Saturday, April 30, 2011

Model World Citizen

While I'm happy the Germans caught the scum, how can this even be happening in Germany?

Three suspected al Qaeda members had been planning a bomb attack in Germany for four months when they were arrested, federal prosecutors said.

Rainer Griesbaum, a federal prosecutor, told a news conference on Saturday that the trio, led by a 29-year-old Moroccan, had planned to detonate their device in a crowded area but had not yet picked a target.

Eurovision Song Contest, that Crusader symbol of anti-Moslem bigotry, might have been the target, apparently.

But the mind boggles at the implications of all this. Al Qaeda angry with Germany? How can this be? Germany doesn't have Guantanamo Bay. Germany didn't invade Iraq. Germany opposes the Libya War. And German troops in Afghanistan--which the Germans believe might have "caused" the anger--are virtually war tourists in that fight. I don't even think George W. Bush is German at all, as a matter of fact. How could any jihadis be mad at Germany, which is otherwise the model multi-lateralist jihadi-tolerant state?

It's almost--now give me a little leeway to run a bit with this radical thought--it's almost as if the jihadis hate who we are for their own twisted motivations rather than for what we've done or have failed to do at any time in the last 1,500 years or so. Well, other than the horror that is the Eurovision Song Contest. Who wouldn't be tempted to have a go at that with explosives?

I might just be on to something here.

No-Fly Zone II

There is news that one of Khaddafi's sons and three of his grandchildren were killed in a NATO air strike.

I'd guess there will be pressure on NATO to halt all attacks on the city of Tripoli.

UPDATE: Here's the first report.

Oh, and if I'm unclear, I think the pressure to halt NATO attacks on Tripoli will work. Countries only reluctantly signed on to the war will argue that air strikes on Tripoli don't contribute directly to protecting civilians in rebel areas and that the risk of further collateral damage by hitting Tripoli is too high.

UPDATE: If, as I think, NATO stands down from attacking Tripoli as a result of this, the whole alliance waging war on Khaddafi's regime could unravel. Needless to say, killing a son of Khaddafi and three grandchildren without destroying the Khaddafi regime will guarantee that Khaddafi will seek revenge.

NATO and coalition leaders had best double the guards on their children and grandchildren. It's open season on leaders' relatives now.

Stay the Course

Our military sees progress in Afghanistan (and the actual report discussed in the press conference is here) as we've added forces and decided to aggressively go after Taliban forces in southern Afghanistan:

I know there’s always a temptation, and I’m sure I’ll get asked questions about recent individual events. But if you look back over the last two years, I’d say there’s been very little correlation between this or that -- this or that spectacular event, this or that assassination, this or that attack here or there. You need to look at the entire campaign; you need to look at the entire effort; and you need, most importantly, to look at the results. And so that is the focus of this report. The focus of the report is what’s happening over time.

So I’ll be happy to answer your questions on the report. But again, I really urge you to look at the progress over the last two years, the progress over the last six months. And as we look ahead, as you’ve heard from Secretary Gates, as you heard -- as you and the Congress heard from General Petraeus, we have made this progress. This progress is fragile. This progress is reversible. There’s still a lot, a lot to do.

There’s going to be some very tough days ahead, just as there have been tough days in the past. There’s going to be -- there’s going to be efforts to make spectacular attacks, and there’s going to be individual incidents. But I would really urge, as you look at that, as you look at any of these individual attacks, you know, good days, bad days -- horrible days sometimes, where we have losses -- as the secretary said, over a thousand, I think, fatalities on our side, each one of which -- and with our Afghan partners and our other colleagues, the casualties of any kind, military or civilian, are tragic and regrettable. But the sacrifices that all are making are paying off in this tangible progress that we’re making.

But I would like to address the false implication of the statement that we are making progress over the last two years which holds as conventional wisdom that before that escalation, Iraq distracted us from winning in Afghanistan. The problem with this notion is that the enemy surged in Afghanistan, and so before we counter-surged, the enemy made some gains during the gap. Before the enemy surged, we were doing fine in Afghanistan in preventing the enemy from rebuilding a sanctuary with our much lower troop commitment.

Even President Obama noted a year ago that our problems in Afghanistan didn't really start until 2008. I'd say that the problems started building as early as 2007, but 2008 is a reasonable point to identify as when the enemy started making solid gains that our old commitment level couldn't cope with:

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

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

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

We haven't been losing in Afghanistan for a decade because of some Iraq distraction. And it isn't really fair to say that we were losing for a year before we started adding troops, when enemy gains were based on the enemy gaining assets from a new sanctuary in Pakistan and from al Qaeda giving up on Iraq where we won a more important campaign and shifting their own resources back to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

I know it is natural for the anti-war people to panic and counsel our defeat in the only war they have to protest, but don't believe them. Have patience. We can knock down our enemies in Afghanistan and again get to the point where not many Americans are needed to bolster Afghanistan defenses against jihadi efforts to win. Whatever else you may think of President Obama's policies, be supportive of his decision to fight and win in Afghanistan.

In the Dictionary Next to Frenemy

We need Pakistan right now to fight and win in Afghanistan. But Pakistan is no ally:

[It] doesn’t make a lot of sense to refer to a government whose intelligence service assists military efforts by al Qaeda and the Taliban against U.S. troops in Afghanistan as an “ally.” Indeed, a report released last year by the London School of Economics concluded it is the “official policy” of Pakistan’s [Inter-Services Intelligence] to support the Taliban. That the ISI occasionally helps the U.S. target al Qaeda and Taliban cells in Pakistan doesn’t mean the relationship between Washington and Islamabad is one between trusted security partners.

But when we've won in Afghanistan or when we no longer need Pakistan's variable commitment to helping us win in Afghanistan, we need to cut Pakistan loose. Oh, we could remain friends, but it would have to be based on our terms that Pakistan stops supporting terrorists and inciting jihadis within Pakistan as a pillar of support for their corrupt government.

Pakistan is simply not a long-term friend and ally, I'm sad to say. Right now, we do what we must to win a war. But we should not get used to this as the natural state of affairs. Remember that we have a long history of allying with Pakistan only because of the oddities of the Cold War where India needed help against China and so turned to the Soviet Union and we needed help against the Soviets and so turned to China. Pakistan became the default friend of America and China because of the Soviet factor. That factor, I'm happy to say, is no longer there.

We need to prepare for the time when we can do what we should.

Strait Jacket

If the generally pro-independence DPP candidate Tsai Ing-wen wins next year's presidential election, it will be bad for Chinese-Taiwanese relations? But even if KMT incumbent President Ma Ying-jeou wins, it could be bad, too?

