Saturday, July 31, 2010

Australian Rules Dodgeball

If you can dodge reality, you can dodge a ball.

Dressing Up Suicide as Deep Thinking

This suggestion for defending Taiwan is just ridiculous:

Taiwan might consider the “Hezbollah deterrent.” A large number of conventionally-armed rockets and shorter-range ballistic missiles distributed around the country could pose to China the same kind of threat of massed missile attacks that Beijing now presents to nations along its periphery. A distributed arsenal of rockets and missiles would be extremely difficult for China to neutralize. Moreover, relatively simple precision-guidance technology could dramatically increase the effectiveness of these weapons. A barrage of missiles could play havoc with the PLA’s airfields, naval bases and communications infrastructure. Taiwan could add to its defensive potential by also deploying relatively low-cost armed unmanned aerial systems, the potential of which Hezbollah is also exploring.

Taiwan needs the proverbial “out-of-the-box” approach to its defense. Trying to buy or build a traditional conventional defense is becoming nearly impossible. As China invests more of its great wealth in a high-end military, Taiwan should consider going low-tech.

I've certainly written that the balance of forces in the Taiwan strait is indeed shifting to China and at some point, Taiwan needs to do more than just try to build up their forces to buy time for America to intervene. But this alternative to that clear problem is ridiculous and a recipe for Taiwan's defeat.
Basing Taiwan's defense strategy on Hezbollah is folly. Hezbollah has no need to defend the land it stands on other than for the purpose of inflicting casualties on Israeli troops that attack them. Taiwan must defeat the Chinese to hold their country.
Hezbollah can retreat secure in the knowledge that Israel does not want to own southern Lebanon. And if Israel did, Hezbollah could still retreat north secure in the knowledge that Israel would not want to occupy all of Lebanon. Taiwan can't afford to let China get even a foothold on Taiwan, since that would just allow China to build a bridgehead for another round at a future date.
China, if it attacks Taiwan, will want to occupy Taiwan. That will be the purpose of the attacks--the Chinese won't be thinking about how they can stop the barrage of Taiwanese missiles while minimizing Chinese casualties. China will endure whatever pain Taiwan can throw at them and simply conquer the island if the only thing Taiwan can do is fling missiles. China's invasion task will be easier if Taiwan abandons high tech weapons that try to defeat the Chinese military approaching and landing on Taiwan, and just relies on the ability to inflict pain with missiles and armed UAVs.
Out of the box thinking? Don't dignify it with that type of description. This is nothing but a pine box to bury Taiwan in.
But by all means, if Taiwan gets Israel as their prime enemy, let's reconsider this fine suggestion.

UPDATE: Thank you to Mad Minerva for the link.

Assuming Peace

Max Boot writes that our leaders are already looking to the end of the Iraq campaign (and assuming an early end to the Afghanistan campaign) to justify major defense cuts. It would be wrong based on history to do that, he rights.

Of course, the boat of defense reductions has already sailed. We've already instituted our own version of Britain's pre-World War II "ten year rule" that says we face no military threats that can justify a higher defense budget.

Someone will challenge us somewhere. Of that I am sure. And I'm pretty sure that we will either lose the first battle or suffer more casualties winning that first battle because of our determination to slash defense spending.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Littlest Squirt Shop

Lamb lost one of her Littlest Pet Shops today, and spun a tale of woe about who might have stolen it. There were lots of tears and it broke my heart to see her so sad. Eventually, we determined that she had seen the  missing toy after her day camp ended. So it could not have been stolen. And we determined she had done multiple inventories before the inventory at my home where she discovered the loss.

So I checked my car. And I promised to search the grounds near my home, retracing our steps. If we can't find it, I promise we'll try to get the exact same one. But the tears and words said it was not possible--it was no longer made and it was one of her top ten favorite Littlest Pet Shop toys.

Well, that would make it more difficult to set this right.

But true to my word, after stopping for a quick bit of grocery shopping, I searched the grass in the dark. After coming up empty, I grabbed my groceries and made a last sweep on the route to my front door. With my eyes firmly on the ground, scanning left to right and back, I slowly made my way up the sidewalk, trying to catch a glimpse of a tiny hamster.

As I closed on my door, out of the corner of my eye I saw a cat scampering towards me. I looked to my right to say hi to the kitty that was just a few feet from me and still approaching, when I noticed that IT WAS NOT A CAT.

It was a black and white skunk. Not fully grown, it seemed, and still approaching me. I backed away, saying "nice skunk" in a calm and low voice. Let's not get all excited, here, right? At that moment, I wanted that skunk to be the happiest and safest feeling skunk in the whole wide world. No threats from me, no sirree.

But the young skunk kept approaching me. Not threatening--it might have been friendly, even. But no offense, skunk, but you do have that whole gland thing. But for that I'd probably dig out a hamburger bun and offer it to you. But you do have the stinky, spraying gland, so no deal. So I turned and began walking quickly away, wondering how far they can spray and unsure of wind direction.. Still loaded down with groceries, I might add.

Luckily, it kept going and I turned back to my door to get in and close the door fast.

And when I set down my groceries and listened to the answering machine message flashing at me, it was Lamb happily telling me I could quit looking because her grandma (who picked her up from the camp) had found the little pet in her car. Not stolen at all. And now found. I could hear no tears any more in Lamb's voice.

So I came close to getting hosed down by a skunk looking for a non-missing, small--but dear--plastic toy.

Lamb enjoyed that part.

Transparently On the Other Side

WikiLeaks is effectively a combatant on the other side in the war on terror. I noted that WikiLeaks is waging war on America by undermining our war effort in Afghanistan. It is also part of a trend that could undermine the ability and willingness of our military to fight for us.

In regard to WikiLeaks waging war on us, if you doubt me, read this. Assange and his crowd deserve our contempt and not our admiration for purportedly standing up for transparency.

Also, I was not quite accurate when I described WikiLeaks as not shooting at us in their war. Sure, it is still technically true, but people will die as a direct result of the WikiLeaks data dump:

Hundreds of Afghan lives have been put at risk by the leaking of 90,000 intelligence documents to WikiLeaks because the files identify informants working with NATO forces.

In just two hours of searching the WikiLeaks archive, The Times of London found the names of dozens of Afghans credited with providing detailed intelligence to U.S. forces. Their villages are given for identification and also, in many cases, their fathers' names.

The WikiLeaks people won't be pulling the trigger, so it is better to think of WikiLeaks as a targeting drone that pinpointed the targets for others to kill. Perhaps that disgusting worm Assange can explain to these Afghan women why they are acceptable losses in his war on America.

I'll ask again, how do we wage war on a non-state actor waging war on America this way? Because have no doubt, we have to wage war on them. The only question is how.

UPDATE: The Taliban are examining their intelligence agency's data to look for targets.

If Assange was directly working for the Taliban, we'd Predator his ass. But because he puts out information on Afghan people who work with us that anyone might use, he's apparently not considered a combatant.

But that is a ridiculous conclusion. When non-state actors come off the porch to run with the big dogs, they should expect to get bitten. I'm not saying that we should kill Assange. Assange is in a gray area but I'm not prepared to say we should enter that gray area and treat him as an enemy combatant. It would be wrong, I think. And counter-productive in bad publicity. I'm not terribly sure that the French don't regret attacking Greenpeace way back when. Was France justified? Probably. Was that violent response wise? Definitely not.

But we have to figure out how to combat and stop Assange and people like him when they are effectively waging war on us and getting people killed.

Toxic Reporting

I guess it is time for another news item accusing the US military of something horrible:

Dramatic increases in infant mortality, cancer and leukaemia in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, which was bombarded by US Marines in 2004, exceed those reported by survivors of the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, according to a new study.

Wow. That sounds pretty bad. And it is a "study" so who could question that?

But I smell bullshit. One, the comparison to a nuclear attack seems a bit much, even for a person pre-disposed to think ill of America, doesn't it?

Dr Chris Busby, a visiting professor at the University of Ulster and one of the authors of the survey of 4,800 individuals in Fallujah, said it is difficult to pin down the exact cause of the cancers and birth defects. He added that "to produce an effect like this, some very major mutagenic exposure must have occurred in 2004 when the attacks happened".

Ah, first off, we have a survey of 4,800 extrapolated to the whole city. Shades of Lancet mortality surveys, I'd say. Oh my oh my, I wonder how that survey sample was selected?

And the fact that it is difficult to pin down the cause of birth defects doesn't stop them from trying to blame it on us. I mean, it must have occurred because of the 2004 attacks.

