Friday, April 30, 2010

Staying Inside the Lines

I mentioned my concerns that we make sure Iraqis follow the rules in finalizing their election results.

Other observers have the same concern.

We should not have "our man" in Iraq. But we should have "our rules" that make sure respect for rules is entrenched in Iraq. Let us exert our influence to make sure the rules are followed.

Asking for It

I remain amazed that some, like Michael Scheuer, can believe that we fell for Osama bin Laden's trap by destroying the Taliban regime after 9/11:

"I would like to believe that bin Laden was shocked and dismayed by what we did after 9/11, but I come hard up against an awful lot of evidence that that's exactly what he wanted."

I have no doubt he wanted us to attack him. But I also have no doubt that he--like Saddam in 2003--expected us to respond with ineffective military force. Bin Laden may have thought that we'd throw enough bombs to enrage Moslems yet not enough to do anything of significance to harm al Qaeda.

I find it especially hard to believe that people can still think we fell into their deep trap after al Qaeda had their butts kicked in Afghanistan and Iraq, and have seen their popularity and funding drop dramatically.

And there is some testimony--if you believe a former terrorist--that bin Laden was taken surprise by our aggressive and effective military response:

"I'm 100 percent sure they had no clue about what was going to happen," says Noman Benotman, who was head of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group in the summer of 2000.

"What happened after the 11th of September was beyond their imagination, " says Benotman, who adds that al-Qaida thought the U.S. was a "paper tiger." . . .

Zawahiri, according to Benotman, expected only a missile attack.

And the assumption that we fell into their trap requires us to accept that bin Laden expected to drop the World Trade Center and thus inflict so much damage that we had to respond in force. But that assumption is not safe to make:

Benotman's assessment is backed up by a former Central Intelligence Agency officer, who was active in the fight against al-Qaida.

The officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, says "several captured terrorists have said publicly that al-Qaida never expected the towers to fall. Their goal was to frighten people and impact the U.S. economy, so they really didn't plan for the massive response the U.S. launched."

Just because an enemy expects us and wants us to do something doesn't mean the enemy is right to want that response. We did not fall into Osama's deep trap--we kicked his ass.  He may have expected us to fail in a half-hearted counter-attack, but that isn't what he got. And that was a surprise to Osama.

Or do you really believe that America developed a reputation for resolute action during the 1990s, and that a resolute and decisive response was exactly what Osama bin Laden wanted and needed?

Nearly Dead is Not the Same as Completely Dead

This post dismisses the Russian deal to maintain their Sevastopol base in Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula, arguing the Black Sea fleet is powerless:

The Black Sea Fleet is essentially a dying enterprise. One recent Russian report argues that 80 percent of its ships will need to be written off in the near term. Its current order of battle consists of 37 ships. The missile cruiser Moscow (currently on an extended deployment) is the flagship. There is also one other cruiser, one destroyer, two frigates, 13 corvettes and missile boats, and 3 patrol craft. There are also 7 littoral warfare ships, 9 minesweepers, and 1 diesel sub. The average age of these ships is 28, which makes it the oldest fleet in the Russian Navy.

One, it isn't dead yet. And it could recover. And it will, I dare say.

Two, this ignores the political implications of the deal that brings Ukraine into Russia's orbit.

Third, just how big does the fleet have to be? Who else can challenge whatever fleet the Russians manage to maintain in the Black Sea?

The Russians simply don't need very much to dominate the sea and project power. The Russians just need robust amphibious warfare assets that include helicopter capability (armed and transport), some air-defense ships, and a fair number of smaller combatants to pose a threat to Georgia and remind other Black Sea states that Russia is still a factor.

Perhaps We Shouldn't Try to Make Karzai Loved

The Pentagon has good news and bad news about our efforts in Afghanistan:

The Pentagon Wednesday issued a downbeat assessment of the situation in Afghanistan , saying that only one in four Afghans in strategically important areas currently back President Hamid Karzai's government even as the Taliban expand their insurgency and install shadow local governments.

The report to Congress outlined some areas of progress, including a leveling off of violence during the last three months, improved counter-insurgency cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistani and the finding that 84 percent of Afghans feel that security is good or fair.

Yes, combat is up. But with more US troops being used more aggressively, that is to be expected. The bad news about Karzai wouldn't matter if we weren't trying to create a central government for a region that has never known that and doesn't appear to want it. Then, it would all be pretty good news.

We have better options than trying to make Karzai and the Kabul government popular:

The end result in Afghanistan, if all goes well, will be a nominal national government that controls the capital region and reigns but does not rule local tribes and which actually helps the locals a bit rather than sucking resources from the locals, who in turn do not make trouble for the central government or allow their areas to be used by jihadis to plan attacks on the West. We press for reasonable economic opportunities, with bribes all around (I mean, foreign aid), to keep a fragile peace.

And we stick around this time, unlike after the Soviets left Afghanistan when we ignored the place, for a generation or two to see if we can move Afghanistan into the 19th century (hey, let's not get ahead of ourselves).

Hopefully our military surge recedes by the end of 2011 and we can get down to a single combat brigade plus air power that function as a fire brigade and a hammer for the central government should a local difficulty exceed Afghan military capabilities.

And I'll repeat my worries about having so many troops at the end of such a long supply line. I am willing to give the Pentagon the benefit of the doubt when they say they need more troops to win more quickly, but I still don't think we had to have the fall 2009 surge decision on top of the spring 2009 surge in order to win.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

This Is Not Good at All

I've been having a bad feeling for several years now that this era has a bad inter-war era vibe going. The slow anschluss with Ukraine that Russia is pulling off doesn't dispel that feeling.

Nor does the threat of more economic unrest just as we think we've emerged from the Great Recession:

There were fears that Britain could follow Greece into a financial crisis after a global finance chief warned of economic "contagion" spreading across Europe.

The head of the International Monetary Fund urged politicians to finalise a bail-out for the debt-laden Mediterranean country, saying that every day lost in resolving the problems risked spreading the impact "far away".

Dominique Strauss-Kahn's comments came amid more evidence of Europe's mounting fiscal problems after Spain's debt was downgraded - a move recently applied to its under-pressure neighbour Portugal as well as Greece.
Of course, this time around, the Battle of Britain will come earlier.

Have a lovely day.

An Inconvenient Location

The Gores have bought a modest cabin to escape from their regular palace residence:

The couple spent $8,875,000 on an ocean-view villa on 1.5 acres with a swimming pool, spa and fountains, a real estate source familiar with the deal confirms. The Italian-style house has six fireplaces, five bedrooms and nine bathrooms.

Ocean view, huh?
 
I guess the oceans won't be rising any time soon.

Their Shocked Face

What was that about President Bush lying about al Qaeda members in Iraq before the war? Oh yeah, he lied about it, right? Not so much. Let's have a reminder, shall we:

The widow of recently slain al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri revealed that she and her husband (they are both Egyptian) came to Iraq in 2002, having been offered sanctuary by Saddam Hussein.

Yeah, this sums up how the anti-war side feels about that issue:



Now don't get all loopy and cry out, "You lie! Saddam had nothing to do with 9-11!" That isn't what I'm saying, and the Bush administration never said anything of the sort, despite the belief by many on the anti-war side that Bush Jedi-mind tricked the public into thinking that. To that I always respond that the anti-war side wrongly believes we armed Saddam in the 1980s. People believe funny things.

Anyway. Saddam hated us. And he loved to support terrorism. Why would it have been odd to think Saddam would support terrorists who hated us?

An Enigma Wrapped in a Riddle Shrouded in Mystery

It is a sad day when you conclude you can count on the Russians being more accurate than our own government.

But that's exactly what I predicted when I addressed the issue of limiting our missile defenses in the new nuclear arms control agreement penned recently. The Russians said we are limited. The administration dismissed the Russian claim. Oh, who to believe?

This appears to be shameful spinning by the administration. If our administration is so proud of their achievement, why not just spell it out? I hope I'm wrong. I doubt I am.

