Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I Am Who Am Not

I won't touch on the domestic angle on this observation about President Obama, but it applies to foreign affairs without a doubt (tip to Mad Minerva):

The president's problem isn't that he is too visible; it's the lack of content in what he says when he keeps showing up on the tube. Obama can seem a mite too impressed with his own aura, as if his presence on the stage is the Answer. There is, at times, a self-referential (even self-reverential) tone in his big speeches. They are heavily salted with the words "I" and "my." (He used the former 11 times in the first few paragraphs of his address to the U.N. last week.) Obama is a historic figure, but that is the beginning, not the end, of the story.

There is only so much political mileage that can still be had by his reminding the world that he is not George W. Bush. It was the winning theme of the 2008 campaign, but that race ended nearly a year ago. The ex-president is now more ex than ever, yet the current president, who vowed to look forward, is still reaching back to Bush as bogeyman.

Our president needs to work on achieving things in our foreign affairs instead of just counting on his charisma and identification as the anti-Bush to sway friends and foes into doing what they do not want to do.

We shall see if the Iran negotiations finally kill the notion that enemies are just friends we haven't yet made the effort to get.

Heat For Our Time

The European Union report on the 2008 Russo-Georgian War is in.

And at 1100 pages of footnoted, analysis, you have to know it will be a very thorough attempt to confuse you about who started the war. I certainly didn't expect much from the Europeans.

I know it is an attempt to hide the truth by boring you with pointless detail because I summarized the issue of responsibility for the war in a few paragraphs:

The ramshackle Russian military, rusting away for two decades now, miraculously put together an invasion of Georgia, flying in paratroopers even from distant bases, within hours of being attacked by Georgia? You seriously believe that version of events?

Russia got their South Ossetian goon allies to shoot at the Georgians and the Gerogians obliged by shooting back--which triggered the overt Russian invasion of Georgia. That is the reality of the situation.

Georgia fell for the provocation and gave Russia the excuse to invade. Although to be fair to Georgia, the Russians may have invaded anyway even if Georgia had held fire initially. Russia just would have needed to lie just a little more in that case to make up the Georgian provocation.

Yes, I know, I suffer from a disturbing lack of footnotes. But doesn't my summary make sense given what happened before and during the war, and what we know of the Russians?

Much of the hefty European Union report is history of the conflict. The actual portion on blame is a fascinating read. An article on the report summarizes the report nicely:

EU: Georgia started '08 war but Russia shares blame

When you read the report, the logic for this conclusion is astounding. The report calls the Georgian military's attacks into South Ossetia as the beginning of the war. So, logically, Georgia started the war.

Yet the report also talks about days of fighting along the de facto border between South Ossetia and Georgia proper prior to Georgia's clear attack, including an early bombing of Georgian personnel. But--and this is the astounding nuance the Europeans bring to bear on any security subject that might involve them in conflict--since the Georgians couldn't prove that the Russians or South Ossetians started all that "pre-war" fighting, the Georgians can't prove that their attack into their own territory of South Ossetia (albeit under Russia's control) was a response to aggression!

Russia gets some blame of course--but only for over-reacting to the Georgian attack--the attack which can be clearly documented as the "first" military action clearly made by an identifiable entity (the Georgians).

I find that a disturbing and fascinating obsession with international law at the expense of common sense.

The account of the war itself was far more useful, and it would be a good idea to check that out. As I noted at the time, this was no assault based on overwhelming Russian numbers to steamroller the Georgians by weight of numbers. The Russians were better equipped but did not outnumber the Georgians in the main South Ossetia theater (extending into Georgia proper).

But the report does its job--it gives the Europeans the excuse to avoid confronting Putin's more aggressive Russia, lest he cut off their natural gas.

Europeans can go to sleep this winter secure in their belief that they've secured heat for our time. And as a bonus, the report is just too darned heavy and bulky to wave on the tarmac as they celebrate their hard work at "investigating" the war.

And hey, at least the Europeans were smart enough not to announce this appeasement on the anniversary of the agreement on the terms of the Munich accords--they waited until the day after that anniversary.

Although sadly for the EU's reputation, the agreement was actually signed and the whole Munich tarmac speech thing was delivered 71 years ago today.

UPDATE: It is amusing in a disturbing sort of way that after promising nuanced and sophisticated European-style diplomacy, we got the administration decision to abandon our original missile defense plans in Poland on the 70th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland.

And yesterday, we got the European Union's appeasing analysis of the 2008 Russo-Georgian War that essentially blamed Georgia for starting the war (thus cementing Russian control of south Ossetia and Abhkazia), which was the 71st anniversary of Chamberlain's famous tarmac speech regarding the Munich Agreement (which gave Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland to Hitler's Germany) that he'd achieved "peace for our time" in the face of an aggressive Germany. I guess the Europeans have caught up with our tone-deaf form of diplomacy.

Nuclear Kindling

The terrorists who shot up Bombay still openly operate in Pakistan:

Ten months after the devastating attacks in Mumbai by Pakistan-based militants, the group behind the assault remains largely intact and determined to strike India again, according to current and former members of the group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and intelligence officials.

Despite pledges from Pakistan to dismantle militant groups operating on its soil, and the arrest of a handful of operatives, Lashkar has persisted, even flourished, since 10 recruits killed 163 people in a rampage through Mumbai, India’s financial capital, last November.

I'm appalled that L-e-T still operates in Pakistan. Actually I'm shocked that India and Pakistan didn't go to war over the terrorism attack and Pakistan's role in allowing it. I assume we put massive pressure on India to restrain themselves.

I'm also sure that we were supposed to get Pakistan to dismantle the terror network targetting India as a price of that restraint.

Should there be another terrorism attack traced to Pakistan, I don't think India will hold back. India will at least launch air attacks on terrorist bases in Pakistan. India might mobilize as a threat to Pakistan to finally do something.

Then we might have two nuclear powers slugging it out. How long does the fighting have to last before somebody starts getting nervous about using or losing their nuclear arsenal?

Should that happen, we won't even be pondering the bad effects on our war in Afghanistan and Pakistan's tribal areas.

Hope, Change, and Respect

I dearly hope that I am wrong that our president is hopelessly naive in believing he can persuade Ahmadinejad to give up nuclear weapons. President Obama has banked on his ability to persuade the Iranian regime that nukes are pointless, to the point of stiff-arming anti-regime protesters following the farce of a June election in Iran.

I'm not hopeful given Ahmadinejad's view of the talks:

"This meeting is an exceptional opportunity for the U.S. government and the two European countries to change their position in the world and reform their way of interacting with other governments and return to law, justice and respect," he said.

Iran just wants us to accept Iran's nuclear ambitions.

And I can't say with certainty that Iran won't get that from our president.

I fear we are willing to believe Iran's lies that they've abandoned any nuclear weapons programs (without admitting they ever had them).

Fortunately, I don't know if Iran has any interest in telling us those lies. The Iranians may not think they need to do that, and can simply publicly rub our noses in our failure to stop them.

Free At Last!

As the anti-Iraq War coalition presses President Obama to run from Afghanistan, my predictions that they would turn on the "good war" are at least three years old (though as I wrote in that post, I'd long believed that--I just don't know if I wrote on it earlier), as I noticed the Canadian anti-Afghan war views:

Or does the Canadian anti-war side reveal what our anti-war side would say if there was no Iraq War going on?

Then, our anti-war side would have to fall back on those nebulous potential "other threats" that the anti-war side would surely be forceful in confronting if only we weren't "tied down" in Afghanistan [corrected from "Iraq"]. They can simply never support the current main war--well, not if a Republican is waging it, of course.

I was wrong about the anti-war side supporting a war waged by a Democrat, of course. As they tire of waiting for their man in the White House to lose it for them, the anti-war side is making noises in Congress and on the Internet about wanting to run away in Afghanistan, too. Of course, the excuse is that the "real problem" is in Pakistan now.

How many times can the anti-war side pull this bait-and-switch before we conclude they really just want the other side to win?

Regardless of how many of our enemies are also in Pakistan, we really do have enemies in Afghanistan. And even if you've sported one of those stylish "Already Against the Next War" bumper stickers for years just waiting for the dreaded NeoCons to launch a new war, the next war we have to win really is the Afghanistan campaign.

Coming Home

Another brigade's worth of troops will come home from Iraq:

The reduced number of troops in Iraq — from 124,000 to 120,000 by the end of October — marks the latest U.S. step in winding down the six-year war. The reduction was to be announced Wednesday by Army Gen. Ray Odierno.

