Friday, July 31, 2009

Simmering Over a Low Heat

Protesters in Tehran refuse to be stamped out:

At 4 p.m. the Iranian government broke up an attempted memorial service at a cemetery, but very soon after, tens of thousands of protesters poured into the streets of central Tehran the night of July 30, overwhelming Iran's feared security forces. The crowds burned tires, honked horns, waved peace signs and chanted, "Death to the dictators." Because the demonstrators gathered in several neighborhoods throughout the capital as well as at the country's largest cemetery, 12 miles (20 km) south of the city center, the Basij paramilitary and Revolutionary Guards could not cover enough ground to control the growing crowds - one of the largest outpourings in recent weeks, albeit spread about the city. The protests even continued into the city's subway system as many participants hurried back into the city from the aborted prayer service at Behesht-e Zahra cemetery. "Tehran was our town today," exclaimed a 26-year-old woman. "We had more courage and the police less courage."

I'm rather shocked that the protests continue in the face of government repression and violence.

At their current scope, the protests won't bring down the government. But as long as the ruling elites are split and struggling for power, apparently hindering their ability to be as ruthless as they have in the past with dissidents, there is always the chance that the protests could expand nationwide and become a threat to the regime.

Some incident might trigger mass resolve among the many people angry at the regime. Or some faction in the regime may try to use the protesters against their foes within the regime, thinking they can ride the anger to victory. Or, as the protests linger, some elements of the security apparatus may side with the protesters. The Basij are loyal killers but ordinary cops, much of the regular armed forces, and even some of the Pasdaran could shrink from orders to shoot civilians. If protests get too large for the Basij to handle, requiring the use of other elements of the security forces, what will those security forces do?

We might still see a good result from the protests over the fraudulent Iranian elections.

Vanguard of the Nuance

Our new president claims he will restore our relations with the world, repairing the damage President Bush did with his cowboy ways. I argue our problems stem not so much from us but from our foes and reluctant allies.

So far, we've gotten little to show from so-called smart and nuanced diplomacy. But perhaps it's too early to show results.

So how is Australia doing without the southern hemisphere's cowboy, Prime Minister Howard? Kevin Rudd has had plenty of time to undo the damage, right?

Sadly, Australian-Chinese relations are in the dumpster (tip to Mad Minerva) despite Rudd's impeccable credentials that just screamed "nuance":

Who would have thought that Australia’s relations with China would nose-dive under Mandarin-speaking Prime Minister Kevin Rudd?

When Rudd took office, expectations were high on both sides. He believed that as a friend of China, and one well-versed in Chinese culture, he had some latitude to speak to Beijing frankly about issues that would annoy them, like Tibet.

China also seemed inclined toward Rudd, the only leader of a Western country known for his fluency in Mandarin.Beijing naturally thought that he would be sympathetic to Chinese interests.

But things soon started to go wrong.


It's almost as if it is China that is the problem, and not Australia's responses to China.

Perhaps we could learn from Australia's experience with nuance before things start really going wrong for us.

"Freedom of Expression Must Be Limited"

The nexus of the Axis of El Vil is looking more vile every day:

Venezuela's top prosecutor insisted Thursday that freedom of expression in Venezuela "must be limited" and proposed legislation that would slap additional restrictions on the country's news media.

And no tinpot dictator like Hugo Chavez can be content with abusing his own people, so the foreign aggression can't be ignored:

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe complained over the weekend that anti-tank rocket launchers sold to Venezuela's military by Sweden during the 1980s were found in an arms cache belonging to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

So how many people are happy that the coup against Chavez several years ago--illegal though it was--failed?

Run Away

Supporters of closing our Guantanamo Bay detention facility and putting captured al Qaeda and jihadi terrorists in our civilian system mock the idea that prisoners will be more of a threat in our high security civilian prisons than in Gitmo.

We just ran away a bit on the lawfare battlefield. It's at least nice that this happened now before we relieve our military of the job of holding unlawful combatants:

On June 17, at the Administrative Maximum (ADX) penitentiary in Florence, Colo., one of those albatrosses, inmate number 24079-038, began his day with a whole new range of possibilities. Eight days earlier, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Denver filed notice in federal court that the Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) which applied to that prisoner—Richard C. Reid, a.k.a. the “Shoe Bomber”—were being allowed to expire. SAMs are security directives, renewable yearly, issued by the attorney general when “there is a substantial risk that a prisoner’s communications, correspondence or contacts with persons could result in death or serious bodily injury” to others.

Reid was arrested in 2001 for attempting to blow up American Airlines Flight 63 from Paris to Miami with 197 passengers and crew on board. Why had Attorney General Eric Holder decided not to renew his security measures, kept in place since 2002?

According to court documents filed in a 2007 civil lawsuit against the government, Reid claimed that SAMs violated his First Amendment right of free speech and free exercise of religion. In a hand-written complaint, he asserted that he was being illegally prevented from performing daily “group prayers in a manner prescribed by my religion.” Yet the list of Reid’s potential fellow congregants at ADX Florence reads like a Who’s Who of al Qaeda’s most dangerous members: Ramzi Yousef and his three co-conspirators in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing; 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui; “Millennium bomber” Ahmed Ressam; “Dirty bomber” Jose Padilla; Wadih el-Hage, Osama Bin Laden’s personal secretary, convicted in the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombing that killed 247 people.

Prisoners held in our civilian system, overseen by sympathetic people who don't have the guts to resist the "civil rights" pleas of terrorists who wage lawfare against us within our civilian rules, give these scum more space to communicate with other scum.

What could possibly go wrong by giving all the terrorists we hold the benefit of the doubt?

Go West, Young Man

Russia's "near abroad" continues it's desperate movement to get as far from the paranoid rulers in the Kremlin as they can:

Moldova's pro-Western parties scrambled to forge a governing alliance Thursday after beating Europe's last communist-run government in a parliamentary election praised by international monitors.

Near final results put four center-right opposition parties ahead of the Communist Party, which has ruled the impoverished former Soviet republic since 2001.

The Russians can pretend their problems stem from American plots (and thank you, vice president, for reinforcing that view), but those who know the Russians best keep trying to escape their grasp.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Double Plus Nuance

So some NATO members don't want to admit Georgia or Ukraine because we might have to defend them from Russia.

But NATO expansion is under consideration in theory to another country with a hostile neighbor:

Assistant Secretary of State Philip Gordon told U.S. lawmakers Tuesday that the United States would consider Russian membership in the military alliance that was founded to protect Europe from Soviet aggression.


But President Obama thinks it might be fine to extend NATO's defense perimeter to the Russian-Chinese border to defend Moscow's Far East provinces from possible Chinese aggression?

The nuance! It's blinding!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Oh Good Grief

I guess I don't pay attention to much of the blogosphere where this is apparently an issue. A recent press conference where the "birther" issue was raised was my first clue that the question of President Obama's place of birth was still out there in the fringe.

Look, it was a legitimate question to ask given it is one of the few requirements to be our president. But it was asked and answered. President Obama is a natural born American citizen. Period. Yet Hawaii had to answer the question again:

State officials in Hawaii on Monday said they have once again checked and confirmed that President Barack Obama was born in Hawaii and is a natural-born American citizen, and therefore meets a key constitutional requirement for being president.

They hoped to stem a recent surge in the number of inquiries about Obama's birthplace.

I have some sympathy over the president's plight because last year the document I've used as my birth certificate my entire adult life was questioned by a county clerk when I applied for a passport last year. In the end, it was good enough for the State Department. Case closed.

I can understand buyer's remorse setting in, but tough luck. He's our president and commander in chief; and the question relevant to any regret about that fact is scheduled for 2012. Case closed.

More relevant than demanding the "real" certificate of live birth of the president, the "birthers" all need a certificate of the birth of a life. They should really get one.

Let's not give foreign enemies something to dig into and laugh about, eh?

The Northern Front

Secretary Gates is in Iraq to reassure himself that our new advisory role will be sufficient to help the Iraqis defeat the shrunken Iranian supported Sadrist and Sunni Arab (including al Qaeda) terrorism and resistance.

We are mainly worried about the Kurdish issue now:

Gates also made a point Tuesday of saying that the United States is "ready to help resolve disputes over boundaries and hydrocarbons," a reference to widening tensions between Arabs and Kurds. Odierno called the Arab-Kurd rift his No. 1 security worry.