Well, the Russians seem to be winning the transparency award on this issue:

President Obama signed an arms-reduction treaty with Russia. He urges swift ratification of the accord even though, as former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton observes, important provisions are still being negotiated. In the spirit of the times, though, the pact would become the law of the land before those details are finalized, while its authors either don’t know what it says or are lying about it. Administration officials told Arizona Republican senators Jon Kyl and John McCain — who will be central to the Senate’s ratification debate — that the treaty referred to missile defense only in the hortatory, non-binding preamble. Yet when the senators looked at the treaty’s binding terms, they found, right there in black and white, a provision (Art. V, para. 3) that would require the United States to refrain from placing “defense interceptors” in existing missile launchers — a severe compromise of American national security.

Fancy that. The Russians gave us a more accurate picture of the treaty provisions regarding missile defense than our own government. Now, this is a big effing deal, as Biden might put it--even if we have to ratify the treaty to find out what's in it.

I'll ask again, if this treaty is so great for America, why doesn't the administration accurately spell out what the agreement has in it?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Key to Taiwan

Strategypage revisits the issue of the importance of the Pescadores islands in any Chinese invasion plan:

If China uses some of its airborne and amphibious forces to take the Pescadores, they will have a base for the next stage of the operation; the landing on Taiwan itself. But it is likely that speed will be the most important element. The faster the Chinese establish themselves on Taiwan, the better their bargaining position with the United States, and the rest of the world. If China does not win a quick victory, the economic sanctions start kicking in. Billions of dollars of cancelled orders from the United States and Europe put millions of Chinese out of work, and make the invasion very unpopular. Should the invasion prove unsuccessful as well, a change in Chinese leadership is likely to quickly follow. One way or another, the Pescadores islands will play a major role in any assault on Taiwan.

I tend to think the northwest direction is the way China will go, in order to go for the jugular in Taipei as part of an all-out offensive. And I suspect the attack in the northwest will go on at the same time as an invasion of the Pescadores.

Seizure of the Pescadores would be used not to assault the southwest beaches but to raid them and threaten to invade in order to freeze Taiwanese army units away from Taipei where the decisive battle will be fought.

I agree that speed will be the key to a Chinese conquest.

Still, there is one option where the Chinese might leave the Taipei region alone. If the Chinese find they need to invade yet calculate that they cannot win before we intervene, it is possible that the Chinese would want just the objective of establishing themselves on Taiwan to effectively divide the island in a ceasefire; and then prepare for the next round at a future date.

It is even possible that the Chinese might decide that the Pescadores are the objective. Again, seizure of this stepping stone would be to prepare for the next step of invading Taiwan. As a bonus, knocking doen the door like that to expose Taiwan to direct invasion could scare the Taiwanese enough to get them to pull a Ukraine and enter China's orbit.

One way or the other, whether in one bite or several, the Pescadores are important to Taiwan's independence.

That is So Not Fabled

Me thinks the scientists need to get a life:

Two living specimens of the fabled giant Palouse earthworm have been captured for the first time in two decades in what represents a significant discovery of a creature that has achieved a mythic status in the area.

A worm is not "fabled."

A dragon is fabled. A unicorn is fabled. Or a jackalope or mermaid. Toss in President Obama's pragmatic centrist pre-election reputation, if you like. But a giant worm? Fabled? Oh, please. At best, it is mildly interesting.

Unless it is like the Alaskan Bull Worm:



Further, you don't "capture" a worm. You pick it up with finger and thumb, taking care it doesn't wiggle loose onto your clothes. Unless it put of more of a fight than the article implies, with several scientists losing major limbs for their efforts to "capture" the worm. If that's the case, I apologize to all involved in cornering the beast and flushing it out to run into the covered pit they dug.

Get out, more, guys and gals. Try the fabled "beer" a couple times.

Now That's Smart Diplomacy

The Russians may be reverting to paranoid historical form, to our detriment, but you have to hand it to the Russians for their nuanced foreign policy.

Not only did the Russians get a renewed naval lease in the Crimea from Ukraine, but the Russians effectively blocked NATO membership for Ukraine even under a pro-Western, non-lackey president, by taking advantage of NATO's own rules:

Ukraine took some giant steps away from Brussels towards Moscow this week. An agreement between the new Ukrainian president and the Russians extends Russia’s lease on its Crimean naval bases for another 25 years in exchange for a 30 percent cut in natural gas prices. Because NATO does not allow members to host non-NATO bases on their soil, this means that Ukraine is essentially blocked from joining NATO past 2040. Perhaps more significantly the closer economic relationship with Russia makes Ukraine’s membership in the EU less likely as well.

And the Russians nipped closer economic integration with the West in the bud, erasing that half-way stop to NATO membership. Bravo, Mr. Putin.

I do hope Hillary Clinton is taking notes. I'm reasonably sure that there will be a test at some point.

Seizing the Means of Production

Hugo-man strikes another blow against the evil corporate elites in the name of the people!

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez ordered a state takeover of property where Empresas Polar, the country's largest food producer, has warehouses and offices.

And the buffoon-in-chief essentially warned the company's owner not to fight the order, lest anything nasty happen to his other property.

Truly, who wouldn't want to invest in such a business climate?

If we wanted to wage economic warfare against Venezueala, we'd be hard-pressed to implement a weapon as potent as Hugo himself. The man could eff up a wet dream.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Thirty Percent of Silver

Wow! When Russia buys a country, they buy a country!

In a major turnabout in Ukrainian policy, new President Viktor Yanukovych says the 1930s Stalinist famine that killed millions should not be considered genocide against Ukrainians because it targeted its victims indiscriminately.

Got that? Stalin wasn't trying to kill Ukrainians. Stalin was trying to kill everyone! So who are Ukrainians to complain that they were special victims?

Now that's nuance our State Department only dreams of achieving in a smart foreign policy!

Still, you have to grant Yanukovych credit. He got thirty percent off all their natural gas imports from Russia. The Russians initially offered only thirty pieces of silver.

So way to go, President Yanukovych, for standing up for The Ukraine!

UPDATE: Ukrainians don't want to become The Ukraine again:

The speaker of Ukraine's parliament huddled under umbrellas as eggs rained down and smoke bombs filled the chamber with an acrid cloud. Then the lawmakers attacked each other, punching and brawling in the aisles.

The chaos erupted Tuesday as parliament approved a treaty allowing Russia to extend the lease on a naval base in a Ukrainian port on the Black Sea until 2042 — a move bitterly opposed by pro-Western lawmakers. Ukraine would get cheap natural gas from Russia in exchange.

Kind of makes "you lie!" seem kind of tame ...

Singing to the Choir

I suppose it makes perfect sense to make global warming a faith-based initiative:

Apparently, the president’s council envisions the “partnership” between government and religious institutions as a means of spreading the administration’s environmental warnings, rather than just a way to help churches feed the hungry and clothe the poor. Faith-based organizations, the report notes, can take “a prominent leadership role in influencing policy, education, and action in those areas.”

In the spirit of the partnership that the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships envisions between church and state to combat global warming, with apologies to Julia Ward Howe, I give you a song to complement my poem:

The Prattle Hymn of the Republic

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the greening of the Al:
He is trampling out the derricks where the oil of wrath is drilled;
He hath loosed the fateful thinking of His terrible swift gourd:
Al's inconvenient truth is marching on.

(Chorus)
Glory, glory, carbon credit!
Glory, glory, cap and trade!
Glory, glory, carbon credit!
Al's inconvenient truth is marching on.

I have seen Al in the iPods of a hundred Earth Day camps,
They have builded Al an altar in the evening news and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and twisty lamps:
Al's day after tomorrow is marching on.

(Chorus)
Glory, glory, carbon credit!
Glory, glory, cap and trade!
Glory, glory, carbon credit!
Al's inconvenient truth is marching on.

I have read a fiery Peace Prize writ in burnished prose of zeal:
"As ye deal with my deniers, so with you my grace shall deal;
Let the Hero, born of warming, crush the serpent with his heel,
Since Al is marching on."

(Chorus)
Glory, glory, carbon credit!
Glory, glory, cap and trade!
Glory, glory, carbon credit!
Al's inconvenient truth is marching on.

He has sounded forth the warming that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting carbon footprint out before His judgment-seat:
Oh, be swift, Congress, to answer Him! be jubilant, my Tweet!
Our Al is marching on.

(Chorus)
Glory, glory, carbon credit!
Glory, glory, cap and trade!
Glory, glory, carbon credit!
Our Al is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies hybrids were born across the sea,
With a glory in His Prius that transfigures you and me:
As He profited to make his movie, let us die to make cars Green,
While Al is marching on.