Not that there aren't problems in Iraq, but they aren't problems for the US military to combat. They include:

_"A clear security lapse," Odierno said, was evidenced by a pair of truck bombings Aug. 19 at Iraq's finance and foreign ministries, which killed about 100 people in Baghdad.

_A system of government that is accepted across what Odierno described as ethnic, sectarian and regional lines has yet to be agreed on. He described a power struggle between provincial officials and Baghdad and said long-standing tensions continue to stall progress between Arabs and Kurds. ...

_Although Iraqi leaders had planned to find government jobs for all members of a group known as Sons of Iraq, who helped curb the insurgency, "we do not believe they will meet this timeline," Odierno said. "We continue to monitor the progress of this program very closely."

Remember, the fact that we need to hold our gains in Iraq doesn't negate the fact that we made those gains.

But defending those gains increasingly is a non-military task for the United States, even as Iraqi forces continue to fight residual enemy forces that retain the capacity to kill civilians.

If You Can Make It There

New York's Empire State Building will honor 60 years of Chinese communist oppression:

New York's iconic Empire State Building will light up red and yellow Wednesday in honor of the 60th anniversary of communist China.

Well that's just a great leap forward, now isn't it?

Maybe next week they'll light it up to celebrate Roman Polanski. Although he only wrecked one child's life, so maybe there's a threshold of dead bodies before you can be honored this way.

Denying Justice

Roman Polanski might yet face justice for drugging and sodomizing a thirteen-year-old girl some three decades ago.

But the reaction is not uniformly that justice delayed is justice denied:

Debra Tate, the sister of Roman Polanski's second wife, actress Sharon Tate, says Polanski is brilliant and a "good guy" and she doesn't think her former brother-in-law can get a fair trial in the United States.

Ah, much like Al Gore and other global warmers can get a free pass on their mansions and jet-setting by purchasing carbon offsets, Polanski is supposed to get a child-rape offset for being brilliant and a good guy.

And I absolutely hate the notion that Polanski's likely conviction means he doesn't get a "fair" trial. Some people--especially those sticking up for the guilty--think any guilty scum should have a 50-50 chance of going free. That is not what a "fair" trial means, and there is no doubt that a jury will conclude Polanski did what he is accused of doing. Heck, he doesn't even deny what happened--he just believes that what he did to a little girl was not a crime.

The fact that so many of our entertainment-industrial complex think Polanski didn't do anything wrong damns them as much as Polanski. Remember, Polanski drugged and raped a child. What is it with so many of our entertainers and their fawning minions that they have such a flimsy grasp of the distinction between right and wrong?

Perhaps all our Hollywood types can console themselves with the thought that Polanski might do some of his best work behind bars.

Distant Neighbors

India is worried about China:

In recent weeks, public attention in India has reached feverish levels over what is perceived to be the growing threat lurking north of the border. Tensions along the Himalayan frontier with China have spiked noticeably since a round of Sino-Indian talks over long-standing territorial disputes this summer ended in failure. In their wake, the frenetic Indian press has chronicled reports of nighttime boundary incursions and troop build-ups, even while officials in both governments downplay such confrontations. Elements in the Indian media point almost daily to various signs of a Beijing plot to contain its neighbor's rise, a conviction aided by recent hawkish editorials from China's state-run outlets. This week, leading Indian news networks loudly catalogued Chinese transgressions under headlines such as "Red Peril" and "Enter the Dragon."

Strategypage looks at the India-China military balance, where these two giants can't really get at each other:

The commander of the Indian Air Force is openly complaining that China has three times as many warplanes as India (which has 1,700, have of them combat, the rest support). The head of the Indian Navy has been complaining about Chinese warships being more numerous, and more frequently showing up in the Indian Ocean.

The Indian Army is less concerned. Three years ago, India adopted the Russian T-90 as its new main battle tank. There is now local production of about a thousand T-90s over the next decade. India already has imported 310 T-90s. Under this plan, by 2020, India will have 2,000 upgraded T-72s, over 1,500 T90s, and few hundred other tanks. This will be the most powerful armored force in Eurasia, unless China moves ahead with upgrades to its tank force.

Recent Indian plans to move two infantry divisions to the northeast, while useful to hold the border, in the short run is more about fighting ethnic separatists.

But again, two divisions could help hold the border rather than forcing the Indians to rely on their armor superiority to reclaim land lost in an initial Chinese attack.

The basic point is that the two most populous nations on the planet don't really have a front for a land war despite their long border. Ironically enough, despite their size and border, the main arena for a war would lie at sea and in the air.

And given that neither has a fleet ready to reach the usual patrol areas of the other, the main method of fighting in the near future is in the air--where India is badly outgunned.

India needs to downgrade their army (and shift emphasis from Pakistan) to one capable of defending their border, while maintaining limited offensive capabilities in the west that could bite off terrain in Pakistan useful as bargaining chips. That would also tend to allow Pakistan to devote more resources to fighting their own frontier jihadis without worrying about being conquered. Besides, India's nuclear weapons should constrain any Pakistani attempts to invade India.

Shifting ground offensive resources away from Pakistan would be better for restoring Indian control of the northeast should China attack and for having an offensive option versus China's ally Burma.

Money should be redirected toward air power as the priority and to naval forces as the next higher priority.

Air power needs to be able to defeat any Chinese efforts to attack India while giving India the capabilities to attack Chinese air fields and the rail line into Tibet.

Naval power in the short run needs to be able to smash any Chinese effort to operate in the Indian Ocean. They have that now. This gives India the power to interrupt China's sea line of supply to Africa and the Middle East.

In the long run, India needs to be able to project power into the South China Sea to make sure India can pose a threat to interrupt China's trade.

For that, India also needs a diplomatic offensive to gain the friendship of Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia,Vietnam, the Philippines, and Taiwan. Alliance with America, Japan, South Korea, and Australia wouldn't hurt, of course.

Just getting the first group would allow India to operate safely in the South China Sea without worrying about hostile air power from their flanks and put that worry on China. The latter group would doom China's fleet.

With conventional combat between China and an Indian-dominated alliance (assuming no US involvement) limited on land and the probability that air and naval warfare would not be particularly decisive in the long run (I assume air only wouldn't break the other side's will or capability to fight and that China could--at great expense--eventually reroute sea supply lines across the Pacific unless India's navy really gets powerful), it could be that stoking insurrection could be the main weapon.

China has huge swathes of land with restive minorities in Tibet and the far west. India has restive minorities too, including in the northeast near China's border and in Kashmir.

In the short run, based on the air power balance, China has the edge. Should it come to war, China should emphasize an aerial offensive in a limited objective war. And attempt to seize and hold border land to potentially return in bargaining or just keep.

In the medium term based on India's control of the Indian Ocean and ability to direct land power at China's ally Burma, India has the edge. Should it come to war, India should stop China's Indian Ocean shipping to pressure China into suing for peace. And prepare to invade Burma.

And in the long run, given China's greater vulnerability to (and consequences from) ethnic unrest, India has the edge. If not an edge in actually fomenting unrest, then in the effects of unrest.

Oh, and India has the edge in potential allies.

It is interesting to ponder how two powerful and large countries might fight each other with the Himalayas stopping any decisive land operations directed against each other.

UPDATE: I kind of went into stream of consciousness on this, originally intending just to comment on the air-centric nature of the early stages of potential conflict and the lack of avenues for decisive land operations.

I should mention that friendship or alliance with Singapore is obviously of importance to India in either blocking Chinese naval movement west or facilitating Indian movement east.

And even though Russia is a shadow of its former self and no longer the prime Indian ally, their nukes alone and Pacific Fleet would be a useful distraction for China to contemplate. It makes sense for India to cultivate a Russia that should be worried more about China than Georgia.

The bottom line on geographic position and allies is that China is potentially surrounded by enemies on land and sea, while India has the Himalayas minimizing land threats to their front and the Indian Ocean as its rear area adequately protected by their own navy with the US Navy as the ultimate guarantor of their lines of supply if needed.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

It's Science, Damn It!

Consensus on global warming sure was easy to manufacture when you consider that data is missing and is cherry picked:

When all of the tree ring data from Yamal is plotted, the famous hockey stick disappears. Not only does it disappear, but goes negative. The conclusion is inescapable. The tree ring data was hand-picked to get the desired result.

It's almost as if the whole racket is based on fraud.

But even as global temperatures have flat-lined for the last decade, global warmers continue to claim we are experiencing warming. So losing data that might be useful to check past research and finding data is corrupted won't affect the global warming high priests and their devoted acolytes.

No News Value After All

You'll recall that we now allow the press to cover the return of our dead military personnel in their caskets. The excuse the press gave was that they wanted to show their respect for the human cost of war. How much respect?

