Friday, September 30, 2011

Into the Fire

As we prepare to bypass Pakistan's hold on our supply lines to Afghanistan, it is good to remember that solving the Pakistan supply problem doesn't free us from supply problems to landlocked Afghanistan:

"Of course, with the troubles in Pakistan, the U.S. and NATO-led forces are looking for alternative options," she says. "In recent years, we've seen gradual deterioration of the safety and reliability of the Pakistani route, and obviously this makes the U.S. and NATO revisit the options in Central Asia."

The Central Asian states are hardly rule-of-law democracies. So we just have different problems. But perhaps--if the Pakistanis prefer to have a fling with the Chinese--after a few years of diminished or eliminated US aid and the loss of income from the Pakistan supply routes, we can again use Pakistan to diversify our supply lines.

That's the way it is. You never really solve a foreign policy problem. If you succeed in solving one, you just get to work on another. As much as I may complain about our State Department, I'll never claim their job is easy.

Cutting Their Losses

Iran needs Syria as a loyal vassal state to project power into Lebanon and Gaza. So the Shia Iranians are willing to push Assad into empowering Sunnis over the Alawites (a Shia variation) if it means Iran can maintain their power projection asset:

There is little chance Iran would risk the international fallout and send large-scale military forces to aid Assad, although it's likely that Iran has boosted its cadre of security advisers and other envoys in Damascus. Instead, Iran seeks to coax Assad to offer some kind of tension-easing dialogue or at least pull back on the attacks.

Any concessions by Assad could open the way for eventual deep reforms in his authoritarian rule. But Iran would gladly take a weakened Assad over the uncertainties under a new Syrian leadership, which would likely put Assad's Iranian-oriented Alawite minority into a political deep freeze.

Does Assad think that giving up some power to remain a tool of Iran is more important than holding on to absolute power no matter what the risk of failure?

Revenge of the Guns

This is good news for our Navy as we contemplate operating in the shadow of Chinese area denial weapons like the DF-21 "carrier killer" ballistic missile (assuming it works):

Recently, after six years of development, the U.S. Navy successfully test fired its new 155mm AGS (Advanced Gun System) cannon. Designed for use on the new DDG 1000 ("Zumwalt") destroyers, the AGS fires GPS guided shells up to 190 kilometers. The recent test firing of two shells only went out to 81 kilometers. The GPS guidance enables the shells to land inside a 50 meter (155 foot) circle. The AGS shells carry 11 kg (24 pounds) of explosives. The AGS uses a water cooled barrel, so that it can fire ten rounds a minute for extended periods. Each AGS carries 335 rounds of ammo, which is loaded and fired automatically. The AGS shell is expected to enter service in three years. ... Adding a terminal guidance system to the AGS shell would make it suitable to attacking other ships.

When relatively cheap surface ships equipped with targeting drones and long-range precision cannons can strike at this range (and longer as research continues), why will we need to build expensive and vulnerable super carriers to project power?

Shoot, we have our old boomers used as Tomahawk floating batteries. Wouldn't AGS allow even submarines that briefly surface to use the weapon? Why couldn't we build vertically mounted--or angled, I suppose--cannons in the submarine hull like missile tubes? They wouldn't have the range of cruise missiles. But if the target is within 190 kilometers, how many 155mm shells could a submarine put on targets at 10 rounds per minute per gun? A lot more than 150, I'd say. And the sub wouldn't even need to retire from the campaign area to reload as often.

At some point we have to say that it isn't cost-effective to pour more and more money into defending carriers from proliferating and cheap weapons that find and target them. Carriers are surely useful against countries with no air and sea power when used as floating air bases. Especially with precision weapons that reduce the problem of limited magazine capacity on carriers. Like the battleship before them that found a niche role in shore bombardment (and air defense with all that hull to mount anti-aircraft weapons) when the aircraft carrier took the lead sea control role, in our new network-centric world that allows us to spread out our offensive power on many hulls (with air and shore-based assets integrated, too), the carrier can be useful for decades to come in power projection ashore when the carriers don't face significant air and naval opposition.

But carriers don't need to be our primary sea control weapon when we have lots of sensors, cheap long-range missiles, and even cheaper long-range precision shells that can be spread out among all our naval assets (and even on auxiliary cruisers outfitted in war time) and networked together to mass effect even when massing assets is suicidal.

The Navy faces major decisions on force structure. As it was, we couldn't afford what we wanted. What chance does the Navy have of getting what it wants in the current budget environment? The Navy will choose what our future Navy looks like even if they don't face the decision of what role our carriers will play in our fleet.Decisions--or no decision--have consequences.

Fowl Debate



Thank You Sir, May I Have Another

Apparently, Americans aren't reacting properly to the weight of costs and regulations the administration is piling on America's business community:

Clearly, we need a new attitude of liking the multiple anchors that drag us down and prevent us from competing and thriving economically:

Sadly for our ruling class, we elect them rather than the other way around.

UPDATE: Mark Steyn writes that only our press corps has gone soft in carrying out its duties.

No worries. They'll recover their killer instincts in January 2013.

A Dream Come True?

I sure didn't see this coming. This is just amazing (tip to Instapundit). I hadn't realized how dramatic the change has been already:

Two years ago, America was importing about two thirds of its oil. Today, according to the Energy Information Administration, it imports less than half. And by 2017, investment bank Goldman Sachs predicts the US could be poised to pass Saudi Arabia and overtake Russia as the world's largest oil producer. ...

Amy Myers Jaffe of Rice University says in the next decade, new oil in the US, Canada and South America could change the center of gravity of the entire global energy supply.

"Some are now saying, in five or 10 years' time, we're a major oil-producing region, where our production is going up," she says.

The US, Jaffe says, could have 2 trillion barrels of oil waiting to be drilled. South America could hold another 2 trillion. And Canada? 2.4 trillion. That's compared to just 1.2 trillion in the Middle East and north Africa. ...

Russia is already feeling the growth of American energy, Jaffe says. As the U.S. produces more of its own natural gas, Europe is free to purchase liquefied natural gas the US is no longer buying.

"They're buying less natural gas from Russia," Jaffe says. "So Russia would only supply 10 percent of European natural gas demand by 2030. That means the Russians are no longer powerful."

From 2/3 imported to less than half? Good grief! I know our economy has been sluggish in that time, but still.

I've also read that Poland could be a significant source of natural gas for Western Europe (and Ukraine) with fracking methods used.

So we could reduce the world's dependence on Middle Eastern oil and reduce Western Europe's reliance on Russian natural gas. The advantages of nearby and cheaper energy for our economy, diplomacy, and security should be obvious, even if it undercuts the rationale for Greens to run our lives as enlightened eco-nannies rationing scarce energy resources.

And it isn't just us who will benefit. Can you imagine the impact on poor oil-importing countries if their energy bills can be slashed? I think too many people think of high oil prices as a way of transferring wealth from the rich "North" to the poor "South" without remembering that most of the poor South imports fossil fuels, too.

And if the jihadis are hopping mad that we "steal" their oil and "exploit" them, will they be happy when we stop buying it--at least at prices that OPEC sets?

Not all black swan events are bad, it seems. Well, from the perspective of anyone but the eco-nannies and oil-fueled despots.

A Good Jihadi

This is good news:

In a significant new blow to al-Qaida, U.S. airstrikes in Yemen on Friday killed Anwar al-Awlaki, an American militant cleric who became a prominent figure in the terror network's most dangerous branch, using his fluent English and Internet savvy to draw recruits for attacks in the United States.

This, on the other hand, is just stupid:

The strike was the biggest U.S. success in hitting al-Qaida's leadership since the May killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. But it raises questions that other strikes did not: Al-Awlaki was an American citizen who has not been charged with any crime. Civil liberties groups have questioned the government's authority to kill an American without trial.

The idea that we shouldn't have killed an enemy waging war on us in the field because he is an American citizen is just plain stupid.