(Chorus)
Glory, glory, carbon credit!
Glory, glory, cap and trade!
Glory, glory, carbon credit!
While Al is marching on.

He is wealthy by the taxing of the money that you save,
He is Wisdom to the mighty, He has Suckers for his slave,
So the world shall be His footstool, and the editor of Times His knave,
Our Al is marching on.

(Chorus)
Glory, glory, carbon credit!
Glory, glory, cap and trade!
Glory, glory, carbon credit!
Our Al is marching on.

Sing it, brothers and sisters!

And be warned. Global warming hysteria has driven me to poetry. Now song. Keep this crud up and I swear to God that interpretive dance is next.

Now go and emit no more.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Tweetfighters

Just as critics of the Bush administration have condemned Bush for failing to plan for the post-war insurgencies and terror that we faced, proponents of the value of Twitter to lead social revolutions have failed to plan what happens when they win (tip to Instapundit):

The Green Movement hasn't disappeared. It's still there. But the regime achieved battlefield dominance in the technosphere over the past year. Iranian authorities have used a range of technologies to block, surveil and infiltrate social media. One young Iranian I met in February in a neighboring Middle East country told me he and his friends were having a hard time getting accurate and reliable information about when and where to go for Green Movement protests. Pro-democracy advocates were intimidated from joining key rallies last fall when warnings were tweeted and posted to Facebook about snipers pre-positioned on the roofs of buildings. The rumors turned out to be false. Through disinformation, it seems, Iranian intelligence services were able to disband demonstrations before protesters ever arrived on the scene. Brute force has played its role, too. Thousands have been arrested. It's the regime's technological edge, though, that has likely made the critical difference in hindering the Green Movement's progress.

Other heavy-handed governments are catching on, too. Countries like Russia and China have been standing up well-trained, handsomely financed cyber militias. Tyrants, it turns out, like Twitter, too. Innovative cyber dissidents will eventually sort this, perhaps with a technological assist from the United States.

But there's a bigger problem than states engaging dissidents on the social media battlefield. This has to do with understanding the limits of the technology. Twitter (or its next variant) will continue to bring protesters to the town hall square. Protesters may even succeed in toppling corrupt, autocratic regimes. But Twitter won't tell the opposition how to govern, how to develop democratic institutions or how to inculcate and defend the values, habits and behaviors that belong to democracy. These things require an immense amount of intellectual, conceptual and political work. And patience. This is especially so in countries that have little or no experience in democracy.

Social media can be used by a despot to disrupt the Twittering Class and nullify their online organizing. That's problem one. Second, the regime doesn't restrict itself to online combat. The regime has force at its disposal to kill, arrest, torture, rape, and otherwise intimidate online revolutionaries when they step on the streets.

The basic problem is that it isn't enough to skip over the actual toppling of the despot to move on to the problems of Phase IV. At least the Bush administration did topple Saddam, even though post-war planning assumptions didn't work out and made winning the post-war far more costly than certainly I expected.

Remember, when you Twitter a king, kill him:

Twitter is surely a great tool for overthrowing a regime. But in the end, high-drama meetups don't defeat despots--killing despots defeats despots. You have to take the next step and actually kill the king.

Twitter (or Facebook, or any other social medium) is no silver bullet. Indeed, it is not a bullet at all.

The Exception That Proves the Rule?

The president claims that its nuclear posture and nuclear arms reductions--with the Nobel Peace Prize global stamp of approval--will set an example for other countries.

Well, other than China:

Writing in the Liberation Army Daily, a prominent Chinese military newspaper, retired Maj. Gen. Xu Guangyu argued that China needed a limited nuclear force capable of surviving and retaliating against a first strike by any adversary. The article marked another effort by the Chinese leadership to display greater openness in its nuclear declaratory policy, and reinforces other statements and indications that China has adopted a ‘second-strike’ nuclear policy based on a minimal deterrent.

Yet, these and similar statements still might not be enough to overcome the reluctance of some US and Russian officials to reduce their countries’ nuclear forces much further without greater evidence that China will join the nuclear disarmament process.

I'm sure that China will be the only country that doesn't swoon at the thought of American nuclear arms reductions and abolish their own so they aren't the last on the planet to sign on to the president's global vision of hope and change.

The Battle for Baghdad

The election results in Iraq are still being disputed:

An Iraqi court disqualified 52 candidates Monday from the country's parliamentary elections, including two who won seats, and threw out their votes in a decision that could potentially change the outcome of the March 7 vote.

At least one of the winning candidates came from the coalition of secular challenger Ayad Allawi, which won 91 seats compared with 89 seats for a bloc led by incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, said Saad al-Rawi, a member of the independent commission that oversees Iraq's elections.

He said a special court tasked with reviewing election-related complaints informed the commission of its decision Monday.

However, al-Rawi said it was still unclear how the decision would affect the outcome until the commission is able to recalculate the results once those votes have been removed. He said he did not expect the decision to affect the position of Allawi's Iraqiya bloc because the barred candidates from his coalition only won a limited number of votes.

"The new process will be complicated because we need to do calculations again in order to decide whether this court decision will have an effect on the distribution of seats within the bloc," al-Rawi said.

He said if the new calculations show the coalitions still have the votes to hold onto all their seats, then they can replace barred candidates with the next one on their list who received the most votes.

The dispute is so far peaceful and based on the rules that the election was run with. I hope our influence is being used to make sure the rules are followed.

Whatever happens, we need to make sure that the ultimate losers see the outcome as valid. If not, losers will be tempted to resort to terror in order to reverse what is viewed as a stolen election.

We must also make sure that winners and losers understand that there will be another vote so they must rule well; and that until that next election is held, they must govern and oppose under rule of law.

Entrenching rule of law in Iraq may well be the most difficult objective we have in the Iraq War.

Saturation Point?

The Army is abandoning Netfires, the missile-in-a-box concept to place precision rockets anywhere, for being too expensive:

The U.S. Army is cancelling its is NetFires (or NLOS-LS) missile system. With the successful introduction of GPS guided rockets, artillery and mortar shells, NetFires was too expensive, and still in development. The army has already spent $1.21 billion on NetFires development, and was due to spend another $431 million next year. When development began in 2004, the project was only supposed to cost $1.1 billion, and be completed by now.

With precision air power, precision air and ground-launched rockets, precision artillery shells, and precision mortar shells, we seem to have flooded the market with precision firepower and Netfires became redundant for the Army.

All this precision will speed up battle tempo, as I wrote earlier about all the new precision weapons enabled by persistent surveillance assets.

The precision artillery shells are of most interest to me. (UPDATE: I forgot to note this article:

The first-generation Excalibur XM982 guided artillery round was praised by the Army and many analysts for its accuracy.

With a combination of GPS satellite and inertial guidance - hardened to withstand the shock of firing - the 155mm Excalibur can strike from ranges up to about 23 miles to within about 20 feet of its target. That compares with a "miss distance," or margin of error, of up to about 800 feet for unguided artillery shells.)

Netfires was to disperse precision firepower throughout the Army by allowing the Army to carry them around on trucks and plug them into our network to provide fire support. Could we build fire support versions of the Bradley or Abrams, putting short-barreled 155mm cannons on them that could fire HEAT rounds for local defense and provide long-range fire support with rocket-assisted GPS shells? Think of an updated Sheridan light tank for the concept.

Or perhaps 120mm mortars with precision rounds could be mounted on a Bradley instead of the TOW box.

Or maybe we can cram all the electronics into a 120mm shell for use on existing Abrams tanks, turning every tank into both a direct fire and indirect fire weapon.

It is interesting that a promising concept as Netfires has been made redundant by the rest of the evolving arsenal. What was once revolutionary is now standard equipment.

UPDATE: It may not be dead--or at least not the concept, which apparently fills a brigade-level fires mission that the Army still wants. So the bits and pieces of the project may live on in another form.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Stranger in a Strange Land

I took Lamb to the Earth Day festival today.

Lamb enjoyed it. They had lots of kid things to do.

I did not enjoy it. Oh, it isn't that I'm pro-pollution. But being around so many people that into the issue was unnatural.