As I've long argued, even before our surge beat these enemies down (as long as we didn't abandon Iraq, I knew we could beat them), the only looming threat I could see to our success is an internal split based on the Kurdish-Arab divisions that erupts into violence.

I'm glad it is on our radar screens. I hope the Kurds don't come down with a major case of stupid and think they can survive as an independent country with hostile Turkey, Iran, and Iraq surrounding them.

Don't Mention the Cold War!

I was shocked at the lack of diplomatic nuance (which supposedly we were dearly lacking until 6 months ago) that our vice president displayed in openly noting Russia's downward economic and demographic spiral.

He's right, mind you. But it was not diplomatic--in addition to being unwise--to actually say it. Stratfor notes this, too:

Biden, however, is saying that whatever the current temporary regional advantage the Russians might have, in the end, their economy is crippled and Russia is not a country to be taken seriously. He went on publicly to point out that this should not be pointed out publicly, as there is no value in embarrassing Russia. The Russians certainly now understand what it means to hit the reset button Obama had referred to: The reset is back to the 1980s and 1990s.

Amazingly, Biden also said Russia's decline should not be mentioned in public.

As Basil Fawlty might have noted, "don't mention the Cold War!

The nuance! It's blinding!

Private Warfare: The Series

I've mentioned that Westerners might resort to private non-state warfare (like our jihadi enemies do) if our government fails to wage war sufficiently.

Well, this is certainly one way to do that:

Eight years after the Sept. 11 attacks and the beginning of the war on terror, leaders and supporters of terrorist organizations still lead free and open lives around the world. More than a decade after the Rwandan genocide, its practitioners still roam the United States. The government seems unable - and sometimes unwilling - to change this state of affairs.

NBC's new program "The Wanted" aims to push the issue, entertaining audiences while bringing the accused to justice: Its team of terrorist trackers hops the globe collecting evidence about its targets in order to persuade extradition-shy countries to stop dragging their feet.

Warfare, as our jihadi enemies demonstrate, is not a monopoly of governments. Why should Westerners with tremendous wealth be any different in regard to a desire to defend our society if pushed far enough, and if our governments won't fight to defend our society?

This television show could be a hint of our post-Westphalian future. Next, the television audiences could vote for who to kick off the island, so to speak, choosing the targets of investigation. The infrastructure of private warfare could spring up.

Could actual private shooting warfare be far behind?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Louder, Please

Interim president Micheletti of Honduras patiently explains why Zelaya was not overthrown in a coup. The details have been reported and Micheletti addresses the issue of how Zelaya was removed:

I succeeded Mr. Zelaya under the Honduran constitution’s order of succession (our vice president had resigned before all of this began so that he could run for president). This is and has always been an entirely civilian government. The military was ordered by an entirely civilian Supreme Court to arrest Mr. Zelaya. His removal was ordered by an entirely civilian and elected Congress. To suggest that Mr. Zelaya was ousted by means of a military coup is demonstrably false.

Regarding the decision to expel Mr. Zelaya from the country the evening of June 28 without a trial, reasonable people can believe the situation could have been handled differently. But it is also necessary to understand the decision in the context of genuine fear of Mr. Zelaya’s proven willingness to violate the law and to engage in mob-led violence.

Yes, the removal by the military was outside of procedures, but given Zelaya's actions and allies, it is wrong to say that it was clearly a mistake. The Hondurans did the best they could. I think Zelaya should have been arrested and tried, but the Hondurans on the scene feared Zelaya could resort to mob violence if they did that. I guess I won't second-guess them on that. There was clearly a risk in letting Zelaya stay in Honduras.

It is ridiculous to claim that the Hondurans should have fought a man eager to violate their own laws only with means provided in law when the law was insufficient to combat Zelaya. No constitution can be a suicide pact.

The Hondurans did the best they could to preserve rule of law and they deserve our support. Micheletti needs to keep making his case in the State Department and the halls of Congress.

Hitting the Overcharge Button

From the files of "If Cheney had done this" comes this foray into nuanced, relations-repairing diplomacy:

Vice President Joe Biden said in an interview that Russia's economy is "withering," and suggested the trend will force the country to make accommodations to the West on a wide range of national-security issues, including loosening its grip on former Soviet republics and shrinking its vast nuclear arsenal.

Mr. Biden said he believes Russia's economic problems are part of a series of developments that have contributed to a significant rethinking by Moscow of its international self-interest. The geographical proximity of the emerging nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea is also likely to make Russia more cooperative with the U.S. in blocking their growth, he said.

But in the interview, at the end of a four-day trip to Ukraine and Georgia, Mr. Biden said domestic troubles are the most important factor driving Russia's new global outlook. "I think we vastly underestimate the hand that we hold," he said.

That bit of logic won't stress our diplomacy with Russia, now will it?

Smart diplomacy? Who knew that nuance requires us to tell the paranoid owners of thousands of nuclear warheads that they are doomed and eventually we'll make them do what we want? Now that smarts!

I mean, I don't actually disagree with this thinking, but I'm a knuckle-dragger! Even I wouldn't spell it out to them. Speak softly and let the big stick they carry wither away, I say.

Hey, maybe that "reset" button wasn't really mislabeled, after all.

So We Know What Their Interests Are?

The silly mullahs of Iran don't even know that nukes are counter-productive to their security:

“I think we are in full agreement on the negative consequences of Iran obtaining this kind of a capability,” Gates said. “I think we are also agreed that it is important to take every opportunity to try and persuade the Iranians to reconsider what is actually in their security interests.”

One tack the U.S. is taking is “trying to persuade the Iranians that their own security interests are diminished by their policies, not enhanced,” Gates said.

The Iranian nuclear program threatens to destabilize the region and might prompt an arms race in the Middle East, Gates said. The U.S. has been working for the past two years to bolster maritime surveillance, air defense and missile defense in the region, he added.

I actually agree with Secretary Gates that Iran's security is better if nobody in the region is nuclear. An Iran with normalized relations with the world would have the population and money to build a conventional military that would overpower any of their Arab neighbors' conventional militaries.

When you add in Iranian nukes, gulf Arab oil-producing states would have ample money to match Iran nuke for nuke.

Just as our conventional military dominance makes it to our advantage if everyone has no nukes, it is to Iran's advantage for nobody in their region to have nukes. But that's only true if Iran's leaders think like us.

And it get worse. Not only are nukes counter-productive from a regional power standing, the idea that Iran needs nukes to deter our attack on them ignores the fact that we have not attacked them (as I write in the linked post):

I mean, good grief, what worse things do the mullahs want to do that they fear will finally prompt America or Israel to nuke Iran after a long history of our restraint in the face of hostile mullah actions? Now that's a scary thought.

I don't see any reason to believe that we should mirror image the mullahs. The fact that Iran's rulers do not agree with our assessment about what is in Iran's interests should tell us that we don't know what Iran's rulers believe is in their best interest--not that we must speaker louder and use smaller words so they'll understand their interests (as we see them).

Sunday, July 26, 2009

That's Quite a Name

India has launched their first nuclear-powered submarine, although it won't go into service for a couple years:

India launched its first nuclear-powered submarine on Sunday, officials said, underlining the military advances made by the rapidly developing nation.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called it a "historic milestone in the country's defence preparedness" as the 6,000-tonne INS Arihant (Destroyer of Enemies) was named in the southern city of Visakhapatnam.

The submarine, the first of five planned, is powered by an 85-megawatt nuclear reactor and can reach 44 kilometres an hour (24 knots) underwater, according to defence officials.

It will be armed with torpedoes and ballistic missiles, and carry a crew of 95 men.

Any shipping that travels through the Indian Ocean will be vulnerable to Destroyer of Enemies.

I'm sure that China, with their energy supply lines crossing this ocean, has taken notice.

UPDATE: Pakistan noticed, too:

[A] spokesperson for the Pakistan Navy Commander Salman Ali told Dawn on Monday the Indian move would have far-reaching destabilising effects on the security environment not only of Pakistan but also of all the littoral states of [the] Indian Ocean and beyond. He said the induction of [the] 6,000-tonne INS Arihant in the Indian Navy had the potential to trigger a nuclear arms race in the region and all littoral states, including Pakistan, would have to take appropriate safeguards.