If Mr. Ma can’t continue to improve relations with Beijing, “we are going to see tensions in the strait spike up again,” Mr. Hammond-Chambers said.

But even if Mr. Ma stages a miraculous recovery, polls still show the majority of Taiwanese support the current status quo under which Taiwan has de facto independence, meaning the political costs of pushing for what Beijing wants – new talks on politics and military relations – are likely too high for any Taiwanese leader to risk.

So, regardless of who wins the next Taiwanese election, the winner will provoke worse relations with China and tension in the Taiwan Strait? It's like Taiwan is expected to live in a strait jacket that inhibits movement in any direction but getting closer to China.

Maybe the real issue that causes problems is that China's Communist rulers want to control Taiwan regardless of what the Taiwanese want. Maybe the problem is that Taiwanese voters choose their own leaders, which isn't something that Peking wants to encourage.

Maybe we should stop blaming the democratic victim of a giant aggressor that continues to threaten Taiwan's freedom with increasingly capable military forces even as Peking's rulers smile and pretend that not mentioning their ultimate goal counts as better relations that those pesky Taiwanese keep upsetting.

Stupid, Evil, and Ugly to Boot

Even if you want to argue that Hugo Chavez is not now a dictator, he is clearly a thug and he is at best simply on the road to being a clear-cut dictator:

President Hugo Chavez is facing increasingly hostile voters, and even rising oil income is unable to buy loyalty back. Faced with losing at the ballot box, Chavez is arming his core supporters, while placing loyalists into key military and police commands. Chavez has taken control of electronic and print media over the last two years, and has also managed to throttle free speech for Venezuelan Internet users. Opponents, even judges, have been dealt with quickly and harshly. All this makes opposition grow. Chavez is ready to rule as an unelected dictator, even at the risk of a destructive civil war. In the meantime, he is trying to repair the damage he has done to the economy. This includes restoring trade with Colombia (which helps), and increasing control over the economy (which doesn't).

What a piece of work. Yet he has fanboys in America. Why? Because Hugo hates America. Even under Obama, Hugo hates America. And that gets him a pass for his thuggery and will get him a pass when he is clearly a dictator.

Calling for a Time Out

Khaddafi either has enough of Libya to stop the fighting or thinks he soon will, since he is calling for a ceasefire:

Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi said on Saturday he was ready for a ceasefire and negotiations provided NATO "stop its planes," but he refused to give up power as rebels and Western powers demand.

I still think Khaddafi really must get Misrata, first. Does he think he can grab it before allies abroad can engineer a ceasefire (or just have a foothold in the city to give him a say in what happens post-ceasefire) or has he given up on taking it in the face of stubborn rebel resistance and NATO air strikes?

I also have to wonder whether Khaddafi wants a ceasefire because he fears he will lose if the fight goes on rather than just being a sign that Khaddafi accepts that NATO firepower and perhaps long-term threats of ground intervention if air power isn't enough will prevent loyalists from marching into Benghazi.

Clearly, Khaddafi has accepted that the goal of survival is enough for now.

UPDATE: NATO rejects the ceasefire:

In Brussels, a NATO official said the alliance needed "to see not words but actions," and vowed NATO would keep up the pressure until the U.N. Security Council mandate on Libya is fulfilled. The alliance has promised to continue operations until all attacks and threats against civilians have ceased, all of Gadhafi's forces have returned to bases and full humanitarian access is granted.

I don't know if this means that only 6 weeks into the Western-led intervention that we believe we can win; or whether nobody yet wants to be the first to suggest accepting less than Khaddafi's downfall and settling for protecting the rebels in rebel-held territory.

I hope we are right that bombardment coupled with financial problems will soon cripple Khaddafi's war effort. While I don't see how we can break the loyalists since I don't think simple bombardment is enough to win, I do try to keep in mind that we've been at this for only 6 weeks.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Timely IAEA Warning

The IAEA has concluded that the Syrian facility that Israel destroyed 3-1/2 years ago was indeed a nuclear reactor:

The head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency has said for the first time that a target bombed in Syria in 2007 was a secretly built nuclear reactor.

Thanks a bunch guys. Nice to see you are on top of things.

The IAEA continued with their incredible powers of observation:

Amano said the reactor was "allegedly" destroyed in the air strike.

And we're supposed to trust these guys to protect us from rogue nuclear weapons programs?

Mourning in America

There are two ideas that explain how the Obama administration sees America's role in the world:

Indeed, “two unspoken beliefs,” explains Lizza. “That the relative power of the U.S. is declining, as rivals like China rise, and that the U.S. is reviled in many parts of the world.”

It's one thing to suspect that this is how the administration thinks. It is another to have it confirmed. I do believe I may have to drink heavily.

But hey, at least we have a foreign policy doctrine.

Only 582 Days To Victory!

The Libya War continues with no end in sight.

Libyan forces clashed with Tunisian border forces:

Forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi fought a gun battle with Tunisian troops in a frontier town on Friday as Libya's conflict spilled over its borders.

Pro-Gaddafi forces shelled the town of Dehiba, damaging buildings and wounding at least one resident, and a squad drove into the town in a truck chasing anti-Gaddafi rebels.

Tunisia only has 27,000 troops, so although they could deal with any persistent Libyan border identification issues (if deployed to the border), I doubt that they would try to be a decisive force in the Libyan civil war.

And while loyalists battle for the port and airport of Misrata, which remains under rebel control, NATO stopped loyalists from mining the Misrata harbor:

British Brigadier Rob Weighill, director of NATO operations in Libya, said NATO warships stopped pro-Kadhafi forces on Friday from laying water mines in Misrata's harbour.

"Our ships intercepted the small boats that were laying them and we are disposing the mines that we found," Weighill told reporters via videoconference from his headquarters in Naples, Italy.

Also interesting:

In Paris, the military said French jets were dropping inert bombs packed with concrete instead of explosives to destroy Kadhafi tanks without killing civilians.

Spokesman Thierry Burkhard denied rumours that the use of the 300-kilogram (660-pound) training devices was prompted by a shortage of real bombs, adding that the first such strike crushed an armoured vehicle on Tuesday.

Saying the use of cement bombs wasn't prompted by a shortage of smart bombs isn't the same that there isn't a smart bomb shortage. In France's defense, we used the same trick during the no-fly zone battles with Saddam's air defenses in the 1990s when Saddam placed air defense systems near mosques or schools to bait us into inflicting collateral damage he could broadcast to the world to undermine our sanctions and containment. Concrete smart bomb warheads would hit close enough to disable unarmored air defense weapons with cement chips (if not a direct hit) without damaging nearby buildings with the blast of a regular bomb. So it could be a good idea to use such bombs within Libyan cities both to avoid collateral damage and to save the exploding bombs for other targets.