In April of this year, the Obama administration lifted the press ban, which had been in place since the Persian Gulf War in 1991. Media outlets rushed to cover the first arrival of a fallen U.S. serviceman, and many photographers came back for the second arrival, and then the third.

But after that, the impassioned advocates of showing the true human cost of war grew tired of the story. Fewer and fewer photographers showed up. "It's really fallen off," says Lt. Joe Winter, spokesman for the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations Center at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where all war dead are received. "The flurry of interest has subsided."

Sadly for our media, the press victory came too late to help with their real goal--defeating George W. Bush. Without that context, reporting on the human cost of war won't get you a Pulitzer.

Still, I imagine the civil war within the media over whether it is their mission to support President Obama or lose the Afghanistan war could change the calculus once again to embracing the human cost of war.

I bet most in our elite news rooms are praying (well, you know what I mean) that the president turns on the war so that they don't have to choose.

A Pony!

Wow. I know we were promised nuanced, smart diplomacy, but this analysis by our envoy to Sudan on dealing with Sudan's genocidal government is so nuanced my poor little brain can't even comprehend the smartitude (tip to Weekly Standard):

"We've got to think about giving out cookies," said Gration, who was appointed in March. "Kids, countries -- they react to gold stars, smiley faces, handshakes, agreements, talk, engagement."

I'm so excited! There's so much nuance involved that I know there’s a pony in here somewhere!

A Victim of Circumstances

Frank Rich does not understand war or history. But he does understand how the winds blow on the Left.

Back when we fought in Iraq and Afghanistan was a corrupt mess with few al Qaeda in the country, Frank Rich was gung ho on winning in Afghanistan as the "good war" we needed to fight in order to beat terrorism. Indeed, just this year he was gung ho.

Today, noting that Afghanistan is a corrupt mess and that Afghanistan has few al Qaeda to fight, Frank Rich wants to focus on Pakistan and stop fighting in Afghanistan.

As if Rich would back strong military action in Pakistan!

Well, I guess he could, just like he once backed fighting in Afghanistan. Now that there's no war to stop in Iraq, backing the Afghan fight has no purpose. So too, advocating forceful action in the real war in Pakistan is useful to Rich to end the war in Afghanistan.

For Rich, it's all about insuring our defeat wherever we are currently fighting.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Message from God

Fareed Zakaria is God's way of reminding me that Thomas Friedman doesn't hold the title of world's most over-rated strategic deep thinker all on his own.

Zakaria, God bless him, is impressed with our president's diplomacy:

Obama is gambling that America is mature enough to understand that machismo is not foreign policy and that grandstanding on the global stage won't succeed. In a new world, with other countries more powerful and confident, America's success -- its security, its prosperity -- depends on working with others. It's a big, bold gambit. I hope it works.

Zakaria picked a bad day to stop sniffing glue.

The problem in reality, as opposed to Zakaria's Bizarro World, is that our security and prosperity depend on working with our friends--not throwing them under the bus to work with our enemies who do not share our goals.

Zakaria thinks running away is nuance and surrender is sophistication. I guess I'd worry about my judgment if I ever thought Zakaria made sense.

For those people called "enemies" in the real world, working with our allies to contain or defeat those enemies is what our security and prosperity depend upon. That's the big and bold reality of it all.

I must be an optimist, for I am forever stunned at the idiocy of Zakaria. As long as he's writing, Friedman can never claim to stand alone at the pinnacle of foolish, faddish thinking.

Back Flip

Libya's Khadaffi "flipped" out of fear he'd face the same fate as Saddam. The Libyans gave up all their WMD materials.

But the fear of America is waning and Libya is flipping back, using the Axis of El Vil as a stepping stone to returning to full evil status:

Chavez and Gadhafi led a weekend summit where South American and African leaders pledged to deepen links between the continents. Chavez made diplomatic inroads while offering African countries Venezuela's help in oil projects, mining and financial assistance.

Gadhafi, who is making his first visit to Latin America, said the two regions should unite to wield more influence and form a defense alliance, a "NATO for the South" — calling it "SATO."

In time, Libya will be back to their old terrorism games, I'd guess. Once a bad guy loses his fear of consequences, he has no reason to pretend to be good.

I wonder why the Libyans lost their fear of us?

That was a rhetorical question, of course.

Replacing the Abrams

Seven years ago, in the face of eagerness to replace the M-1 with a light vehicle, I wrote that our Abrams main battle tanks wouldn't be obsolete until something better was actually designed. (Go to "Equipping the Objective Force" in the May-June 2002 issue)

The FCS foundered on the perfectly predictable failure of a 19-ton hull to replace the 75-ton Abrams without sacrificing capabilities.

But we're going to replace the 75-ton Abrams--with the 60-ton Abrams:

The Army is exploring the possibility of developing a 60-ton Abrams main battle tank that provides as much protection as the current 75-ton version. ...

Plans to lighten the vehicle complement an existing Army effort to build prototypes of a tougher, more high-tech M1A3 Abrams main battle tank by 2014, with an aim to field it by 2017.

The Army plans to preserve the Abrams through 2050 by improving networking capability and laser-designation, and providing composite armor upgrades.

Give it protection against top-attack rounds and we'll still have the wonder tank already in the field.

UPDATE: Strategypage has more:

The impressive performance of the U.S. M-1 tank in Iraq prompted the U.S. Army to scrap plans to retire the M-1, and replace it with a radical new FCS (Future Combat System) design. None of the proposed FCS designs showed much potential, especially compared to how well the M-1 was doing. Recently the FCS program was abolished, because it was too expensive, and didn't appear to be going anywhere.

So now there's an M1A3 (or M1E3) version of the M1 in the works. This effort has been under study for over two years. It proposes making the 62 ton M-1A2 a few tons lighter, perhaps installing an autoloader, using new fiber optic wiring, and new (and lighter) armor. A new engine and running gear could also save weight. The M-1E3 might get down to 55 tons, or less.

Strategypage uses different weight starting and ending points, so I'm not sure what the deal is. I was surprised by the weight used in the Army Times article, but assumed it must be correct for the latest version.

Also, for some reason the Military Review article of mine linked above is giving me a blank page. I don't know if it is just me. (Link sort of fixed--a direct link doesn't seem to exist)

Crawl, Walk, Run, Kill

The Iranians continue to test missiles with improved range:

In the latest exercise, the powerful Revolutionary Guard, which controls Iran's missile program, successfully tested upgraded versions of Iran's medium-range Shahab-3 and Sajjil missiles, state television reported. Both can carry warheads and reach up to 1,200 miles, putting Israel, U.S. military bases in the Middle East and parts of Europe within striking distance.

Every day that goes by that we fail to confront Iran, they get better at the technology of mass murder. Eventually, they'll perfect missiles that can hit Europe and then get missiles that can hit America.

And if you've forgotten, they also want nuclear warheads.

Have a lovely friggin' day.

UPDATE: Oh, and about that warhead thing:

The Israelis, who have delivered veiled threats of a military strike, say they believe that Iran has restarted these “weaponization” efforts, which would mark a final step in building a nuclear weapon. The Germans say they believe that the weapons work was never halted. The French have strongly suggested that independent international inspectors have more information about the weapons work than they have made public.

Meanwhile, in closed-door discussions, American spy agencies have stood firm in their conclusion that while Iran may ultimately want a bomb, the country halted work on weapons design in 2003 and probably has not restarted that effort — a judgment first made public in a 2007 National Intelligence Estimate.

The NIE bit is amazing. As I wrote at the time, just read the NIE public summary and you'll see that it in no way clears Iran. But it was spun that way and the press went along with that charade.

So the question of whether all those who insisted the 2007 NIE cleared Iran will admit they were wrong now is answered clearly--no they won't. They had no reason to conclude in 2007 that Iran was innocent, yet they did. Today's headlines about secret enrichment facilities won't change the determination to ignore Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Iran continues on the path of the crawl-walk-run-kill continuum, and debates over precisely where they are ignore the obvious destination.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

When Pansies Investigate

Let's see, an entity frightened of their own shadow is investigating whether a small country or a large nuclear-armed power with veto power over their winter heat is responsible for starting the 2008 Russo-Georgian War. Oh, what will they conclude?

The fact-finding mission was launched in December 2008, “to investigate the origins and the course of the conflict”, including its conduct under international law and possible war crimes.

It was to report back in July, but diplomats said its work was held up by late answers received to around 100 questions posed to the governments of Russia and Georgia, and the de facto authorities in the two separatist regions.

Given its potential to embarrass, many wonder why the EU commissioned the study.

Jacques Sapir, a French expert on Russia, said: “I don’t hold out much hope for a very honest report. Nothing will come of it because things are just too sensitive.”