I thought I met a kindred spirit when I briefly started a conversation with one woman wearing a Red Wings jersey. "Puck drop is at 2:00," I said, hoping for some sympathy. Perhaps she'd boldy--but quietly--confess that she was ditching the eco-fest to catch the game. But alas, no, we were not plucky resistance fighters in the enemy's den. She responded, "The parade is at 2:30." I actually believe she had no idea the Wings were playing today. No, she misunderstoon in the din and thought I was speaking of the all-species parade--whatever the heck that is--that was half an hour after the game started.

On the bright side, Lamb had enough by about 2:00 or so, after over an hour of checking out the tables. And puck drop was actually after 2:00, so we made it home in time for me to see the game.

Of course, the way the game went, I'm thinking I missed not seeing the all-species parade. I'm reasonably sure I spotted several of said species in the exhibition hall.

Still, when Lamb is older and perhaps a bit angry with me over some teen issue, I'll point to this day and say, "Can you have any doubt that I love you? I took you to an Earth Day festival. And risked missing a Red Wings quarter-finals game."

That's what a dad does. And I'm happy to do it.

Getting Closer to the Real Issue

The South Koreans are getting closer to demonstrating what sank their corvette, and who did it:

An explosion from a torpedo likely sank a South Korean warship that went down near the tense border with North Korea last month, the South's defense minister said Sunday amid growing speculation Pyongyang may be behind the blast.

Defense Minister Kim Tae-young said the most likely cause of the disaster was a torpedo exploding near the ship, with the force of the underwater blast ripping the vessel apart. Investigators who examined salvaged wreckage separately announced Sunday that a close-range, external explosion likely sank it.

This is serious stuff, so assuming too much as a basis of action can't be done. The South Koreans need to nail this down before reacting militarily.

As I've grown to conclude over several posts on this subject, I think the South Korean response should take three forms:

1. Increase economic warfare on Pyongyang to squeeze them more.

2. Bolster military assets on disputed islands they hold in the area their ship was sunk.

3. Make something blow up in North Korea and deny responsibility as the North has done.

The first two can be done without solid proof. Suspicion, given North Korea's history of hostility, is good enough to take those actions. And it has the advantage of playing to South Korea's strengths and North Korea's weakness. Keep the focus at sea away from Seoul and on economic warfare and not military action.

The last needs firm backing. If it comes to general war, South Korea and America will win. But the price will be high. Best to keep the primary action in the arena where North Korea is losing--their dismal economy; prepare for the next time North Korea tries something at sea to catch them in the act and kill the attackers on the spot; and send a deniable message to North Korea's rulers that two can play the game of semi-war.

Not that there isn't risk to retaliating even quietly with force. North Korea's rulers might not believe they are too weak to win. Or they may believe South Korea is too weak morally to win despite North Korean material weakness. Or North Korea might believe their nuclear devices provide a shield that allows the North Koreans to make whatever provocation they wish and South Korea won't dare respond. Or North Korea might decide that their only hope of winning is to use their rotting military power before it collapses to attempt to reverse their losing position economically. Or there could simply be a miscalculation that escalates to a bigger fight that leads to a North Korean bombardment of Seoul. Pyongyang did mention that, indirectly:

"If the imperialist enemies intrude into" the North's territory, "its army will beat them back at a stroke by mercilessly showering bombs and shells on them," the North's main Rodong Sinmun newspaper said in an editorial carried by the official Korean Central News Agency. It didn't mention the ship sinking.

But there is also a risk of doing nothing. If North Korea believes that their proto-nukes give them a license to kill, the North Koreans will attack South Korea again and again, in different theaters in the region and globally, and in different forms.

And South Korea can use proof to bolster the first action by taking the evidence to the United Nations Security Council to see if the vaunted international community will do something. After all, the original North Korean aggression was a matter for the UN.

This could yet get ugly. Regardless of how South Korea plays it.

Oh My Allah! They Killed Western Civilization!

Remember the days when anti-war protesters cried out that it was unjust to let Western contract security guards or US military personnel escape prosecution in Iraq by being brought to the US to face charges?

Yes, they said that was a case of modern day extraterritoriality that mocked the rights of Third World people of color to defend themselves with their own legal systems.

I guess it is OK for radical Islam to claim their religious views on the depiction of Mohammed apply to America and the rest of the non-Moslem world. Worse, yet another Western institution has accepted that jihadi interpretations of Islam can be enforced here.

Comedy Central has caved to jihadi demands that the South Park cartoon not show cartoon images of Mohammed. (Do the jihadis not read the disclaimer that the figures in the show bear no relation to reality and are, in fact, drawn badly?)

Comedy Central has gotten some push back, and justly so.

And for those who insist that Islamo-fascism is authentically Third World and so must be elevated higher than our own Western civilization, ponder this:

"The Arab language propaganda produced in wartime Berlin was a significant chapter in the longer history of radical Arab nationalism and militant Islam."

Islamic radicalism with waves of jihad predate Hitler, of course. But isn't it interesting that the shadow of Nazism lingers on to torment us both in the Baathist and other nationalist ideologies of the Arab world and Islamism itself? Can't you just feel the indigenous authenticity?

But until somebody can demonstrate Tea Party influences in Islamo-fascism, Islamist extraterritoriality will continue to exert influence in our upper class sophisticates. And they'll go along with jihadi efforts to kill our traditions of freedom of speech and thought.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Preserve NATO

There doesn't seem to be much consensus in Europe over the value of NATO. We are discussing the official purpose now:

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is heading to a meeting of NATO ministers in Estonia at a time when the 61-year-old organization is suffering from a kind of mid-life crisis.

Almost 20 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the 28-member North Atlantic Treaty Organization is in the midst of an intense self-examination, trying to rethink its basic purpose.

NATO was founded to blunt the long-extinct threat of a Soviet invasion of Western Europe.

Now it finds itself divided on many fronts: doubts among some members about its combat mission in Afghanistan, unease with the continuing presence of U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe, prickly relations with Moscow and concerns about the wisdom of expanding NATO deeper into Russia's backyard.

Many in Europe don't want to help fight the war in Afghanistan any more than they wanted to help in Iraq, notwithstanding the silly notions of some over here that the former is/was "good" while the latter was "bad."
 
Russia doesn't like NATO, because it stands--however feebly now--as a potential barrier to reclaiming their European empire one piece at a time.
 
Some members of NATO, like Germany, worry it could prevent them from cutting deals with Russia at the expense of nominal allies.
 
Others would prefer a pure European defense organization that won't raise ugly questions as America might when the Europeans decide to appease potential enemies. They can't have some resolute members dragging the meek into defending themselves, can they? This thinking doesn't stop wars--it just makes sure they happen and you only get to wrongly believe--for a while anyway--that you are saving yourself from the coming storm.
 
We may need to think of Europe as an economic and geographic asset to be fought over and not as allies. Europe is militarily useful to us even without one soldier at our side in the field.
 
And NATO, however useless as a military alliance in practice when the alliance doesn't have to defend in place against a military threat, is useful as an alliance of nations to counter the rise of an anti-democratic European Union that views its own people as more of a threat than any foreign country or organization could deny us the asset of a generally friendly and cooperative Europe.
 
We need to preserve NATO. Both for our own interests and to protect the Europeans from themselves, quite frankly. I don't particularly care if they contribute to distant wars. How valuable are they, really? Let's just rely on a coalition of the willing--as we effectively do even with NATO officially on board with the Afghan campaign--and not strain NATO as an institution.

Evil Hearts and Sick Minds

Our emphasis on winning hearts and minds that has led to success in Iraq and is being used successfully so far in Afghanistan assumes that we are liberating people, and so the people are willing to side with us if it is safe to do so. Saddam prepared much of the population in Iraq to be grateful we got rid of Saddam's regime.

In Iraq, it took a while for the bulk of the Sunni Arabs to fall into that template. Only after al Qaeda became their new overlords did the Sunni Arabs get that "I want to be liberated" feeling. During the war before the Awakening, I worried that we'd have to grind down the resistance of Anbar province because we just didn't have a shot at winning their hearts and minds.

I worry about the same thing about parts of Afghanistan where the Pashtuns dominate:

What I worry about is what I worried about in Iraq for many years--if an enemy is committed to resisting as the Sunni Arabs were, especially in Anbar, how do you run a counter-insurgency to win hearts and minds of people whose hearts and minds support the insurgency?