So what could it be? First, let's establish indiscriminate firepower usage to set the stage:

US Marines first besieged and bombarded Fallujah, 30 miles west of Baghdad, in April 2004 after four employees of the American security company Blackwater were killed and their bodies burned. After an eight-month stand-off, the Marines stormed the city in November using artillery and aerial bombing against rebel positions. US forces later admitted that they had employed white phosphorus as well as other munitions.

We "admitted" we used white phosphorus. As if we only owned up to it after intense questioning. That round has long been the subject of international Leftists trying to nail us for chemical warfare. It is a chemical, no doubt. But it is not a chemical weapon. It is lawful to use in combat, although it is not supposed to be fired directly at enemy forces because of the burning wounds it causes.

And then of course, we "admitted" we used "other munitions," too! Double ah ha! Imagine using munitions in a war! Where are Belgian judges when you need them?

Then check this out:

In the assault US commanders largely treated Fallujah as a free-fire zone to try to reduce casualties among their own troops. British officers were appalled by the lack of concern for civilian casualties. "During preparatory operations in the November 2004 Fallujah clearance operation, on one night over 40 155mm artillery rounds were fired into a small sector of the city," recalled Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster, a British commander serving with the American forces in Baghdad.

He added that the US commander who ordered this devastating use of firepower did not consider it significant enough to mention it in his daily report to the US general in command. Dr Busby says that while he cannot identify the type of armaments used by the Marines, the extent of genetic damage suffered by inhabitants suggests the use of uranium in some form. He said: "My guess is that they used a new weapon against buildings to break through walls and kill those inside."

So we used it as a free-fire zone? Well, we did blast our way through the place. But we didn't blast as much as we could have given the house-to-house fighting we initiated. And we did work to evacuate as many innocent civilans as possible before the November assault.

The article cites 40 rounds in one night as one worthy of horror. But 40 rounds over a night doesn't seem like a lot to me. Even if high explosive rounds, that isn't a lot. Maybe the firing wasn't mentioned because they were illumination rounds? That's possible. But we don't know and the article doesn't say. And there is no knowledge of what we shot at, if indeed it was high explosive rounds. But surely they know we were aiming directly at little kids and kittens.

And then the killer leap: we must have used a new form of uranium-based round to penetrate the building walls.

Wow. Now we are in to seriously stupid territory. Depleted uranium rounds--very dense rounds that are designed to penetrate the thick armor of main battle tanks--are another weapon the international Left loves to drone on about. It is not the horrible weapon--except to an enemy shooting at us--it is made out to be. And more to the point, why on earth would we need to use such ammunition on buildings? What kind of super building material was used in Fallujah housing, anyway? I'll take a wild guess and say that the exotic weapon known as "high explosives" would break through walls and kill those inside.

This sounds like just another hit piece that the Lefty journalists in the Western world love to write about America and which Lefty readers in Western Europe, along with many in the Third World, love to read with their morning tea.

I call BS on this one.

Local News

I usually don't pay attention to local news in other cities, but I'll make an exception.

Terrorism in New York. Iran. Venezuela. Yep, just local news.

Maybe WikiLeaks will publish details of this quiet trial so the rest of us can see what is going on.

You know, in the name of transparency and all that.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Sleeping Through the Analysis

The New York Times wrote about the numbers I noted earlier about the price of war, and manages to screw up the story by missing the point. Writes the Times:

A second look at the numbers shows another story underneath. In 2008, the peak year so far of war spending for Iraq and Afghanistan, the costs amounted to only 1.2 percent of America’s gross domestic product. During the peak year of spending on World War II, 1945, the costs came to nearly 36 percent of G.D.P.

The reason is the immense growth, and seemingly limitless credit, of the United States economy over the last 65 years, as compared to the sacrifice and unity required to wring $4 trillion from a much smaller economy to wage the earlier war. To some historians, the difference is troubling.

Well, they get the concept that war is relatively cheaper today than in the past, given our much larger economy to support the war, but what do they make of it?

“The army is at war, but the country is not,” said David M. Kennedy, the Stanford University historian. “We have managed to create and field an armed force that can engage in very, very lethal warfare without the society in whose name it fights breaking a sweat.” The result, he said, is “a moral hazard for the political leadership to resort to force in the knowledge that civil society will not be deeply disturbed.”

Ah, there you go. He wants our society to be disturbed. That really is the heart of the problem from his point of view: we haven't burdened the society to the point that we are so disturbed that we end the war before achieving victory. And what is the main factor for "breaking a sweat"? Well, taxing us:

A corollary is that taxes have not been raised to pay for Iraq and Afghanistan — the first time that has happened in an American war since the Revolution, when there was not yet a country to impose them. Rightly or wrongly, that has further cut American civilians off from the two wars on the opposite side of the world.

Before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, “Americans were called upon by their leaders to pay higher taxes during a war, and grumbling or not grumbling, they did it,” said Robert D. Hormats, the under secretary of state for economic, energy and agricultural affairs and the author of “The Price of Liberty: Paying for America’s Wars.”

Funny, I seem to recall one of the complaints about Vietnam is that we didn't raise taxes to fight that war. And funny, I don't recall anyone urging us to shut down the civilian economy to support the war effort like we did in World War II. No, the only sacrifice is to burden the public with higher taxes even if we don't need to do that.

But more to the point of the burden of war and taxation, look at World War II versus Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2008, we spent 1.2% of our GDP on those campaigns. The peak burden for World War II was nearly 36%. Gosh, why would we have to borrow money for waging World War II yet not borrow it for Iraq and Afghanistan? Wow. That's a mystery. Excuse me while I go out and get a mortgage to buy a TV. After all, I got one of those mortgages to buy my home. Obviously I should use that tool for all my buying needs.

Face it, we're not broke because of the costs of war or defense. We're broke because of the costs of everything else.

Oh, and one more bit of annoyance:
A last story in the numbers: A quick calculation shows that the United States has been at war for 47 of its 230 years, or 20 percent of its history. Put another way, Americans have been at war one year out of every five.

“You know, it’s a surprise to me that it’s that high,” said Mr. Daggett, who has focused on the cost, not length, of wars. “You think of war as not being the usual state.”

Hmm. Twenty percent of time is the usual state? I'd say that the peace side of the ledger at 80% does indeed indicate that war is not the usual state for us. I mean, I spend about 30% of my life asleep yet somehow I think of being awake as my usual state.

Wake me when these guys get a clue.

Well, Thanks

I just went to Chipotles in Briarwood mall. I have a night off from seeing my kids, so thought I'd take the opportunity to get a couple birthday cards and a graduation card from the fancy pants card store. While at the mall, I thought, I feel like getting a burrito for dinner.

But the kind of beef I wanted was out. The staff said it would take 5 minutes as they prepared more. I said, no problem.

And they gave me a drink for my trouble. Well, that's darned nice, I thought. Five minutes is no big deal, really.

So I patiently waited and finished my drink. The beef was ready and I ordered my burrito. I added chips and salsa since I figured they were awfully nice to comp me a drink for my supposed troubles. And when I got to the cashier, I was told the meal was free and they were sorry for the wait.

Really, I said, you don't have to do that. No, the guy said, it's on them. And he thanked me.

Not being an unreasonable man, I didn't insult the man by arguing with him further. I'm good for one protest, but don't count on more. I thanked him and left.

I still don't get it. I wasn't rude, so he didn't think I was a Congressman upset at the service. And I wasn't wearing a Red Wings jersey, so he wasn't frightened of me. I was just wearing a suit and tie. Well, the coat was in my car. And my tie was loosened. But what else? I didn't complain about anything and was perfectly polite and pleasant during the whole exchange. Really, I would have paid for the food.

Anyway, thanks to the staff at Briarwood Chipotle. And it was a good burrito, too.

Le Cowboys

Enough with the nuance, let's go kill them.

Good hunting, France. I've made my share of "cheese-eating surrender monkey" comments in the past--mostly over their failure to help us in Iraq--but they are an ally. And their military is of good quality. They'll kill some people who need to be killed.

Yippie ki-yay, jihadis.

UPDATE: I was perhaps too hasty in granting France status in the top tier of militarily capable nations:

Several years ago, military readiness documents were leaked to the media, revealing what a lot of people in the military already knew. That is, the French armed forces was largely a hollow shell. Most of the money went to the payroll and procurement, and not enough to maintenance. As a result, half the armored vehicles, and over half the aircraft, were not fit for service. Spare parts, and maintenance personnel were in short supply. This can be most easily seen by comparing how much is spent each year per person in the military. In the United States, it's $350,000. In Britain (which also has maintenance problems), it's $194,000, while in France it was $84,000.