So the Euros will judge that the Russian invaders and the Georgian invaded were equally guilty. Which will spare the Euros from confronting Russia. And allow the Euros to stiff arm Georgian membership in NATO for another decade--which is basically a green light for Russia to finish off Georgia in the next decade.

Studying the issue was all about complicating the issue enough to avoid taking Georgia's side, when it was obvious from early on that Russia was at fault:

The ramshackle Russian military, rusting away for two decades now, miraculously put together an invasion of Georgia, flying in paratroopers even from distant bases, within hours of being attacked by Georgia? You seriously believe that version of events?

Russia got their South Ossetian goon allies to shoot at the Georgians and the Gerogians obliged by shooting back--which triggered the overt Russian invasion of Georgia. That is the reality of the situation.

Georgia fell for the provocation and gave Russia the excuse to invade. Although to be fair to Georgia, the Russians may have invaded anyway even if Georgia had held fire initially. Russia just would have needed to lie just a little more in that case to make up the Georgian provocation.

It takes a lot of nuance to ignore this reality. The pansies in Brussels are up to the job.

NOTE: I regret the title of this post. I intended it as a term for cowards with nothing else implied. Not that I've gotten complaints, mind you. And since it is my policy not to change posts (other than typos or for clarity), I won't change the title. But I thought it should be explained.

So What's the "Problem" They Want to "Solve?"

If global warming, or climate change, or climate variability--or whatever the term of art is today after a decade of static global temperatures--is so bad, you'd think that solutions less expensive than destroying our economy to combat what models claim we will face might be considered:

Governments are doing practically nothing to study the removal of carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere, but this technology could be a much cheaper form of climate protection than photovoltaic cells and other approaches getting lavish support, according to an article published today in Science.

But no, the global warmers want us to live like paupers with small carbon footprints (but not the global warming elites who will continue to live in mansions and jet around the globe, while pretending that using single-ply toilet paper and inferior light bulbs, and banning plastic bags is pennance enough) rather than look at ways we might remove carbon dioxide.

Remember, global warming is a religion and not science. Which means that our Western lifestyle and not carbon dioxide is the real "problem" they want to "solve."

UPDATE: Simberg thinks it's socialism rather than religion. Seems like a faith-based thing, either way. I really wonder what the global warmers would do if given the choice of a) continuing our current lifestyles while removing all offending carbon dioxide or b) pauperizing and collectivizing us, and otherwise organizing our communities, but failing to significantly affect carbon dioxide levels. I'm guessing they'd choose the latter.

The Good War Explained

Taheri hits the major points about Afghanistan that I've been hitting for awhile:

Let us welcome Obama’s delayed admission that he has no strategy, and his tacit dropping of his claim that Afghanistan is a “war of necessity,” rather than a war of choice.

Despite all talk of doom and gloom, America its NATO and Afghan allies have already defeated the forces of obscurantist terror in Afghanistan. What they face is the consolidation of a hard-won victory that, unless protected for many more years, could be undone by the enemies of the Western democracies — who happen to also be enemies of the Afghan people.


We have a friendly government in Afghanistan and the people really don't like the Taliban. Any difficulties we have should be understood in that light.

Despite all the posturing, the president has sent more troops without settling on what he wants them to do--even after stating he knew and then after telling his general in Afghanistan to formulate that strategy.

The administration debate over what to do in Afghanistan highlights the dishonesty of complaining for years that Iraq was a war of choice while the good war in Afghanistan is the one that is necessary.

We need to win the war. We need to figure out what winning means and match our troop strength and strategy to achieving that victory. And we need to have the patience to allow our troops to do what is needed.

And remember that winning in Afghanistan does not end our problem. The jihadis reside in Pakistan where they will rest and plot to kill us until the Pakistanis finish the job themselves. Or until we organize the friendly tribes into our own alliance separate from what the Pakistani government is willing to do.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Waging War by the Numbers

Let me offer some more boring back of the envelope number crunching. I was once a math major, so forgive me.

We've been fighting a war for eight years with an all-volunteer military, which has put a great deal of stress on the Army and Marine Corps, especially. We've done it so far without breaking our ground forces. Right now they've continued to win and are experienced and well trained.

But to keep these experienced and lethal troops in the military where they will make our ground forces the world's best for another generation, we have to reduce the stress of repeated deployments with insufficient rest. We hope to get to 2 years off for every one year deployed.

Can we get to this 2:1 ratio soon? (And the reserves aim for 5:1, or five years off for every one year deployed.) I think we can. And the time it will take to get to this 2:1 ratio for active forces is helped by the fact that in Iraq, where the bulk of our deployed troops are, our troops aren't doing much fighting.

I assume that by the end of next year, we'll have 6 combat brigades/regiments in Iraq (doing training and not called "combat brigades" to finesse the requirement that our combat brigades withdraw).

I'll also assume that we will surge more troops to Afghanistan and have 10 brigades/regiments there by the end of next year, up from the five we have now.

We have 45 active component Army brigades and 9 Marine regimental combat teams, or their equivalents. We also have reserve Army brigades in the Guard and reserve Marine regiments that total another 31, which could provide 5 brigades/regiments per year without too much strain.

If we want 16 brigades in the field, we need 48 brigades total for 2 years off and one year deployed. But that only works if units just appear and disappear. We need to move units and let them overlap with the unit they replace. Multiply this 48 brigades by 1.15 to account for overlaps and transport, and you need 55 brigades to field 16 brigades overseas with 2 years home.

Even accounting for holding a few brigades out of the rotation for South Korea and as a strategic reserve, if we use our reserve brigades we will have enough brigades and regiments to ease the strain of deployment, and fight in Afghanistan while stabilizing Iraq.

Of course, this all assumes we only need to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan for the next several years.

And I still worry about putting so many troops into landlocked Afghanistan. But that's another worry about different numbers.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Training to Win

A good look at how our troops train for war.

It would be nice if our president and Congress gave such dedicated soldiers the support they need to win the war in Afghanistan.

The Basis for Victory

I just don't see the panic over Afghanistan even if McChrystal is peddling the line that we have one last chance to win in Afghanistan.

The fact is, the Taliban do not have popular support in Afghanistan, which gives us a solid base to defeat the jihadis there:

The vast majority of Afghans can agree on keeping the Taliban from controlling the government once more. Foreigners tend to keep missing that, but the Taliban are well hated by the majority of tribes, and individual Afghans. The Taliban have already demonstrated, a decade ago, how they would run things. Despite Taliban promises to clean up their act the second time around, few believe it. That's because the Taliban are currently using terror and mass murder to coerce cooperation. The Taliban know how to make a mess, not clean up one.

Of course, if McChrystal is basing his judgment on how long Congress will resist the urge to run away as fast as their stubby little legs can carry them, he has a point--we really do need to win quickly.

He can't say that openly, of course. So I will--Congress under the control of our Left is the biggest threat to our victory in Afghanistan.

The Taliban we can handle. If Congress will let us.

Of course, we can only handle the Taliban in Afghanistan. The major Taliban threat resides in Pakistan as I've long felt, and I still don't know if Pakistan will deal with them. Even stunning success in Afghanistan will make our gains vulnerable to Taliban in Pakistan when we draw down our forces.

The Zelaya Affair Was Not a Coup

Congressional legal analysis has confirmed what I concluded over two months ago:

Available sources indicate that the judicial and legislative branches applied constitutional and statutory law in the case against President Zelaya in a manner that was judged by the Honduran authorities from both branches of the government to be in accordance with the Honduran legal system.

However, removal of President Zelaya from the country by the military is in direct violation of the Article 102 of the Constitution, and apparently this action is currently under investigation by the Honduran authorities.

I concluded much the same thing:

The vast majority of the international community is focused on the lack of formal removal procedures by condemning the admittedly unusual expulsion of Zelaya. But this incorrect focus ignores the initial violation of the constitution that apparently voided Zelaya's presidency. And this focus ignores the greater damage that Zelaya appeared to have planned for the constitution of Honduras, judging by the friends he kept.

Even though there is no formal mechanism for removing a president who voided their office by violating the constitution, the broad support in the legislative and judicial branches for removing Zelaya shows that the Hondurans did what they needed to do to defend their democracy. The military is to be commended for supporting rule of law rather than condemned for staging a coup.

For Hondurans, their constitution is not a suicide pact designed to thwart true democrats who would defend rule of law and shield proto-dictators from any consequences for their undermining of the rule of law.

Clearly, Honduras should have arrested and tried Zelaya for his crimes when he was ousted.