Which brings me back to the question of how much our air offensive has hurt the loyalist arsenal. This article puts some numbers on it:

[The British director of NATO operations over Libya] said the target hit during the aerial onslaught include 220 tanks and armored personnel carriers, 200 ammunition facilities and 70 surface-to-air missile systems.

"NATO has already demonstrated the extent to which we are versatile and able to switch focus depending on where the major threats to civilian populations are," he said, adding that the alliance is now also focusing on Zintan and Yefrin, two towns southwest of the capital Tripoli where pro-Gadhafi forces were conducting offensive operations. NATO said its warplanes had already destroyed a dozen tanks in the region earlier this month.

So in about 40 days of air attack, we've destroyed 5.5 tanks and armored vehicles each day. This puts some context into the NATO claim 6 days earlier that we've destroyed 30-40 percent of Khaddafi's ground force capabilities.

Let's put it at 40% since that was a while ago. Destroying 220 loyalist tanks and armored fighting vehicles must mean that the whole loyalist force in combat must be capable of deploying 550 tanks and armored personnel carriers. Assuming about 30 tanks and armored vehicles for a small mechanized battalion totaling no more than 500 troops, that would mean about 18 battalions are in action--which would seem to be close to my guess early on of what Khaddafi could put in the field with his loyal regular forces (10,000 loyal regular troops overall, plus other less reliable regular troops, mercenaries, paramilitaries, militias, and naval and air force personnel pressed into ground service). Plus there are artillery pieces and rockets in military vehicles plus civilian vehicles pressed into service to avoid NATO planes.

But as I noted in the post linked above, Khaddafi started the war with over 4,000 tanks and armored vehicles. If Khaddafi only needs 550 to equip his fielded units at 100%, we have a way to go if attrition is to disarm Khaddafi. Unless we kill the crews of every vehicle destroyed and Khaddafi can't get replacements, we'd have to destroy about 3,500 tanks and armored vehicles just to start cutting into the front-line strength (minus tanks that can't be put into operation and any stuck in rebel territory at the start of the civil war). We've gotten 220 so far, leaving about 3,200 to go.

At the rate of 5.5 tanks and armored vehicles destroyed per day, we can look forward to finally cutting into Khaddafi's frontline strength in 582 days. Assuming concrete bombs can match the work of the exploding kind.

And you wonder why I look for means other than air strikes that might topple the Khaddafi regime?

I really hope we get lucky.

Teetering on the Knife's Edge

Unrest in Syria is spreading and escalating, as the civilian casualty count reaches at least 450 dead and protesters call for the fall of Assad. So far, killing hasn't sent the protesters home:

Syrian security forces opened fire on demonstrations in the capital of Damascus and the coastal city of Latakia — the heartland of the ruling elite — wounding at least five people. State-run television said a military post in Daraa was stormed by armed men who killed four soldiers and captured two.

Other demonstrations were reported in the central city of Homs, the coastal cities of Banias and Latakia, the northern cities of Raqqa and Hama, and the northeastern town of Qamishli. ...

A witness in Daraa, the city at the center of the revolt, said residents were staying home because the city has been under siege by the military since Monday, when thousands of soldiers stormed in backed by tanks and snipers. People were too afraid even to venture out to mosques for prayers, the witness said.

Strategypage has more on the crisis, including this detail that I hadn't caught when they reported it 4 days ago(although the article above mentions the clash, too):

In Daraaa, a town of 75,000 near the Jordanian border, some of the 5,000 troops from the 4th and 5th infantry divisions, sent to stop the growing rebellion there, opened fire on each other. This began when soldiers of the 5th division refused orders to fire on civilians. Soldiers from the 4th division, run by the president's brother Maher Assad, were seen firing on the troops who mutinied. Since then, soldiers have been fighting each other in Daraa and the military effort to take control of the town has been stalled.

Does this show that Syria finds itself in the position where its rulers won't reform, needs to kill more civilians to survive without real reform, but may not have the number of loyal troops needed to crank up the killing?

The Assad regime is losing. They don't want to lose. If they can't defeat the protesters at the current level of violence yet can't escalate violence without breaking their army (and if Iran can't send enough bully boys to make up for the lack of loyal Syrian troops willing to kill civilians), sparking a foreign crisis even if it risks a  war with Israel in Lebanon (from the link to my older post above) might be the only way out that the Baathists see:

Lebanon is the obvious choice for a battlefield in a war against Israel. If Syria marched a mechanized division into southern Lebanon "to show solidarity with" Hezbollah and the Lebanese people--and under the excuse that this is the source of all that foreign (Israeli) meddling that Assad claims is enflaming the unrest--he could generate a crisis that would compel Israel to decide whether to strike first to evict the Syrians. If Israel holds back, just the crisis might mute the budding revolt inside Syria. And if Israel strikes first at the Syrian expedition, it would be tough for protesters to stay in the streets without appearing to be allies of Israel. Assad could hope that Israel would be willing to keep the scope of the war limited to Lebanon and that the eventual loss of one of his divisions (assuming the UN doesn't demand a ceasefire to save the division) is well worth the price.

Of course, seeking a foreign enemy could backfire. Once the war ends, Assad would face a people angry at Assad for his repression and for losing a war. Assad wouldn't be the first dictator to miscalculate the rally around the flag ploy.

But Assad only has to think it would work for it to happen. Heck, all he has to have is the hope that it might work as opposed to the near certainty of defeat if he does nothing. He may believe he must do something to cope with the current crisis and worry about future crises later.

While Assad would only want a crisis and not a war, he may feel he has a safety net through Iran if Israel does attack his troops sent into Lebanon and Assad could send a less reliable division into Lebanon so that the Israelis would do the job for Assad of smashing up units Assad can't count on to defend his regime against protests). Hezbollah, with an assist by Hamas (with the newly reconciled West Bank Palestinian Authority in tow), could snatch victory from the jaws of defeat and save the Assad regime by ensnaring Israel in a rocket war against Israeli civilians closer to home to deter Israel from escalating the conflict beyond Lebanon.

No matter how low the odds of success really are, if this is how Assad sees as his only way out of this mess, he may take the shot. How else can he escape the problem of having a revolt to broad and committed for the number of loyal troops he has willing to shoot civilians?