Awlaki got off the porch and the big dog chewed him up. My only regret is that we can't bury him at sea.

Talk to me if we ever use a drone strike within our borders or in a place where an ally will arrest the traitor and turn him over to us for a stay in Gitmo before a trial. Heck, since he was an American citizen, I'd even have been willing to consider the option of a treason trial if we had captured him. But that doesn't mean we can't shoot him while he is waging war on us.

Funny enough, the so-called "civil libertarians" who don't want anything less than a full civilian trial for jihadis rather than a military tribunal for an unlawful combatant probably sealed Awlaki's fate. The folly of a full-blown civilian trial as the only alternative to either killing him or letting him run free made the choice clear. President Obama can count on me to watch his six on this one.

UPDATE: This is a late update but it isn't something I want to start a bunch of blog posts on. So for my convenience I'll add Austin Bay's thoughts:

In practice, the lawfare extremists behave like religious cultists pursuing a litigated utopia. Extremists in some international human rights organizations argue that Predator strikes themselves violate international law; drone strikes "blur" and violate "applicable legal rules." Defending Awlaki is thus a means of restricting use of the weapons with the goal of eliminating them.

Ah, "dissent." They work hard to prevent us from defending ourselves and feel superior for taking such a position. Yet their feelings of moral superiority rely on failing to win that debate so our military can continue defending all of us--including the "dissenters." And I'm not even talking about the extreme long shot of the jihadis winning their caliphate as they say they fight for. Our civil liberties require victory in this war.

Life's a Beach

A word of advice to ethnic Chinese who leave China: don't ever return to China:

In the year-plus since he was released from jail, scientist Hu Zhicheng has been free, free to drive from his Shanghai apartment to his office two hours away, free to get acupuncture treatment for chronic back pain, free except to leave China and rejoin his family in America.

Twice Hu went to airports to board flights out of China only to be turned back by border control officers. A China-born U.S. citizen and award-winning inventor of emission control systems for autos, Hu has written to the police who investigated him for infringing commercial secrets and met with the prosecutors who dropped the charges for lack of evidence. Yet he has not been allowed to leave — nor told why. ...

Writ large, Hu's case shows the pitfalls that Chinese who study and work in the West face when they return to apply their entrepreneurial zeal to the booming China market. Trade disputes that would be civil suits in the West become criminal cases in China. Chinese companies often cultivate influence with local officials and thus may rally law enforcement and a malleable legal system to their side when deals go awry.

In Hu's case, he and his wife believe that the company which accused him of secrets theft persuaded authorities to keep the travel ban in place. In China, sometimes punishment goes on even when the law says stop.

You can't go home again, the saying goes. Especially for Chinese who get out of China. In the West, you are a person. You are free. In China? You're just a grain of sand and life's a beach--their beach.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

No Laughing Matter

I know it is easy to dismiss many of the would-be jihadis who we catch in sting operations and laugh at their plots. But had we arrested the 9/11 plotters days or weeks before the attacks, we could have laughed at their plan and mocked how they enjoyed the sinful pleasures of the West even as they prepared to fight for their god that rejected the West.

So this is no laughing matter:

A man was arrested Wednesday and accused of plotting an assault on the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol using remote-controlled aircraft armed with explosives — the latest of several terrorism cases to spring from federal sting operations.

Sure, an actual jet airliner was unable to destroy the Pentagon so a toy plane wasn't going to do it. But the concept is not so harmless. Remember that our troops in Iraq used toy radio controlled trucks to counter IEDs. This guy was just planning to use one-time-use UAVs for his attacks.

More important is the uncertainty that these sting operations spread among would-be jihadis. I want them to worry that seeking help to carry out plots will just ensnare them in a police operation. I want them to fear working on plots. This will deter a lot of them from even acting on their jihadi urges and stick to angry posts on the web. At worst, fear of tripping over informants or agents will slow down their plotting and make it more likely they will get caught. And by forcing would-be jihadis to act alone, the plots will of necessity be of a smaller scale.

So I hope that the police and federal authorities keep carrying out these sting operations against apparently foolish plots. They protect us more than intrusive pat downs at the airport.

As American As I Am

Unless there is something more that this story is telling, this seems terribly wrong:

Her suitcase is packed, but a Queens teen facing deportation Thursday spent what could be her last hours in America hoping she doesn't have to go.

"I know it's real," said Nadia Habib, 19, a Stony Brook University junior and Bronx High School of Science grad who came to the U.S. as a baby.

Her parents brought her here. Given all the people who sneak in illegally and make no effort to assimilate (or have no chance or aren't forced to by misguided bi-lingual government programs) yet live here freely, why couldn't this young woman simply have the opportunity to take the citizenship test and be naturalized?

We need all the Americans we can get. Why kick them out on a technicality?

Not Ready for Democracy?

Iraq stumbles forward with their democracy, according to Hoshyar Zebari, Iraq's foreign minister:

He said Iraq has a lot to offer to countries like Tunisia, Egypt and Libya that are going through political transformation after their uprisings against authoritarian rulers.

“Each and every one of them has to go through the same stages that we’ve been through,” he said. “And we see the tensions, we see the difficulties of embracing a new order. ... Our system, our democracy is not tidy, it’s not perfect, it’s clumsy, it’s uneven and so on. But really the structures are there to resolve problems.”

Yes, corruption is a major stumbling block to entrenching democracy. But it lives. And if we stay in Iraq we will be able to support the fragile institutions and support those who want rule of law to thrive.

The anti-war side constantly said that Arabs weren't ready for democracy as the fight in Iraq raged. They still do. I always thought it was kind of a racist thing to say. But it was said by many of East Europeans in the 1990s and of Latin Americans in the 1980s. There will always be setbacks and failures, but the Arab world is no more incapable of democracy than East Europeans or Latin Americans.

Heck, I'm still silly enough to think Americans are capable of democracy. The Left, with its fantasies of being "China for a day," is dangerously sliding into anti-democratic thoughts here at home as they contemplate those bitter clingers who seem to breed in dangerously high numbers and swamp them at the polls:

In the space of two days, two prominent Democrats have called for less responsive government that ignores public input.

One of them, former White House Budget Director Peter Orszag, penned a piece this week in the New Republic arguing, as the title says, “Why we need less democracy.” Orszag wrote that “the country’s political polarization was growing worse — harming Washington’s ability to do the basic, necessary work of governing.” His solution? “[W]e need to minimize the harm from legislative inertia by relying more on automatic policies and depoliticized commissions for certain policy decisions. In other words, radical as it sounds, we need to counter the gridlock of our political institutions by making them a bit less democratic.” . . .

Perhaps know-it-all bureaucrats can be forgiven for harboring such contempt for the voting public. But elected officials cannot. That’s why similar comments by Gov. Bev Perdue, D-N.C., are far more troubling. “I think we ought to suspend, perhaps, elections for Congress for two years and just tell them we won’t hold it against them, whatever decisions they make, to just let them help this country recover,” Perdue told a Rotary Club gathering in suburban Raleigh this week. “I really hope that someone can agree with me on that.”

Oh, there are people who agree, all right. Saddam Hussein, Ahmadinejad, Khaddafi, Assad, Kim Jong-Il, Castro, Chavez, Putin, Hu Jintao, and Thomas Friedman, to name some.

The point of democracy is that different views are settled peacefully by the ballot box. Do these so-called "leaders" not understand that persuading the people who go to those ballot boxes to vote is how they are supposed to win their case in a democracy? Failure to persuade people that you are correct doesn't give you the right to resort to anti-democratic measures to do what you think is right.

Good grief, no wonder the Left had sweaty nightmares that George W. Bush was always on the verge of cancelling elections and seizing power. That's what they fantasize about doing in the same circumstances. Oh, not that I think this is anything but the pathetic whining of people who don't understand why the dumb masses don't just let their intellectual and social betters run things the way they want. But it does show how much they value democracy as simply a means to an end rather than as an end worthy of preserving.