While the boat has vertical launch tubes, this does not make it an SSBN. The tubes are too small for ballistic missiles, as I understand it. perhaps Indian short-range cruise missiles capable of mounting an atomic warhead can be installed (I don't know that but it makes sense, and I don't feel like googling for the information. Sorry.)

Paksitan can't compete with India and needs to accept that India is looking to the east these days as it calibrates its defense policies. India is stronger than Pakistan. That's a fact of life. Luckily for Paksitan, India doesn't want to conquer Pakistan and has bigger fish to fry.

India will never keep their defenses low enough not to rattle Pakistan given the needs to match the larger China.

Pakistan has to learn not to be rattled by India. And work up a little rattle over their domestic jihadis, as long as I'm looking for that pony I asked for.

Still On Life Support

The protests in Iran can't seem to gain enough traction to spread across the country, but the protesters--bolstered by protests abroad--have been surprisingly (and admirabley) stubborn in refusing to give up:

Groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International backed a global day of action, with protests planned in more than 80 cities, including several in the United States.

The protesters want Iranian authorities to release what they say are hundreds, or even thousands, of people detained during protests that followed the presidential election last month that returned Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power.

Inside Iran, as well, Iranian police and pro-government militia attacked and scattered hundreds of protesters who had gathered in Tehran in response to the global demonstrations of solidarity, witnesses said.

Demonstrators in Vanak and Mirdamad districts chanted "death to the dictator" and "we want our vote back" before they were attacked and beaten by police Saturday. The witnesses spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.

The Iranian regime is not threatened by the current protests, but still faces danger as long as the protests continue. Since a large number of Iranians are unhappy with the the regime, there is always a chance that some incident will trigger enough people to rally to the current protesters. That event could shake the regime--especially if factions within the regime attempt to leverage a mass protest across Iran to their advantage.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Thawing Another Plastic Turkey

President Bush, according to our Left, was an evil president who lost no opportunity to expand federal government powers illegally and who was clearly a puppet of the even more evil Cheney.

So I'm sure wet dreams on the Left are sproutin' all over with this news:

The Bush administration in 2002 considered sending U.S. troops into a Buffalo, N.Y., suburb to arrest a group of terror suspects in what would have been a nearly unprecedented use of military power, The New York Times reported.

Vice President Dick Cheney and several other Bush advisers at the time strongly urged that the military be used to apprehend men who were suspected of plotting with al Qaida, who later became known as the Lackawanna Six, the Times reported on its Web site Friday night. It cited former administration officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The proposal advanced to at least one-high level administration meeting, before President George W. Bush decided against it.

So what does this story tell us?

It tells us that in 2002, still newly at war and unsure of what we faced, we considered a broad range of actions to protect our people (Can this be doubted?).

It tells us that President Bush decided that it would be better to use civilian forces to make the arrests (I agree. I'm not sure why we'd think our civilian agencies weren't up to the job.).

It tells us that the president was not, in fact, determined to gather power to himself just for the sake of gathering power (This was always fantasy-land thinking for the extreme Left in the reality-based community, who predicted martial law for the 2004 elections and never really explained how a dictator would allow his losses in the 2006 midterms and leave office in 2009).

And it tells us that Cheney was not the evil puppet master pulling the president's strings (why dignify that with comment?).

Shoot, the way things are going with the continuity of many Bush policies, had President Bush done this, President Obama would probably still be doing this.

Their Bodies Don't Count

We will no longer release enemy body counts in Afghanistan:

The US military in Afghanistan has stopped releasing figures showing how many militants have been killed in fighting with US-led forces, officials said Friday.

"Indicating the number of insurgents killed has little relevance to impacting the lives of Afghans," Rear Admiral Gregory Smith said in an email to AFP.

Good. I was unhappy with this policy. As well trained as our troops are, there is always a risk with counting bodies that any running Afghan will be considered a Taliban--and any standing Afghan is a well disciplined Taliban.

We won in Iraq without issuing body counts. Why would be think it would work in Afghanistan?

Well, Yeah

I find it strange that I read commentary fretting over President Obama's statements that our military will be out of Iraq by the end of 2011. What do people expect him to say? That is what our current agreement with Iraq states.

Yes, it makes no sense for us to be out by that date. The Iraqis need us. As I and others have noted, South Korea still needs us. Europe still needs us. So the idea that Iraq will need us after 2011 for training and certain support functions is not so shocking. But again, is our president supposed to vocally deny we'll abide by the agreement whose ink is barely dry?

The Iraqi leaders know we can't leave at the end of 2011 and we know we need to stay. There will be a new agreement before then to regulate some smaller amount of American forces to help them train, integrate American weapons into their arsenal, and deter foreign invasion. Maliki makes this clear in a trip that included paying respects to our fallen military personnel:

Iraqi PM Nouri Maliki has hinted that US forces could stay in Iraq beyond the current deadline of 2011.

In a speech at a Washington think tank, he reiterated that the troop presence is due to end on 31 December 2011, under a bilateral agreement.

"Nevertheless, if the Iraqi forces required further training and further support, we shall examine this then at that time," he said.

It simply isn't the time for our country's government to openly discuss this. But rest assured this will be examined in due time.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Constitution Not a Suicide Pact

Zelaya prepares to spark a crisis by entering Honduras:

Just across the border in Nicaragua, deposed President Manuel Zelaya led a swarm of reporters and security forces to the edge of the Honduran frontier.

But he stopped just short of crossing into Honduras — where officials vow to arrest him — despite vows to return to his homeland soon and restore himself to power.

It would be good to remember just who has violated the Honduran constitution:

Zelaya’s plan was nothing less than an attempt to overthrow the Honduran constitution. Reflecting Honduras’s turbulent political history, articles 4 and 374 of its constitution declare presidential term limits to be inviolable and define any attempt to modify them or to serve more than one term as president as “treason against the homeland.” When the Honduran armed forces refused to carry out what would have been a blatantly illegal order, Zelaya sacked their commander, an action the supreme court then overruled. Undeterred, Zelaya organized a group of supporters to seize the ballots from where they had been impounded in order to proceed with the referendum. Shortly afterwards, on June 28, soldiers acting on the order of the Honduran congress and supreme court forced Zelaya aboard a plane to Costa Rica. Despite Chávez’s threats to invade Honduras in order to restore his protégé to power, Zelaya’s removal continues to enjoy wide popular support. It is change Hondurans can believe in.

Oddly, Honduras’s constitution contains no mechanism for impeachment of a sitting president. Critics have seized on this point to argue that Honduras’s action therefore amounts to an illegal coup. Yet, while Honduras’s constitution does not explicitly provide the means for removing Zelaya, it provides every legal justification for doing so, as articles 4 and 374 indicate. Interestingly, the absence of a codified impeachment process arguably makes last month’s “coup” more legal than Lincoln’s actions to save Maryland for the Union. While Lincoln defied an explicit constitutional provision, Honduras’s congress and supreme court simply filled in the blanks.

Nevertheless, critics miss the larger point: Zelaya sought to overthrow his country’s budding constitutional democracy and add Honduras to Latin America’s lengthening list of Venezuelan-style dictatorships. He has so far failed only because the military refused to support him. With Zelaya now calling for insurrection against the new government, Hondurans need only look to the extinction of political freedom and mounting chaos in Venezuela to know what is at stake. To characterize Zelaya’s removal as “illegal” is like blaming firefighters for causing water damage to a burning house.

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.

If Zelaya enters Honduras and gives the government a chance to recover from that mistake, the government should arrest and try Zelaya.

And our government should support the interim government of Honduras rather than work against it based on our government's so-far idiotic interpretation of events.

UPDATE: The Hondurans will arrest Zelaya if he returns to Honduras:

If ousted President Manuel Zelaya succeeds in returning to Honduras, the government that deposed him vows it will be as a prisoner.

Zelaya still faces the same arrest order that prompted soldiers to detain him in a June 28 coup. That order, sought by the independent attorney general and endorsed by the Supreme Court, charged Zelaya with four constitutional crimes, including treason, that carry combined penalties of up to 43 years in prison.
The article also nicely condenses the problem of having a constitution that prohibited what Zelaya was trying to do but failed to have provisions for dealing with that presidential violation of the constitution.

Again, the Hondurans did a decent job of coping with this hole in their basic law by getting consensus among the legislative--including Zelaya's own party--and the judiciary branches that Zelaya had to go. Exiling Zelaya was a mistake--one done with good motives to avoid bloodshed, it seems--that the interim government will correct if Zelaya returns to Honduras.

