this is still not a lot--perhaps 2,600 innocent civilians for all of 2008. This would have been a routine month in Iraq at the height of the Iranian-al Qaeda mutual slaughter-fest.

Western military casualties are higher, too, just as enemy casualties are higher. Western troop casualties are not just a function of enemy attacks, but are increased by having more troops in Afghanistan the last two years, having our forces on the Afghan-Pakistan border where they are more likely to encounter enemy forces, and conducting winter offensives of our own which means we have more opportunities to encounter the enemy.

This is just not the picture of a country spilling out of control or a war we are losing. This is a war with a higher level of violence (but still low by Iraq 2006-2007 standards) that is the logical result of our victory in Iraq over the jihadis who are now going to fight in Afghanistan/Pakistan and the failure of the Pakistanis, until now, to tackle the tribal area sanctuaries.

Don't panic. Fighting is escalating in scope as all long wars see as both sides funnel more resources into the battle. Don't take our problems and turn them into catastrophe. Work the problem. And be clear what we want to achieve.

We Know Where They Live

We are winning in Iraq.

Of all the problems we could face in Iraq, the often-cited worry that Sunni Arabs who defected to our side under the various "awakening" movements might resume the war is my least worry.

People need to chill out. The Sunni Arabs defected because we were hammering them and their jihadi allies were killing them, too. The difference was for us it was business and for the jihadis, killing Sunni Arabs not as devout as the jihadis wanted was pure pleasure. The Sunnis chose wisely to give up based on that difference.

It is wrong to say, as the Left often does, that we paid the Sunnis to switch sides. We beat them and the payments just added carrot to the stick of our military efforts to provide a psychological cover for ending their insurrection. The Sunni Arabs effectively surrendered and the option of resuming the war this generation is just about nil.

Aside from the difficulty of starting a war they ended, remember that paying these Sons of Iraq allowed us to add each and every one of them to our database:

Colonel Watson, the American commander in Dora, acknowledged that there was some risk of Awakening members returning to the insurgency or turning to criminal activity. But he said that every Awakening member’s fingerprints and retinal scans were on file, and his address and family were known both to the Americans and the Iraqi government.

“They are already identified by us and the National Police,” Colonel Watson said. “So that if they have any thought of going back to the insurgency it’s pretty difficult for them.”

So Sunni Arabs can whine about slow progress or grievances, but we know where they live.

It's funny, really. We couldn't have made retinal scans and fingerprints a condition of surrender, but we could make those measures a condition of employment. Best money we ever spent, I'd say.

If we're to face a renewed armed threat inside Iraq, it will come from Iranian-backed Shias or Kurds, I suspect. The Sunni Arabs are finished. We know where they live.

UPDATE: We've taken advantage of holding suspicious Sunni Arab males in Iraq by making sure we know who they are with iris scans, fingerprints, and even DNA samples. Restarting a terrorism campaign after they've abandoned it once isn't that easy. It isn't a switch to be flipped back and forth. If some Sunnis decide to go back to war, they'll find a lot of their supporters have moved on. And the rest will be too worried we know where they live.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The King's COIN

The problem of surging troops to Afghansitan is that unless we can mobilize forces inside Pakistan to destroy the training areas the jihadis enjoy in Paksitan, we can't do much good inside Afghansitan alone. We can be the anvil in Afghansitan but there needs to be a hammer inside Pakistan.

Pakistani tribesman are organizing private armies, or "lashkars," to fight the jihadis in the tribal areas:

By encouraging the private armies, or "lashkars," the government is exploiting local resentment against foreign and Pakistani extremists in the area, considered a likely hiding place for Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders.

"These Taliban call themselves Muslims, but they have been involved in all kinds of crimes," said Malik Mohmmand Habib, a leader of the Salarzai tribe, one of the largest of at least five tribes who have formed lashkars in recent weeks. "We want them out of our area."

Habib claims up to 15,000 men in his lashkar. Similar figures have been given by other leaders of private armies but those claims could not be independently verified. Analysts caution tribesman are likely exaggerating, perhaps by as much as 50 percent.

The lashkars have drawn comparisons with government-backed militia in Iraq — the so-called awakening councils — that have been credited with beating back the insurgency there.