But hey, all the "cool kids" with Twitter accounts are rejecting mere voting, so it is OK:

Increasingly, citizens of all ages, but particularly the young, are rejecting conventional structures like parties and trade unions in favor of a less hierarchical, more participatory system modeled in many ways on the culture of the Web.

My God, these people have the nerve to lecture Iraqis that they don't "get" democracy and can't handle it?

Explain the Nuance

I'm unclear on Gunwalker (tip to Instapundit).

How is this is different from supporting an armed insurrection trying to destabilize the Mexican government?

UPDATE: Good grief, what were they thinking? (Tip to Weekly Standard)

It Could Go Either Way

My email updates flag this story about the Syrian protests. It could still go either way. Protesters haven't gotten discouraged from being killed but the security forces haven't had any fissures big enough to threaten the regime's ability to keep killing and detaining protesters.

This is interesting:

“The opposition lies sometimes even more than the government,” the aid worker in Damascus who preferred anonymity said, adding that the alleged shelling of the western coastal city of Latakia in August from the sea - trumpeted by the opposition as an example of the regime’s brutality - “was a pile of rubbish. It never really happened.”

He said people set tyres on fire on top of buildings to create smoke that would suggest a bombing. OCHA’s Negus said there were no craters in Latakia when he visited the city. Other UN officials, including the UN humanitarian coordinator in Syria, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, said there were conflicting reports, but that he himself did not see any evidence of the event having taken place. One UN official suggested the opposition’s version of events could be part of “the whole media side to conflict”.

I remember the story. I apparently didn't blog it since I looked for it to correct any mention of shelling, and didn't find any post on that.

There is a media war going on. It is not, as the Syrian government would have you believe, a foreign jihadi invasion of Syria sponsored by evil enemies. And it is more than just isolated troublemakers. But the uprising hasn't spread widely enough to threaten to bring down the government. The fact that Syria has been able to shuttle troops, loyal gangs, and secret police to tamp down protests and not be overwhelmed despite being unable to use most of their army is an indication that this must be true.

The protesters are still right that Assad leads a dictatorship, so I tend to cut them some slack on the propaganda side. The truth is bad enough. But it is important to verify the details of what they say Assad's forces are doing.

Missing the Point

So we're back to discussing how soon Iran can have a nuclear weapon?

Either Iran could build a nuclear bomb in a matter of months or it is unlikely to get such a weapon any time soon -- depending on which Western expert you talk to.

The differing estimates show the difficulty in trying to assess how long it could take Iran to convert its growing uranium stockpile into weapons-grade material and how advanced it may be in other areas vital for any bomb bid.

The discussion is as if we might do something about it if Iran was really close. Please. There will always be reasons to doubt how close Iran is until they detonate a test bomb to prove they have the technology. There will always be alternatives to the "last resort" of force.

It is pointless to discuss how long it will take Iran to go nuclear as if that is a major problem of deciding what to do. I think the discussion is just a way of justifying doing nothing.

We need to decide that Iran under the mullahs should not have nuclear weapons. Do that and determining precisely where on the path to nuclear weapons Iran is becomes obviously pointless. The decision is then what to do about Iran.

Unless you really believe it is vitally important to know whether Iran is a nuclear threat in a matter of months or years. And if you think Iran can't figure out why it is important to know that.

Have a nice day.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Root Causes

It is an article of faith among Progessive Americans that the American military is filled with society's outcasts who have no other place to go in our awful American system here at home:

It should no more be necessary to write this article than to prove that there were Jews killed in the World Trade Center on 9/11. And yet the mythology refuses to die. Just last week, two well-educated and well-known writer acquaintances of mine remarked in passing on the "fact" that those who serve in the U.S. military typically have no other career options. America's soldiers, they said, were poor and black.

They don't mean this to denigrate their service—no, they mean it as a critique of American society, which turns its unemployed into cannon fodder. Especially today with high unemployment, the charge goes, hapless youths we fail to educate are embarking on a one-way trip to Afghanistan.

Once again, they must be reminded that those who join the military are among our country's more capable and would be among the more qualified in the civilian sector.

Funny enough, the charge is true of our enemies:

One of the little discussed tragedies of Islamic terrorism is the fact that most of those it attracts are the least capable recruits. Islamic terrorism is not only an act of extremism, but also of desperation of those who have few other prospects. It's an international organization because Islam, in general, has not been amenable to taking advantage of new technology and economic opportunity, except for cable TV and the Internet. That's why the Moslem world has lagged so far behind the rest of the world in the last century.

Of course, in a sign that they are at least consistent, these Progressives have an explanation for that, too: the jihadi organizations are filled with society's outcasts who have no other place to go in our awful American-designed global system.

It Will Do

I finally saw Terra Nova. It has promise despite my worries.

Two things, however, if I may.

One, given downward demographic trends, I sincerely doubt that a government of the future would need to limit families to 2 children per couple.

Two, the perimeter fence has holes big enough for people? Really? And it sits right up against the settlement so dinosaurs can reach in? No ditch or fence further out? Or if you can only do one fence, you don't want to put your buildings a little further back?

I could go on if I was in a nitpicky mood, I guess. But it was entertaining. It is way above V levels of forlorn hope that surely it must get better.

UPDATE: Oh, I was distracted at this point, but did the guy who was eaten by the T-Rex in Jurassic Park while hiding in the outhouse munched by a dinosaur in this pilot? Could have sworn it was him. Nice touch, if so.

Yeah, That Would Be Bad

So why is Pakistan's double-dealing over the Taliban really grand strategy?

Pakistan has fought three wars with its neighbor since the bloody partition of the subcontinent that led to the creation of the country in 1947, and mutual suspicion still hobbles relations between the two nuclear-armed powers today.

"They still think India is their primary policy," said Talat Masood, a retired Pakistani general and prominent political analyst. "India is always in the back of their minds."

In an interview with Reuters on Tuesday, Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani - unprompted - complained that Washington's failure to deal even-handedly with New Delhi and Islamabad was a source of regional instability.

Aqil Shah, a South Asia security expert at the Harvard Society of Fellows, said Islamabad's worst-case scenario would be an Afghanistan controlled or dominated by groups with ties to India, such as the Tajik-dominated Northern Alliance, which it fears would pursue activities hostile to Pakistan.

That's a lot of stupid.

One, for decades when India was a close friend of the Soviet Union, we were quite unbalanced in our relations, favoring and arming Pakistan. Favoring and arming jihadis is how they repay us, along with exploiting and fanning anti-Americanism in their population.

Second, just what do the Pakistanis think that India would do if they got a pro-India Afghanistan? Turn Pakistan into a Third World, paranoid, over-populated economic basket case with a corrupt and divided society under threat by Islamo-fascists who run their own little Medieval fiefdoms on their border areas with Afghanistan? Would India conspire to build a parasitical Pakistani military-industrial-intelligence complex that is a power on its own sucking resources from an impoverished Pakistani state, is incapable of defeating the state they claim is their prime reason for existing, and undermines civilian, democratic rule? Is that what India might do to Pakistan?

Yeah, anyone who would do that to Pakistan would be pretty bad. Someone should catch those foul miscreants and hang them.

UPDATE: Wow, the stupid is getting thick:

U.S. accusations that Pakistan is supporting Afghan insurgents have triggered a nationalist backlash and whipped up media fears of an American invasion, drowning out any discussion over the army's long use of jihadi groups as deadly proxies in the region.

We wouldn't even need to invade Pakistan to beat them. Blockade them and hit their airfields while deploying our ground forces in Afghanistan to beat off any potential Pakistani ground invasion (which couldn't be much since the Pakistanis wouldn't dare strip their frontier with India of many troops), and it would just be a matter of time before Pakistan had to capitulate or use nukes.

I'd rather have Pakistan as an imperfect ally than as an enemy. But it is even more important for Pakistan to come to the same conclusion. And the situation on the ground in Afghanistan means that we can afford to push Pakistan to be less imperfect more than Pakistan can afford to push us to tolerate that imperfection.