Again, a decent article that addresses the facts of the situation yet inexplicably fails to draw the conclusion that this was no coup. Well, it seems clear it was an attempted coup by Zelaya, but it would be progress just to have the press reconsider what Micheletti and the rest of the governing bodies in Honduras did to save their democracy from Zelaya.

A Quality All Their Own

Our Navy has too few but very good hulls to deploy around the world. We really do just about have a fleet of nearly all capital ships, as the concept has historically been understood.

One really good ship may be better than two mediocre ships but that one good ship really can't be in two places at one time. We really do need a high-low mix of ships to maintain numbers. The Littoral Combat Ship is our attempt to provide numbers:

With the world’s largest and most powerful fleet of aircraft carriers, destroyers and cruisers, the U.S. Navy absolutely dominates the deep water. But not so much in shallow waters — the so-called “littoral zones.” Close to land, a ship might face overwhelming numbers of shore-based guns and missiles, swarms of small attack boats, plus the occasional hull-destroying coral reef. It’s far too dangerous for a $2-billion destroyer, to say nothing of a $10-billion carrier.

The Navy’s solution is to build lots of smaller, cheaper ships. The heart of this effort is the 3,000-ton-displacement “Littoral Combat Ship.” LCS adapts commercial yacht and ferry designs — then adds weapons, sensors, and robots. When the ship was conceived in 2004, each copy was supposed to cost just $220 million — and the Navy wanted to build the first 13 by 2009. But after years of design changes and botched contracts, only two LCSs have been finished, each at a cost of over $600 million.

At $600 million a copy, they are still too expensive to risk in the littorals where shore-based missiles and cannons can rip them to shreds, but we do need the LCS for blue water missions so we can send a ship to multiple locations.

And if we need more numbers, we do have an option.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Preparing to Attack?

Israel may have the effective cooperation of Saudi Arabia and Egypt in order to attack Iran's nuclear infrastructure, which all three countries have an interest in destroying:

There's continued talk of an Israeli air raid on Iranian nuclear weapons facilities, but no action. Israel does appear to have formed an informal alliance with several Arab states (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, etc.) against Iran. The Arabs cannot officially admit to an alliance with Israel, because of decades of state sponsored anti-Israel (and anti-Semitic) propaganda. Some of this propaganda is being shut down, quietly. Something is going on here.

Saudi Arabia obviously is helpful in getting Israeli planes through the southern route around Iraq.

Egypt is important for diplomacy and for use of the Suez Canal for moving military assets. Remember this from earlier this month?

Two Israeli Saar class warships passed through the Suez canal, to the Red Sea. An Israeli submarine, that had passed through the canal (the first Israeli warship ever to do so) last month to the Red Sea, recently returned via the canal.

Mind you, even with Egyptian cooperation Israel can't sneak a sub through the Suez Canal in order to get it to the Arabian Sea for a strike on Iran.

But could the ships and sub be a red herring to distract observers while a merchant ship rigged with cruise missiles passes through the canal or sails from Elat at the southern tip of Israel? Or a dry run for doing that?

I think Israel has the capability for a one-off strike that depends on knowing the critical targets before the planes take off (as opposed to our capability for an aerial campaign lasting weeks if necessary that can really do the job by striking targets discovered after H-Hour).

Is Germany Stepping Up?

I've complained that the German army in Afghanistan is nothing but a group of war tourists--doing nothing but watch others fight.

Three hundred German troops backed by Marder infantry fighting vehicles are supporting 4 times that number of Afghan troops. Welcome to the fight, Germany:

The Bundeswehr is supporting the Afghans with around 300 members of the Quick Reaction Force (QRF). Their primary role is to help secure the area around the fighting and provide reconnaissance. A German armoured Dingo military vehicle has been shot at and the Taliban has fired rockets at the German base in Kunduz. On Sunday they fired five rockets and on Monday another two. One of them hit the edge of the base but it didn't cause any damage.

The operation, which is being fought mainly by Afghan soldiers trained by the Bundeswehr, marks a further step away from Germany's original stabilization mission and towards a more offensive military operation. Slowly and without any official announcement, German soldiers are being drawn into the fight against the Taliban, who have massively increased their attacks on the Germans in recent months.

I worry that if the German public becomes fully aware of this change of mission that the plug will be pulled on the change in mission.

But for now I'll just wish the Germans well and give my thanks for stepping up to the plate.

Out Sourcing the Air Force?

This report indicates that rearming Taiwan is proceeding except for submarines and F-16s:

Most of the budget and political issues were eventually sorted out, and after a long delay, some major elements of Taiwan’s requested modernization program appear to be moving forward: P-3 maritime patrol aircraft, Patriot missile upgrades; and requests for AH-64D attack helicopters, E-2 AWACS planes, and missiles for defense against aircraft, ships, and tanks. These are must-have capabilities when facing a Chinese government that has vowed to take the country by force, and is building an extensive submarine fleet, a large array of ballistic missiles, an upgraded fighter fleet, and a number of amphibious-capable divisions.

Chinese pressure continues to stall some of Taiwan’s important upgrades, including diesel-electric submarines and American fighter jets. One contract that has gone through involves E-2C+ Hawkeye 2000 AWACS planes.

This is kind of interesting. It is good that arms are finally flowing after a decade of confusion. I don't know whether we and the Taiwanese are serious about defending Taiwan or whether the Taiwanese think China is tamed now.

The subs seem to be foundering on getting someone to sell the boats to Taiwan and not based on debates over need. As I've written, we need Taiwan to have subs that can put to sea in wartime if for no other reason than to provide us with deniability when Chinese ships start getting hit with Harpoon missiles. We can always deny--for a while--that our subs our doing the shooting.

The F-16 part is the most interesting part. We are holding up the sales. Since Taiwan really needs more modern fighters capable of taking on the growing Chinese fighter fleet capable of fighting over Taiwan, why are we holding up this capability? We are ready to sell a lot of other crucial items so why not fighters? And why sell airborne warning and control planes if the Taiwanese won't get the fighters to control?

Could it be that we are trying to get Chinese cooperation by delaying a Taiwanese capability that we plan to provide with carrier-based aircraft and aircraft flying from Okinawa and Guam? That is, if the Taiwanese have the AWACS-type planes to sort out the air space, our planes can fly in to provide air defense while the Taiwanese fight over the Taiwan Strait and just off shore, shooting at ships and attacking any invaders who make it to land.

In time, if this is the right way to look at the situation, when the shock of other arms sales wear off, we can sell the F-16s to Taiwan without triggering Chinese reactions.

Of course, this relies on our government quickly deciding to be Taiwan's air force in time of war.

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Zelaya plans to return to Honduras on Friday and dare the Honduran government to harm his family:

"I will go back unarmed, pacifically so that Honduras can return to peace and tranquility," Zelaya said at a news conference late Wednesday in the Nicaraguan capital, Managua. "My wife and kids will accompany me and the military will be responsible for any harm" that befalls them.

Lorena Calix, a spokeswoman for Honduras' national police, said Thursday that officers were ready to detain Zelaya.

"When he comes to Honduras, we have to execute the arrest warrant for Zelaya," she said.

Honduras' Supreme Court ordered Zelaya's arrest before the June 28 coup, ruling his effort to hold a referendum on whether to form a constitutional assembly was illegal. The military decided to send Zelaya into exile instead — a move that military lawyers themselves have called illegal but necessary.

Many Hondurans viewed the proposed referendum as an attempt by Zelaya to push for a socialist-leaning government similar to the one his ally Hugo Chavez has established in Venezuela.

While the press still assume that Zelaya was removed in a coup, reports still provide the facts necessary to understand that the events did not constitute an anti-Zelaya coup but a planned coup by Zelaya against Honduras' constitution.

How reporters can't draw the obvious conclusion from their own reporting in favor of going along with the herd conclusion is beyond me. But there it is.

In the end, Honduras is suffering because they did not carry out a coup and just shoot Zelaya. The interim government thought they were doing a kindness for Zelaya by exiling him contrary to their law instead of arresting and trying him.

If Zelaya returns, the Hondurans need to gently arrest him and try him. The prosecution should really be a lesson to the world community about how Honduras is following rule of law and not violating it. There is still opportunity in this crisis for a happy ending.