Micheletti needs to hold firm despite the pressure he and his fellow democrats are weathering. They are on the right side of this dispute and ever so slowly, it may finally be dawning on the world that siding with Chavez and Castro probably doesn't indicate we've made the right initial choice.

Preparing to Deploy Even Harsher Words

Don't get your hopes up over this display of faux toughness:

Armed with the disclosure of a secret Iranian nuclear facility, President Barack Obama and the leaders of France and Britain demanded Friday that Tehran fully disclose its nuclear ambitions "or be held accountable" to an impatient world community.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Iran has until December to comply or face new sanctions. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown accused Iran of "serial deception."

Said Obama: "Iran is breaking rules that all nations must follows."

Their dramatic joint statement opened the G-20 economic summit.

Obama urged the International Atomic Energy Agency to investigate the site.

We've knkown this for quite some time. The public outrage is only to make it look like we're doing something.

Iran is seeking the capability to nuke Israel. Is our president seriously thinking that "breaking rules" is something the Iranians will worry much about?

And what world do you have to inhabit to think the IAEA will do much? Give the IAEA a year to confirm what our intelligence agencies have known?

All this outrage over the existence of the secret enrichment plant is one more example of focusing on a detail while ignoring the big picture that Iran is heading for nuclear weapons capabilities. We raise our voices over this plant yet the basic problem is that we are clearly unwilling to stop Iran:

I guess if we don't plan on stopping Iran from going nuclear, these periodic debates we have about exactly where Iran is in the process are rather irrelevant. Iran will get there if we don't stop them, right?

And focusing on enrichment misses the point that if I was a mad mullah, I'd want a half dozen nukes before I start enriching Uranium to bomb quality. Since that level of enrichment is clearly the the trigger for considering military action, I'd want to be a nuclear power before reaching that trigger point:

We're not dealing with idiots. If the Iranian mullahs believe there are red lines that trigger Israeli or American action, why wouldn't they take counter-actions rather than just blindly cross those lines and provide a pretext for military action against them?

As far as I'm concerned, North Korea's nuclear program is Iran's nuclear program. Iran will buy whatever nuclear warheads that the Pillsbury Nuke Boy cobbles together.

Which means that even Israel may be fooled by Iran and miss the chance to stop Iran from going nuclear.

Have a nice friggin' day.

RUN AWAY!: The Afghanistan Chapter

Ted Galen Carpenter has taken his generic "run away from our enemies and foes" article and done the universal find and replace to put "Afghanistan" into his analysis.

It's all the same whether he's talking about Iraq, North Korea, Russia, Iran, China, or Afghanistan.

Is there any enemy Carpenter isn't willing to run from--and dress it up as nuanced hard-nosed thinking?

The man is as ill-informed as Zakaria.

You Just Can't Trust Commies

The Russians built a doomsday machine that they named "Perimeter" during the Cold War (tip to Instapundit):

Perimeter ensures the ability to strike back, but it's no hair-trigger device. It was designed to lie semi-dormant until switched on by a high official in a crisis. Then it would begin monitoring a network of seismic, radiation, and air pressure sensors for signs of nuclear explosions. Before launching any retaliatory strike, the system had to check off four if/then propositions: If it was turned on, then it would try to determine that a nuclear weapon had hit Soviet soil. If it seemed that one had, the system would check to se if any communication links to the war room of the Soviet General Staff remained. If they did, and if some amount of time—likely ranging from 15 minutes to an hour—passed without further indications of attack, the machine would assume officials were still living who could order the counterattack and shut down. But if the line to the General Staff went dead, then Perimeter would infer that apocalypse had arrived. It would immediately transfer launch authority to whoever was manning the system at that moment deep inside a protected bunker—bypassing layers and layers of normal command authority.

So were the Russians so distrustful of us that they figured they needed that? If so, why not tell us? Dr. Strangelove would protest that there's no point to a doomsday machine if the enemy doesn't know about it.

Apparently, the Soviets didn't trust other Soviets:

The silence can be attributed partly to fears that the US would figure out how to disable the system. But the principal reason is more complicated and surprising. According to both Yarynich and Zheleznyakov, Perimeter was never meant as a traditional doomsday machine. The Soviets had taken game theory one step further than Kubrick, Szilard, and everyone else: They built a system to deter themselves.

By guaranteeing that Moscow could hit back, Perimeter was actually designed to keep an overeager Soviet military or civilian leader from launching prematurely during a crisis. The point, Zheleznyakov says, was "to cool down all these hotheads and extremists. No matter what was going to happen, there still would be revenge. Those who attack us will be punished."

Of course, in a bi-polar world, such a system is fine in theory. But in a world with many nuclear powers, what if China nuked Russia, decapitating their command and control and triggering an automatic launch against us?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Immune to Hope and Change

Thank goodness we arrested this scumbag:

James T. Jacks, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas, and Robert E. Casey, Jr., Special Agent in Charge for the Dallas Office of the FBI, announced today that Hosam Maher Husein Smadi, 19, has been arrested and charged in a federal criminal complaint with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. Smadi, who was under continuous surveillance by the FBI, was arrested today near Fountain Place, a 60-story glass office tower located at 1445 Ross Avenue in downtown Dallas, after he placed an inert/inactive car bomb at the location. Smadi, a Jordanian citizen in the U.S. illegally, lived and worked in Italy, Texas, (approximately 45 miles south of Dallas).

Good grief. Did Smadi not even hear the president's Cairo speech?

UPDATE: More immunity. What is it, swine flu or something?

Tag Team Obstruction

Even if President Obama manages to get the Russians to refuse to use their veto to shield Iran from sanctions in exchange for gutting our missile defenses and undermining our new NATO allies, the Chinese can still be counted on to veto any sanctions on Iran:

“We always believe that sanctions and pressure are not the way out,” said Jiang Yu, a foreign ministry spokeswoman, during a news conference. “At present, it is not conducive to diplomatic efforts.”

On Wednesday, the White House savored success after Russia, a longtime opponent of economic sanctions, said it would consider tough new sanctions against Iran.

Of course, there was no secret annex involved in our recent decision to scrap ground-based missile defenses in Poland and the Czech Republic. Indeed, the Russians think that the decision was a just reward for Russia allowing us to supply our forces in Afghanistan through Russia:

Russian envoy to NATO Dmitri Rogozin said Moscow welcomes the decision and sees it as an appropriate response to Russia’s offer to allow U.S. supplies to flow into Afghanistan through Russia.

Call me cynical if you will, but since we didn't get Russia's firm commitment before our ill-timed September 17th announcement, I doubt we will get Russia's help after we've given up our chip.

And if Russia does agree to not block sanctions in the UN, it will only be because they've discussed it with China, and China has agreed to be a team player and do the dirty deed of vetoing sanctions.

Not to worry. I'm sure the world will soon scramble to throw concessions and cooperation at the feet of our non-Bush president out of simple gratitude that he is not Bush.

Hire That Man!

I can't believe America is really supporting that nutjob Zelaya as he tries to bully his way back to power. The man is seriously nuts:

It's been 89 days since Manuel Zelaya was booted from power. He's sleeping on chairs, and he claims his throat is sore from toxic gases and "Israeli mercenaries'' are torturing him with high-frequency radiation.

"We are being threatened with death,'' he said in an interview with The Miami Herald, adding that mercenaries were likely to storm the embassy where he has been holed up since Monday and assassinate him.

Yeah, uh huh. That would explain the press releases in crayon.

Still, I do find it bizarre that the Obama administration is supporting Zelaya's return to power in Honduras when Zelaya is clearly a perfect fit for that now-vacant job of President's Special Advisor for Green Jobs.


Ahmadinejad just lost his last eyes in the sky:

On September 22nd, during an Iranian celebration of the start of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, two of the military aircraft flying over the event collided, and both crashed. The two pilots in the F-5 fighter ejected and survived, but the other aircraft, Iran's sole AWACS (radar command and control) aircraft, went down with all seven of the crew on board.

That does erase one inconvenient obstacle for an Israeli strike. If it even worked before the crash, of course.

You know, sometimes I just write a post for the sake of the title. Why women don't find that trait endearing I'll never know ...

Time Warp

Oops. Sometimes I start a post but then don't finish it until later (and sometimes never finish them, actually). I meant to post this piece on Afghanistan last night but it posted in a Monday position.

I know. Horrors.

But just in case you need something at the top to notice it, this is it.

Speeding Up the Army

American battalions will have some pretty impressive organic precision firepower at their disposal:

The U.S. Army has successfully tested a new, inexpensive, guided mortar shell. The RCGM (Roll-Controlled Guided Mortar) works by using a special fuze that includes a GPS unit and little wings that move to put the 120mm mortar shell closer to the target than it otherwise would be. Thus all you need to convert existing 120mm mortar shells to RCGM is the RCGM fuzes (which handle the usual fuze functions, as in setting off the explosives in the shell, as well as the guidance functions.)