Foot in the Door?

Is the Iraqi government finally going to make the case for a continued American presence in Iraq based on the most obvious need for our help in the area of air defense?

Iraq has signed a contract to buy 18 Lockheed Martin F-16 warplanes to bolster its air force, an adviser to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Monday.

If American Air Force personnel are on the ground in Iraq to train the Iraqis on the aircraft, we can say we need additional Air Force operational personnel to aid them in training (by letting Iraqis observe how we do it). And we need logistics personnel to support them. Of course, we'll need combat troops to protect the trainers and Air Force units. Plus we'd need intelligence and special forces people to extend the bubble of protection out from base perimeters. Drones, of course. And convoy escorts for the logistics tail. And headquarters personnel. And personnel to have the ability to rapidly reinforce the relatively few American combat troops on the ground in Iraq in case of emergency.

Could we get to 10,000 (I won't dare hope for 25,000) with 18 new planes?

Listeria? How About Hysteria?

Cantaloupe outbreak?

I'm more worried about the watermelon outbreak:

Whatever Floats Their Boat

Iran says that they may send warships to cruise off our coast: "'Like the arrogant powers that are present near our marine borders, we will also have a powerful presence close to American marine borders,' the head of the Navy, Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said, according to the official IRNA news agency."
To which there is but one reply: Who cares? Like they'd survive long enough to reload if they opened fire. Hey, will keep a few tug boats ready in case they make it here.
I also suggest the Iranians screen the crew closely since the opportunity to sail (or be towed) into one of our ports and defect might be awfully tempting.

Character Reference

Pakistan is under public pressure over its support for Islamist radicals in Afghansitan even as it claims to be a full partner in the war on terror. Pakistan does have its defenders:
The Taliban are rejecting claims that they or any of their allies have ties to the Pakistani government.
The insurgent group said in a statement on Tuesday that it had no bases in Pakistan.
Well then, there's nothing to see. Move along.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Foot. Meet Bullet

Yes! Finally we get a foreign policy win:

China plans to cancel or postpone some U.S.-China military exchanges after Washington last week announced it would upgrade Taiwan's fleet of F-16 fighter jets, a senior U.S. official said.

You go, girl! Teach us a lesson. And keep on teaching it. Don't be a bunch of wusses and just postpone some of the exchanges. Cancel them! Man up! Are you the Middle Kingdom, or what? If it is worth learning, you can just steal it from us, right?

I've never been too happy with our mil-to-mil exchanges.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Getting Small

So the Big Shrink will take place as we cash in our "peace" dividend while we are still at war (but I guess if you can define Libya as not a war, nothing is beyond assuming):

The Army is preparing to launch in March a five-year, nearly 50,000-soldier drawdown, using a combination of accession cuts and voluntary and involuntary separations, similar to the post-Cold War drawdown of the 1990s, according to Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, service personnel chief.

Bostick, the Army G-1, said the pending drawdown initially will focus on the temporary 22,000-soldier increase launched three years ago to support the Afghanistan troop surge.

These soldiers can be removed from the force primarily through offsets in accessions and retention, sources say.

The second phase of the drawdown involves 27,000 soldier spaces that were added to end strength during the Grow the Army program, leaving the service with 520,400 active-duty soldiers on Sept. 30, 2016.

The Army chief of staff (Odierno) has said that the Army will probably keep going past that floor, anticipating further budget cuts, it seems.

Before 9/11, I think the Army was down to 470,000, or so. Then, Army units were understrength. Keeping the Army at 520,000 probably just allows us to fully man the force structure of that era's Army.

But what of the force structure? The article doesn't say. This one speaks of cutting 10 of the Army's 45 active duty brigade combat teams:

The Army has announced plans to reduce its end strength by 27,000 starting in 2015 and cut by 2012 the temporary 22,000-soldier increase that started in 2009 for the Afghanistan surge.

Subtracting 10 BCTs would fall in line with this plan, said the official, who asked to remain anonymous since discussions are ongoing.

BCT cuts may be more strategic than financial. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, soon to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, studied the idea when he ran Training and Doctrine Command. He ordered a study that found the Army could benefit from adding maneuver units and expanding BCTs while cutting 10 from the total number.

But cutting might not be from the reductions in surge-related expansion. That might be the result of further cuts than those planned already.

Also, the Army might decide to restore a third line battalion to our brigades, which now have two line battalions (of 4 companies each rather than 3) and a small recon squadron to call in fire missions (that is not like the old armored cavalry units that could fight and scout). So reducing brigades might be done to provide the troops to enlarge the remaining brigades. Remember that we had 33 active brigades (not counting the Ranger regiment) before 9/11. Each of those had three battalions. So we'll have an organizational debate while we shrink the Army.

Another interesting angle is that I suspect that we will continue to see large numbers of Army reservists (in the Guard and Reserves) mobilized to supplement the active force even as the active force is reduced. Reservists are cheaper, in America are pretty darned good (especially combat support and service support), and are geared to being an "operational" reserve that is routinely called up rather than a "strategic" reserve of being called up in extreme national emergencies.

Our Army survived the stresses of Iraq without breaking. Instead, our Army learned a lot and is now a combat-proven and confident force. It would be a crime to break the Army on budget cuts when enemies trying their best failed to do that.

I. Hate. Them!

I can hate television scheduling executives, can't I? I mean, I plan no violence on them--I assume God has reserved space in Hell for them. Am I right?

First they schedule three series I like for Friday night. That's a bad night for TV. Fringe, Chuck, and Nikita are all planned for that night. With Chuck and Nikita in the same time slot. Thanks!

Sure, the networks get credit for New Girl, with Zooey Deschenel. But then they go and put Ringer, with Sarah Michelle Gellar, on at the same freaking time on Tuesday!

Oh, and I see they are taunting me with a new science fiction show, Terra Nova. Oh, I'll try it. It's on Monday and only a Lions game would interfere with that--unless it sucks at V levels of moronic plot and characters. I can even set aside what will probably be the plot line of evil conservatives who destroyed the world and plot to undermine the new chance in our past. I can even get past the silly notion that they can't ever shoot to kill the dinosaurs. Like a liberal wet dream, the colonists are strong enough to only used non-lethal force to escape the dinosaurs and never, ever pay the price for failing to destroy threats to their lives and future. No doubt there will be weekly group discussions of "why do they want to eat us?" Surely, they will put COEXIST stickers on their vehicles, with the C shown as a stylized raptor (or T-Rex, or whatever it is) fossil jaw:

Oh no. One dead dino and the colonists are in steaks for a month, but perish the thought of killing animals that will all be extinct when the Earth is rocked by asteroid impacts. Somehow we'll survive that, I guess. It isn't like living in a trailer park in Tornado Alley at all.

No, I can get past all that if they come to pass. But the previews give me the willies that this is just going to be Jurassic Trailer Park. Scary dinosaurs with non-material, plucky people living in harmony with nature--even the dinosaurs--and happy to have that chance. I'm sure the vehicles are eco-friendly electric since the oil is millennia away from being compressed into existence.

Anyway, I'm sure this unique concept show will be great. I hope so. I really do. But don't you think I'm forgetting the awfulness that were V and Doll House that I placed my hopes on.

Okay, I can see the Ringer-New Girl conflict is getting to me. MPDG, indeed.

UPDATE: Doh! After all that whining and hoping, I forgot to watch Terra Nova (but the X-Files episode based on COPS that I watched was really entertaining). Mad Minerva thinks it is flawed but worthy of giving a chance (Egad, that sounds disturbingly similar to how I felt about V at first. I'll see if it is on my cable OnDemand or I'll have to visit the InterTubes for it if I have to.

She also gives a thumbs up to New Girl. Although this piece suggesting that Zooey Deschenel simply plays Zooey Deschenel escapes me as to its relevance. And just what is wrong with sun dresses?