Rules of Engagement

Georgia rightly wants anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons to defend themselves (as I've written about since the August 2008 war):

Georgia's president asked U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday for advanced U.S. weaponry, military aid and unarmed observers to monitor a cease-fire along the boundaries of two Moscow-backed breakaway regions, a senior U.S. official said.

Biden made no promises of any U.S. military assistance, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Georgia specifically asked for anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, he said.

Russia strongly opposes any rearmament of Georgia and reiterated Thursday in Moscow that it would reduce or halt military cooperation with any country supplying Russian arms to Georgia, an apparent threat to Ukraine.

Biden emphasized to President Mikhail Saakashvili that military force should not be used to retake control of the two breakaway regions at the center of last year's war with Russia, and warned against taking any actions that could provoke a Russian military response, the official said.

But as I've also commented on, we rightly want Georgia to abandon concrete plans to recapture Abkhazia and South Ossetia from Russia.

This doesn't mean Russia's conquest has to be legally recognized. We never recognized the Soviet Union's annexation of the Baltic states and now they are NATO members. But we won't let Georgia into NATO just to have them drag us into a war with Russia by attacking Russia to liberate their lost lands.

I'm fairly shocked that we haven't supplied Georgia with defensive weapons already, but perhaps we still need to get iron clad Georgian guarantees that they will not use those weapons to try to reverse their August 2008 losses (but remember that those regions were de facto lost long before Russia formalized the loss in August 2008).

If the Georgians are stuck on regaining all their lands with the protection of America, they need to understand the limits of our friendship--and do it fast. Russia likely knows that they have a potential window to attack (one we wish to minimize with our words and deeds) without triggering a bigger war that closes once Georgia is in NATO.

They're Just Not That Into Her

The North Koreans have rather rudely rebuffed the Secretary of State's outreach on disarming North Korea of nuclear weapons:

North Korea has rejected US suggestions that a wide-ranging package of incentives could entice it to dismantle its nuclear arms, with officials launching an extraordinary verbal attack on Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, calling her “stupid” and “a funny lady”.

It's almost as if North Korea has no interest in disarming:

In recent days, the US has said it will pursue a ”two-track” approach to North Korea, explaining it will keenly pursue sanctions but will also liaise with its allies to secure enticement to be offered to the North if it agrees to scrap its nuclear work.

“The comprehensive package is nonsense,” said Ri Hung-sik, one of the relatively junior North Korean diplomats who are representing their country at the Asean Regional Forum conference in the Thai resort town of Phuket.

“The US is telling us to take off all of our clothes,” he said. “The most important thing for us is sovereignty. Sovereignty, security, namely life, should be guaranteed. How can we barter life with money?”

I think it is safe to say that the Pillsbury Nuke Boy and his evil minions have learned to love the bomb.

Talk and squeeze them until they die, I say.

An Evil Spawn Killed?

I think we can all be glad that Saddam's evil spawn died violent deaths. I'm certainly not pleased the Kim Jong-Il is apparently poised to pass down his sick sceptor to The Un.

But at least Osama bin Laden may have lived long enough to see this:

U.S intelligence officials believe that Saad bin Laden, Osama’s son, may have been killed in an American air strike earlier this year. If true, and we still await final confirmation either way, then this is a major kill.

Not as good as getting Osama himself, but it is certainly good enough for government work.

Saving You Money By Cutting Out the Middle Man

Back in basic training, we'd run while chanting. One chant went something like this:

Russia, Russia, you better beware.
The US Army is coming there.
We're going to take your tanks and melt them down.
Then sell them back to you for a dollar a pound.

That was 21 years ago.

This is today:

Russia is cutting its tank force again, from 22,000 to about 6,000. Sixty percent of these 6,000 will be in storage. The remaining 16,000 tanks will be scrapped. Twenty years ago, the situation was quite different. At the end of the Cold War in 1991, Russia had about 53,000 tanks in service (about 40 percent of them relics from the 1950s, or earlier). Over the last two decades, some 30,000 tanks were scrapped.

Who'd have guessed back then that we could skip the step of sending the US Army in?

Iraq Body Count Climbs

Yet another tragic killing in Iraq was unearthed:

Newly analyzed remains suggest that a modern human killed a Neanderthal man in what is now Iraq between 50,000 and 75,000 years ago.
Amnesty International immediately condemned America for the senseless death. declared that a Congressional investigation into the Bush administration over this crime should begin immediately.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Dawn of the Red

I long semi-joked about the Axis of El Vil (the Vile One) as a Venezuelan-Cuban alliance that was not quite threatening enough to be an Axis of Evil but mighty annoying nonetheless, and searching for a third to make it a proper Axis. Haiti seemed like a candidate for a while there.

But now there is a formal manifestation of this entity, and it has grown. ALBA, the Bolivarian Alliance for the People of Our America, is Hugo's proto-empire to poke sticks at America.

Right now, ALBA is balanced between being a joke and a threat to us and other democrats in the region.

We shall see if Honduras escapes the clutches of Chavez or whether ALBA continues to grow and morph into a real threat.

I hope the Dutch are paying attention. Although we should count ourselves lucky that Chavez is wrecking the effectiveness of his military with his bizarre theories of military operations.

What Do We Know?

I already suspect Russia is thinking about another round with Georgia.

So our strong verbal support for Georgia is encouraging:

At a banquet in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi on Wednesday evening, Biden said he wanted to send "an unequivocal, clear message to all who will listen and some who don't want to listen, that America stands with you and will continue to stand."

Russian troops crushed Georgia's military in a brief war in Georgia last August, about five years after the country's 2003 Rose Revolution brought President Mikhail Saakashvili to power and ousted a Soviet-era leader.

The vice president was also firm in support of Ukraine.

I'm somewhat suprised but pleased that we are treating friends like friends.

On the other hand, our current government isn't exactly building a reputation for standing up against potential and actual foes.

So what is causing our government to issue such a strong warning?

What is the CIA telling the administration about Russian intentions or capabilities that is leading us to warn Russia so bluntly?

Good Fences

As I recently cautioned against doing, this writer argues against letting down our (Taiwan and America, that is) guard against the Chinese military threat against Taiwan:

China and Taiwan are getting along much better these days. Considering the stake the United States has in their relationship, that's good news.

But this is no time to let down our guard, as Chinese officials have been urging. Wang Yi, who heads China's Taiwan Affairs Office, visited Washington last month to press the case against U.S. arms sales to Taiwan. At the same time, U.S. Undersecretary of Defense Michele Flournoy was in Beijing for military talks, hearing the same pitch. The United States should not waver in the face of Chinese pressure to reduce the quality and quantity of American support for Taiwan. To do so would both jeopardize Taiwan's security and risk returning to a fractious, tense and dangerous cross-Strait relationship.

As he says, Taiwanese military weakness invites Chinese aggression. Remember, better relations so far have not involved Chinese renunciation of the use of force to absorb Taiwan, let alone the renunciation of the determination to rule Taiwan.

Process, Process, Process

It is somewhat fashionable for opponents of the Iraq War to claim the surge didn't work because it didn't impose reconciliation on the different factions.

This view infects our government and military, it seems:

U.S. concerns over the slow pace of political, religious and ethnic reconciliation in Iraq are expected to dominate President Barack Obama's talks at the White House with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

With insurgent bombings and attacks still a major danger as Iraqi forces assume a larger police role there, Pentagon officials have voiced pessimism about any decrease in violence unless al-Maliki and his Shiite Muslim political allies become more flexible about sharing power with minority Sunnis and easing government control over Sunni regions and those dominated by ethnic Kurds.

While I have worries over and Arab-Kurd struggle over Kirkuk, I think this is overblown.

Look, would you say that the Union 1864 offensive that finally crushed the Confederacy failed because it only defeated the South and did not cause immediate reconciliation? One could argue that reconciliation didn't really happen for another century or longer, with the Civil Rights Act. Or you could point to the unity in the Spanish-American War 33 years after the end of the fighting.

Heck, how long do we have to wait for reconciliation in our country after the 2006 and 2008 elections with fanatics on the Left still looking for show trials of the dreaded Neocons? How much effort is being made on getting minority input on national legislation? And we're lecturing the Iraqis?

Winning in Iraq does not require the Sunni Arabs, the Shia Arabs, and the Kurds (or any of the sub factions) to love each other--just not choose violence to settle their differences.