Once, my judgment was true, but I guess the post-Cold War has not been kind over time and their abilities across the conflict spectrum have deterioriated. France has the residual capabilities and traditions to rebuild a top tier military.

We shall see what they do. At least they're not as bad as Belgium.

A Known Known?

Stratfor has a good piece on the WikiLeaks Afghanistan data dump, but I have to object to this statement:

The WikiLeaks portray a war in which the United States has a vastly insufficient force on the ground that is fighting a capable and dedicated enemy who isn’t going anywhere. The Taliban know that they win just by not being defeated, and they know that they won’t be defeated. The Americans are leaving, meaning the Taliban need only wait and prepare.

Really? Vastly insufficient forces? Yeah, that was said a lot about Iraq, and yet here we are with Vice President Biden boasting that Iraq could be the administration's greatest achievement.

A capable and dedicated enemy? Yeah, that was said of the Baathists, Sadrists, and al Qaeda killers in Iraq, and yet here we are. The enemy did indeed go somewhere: to Paradise, Syria, Jordan, or just home to move on after admitting defeat.

As to the enemy winning by just not being defeated? Sure, but I think we are defeating the enemy in Afghanistan. It doesn't matter whether the enemy believes they won't be defeated. Recall that in Iraq, the Awakening just started to really snow ball in fall 2006. That was at the same time that the Iraq Study Group was counseling withdrawal from Iraq and the new Speaker Pelosi gave the gavel to the children in the House of Representatives and voiced determination to get out of Iraq. That summer, our Senate nearly voted against funding the war and the press was, with few exceptions, declaring the surge a failure.

Yet with all that, instead of evading our offensive and just waiting and preparing for us to leave, some of our enemies in Iraq switched sides. We won.

Yes, we will be leaving Afghanistan eventually. But we can still beat the enemy before we go. Watch what happens in Kandahar this summer and fall:

The new commander of U.S. forces, general David Petraeus, has cancelled his predecessors plan for clearing the Taliban out of Kandahar (with large numbers of troops hunting down and killing or capturing key Taliban personnel). Instead, the U.S. will attempt to make deals with the various factions in Kandahar, and then send in troops to round up (or kill) key Taliban personnel. The new strategy is not a lot different from the old one, especially in a strategic sense. What it is doing differently is seen at the tactical level, where the troops are concentrating more on enemy logistics (blocking routes used by the Taliban to get people and weapons into Kandahar) and bases outside the city, that support forces inside the city.

Don't lose heart.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Fight or Flight?

Some years ago, the poverty of North Korea led the elites to siphon money away from the army--once a pillar of their government--to focus limited resources on the secret police to control the army and people, and nuclear weapons to deter invasion. Kooks, spooks, and nukes, I called it. The army was as much a threat as a tool under this governing philosophy. At best, the secret police keep the army loyal and willing to suppress the people if it comes to a fight. At worst, they keep the army from acting against the ruling elite.

The army is apparently in some grey area between loyalty and revolt:

Along the North Korea border, Chinese police are noting a sharp increase in North Korea military personnel coming across. The few that are caught speak of sharp cuts in their food supplies, and many senior army and political officials stockpiling supplies and sending their families to China, or even more distant safe-havens.

It seems like the lack of financial support is triggering a "fight or flight" reflex in the army. At this point, it seems like the army is willing to flee. The North Korean regime can't accept this problem in case it leads to really large-scale flight.

But if the North Korean elites halt the army's flight reflex, the elites might find that all they have left is the fight reflex. And if the regime tries to direct that fight reflex against the South Koreans, the elites might find that the lack of resources given to the army means that the army will know that going up against the well-armed and well-trained South Koreans is a death sentence.

The fight reflex could remain however, and be used against the only target possible--the regime itself.

It's No Secret

WikiLeaks has published lots of classified government documents about our war effort in Afghanistan, with the clear intent of undermining and ending our war there. WikiLeaks is a private entity essentially waging war on the United States.

I've mentioned private warfare before, and this is another challenge to the assumption that a state wages war on another state. Already, we see the problem of waging war on jihadi terrorists. It isn't enough to wage war on al Qaeda since the enemy is too shapeless to fit even into that loose category let alone the strict concept of a state.

Heck, we even have problems confronting the state of Iran even as it supports entities who kill our people in Iraq and Afghanistan since so many in the West argue that "Iran" does not fight us--the Revolutionary Guards (Pasdaran), which is an entity within Iran's government, are fighting us.

So how do we wage war on a private entity that is waging war on us, admittedly without shooting at us, through leaking information that will damage our war effort? No, the information isn't that big a deal. I had "secret" clearance in the Guard, for Pete's sake. But while the information isn't news to those who pay attention, the documents could be demoralizing to those not prepared for that level of detail or who don't place the information in context.

Maybe retired general Stanley McChrystal, who's forgotten more about irregular warfare than most people will ever learn, will start a company to wage war (both violent and non-violent) in the shadows against entities that have their own foreign policy regarding America despite the fact that they are not official members of the international community.

Actually, McChrystal would be a good guy to send to Pakistan as an adviser to help the Pakistanis wage war on their jihadis in the tribal frontier areas.

UPDATE: Well, here's one way to take on Assange.

Collateral Damage

The WikiLeaks episode will harm our war effort in Afghanistan and represents a danger to simply defending our nation.

It is a threat to the war going on right now because the reports reportedly show nothing that is new about the war. But by providing glimpses of the war in more detail, it shows the horrors of war--any war--and thus gives defeatists more ammunition to argue for losing the war by retreating from it.

WikiLeaks founder even charges war crimes from looking at the material:

Assange told reporters in London that "it is up to a court to decide really if something in the end is a crime. That said ... there does appear to be evidence of war crimes in this material."

The basic problem is that any war--even the former good war of World War II won by the Greatest Generation could be portrayed as a litany of war crimes if subjected to the kind of scrutiny the Afghan campaign is getting now.

And it does no good for the Obama administration to distance itself from that level of scrutiny by saying the releases are about a period pre-Obama. I know they believe the planet starting healing and the waters stopped rising in January 2009, but do they really think the nature of war changed on that date? Besides, that was the time Afghanistan was called the "good war" by the anti-war side. Now they get ammo to justify their switch to opposing the only war they have to protest.

The longer term problem of simply defending ourselves may be less obvious, but stems from this issue of the "good war" being fought as any war is fought. The details laid out may be no different than any other war we've fought, and today's soldiers fight more cleanly than their World War II counter-parts, but what is natural in war can be horrifying to read from the comfort of our homes.

What, I asked more than five years ago, is the price our troops and nation will pay for fighting under a microscope where civilians judge their actions too far removed from the fight? I wrote:

How do we get our military to win when human rights groups might get a hold of tapes that show fatal mistakes and even isolated crimes?

We want our troops to fight clean but when even a good war like World War II would be flyspecked in our day, how do we deal with all this recorded material and how do we bring our troops home with their heads held high over a war well fought and won?

I don't have any answers at the moment, but we need to think about how we will treat our soldiers when their every step in an inherently chaotic environment is scrutinized for errors or wrongdoing. Perhaps years after the events.

If we don't, our military won't fight for us. It will kill--such as in Kosovo when we face inferior enemies unable to strain our capabilities--but will it fight and struggle in a tough fight?

That isn't all that clear to me.
It still isn't clear to me how we cope with the problem I saw coming. Now that the problem has arrived in the form of thousands of first-hand accounts of battle and war, I don't think it is clear to our military or nation. Our troops fight more cleanly than virtually any other nation's army at war, and that includes past American armies. But we may find that faux human rights concerns aimed at our army--rather than armies and forces that truly kill and injure innocents as a matter of policy or indifference--will harm our ability to fight. And that won't be good for global human rights.
I'd say that this effect on our troops and ability to fight is collateral damage to WikiLeak's purported goal of transparency, but I'm pretty sure they hit their target.

What is Unclear About 'Annual'?

Some members of the Senate have noticed that the Pentagon hasn't published its annual report on Chinese military power, which is supposed to be put out every March.

I wondered about that lapse.

Assume a Con Opener

Sometimes when I read articles on foreign policy, I just shake my head in wonder at what drivel can get printed.

This piece seems to want to defend Russia's paranoia about American moves in new NATO countries near Russia, assuming that the Russians are right to be wary of our moves.

This piece of scary news about two new bases in Romania and Bulgaria is so wrong that it is hard to believe it is based on the simplest explanation--sheer ignorance:

Upon completion of these base expansion projects in 2012, two-thirds of the highly mobile Rapid Reaction Corps of the U.S. Army in Europe will be concentrated in Romania and Bulgaria.