They Better Pray it Isn't the "People's" Army

North Korea's ruling elite is starting to understand that discipline is breaking down everywhere. And the army is not immune:

Even the soldiers cannot be trusted anymore. And that's because the troops are going hungry. Rations (normally 800 grams/28 ounces a day) have been cut by a third for most troops, and are lower quality (maize instead of rice). It's become increasingly common for soldiers to sneak out of their bases and steal food and goods (which are promptly sold on the black market for food). Punishment (a potentially fatal spell in a work camp) is not stopping this criminal activity. In fact, it is becoming more common. Naturally, morale among the hungry troops is plunging. Most elite units have not suffered cuts in quantity, but have seen reductions in the quality of food.

A year ago, I discounted the North Korean plan to devote the state's resources to shoring up the military as a pillar of the regime:

North Korea is so broke that they had downgraded the conventional army in favor of relying on secret police to control the people and army; and relying on nuclear weapons to keep foreign invaders away. But last year, it seemed like Kim Jong Un had gotten the support of the spooks. What happened to that template for regime survival? Do the rulers think that sectet police are no longer enough to control the people and army? Are the rulers so worried about the military that they need to buy them off again?

Perhaps The Un bought the military's support by promising more money for the military. Is that the new plan? Going back to the old plan? The plan that required Soviet cash in large amounts?

Which will be interesting, since North Korea seems way too broke to buy the support of the army. Where will they get the money?

Unless China opens the spigot to massive amounts of aid, a "Songun" policy can't work. What is just as interesting is that the former policy of relying on the secret police to control the army apparently isn't working out like it was supposed to. And there are no nuclear weapons yet for the other part of that policy which was supposed to make the lack of an effective army moot by deterring foreign attack.

North Korea would almost certainly lose a war with South Korea and America (and Japan?). But "almost certainly" might seem like a bright ray of hope if the rulers see their regime definitely crumbling away around them.

So let's keep an eye on them. Winning will be bloody and expensive. And then we get the prize of owning that black hole of despair.

UPDATE: Thanks to Stones Cry Out for the link.

Now They're REALLY Pissed

You know we won in Iraq when the various communist and far left groups that organized anti-war protests (and successfully portrayed themselves as ordinary Americans through a press corps uninterested in the roots of the movement) in an effort to ride the wave of protests to their communist paradise give up and target Wall Street. Yes, "Occupy Wall Street." The various web sites go to great lengths to avoid giving any hint of who they are.

Pity. At least during the Iraq War protests you could see the list of far left whackjobs in charge. Now, only the bizarre wording gives you an inkling of what is going on. If you dig, you can get the picture. And some of the protest photos, supporters, and blog entries out there are dead giveaways.

I doubt that the media will identify who is behind this stuff. Just ordinary folks organizing with social media, as far as our press corps is concerned.

What a bunch of losers.

And no, I don't need to specify who I'm talking about.

It's a Policy!

China is upset that India is working with Vietnam to drill in what Vietnam considers their own territorial waters but which China expansively claims.

This is part of a general policy that India has of pushing their defense perimeter forward:

India, worried about encirclement by Chinese interests in the South Asian region, has been cooperating with Vietnam since the early 1990s as part of its "Look East policy" aimed at expanding ties with its eastern neighbours.

I've noted before that India should move east to block China. But I didn't realize it was official Indian policy. In which case it is hard to understand why India doesn't seek closer defense relations with Taiwan. Taiwan is the ultimate distraction for China. If Taiwan goes down, China could turn on India.

I really should get some basic book on modern Indian foreign policy.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Epic Ambush Fail

The spirit is willing, but the flesh is just too darn small and weak in relation to the target:

With apologies to Mad Minerva for encroaching on her tag domain.

UPDATE: Also, I love the dog's "do you see what I put up with?" look. And the kitten bats at the slipper after miserably failing to defeat the dog, as if saying, "I meant to go after this."

Getting Ready to Rumble

We are getting a little more explicit about our complaints of Pakistani double-dealing:

The U.S. military's top officer has accused Pakistan of supporting attacks by the al-Qaida-linked Haqqani network on U.S. targets in Afghanistan, including last week's assault on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

Admiral Mullen also tried to reel the Pakistanis in from their policies that also get Americans killed:

"By exporting violence, they’ve eroded their internal security and their position in the region. They’ve undermined their regional credibility and threatened their economic well being. Only a decision to break with this policy can pave the road to a positive future for Pakistan," he said.

But the Pakistanis aren't in the mood to take advice on this, as their foreign minister indicated:

"You will lose an ally," Khar told Geo TV in New York in remarks broadcast on Friday.

"You cannot afford to alienate Pakistan, you cannot afford to alienate the Pakistani people. If you are choosing to do so and if they are choosing to do so it will be at their (the United States') own cost."

Well, I don't want to lose Pakistan as an ally. Not until we can afford it. Besides, having Iran behave like Pakistan would be considered a major diplomatic triumph. So I don't want to lose what we have despite Pakistan's obvious problems as an ally. Not until we can afford it.

When we can afford it, Pakistan will find that it can't readily replace our support. We might lose Pakistan as an ally, but we are a potent enemy to have. And will China pick up the tab for Pakistan? Good luck with that.

Further, there is no doubt that Pakistan is doing exactly what Mullen accuses them of doing. And despite that, the jihadis inside Pakistan will not refrain from waging war on Pakistan in their own double-dealing.

Pakistan's foreign minister also warns us against coming into Pakistan after the jihadis who battle us in Afghanistan:

Pakistan's foreign minister on Saturday warned the United States against sending ground troops to her country to fight an Afghan militant group that America alleges is used as a proxy by Pakistan's top intelligence agency for attacks in neighboring Afghanistan.

Our warnings to Pakistan to get on the right side of the fight at long last are more than just a coincidence. After focusing on the southern parts of Afghanistan while we shaped the battlespace in the east in a secondary front, we are getting ready to shift our main effort to the east across from those jihadi sanctuaries in Pakistan's frontier areas, as Defense Secretary Panetta testified:

The second challenge is the difficult campaign we have ahead of us in the east, where the topography, the cultural geography and the continuing presence of safe havens in Pakistan give the insurgents advantages they have lost elsewhere in the country. We cannot allow terrorists to have safe havens from which they launch attacks and kill our forces. We cannot allow that to happen. And we have to bring pressure on the Pakistanis to do their part to confront that issue.

Now that we need to beat down the Taliban in the east, the sanctuaries in Pakistan that Pakistan tolerates and even supports are less acceptable to us.

Pakistan has long been a problem, but we were far from the point where we had to confront the problems in Pakistan. Other problems were greater and pushing Pakistan to solve them would not have solved our main problems inside Afghanistan. Pakistan believed it had us over a barrel because the war has long been a mobius war, as I called it, where our frontier was also our rear area. We couldn't push Pakistan since our supply lines ran through Pakistan.

But by the end of the year, 3/4 of our supplies will come from our northern routes. By next summer, we should be able to drop our Pakistan supply lines altogether.

So perhaps through the fall and winter, we start shifting resources to the east even as we draw down the surge troops and turn over more territory to the Afghans to free up our forces for the east. While we do this, we start going after the jihadis inside Pakistan more aggressively and push Pakistan to side with us fully. And in the spring, we start pushing to the border in the east to knock down the Taliban there enough so that with even more withdrawals of our troops the Afghans can take over the fight.

We're in no mood to win on the ground in Afghanistan only to see our plans to pull most of our forces (if not all of them) from Afghanistan founder on the reality that the defeated remnants of our enemies can regroup, rest, and re-arm in Pakistan under the protection of powerful factions within Pakistan. So this is probably just the first of a lot of meetings:

Pakistan's powerful army chief General Ashfaq Kayani on Sunday called a "special" meeting of his top commanders to discuss the security situation, the military said, as the war of words with the United States escalated.