Eco-Revival Meeting

With worries about global warming sinking faster than a dog-paddling polar bear, it makes sense that the Greens would have Al the Captist lead a revival meeting to reinforce their faith so they can go forth and spread the Word:

Campus Greens had traveled from upstate New York to Washington, D.C., to Power Shift 2011, a biennial conference created by the Energy Action Coalition to organize environmentally conscious students across the country. The Wells Campus Greens came by car; others, like the Florida A&M University student government, came by giant, gas-guzzling bus. Erin Schley, from the College of St. Benedict in Minnesota, was excited about the weekend’s educational opportunities. “Essentially we’re here for the workshops,” she said, “and we’re planning to take it back to campus and just spread the word, literally.”

One can almost hear Al the Captist's burning faith as he gave his fire and brimstone speech:

“Because, as the temperature has gone up, warmer air has started holding much more moisture,” he explained, and some of the students, knowing a college lecture when they hear one, started fidgeting in their seats. “And when the storm conditions cause a downpour, much more of it falls at the same time, so you get these big flood events. And, partly because of the same phenomena, you’re seeing a longer period of time between the downpours in many areas, and the same temperatures drive down the soil moisture, so you’re getting these intense, prolonged extensive droughts at the same time.” At this point, more than a few necks had craned down toward cell phones. Gore went on.

It was only when he threatened locusts as an additional plague that the crowd really got fired up and sang their battle hymn of faith.

Now go and emit no more.

UPDATE: Gaia smites the deniers.

Our Friends, the Pakistanis!

Pakistan remains the black sheep of the coalition fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. As much as we need Pakistan to be at least a partial-ally, we find we must put up with junk like this:

Pakistan is lobbying Afghanistan's president against building a long-term strategic partnership with the U.S., urging him instead to look to Pakistan—and its Chinese ally—for help in striking a peace deal with the Taliban and rebuilding the economy, Afghan officials say.

I try to have sympathy for Pakistan. I really do. They have many problems to balance. But more and more, rather than wanting to help Pakistan I look forward to the day when we can tell the Pakistanis that they are welcome to enjoy the friendship of China and send the bills for Pakistan's maintenance to Peking. I'd much rather be a full friend and ally of India.

But right now we need Pakistan as a partial ally to win in Afghanistan even though it pulls stunts like this.

One way we could rely much less on Pakistan is if we could destroy the mullah regime in Iran and get a reasonably friendly government that might let us supply Afghanistan through Iran. It's a Gordian Knot problem, to be sure.

Indeed, it is hard to think of any problem in the region that wouldn't be helped by the destruction of the mullah regime.

UPDATE: Welcome Bharat Rakshak readers. I do touch on defense issues related to India on occasion.

Keep an Army and Not Hostages

While the White House--to its credit despite immense pressure from its base to just bug out--understands that we need to stay in Iraq after this year, I worry that their split-the-difference approach to policy will leave us with too few troops in Iraq to defend our gains. Our man on the ground in Iraq has a specific figure in mind that is higher than what the White House is contemplating:

General Lloyd Austin, the top U.S. general in Iraq, is pushing for at least 22,000 troops to stay, according to Pentagon sources. The White House wants less than 10,000. Secretary Gates reportedly feels it is increasingly important to leave a strong U.S. presence in Iraq to counter Iran's rising influence as a result of the "Arab Spring" in which anti-government demonstrations have taken place in several countries throughout the region.

I've noted many times over the last 8 months that I want 25,000 troops. This isn't much different from General Austin's preference. My notional 25,000 was based on the composition of the existing 50,000 and I assumed 25K would include 3 advise and assist brigades plus several thousand special forces. The remainder of 12,000 would be support troops to bring the total to 25,000. So I can't say that 22,000 is inadequate. I'd like to see what the 22,000 includes. If it includes 3 advise and assist brigades and special forces, it may be that my sheer guess of how many support troops would be needed is a bit high. I'll trust Austin's figure.

I can say that 10,000 is wholly inadequate and represents a symbolic force rather than one capable of fighting to protect itself or the Iraqi government from internal or external threats. There is no way to fit what I think we need into that number. The only thing to say in its favor is that it would be better than nothing.

But at least there is a debate about the number. Now if only the Iraqi government will request our continued presence ...

About the Events Today

I woke up today to find that a royal wedding had taken place. For my British readers, I hope it was a good time. Good for you, and all that. If it is important to you--our best ally--I am glad it went off without a hitch.

But I really can't get worked up about it. Really, that little unpleasantness between our two countries 236 years ago had a point. We don't have to bow and curtsy, and all that. Although some of us were born to bow and scrape, apparently, if you go by the reaction of some of our press corps. And our progressives certainly tried to make the wedding of Chelsea Clinton a royal wedding substitute. Heck, someone did a price comparison of the two weddings.

My interests begin and end over whether the flyover of the royal ceremony diverted any aircraft from the Libya War. Or was it timed to allow planes returning from bombing runs over Tripoli to do it on their way to refuel and rearm?

Double or Nothing?

Israel has learned the lessons of getting beaten in 2006 by Hezbollah by reinvigorating their ability to attack fast and hard on the ground rather than relying on air power to deliver victory over ground opponents.

Israel's infantry has received much attention so that they can move and react fast to smash an enemy:

Since the 2006 war in Lebanon, Israel has implemented many military reforms. One of the less noted areas of change is what happened to the infantry. Lots of little things, that all contributed to making the infantry faster, both for moving, planning and fighting. ...

Because of all these reforms, Israeli military commanders are anxious to go back into Gaza, feeling that they have new tactics and equipment that enable them to tear Hamas apart without losing many troops.
I'm not sure when that last sentence was written. Strategypage often updates older posts with additional  information, and this seems like pre-2008 wording. Later, of course. the post notes the success of the 2008-2009 Winter War, in winning with an extremely lopsided body count with friendly fire killing more Israelis than Hamas gunmen:

But the main weapon was speed. The Israeli troops were trained, under realistic conditions, before they went in. They developed combat drills that used the UAVs, robots, armored vehicles and missile weapons to outmaneuver and promptly attack Hamas fighters before the enemy could react. Speed kills, and the Israeli infantry have been retrained, reorganized and reequipped since 2006 to get more speed.

So this speed will be more of use should the Israelis have to fight in Lebanon again against Hezbollah (and possibly Syria, too). With growing bloodshed and unrest in Syria, I think there is a real possibility that the Syrians or their Iranian handlers will gamble on a foreign crisis in Lebanon against Israel to try and rally the Syrian people around the Assad regime.

While this ploy might have worked against the Israeli military of 2006, if the Syrians try it today they'll get their ass handed to them on a platter. And the Syrian people are unlikely to look kindly on a losing dictator who proves more capable of killing Syrian civilians than Israeli soldiers.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Nativist Alert!