But the lashkars are less organized and the tribesman use their own, often aging, weapons. The government does not admit to funding the armies, but analysts suspect the leaders at least receive money.

I suspect that we are behind the money. It is not in our interest to admit we are payng them, but we have the most interest in hiring them and the most resources to pay them. Which is why I assume we are paying them.

These lashkars could be a different kind of awakening for a new style of campaign to beat the Taliban and al Qaeda in their Pakistan sanctuary.


With the Russians out of Georgia (excluding the breakaway regions), we are moving to rearm them to deter or defeat another invasion:

Georgian and U.S. officials will meet in Washington later this month to discuss how to rebuild Georgia's military in the wake of its August war with Russia, Defense Minister David Kezerashvili said.

And just as I have judged the Russians to have won absolutely nothing by their partial invasion of Georgia, Secretary Gates believes the Russians achieved nothing and that we won't let them get a win:

He said the incursion "has achieved and will achieve no strategic objective.''

At some point, the Russian people may come to realize that this was a show trial on Georgian soil. It was just a propaganda campaign to bolster Putin and his fellow thug oligarchs at the cost of Russian and Georgian lives that gained Russia nothing.

Use Their Weapon

The Canadian "human rights" "courts" that have ruined Canadians with shallower pockets have let Mark Steyn off for his supposed "Islamophobia."

Steyn has offered to help pay for the last plaintiff's appeal:

I sympathize with the Canadian Islamic Congress, whose mouthpiece feels that, if the British Columbia pseudo-judges had applied the logic of previous decisions, we'd have been found guilty. He's right: Under the ludicrous British Columbia "Human Rights" Code, we are guilty. Which is why the Canadian Islamic Congress should appeal, and why I offered on the radio an hour ago to chip in a thousand bucks towards their costs.

Steyn is right that this sham of a process should bo before a real Canadian court. The Canadians need to get rid of these ridiculous commissions that bankrupt little guys who run afoul of political correctness.

But if the plaintiff's won't appeal to go after Steyn, why can't Steyn become a plaintiff? I wrote back in June:

Given that the Sock Puppets and the greatest legal mind since My Cousin Vinnie entered a court room filed this suit in the name of all Moslems, isn't their assault on Canadian traditions of freedom of speech an act that "might cause hatred or contempt" toward Moslems?

If Steyn is acquitted, he should file suit against the Sock Puppets in the name of all Canadian Moslems in all of the provincial and national human rights tribunals. One way or another, a real court should finally see what their parliaments have inflicted on the still-free nation of Canada.

Come on Steyn, file suit. If, God forbid, you win, you nail them with their own weapon; and if you lose you may wreck that weapon for good.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

What Next?

An Iranian ship was captured by pirates who mysteriously croaked with symptoms that seem to me to sound like radiation sickness. If the reports are accurate, of course. Nobody seems sure.

The pirates have released the ship to go on its merry way:

"The ship Dianat was released on Friday morning after even weeks of negotiations with Somali pirates and all 29 members of the crew are safe," Said public relations office of the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Line (IRISL).

So no ransom? And the Pasdaran-linked ship is heading to sea with no explanation?

Please tell me that we will stop that ship and check it out.

Or tell me that this was just all a ploy by locals to suck us into the region and spend money.

UPDATE: So was this a dirty bomb meant for Israel? If so, why don't we grab the ship? Or is talk of radioactive cargo just rumor?

UPDATE: Geraghty says that he hears there is nothing to the rumors. I hope he's right.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

It's Not What You Think

I near-psychotic paranoid regime that claims America is out to get them has test fired a ballistic missile into the Pacific:

Russia test-launched a strategic missile to the equatorial part of the Pacific Ocean for the first time on Saturday, at a time when Moscow's growing assertiveness is fuelling tension with the West.

Oh wait. You probably assumed I was talking about North Korea! Sorry. Not this time.

This time it was our nutball friends in Russia. So not all the maniacs in the world are Moslem (and no, I'm not insinuating that all Moslems are maniacs), if you're keeping track.

Lipstick on a Pig

Excuse me if I don't celebrate this decision:

After North Korea relented on nuclear inspection demands, the U.S. on Saturday erased from a terrorism blacklist the communist country President Bush once branded part of an "axis of evil."