The extraordinary meeting of the corps commanders came against the backdrop of sharp U.S. allegations that Pakistan army's powerful spy agency supported the Haqqani militant group Washington blames for the recent attack on its embassy and other targets in Kabul.

It is going to be a long winter for the Pakistanis as they contemplate whether they can continue to afford to be at war with America and the jihadis. The jihadis will wage war on Pakistan no matter what despite what the Pakistanis think their double-dealing can achieve. With supply lines that don't go through Pakistan, we will be able to treat Pakistan as less ally and more foe. We'll see if the Pakistanis want to risk that.

I'd rather keep Pakistan as an imperfect ally than confront them. But we are rapidly coming to the point where we can't ignore Pakistan's double-dealing because we had other things to do in Afghanistan that were more important. We're heading east, and Pakistan can either join the final offensive or find that we will decide to live without them. In time, we won in Iraq without getting the cooperation of Syria and Iran to halt their support of terrorists and insurgents. Pakistan makes brave talk that they can live without us in a dangerous world. Will their nukes give them the belief that they can do without our diplomatic, military, and economic help?


Libya's loyalists are holding out in Sirte as alliance forces fall back from an assault and try to seal the city off from the outside world:

Libya's revolutionary fighters stepped up a siege of Moammar Gadhafi's hometown on Sunday, hoping to wear down loyalist forces a day after an offensive failed to dislodge die-hard loyalists of the fugitive leader.

Anti-Gadhafi fighters set up new checkpoints and posted snipers in strategic areas on the outskirts of Sirte. But they said they were not planning another assault immediately after facing fierce resistance on Saturday that left seven of their comrades dead and more than 150 wounded.

Unless Khaddafi and his lieutenants have access to money to organize a relief force from either Algeria or Chad, resistance will ultimately fail. Are the loyalists just looking for a better deal to fold? Or are the true believers the ones who fell back to Sirte to stand and die?

Still, the ill-organized alliance forces can't take their victory for granted:

Many revolutionary fighters are abandoning one of the main fronts in the battle to rout Moammar Gadhafi's loyalists, saying they're not afraid of dying in the face of heavy resistance but are tired of the disorganization and lack of ammunition among their own ranks.

Bani Walid has proven impenetrable in part because of its daunting natural defenses — the town of 100,000 is strung along mountain ravines where loyalists hold the high ground. But the nearly month-old assault has only underscored the disarray in the forces of Libya's new rulers, which include both a relatively organized military and brigades of untrained volunteers.

The rebels have made progress in the deep south, are focused on Sirte, but lack the troops to do anything but hold at Bani Walid for now.

While I can't see any outside force helping the loyalists stage a comeback, if you give an enemy time, who knows what can happen? When the Taliban won their civil war and drove the Northern Alliance into a small enclave in the northeast back in the late 1990s, who could have seen American special forces, cash, and smart bombs turning the tide so decisively in favor of the "defeated" faction after 9/11?

Well, Sure

The Economist comes out in favor of America continuing to back Taiwan:

Strong American backing for Taiwan has served the region well so far. It has improved, rather than damaged, cross-straits relations, for Mr Ma would never have felt able to open up to China without it, and it has been the foundation for half a century of peace and security throughout East Asia (see Banyan). To abandon Taiwan now would bring out the worst in China, and lead the region’s democracies to worry that America might be willing to let them swing too. That is why, as long as China insists on the right to use force in Taiwan, America should continue to support the island.

That's fine. But I can't help but notice that Taiwan's arsenal contains no British weapons. Perhaps the British could spare some submarines or advanced fighter aircraft for Taiwan. Or do the British think that throwing Taiwan to the wolves will save Hong Kong for a few more decades from full oppression?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Demanding Sacrifice

Since the Iraq War, it has annoyed me that opponents of the war repeatedly called for a draft or for "sacrifice" by our people (that is, taxes). Supposedly this was to make us share the burden with our troops overseas. It was always about eroding support for the war. When continuation of a war rests on public acceptance of the war, adding needlessly to the burdens the public has on it is foolish.

Otherwise, you'd have to say this is a brilliant move by Assad to share the burden of squashing a budding revolt:

Syria has banned imports of most foreign manufactured goods except raw materials and grains, local businessmen said on Saturday in a move to preserve foreign currency reserves under pressure from Western sanctions and ongoing political unrest.

The government decreed on Thursday that all imports that carry a tariff that exceeds five percent are banned, meaning that most foreign goods are affected, from electrical goods, to cars and luxury items, businessmen and traders in Damascus, who were contacted by Reuters said.

The decision however excludes raw materials needed for the country's hard-hit industries, along with wheat and grain purchases by the state for local consumption.

Obviously, while this will save money for the government to hang on until the protesters tire of dying and go home, it will also harm the pro-government business people who move those luxury goods and the pro-government supporters most able to afford them.

Born Free

I have never had to do this all these years, but in the last week I needed to hunt bugs for both Mister and Lamb.

First Mister needed roller bugs for his biology class. After school we searched around his mom's house, looking under every brick and under leaves. Nothing. We walked down to a park and scraped away leaves under the trees. No bugs.

So I went home later and on my patio under a bag of soil, the little suckers scampered away when I lifted the bag. Bagged a bunch.

Then, one day when Lamb and Mister had dinner with their grandparents after school, I get a call from lamb telling me she needs worms for school. She says the teacher told her that soaking the ground will get them to surface. Huh. That makes sense.

So I soak some ground outside and after 10 minutes I decided this was insane. Just how long would it take worms to burrow to the surface? Even if I soaked the ground enough to reach the worms?

So I dug up a plug of dirt close to a stream and waited for the worms to exit. Bingo. I got three and none were chopped in half from the plug extraction. I replaced the plug, put the worms in a cottage cheese container with a cut in the cover for air, and called Lamb to let her know I had success. She told me to put wet newspaper, lettuce, and coffee grounds in with them. Too late for the last, but I did the first two.

Then I find that she really didn't have to bring in worms but they had studied them and I think she wanted to do what her big brother did. Still, the worms were a hit at school, apparently. And when I picked her up after school she had the worms and wanted to return them to the wild.

She had also named all of them, offering an apology for naming the one she though was a boy worm "Slimy." (No offense, taken, I assured her). The girl worms were "Wormy" and "Squirmy." Why female kind shouldn't take offense at that, I did not ask.

So we took the worms back to the plug of dirt where I lifted it out and dumped the worms and lettuce in the hole and gently set the plug back in, careful not to crush them.

Then I broke into song: "Born free! As free as the wind blows! As free as the grass grows! Born free to follow your heart!"

Well, OK, I didn't. they are worms, after all.

This is a Debate?

So this is a debate over the latest arms package sold to Taiwan (and the failure to sell 66 new F-16s)?

A university professor says that selling arms to a free Taiwan and getting angry at those arms sales are both signs that "hardliners" are winning the day in America and China. Huh.

Oh, and the Chinese public doesn't like our arms sales to Taiwan.

Another professor says that fighter planes are a waste since the 1,000+ missiles that China has make Taiwan's airfields toast. Why rapid runway repair teams with lots of practice and supplies, missile defenses, more satellite airfields (including sections of highway designed for the purpose--as long as there are detours for army convoys), and hardened aircraft shelters won't allow Taiwan to get in the air with enough time to fight back is beyond me. Our aerial offensive against Iraq's air force in 1991 didn't prevent Iraq from flying off lots of their planes to Iran to escape destruction. don't assume that China will succeed in shutting down the air fields--prepare to cope.

Another way to cope might be to disperse aircraft to places outside of China's reach but are close enough that the planes can fly in to repaired or surviving airfields on Taiwan to continue the fight. Could Taiwan rotate a significant portion of their planes to places from Singapore to the Philippines to American islands in the western and central Pacific? Maybe the Taiwanes should build a floating air base to operate east of Taiwan further from Chinese power projection assets. That would be pretty expensive, however, and other items are more important. But if money is no object, it is worth a thought.