Being able to use organic precision firepower means that units can handle threats without calling on brigade or higher level artillery/rocket assets or air power. Fewer problems will be beyond the capacity of the battalion to defeat.

This will speed up our units by allowing our units to keep advancing more quickly without waiting for outside assets to handle a threat that organic firepower is unable to deal with quickly.

Of course, eventually we'll face conventional enemies with this capability. Then speed won't be just our advantage.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A War of Choice?

When did Afghanistan become a war of choice?

Wasn't Iraq the "war of choice" according to the anti-Iraq War side, while Afghanistan was the war we had to fight and win because al Qaeda launched 9/11 from bases there?

But times change. Iraq is won and the Left feels the itch to oppose the only war they've got to oppose.

So now we seek alternatives to defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Choices like this:

One alternative would emphasize hunting down Al-Qaeda leaders with unmanned aircraft and special forces, instead of building up troops in a village-by-village effort to shore up the Kabul government.

We'll really drop special forces into the middle of hostile territory with no friendlies nearby for backup?

Ahem. Just where will we base the drones? Plus, won't collateral damage to civilians lead to a lot of horrible stories as currently come out of Pakistan? And how did that striking from afar work in Iraq in the 1990s when we enforced no-fly zones over Iraq? That did seem to anger the global Left and Moslems.

But we have more choices! Like:

Another alternative, championed by influential Senator Carl Levin, calls for for concentrating on training and equipping Afghan security forces instead sending a large number of additional troops.

In theory this could work if we are prepared to fight at current casualty levels for many years to come to buy time for the current government to get strong enough. But I fear that this option would quickly become training Afghans as we set up a withdrawal schedule for our troops. If we are seen as running, few Afghans will side with us to defeat the Taliban.

Prior to the surge this was our strategy for Iraq. And while I think this could have worked in Iraq, it would have meant perhaps years of 2006-2007-level civilian casualties before the government of Iraq built up enough experienced troops to defeat the enemies. I wonder if we could have supported the Iraqi government that long with the Congress we elected in 2006.

McChrystal thinks we need more US troops to knock back the Taliban in order to buy the time to build up Afghan security forces. Given the current Congress, I think McChrystal has a better read on our Congress than those who think we'll support the Afghan government at current levels for years on end.

There's another choice:

A more radical alternative would call for withdrawing US troops altogether and treating the country like other "failed" states, retaining the option to carry out strikes against Al-Qaeda figures similar to a recent special forces operation in Somalia.

Huh. So we basically declare all of Afghanistan (and we'd have to add frontier Pakistan) a free-fire zone? Do I even have to argue against this on moral and practical grounds?

Thankfully we have more choices:

Some analysts have urged the administration to drop the idea of propping up the central government and instead cut deals with regional warlords to prevent a Taliban takeover.

There is some merit to this idea. But I'm not sure we can buy the right people enough of the time to keep Afghanistan out of the enemy column. It has a point by showing us that we don't have to prop up a weak and corrupt central government as our only means of stabilizing "Afghanistan."

Remember, we need to stabilize the territory known as Afghanistan and not the nominal national government of Afghanistan. We can shore up local warlords and provincial leaders (who should be directly elected and not appointed by Kabul). But we are more likely to get acceptable bought locals if we defeat the hard core Taliban.

And if we start to head for the exits, how long will our skittish NATO allies keep their troops in Afghanistan?

Mostly I want to know when Afghanistan became a war of choice. We've been told for years by the anti-Iraq War side--falsely--that we were distracted by Iraq from fighting the true necessary war in Afghanistan. But now that Afghanistan is the only war we have, suddenly it's let a thousand choices bloom:

Dropping the current strategy in Afghanistan would represent a dramatic break with military commanders and the administration's own policy, which Obama presented shortly after he came into office in February.

The administration is seeking ways to avoid the hard truth that we need to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That should involve working with local provincial leaders and even warlords, but it doesn't mean we can avoid the dirty work of beating the Taliban to keep Afghanistan from becoming a haven for al Qaeda or a source of instability for nuclear-armed Pakistan.

The only choice involved is choosing to win or choosing to lose. What will it be, Mr. President?

Making the World Happy

After 9/11, other than the awkward celebrations in the streets of certain, ah, Islamic nations, much of the world expressed deep sympathy for us. But as I've argued before, that sympathy was only because much of the world saw us as a weak victim and they rather like that. Once we began to fight back, the sympathy evaporated.

So it is no surprise that President Obama is feeling the love at the United Nations:

The president scores highly at the UN for refusing to project American values and military might on the world stage, with rare exceptions like the war against the Taliban. His appeasement of Iran, his bullying of Israel, his surrender to Moscow, his call for a nuclear free world, his siding with Marxists in Honduras, his talk of a climate change deal, have all won him plaudits in the large number of UN member states where US foreign policy has traditionally been viewed with contempt.

Simply put, Barack Obama is loved at the UN because he largely fails to advance real American leadership. This is a dangerous strategy of decline that will weaken US power and make her far more vulnerable to attack.

This is no way to organize an international community if your goal is to protect America.

And hold the thought on the Taliban exception to our weak ways. All bets are off, I think, as the administration ponders whether it can get away with running away from the Taliban.

Behold the Nuance!

I wish I had time to comment on these pieces addressing alliance diplomacy and missile defense, but you should see them regardless of whether I add any purported value.

Austin Bay. Stratfor.

If our failings were based on inexperience, I'd have hope our leaders could learn.

But our leaders can't help themselves--they are who they are. And we have to face the world with the leaders we have and not the leaders I wish we had.

Behold the Science!

I guess only "deniers" will see a problem here.

Data, schmata. We've got consensus, doncha know?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Facts Be Damned

Interim president Micheletti of Honduras again patiently makes his case to America that he deserves support and not condemnation for ousting the proto-dictator Zelaya:

Underlying all the rhetoric about a military overthrow are facts. Simply put, coups do not leave civilians in control over the armed forces, as is the case in Honduras today. Neither do they allow the independent functioning of democratic institutions -- the courts, the attorney general's office, the electoral tribunal. Nor do they maintain a respect for the separation of powers. In Honduras, the judicial, legislative and executive branches are all fully functioning and led by civilian authorities.

Coups do not allow freedom of assembly, either. They do not guarantee freedom of the press, much less a respect for human rights. In Honduras, these freedoms remain intact and vibrant. And on Nov. 29 our country plans to hold the ultimate civic exercise of any democracy: a free and open presidential election.

Facts? Nice try. It all makes perfect sense and it should convince our State Department that Micheletti is correct. But this argument won't work on our government.

Our administration only responds positively to eye-bulging tirades against us and not reasoned discourse. I remain ashamed that our government officially backs Zelaya in this confrontation.

I guess we'll see a lot of the good guys having to win on their own for awhile as our government votes "present" on the great and small conflicts of the day.

I hope the Hondurans win this one. One day we'll come to our senses, and I hope we still have friends left when that day arrives.

The President's Real Enemy

The president is focusing on climate change:

President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao each vowed urgent action Tuesday to cool an overheating planet, even as prospects dimmed for a full treaty by the end of the year.

Ah, we need "urgent action" to combat something that may or may not cause us any problems outside of computer models that don't seem to resemble the real world.

But we get no leadership on defeating Islamo-fascism.

I continue to worry far more about car bomb footprints than carbon footprints.

Too Good to Be True

President Obama already ordered over 20,000 more American troops to Afghanistan, but now professes to want to settle on a strategy before sending more--if we even send more (or keep what we have there):

The top commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, has warned Obama that without additional US troops the NATO-led mission will face defeat at the hands of Islamist insurgents.

But skeptics in Congress and inside the administration are searching for alternatives to NATO's costly counter-insurgency campaign, saying the goal of countering Al-Qaeda militants might be achieved with a less ambitious approach.

"There are a number of what might be called 'middle way' proposals that are circulating around," Stephen Biddle, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, told AFP.

While I'm all on board with settling on an objective for the war (and quickly please, the president is taking way too long to figure out why he thinks Afghanistan is the good war), this all has an ugly feel of looking for an exit strategy rather than looking for victory.

The good war is no longer good enough, it seems, when that formulation is no longer useful for opposing the "bad" Iraq war.

And middle ways for Afghanistan will just be a means to avoid losing too quickly to be punished by the voters in 2010 or 2012, I'm afraid.