I know nothing of Goyer, but any right-thinking, multi-culturalist should denounce this development in the Superman story with bongos and giant puppets at the very least:

Goyer’s installment, with tense art from Miguel Sepulveda, steals the spotlight in Action Comics No. 900. When Superman drops in on an Iranian protest to stand with demonstrators in an act of nonviolent civil disobedience, the U.S. government takes him to task for acting as an instrument of national policy. Superman responds by renouncing his American citizenship and proclaiming himself a citizen of the universe.

Clearly we have a xenophobe here, clinging to something or other. What's Goyer trying to say? That immigrants can't be trusted? Even immigrants apparently assimilated and committed to the American way?

I'm shocked and outraged.

Lose-Lose

From the beginning of the Obama presidency, I've lamented his inclination to seek friends among our enemies at the expense of our friends. The former isn't the problem. But when it is attempted by paying the price of the latter, it is a big problem. And we are now reaping what the President sowed by playing it down the middle in the belief he can mediate from Mount Olympus above the fray of mere mortals stuck in their petty squabbles (tip to Instapundit):

Neither the Middle East despots nor the populists think President Obama is a reliable friend. In Afghanistan also he appears to have found a policy that is too robust to please the doves who want out no matter what — yet his hesitancy and announcement of withdrawal dates has not convinced either the Pakistanis or the Taliban that the US will remain until its basic conditions are met. ...

Worst of all, it suggests to people abroad and at home that the way to manipulate this “split the difference”, consensus-seeking President is to raise your demands. If you are going to get something like 50 percent of what you ask for, ask for twice as much as you really want. And with this Presidential style, the squeaking wheel gets the grease. Not surprisingly, all the wheels have begun to squeak.

Here is the paradox we face: The President is a consensus-seeker whose decision making style rewards polarization and a conciliator who loses friends without winning over enemies.

The President has reached out to enemies to see if he can make them our friends. But by stiff-arming our friends to achieve that outreach, he graphically demonstrates to those enemies the worthlessness of our friendship. So our enemies exploit our president's eagerness to talk in order to extract concessions from us while they can without any intention of compromising their core objectives at our (or our stiff-armed friends') expense.

This, my friends, is "smart diplomacy."

Do read all of the article. I don't endorse every line (and much is directed at domestic politics), but Mead writes much to think about.

Yin and Yang

Chinese missiles and aircraft, as well as a more capable navy, mean that our ships have to approach within range of those assets more carefully to avoid excessive losses. Once, our Navy could pretty much just stay over the horizon from China and the Chinese would have had difficulty spotting us let alone attacking us. So this is new territory. And with important allies like South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, and Taiwan (and let's add Vietnam as a growing friend of convenience) close to China, this affects our ability to rapidly support them in time of war. China's imminent carrier launch and their plans for more carriers add to the alarm and symbolize growing Chinese power projection capabilities.

But we should not panic:

The Shi Lang has a maximum capacity of 50 jets and 18 helicopters, but it appears that China will not be using this many aircraft on their carriers initially. The Russians never maxed out the air wing on these ships either. Moreover, the most common use of Chinese carriers in the first few years will be training and, on occasion, "showing the flag" (visiting foreign ports to, well, show off.)
In the short run, this is a training and PR exercise to demonstrate that America does not have a monopoly on large carriers--the modern symbol of a superpower--in the western Pacific.

But even when China can look forward to the day that China has operational carriers with better trained crews and air wings, we still shouldn't panic. Remember why we worry about the survivability of our carriers approaching Chinese land-based power? Well those worries apply to China's carriers, too. Worse for China, PLAN carriers don't need to sail to the eastern Pacific before they can be struck by our naval and air assets. We have air bases on Guam and in Japan and South Korea. I dare say in an emergency, the Philippines would also allow basing rights. Plus we'll have aircraft carriers hovering at the edge of Chinese power projection forces capable of launching aircraft closer to China.

Heck, China's carriers are under the gun while they sit in home port. The threats to China's future carriers only multiply when they leave port to find mines or submarines waiting for them. We also have strong allies already there in the western Pacific with their own aircraft and fleets that threaten Chinese fleet units while in China's own backyard, even before we throw in our assets.

I've worried that the loss of a carrier (or more) in the western Pacific should we come to blows with China would be a major psychological blow to America given how much our super carriers are seen as a symbol of our power. Even though our Navy could fight and win without our super carriers, the image of a big carrier in flames and going down would be potent. But with Chinese carriers going under the waves, too, that morale threat is lessened somewhat. And if we hold our carriers back while we and our allies attack enemy assets--including smashing up those new Chinese carriers--the psychological advantage swings to our side.

Chinese carriers are a threat. But they are also an opportunity. Work the problem. Don't curl up in a fetal position and cry of our inevitable doom.

UPDATE: Oh, and while we're scanning the heavens on watch against the high-profile DF-21, let's not forget the threat of quiet non-nuclear subs sneaking up and sending a salvo of missiles or torpedoes directly into one of our carriers without the elaborate kill chain necessary for the DF-21 to work. Mastering basic anti-submarine warfare (ASW) is far more urgent.

Yes, It Could Be a Lot Worse

North Korea has diverted food aid to China for cash to buy luxury items for the elites and vital war material, to war reserve stocks, and to favored groups in the military and civilian world to promote loyalty to the Kim regime. But former President Carter--God love him, for I sure won't--thinks the problem is our refusal to shovel goodies into North Korea:

Carter was speaking on his return from a visit with three other retired world leaders to Pyongyang, a mission aimed at easing high inter-Korean tensions, assessing food shortages and encouraging nuclear disarmament.

The ex-leaders said the shortages amount to a crisis, and Carter accused the US and South Korea of a "human rights violation" for, in his view, withholding food aid from the North for political reasons.

Sometimes I simply want to weep when I remember that he was once our president and not just a prominent ANSWER state coordinator back in the day, or something.

I've often written that while I am no fan of President Obama, he has done a number of things right on national security policy that are important (funny enough, by continuing Bush policies). If you think things can't get worse than having President Obama in charge, contemplate Jimmy Carter. He's simply a revolting man who sides with any anti-American thug dictator over the country he once (mis)governed.

With all due disrespect, eff him and the three dwarfs he rode in with to participate in Kim Jong-Il's little propaganda puppet show.

I Don't Like This

It's bad enough that the Left tries to make any activity or event a showcase for political statements. Does the right have to do this, too? I just don't like the "sticky note campaign" to show disapproval of President Obama. I just want to go shopping and don't need politics to intrude wherever I go.

I know, fair is fair and all that. But really, the prices speak for themselves and I don't think anyone needs to make the connection like this.