The other weapons that Taiwan needs that are brought up are surely important, but it is insane to abandon the air to China. It simplifies China's problems and frees up those missiles for other targets, and hurts Taiwanese morale to know that anything that flies must be Chinese.

Plus, remember that when we have to decide whether to intervene, would we rather have a Taiwan whose air force needs just a little bit of American air power to tip the balance in Taiwan's favor? Or would we be fine having to deploy enough air power to do it all? A Taiwanese air force insufficient to gain air superiority on its own but that can contest the air with an amount of force we can deploy on short notice is far better than no Taiwanese air force.

The third professor from China says we need to stop selling arms because it upsets the Chinese public. Well, as long as the Chinese public supports conquering a free people, who can question that! A billion Chinese can't be wrong, right? Excuse me for pointing this out, but plenty of screaming crowds have backed some pretty terrible things.

A fourth says that selling arms helps deterrence and strengthens Taiwanese morale. Yes, it does. Here is some common sense. And that preventing China from attacking Taiwan may help them join the family of nations rather than alienate the world by stomping on a small nation. I have mixed views on this. On the one hand, it would anger and frighten a number of countries. That would be bad for business and might be enough to call off the dogs of war. But then again, Russia paid no price at all for attacking Georgia. (UPDATE: without saying it is moral equivalence to note this, remember too that a lot of countries do business with us despite thinking that liberating Iraq and Afghanistan were terrible things to do.) I think a lot of people would give a nuanced shrug and continue business as usual with China. Still, by extending the amount of time that Taiwan at least appears to be too hard to conquer at an acceptable cost, we increase the chances that the Chinese will decide that they don't really want to conquer Taiwan. Just buying time is worth it.

The last one thinks we should sell arms but makes the mistake of thinking that China sees our nuanced split-the-difference arms package as defensive in nature and not threatening. This is mirror imaging. If Peking was run by Brookings Institution scholars I could believe that Peking views the sale as non-threatening. I say sell Taiwan what they need to fight off an invasion and don't sweat worrying about what is signaled by each weapon and whether a weapon is defensive or offensive (which is a silly debate anyway).

The Bright Side

On the bright side of the Taiwan arms sale package, we are updating 140+ F-16s. And they will be updated to standards better than the new planes that Taiwan wanted.

Two, our military didn't block the sale--it was the State Department. (I meant to mention this earlier.)

Three, our military will report that Taiwan could use short-take-off versions of the F-35 or perhaps Harrier jets to avoid China's missiles targeting their airfields.

Taiwan has a way to go to restore the balance. But I don't assume that Taiwan is doomed to fail because of the size imbalance between them and China. That 100-mile wide anti-tank ditch called the Taiwan Strait makes all the difference in the world.


Libyan alliance forces have swept through the south:

They said 18 revolutionary fighters died in the final battle for the deep south's largest city, Sabha, and that pro-Gadhafi resistance consisted now of what they called a few last pockets of holdouts.

Which means that loyalists are trapped near the coast, especially at Sirte. And Khaddafi must be up there rather than down south where I figured it would make more sense for him to flee if he wanted to sustain resistance.

In the north, there may be loyalists but with the sea to the north and lots of Libya all the other directions, it will be tough to import weapons to sustain resistance that can challenge the new alliance government.

Friday, September 23, 2011


So Iran's president weighs in on the 9/11 attacks saying, according to this article, that "it would have been impossible for two jetliners to bring down the towers simply by hitting them." It had to be a "planned explosion."

Which raises an obvious question: when did Rosie O'Donnell become the president of Iran?

UPDATE: Like talking to a goat.

Useful Idiots

The fight in Afghanistan is a tough one, but we are winning that fight. One reason we don't have to just air raid and bomb villages to try to stomp out the resistance of the Taliban is that we are able to focus our efforts on the bad guys. How do we do that? With intelligence-driven night raids. It worked in Iraq:

The raids were mostly at night, and one raid might yield information that would promptly lead to several more before the sun came up. By hitting targets at night, the raiders more often had the element of surprise and caught the targets before documents could be destroyed. The enemy tried to adapt (with more lookouts and data rigged to be quickly destroyed), but the raids were grabbing too many of the competent men and leaders out of action. This caused the terror organizations to shrink dramatically, and between 2007 and 2009, terrorist attacks dropped by over 90 percent.

It is working in Afghanistan, too:

The Taliban and drug gangs tried to use their control of the media to get the raids halted (because they offended the Afghan sense of propriety). This caught on in the Western media, but intel officials always had the real story to show their political bosses. While there were always a few raids that hit the wrong target, most took out someone who was a terrorist killer or producer of drugs. It was the raids that produced the best evidence on who was most corrupt in the Afghan government and military. The 30-40 raids a night were too important to mess with. So American politicians publicly apologized and privately revealed what had been obtained about dirty dealing in Afghanistan.

Offends their sense of propriety? Oh who would be so gullible to fall for this line of drivel? Seriously, who would fall for enemy propaganda and pass it along ? Why, the usual idiot suspects in Pakistan, of course:

US Special Operations Forces have been increasingly aiming their night-time raids, which have been the primary cause of Afghan anger at the US military presence, at civilian non- combatants in order to exploit their possible intelligence value, according to a new study published by the Open Society Foundation and The Liaison Office.

The raids work in Afghanistan with a history of working in Iraq. The Taliban are desperate to get the raids stopped. Pakistan's The Nation, with readers and editors eager to believe what the Taliban claim about the awful Americans, carries their water.

I would never claim that people enjoy the night raids. But as long as we are careful not to do anything other than the raid itself to annoy and anger the people raided in case they are not involved, we will gain more ground than we lose. If we didn't have the intelligence from these raids, we couldn't fight the war. That's why the Taliban want them stopped.

Although to be fair, even the study (done in part by a Soros organization) doesn't come out and say we should halt the raids. Anything can be adjusted to make them better, and our night raids are surely no exception. Although the report's list of proposed limits might make them worthless. That's hard for me to say. What isn't hard to say is that the concept worked in Iraq, and as long as we don't screw them up in Afghanistan (by either halting them or doing them poorly, contrary to experience in Iraq), they'll work there, too.

The Science is Unsettled

The speed of light is the absolute upper limit of velocity. Don't go all in denial about that.

Except when it isn't the limit:

New results from the CERN laboratory in Switzerland seem to break this cardinal rule of physics, calling into question one of the most trusted laws discovered by Albert Einstein.

Physicists have found that tiny particles called neutrinos are making a 454-mile (730-kilometer) underground trip faster than they should — more quickly, in fact, than light could do. If the results are confirmed, they could throw much of modern physics into upheaval.

How can this be?

"According to relativity, it takes an infinite amount of energy to make anything go faster than light," Plunkett told LiveScience. "If these things are going faster than light, then these rules would have to be rewritten."

Not that there isn't a loophole that we already knew about:

Previous studies have found that certain materials can travel faster than light through a medium. For example, certain particles are able to move more swiftly than light when travelling through water or oil. However, nothing should be able to move faster than light through a vacuum.

Which is why I don't assume we are stuck on Earth in our solar system. I assume that one day we will find a way to exploit a loophole to go faster than light. I trust human ingenuity.

Perhaps this result will not be confirmed because there is some flaw in the study that other scientists will discover. But thank goodness there isn't an International Panel on Speed-of-Light Change.

Actual science is never really settled.

China For a Day?

China goes off on others and too many excuse it as just China's leaders naturally feeling more powerful as their country's economy and military might expand. Taiwan is the latest issue to get them worked up:

"If American politicians feel that the United States can... irresponsibly and randomly damage China's core interests without paying the price, this is a major and huge mistake," said the People's Daily, considered the mouthpiece of China's Communist Party.

But Jean-Pierre Cabestan, political science professor at Hong Kong Baptist University, said Beijing had learned lessons from the 2010 break-off in military ties and was unlikely to react as strongly this time.