I do worry that we can't win the hearts and minds of Pashtuns in southern Afghanistan. I worry that we assume that the people are ready to support us if only we provide security against the Taliban. What if that isn't the case?

If it is the case that the Pashtuns of southern Afghanistan are determined to resist us, then we can't win their hearts and minds. That means that restrictive rules of engagement don't win us friends but let enemies live to fight another day.

I'm not saying that we should go to a scorched Earth policy or go counter-terrorism rather than counter-insurgency. We shouldn't. It didn't work for the Soviets and we simply won't be that ruthless. I do think that there are many in the south whose hearts and minds can be won. But I thought one part of our Afghan surge strategy was to hammer the enemy resistance to convince the practical Pashtuns that there's no money and no future in fighting a US-backed government and backing the Taliban and drug lords. If we're not hammering the enemy, how do we sway the people who rather like them to abandon them?

If we really need to kill the enemy drug gangs and warlords to discourage resistance rather than just protect the people who don't want our protection and who aren't in the market for giving us their hearts and minds, how do we win?

Army human terrain analysts seem to have the same concern:

The southern Afghan province of Kandahar trusts the Taliban more than the government. And that’s according to a survey commissioned by the U.S. Army.

Kandahar is expected to be the focal point of operations for U.S. and NATO troops this summer, but a poll recently conducted by the Army’s controversial social science program, the Human Terrain System (HTS), is warning that rampant local corruption, and a lack of security, could undermine coalition efforts to win the support of the local population.

Among other things, the survey’s authors warned that a lack of confidence in the Afghan government “sets conditions for a disenfranchised population to respond either by not supporting the government due to its inability to deliver improvements in the quality of life or, worse yet, by supporting the Taliban.”
Given that we are being even more careful with firepower in Afghanistan than we were in Iraq, are we killing enough of the people who need to be killed? There are enemies out there. They don't want electricity and they don't want jobs. They want us out of Afghanistan and in the short run they want our troops dead.

Not that the enemy is particularly popular with most of the people. So my worst case worry of subduing a hostile population doesn't exist even in Kandahar. But the enemy has more support than we're used to in other places. And the Afghan government is generally not considered a good alternative. This goes back to my worry that we shouldn't try to prop up a strong central government in Kabul that is viewed as an invader almost as much as al Qaeda and the Taliban/drug gangs:

The end result in Afghanistan, if all goes well, will be a nominal national government that controls the capital region and reigns but does not rule local tribes and which actually helps the locals a bit rather than sucking resources from the locals, who in turn do not make trouble for the central government or allow their areas to be used by jihadis to plan attacks on the West. We press for reasonable economic opportunities, with bribes all around (I mean, foreign aid), to keep a fragile peace.

The report shows that lot of locals understand why people resist the central government. Certainly, there are people there in the enemy's base area whose hearts and minds can be won. So I'm not urging us to go scorched earth on the enemy and the people around them. Even though that is the traditional strategy to crush resistance to conquest, we dont' work that way and the Soviets showed that even they couldn't make it work in Afghanistan.

 I'm just saying that our military had best be watching how our very restrictive rules of engagement are working. We can't win the hearts and minds of even a minority if they don't feel safe enough with us around. And getting that feeling of safety still requires us to kill or drive away the enemy.

Are we capable of killing the enemy with our current approach and rules? I will watch the Kandahar offensive very closely to see if answers become apparent.

The actual report is here.

Someday, Bloody Sunny Day

This automotive news has bloody carnage spelled all over it:

Tired of spinning that steering wheel? Try this: German researchers have developed a new technology that lets drivers steer cars using only their eyes.

Raul Rojas, an artificial intelligence researcher at Berlin's Free University, said Friday that the technology tracks a driver's eye movement and, in turn, steers the car in whatever direction they're looking.

Am I the only one to see the basic problem with this system?
 
You're driving down the street. It's a warm, sunny day. Life is good, and you're steering with your eyes.
 
And then you drive by her:
 


Yes, your eyes stay there. You're a man. And your geek-designed car accelerates into a sharp u-turn right toward her.

In fact, about thirty cars converge on the poor woman. It will be guts and Gucci all over the pavement.

In a matter of weeks, with this invention, we will have killed off or crippled the most attractive women in the world, and driven the terrorized survivors indoors or into burquas.

Camelot!

Iran is militarily weak. This doesn't stop them from aggressively using terrorism to advance their goals. That is relatively inexpensive. But if it came to a military showdown, they'd get their butts kicked. Their arsenal is very old US stuff, Chinese second-rate junk, and occasional bits of newer equipment that manages to get in.

But the Iraniana like to pretend they are stronger. so they periodically thump their chests, yell really loud, and fling poo. It scares the foreigners and reassures the locals that the leaders have a clue about protecting them.

Getting nukes will obviously increase Iran's defensive capabilities by making their conventional backwardness less relevant--and make countries more likely to sell Iran conventional weapons. And nukes will be a shield to ramp up terrorism.

So it is with some amusement that Iran was caught showing off:

Iran held its “Army Day” parade in Tehran Sunday to show off troops camouflaged for snow and jungle and a fly over of five F-4 Phantoms.

They showed off other weapons, including a self-propelled S-300 anti-aircraft missile system. Well, not quite:

But a better, close-up picture shows what appears to be a non-traditional transporter, erector, launchers carrying several tubes of welded together oil drums to simulate S-300 canisters.

Remember, when you see stories of scary locally designed super weapons or exercises with scary names, that Iran just isn't capable of backing up their talk.  It's just a model.



Iran wants us to believe we have no military option to deal with them. It just isn't true.

Iran gets away with their aggressive behavior because nobody is willing to do anything about them. Is it any wonder that the mullahs think that God is on their side?

Friday, April 23, 2010

From the Halls of Congress to the Shores of the ICC

For when you need to retreat from a Middle East war to a "nearby" base at Okinawa or transport war criminal Marines to a Belgian court, our Navy will have the USS John P. Murtha, amphibious warfare ship.

The Navy should be ashamed for this decision.

Imagine the pride that Marines will have when they are on this ship named after a man who accused them of the worst war crimes and just assumed they were guilty.

Busy, Busy, Busy

Well, I had a full and long weekend. I'm hoping this one will be calmer (and with more Red Wing victories).

It started early with death of Lamb's pet fish, Swimmy overnight a week ago Thursday. Lamb didn't want to go to school when she discovered this fact Friday morning. There were lots of tears. When I got her in the door at school--and then, after another delay, down the hallway into her class--she was all red-eyed and sniffly. I told the teacher that Lamb was a bit tender after the loss, so please be aware. The school actually called me later to assure me she was doing all right. I thought that was nice.

The drama continued with the funeral Saturday morning with a wooden headstone I made and a tie clip jewelry box with tissue bedding. I dug the hole, while mom said some words. I added some more, thanking God for letting us know Swimmy and expressing thanks that He would watch over His fish. Lamb placed the headstone in place and set out decorative pine cones, saying bye to her fish with fresh tears.

Lamb both wanted her old fish back and wanted a new fish. She expressed anger at the new fish that her mom brought home, and wanted him returned. Her mom and I assured her that we weren't replacing Swimmy, but that this fish needed a home. I told Lamb that it was our responsibility to take care of Swimmy, Jr., and that it wasn't his fault that Swimmy died.

After a brief scare that the new fish was sickly with mom planning a "return" to the store (burial at sea) and a new fish, Lamb echoed my words when mom asked Lamb if we should return Swimmy, saying "No, we have to take care of him."

I also bought a Wii on Friday. I wanted it for Netflix viewing on my TV. I've been meaning to do this, but never got around to getting the gear. But Netflix said they'd send me a disk to connect a Wii to my account. The Wii hooks up to the Internet so I thought I'd get a really good cost savings. As a bonus, Target had Wii on special with their resort sports game tossed in free. Alas, the guy at the storesaid that the Wii does not connect to the Internet independently. I thought maybe it was like a cell phone type of thing. So I'll have to buy the router after all. Still, I'll save a bit of money and have a Wii.

Which is good. I can finally correct that "guy deficiency" I've endured with no first-person shooter game experience. And I figure that with my kids liking video games, this at least gets them up and jumping around more--expecially in bad weather. Mister loved it. Lamb will get a shot tonight for the first time.