And the surge set the stage for this by clearly defeating the Sunni Arabs and the Iran-backed Sadrists. That's what we needed to do--defeat our enemies and make them understand that they were defeated and so must work within the new system. And we did that.

So now the Sunni Arabs must work within the system. Our job is not to promote reconciliation--which often seems to consist of arguments for giving Sunni Arabs through politics what they could not gain with IEDs--but to promote rule of law so that the Sunni Arabs (and Kurds, who while on the winning side still feel separate to a great degree) feel comfortable working within the new rules even when they lose.

Worry about what can go wrong, by all means. But let's not make things worse by trying to reverse the battlefield defeat of the Sunni Arabs. Bring them into a system they can trust rather than change the system to give them what their voting strength denies them. That latter path guarantees more sectarian strife and not less.

Two Sides of the COIN

The Pakistanis are really stepping up and doing damage to the Taliban inside Pakistan. I'm relieved and not a little bit surprised that they are doing this. I know that we paid a big bribe (well, foreign aid) and I know the Pakistanis have finally seen that the Taliban are out to get them, but given the history of Pakistan's failure to fight, I'm still surprised.

We of course, are surging troops in Afghanistan and going on the offensive. I've worried about this since we need the Pakistanis to control their side of the border to make our offensive achieve lasting results--and let us actually turn over security responsibilities to Afghans.

So this email tidbit from Jane's is interesting:

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrived in Pakistan on 16 July for talks with senior military commanders, including General Ashfaq Kiyani, Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff, to discuss the possibility of launching a campaign against Taliban militants on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The visit came as Pakistani officials have increasingly begun expressing their disillusionment with the US strategy in Afghanistan. In recent background briefings, officials have called for the US to step up its military campaign on the Afghan side of the border, after Pakistani troops successfully fought back Taliban militants in Swat

Just as we would worry about Pakistan being a sanctuary for any jihadis we drive off, the Pakistanis worry that any jihadis they drive off will seek sanctuary in Afghanistan.

So we carry out classic counter-insurgency on our side of the border to win hearts and minds to side with us to keep the jihadis out; and the Pakistanis carry out--well, not COIN--but more of a large punitive raid on their side to convince the tribal entities to keep out the jihadis (now weakened because of our joint actions).

This could work. As long as we don't try to create a unified and modern Afghan nation-state.

A confederation of friendly regional governments proudly striding through the 19th century under the light rule of a nominal central government able to arbitrate disputes and put the best troops in the field will do just fine.

UPDATE: Add in the pressure India put on Pakistan to take on the jihadis in their midst for the dual campaign and give some credit to our Predator strikes in supporting the Pakistani offensive.

And then complicate it with Pakistani worries that our offensive in Helmand will drive jihadis into Pakistan's Baluchistan, stirring that pot some more. I guess we have a third side of the COIN.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Growing Pains

Under agreements with the Iraqis, we have our combat units out of Baghdad and the Iraqis are assuming more responsibilities. We've been mentoring the Iraqi security forces through the "crawl, walk, run" sequence. We're pretty sure the Iraqis can walk. The Iraqis, in their happiness to have full sovereignty in sight, want to run.

American troops are no longer free to react as we'd wish when we detect threats:

A month ago, when U.S. troops could operate openly in the city without permission from the Iraqis, Navarro could have sent soldiers on foot to stealthily take up positions in the neighborhood.

But neither option was on the table last week. Ever since the pullback of U.S. troops from Iraqi cities, the Iraqi government has sharply limited their mobility and operations in urban areas. It has barred Iraqi ground commanders from conducting joint patrols with Americans and has warned that those who give U.S. commanders too much leeway will be punished. U.S. officials contend that the security agreement gives them vast latitude on matters of self-defense, but Iraqis have interpreted those provisions strictly.

The Iraqis still need our help in many ways to fight their battles, but it is understandable that the Iraqis want to fight on their own as much as possible.

We'll work out our disagreements over time. Have patience as we both figure this out.

Casting Another Chinese Loose Cannon?

The Chinese do love their little psycho-nuclear client states.

Perhaps worried that North Korea can't last much longer, is Peking trying for Plan B?

The recent aborted voyage of a North Korean ship, photographs of massive tunnels and a secret meeting have raised concern that one of the world's poorest nations may be aspiring to join the nuclear club — with help from its friends in Pyongyang.

No one expects military-run Myanmar, also known as Burma, to obtain an atomic bomb anytime soon, but experts are closely watching the Southeast Asian nation.

"There's suspicion that something is going on, and increasingly that cooperation with North Korea may have a nuclear undercurrent. We are very much looking into it," says David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, a Washington, D.C. think tank.

Let me step out on a limb here and predict China will be of no help at all in trying to slow down Burma if this thug state's rulers want to go nuclear.

Teaching Them to Elect Bad Men

The Hondurans are rightly seeking to convince Washington, D.C. that Honduras defended their democracy and did not carry out any type of coup when they removed the proto-thug Zelaya:

Micheletti has vowed not to back down, and he sent a team to Washington this week to lobby against economic sanctions by painting the coup backers as a bulwark against "dictatorship" and "communism."

Appealing to free trade supporters, Micheletti's team hopes to nudge the Obama administration away from its threat to impose sanctions on the impoverished country, where export-assembly factories are dominated by U.S. firms and investors.

I don't understand how our government can think Zelaya--with his backers Hugo Chavez and Daniel Ortega--are the good guys. But Honduras needs to put a lot of effort into educating the so-called Nuanced Americans who blindly and stubbornly insist that Micheletti is a coup leader.

If we don't support the interim government and their scheduled elections under their rule of law, we'll encourage coups under color of law as Chavez has carried out and as Ortega wishes to do:

Nicaraguan opposition lawmakers on Monday condemned a public appeal for constitutional changes by President Daniel Ortega as an attempt to extend term limits and eventually allow the leftist leader's re-election.

At a massive celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Sandinista revolution on Sunday, the president and former guerrilla fighter proposed to allow recall elections and criticized presidential term limits for being stricter than other public offices.

"If we are going to be just and fair, let the right to re-election be for all and people with their vote can award or punish," Ortega told a crowd. "This is the principle that we have to defend."

Nicaraguan law bars presidents from consecutive terms in office or more than two terms in all. Ortega ended a first stint as president in 1990 and was elected again in 2006 to a five-year term.
We'll get what we encourage. What will it be? Democracy or anti-American thug rulers?

You'd think this would be an easy choice for us to make. But we haven't made that correct choice yet, so what do I know?

The Wonder Tank Really Won't Be Built

The Army will be scrambling to salvage something that can be turned into new tanks and infantry fighting vehicles from the cancelled Future Combat Systems (FCS):

The Department of the Army announced today that it will partially terminate the Manned Ground Vehicle (MGV) development effort under the Future Combat Systems (FCS) Brigade Combat Team (BCT) System Development and Demonstration (SDD) contract with the Boeing Company. The partial termination is for the convenience of the government.

Strategypage writes about the survival of the Abrams as the FCS project falters:

The U.S. Army is having a really hard time figuring out what it's next tank will be like, and that's turned into a major problem. Recently, the Department of Defense forced the army to cancel its $150 billion FCS (Future Combat System) because it was too expensive, too vague and not very convincing. FCS included a replacement for all current armored vehicles. Now the army is pleading for a chunk of the lost FCS billions so that it can get to work on replacements for M-1 tank and the M-2 (IFV) Infantry Fighting Vehicle. The big problem is that the army really doesn't have a design for either of these replacement vehicles. The even bigger problem is that armored vehicle design has hit something of a plateau. There's really no exciting new, game-changing, concepts to justify a new tank or IFV.

As I wrote back in 2002 in Military Review, I hope that the new Stryker brigades would demonstate both the usefulness and limits of light armor for our future Army (then called the Objective Force). I did not think that the wonder tank, merging lightness and lethality with survivability, could be built:

A light, cannon-armed FCS with an antitank guided missile attached and plugged into a tactical network will handle many moderate conventional threats and will be useful in stability operations. Experience with IBCTs may well give the Army a better sense of what light armor can do and lead it to accept that it cannot succeed in all threat environments. The IBCT has a limited role as an early entry force and clearly recognizes that it is not the main fighting force. It will eventually be supplanted by heavier divisions if the enemy is heavy and will fight as a maneuver unit of a division. The Objective Force is to blur that distinction so that the light forces are the main fighting force. The FCS is critical to making this happen.