Settling for Survival

From early in the Libya civil war, I've noted the importance of securing the southeast oil resources if the rebels have to wage a long civil war. I've also indicated it should be a target of the loyalists in order to deny the rebels a resource and because it is outside the no-fly zone and is practically beyond the range of NATO aircraft for persistent surveillance and timely or frequent air strikes. The loyalists would do well to concentrate their air defense missiles down there to support any forces they have there. The latest news reports that the loyalists are attacking in the southeast:

The Arabic Al Jazeera television said forces under Gaddafi, who has ruled the oil-producer over four decades, also clashed with rebels in the remote southeastern district of Kufra, near the Egyptian border. It gave no further details. ...

After weeks of fast moving advances and retreats by rebel and pro-Gaddafi forces along the Mediterranean coast, fighting appears to have settled into a pattern of clashes and skirmishes from the mountains of the west to the southeastern desert.

This is the basic situation:


Again, excuse my lousy hand-drawn graphics. I really should learn to do better.

The loyalists seem to be digging in along the coast with Burayqah (Brega) as their front line; trying to lock down mountain towns southwest of Tripoli; aiming to capture Misrata or at least the port facilities; and attacking the southeast oil facilities. This points to the Libyans trying to hunker down under NATO's air campaign with as much as they can hold on the ground and counting on Russia or China to engineer a ceasefire somehow. Divisions within NATO will help, as nations not committed to regime change will want to declare victory and go home. Even those less committed to regime change will be willing to declare defeat and go home. Getting press reports of off-target NATO bombing raids that kill civilians would be helpful (whether they happen or not).

Will the western resistance and NATO strikes be enough to cause a significant break in loyalist ranks?  We believe lack of money in Khaddafi's coffers will hasten the cracking of the regime. This would be a problem with the mercenaries hired by the loyalists. But I suppose Khaddafi could keep them around longer by promising more in future pay once he can get around sanctions and letting the mercenaries plunder rebel households in the short term as they are sent to suppress revolts around Tripoli.

That strategy won't help Khaddafi with loyalty problems in the long run, but it might keep mercenaries paid and rebels cowed long enough to get a ceasefire. At this point, Khaddafi has to be thinking of solving one problem at a time and worrying about future problems if he gets to that point. Surviving is problem one.

UPDATE: Competing claims on the southeast:

Gaddafi forces also took a town in the remote southeastern desert, state television reported. "Libyan forces have seized full control of the town of Kufra and purified it of the armed gangs," it quoted a military spokesman as saying.

But rebels in their Benghazi stronghold denied the town had fallen. "Gaddafi's forces have been shelling Kufra since this morning and in the afternoon they entered the town. But they are not in full control. The battle is not over and the situation is unclear," said rebel spokesman Mohamed al-Muntasser.

Loyalists are at least in the town. Also there is fighting on the Libya-Tunisian border between rebels and loyalists which the loyalists seem to be winning.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Yuccies in Paradise?

Will China get old before it gets rich?

The harsh logic of China's one-child policy is starting to unravel, and census data to be released on Thursday may well stoke debate whether the aging nation should relax restrictions.

Demographers worry that without change, China will become the first country in the world to age before it gets rich.

Once seen as key to averting a Malthusian disaster of over-population, China's choke on family size to usually one child in cities and two in the countryside now threatens its economic future, many demographers say, with fewer people left to pay and care for an increasingly grey population.

They say maintaining that policy is a mistake with profound implications for the world's second-largest economy.

"China is on a downhill demographic vehicle in terms of low fertility and rapid aging," said Wang Feng, director of the Brookings-Tsinghua Center for Public Policy, who specializes in China's demographics.

"By continuing the one-child policy, the effect is to step on the gas pedal. It's a vehicle that's going downhill and you're making it go faster. That makes no sense."

If you answer yes to the question of whether China will get old before it gets rich, the next question is whether ending or relaxing the strict family limits will have any effect on the problem.

I have my doubts. Getting richer would normally reduce family size, anyway. With China much richer now--although not rich enough to cope with their aging population--would China's young, urban, communist cadres suddenly decide that the glorious goal of getting rich (and enjoying it) should take a back seat to churning out babies (and taking care of them) for the good of the country's demographics? Europeans have trouble bribing their women of child-bearing age to have more babies.

Or would the peasantry be the only large segment of the population to start cranking the babies out?

Heck, maybe the reasonably enlightened rulers in Peking will simply mandate 2.1 children per couple.

Blame the Right People

WikiLeaks seems to be getting some traction with a recent release that purports to show that we have held "innocent" men at Guantanamo Bay:

The United States held innocent men for years at its maximum-security detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to a new trove of more than 700 documents released by the antisecrecy group WikiLeaks.

One, we are at war and not in a law enforcement campaign. The idea that we need evidence to hold people we capture on the battlefield is ridiculous.

Second, the fact that we probably have made mistakes in who we hold demonstrates why the enemy failure to fight in identifiable uniforms threatens civilians. If the enemy fought in uniforms, we wouldn't be faced with the problem of looking at a village full of "civilians" and deciding who is and who is not an enemy fighter. How could we not make mistakes in that light? This doesn't relieve us of the responsibility of getting the decisions right, but the basic problem is caused by the enemy.

Finally, the leaked documents also show that there is a reason that we need to hold a lot of the prisoners (and probably shouldn't have released many more under pressure from the sainted international community):

But the documents also provide a look at why many U.S. lawmakers feel the detention center cannot be closed, despite its history of extracting information from prisoners through torturous methods.

Most of the 172 prisoners who remain at the facility are considered a "high risk" to the United States and its allies if released without proper rehabilitation and supervision.

Yet the leaked documents show that more than 200 prisoners who have already been released to other countries were also designated "high risk."

Also, I strongly disagree with the idea that we used "torturous methods." We generally treated them with kid gloves and our guards were treated worse by the prisoners than the other way around. When we questioned them, we did use some harsh methods sometimes. But they were not "torture."

But perhaps that is why the writer said "torturous methods" rather than "torture." The writer knew the latter is false but wished to damn America by implying we crossed the line. In my mind, that's a tortuous writing device that fails to blame the right people for why we hold prisoners in Guantanamo Bay.

UPDATE: Thanks to The Unreligious Right for the link.

Between Iraq and a Hard Place

Unrest in Syria is making Iraq look better for Sunni Arab refugees who fled Iraq during the height of the fighting:

Iraqi Deputy Migration Minister Salam al-Khfaji told the AP that authorities are expecting a "huge influx" of Iraqis returning from Syria because of the violence. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been living in Syria since the 2003 U.S. invasion.