The inspection details are good, according to our people:

"Every single element of verification that we sought going in is part of this package," her spokesman, Sean McCormack, told reporters at a rare weekend briefing. The North's removal from the list was effective immediately.

We can't trust them. Their proliferation efforts show that. Supposedly, the North Koreans will verify that their proliferation efforts are ended.

Yes, we want to drag out negotiations to give North Korea time to die. And perhaps the ability of the regime to get more luxury goods while the country falls apart around them is a good thing.

But I'm not happy and I won't be happy until it is proven I should be happy we did this.

The Latest Wisdom Passed Down

The conventional wisdom of our press and political class is that we are losing the war in Afghanistan. Excuse me if I doubt their collective wisdom.

I remain skeptical that we are losing in Afghanistan, even when General Petraeus says we are:

“Obviously the trends in Afghanistan have been in the wrong direction, and I think everyone is rightly concerned about them,” said General Petraeus, who as the commander of forces in Iraq oversaw the troop “surge” that has been credited with helping to reduce the violence there.

Turning things around in Afghanistan and Pakistan would require taking away militant sanctuaries and strongholds that the insurgents would defend tenaciously, he said. “Certainly in Afghanistan, wresting control of certain areas from the Taliban will be very difficult,” he said.

The same went for Pakistan, he said, where extremism presented a deadly threat, graphically highlighted by the recent Marriott Hotel bombing. “In both places, in certain areas, the going may be tougher before it gets easier,” he said.

To be fair, he didn't actually say we are losing. And these days it is a political sin to express anything greater than cautious yet worried optimism over our war effort.

Yes, it is true that with Pakistan as a sanctuary, the Taliban and al Qaeda are gaining strength, but there is a difference between escalating combat and killing on the one hand and losing the war. Germany had more men under arms in 1943 than in 1942 and levels of combat were higher in 1943. And there was more combat and Germans under arms in 1944 than in 1943. Would you really say that the Germans were winning based on the metrics of military size and combat levels?

We face a stronger enemy because of the cross-border sanctuaries, but Afghan forces and Coalition forces are stronger now, too. The Taliban are as far from seizing the government as they have ever been since we overthrew their government seven years ago.

And I still want to know what our objective is in Afghanistan. I think keeping it from being a sanctuary for al Qaeda is good enough. Are we increasing our objective here to creating a somewhat modern unified state without debating what more troops will be used to achieve? Are we really going to try to make Afghanistan a modern country in one generation?

Remember, as Petraeus did, that Pakistan must be addressed to succeed:

“The heartening aspect is there appears to be a willingness on the part of the Pakistani government and military to undertake the kind of operations necessary,” he said.

Indeed, the Pakistani government is surprising me by its resolve to fight the jihadis in their frontier areas:

There is cautious hope among military planners and observers here that the current military offensive in Bajaur – one of seven districts in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas – will be a much-needed turning point in Pakistan's war against domestic militancy.

In previous FATA offensives, the Army has stopped partway through and signed truces that ultimately allowed militants to regroup.

This time the Army has orders to fight until they control the area, says Ikram Sehgal, the publisher of Defence Journal who served in FATA as an Army major. "They're operating with a clear mandate now, which makes all the difference," he says.

Further, the new Pakistani intelligence chief may be able to control the pro-jihad elements in the intelligence services:

Pakistan's army chief named a general considered a hawk in the fight against al-Qaida and the Taliban to head the country's powerful spy agency, asserting his control at a time of U.S. concern that rogue operatives are aiding Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.

Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shujaa Pasha oversaw military offensives against militants in the lawless border regions with Afghanistan in his most recent job as director general of military operations.

His appointment as head of the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, the country's main spy agency, was part of a broader shake-up of army top brass announced late Monday by military chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

Last summer, when al Qaeda effectively declared war on Pakistan, I felt that Pakistan needed to recognize that they could no longer make deals with the Devil, hoping the jihadis would kill anybody but Pakistanis. Al Qaeda has no place else to go and may be forced into a fight to the death in Pakistan's frontier areas. And if our added brigades for Afghanistan are intended to be the anvil against which the Pakistani hammer pounds the jihadis, the promised Afghan "surge" will work, too.

This may yet be the Last Jihad.

Cancel the Deductible

We have an opportunity to strike a blow against pirates.