So I have a Wii all hooked up and in the next couple weeks I'll connect it to the Internet. And get the FPS game and gun.

I also took Lamb and Mister to see Diary of a Wimpy Kid after school on Friday. It is rare to have one movie both wanted to see. I held off because their mom wanted to take them and I think I've been the one to take them to every movie they've seen. But as work and school took their toll, she said she couldn't do it so I had the green light. They both liked it quite a bit. The wimpy kid was really a jerk. I hadn't realized it. he learns a lesson, of course, but it was different than I expected.

Plus, on Saturday, Mister and I went to see the University of Michigan spring practice. That was a hoot. I loved the alumni player game and Mister loved the scrimmage showing off new players. It was way too cold for the hour gap in between the two events, so next year if it is this cold we'll skip the morning flag game to avoid freezing and begging for sunshine to peek through the clouds.

But we got a yellow fan towel and bear that helped Mott children's hospital, and they were practically giving away last year's student maize-out t-shirts. So the kids got gifts.

Finally, Mister and I saw the Red Wings lose on Sunday afternoon to Phoenix. It started out well enough with an inspiring opening ceremony, complete with octopus:




And they handed out Red Wings towels to wave. Cheap towels made the high ticket prices so worth it!

We played quite well the first period too, against a tough Coyotes team. But then the last two periods were awful to watch. Yet still we had a shot at winning if not for a couple odd calls that negated apparent goals. The hockey Gods were not good to us.

After the Hockey gods reached out and touched me two weeks ago, this seemed very wrong.

Let me explain.

After Detroit beat Chicago in the season-ending game to clinch 5th place in our conference, Mister and I basked in the relief but I didn't think about the logic of this win. With the win, we'd finally know we were playing Phoenix and I could actually think about getting playoff tickets. They were already on sale, but I couldn't buy them until I knew the dates so I could get a weekend game to take Mister. School is still the priority. But it didn't occur to me that the dates should be known after beating Chicago.

So I went to bed Sunday night, yet tossed and turned. I could not fall asleep. That was odd. Usually I drop off to sleep easily. Finally, around 11:50, it occurred to me that the round one schedule should be known!

But I was tired. I thought I could order tickets at lunch the next day. But what if seats were snapped up? What if I had to wait until the evening to order?

So I got up and fired up my computer. The Red Wings site had the schedule. Sunday for game three at home at 3:00 pm! Bingo! So I want to Ticketmaster. But they had no firm schedule. Just options to buy first home game and such options. Am I wrong to know the dates and times when the sellers don't know? I go to the other site that the Wings site highlighted. Same deal. So I call up the toll-free number. They don't know the dates, either. But I start to buy on the phone through the automated system, hoping they'll mention the date. I get good seats, actually, and worried about mail delays, say I'll pick them up. They'll tell me where, right? Sadly, they did not tell me and I could not go back to change to will call. I could buy--and who knows where I have to pick them up "locally", or I could cancel--and lose the good seats. After trying key words in vain to change dleivery or get a human, I cancel.

And then start over--and get better tickets! The gods are truly smiling at me! This time I get the pick up option and complete the deal. Still, I'm uncertain I actually have tickets for a Sunday game! Nonrefundable tickets! The next day I double check with Lamb's grandparents to make sure they can take care of Lamb--they were happy to do so. And I noticed on the Red Wings site that the news article announcing the schedule was posted Sunday night at 11:52 PM! Just a couple minutes after I first woke remembering I should order tickets. Tell me that the hockey gods didn't reach down and shake me awake from the restless netherworld of tired non-slumber I found myself in? Victory seemed assured! I joked I should empty my 401k and bet it all on the Wings in game 3. Luckily, I'm not a total idiot. Still, a fun time at the Joe. And we did tie up the series the next game at home.

One more thing. As I mentioned earlier in relation to my razor blades, after four days of not shaving over the weekend, I experienced the wonder of using newly arrived fresh blades that replaced my rather dull two-decade old blades. Wow. The ease of hacking that growth away will not encourage me to keep up on my shaving. And I won't go more than another decade without replacing blades, that's for sure!

So that was my busy weekend. Tonight Lamb gets to try the Wii and hopefull tonight and Sunday, the Red Wings knock Phoenix out of round one.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Magical, Fragile, and Ultimately Transient

I've long wondered what planet Fareed Zakaria lives on. Now we know--a doomed one.

Eternal optimist that I am, I count this as progress. Perhaps Zakaria has finally admitted he knows nothing about international affairs and has decided to focus his intellectual might on climate change.

I'm thinking that Newsweek itself is in danger of disappearing. Visit it while you can, I guess.

Volcanic Aerial Supremacy

The Air Force has had to curtail operations in Europe because of the volcanic ash wafting across the continent:

Like their commercial cousins, fighters, reconnaissance planes, helicopters and other military aircraft around the region sat idle for days. They are just now beginning to come back to life, although fighter jets — which have highly sensitive engines — remain grounded across much of Europe.

The Belgians and Finns tested their planes in the ash environment and suffered engine damage for their troubles.

NATO's airborne warning and control aircraft shifted to Italian bases to continue their missions.

The grounding has affected the war effort:

Getting supplies to Afghanistan has also gotten more complicated, and troops have had to deal with mail not being delivered properly and low supplies at base stores.

As I noted, this would have been a big freaking deal if the balloon had gone up in the Cold War, rather than being an inconvenience today.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Too Bad to Survive?

So The Sarah Connor Chronicles was canceled. Goodbye two hot females.

And Doll House sucked. Hot female couldn't redeem it.

And Battlestar Galactica got so lame that I never bothered to watch the final episode. I just stopped caring. Notwithstanding a couple hot females in the cast.

And I even enjoyed Enterprise, which is much mocked. Yes, one hot Vulcan.

Not to imply that my TV viewing habits are totally focused on hot females. Hockey doesn't even have cheerleaders, I'll have you know.

But a good story and a hot female are hard for me to resist (think Buffy the Vampire Slayer, here). In my defense, as I noted, Doll House was too awful to watch, although the promise of Summer Glau got me to swear to give it another try. And I never liked Star Trek: Voyager at all, despite a hot female.

So with nothing else out there, I started watching V. I didn't like the original. But what the heck.

But I'm watching it on inertia now. So far, the story just sucks. Oh, the first four episoded were entertaining. But since then? Ugh.

Yes, Erica is cute. But Anna with short hair is just not there for me. And eating her mates is off-putting, I have to say.

Further, Erica's son is too annoying to live.

The resistance seems pretty lame, too.

Nor do I understand how the Visitors have failed to install security cameras on their ships to prevent the 5th column from wandering the ship at will. Does nobody notice the guys not standing in rapture when Anna speaks to them? Cameras are all over the planet monitoring humans, but on the ships? Nothing.

Maybe the show will get better before I stop watching it.

But hey, consider that I never watched Firefly until long after it was canceled. So what do I know?

Bizarro World

Jessica Alba is in Washington, D.C. The article starts:

Adoring fans will be lurking around Capitol Hill corners today as actress and head-turner Jessica Alba attends a press event alongside Rep. Nita Lowey.

There is a picture, too:


Washington, DC is a strange place. With all due respect to the legislator, in what alternate universe does that picture require this caption?

Actress Jessica Alba (right) join Rep. Nita Lowey at a press event on Wednesday to promote a program that aims to achieve universal basic education for every child in the world by 2015.

Got it? Representative Lowey is on the left. Ms. Alba is on the right.

Glad we cleared that up.

Speed Bumps

The Chinese navy is playing near Japanese islands:

Two Chinese submarines and eight destroyers that were spotted earlier this month on the high seas near Okinawa later passed near Japan's southernmost island of Okinotori, several government sources said Tuesday.

The article speaks of economic zone issues. But I am more interested in the location of the island, lying between Guam and Taiwan.

As I've droned on about for years now, China doesn't need to defeat our Navy to inflict a defeat on us over Taiwan. China just needs to delay our intervention long enough to complete the conquest of Taiwan.

A Chinese naval force east of Taiwan will be toast if it comes to a fight with our Navy as it sallies forth from a Guam stepping stone; but if we don't reach Taiwan until after China conquers the place, the price China pays in relatively old ships will be worth it to Peking.

Global Organizing

I've noted that I don't believe it is accurate to accuse the Obama administration of demonstrating amateur hour in foreign policy. Amateurs know the rules of the game--they just don't know how to play well yet.