This will be interesting. I would have thought that Sunni Baathists from Iraq could count on their Sunni Arab status to make up for their Baathist status should the non-Sunni Baathist Assad regime fall. Apparently not.

Can these refugees--who may be pro-Saddam Sunnis--reintegrate into Iraq? Or will they be targets of legal or extra-legal justice? Will they be targets of al Qaeda to compel these ex-refugees to support the Sunni Arab jihadis?

Or will they be welcome reinforcements for those who wish to resist Iranian influence and a needed influx of probably educated Iraqis who--if they have abandoned hopes of ruling Iraq--can help rebuild Iraq?

ReBirthers

I'm glad President Obama released his long-form birth certificate. I never thought there was anything to this "birther" issue and wondered why President Obama kept it secret for so long. One thing it does show is that all the president's loyal defenders who claimed that the president did release his birth certificate were wrong and that all those who wanted to see it are nuts. At worst, I thought there might be something embarassing on the long-form record that wasn't on the short version that proves his birth and citizenship. But it looks totally normal with nothing that would indicate why the president kept it private.

Of course, now the speculation about why President Obama held on to this for so long will erupt. Was it a deep plot to ensnare Republicans in birtherism conspiracy theories? If so, he unsprung it way too soon before the election season. Or was it sheer cussed stubborness by the president who believed he didn't need to release it and by God he wasn't going to give in to birther paranoia? If so, why relent? Really, by waiting so long he just gives the hard core birthers the new cottage industry of speculating about how a president in office for 28 months could surely get an intelligence agency to forge a document to look like a real long-form birth certificate. Look for the long essays and eventual books on what is wrong with the PDF image by the new and improved ReBirther movement. Or they will explain how the release is a clever Red Herring to distract us from the real issue of why he isn't eligible to hold the office of the president.

The president can't win with these birther people. And while most people will accept the release at face value, Instapundit notes that the long delay by the self-proclaimed most open administration in history has still left a taint of suspicion that won't be fully erased.

Still, maybe there really is something embarassing about this long-form document as I speculated might be the worst-case reason for keeping the long-form record private. As an Instapundit reader noted:

Now that Obama has released his birth certificate, it’s clear why he waited: there was no immaculate conception!

I actually did laugh out loud at that one. I'm kicking myself for not thinking of it first. I salute you, Dave Converse. Well said.

UPDATE: Well, that didn't take long (via the Instapundit link above). So now we have to wonder whether there were changes; and if changed, why would the changes be so easily detectable? Still trolling for nutballs in the White House? Or couldn't the president's team get competent forgers? That would be really horrifying.

Sheesh, it will never end. One day it will be on the History Channel (or would that be A & E?) along with Truther and Ancient Astronaut shows.

UPDATE: A reasonable explanation. The issue is dead as far as I'm concerned. But then, it always seemed like a live issue only because of stitched body parts and electrodes to keep zapping it into staggering motion.

UPDATE: Wow, we even have a summary of the ReBirther views!

The Running Man

Ted Galen Carpenter is surely a nonspecific-food eating surrender monkey. His basic policy advice for America dealing with any foe is to run away, run away fast, and run far away. Oh, and be proud of your running abilities.

So it is no surprise (through Mad Minerva who links to The View from Taiwan's thoughts on the subject) that Carpenter again argues we should abandon Taiwan to avoid war with China. Excuse me for not linking directly to Carpenter's piece. I find his views repulsive, so you'll need to follow the links. But don't worry if you don't read it. He'll be back.

One can almost see Carpenter in top hat on some airport tarmac explaining how giving the Sudetenland to Hitler will erase all causes for war with Germany.

Breaking the Kill Chain

China's DF-21 is, in theory, a potent threat to our big surface ships operating in the western Pacific. Strategypage discusses the missiles:

The Chinese Second Artillery Corps, spread over several provinces, has been expanding over the last few years. This includes adding two brigades apparently armed with the long rumored Chinese anti-ship ballistic missile, the DF-21D. This gives the Second Artillery Corps ten DF-21 brigades, plus brigades with several other types of missiles. Each of the DF-21 missile brigades has six missile battalions (with two mobile launchers each), two maintenance and repair battalions, a site management battalion, a signal battalion and an electronic countermeasures (ECM) battalion. The DF-21D is mainly intended for use against the USN (U.S. Navy), particularly the aircraft carriers.

The system isn't fully tested, and requires the Chinese to find a carrier's general location and then have the missile home in on the carrier for final course guidance. But they have only 24 missile launchers (and I don't know how many reloads) in this role.

So how would it work?

First, the carrier has to be identified far out to sea with satellites, ships or submarines, or patrol aircraft.

Second, the location must be quickly (because the carrier moves constantly) sent to the DF-21 brigade so that the missile brigade can shoot.

Third, I assume multiple missiles would be fired in a pattern around the carrier's initial location to put one on target regardless of which direction the carrier goes.

Fourth, the missile approaching the carrier has to acquire the carrier and correct its course to plunge into the deck and explode inside the ship (although just the mass of the missile coming in at high speed would do a lot of damage, I assume).

That's the basic kill chain, as far as I can figure. So how do we break it?

Let's start from missile impact. Assuming a DF-21 hits the carrier, we'd need passive defenses to contain damage from a direct hit and fire as much as possible. We'd need to have damage control able to repair a carrier and keep a damaged carrier in the fight. Having a portion of the carrier air wing consist of the Marine vertical takeoff version of the F-35 would allow limited sorties even if the deck is damaged. Redundancy of strike platforms would help if the carrier is sunk or even temporarily out of action. With our existing forces, this means making sure that we don't rely on the few big decks we have and that we are prepared to fall back on offensive use of submarines, missile-armed surface ships, land-based aircraft in the anti-ship role, other big deck carriers that aren't hit, Marine amphibious warfare ships used in a secondary light carrier role, and even escort carriers quickly adapted during wartime from container ships to carry 2-4 Marine version F-35s and some helicopters. Over time, redundancy may mean we reduce our reliance on big deck carriers for fighting China in the western Pacific as long as the DF-21 kill chain is intact.

Going back in the kill chain, can missile defenses nail any DF-21s locked on to the target? This is the most obvious defense. Can Aegis knock these down? If they can, we need to have more ships capable of using these missiles and make sure we have enough missiles. Could shore-based missiles in Alaska meant for strategic threats against our homeland fire in time to hit a missile heading for a carrier at sea far away? If not, should we place these "strategic" missiles on Guam for carrier defense? Could we mount anti-missile weapons on the carrier's aircraft to add another layer of defense? Is it possible for point defenses to be adapted to cope with the speed of the DF-21 approaching the target?