If the Russians are shaking in their boots over this, we're the least of their problems. First lets start with the denominator--the "Rapid Reaction Corps" of the US Army in Europe. Right now, our Army plans to have 2 brigades in Europe--maybe four if some worries about the drawdown are acted on. So that "corps" is really just one brigade--a Stryker brigade. That's about 5,000 troops.

So the scary numerator of troops "concentrated" in Romania and Bulgaria, where they can presumably knife their way through to Moscow leaving a swathe of destruction in their path, consists of two battalions of infantry (2 out of 3 in a Stryker brigade). Say, 1,600 men. These and other troops in battalion sized packages will rotate through the two bases on training exercises rather than being permanently assigned to the bases.

Is ignorance enough to explain this kind of writing?

And then there is this:

The whole world puzzles over Washington's motivation for seeking a greater military presence in the Black Sea region, since it hardly can be interpreted as mere expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

One, we seek a supply line across the Caucasus to Afghanistan. That's a pretty good reason. And then there is this reason. But that is in response to Russian actions. We are not engaged in some strange strangulation plan to kill Russia.

We have reasons to expand our presence in the Black Sea. Russia does not own the sea and there is no reason to assume that Russia has the right and expectation to have nobody else there. We're restricted enough in what we can send to the Black Sea under treaty limits, so it is silly to accept Russia's view of the situation as the basis of your analysis of what we are doing.

And for God's sake, learn the difference between a corps and a battalion.

Assume a Can Opener

It amazes me that Paul Krugman is considered a leading intellect in foreign affairs. Whatever his skills at economics are, I don't understand why anyone would give any weight to his foreign policy pronouncements. Long ago, I'd comment on his posts, but it didn't take that long before I decided they were a waste of my time.

Yet Krugman, even at this late date, still thinks that George Bush lied us into the Iraq War, manipulating a "climate of fear" that he engineered. What rot.

Krugman even points to the British effort to ferret out the truth going on now. Again, what rot.

Amazing. I bet they still call themselves the "reality-based" community.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Bridge Too Far

I don't think we should allow a mosque to be built on Ground Zero where the World Trade Center once stood. Andrew McCarthy discusses the problem, concluding:

The Ground Zero project to erect a monument to sharia overlooking the crater where the World Trade Center once stood, and where thousands were slaughtered, is not a test of America’s commitment to religious liberty. America already has thousands of mosques and Islamic centers, including scores in the New York area — though Islam does not allow non-Muslims even to enter its crown-jewel cities of Mecca and Medina, much less to build churches or synagogues.

The Ground Zero project is a test of America’s resolve to face down a civilizational jihad that aims, in the words of its leaders, to destroy us from within.
It would be one thing if this was rebuilding a mosque destroyed in the attack. But this is not a rebuilding project. This is a new mosque. What matters is that jihadis will look at this mosque and see a physical sign of victory in placing a place of Islamic worship on the site of one of their most glorious victories over America, in the heart of the Western world, which they achieved on September 11, 2001. It will be far more significant than razing a church and building a mosque on the same site, erasing a Christian outpost.
It doesn't even matter if the people behind the mosque project are pure of heart and earnest in bridging the gap between Islam and non-Islamic people. The worst in their midst will celebrate this as a victory, and it will help recruiting of more jihadis.
But the people behind the mosque project are not pure of heart, as McCarthy demonstrates.
Imagine if some terrorists claiming to act in the name of Christianity managed to blow up some significant building in Mecca or Medina. Then imagine somebody suggesting we build a church on the rubble of the attack to bridge the gap between Christianity and Islam. Do you really think that the Nuanced American class would support this? Do you think Moslems would approve? Would the Saudis? To ask the question is to answer it.

Finally, for those who say that Islam has nothing to do with our war on terror, doesn't putting a mosque at Ground Zero imply that Islam was responsible for the smoldering crater that once stood there? Why else try to bridge the gap right there? Isn't it symbolic of something? Why wouldn't any of the thousands of other mosques in America do that job? Why right there?
To say that it is good to build a bridge between Islam and America is fine. I think most Moslems in America just want to build a better life for themselves and their children--just like other immigrants. And I wrote of this even in the traumatic hours after the 9/11 attacks. I did not see Islam itself as our enemy even as I was determined to wage war on the Islamists. To see Moslem women in a head scarf driving mini-vans, as I see in my home town, is to see a dagger aimed at the heart of jihadist thinking. In time, assimilation should do its job, as long as we don't hinder the process with our policies.

But to then say that this mosque project is the only way to bridge the gap does not logically follow. And the problems with this project indicate it isn't so much a bridge to promote two-way traffic as it is an invasion corridor for the worst people we are trying to hunt down and kill. The jihadis have made enough progress without giving them a symbol of victory.

Heck, maybe we should deter the jihadis by building Hindu, Jewish, and Christian places of worship on Ground Zero. What would the jihadis think if every time they blew something up in a Western city, a non-Islamic place of worship was built? And if outreach is your goal, make sure that the Hindus, Jews, and Christians hold daily outreach services at those temples and churches teamed up with Moslem clerics in joint services. Wouldn't that be a better bridge between these worlds? Shoot, if putting non-Islamic places of worship seems too "provocative" (but then why isn't the mosque?), put a Hard Rock Cafe, an Internet cafe, and a Victoria's Secret store there if you really want to symbolically defeat the jihadis.

The intent of many supporters of this project is no doubt pure, notwithstanding the highly questionable intent of the project managers themselves. But the symbolism of the project in practice will be a disaster as far as that admirable intent is concerned. It will be a symbolic victory for jihadis to advance into America under their green banner. It is clearly a bridge too far. Cancel the mosque project.

A Fateful Step

If the North Koreans are tempted to strike at the US and South Korean naval forces exercising off of South Korea's coast, as their rhetoric implies, they would be tempting fate. For while America and South Korea are willing to restrain a military response after the March South Korean corvette sinking, these allies may have vowed that the next time will not be consequences free:

The attack on the Cheonan in March, coupled with the uncertain signals coming out of Pyongyang, may have been a game-changer. This week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Bill Gates both visited South Korea and reports suggest the two sides agreed that any future such attack would have to bring a direct military response.

"If the United States and South Korea do nothing should there be a further attack, the message they send is that the North's nuclear weapons give them the ability to act with impunity in the region,” said Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group, a political risk consultancy. “And China, meanwhile, genuinely feels it has lost whatever leverage it had on Pyongyang."

A North Korean attack, followed by quick South Korean (and perhaps direct American) military retaliation, could spiral into a general war across the DMZ. If that happens, despite the casualties and damage that North Korea could inflict on South Korea, the survival of the North Korean regime will rely solely on the restraint shown by South Korea and America.

Because if it looks like escalation is going to happen, South Korea and America have incentive to strike hard and strike quickly at the North Korean nuclear facilities first, and then second at the artillery looming over Seoul. North Korea knows that they too would have incentive to use their assets before they are attacked by the South Koreans, the United States, and perhaps Japan.

With Seoul burning, will South Koreans think more of the further cost of destroying the North Korean regime or the value of preventing even worse from happening in the future should North Korea perfect a nuclear weapon?

And is the North Korean regime, used to getting away with murder, capable of making that calculation before they start off this sequence?

A Quality All It's Own

Strategypage has a brief piece on the F-15SE--Silent Eagle, noting it has some stealth features that allows it to compete with the F-35.

It isn't as comprehensive as a longer post of theirs I quoted back in April 2009, which makes it clear that the stealth features apply to a front view and only from the air. So it would not be useful as a strike aircraft into a high threat environment the way the F-22 or F-35 can be. But it would have an edge in long range air-to-air combat over an unstealthy opponent, providing a useful supplement to the stealth aircraft.

We've already decided that the F-22 is too expensive to buy many of them. It is probably safe to assume that the price of the F-35 will rise, leading to fewer purchases (and then leading to more cuts in the number bought and hence higher unit costs, for an unknown number of cycles).

So with fewer purchases, do we simply shrink the Air Force or do we try to maintain numbers with a less capable aircraft. If we do the latter, could the F-15SE fill the gap?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Well, Fair is Fair

Is this what the North Koreans really came up with over our naval exercises with the South Koreans?

North Korea inflamed tensions over the deadly sinking of a South Korean warship by threatening the United States and South Korea on Saturday with "nuclear deterrence" if they carry out naval maneuvers this weekend.