Building the FCS, however, is a high-risk venture. The Army should not spend whatever it takes attempting to meld multiple revolutionary technologies into one vehicle for all missions. The FCS should be different from the Abrams and Bradley but must be designed with near-term technology that incorporates modular improvements if the Army is to turn “gee whiz” ideas into actual hardware. Separated missiles and a sensor grid; active defenses; EGTs; and exotic engines, fuels, and weapons can be retrofitted to defeat more capable enemies. Barring successfully fielding exotic technologies to make the FCS work, the Army must consider how it will defeat future heavy systems if fighting actual enemies and not merely suppressing disorder becomes its mission once again. The tentative assumptions of 2001 will change by 2025. When they do, the Army will rue its failure today to accept that the wonder tank will not be built.

We did not succeed in developoing multiple advanced and exotic technologies to build the FCS and the plug has been pulled on the project.

The Abrams and its legacy companion, the Bradely Fighting Vehicle, are still the best armored fighting vehicles on the planet, dinosaurs though they may be. The furry little FCS mammals are just more crunchies left behind in the track trails of these still dominant systems.

The Army may even be ruing its failure to accept that the wonder tank can't be built--well, other than the Abrams.

He's Our Soldier

The Taliban are holding an American soldier prisoner.

The circumstances are unclear, but initial reports indicate he walked away from his unit. Possibly after drinking with Afghan soldiers. He may have ultimately been sold to the Taliban by whoever initially grabbed him.

He may have a had a very serious bout of stupid. And now he's paying the price.

The video of the soldier isn't his finest hour. He could arguably be punished for what he said if it is determined that it provided aid and comfort to the enemy. I certainly won't judge that from where I sit right now.

But on Sunday night, Ralph Peters, a writer I respect, said words to the effect that the Taliban should hang on to him and save us the trouble of having to punish him. Peters is wrong.

Look, we could all hope that his captivity would consist of him manfully refusing to cooperate and proclaiming his loyalty to God, country, and the Army. If this was a movie, we could hope he'd engage in a debate over the war and earn a grudging respect from his captors, perhaps even releasing him. Some might even question their own motives for waging jihad.

But this isn't a movie. Our soldier is held by murderers who would consider themselves blessed by Allah to have the opportunity to slaughter an American soldier.

Be clear, I am not condoning our excusing his words on camera. He should not have said those things. I have no idea if I ever would have done better, but I still know what is right regardless of whether I could live up to those standards.

But he is an American soldier--good or bad. And if he violated his oath and violated the UCMJ, he should be judged and punished by his peers in the Army. We need to get him back.

Those were ill considered words by Peters and quite wrong to say. We do not subcontract the Uniform Code of Military Justice to a bunch of scimitar-wielding nut cases.

Monday, July 20, 2009


Amidst my general agonizing over the changes in our foreign policies, I do appreciate that on Iraq, Afghanistan, and India, we continue to make progress by extending past policies.

And while I worry about our administration failing to stand with new allies who fear Russian aggression, I am pleased to see Vice President Biden conveying President Obama's words of support in Ukraine:

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Kiev on Monday to pledge continued support for Ukraine and was expected to calm fears that Washington's efforts to improve relations with Russia may come at the expense of ex-Soviet nations.

Biden is expected to reaffirm Washington's backing for Ukraine's NATO membership despite opposition from the Kremlin.

And from there, Biden goes to Georgia, where domestic reforms are being announced:

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili is to announce a series of democratic reforms two days before a visit by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, an adviser to Saakashvili told the Associated Press on Monday.

The reforms are being announced following months of anti-government protests by Georgia's opposition, who accuse Saakashvili of authoritarian rule and demand his resignation.

The fact that Biden goes to Georgia is good, too. And the fact that the Georgians are making efforts to apparently strengthen rule of law is good. I've long written that we have no particular reason to support Saakashvili personally, but must support him as the lawful leader against Russian aggression.

Yet as the Obama administration earns a reputation for slighting friends and reaching out to enemies, will any words by our vice president have a lasting effect on either our friends or the Russians?

But for now, I'll hold on to the hope that we will not abandon Ukraine and Georgia to Moscow's self-proclaimed sphere of interest in their so-called Near Abroad.

Mission Accomplished

Just two days ago I brought up the ancient history of a National Intelligence Estimate that was bizarrely spun by our media as clearing Iran of the charge of having secret nuclear weapons programs:

The NIE summary on Iran's nuclear ambitions completely floored me. Not because the report was that bad, mind you, but because it was actually read as clearing Iran of the charge that they are pursuing nuclear weapons. I actually read the summary. It didn't say what the press reported it as saying.

Now we find that the Germans believe--and did back then--that the Iranians have secret nuclear weapons programs:

President Obama has committed to trying diplomacy to stop the Iranian bomb. Time, though, is on the mullahs' side, not least because so much of it was wasted after the 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate made the improbable case that Iran had suspended its nuclear weapons program in 2003. This assessment not only contradicted previous U.S. intelligence consensus but -- as recent court documents show -- also the conclusions of a key U.S. ally with excellent sources in Iran -- Germany.

The Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany's foreign intelligence agency, has amassed evidence of a sophisticated Iranian nuclear weapons program that continued beyond 2003. This usually classified information comes courtesy of Germany's highest state-security court. In a 30-page legal opinion on March 26 and a May 27 press release in a case about possible illegal trading with Iran, a special national security panel of the Federal Supreme Court in Karlsruhe cites from a May 2008 BND report, saying the agency "showed comprehensively" that "development work on nuclear weapons can be observed in Iran even after 2003."
Well what do you know? To be fair, our NIE never said the Iranians weren't progressing toward nuclear weapons. The language was far too nuanced for that. The sum total for me was the conclusion that Iran was making progress in critical areas and other areas were unknown. Yet our press was nearly unanimous in reporting that the NIE cleared Iran.

And now here we are two years later with Iran two years closer to the bomb and Ahmadinejad retained in power.

And we still operate under the assumption that we have all the time in the world to talk Iran's mullahs out of nukes.

Lovely decade this one is, eh?

Axis of Democracy

Building on the progress we've made in forging closer relations the last several years, the Obama administration is solidifying a growing alliance with India by laying the ground work for India to purchase American weapons:

The United States and India are expected to sign an agreement on Monday that would take a major step toward allowing the sale of sophisticated U.S. arms to the South Asian nation, three senior U.S. officials said.

Known as an "end-use monitoring" agreement and required by U.S. law for such weapons sales, the pact would let Washington check that India was using any arms for the purposes intended and was preventing the technology from leaking to others.

The deal would be a tangible accomplishment of Hillary Clinton's first trip to India as U.S. secretary of state and it could prove a boon to U.S. companies such as Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co.

I'll count this as an accomplishment for the Obama administration--while not forgetting to note the work the Bush administration carried out that allowed for this day.

Dr. Strangeleader

The United States and South Korea are talking about scrapping the incremental approach to dealing with North Korean disamament in favor of seeking one big comprehensive deal:

"We can't repeat the past negotiating pattern" of rewarding North Korea for partial denuclearization steps, ministry spokesman Moon said. "We plan to continue consultations with related countries about a comprehensive solution."

North Korea agreed in February 2007 to disable its nuclear reactor as a step toward its ultimate dismantlement in exchange for energy aid and political concessions.

I personally only want to drag on talks until the Pyongyang regime collapses. I personally never held out any hope that we could buy North Korea's disarmamant.

And even as North Korea has deteriorated, the North Koreans have pressed forward in developing nuclear weapons:

However, a year ago, Pyongyang halted the process and later abandoned the pact over a dispute on how to verify its nuclear activities — after it had received most of the promised energy aid and concessions, such as removal from the U.S. blacklist of states sponsoring terrorism.

The standoff led to Pyongyang conducting its second nuclear test in May and banned missile tests early this month.

Call me nuts, but I think that the kooks in Pyongyang want atomic weapons. Even if there was any hope of convincing North Korea to halt their nuclear weapons programs before setting off a nuclear device (and I think that there was nearly no hope for that), now that North Korea has experienced the joy of detonating a nuke they like the feeling. Oh, they might sign an agreement with us, but they'll never actually give up their nukes.