Somali pirates are hanging tough even as American warships surround their load of tanks and weapons:

With U.S. warships lurking nearby, the pirates who hijacked an arms-laden Ukrainian tanker off Somalia threatened to destroy the vessel unless a ransom is paid, a spokesman for the bandits said.

Call the pirates' threat, if it is a bluff or not. Let's send a message by killing them all. Have the world's shipping companies, the Ukrainians, the Russians, the Kenyans, the world's insurance companies, and any other related party announce they will jointly cover the loss of the ship and its cargo, as well as the cost of cleaning up the wreckage..

And then have the naval force sitting there sink the ship and kill every pirate we find. That used to be standard operating procedure for navies.

The problem, of course, is the innocent crew that is held hostage on board the vessel. Whatever plan we have must have a good chance of rescuing them.

Still, an announcement of shared financial responsibility for the ship might give the pirates pause that their threats will work.

Mesopotamia Lightning

Putting more resources in the hands of soldiers whenever possible so they don't have to rely on higher echelon resources is speeding up the pace of operations.

Precision weapons generally are speeding up the pace of operations.

We have a real world example from a squad leader in Iraq in combat with enemy shooters. Instead of needing to call in higher level Army or aerial assets, he used what his platoon had with it:

Instead, he pulled down a tiny helmet-mounted display screen and gazed into a satellite image of the battlefield terrain. Tidwell tapped into the computerized ensemble that quickly showed him the exact distance to the grove of palm trees where the enemy was holed up: 819 meters away on an azimuth of 186 degrees.

The mortar section leader then grabbed his 60mm mortar in the hand-held mode, sighted in on the target, and "started dropping HE rounds."

"I got three rounds out of the tube and on their position before they had time to react to it," Tidwell said of the high explosives.

We are fielding technology that is not just gee whiz stuff more dangerous to our soldiers than useful. This technology is making our troops faster and more effective, as the same article describes:

Landing by helicopter at night in unfamiliar terrain, 4/9 soldiers said they were able to move without hesitation because the target house's location had been marked on everyone's Land Warrior system.

"Every time we hit the ground, there was no waiting to get your bearings. We just took off running toward the objective," Tidwell said. "We were hitting houses literally before these guys could wake up and get their guns."

Few things can slow a mission's momentum like last-minute confusion over which house in a darkened compound is the target building, said Capt. Johann Hindert, first platoon leader in B Company.

He said that without Land Warrior, "You might knock [down] three different doors before you get to the right one."

I wrote that precision 60mm mortars would be great for our platoons. Even now we do well with situational awareness and just dumb mortar bombs. When the platoon mortars are smart weapons, the organic firepower will be very effective and speed up our ground units even more.

Battles fought against other conventional foes will be decided much more quickly and decisively, too, and with fewer friendly casualties, using this technology.

Make no mistake, however, war isn't about seeing all about you and smart weapons. This technology in the hands of poor quality troops will be just so much expensive junk littering the battlefield.

This gee whiz stuff relied on 4/9's soldiers and leaders who are well-trained, well-led, experienced, and motivated. The real smart weapon is our soldier, Marine, sailor, or Airman wielding what our industry provides him.


A justifiable complaint of our intelligence structure prior to 9/11 has been that it relied too much on technical means like satellites and signals intercepts and slighted human intelligence (HUMINT) that relies on actual recruited or infiltrated agents. We need to balance these approaches to gain an accurate picture of the threats out there.

While we have moved to balance our assets by improving HUMINT, we seem to be "improving" the imbalance between the two sides by bollixing up our satellite capabilities:

America has become so lousy at building spy satellites that "the United States is losing its preeminence in space," a Congressional intelligence report declares. What's worse, this decline comes as "emerging space powers such as Russia, India and China" are getting better and better at snooping from above.

Perhaps we've been fooled by the success of Google Earth to believe everyone's satellite capabilities are increasing. We seem to be in danger of losing the high ground.

And this report makes me question our human intelligence. We need our spy agencies to tell us the obvious now? I think our NIEs do more harm than good these days. Good grief, of course we could still fail in Iraq. That's why war supporters have urged us to remain focused even as we defeat our most recent battlefield enemies. Really, what success is ever truly permanent? I'm happy if we can keep the flow of problems down to a manageable level.

Let's get the Air Force aimed high, shall we?