Given that a lot of people over here think that the proper response to Iran going nuclear is to threaten nuclear deterrence on them, why shouldn't North Korea get the same option?

Of course, the North Koreans may not have gone to the same elite foreign policy programs given their concept of nuclear deterrence:

"The army and people of the DPRK will start a retaliatory sacred war of their own style based on nuclear deterrent any time necessary in order to counter the U.S. imperialists and the South Korean puppet forces deliberately pushing the situation to the brink of a war," North Korea's official news agency said.

Ah, so they don't mean they'd rely on nuclear deterrence. They mean they'll use their nuclear deterrent. That's a completely different concept.

You have to hand it to the North Koreans. They may not understand the terms they use, but they sure do understand what they want to do with their nukes.

So maybe those people here advocating nuclear deterrence against Iran are really just disguised, dreaded NeoCons out for blood.

Friends in Need

We've offered our assistance to resolving island control issues in the South China Sea, which the Chinese won't thank us for since they claim them all, pretty much:

The administration’s decision to get involved appeared to catch China flat-footed and angered its foreign minister, Yang Jiechi, at a time when the country is already on edge over naval exercises the United States and South Korea will hold starting this weekend off the Korean Peninsula.

Twelve of the 27 countries at the security meeting spoke out in favor of a new approach to the South China Sea, prompting Mr. Yang to observe that the American effort seemed orchestrated.

We have interests in maintaining freedom of navigation in international waters. So it doesn't hurt to contest China's claims that they will then use to try and cordon off the area as their territorial waters.

And it helps make China's neighbors more friendly to us since we are effectively providing help in their disputes.

It's nice to remind people that for all the talk of a rising China, it hardly means we are expelled from their neighborhood. Neighbors of China aren't totally happy with how China is using their rising power and are glad to have our help.

And it doesn't hurt to let China know that we really don't appreciate their lack of support on the North Korea issue.

UPDATE: More on the issue.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Free Advice to Russia's Spy Masters

I'm constantly amazed at the bias of our press corps. Instapundit writes:

COORDINATION: Obama Journolist Operative Invited Other Journolistas to White House.

Which makes it funny that the Russian spy ring we busted was apparently trying to worm their way into our society to gain influence with policy makers, perhaps decades in the future.

The Russians should have gotten invited to Journolist.

And it would have been funny to read the 7th grade comments of male Journolisters reacting to hot Anna Chapman posting on their group.

The Price of Victory

Strategypage addresses the cost of war, in dollars:

American Revolution (1776-83) cost $2.4 billion

War of 1812 (1812-15) cost $1.55 billion.

Mexican War (1846-49) cost $2.38 billion

Civil War (1861-65) cost $79.74 billion (75 percent for the Union forces)

Spanish American War (1898-99) cost $9.04 billion.

World War I (1917-21) cost $334 billion

World War II (1941-45 ) cost $4.1 trillion

Korean War (1950-53) cost $341 billion

Vietnam (1965-75) cost $738 billion

Persian Gulf War (1990-91) cost $102 billion

Afghanistan War and Other War-On-Terror Operations (2001-10) cost $321 billion

Iraq War (2003-10) cost $784 billion

These are official numbers from the Pentagon.

One, despite the complaints that the Iraq War is the cause of our budget problems, note that the total costs of waging the war (although this number for Iraq and other wars don't count the cost of caring for veterans, of course) match what we spent at the stroke of a pen for the stimulus package enacted in early 2009.
Second, as Strategypage addresses, when you consider our GDP, the burden of the spending continues to go down. The absolute number is interesting but not really relevant if the issue is whether it is a burden on our economy. And that doesn't even begin to factor in the financial cost of losing a war or letting enemies win by not even fighting.
Third, always remember that we spend money to avoid spending blood--ours and the enemy's. Let me know if you want to send our troops in without body armor or MRAPs or top-of-the-line M-1s. Let me know if you think it is acceptable for wounded troops to wait hours before being evacuated to get medical help. Let me know if you think it costs too much to train them. Heck, let me know if you want to get rid of expensive precision weapons and rely on dumb bombs and shells that get more of our people killed running many more shells and bombs to the shooters, kill more of our people with friendly fire and more effective enemy fire because we move slower and the enemy isn't dead or suppressed, and even kills more of the enemy and innocent civilians.
On the bright side for the cost issue, of course, fighting more cheaply would mean that far more of our troops would die in war rather than survive and add to the post-war costs of treating veterans. If you are focused on dollar cost alone, of course.
We could have a much cheaper military. Are you really willing to pay for it?

This Sounds Ominous

I'm no expert on the nuances of North Korea's range of bombastic threats that they routinely belch out, which include turning Seoul into a "sea of fire," but this seems worryingly narrow and achievable:

"There will be physical response to the steps imposed by the United States militarily," Ri Tong-il, a member of Pyongyang's delegation at the security forum, told reporters. The military drills, he said, violated North Korean sovereignty.

We need to be ready in case our forces carrying out exercises are attacked by the North Koreans. You never can tell when Pyongyang will just get completely unhinged and act on their apparent belief that they have the right to kill our people while we can't even raise objections to those killings.

Steady on the Line

This is pretty cool:

The U.S. Army recently conducted a successful field test of their new Rifleman Radio (RR), a 1.1 kg/2.5 pound voice/data radio for individual infantrymen. By itself, the two watt RR has a range of up to five kilometers. But it can also automatically form a mesh network, where all RRs within range of each other can pass on voice or data information. During the field tests, this was done to a range of up to 50 kilometers. The RR can also make use of an aerostat, UAV or aircraft overhead carrying a RR to act as a communications booster (to other RRs or other networks.) The mesh network enables troops to sometimes eliminate carrying a longer range (and heavier) platoon radio for the platoon leader.

This makes our infantry far more effective by speeding up how quickly they can be given orders and move out.

It will also be a morale booster. Back in the days when you stood in a line shoulder-to-shoulder, you had the physical presence of your comrades to bolster your courage. As our forces spread out more and more, soldiers become isolated in the heat of battle. That is scary. And when the incoming rounds force you to ground, face pressed in the dirt, it may seem like you are the last survivor of your platoon or squad.

But with the RR, soldiers will hear their fellow soldiers and draw strength from knowing they are not alone and that the fight goes on--and they are needed in that fight.


Wikipedia is great for checking basic facts on relatively non-controversial items. And for pop-culture stuff. But while I will accept information at that level at face value, everything else needs to be checked. Needless to say, I'd never trust it on global warming.

Notwithstanding my limited and guarded use of Wikipedia and appreciation for it, this assesment (tip to Tim Blair) of Wikipedia is pretty funny:

For the first time in history, history is being written by the losers.

Can I get a patented "heh" from the choir?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

If Looks Could Kill

Hugo Chavez lets FARC insurgents/drug gangs hide out in Venezuela. And when the Colombians call out Chavez on this fact and demand action, Hugo cuts off diplomatic relations with Colombia.

One must ask, is Hugo Chavez dumber than he looks? If so, Venezualans are in for a rough time if the Idiot Savante Chavez tries to take on Colombia militarily.

What a tool.

Stained Wretches

It continuously astounds me that people can doubt that our media is slanted decisively to the left. The whole Journolist affair has opened a window into this feature of our establishment media.

While there are certainly many decent reporters out there trying to do an honest job of reporting (and I rely on their reporting for blogging), there are too many influential journalists who think of themselves as the women's auxiliary to their favorite club, willing to do what it takes to achieve victory.

I underestimated the amount of conscious thought that forms the herd mentality of our press corps in practice, it seems.

And I'm not sure whether this political bias is more important in explaining their abysmal record of reporting military and foreign policy stories than is explained by their almost complete lack of military and history knowledge.

Oh well. Once we had blue collar reporters who took pride in getting the story even though they didn't have the modern benefits of journalism schools that lead graduates to believe that reporting news is beneath their college education that prepared them to interpret the news for dim-witted readers and listeners too bovine in their lack of curiosity to put the facts together.

Ah, progress. Now our reporters have no contact with ink, at all.

UPDATE: Why conspire when everyone thinks the same way anyway? That's probably the way to look at this despite the wrongness of trying to coordinate messages for one side they "reported" on. Well, that and the complete lack of military and history knowledge explains their failures.

And yet E. J. Dionne, the Washington Post's resident political hack, believes that it is time to stand up to the right wing. Yeah, the Left has the White House, Congress, the universities, Hollywood, Europe, and the entire television media except for Fox News on their side, and it is finally time for the Left to fight back. Are these people stoned?

Is Everything Political?

I wrote about the neat trick of our Navy visibly deploying three of our four SSGNs near China on the same day, and commented on the military implications.