"They are going to react, to get angry, and the military may take measures to better counter these retrofitted F-16s, but they will not break military ties with the United States like they did before," he told AFP.

As an aside, I'm disappointed that China won't cancel our mil-to-mil relations. No doubt they realized they made a mistake cutting them off the last time because the great advantage they get from them.

But back to the issue at hand--China's table-pounding tantrum that nobody seems to think is plain wrong.

Why can't we be China for a day and call in China's ambassador and berate them for supporting North Korea, which could one day nuke our territory or that of one of our allies?

Why can't we loudly proclaim it is a core interest that Iran not get nukes and demand China stop trading with Iran, arming them, and otherwise helping them?

Why can't we condemn China in no uncertain terms for supporting thug rulers in Burma and Sudan?

Why don't we declare it a core interest that international waters remain international waters and threaten consequences for interfering with freedom of navigation?

Why won't we berate the Chinese for daring to claim Indian territory as a threat to world peace?

Can't we condemn China for backing Zimbabwe's thug rulers?

Shouldn't we get all outraged that Chinese companies were caught supplying Khaddafi as we waged war there?

Can't we loudly threaten China with consequences for cyber-espionage?

Couldn't we be a little louder about human rights within China?

While we are at it, couldn't we tell the Chinese that it would be a major and huge mistake for them to think they can attack a free member of the world community, even if it is not recognized by the UN (seriously, the Palestinians want recognition as a "state" and Taiwan doesn't get it?), and take it over contrary to their wishes?

Really, if we were China for a day with rulers as reasonably enlightened as China's, couldn't we get away with all kinds of loud demands with whatever provocative language we wanted to use--and get away with it?

UPDATE: To be fair, it isn't just China. We are expected to understand any potential foe's grievance from even several centuries ago as justifying their anger or violence. We are not supposed to react to today's attack on us--or tomorrow's attack.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Only a Dozen

Why God gave us JDAMs.

Almost all the delegates sat through it.

UPDATE: Hey, it was better than the initial report I read:

The two U.S. diplomats, who specialize in the Middle East, were followed out of the chamber by diplomats from more than 30 countries. They included the 27 European Union members, Australia, New Zealand, Somalia, Liechtenstein, Monaco, San Marino and Macedonia, a U.N. diplomat said. Israel boycotted the speech.

Still too many sat there. But this is as close to a success as we're likely to get on this front.

Air Defense

I think that Taiwan should man a 12-plane squadron of F-16s with American contract pilots and call it the Flying Tigers.

Strategic ambiguity could use a little tweaking to get the Chinese worried a little more about confronting America over the fate of Taiwan.

"Ethical" Oil?

Women's civil rights is your metric for "ethical" oil?

Did you even see the 2010 Olympics men's hockey Gold medal game?

When the Saudis get ice, talk to me.

Seriously, for the Greens, it is only "ethical" if it isn't pumped out of the ground.

The First Arab Spring

The first Arab Spring faced vicious jihadi and Iranian resistance, was aided decisively by American military power, and worked:

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari spoke without notes to members of the private group. He described his country in upbeat terms, saying that although corruption and mismanagement remain endemic, the country is on the “right path” toward a stable democracy.

“Iraqi leaders came together, through our own initiative, to form a broad national unity government. Still it’s not complete, but it’s established: Iraq has its structure. It has its constitution. It has its way of resolving its own difficulties or internal problems," he said. "There may be delays. It’s not easy. It’s not tidy but really, when we compare ourselves to our neighborhood, we are in a stronger position.” ...

He adds that he believes that Iraq’s example that led to the popular democratic uprisings in the Arab world - and helped end what he called a “taboo” against asking for international help. “

Here's hoping his conviction that Iraq will muddle through to better lives for their people works out. If they can't, let's make sure it isn't for lack of our support.

So Stop Going to Starbucks

The Department of Justice had $8.00 coffee and expensive snacks for a conference:

As the U.S. government grapples to find ways to trim the bloated federal deficit, a new report suggests officials might start with cutting out $16 muffins and $10 cookies.

Where's the scandal? That's what happens when you turn your back on Tim Horton's and Dunkin Donuts in favor of those fancy coffee shops. Shoot, DOJ might have gotten a volume discount.

And to be fair, the food had to be run through naked pastry scanning machines or groped in the name of security. That will up the cost, too.

So Close

Had Khaddafi managed to hold out in Tripoli a month longer, I bet this vote would have gone differently:

NATO's decision-making body granted approval Wednesday for the military alliance to continue its mission over Libya for another 90 days.

The discontent was building. Victory is often a knife's edge from defeat. Thank goodness Khaddafi cracked.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Please Be Precise

This is tragic:

A car bomb caused a powerful explosion on a Michigan street that seriously injured a father and his two sons, who are "very fortunate" to have survived the attack, which turned their vehicle into a blackened hunk of metal, a federal official said Wednesday.

But was it really a "car bomb?" That is, was it a vehicle stripped down to make room for explosives designed to destroy something else after the car delivers the explosive to the target?

Or was it a car that had a bomb placed in it to kill the passengers?

Big difference.

Maybe More?

I bit the bullet and figured what I'd want in Iraq if we are limited to 3,000 uniformed personnel.

Iraq has budget issues to resolve before asking, but it seems like they will ask and maybe the number will be as high as 5,000:

The Obama administration is considering 3,000 to 5,000 troops for an Iraqi training mission, according to officials in Washington familiar with the discussions who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information. Al-Shahristani said no specific range of numbers for the training mission has been discussed. One Iraqi lawmaker close to al-Maliki, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said Baghdad may ask only for about 2,500 forces — a level that likely would be accepted by his war-weary public.

But it might be less than even the inadequate 3,000 figure tossed around. Let's hope reason prevails. Add 2,000 more to my footprint and you could add support and Air Force trainers inside Iraq and maybe more special forces.

We are so far from the days when I figured what we have right now (45,000 and 6 brigades) would be an appropriate footprint for many more years to come before we could risk drawing down more.

Who Says Network TV is Dead?

Last night, Zooey Deschenel's new series, New Girl, debuted. I thought I should review it.

So, Zooey Deschenel is in it. It lasts a half hour.

Mondays at 9:00 on Fox.

One-Way Street

I think I've mentioned that Ann Arbor city council, in its wisdom, has put up pedestrian crossings around town that require vehicles to stop if a pedestrian is even approaching the crossing and are not just in the crossing.

How drivers are supposed to read minds is beyond me when at some places you can be walking on the sidewalk parallel to the road and in less than 2 seconds make a 90 degree turn and step into the crossing that there is no way to stop in time if you are a driver. I think these crossings are stupid and unsafe. If tickets start to be written on these, people will start to slam on brakes and cause rear-end accidents or--with spotty obedience--get a pedestrian killed when one car stops but others whiz through.

The problem is that they are on some streets with 40 MPH limits. Oh, at the 25 MPH limit roads they are fine. But at the higher speed roads they invite accidents. If city council really wants to protect pedestrians, put up pedestrian-triggered stop lights and a crosswalk. Or put up real traffic signals at the close intersection.

I don't expect cars to stop for me and I stand well back until traffic clears and in the middle of the street I stop at the cement platform to wait. I'm shocked if a car stops for me.

But what really got me was when I was returning from a morning run today and I'm waiting for traffic to clear at one of those crossings. As I'm waiting, a whole convoy of school buses comes by. And they all blow right by me. These, the vehicles with flashing red lights and retractable "stop" signs that require me to stop for them when I approach them in my vehicle, sailed my me. Not that I mind stopping for them when I drive. I don't want to risk hitting a child. I always stop and never try to gun it past while just the yellow flashing lights are on and it is clear the red light will soon go on. Why risk a life for 20 seconds of idling time?

But the sight of school bus drivers of all people failing to stop for pedestrians was a bit much to take considering the fines I can get for failing to stop for school bus drivers. Very annoying, to say the least.