We can't afford to lose in Afghanistan. We need to keep Afghanistan from being a haven for terrorists who would attack us and we need to prevent Afghanistan from being a haven for terrorists who would undermine Pakistan.

Are we really going to go from a strategy that attempts to fight the cross-border Taliban threat to one where we just try drive-by Predator strikes to control jihadis in both countries?

We All Look Alike to Them

I've said it many times--jihadis hate all of us. Even those of us still wearing tie-dye t-shirts.

So you have to enjoy the mental gymnastics of this article about al Qaeda's latest rantings:

As in the past, al-Qaida attempted to conflate Obama with his predecessor, George W. Bush, who was widely disliked by Muslims for his invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Many analysts believe that al-Qaida has been alarmed by Obama's comparative popularity in the Middle East, especially following his landmark speech to the Muslim world in Cairo in June.

"America has come in a new, hypocritical face. Smiling at us, but stabbing us with the same dagger that Bush used," said Al-Qaida No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahri in the message.

So, let me get this straight.

Al Qaeda hated Bush for invading Iraq and Afghanistan (what, no cutting of slack for the "good" war?).

And al Qaeda also hates Obama for being more popular in the Moslem world?


It's almost as if they simply hate Americans and would be happy to kill any one of us. Remember how Michael Moore commented that it was a shame that al Qaeda killed blue state Americans on 9/11 in New York?

For our enemies, they really don't care about red or blue states. A dead Michael Moore would be as happy a victory for them as a dead American soldier.

Qaddassiya Saddam

Twenty-nine years ago, Iraq invaded Iran.

The two countries would fight for nearly eight years, losing at least 300,000 and perhaps a million total killed in action combined at the high end of estimates (with Iran suffering 2/3 the total). The war was essentially a stalemate, although it may have blunted revolutionary Iran's immediate ambitions to dominate the Gulf. At best, Iraq won on points.

This First Gulf War, by bankrupting Iraq but creating a large military, set the stage for Saddam's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and the subsequent 1991 Second Gulf War (aka, the Persian Gulf War or Desert Storm).

That 1991 war, of course, left Saddam bloodied but standing. It always seemed to me that there would be a reckoning eventually. The September 11, 2001 terror attacks provided the reason to take out Saddam in 2003 rather than risk his continued evil rule, support for terrorism, and pursuit of WMD.

As al Qaeda and Iran essentially invaded a freed Iraq, we fought from 2003 to 2009 another war inside Iraq to protect the new government and defeat al Qaeda terrorists, Baathist insurgents, domestic jihadis, and pro-Iranian Sadrist Shia death squads.

All that spun out from Saddam's invasion of Iran on September 22, 1980, which he believed would be a short and victorious war fought over the corpse of revolution-wracked Iran.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Afghanistan Assessment

Here's the McChrystal report (with some held back for security at the request of the government).

And this is the proposal for a surge put out by the Institute for the Study of War.

I am skeptical of McChrystal's assertion that we will lose if we don't start winning in the next year. I'd rather start the process of finally defeating the enemy sooner, but I don't believe there is an expiration date for trying to win under the new circumstances we find ourselves facing. Too many here would use that argument as an excuse to run out the clock on that year and then claim it is too late--darn the luck.

The Kagan proposal seems reasonable and focuses on putting troops into critical areas. I had my own notion early in the year. I used similar notions when I looked at numbers. And as long as our objective isn't to create a modern nation-state governed from Kabul, we could win with such a strategy--assuming we can also do something about the Taliban inside Pakistan. Will Pakistan follow through?

I am not convinced that we must have 40,000 more troops to win in Afghanistan. And I worry a lot about our supply lines into landlocked Afghansitan. But if our military thinks it could win with 40,000 more, I think we owe it to them to grant the request.

What is farcical is the idea that we can count on any of our allies not now currently fighting to commit their troops to actually fighting. Our allies are sliding out.

So if the Kagan plan counts on our current allies stepping up, forget it--we'll need American or Afghan forces instead.

I eagerly await the revised Obama administration notions of what our objective in Afghanistan is. I kind of thought they had a vague idea back when the president ordered 20,000 or so more troops to the place. But apparently not.

I don't even want to hear another complaint that Bush invaded Iraq without an adequate plan.

Searching for a Mission

In Iraq, post-urban combat missions, we're looking for a military mission and trying to figure out how quickly we can draw down to levels appropriate for that mission:

If the Iraqis don't want the Americans to help out, and Iraqis are pro-American (by local standards), U.S. troops, and commanders, are suggesting that they all depart as soon as possible. The Kurds are still very pro-American, and nearly all Iraqis are very hostile to Islamic terrorism. Mission accomplished.

This was always the plan. It is, in fact, the standard approach to these situations. Once the enemy is defeated, and a new (friendly, or at least less hostile and warlike) government is able to defend itself, you go home.

We could be down to 50,000 troops in Iraq in only 15 months, as Strategypage writes. I hope this includes a full "division" of four brigades in the Basra region to deter Iran and cover Kuwait, too. Plus another brigade in Anbar--say a Stryker brigade--for patrolling and reassuring the Sunni Arabs. Air power in the center and in the Kurdish region would be appropriate, as well.

Think of these as staying for 5 years and then we start drawing down a brigade per year as Iraqi forces mature until we keep just one in the south as a tripwire against Iran.

Air power, too could draw down to a token amount over time as the Iraqis gain conventional military air power.

Then we're mostly down to training missions and perhaps 10,000 troops total until we decide we don't need even those forces to keep Iraq upright.

That's my opinion, of course.

And all these timetables could be accelerated if we somehow get lucky and see regime change in Iran lead to a pro-Western government.

Actions Have Meaning

I find this thinking astounding in its lack of appreciation for what the presidency is:

President Barack Obama sharply dismisses criticism that Russian opposition influenced his decision to scrap a European missile defense system, calling it merely a bonus if the leaders of Russia end up "a little less paranoid" about the U.S.

"My task here was not to negotiate with the Russians," Obama told CBS' "Face the Nation" in an interview for broadcast Sunday. "The Russians don't make determinations about what our defense posture is."

For a president famous for saying "words have meaning," this is an amazing lack of understanding about the effects of anything he does as president of the United States. Actions, too, have meaning.

Even if the president's decision to gut our missile plans in Eastern Europe had nothing to do with Russian demands, it was viewed by the East European leaders as a a betrayal--especially given the date the Poles and Czechs were informed of our decision.

And since Russia was in fact demanding what the president did, the Russians will feel emboldened no matter what the president says, believing that Russia did compel the president to decide as he did. Or does the president really think that the Russians believe the president just happened to make the decision that undermines our credibility and enhances Russia's position and status?

As for making the Russians a little less paranoid? That ship sailed long ago. Russia's leaders are doing a fine job all on their own stoking their own paranoia. What we do won't affect that very much for very long. Give the Russians time. They'll be back up to pre-missile cancellation levels of nuts in a very short period.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

I'm With the President on This One

The President wants to identify our strategy in Afghanistan before he decides on more troops:

President Barack Obama says he hasn't asked his top commander in Afghanistan to sit on an expected request for U.S. reinforcements in a backsliding war, but he gave no deadline for making a decision about whether to send more Americans into harm's way.

Obama said in a series of television interviews broadcast Sunday that he will not allow politics to govern his decision. He left little doubt he is re-evaluating whether the renewed focus on hunting al-Qaida that he announced just months ago has become blurred and whether more forces will do any good.

"The first question is, `Are we doing the right thing?'" Obama said. "Are we pursuing the right strategy?"

Actually, the first question is 'What is our objective?' The second question is what is our strategy to achieve that objective. The third question is how many troops do we need to carry out that strategy. But he's pretty green, so cut him some slack.

But essentially, I've asked repeatedly what is our objective before we ask about the next questions. If our military thinks it needs more troops, I'm ready to back them to win.

Still, the president is right. What do we want more troops to do?

UPDATE: Leaks of McChrystal's report are out. Said the general:

While asserting that more troops are needed, McChrystal also pointed out an "urgent need" to significantly revise strategy. The U.S. needs to interact better with the Afghan people, McChrystal said, and better organize its efforts with NATO allies.

"We run the risk of strategic defeat by pursuing tactical wins that cause civilian casualties or unnecessary collateral damage. The insurgents cannot defeat us militarily; but we can defeat ourselves," he wrote.

Yes, we need to know what our strategy is--and what our objective is. Otherwise, adding more troops just means the troops will act in default mode--seeking out combat that could be counter-productive. After all, I've worried about the effects of our tightened rules of engagement on tactical situations while accepting that for strategic effect, such a restriction is a good thing.