There are two ways North Korea will denuclearize: regime collapse in the north or a US-South Korean aerial offensive. Comprehensive talks won't cut it.

Face up to the fact that the North Koreans have learned to love the bomb.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

But It's the 'Good War'!

Secretary Gates says--as I noted--that we have to be visibly winning in Afghanistan within a year to maintain support for the war:

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said U.S.-led forces must gain ground against insurgents in Afghanistan by next summer to avoid a public perception the war is unwinnable, the Los Angeles Times reported on Sunday.

While noting that the Taliban militants would not be defeated within a year, Gates told the newspaper it was critical that the U.S. military and its allies show they were making progress in the Asian nation.

"After the Iraq (war) experience, nobody is prepared to have a long slog where it is not apparent we are making headway," Gates said in an interview. "The troops are tired. The American people are pretty tired," he said.

The people and Congress tired of Iraq, too, but President Bush stood fast with our troops who rose to the occasion to visibly win the war--without even the need to suspend disbelief.

With Congress and the public poised to run away from Afghanistan, will President Obama stand fast with his troops when the going gets tough?

To ask the question is to answer it, I'm afraid.

The New Yellow Press

The "good war" is getting special treatment in the British press:

But one notices that Wootton Bassett is being used by the media to operate a sort of jingoism in reverse. Soldiers are lauded to the skies, not to reinforce our campaign in Afghanistan, but to undermine it. We are not told what the soldiers are doing and why. Instead, their losses are used against their mission. Brave men get killed and therefore the war is bad, the argument runs. By that logic, Britain could never win any war.

On the Radio 4 Today programme on Thursday, there was a particularly disgraceful presentation about the friends of the young Yorkshire soldier from Castleford, killed last week. His chums naturally said how sad they were. The reporter, "leading" the witnesses, invited them to say that the death made the war pointless and to speculate that it would stop recruitment.

The British could never have won the battle of Britain with a press as they have today.

Never have so many been screwed so much by so few.

Let's Play 'Who's the Democrat?'

The current interim Honduras government is defending democracy and rule of law in Honduras even though the sainted international community has decided that the proto-thug Zelaya is the real democrat.

The crisis goes on with the Honduran government sticking to their guns in refusing to restore Zelaya to power:

As talks began Saturday, Arias issued a statement proposing a plan that would let Zelaya serve out the final months of his term, move up elections by one month to late October, grant amnesty for all political crimes committed before and after the June 28 coup, and include representatives of the main political parties in a reconciliation government.

He said Zelaya would have to cede control of the military to an electoral court a month before the elections to ensure impartiality and also renounce his plan to hold a referendum on retooling the constitution, which was the spark that launched the coup after the Supreme Court, military and Congress all objected to the vote. An international commission would monitor compliance with the accord.

When asked about the idea of having Zelaya return to Honduras as president with a reconciliation government, Assistant Foreign Minister Martha Lorena Alvarado gave a one-word response: "Impossible."

I think the Hondurans are wise to refuse to let Zelaya back into the government in any capacity. The man can't be trusted.

And if you doubt this basic truth that Zelaya can't be trusted with power, check out this enthusiastic Zelaya supporter:

Source: AP from the linked article.

Good grief, people, Che Guevara wore a t-shirt with a picture of this guy on it.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Reaching Out

As our administration prepares to reach out to Iran (if only those pesky demonstrators would just like down and die quietly!), the Iranians continue to wage war against us and our allies.

In Iraq, the Iraqis nabbed a suspect from an Iranian-backed militia:

Maj. Gen. Adil Daham, chief of the Basra provincial police, said the militiaman confessed early Saturday to the attack on a U.S. base near the airport. The soldiers were killed Thursday night in a rocket attack, the U.S. military said, in a rare assault on troops in the comparatively quite south.

These are the three soldiers the Iranians killed this time.

And in Lebanon, the Iranians and their lap dogs the Syrians prepare for another assault on Israel's cities:

A senior Israeli officer told reporters the warehouse that blew up on Tuesday in southern Lebanon contained active, short-range rockets that were smuggled from Syria. The Israeli military, he said, had aerial pictures of the site after the explosion.

"The walls of the building were crushed and there are also many holes in the roof of the building," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity under military regulations. "We believe that this is one of dozens of ammunition storage (depots) in southern Lebanon that were built by Hezbollah." This particular depot is part of "the buildup of the Hezbollah force" in Lebanon, he added.

And then there's this small matter:

Iran is blocking U.N. nuclear agency attempts to upgrade monitoring of its atomic program while advancing those activities to the stage that the country would have the means to test a weapon within six months, diplomats told The Associated Press Friday.

The diplomats emphasized that there were no indications of plans for such a nuclear test, saying it was highly unlikely Iran would risk heightened confrontation with the West — and chances of Israeli attack — by embarking on such a course.

Huh, I thought the generic answer to Iran's progress has been 5-10 years (hasn't that estimate been out there for at least 6 years now?). I mean, when our press isn't blindly insisting that our National Intelligence Estimates say Iran has halted their nuclear weapons programs.

Just when does that Cairo speech's effects kick in over in Tehran?

Or maybe we could accept the bloody obvious that Iran's mullahs are our enemies and they want nuclear weapons to be a more effective enemy.

I Hope It Isn't the Famous Global Test

Will Zelaya resort to violence?

An ultimatum from ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya left little room for compromise in U.S.-backed talks Saturday aimed at resolving a crisis that has become the latest test for democracy in Latin America.

A test for democracy, indeed. The international community is worthless, so I don't expect much from them. But I expect better even from the Obama administration. It is a test that so far the United States is failing by failing to support the interim government in Honduras. We can't even see that it is Zelaya who is the threat to democracy:

What didn't the OAS, the U.N. and other leaders know that before ordering Hondurans around? As Honduran lawyer Octavio Sanchez pointed out in the Christian Science Monitor, when Zelaya issued a decree ordering a referendum on changing presidential terms, he "triggered a constitutional provision that automatically removed him from office." (Google the Honduran Constitution and read it for yourself -- Article 239.) Zelaya had ousted himself, so impeachment was unnecessary.

So it was quite legal for the military to remove Zelaya, though the nighttime act gave an impression of a military coup to outsiders.

It is Zelaya, Insulza, Chavez, the U.N. and all the OAS member-states who are playing at banana republic politics, not the government in Tegucigalpa.

I'm disgusted that we siding with the Axis of El Vil in this crisis. They wrote the global test, this time. And our president is determined to pass it.

UPDATE: Instapundit links to this not-so-shocking report:

A Spanish Catalan newspaper is reporting that Honduran authorities have seized computers found in the Presidential Palace belonging to deposed president Mel Zelaya. Taking a page right out of the leftist dictator's handbook, these computers, according to the news report, contained the official and certified results of the illegal constitutional referendum Zelaya wanted to conduct that never took place. The results of this fraudulent vote was tilted heavily in Zelaya's favor, ensuring he could go ahead and illegally change the constitution so he could remain in power for as long as he wanted to.

The only shock is that it didn't already contain Jimmy Carter's written blessing of the fairness of the vote.

Yeah, this is looking a lot like that global test.


I mentioned that despite our claim that our nuclear umbrella over Japan is "unshakable" that the Japanese had best consider whether this is true--especially if North Korea gets the ability to strike US soil with nukes:

[As] long as North Korea can't nuke US soil, our nuclear deterrent is solid.

But if I was Japan, the moment North Korea gets nuclear missiles is the moment that such pledges aren't comforting enough. I'd have serious doubts that Washington would sacrifice Seattle to avenge the loss of Tokyo if Pyongyang still had nuclear missiles in reserve to threaten America.

Despite our sincere declaration, the Japanese would like something a little more than our pledge:

The United States on Saturday agreed with Japan to set up an official talks on ways to boost the nuclear deterrence it provides to protect Tokyo as tensions continue with North Korea, a senior official said.

The head of our delegation has started with more words:

"Our goal here is to make a very strong commitment to Japan about the fact that the nuclear deterrence of the United States are extended, the nuclear umbrella remains strong and stable, and our commitment to Japan is absolutely unshakable," he said in an interview with Japanese public broadcaster NHK.

There's that word "unshakable" again. Our words of assurance and their own nukes would work much better than our words alone. Especially in this age of reaching out to enemies and throwing friends under the bus.