Sigh. Sometimes you just can't win, as a comment by another blogger clearly shows:

What strikes me too is how the author is going out of his way to avoid acknowledging what is, after all, his president’s decision – “Kudos to the Navy”. (*snickers*)

WTF? One, this was purely a look at the military implications. So yes, I highlighted what the Navy did. I didn't even mention politics, yet someone reads that post and immediately goes out of his way to see a political statement because I didn't sing the praises of the President. Is the Time author in the piece I cited to be similarly judged for not mentioning once that Obama ordered the display?

If I ever read that the President specifically ordered this move, I'll offer a second kudos to the President for that. But I suspect that this was a Navy initiative and that the President was simply informed of the plan, with the obvious option as commander-in-chief of cancelling the deployment if he thought it unwise.

Two, yes, President Obama is my president. That's the way it is. I've never, ever said or implied that he is not simply because I did not vote for him. If you've read this blog regularly it is obvious I'm not thrilled about his election, but haven't been shy about giving him credit. I also don't think I've been prone to denouncing whatever he does without thinking about the case. Nor have I gone overboard in criticism beyond the issue at hand.

Reason number 55 why I don't enable comments.

Going to Peace With the Army You Have

While I would hope that we and the Iraqis negotiate a new deal to allow our military personnel to remain in Iraq after 2011 to perform needed duties, right now there is no agreement and so our State Department is making plans to deal with this reality:

Can diplomats field their own army? The State Department is laying plans to do precisely that in Iraq , in an unprecedented experiment that U.S. officials and some nervous lawmakers say could be risky.

In little more than a year, State Department contractors in Iraq could be driving armored vehicles, flying aircraft, operating surveillance systems, even retrieving casualties if there are violent incidents and disposing of unexploded ordnance.

Under the terms of a 2008 status of forces agreement, all U.S. troops must be out of Iraq by the end of 2011, but they'll leave behind a sizable American civilian presence, including the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad , the largest in the world, and five consulate-like "Enduring Presence Posts" in the Iraqi hinterlands.

I'd think that really beefed up Marine security contingents could take care of point security of facilities. But for diplomats and other staff going out on civilian tasks, they'll need security. We plan to do just that with up to 7,000 contract security forces using helicopters and MRAPs. And despite the hysterics over Blackwater in Iraq, private contractors really can do the job. State is to be commended for this connection with reality even though their party base will be spitting latte and chai across their computer screens.

Unless we are to abandon Iraq and unduly risk all that we have achieved and rule out achieving even more, we have jobs to do in Iraq after 2011, and we have to make plans to do those jobs under the limits of Iraqi permission regarding military forces that we will face.

We go to war with the Army we have and not the Army we wish to have; and we carry out peacetime missions with the armed forces we are allowed to have and not with what we wish to have.

UPDATE: Thank you to The Unreligious Right for the link.

A Culture of Entitlement

North Korea sinks a South Korean ship in March, threatens consequences if the UN singles them out, and then throws a hissy fit over joint military exercises held in response to the attack:

"Amid growing concerns by the international community, South Korea and the United States have announced they would hold joint naval exercises," said Ri Tong Il, a North Korean spokesman, according to Yonhap news agency. "Such a move presents a grave threat to the peace and security not only to the Korean peninsula, but to the region."

Amazing. How did we train North Korea to expect that they can literally get away with murder and it is out of bounds for our side to point out that they murder or react in any way at all?

When North Korea collapses, either before or after Pyongyang launches a war in an effort to save themselves, I do hope that we get video of North Korean civilians stringing up Kim Jong-Il by his heels from a lamp post while North Korean soldiers cheer themon.

But right now, the US and ROK forces exercising had best be loaded for bear in case the North Koreans make good on their threats.

And we'd best have a lot of forces overwatching them to rush in and help out. If North Korea openly strikes the ships and planes in the exercise/show of force, we need to sink anything with North Korean markings we see--and do it fast--to let the North Koreans know that we don't accept their position that they get to kill our people without consequences as long as they spread out the deaths over a long enough period.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Proto Axis of Evil in Action

The Japanese hope a long-ago captured North Korean agent can throw light on the North Korean kidnapping of Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s.

I've mentioned this horror before, but what really caught my eye was a bit about the circumstances of the capture, which was achieved after she and a fellow spy blew up a South Korean plane in 1987:

She told investigators she and a male North Korean agent, posing as a Japanese father and daughter, boarded the Korean Air flight from Baghdad to Seoul on Nov. 28, 1987. They planted a time-bomb on the plane after getting off in Abu Dhabi. The plane exploded the next day over the Andaman Sea near Burma, now Myanmar, according to a South Korean investigation.

They got on the plane in Baghdad, huh? It made no sense to me that they'd plant the bomb after getting off in Abu Dhabi, so I looked for details about Korean Air Flight 858:

Korean Air Flight 858 was en route from Abu Dhabi to Bangkok on 29 November 1987 when it exploded over the Andaman Sea, killing all 115 on board. Two North Korean agents had boarded the plane in Baghdad and departed during its stopover in Abu Dhabi having left a time bomb in an overhead compartment. The agents were arrested when they attempted to leave Bahrain using fake Japanese passports, and both immediately swallowed cyanide capsules. The male, later identified as 70-year-old Kim Sung Il, died almost instantly, but the female suspect, 26-year-old Kim Hyon Hui, survived.

Well there you go. They didn't get off the plane and then jam the bomb into the wheel well or something. They left it on the plane after carrying it on in Baghdad.

Given Saddam's history of dabbling in terrorism, I have to wonder whether Saddam's intelligence people helped them. At the very least, I guess they didn't worry too much about the repercussions of being caught in Iraq planting a bomb.

The Other Part of the Taliban War

This article explains our expanding role in Pakistan's tribal area with special forces and drone attacks now done in support of Pakistani military operations and not just head shots at al Qaeda leaders.

I've long held that our efforts in Afghansitan require a Pakistan component to work since our enemy in Afghansitan straddles both sides of the border. Although Pakistan has escalated their effort a great deal and we are helping them, the Pakistani side of the border has not become the dominant front as I expected, given that we've escalated our troop strength in Afghanistan to levels well above what I have thought is necessary to win.

Thunderation and Heck

It is only Wednesday, and I've had to scrap two ties already this week!

They were both favorites of mine and they both died by the indignity of being worn down on an edge.

I'd like to think that they would have liked to go down catching a big droplet of cheese-infused bacon grease.

But no, they went out with a whimper, fittingly placed in the circular file to end their long service to the state of Michigan.

Feel the Love

The trade pact has been promoted as reducing the tensions in the Taiwan Strait and reducing the chance of war between China and Taiwan.

China hasn't gotten the memo:

China will have 2,000 missiles aimed at its rival Taiwan by the end of the year, several hundred more than the current number, despite fast-warming trade ties between the two sides, an island defence study said.
Luckily, the Taiwanese have yet to be lulled:

Taiwan plans to buy US-made torpedoes and heavy tanks to boost its defence capabilities despite the thaw in ties between the island and mainland China, it was reported Monday.

President Ma Ying-jeou has ordered the defence ministry to draft a shopping list which includes MK-54 torpedoes, dozens of M1A2 tanks and amphibious landing vehicles, the Liberty Times said.

The Taiwanese also gamed an invasion attempt by China. (This is my guess.)

I've had my worries about Ma, but whatever his flaws he doesn't intend to deliver Taiwan to China, it seems.

If Ma snags a good amount of F-16s, I'll feel better still.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Not an Addict

Well this is cheery news from Latin America:

For a 17-day period that ended last month, Guatemala seemed to be falling under the direct control of suspected mobsters. A lawyer leading a posse of unsavory characters became the attorney general and started dismantling the state's legal apparatus.

Central America's most populous country teetered on the edge of ``going narco.''

Although the appointment of Conrado Reyes as attorney general has now been annulled and Guatemala's fragile democracy survived the ordeal, it's still on a tightrope, advocates for democracy and human rights say.

Watch Guatemala as it's going down. They're not an addict (maybe that's a lie).

The way drug gangs and terrorists cooperate, Guatemala's choice is a serious bit of business. Especially since out southern border is so open and our federal government doesn't seem to really give a rip about the security implications of that failure.

UPDATE: Not that I'm not aware that one of our states might become a narco-state before Guatemala:

The city of Oakland, California on Tuesday legalized large-scale marijuana cultivation for medical use and will issue up to four permits for "industrial" cultivation starting next year.

Great. They're high above, but on the floor. No, they're not an addict.