The debate over strategy, in part, is really a debate over our objective. Which raises the issue of how distracted were we by Iraq? If ten months after President Obama was elected he still doesn't know what we should be trying to achieve in Afghanistan (in the sense of what we want our troops to do), how can we possibly say that Iraq distracted us?

The fact is, from 2002 through 2005, with no Taliban sanctuary of note in Pakistan, we were fine with having our Afghanistan objective being denying the country as a sanctuary for al Qaeda. With but a single combat brigade, we achieved our objective just fine.

Only in 2006 and 2007 did the enemy really ramp up with cannon fodder recruited in Pakistan--and even then we smashed up the enemy efforts to storm into Afghanistan.

And since the success of the Iraq surge in 2007, al Qaeda has refocused on Afghanistan, which we can see with the increased use of IEDs based on al Qaeda technical advice.

The point is, it wasn't so much that we slighted Afghanistan in order to fight in Iraq (where al Qaeda chose to make their stand, I should add), but that we didn't need much to achieve our objectives in Afghanistan. Doing more from 2002 to 2005 would have meant going into Pakistan to find wherever bin Laden is hiding (or is buried).

Now, because we defeated al Qaeda in Iraq, we find our old enemy focusing on Afghanistan and Pakistan and we have followed them there. It is taking us longer than al Qaeda to shift focus because we had to nail down success in Iraq--where we faced enemies other than al Qaeda--before shifting troops and assets to Afghanistan.

Of course, as we shift forces to this new main effort, we still have to answer the questions what do we want to achieve; what do we want our troops to do to achieve this (along with non-military means, of course), and how many troops and civilian assets do we need to achieve that?

Iraq wasn't a distraction from fighting al Qaeda. Iraq was the main front for a while. And even now, as we make Afghanistan our main front again, al Qaeda isn't inside Afghanistan in significant strength. Unless you want to argue that Afghanistan distracts us from fighting in Pakistan, stop talking about meaningless distractions.

Such talk is a distraction from what we need to talk about.

UPDATE: Lowry doesn't understand how the president can say we are experiencing "mission creep" and fail to appreciate that we are pursuing a counter-insurgency strategy.

The president has it right, if you understand that he really isn't talking about finding the right "strategy." Yes, counterinsurgency is the military strategy we seek to carry out. But the mission creep is the issue of the objective toward which a COIN strategy seeks to advance us.

The question remains, what do we want Afghanistan to look like after a successful COIN strategy using however many troops we deem necessary to achieve the mission? Again, what is our objective?

There are many things it could be in between withdrawal or striking from a distance at one end and seeking to create a centalized modern state run out of Kabul at the other. I personally want, based on the history of the place, to stabilize Afghanistan based on provincial and local governing structures with only a nominal national government performing limited functions. This will create institutions strong enough (with some support from us) to keep terrorists from carving out a sanctuary in which they can prepare to strike us at home as they did on 9/11.

Funny enough, the president implicitly recognizes by his "mission creep" comment that we have not actually been distracted by Iraq from winning in Afghanistan--we're apparently on the verge of trying to achieve much more than our limited goals of 2002-2007.

And remember, too, that no matter how successful we are in achieving our objective in Afghanistan, if Pakistan fails to control their side of the border, our success in Afghanistan will remain incomplete.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Minstrels Arrive!

I wrote that our president's retreat would inspire the bards of the media to sing of his bravery. Not even the sellout of Poland by cancelling our planned missile defenses on a particularly inconvenient day would stop the media that loves our president from calling running away "bravery."

Well here's a lovely little ditty.

Barack Obama has finally called time on the Bush administration's controversial plan to build a missile-defense shield in Eastern Europe. The announcement caused widespread consternation. The Czechs and the Poles, who had hoped that the system would somehow protect them against Russian aggression, were appalled. (The Polish prime minister refused to take a call from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton informing him of the decision.) Conservative Americans, who counted on the missile shield to contain Iranian missiles, decried Obama’s move as dangerous, or even treasonous. Only Russia, which believed that the system would somehow impair their ability to use their own nuclear missiles, was delighted. The real question, though, isn't whether Obama is right or wrong about the system's efficacy. (He's obviously right.)

"He's obviously right"! The Poles and Czechs are upset and the Russians are happy--but this in no way indicates we retreated from Russia!

The Iranians haven't weighed in on this decision, but they already think President Obama is putty in their hands. They could be getting tired noting every single American retreat in the face of Iran's positions.

And gallantly he chickened out.

Brave, brave Sir Robin.

It's from Newsweek. As if you had to be told!

Not to be outdone in sucking up to the administration, Time magazine weighs in:

But just because Russia had furiously opposed the missile shield on its doorstep doesn't necessarily mean building it would have been a good idea. The military rationale for Obama's move is hard to argue with. (Read "Mixed Reactions in Europe to the U.S. Missile-Defense U-Turn")

Viewed from the perspective of defense priorities, what the Administration has done is shift resources away from building a costly, immovable and as yet unproven shield in central Europe to counter the potential threat of Iran's developing intercontinental ballistic missiles, instead allocating them to deploying ships carrying proven interceptor systems nearer to Iran to counter the current threat of its medium-range-missile arsenal.

Among other advantages, the ships can sail freely in international waters to meet evolving threats without obtaining consent from host countries (the Czech parliament, for example, had yet to approve the deployment of the now canceled system).

This article also includes a fascinating but irrelevant history of missile defense efforts in an effort to ridicule the Bush plan. But despite asserting that President Obama's plan is better, the author gives no compelling reason. His ship-based SM-3 arguments are unconvincing.

The SM-3 has a range of 500 kilometers against short- and intermediate-range missiles (I've seen the range also given as 300 km., but I'll assume the greater range). It's a fine missile. We surely need it. But it isn't what Bush planned to put in eastern Europe. We'd have to put Aegis SM-3-equipped ships in the Baltic, North Sea, Channel, Atlantic, Mediterranean, Tyrrenhean, Adriatic, Aegean, and Black Sea, hugging the coast--and we'd still have gaps in the coverage of Europe. That's why the new plan sees putting SM-3 on land, too.

Oh, and assume we'd need 3 ships for every one needed on station in order to rotate ships. And as for being able to use them elsewhere when not needed for missile defense as the Time author states, just when would that be? We need missile defense 24/7 and 365 days/year!

Nor would any number of SM-3s on ships in European waters (or off our coast) or on land in Europe do what the 10 missiles envisioned by Bush could do--shoot at missiles launched from Iran against the eastern United States.

Yes, Brave Sir Robin turned about.

Sing along, now! You know the words!

UPDATE: Strategypage writes that the idea is to put SM-3-equipped ships in the Persian Gulf to shoot down Iranian missiles heading out in the boost phase:

The U.S. believes ship based Aegis systems in the Persian Gulf could also protect Europe, But the East Europeans are having none of it, and sense yet another betrayal by the rest of Europe and America. In East Europe, it's not forgotten how a British prime minister announced, in 1938, that he had achieved, "peace in our time" by making a deal with the devil (Adolf Hitler). Back then, no one trusted Russia. For those with long memories, it's difficult to trust Russia even today.

The feeling of betrayal is real, of course, regardless of whether you think the Poles and other East Europeans are "wrong" to feel abandoned by America. By the "reasonable neighbor of Russia" standard, it is ridiculous for us to tell the Poles they are wrong to worry. Yes, in time this feeling may wear off if we can reassure the Poles in other ways. But damage has been done to our ties with Eastern Europe and our reputation.

But back to the sea-based idea. Even if we put the Aegis ships in Iranian territorial waters, the 500 kilometer range leaves large chunks of Iran outside of the reach of the SM-3. So Iran only has to get our a ruler and plot the points in the interior of Iran where they can launch free and clear. Which is why I assumed the SM-3s would be based around the targets (and which is why I assumed we also planned to put some of our missiles on land in Eastern Europe).

And since the Iranian missiles would be heading northwest, we'd be chasing any Iranian missiles launched toward Europe, so that would effectively shorten the range of our SM-3s and require us to fire them off pretty early in the Iranian launch, which would raise the chance of error. How many times could we shoot at a phantom signal or test launch before we get too timid to respond?

Plus, SM-3-equipped ships in the Persian Gulf aren't exactly safe from a surprise Pearl Harbor at sea by the Iranians with a blitz of conventional and unconventional attacks that might precede a nuclear missile attack.

Again, SM-3s are great missiles for the purpose they were designed for--but they aren't a replacement for what the ground-based interceptors formerly planned for Eastern Europe.

I don't care how many writers sing a song of praise for the so-called brilliance of the Obama plan. Unless more details show up that show me what I'm missing, it's all a song about which of our body parts is going to be hacked to bits.