The Obama administration just isn't playing the game they should be playing:

From its inception, the Obama administration has talked and talked a great deal about the way it wants the world to be. Rhetorical theatrics, to include sermons promoting visions, and emotionally charged media spectaculars hold pre-eminent and almost holy positions among administration elites.

This is understandable, for these are the tools of domestic politics in a free, secure nation of laws -- the terrain where American community organizers operate. Obama believes that if he can chitchat long enough and with sufficient eloquence, the world will align with his words -- his rhetorical "oughtta be" becomes the way it is. It worked in Chicago.

This will work out just swell, I'm sure.

UPDATE: How's it working in Sudan? (Tip to Instapundit)

It's like the concepts of hope and change are meaningless to some people!

Their Head Up Their Ash?

I'm no fan of the European Union on many levels.

The Iceland volcano's ash fallout led the European Union bureaucracy that increasingly rules Europe to shut down air traffic and many Europeans think they went too far:

Politicians from across the continent lashed out at what they saw as the E.U.'s sluggishness in a vociferous debate in the European Parliament on Tuesday - when about half of Europe's scheduled flights departed - blasting the bureaucrats in Brussels for being out of their depth in responding to the chaos. Europe, said German lawmaker Jo Leinen, was "ill prepared for natural disasters." Philip Bradbourn, a British Conservative Party member of the E.P., said the E.U.'s response had been like "licking a finger and sticking it in the air to see what way the wind is blowing."

As Churchill once said of Hitler invading Hell, if a volcano can inspire resistance to the EU soft dictatorship forming before our eyes, I'll at least put in a favorable reference about lava in The Dignified Rant.

Nearing the Event Horizon

Russia would dearly like Ukraine back in their orbit.

The recent election of a pro-Russian President Yanukovych is going far toward nudging Ukraine into the Russian orbit. Russia has scored a visible success very early:

Russian news agencies report that the presidents of Ukraine and Russia have agreed to extend the stay of Russia's Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol beyond the lease expiry in 2017.

How long before Ukraine is so close to Russia that not even Orange can escape the gravitational pull?

I remain amazed that an entire nation effectively voted to surrender their freedom and independence.

UPDATE: Ya think?

President Viktor Yanukovych on Thursday defended a deal to allow a Russian base to stay in Ukraine until 2042 after it was slammed by his opponents as a surrender of national sovereignty.

Yanukovych and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had agreed to extend the lease of the Russian Black Sea Fleet base in Crimea for another 25 years after 2017, in exchange for Kiev receiving a discount of 30 percent on gas imports.

A surrender of national sovereignty? Fancy that. Yes, that was the point of electing a pro-Russian president. The opposition is naturally upset. We shall see if the people who voted Yanukovych in will think that 30% off gas is worth the sale of sovereignty.

Dreams of "balancing" Russia and the West will remain just a dream. Ukraine has chosen a path to reuniting with Russia in practice. They'll keep their seals, postage stamps, and UN seat (but then, they had one when in the USSR, too, if you'll recall), but Ukraine's brief flirtation with independence has essentially ended after only a generation. Oh, not all at once, of course. But independence will erode and Moscow will gain more and more power, until only the trappings of independence remain.

Ukraine is dead. Long live The Ukraine.

At the Risk of Repeating Myself

This sentiment expressed by Admiral Mullen is accurate as far as it goes, but is completely misleading:

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen and others have not budged from their view that a U.S. or Israeli military strike on Iran's known nuclear development facilities would not prevent Tehran from eventually building a bomb.

Instead, they warn, an attack on Iran's suspected weapons sites could cause a far-reaching and unpredictable backlash.

Let me repeat what I've long held: ineffective force is counter-productive. If the basis for the statement that bombing Iran's nuclear facilities will not stop Iran from going nuclear, it misses the point that a strike on Iran's nuclear facilities cannot be our entire strategy.

You would never claim that bombarding an enemy line could win the battle. You follow up with an attack that defeats the enemy and exploits that battle victory to win the war. Likewise, a strike on Iran's nuke facilities is just one part of the war--it is not a drive-by shooting.

A strike on Iran's nuclear facilities needs to be accompanied by an aerial campaign designed to blunt Iran's conventional military and terrorist capabilities, including command and control, in order to contain that backlash.

We'd need to perhaps blockade Iran  after starting the aerial campaign to enhance the pain of the strikes and push Iran's regime over. As long as we are going to war, enforce ablockade to negotiate a ceasefire that compels Iran to muzzle any terrorist response.

Or we'd need a plan to overthrow the government outright.

The point is, the strike on nuclear facilities should not be seen as a silver bullet that solves all Iran-related problems. We'd need to do more. More at the time and more in the months and years to follow.

And if we don't stop Iran's nuclear drive by military means, we've at least bought time to figure out how to stop them. Or maybe the horse will sing. Isn't that a better option than trying to figure out how to contain Iran after they've gotten nukes?

Even if Iran never uses nukes, how much more terror will they support with the shield of atomic weapons? We can't deter the mullahs now, so how will be deter a more powerful Iran?

Remember, only ineffective half-hearted military force is counter-productive.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Bad Behavior

Yes, Iraq is in a rough neighborhood and their neighbors no doubt do much worse, but this is not acceptable:

Hundreds of Sunni men disappeared for months into a secret Baghdad prison under the jurisdiction of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's military office, where many were routinely tortured until the country's Human Rights Ministry gained access to the facility, Iraqi officials say.

The bright side is that other parts of the government are exposing the crimes rather than helping to cover it up.

Any government can make mistakes or commit crimes, but it takes some level of rule of law to correct them.

Friends of Saddam

The myth persists that the Bush administration Jedi-mind tricked the idea that Saddam aided the 9/11 attacks.

What the administration said repeatedly was that in light of 9/11, we couldn't risk Saddam staying in power. The harm he could unleash was too great to risk.

The anti-war side then heaps scorn on the very idea that Saddam had any links to al Qaeda. They'd pull a fast one by insisting that there was no evidence that Saddam gave orders to bin Laden, neglecting that the concept of links and support does not have to mean an operational or command and control link. Sometimes it seemed as if the only links acceptable as proof to the anti-war side would have been a video of bin Laden pinky swearing with Saddam to obey Saddam and kill Americans.

But the truth is, Saddam was hip deep in support of Islamic terrorism. And that support included helping al Qaeda:

In his book, At the Center of the Storm, George Tenet details some of the evidence the CIA collected on the relationship between Saddam’s Iraq and al Qaeda prior to March 2003. Tenet revealed that the agency, which was divided on the extent of the relationship, had compiled “more than enough evidence” connecting the two. In other words, contrary to what is now the conventional wisdom, there was a relationship between the Baathist regime and the jihadist terror network. The CIA just wasn’t sure how close the relationship was.

We were right to destroy the Saddam regime. We ended the threat that he wold reaquire WMD--including getting nukes which he was darned close to getting in 1991--and we ended his support for terrorism.

As a bonus, we turned an enemy into an ally, under a democratic form of government that may yet show a third way in the Arab world that ends the choice offered thus far of dictatorship (benign or brutal) and Islamism.

Big and Cuddly

Strategypage writes that China may overstate their own military, but they do not underestimate American power as we tend to.

Further, despite out massive power, the world just isn't acting according to classic balance of power theory that holds that the dominant power will see a coalition arise to balance it:

[It's] American, not Chinese, culture that still dominates the world. The Americans invented the Internet, and although Chinese are the largest group of users, the net is still very much an American place. This "hegemony" bothers China a great deal because America also has lots of friends as a result. America allows people from all over the planet to come and become Americans. Most other nations don't even try this sort of thing, and no one does it as well as the Americans. Many Chinese have availed themselves of the opportunity to become Americans. The few who have returned home to make their fortune, largely speak fondly of their lives in America. Few people do that with China. Even the "overseas Chinese" communities throughout the region are wary of the current government in China, while still embracing Chinese culture. So do the math. China has few friends and allies, America has many. China would like to play the traditional diplomatic strategy, by assembling a coalition of like-minded allies to oppose the big guy (America). That doesn't work, as too many nations are more inclined to distrust China, than America.