The Debate Without End

From the "Well, Duh" files:

British and U.S. intelligence had no credible evidence of a link between Saddam Hussein and the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States before the 2003 Iraq invasion, the ex-head of Britain's domestic spy agency told the country's inquiry into the war Tuesday.

Why is this even being treated as a point of debate today? I know that the anti-war side likes to assert that Bush claimed that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11, but it is simply not true that Bush said that. Check out the actual reasons for the war and you will not find any claim that Iraq helped or directed the 9/11 attackers.

After settling that non-issue, she went on to blast the impact of the Iraq War:

"Our involvement in Iraq radicalized, for want of a better word, a whole generation of young people — not a whole generation, a few among a generation — who saw our involvement in Iraq, on top of our involvement in Afghanistan as being an attack on Islam," she said.

A whole generation radicalized! By our involvement in Iraq!

Well, upon reflection, not all of them. But "a few" among that generation were radicalized.

And, um, to be clear, those few were radicalized by not just the "bad war" in Iraq, but by the "good war" in Afghanistan.

Gosh, given her track record of accuracy in the rest of that sentence, I wish she'd worked on a better word for "radicalized." But given that she recognizes a need for clarification in that word, perhaps if asked she'd concede that quite a few of that generation were radicalized even before Iraq--and even before Afghanistan. There was quite a bid of cheering in parts of the Islamic world upon hearing the news of the 9/11 attacks, after all.

Of course, since we won the Iraq War, our involvement in Iraq doesn't seem to be radicalizing even a few, any more. So much for that recruiting tool. Even if by "our involvement in Iraq" she wishes to run the timeline back from March 2003 through the Persian Gulf War of 1991 and subsequent sanctions enforcement, the problem clearly wasn't "our involvement" but our failure until 2008 to finally win against both Saddam and the multiple insurgencies and terror campaigns that plagued Iraq after we ousted Saddam. But I'm being over-generous here since she clearly said Iraq was a problem "on top of" our involvement with Afghanistan, implying she is just blaming the war begun in 2003 (or renewed, depending on how you view the 1991 ceasefire).

And then there is the old standby--we were "distracted" by Iraq:

"By focusing on Iraq we reduced the focus on the al-Qaida threat in Afghanistan. I think that was a long-term, major and strategic problem," Manningham-Buller told the panel.

Never mind that in 2001 we drove al Qaeda from Afghanistan and into Pakistan, so how were we to focus on the threat "in Afghanistan?" Never mind that the anti-Afghanistan War side now argues that we should get out of Afghanistan because there are few al Qaeda in Afghanistan to fight (but wasn't our so-called distraction supposed to have made Afghanistan al Qaeda central again?).

I swear to God, opponents of the Iraq War never tire of debating whether to go to war in Iraq. And they tend to debate it amongst themselves since the pro-war side won't stick to the accepted Left talking points on the war.

This was the former head of MI-5 talking. I'm not impressed.

On the bright side, I don't feel so bad about our CIA's track record now.

UPDATE: Oh! And she brought up one more piece of non-issue yet again:

The ex-spy chief said those pushing the case for war in the United States gave undue prominence to scraps of inconclusive intelligence on possible links between Iraq and the 2001 attacks. She singled out the then-U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

"It is why Donald Rumsfeld started an alternative intelligence unit in the Pentagon to seek an alternative judgment," said Manningham-Buller, who was a frequent visitor to the U.S. as MI5 chief.

I guess she has forgotten that our own IG cleared the Pentagon of that charge--not that our media was capable of reporting that.

Tar and Feathers Would Be Appropriate

This is (perhaps) legal theft:

An overflow crowd packed a City Council meeting in Bell, a mostly Hispanic city of 38,000 about 10 miles (16 kilometers) southeast of Los Angeles, to call for the resignation of Mayor Oscar Hernandez and other city officials. Residents left standing outside the chamber banged on the doors and shouted “fuera,” or “get out” in Spanish.

It was the first council meeting since the Los Angeles Times reported July 15 that Chief Administrative Officer Robert Rizzo earns $787,637 -- with annual 12 percent raises -- and that Bell pays its police chief $457,000, more than Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck makes in a city of 3.8 million people. Bell council members earn almost $100,000 for part-time work.

I really love the police chief's defense of his salary:
Adams said he had been brought in to end corruption in Bell’s police department.
Why would there be any corruption when the pay is so high?!! You'd have to be criminally stupid and greedy to do more stealing than just depositing your pay check!
I'm seriously stunned at the audacity of the Bell city government. 

Tanned, Rested, and Ready to Fire

Hezbollah is all armed up and deployed in southern Lebanon, ready for another shot at Israeli civilians:

We’ve known for some time that rockets have continued to flow into Lebanon from Syria. Hezbollah may now have more than 50,000 of them, far more than it had before the 2006 war. And as Stephen Cohen notes in today’s Wall Street Journal (subscription only), the Israeli military has recently revealed intelligence—detailed maps and aerial photographs—showing that these arms are now being stored in areas adjacent to Israel and supposedly being policed by the UN force.

But Brian, you may say, isn't a United Nations armed mission deployed in southern Lebanon  precisely to prevent this from happening again?

Why, yes, hypothetical questioner, the UN is in southern Lebanon precisely to do that. But if you thought the UN would prevent Hezbollah from rearming, you weren't paying attention to The Dignified Rant way back in summer 2006 when the UN force was sent.

It's funny how things organized by the sainted international community tend to work out like this.

Nice Try

The Russians continue to try to block NATO expansion. They also are trying to neuter NATO itself. The latest effort involves Russia trying to prevent American and other troops from deploying to Poland and Romania. We won't discuss that. The Russians are annoyed.

You can't blame the Russians for trying, I suppose. They've tried to turn NATO into NYETO before.

While you can't blame Russia for trying, there is no way we should be foolish enought to fall for their ploys.

Expand and strengthen NATO so the Russians don't think they have a shot at bullying us and reforging the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact.

Monday, July 19, 2010

If You Can Make It Unacceptable There ...

The large pool of jihadi recruits in Pakistan has made that country a pretty important objective in the Long War to defeat the jihadis. Strategypage writes that we've made progress there:

The Pakistani Taliban have lost their popularity. A year ago, when the government agreed to a truce with the Taliban in the tribal territories, 80 percent of the population approved. Until recently, most Pakistanis backed the Taliban’s support of the war in Afghanistan, against “foreign troops” and their “puppet government.” ...

But after the Taliban got their truce in the tribal territories, they proceeded to persecute the people they controlled to such a horrific extent that most Pakistanis were truly horrified. This despite the fact that the Taliban were acting just like the Afghan Taliban did in the 1990s, and the Iranian Islamic dictatorship has been doing for decades. Something snapped among Pakistanis, and now approval of the Taliban is under ten percent. Many Pakistanis (perhaps a quarter) still back the application of Islamic law to solve the country’s problems, but the actual use of these Islamic radical ideas is much less popular. Nothing like seeing this stuff in action (stoning women to death, banning video, music and dancing) to change your attitudes.

It was all fun and games when the victims were somewhere else. Now it affects them and it doesn't look nearly as appealing as it did on the jihadi snuff video you got on the Internet. This will help reduce the sanctuary for the Afghan Taliban that Pakistan is now, making our effort in Afghanistan possible.

Battlefield victories in Iraq and Afghanistan need to lead to a strategic victory in the minds and hearts of Moslems, or we'll be fighting the next wave of jihadi fervor in a couple generations. But then, they'll likely have nukes in their arsenal.

Cannae in Kiev

Russia's problem in browbeating Ukraine into falling into Russia's orbit has long been that the easiest means of pressuring Ukraine--cutting off their energy supplies in winter--cuts of Russia's energy customers in Western Europe because the pipelines go through Ukraine. Russia is working on that problem.

The Germans have already inked a deal to let Germany avoid suffering for Ukraine's resistance to absorption back into mother Russia or for Eastern European resistance to Russian demands. This represents the northern envelopment of Ukraine (and Poland and the Baltic States).

And now, Russia has gotten Bulgaria to agree to the southern pincer that bypasses Ukraine and Poland, in particular, to get energy to Western Europe without going through Ukraine and Poland:

Bulgarian Economy and Energy Minister Traicho Traikov and Russian Energy Minister Sergey Shmatko signed a "road map" for accelerating South Stream in Bulgaria's Black Sea resort of Varna in a ceremony also attended by Bulgarian Premier Boyko Borisov, BTA said, but did not immediately provide any further details.
So now we have a double energy envelopment of Ukraine emerging, setting them up for a battle of annihilation. Poland, Estonia, Latwia, and Lituania are at least NATO members giving them a measure of protection.