Indeed, Europe itself is mostly disarming rather than seeking to balance us. And the countries that are arming up include a large number of countries that look to threats other than America--and may want American help. Face it, people just don't fear us despite the venom directed at us. This may cause us some problems with small rogue states that feel free to defy us, but on the bright side it means that nobody with power is determined to erase our military edge with an all-out arms race. And no coalition that can threaten us has arisen.

So when people speak of "repairing" our tattered foreign relations, just what damage do they see?

Provoking Them?

It seems as if the sinking of the South Korean corvette is edging toward the explanation that the ship was attacked--with North Korea being the only suspect in the lineup.

The author thinks that responding militarily could give North Korea the excuse to go to war in a limited way to preserve their regime with a foreign war. The way to go is to squeeze North Korea more with economic warfare.

He has a point on the latter issue. With North Korea imploding, the best thing to do is to hasten the winning strategy and not risk a loss or high-cost military victory by escalating to arms.

But I think his worry that a South Korean military response could provoke a war is not valid. North Korea needs no excuse based on actual South Korean attacks. If North Korea wants to attack South Korea, they'll just tell their people they were attacked first by South Korea.

As I noted early on, a proper South Korean response that uses military force should be equally deniable in public. The point of retaliating quietly off of the main front on land would be to send a signal to the North Koreans that Seoul won't be effed with at no cost--but that Seoul isn't contemplating regime change military action.

No need to rub Pyongyang's nose in the doodie to compel them to escalate to save face. Just do something fairly quiet that shows the northern elites that the south won't be pushed around.

And continue to talk and squeeze North Korea until they die--which has long been my policy preference.

UPDATE: Was it a small semi-submersible?

The unidentified officer said a North Korean semi-submersible vessel carrying 13 crewmembers fired a torpedo at the Cheonan, according to Choi Sung-yong, who said he had spoken to the officer by telephone several times in recent days.

Ramp up the economic warfare against North Korea, and quietly make something blow up in North Korea that can be denied by Seoul.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Twittering While Rome Burns

President Clinton is upset that the world can see our divisions on display:

Former President Bill Clinton says he worries that the world perceives an America too immersed in its own internal political squabbles.

That's a valid enough worry, though I don't remember Clinton noticing this problem prior to January 2009 when the glorious era of hope and change began.

I commented on this problem more than three years ago, but did not suggest the solution should include stifling dissent as much as I hoped--but did not expect--that dissent could be limited to reasonable decibel levels.

Our information operations will suffer dramatically until we can solve the problem. I still think my Plan B is more likely than keeping the world from seeing our squabbles.

Still On Course

We are on track to get 45,000 troops out of Iraq by September1, to reach our 50,000 level goal.

But there are worries as some look at security:

A wave of deadly bombings in and around Baghdad following Iraq's disputed March 7 parliamentary elections raised doubts about whether Iraqi security forces were prepared to protect the country as American forces began to leave.

But Odierno described al-Qaida in Iraq as an enemy on the run. The number of attacks and casualties to civilians and military personnel dropped in the first three months of 2010, he said.

"Iraqi security forces are now in the lead at going after al-Qaida," he said.

Neighboring Iran continues to play a destabilizing role, providing lethal and aid and training for insurgent elements, Odierno said. Asked if he'd like the authority to go into Iran and take out the training camps, he said he doesn't think it is necessary to conduct such operations.

The enemy is certainly vicious and determined to kill, with houses being rigged as bombs to kill neighbors rather than trying to penetrate Iraqi security to after government targets:

Al-Qaeda in Iraq is rigging houses and shops with explosives in a new tactic that has killed and maimed civilians in recent weeks and defied the thousands of security forces in Baghdad, officials say.

The renting of residential buildings for targeted bombings has forced police and the army to adapt their operations, in a bid to prevent more of the attacks that have killed dozens since the country's inconclusive March 7 election.

The US military has even coined a new acronym -- HBIED (house-borne improvised explosive device) for the bombings, which have also left hundreds wounded in the past month in the Iraqi capital.

We've seen these before in Iraq during the surge, hoping to kill our troops clearing buildings. We even saw the enemy build a girl's school from the ground up as giant HBIED killing ground.

The enemy is forcing the government to adapt, it is true; but that is because government forces have forced the enemy to adapt to better security against suicide bombers who need to travel to the target.

But remember that despite the horrific nature of recent attacks, the enemy's capacity to kill has been reduced. The basic statistics of civilian casualties show that despite the "wave of bombings."

I know that many in the anti-war side would be relieved to see our position in Iraq blow up in our faces. But this isn't it. Yes, the enemy can continue to kill innocents, but we continue to win despite the deaths. The enemy can't win on this course.

UPDATE: The enemy is running out of space inside Iraq:

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced the killings of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri at a news conference and showed photographs of their bloody corpses. U.S. military officials later confirmed the deaths, which Vice President Joe Biden called a "potentially devastating blow" to al-Qaida in Iraq.

Their bench isn't so deep these days. This will hurt, it seems.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Chorus Line for the Raptors

We won't have enough F-22 Raptors to carry out all air defense duties.

So I figured we could use more advanced versions of the F-15 as the low part of the high-low air defense mission. With the new AESA radars we are adding to F-15s, there is a lot of potential for more than just identifying targets.

Well, the F-15 is to be the official backup to the Raptor:

F-22 stealth fighter production is capped, so USAF officials are upgrading their best F-15C with advanced, long-range radars to beef up the air dominance force.

Because of the larger size of the F-15s radar and the aircraft’s greater flight endurance, they also will serve as “stand-in” electronic warfare jamming and attack aircraft as part of the Air Force’s composite air dominance force that also includes stealthy F-22s stationed at Langley Air Force Base, Va.

Each fighter type will shoulder 50% of the air dominance mission now that the F-22 force has been capped at 187 aircraft. The upgraded F-15Cs will carry the larger APG-63(V)3 active, electronically scanned array (AESA) radar. The radar's long range and small target detection capability will allow F-22s to operate in electronic silence with their low observability uncompromised by electronic emissions.

With good pilots, good radar, good missiles, and a good system behind them that supports the sorties from maintenance to post-strike analysis, we can continue our 56 years of aerial dominance for decades more.

Friday, April 16, 2010

UNIFAIL, Indeed

In regard to reports that Syria has supplied Hezbollah in southern Lebanon with longer-ranged Scud missiles, this NRO writer asks:

Where was the U.N.? Isn’t UNIFIL supposed to prevent the rearming of Hezbollah? Wasn’t this the great diplomatic victory the Europeans (and, unfortunately, the Bush administration) won to end the 2006 Hezbollah–Israel war? How much money have we and the Europeans spent on UNIFIL? What has the U.N. actually accomplished?

Please, we could see UNIFIL failing long ago.

And indeed, it was obvious from the start that the name should have been UNIFAIL (or perhaps UNIFUTILE).

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Limits of Distraction

President Obama defends our progress in Afghanistan and calculates pretty close to what I did the time frame that the Taliban in Afghanistan started to get the better of us:

"I would dispute the notion that it?s not getting better. I do think that what we?ve seen is a blunting of the momentum of the Taliban which had been building up in the year prior to me taking office," Obama said.

So the president judges that it was in 2008 that the enemy started making gains.

I've judged that it was that year--or maybe sometime in 2007--that we could say that.

My timeline was based on the fact that we pretty much beat al Qaeda in Iraq in 2007 during the surge, and so al Qaeda switched emphasis to Afghanistan. Also, the Taliban in Pakistan managed to set up a good deal inside Pakistan by 2006, eventually complicating our efforts in Afghanistan.

Which means, of course, that Iraq did not "distract" us from winning in Afghanistan. We were doing fine in Afghanistan through 2008 according to the president, but possibly only sometime in 2007 if you ask me. At worst, you can argue that we were delayed in reinforcing Afghanistan by perhaps a year because of Iraq. But since it looked like a win was coming in Iraq by the end of 2007, we didn't take extraordinary measures to bolster Afghanistan before reductions in Iraq could ease that path. If the situation in Afghanistan was that bad, we could have done something sooner.

Of course, as a funny aside, the anti-war side's protest of President Obama's fall 2009 decision to escalate pretty much defines how much they thought we were distracted, even if you accept that we were.

The Left knows little of warfare. They proved that in Iraq. Don't let them prove it again in Afghanistan.