But Ukraine is all by themselves. And Russia made sure that Ukraine could not join NATO any time soon.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Ignore Cato, Keep NATO, and Stay in NATO

This Cato article argues we should abandon NATO. It will save us money, he says.

Amazingly, the author argues that there is no military threat to justify NATO and that we are just adding nations to NATO that will drag us into war.

The idea that NATO is a burden to us because the European members are not pulling their weight doesn't take into account the fact that our NATO bases in Europe represent defended lilly pads to project our power from America into an arc of crisis stretching from North Africa to Central Asia, as I discussed in an article in the November-December 2003 issue of Military Review (see p15_04_dun.pdf bookmark).

And let's think of what happened the last time we intervened in Europe (1917) and then walked away (that would be 1941, when we ended up returning to Europe).

Our relatively small contingent in Europe as part of NATO is a cost effective insurance policy to keep Europe friendly and prevent it from becoming a seat of conflict that drags us in again. And it is a base to project power to the arc of crisis. Further, even if it isn't a lot of help, the alliance does help us in Afghanistan. A little help is better than no help. To say that nations would help us even without NATO ignores the role NATO plays in making sure our militaries can operate together. That isn't something that can be thrown together overnight and NATO has had decades getting NATO nations to operate to alliance standards.

I call NATO a bargain. So what if it has no primary mission that drives unity? It's a good thing that the Red Army is no longer poised to leap to the Rhine River. Celebrate that success and stop pining for the unity the threat level provided or arguing that only that high threat level justifies an alliance.

NATO is useful to America. Keep it. Stay in it. I swear to God, Cato won't be happy until we've retreated all the way back to the continental United States.

Image is Even an Issue?

While Iraq's Sunni Arabs threatened to challenge the Palestinians for the title of stupidest and most self-destructive people on the planet, their flip in the Iraq War in a burst of sanity left the field to the Palestinians. They remain secure in their title, doing more to harm themselves than any evil, Palestinian-hating Jew could manage in their wildest dreams.

So this news is kind of amusing in a tragic sort of way:

Gaza's Hamas rulers have banned women from smoking water pipes in cafes, calling it a practice that destroys marriages and sullies the image of the Palestinian people.

The ban marks the Islamist militant group's latest effort to impose their harsh Muslim lifestyle in the seaside strip on an often resistant public.

While Muslim law does not technically ban women from smoking the traditional tobacco-infused pipes, tradition frowns upon the habit.

The sullied image of the Palestinian people is a concern of Hamas? Who knew?
If so, I have to say that women smoking water pipes is way down there on the long list of things that sully the image of the Palestinians.
As for Islam not technically banning that practice, that's the way it usually is with a lot of the bizarre practices that jihadis claim is true Islam. Westerners like to remind us that "true" Islam doesn't include a lot of things the jihadis like, but it is irrelevant as long as the jihadis are allowed to define what "true" Islam means in ordinary every day life without enough push back from the rest of Islam. The willingness of the jihadis to kill to maintain their erroneous view of Islam helps them in that debate a great deal.
Still, who am I to question Hamas in this image quest? Their priorities haven't harmed the image of the Palestinians amongst Europeans and the American Left very much, have they? If a single-minded focus on killing Jews hasn't sullied the image of the Palestinians, what would?
Perhaps the scolds of the Left will even celebrate the progressive impulses of protecting at least women from the harmful effects of tobacco, and just add to the allure of resisting the darned Jews.
Image is a funny thing.

Sudden Concerns

The level of panic over the war in Afghanistan is just amazing. After getting the "good war" they wanted, the part of America that leans toward retreat in all wars is making their list of reasons to get out concerns. The problem is, their concerns make no sense:

As concerns grow about the war in Afghanistan, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is heading to South Asia on a mission aimed at refining the goals of the nearly 9-year-old conflict.

U.S. lawmakers are increasingly questioning the course of the war. The number of soldiers from the U.S. and other countries in the international coalition in Afghanistan is on the rise. Corruption is a deep problem in Afghanistan, and members of Congress wonder about the utility of massive aid to both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

More troops is a problem? Lack of troops was the main complaint of the anti-Iraq War side back when the war in Iraq raged. You'd think they'd be happy to get what they long said they wanted.
Are the concerned lawmakers arguing that back when Afghanistan was neglected that there was no corruption? Why is corruption suddenly deeply concerning and reason to think of bugging out?
As for the utility of massive aid to Afghanistan and Pakistan, wasn't this group of people recently demanding more civilian aid because military solutions can't win a counter-insurgency? Then, they wanted to use that excuse to downgrade military operations. Now, they just wonder about aid. What changed? And if not aid to complement miltiary action, how would they win the war?
But that question assumes that these concerned critics want to win the war. They don't want to win.

Look, some members of Congress and their backers always have their running shoes on and are always prepared to lose the only war we're in. Afghanistan is no exception no matter how many times they called it the "real" war on terrorism, the "good" war, or the "necessary" war.
Before long, appropriations for the war in Afghanistan will be close votes, just as the war hung in the balance in Congress during the summer of 2007.

Will President Obama endure this kind of opposition from his own base when the going gets tough? That's my concern.

UPDATE: Barone writes about how the Afghan campaign lost its status as the "good war." This change was all predictable once you understood the role of Iraq in how it got that name. Barone cites some interesting polling data on Iraq, too, continuing the early trends in opinion after the surge.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

This Isn't Enough, But It's a Start

General Petraeus has President Karzai's formal approval to expand local defense forces in Afghanistan to help fight the Taliban:

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has approved a U.S.-backed plan to create local defense forces across the country in an attempt to generate new grassroots opposition to the Taliban, U.S. and Afghan officials said Wednesday.

The plan Karzai approved calls for the creation of as many as 10,000 "community police" who would be controlled and paid by the Interior Ministry, according to a senior Afghan government official.

U.S. military officials said the community police program would be modeled upon a set of local defense units, called the Afghan Public Protection Police, created over the past year in Wardak province by U.S. Special Forces. That effort has achieved mixed results, according to several military sources, but it has been regarded as the most palatable of the various local security initiatives pushed by the U.S. military because its members wear uniforms and report to the Interior Ministry.

I've long wanted to go this way. Karzai apparently fears arming his own people more than he fears failing to fight the Taliban. It is true that local defense forces can lose their usefulness and become a problem for the government. Heck, even Sadr's militias in the early years of the Iraq War were useful to guard their neighborhoods. Only later did the Shia militia become a problem. So Afghan militias could be a problem in the future.

But one problem at a time, I say. Right now the problem is the Taliban and local defense forces can be part of the solution. Ten thousand is fine as an interim step. But I think many tens of thousands more will be needed to function as eyes and ears. In that role, they can call in our forces and Afghan regulars to go after Taliban rather than function as combat forces, even though their ability to defend in place is obviously of value.

But like everything else about Afghanistan, accept baby steps as progress and build on that rather than whine that we haven't instantly solved a problem.

Basic Tactics 101

I hate seeing analysis like this because jittery and panic-prone journalists will assume it means much more than it does. That is, a recent attack was called a fairly sophisticated compex attack--as opposed to past simple tactics--implying that the enemy is winning:

The assault began Tuesday night when at least three attackers blew up the rear wall of the elite police compound in a Taliban -saturated part of Kandahar . Although it was initially thought to be a car bomb, Davis said explosives planted alongside the compound wall caused the first blast.

As Afghan and American forces inside the base rushed to fend off the attack, Taliban fighters fired rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns during a half-hour battle that killed three American soldiers, one Afghan police officer and five Afghans working with the U.S.-led coalition forces, NATO officials said.

The assault — which involved at least three Taliban suicide bombers — was the latest in a series of well-planned Taliban strikes that are forcing American and Afghan forces to adapt.

In the past two months, Taliban fighters have used similar tactics to hit major coalition military bases in Kandahar , Bagram and Jalalabad.

Look, all this is saying that the enemy sent in a preliminary bombardment (suicide bombers) who attempted to breach the perimeter, before the enemy attacked using longer range rocket propelled grenades and machine guns. This represents a giant step up from "scream and leap" tactics or "pray and spray" technique.
But in the end, even with rudimentary tactical skills, the enemy attacks have no hope of actually winning. At best, this will allow them to penetrate the perimeter before being killed rather than dying outside the perimeter.

That's progress of a sort for the enemy, but nothing to write home about. The Taliban would need to be able to mass a lot more attackers with basic tactical knowledge before it does them any good.