Taking another step back in the kill chain, we could try to disrupt the warhead's final target acquisition of the carrier by the approaching DF-21 warhead. First, just being aware that we are spotted will allow the Navy to react by changing course and getting as far from the target point as possible. Second, we could deploy decoy platforms to confuse the warhead targeting sensors. In the Iran-Iraq War, the Iranians deployed huge radar reflectors to convince Iraqi pilots that they spotted an Iranian tanker. Iraq wasted many missiles this way. Could a carrier and escorts drop inflatable rafts towed behind them that give off signatures in the infrared or radar reflections or whatever the warhead uses to home in on the target in order to misdirect the DF-21? Could we complement these decoys by minimizing the emissions of the carrier itself to go stealth (at least in regard to the warhead sensors)? Third, could we blind the missile sensors themselves with electronic warfare or even clouds of chaff-like material that keeps the missile from achieving more than a near miss? Could a small EMP weapon be fired high enough into the path of a warhead to scramble the sensor or controls to course correct to make the DF-21 unguided, but without also harming the carrier task force's electronics?

Before this, the DF-21 has to be launched. First of all, as noted earlier, simply being aware that we are being targeted will allow us to turn and go to flank speed to get away from the target point. This will force the Chinese DF-21 brigades to fire multiple missiles to make sure one reaches the area where the carrier ends up. To fire, the missile brigade must be emplaced and capable of receiving target data. Can we identify these missile launchers? If so, we can use stealth fighters or bombers to attack the missile launchers or communications systems that receive the target location data. We can use long-range air-, surface-, submarine-, or land-based-missiles to strike these same targets. There aren't that many DF-21 anti-ship brigades. China will surely build more, but they will always be limited in number. Destroying them before they fire is the best missile defense. Just waging a campaign against the missile brigades will compel them to move and hide, decreasing the number of missiles available to shoot at any one time should the Chinese detect a carrier. Or that campaign can prevent the Chinese from firing a barrage that increases the chance that our carrier will be in a location where incoming DF-21s aren't, leading to the waste of DF-21s without achieving anything. Further, if we can knock out or compel the movement of DF-21 brigade communications systems that receive the target location data, we stop the launch of DF-21s or delay the launch long enough to make the circle of how far our carrier moved since being spotted increase tremendously, requiring even more DF-21s to cover the larger circle where the carrier can be within since being spotted. Could we move assets close enough to the DF-21 brigade communications systems to jam them? Could this be done with airborne jammers or from low orbit satellites? Could small, stealthy unmanned surface vehicles equipped with jamming devices be deployed just off the Chinese coast by our attack submarines? Or could even agents or special forces on the ground near the Chinese DF-21 brigades jam or destroy communications systems?

Stepping back further, whatever asset the Chinese use to detect the general area of our carrier must transmit that initial target data to the DF-21 brigade. What can we do to stop the transmission of that targeting data? Can aircraft flying around the carrier jam Chinese aircraft, ship, or submarine transmissions? Could we stop a satellite from transmitting or degrade the transmission enough to make the data worthless?

Finally, in the first step of the kill chain, Chinese assets have to first detect our carrier far out to sea. Can we blind, degrade, or knock out the satellites, aircraft, surface ships (possibly "civilian"), and submarines that might make the first acquisition? Can we reduce carrier task force emissions to make it harder for Chinese assets to detect our ships? Could we use large container ships with decoy emitters to simulate a carrier, surrounded by smaller container ships like escorts, to spoof the initial detection and make the Chinese waste DF-21s on these targets?

I'm sure I'm missing a lot we could do. I just figured what the notional kill chain would be and worked my way back, thinking about what could be done to break any link in the chain. My basic point is that the DF-21 is not invincible. We must learn to cope with it, but it can be defeated.

But remember, too, that the DF-21 anti-ship missile is just one of many anti-ship weapons that can target our super carriers. My more fundamental point despite this essay on defeating the DF-21 is that I still believe the proliferation of surveillance systems and precision, long-range missiles make the end of the reign of big-deck super carrier within sight. We can cope to protect our big carriers in the short run, but in the long run our best bet is to reduce our reliance on big-deck carriers by distributing our offensive power on a larger number of smaller and cheaper (and more expendable) hulls, which would include smaller aviation-capable ships.

The DF-21 is no reason for America to retreat from the western Pacific. But it is another reason for adapting what we use to fight in the western Pacific.

UPDATE: Oh, I do worry that the Chinese might manage to build a much shorter kill chain for the DF-21.

1-800-DTRUMP!

Watching Donald Trump pretend to run for president while he gets free advertising for his television career reminds me of News Radio when Jimmy James ran for president in order to meet women:



The press goes along with this cry for attention from a lonely man. What a country!

My respect for the press skyrockets every day. Only my fear of what our country would be like without a free press--however flawed it is--leaves me a defender of the whole even as I shudder at the press corps we have. But we have what we have and other than closing journalism schools, I'm not sure how we improve the profession.

A Little Bit of War

Italy has allowed NATO to use its air bases to attack Khaddafi's forces, agreed to send advisers to the rebels, and now will use their warplanes to attack the loyalists:

Italy, which has been playing a limited role in Nato operations in Libya, has given the go ahead for its air force to bomb selected military targets in the former Italian colony.

Ah, but there are caveats. I wonder what "selected military targets" the Italians are willing to bomb?

The Appeal of Stability

If you want to understand the expression, "better the devil you know," look no further than Syria for an illustration:

Criticism of his crackdown was restrained at first, partly because of fears that a collapse of Assad's minority Alawite rule might lead to sectarian conflict in the majority Sunni state, and because Washington had hoped to loosen Syria's alliance with Iran and promote a peace deal with Israel.

Arab states, some of them putting down protests on their own soil, also refrained from criticising Assad, though the 22-member Arab League said Tuesday pro-democracy demonstrators across the region "deserve support, not bullets."

Yes, for the West the hope of making a grand bargain with the fiend outweighs the fears of what happens if his repression fails. But this is nothing new.

The muted response from the leaders of the Arab world--largely Sunni--to Assad's bloody repression is fascinating. Recall that when we overthrew Saddam in Iraq, the excuse for the Arab world's rejection of the new government was that the Arab states preferred the stability of a minority Sunni Arab government over the uncertainty of what a majority-Shia government might do.

Yet in Syria, Sunni Arab rulers seem to prefer the continued stability of a Shia-offshoot (Alawite) minority ruling over a Sunni Arab majority people rather than risk chaos.

In the end, the Arab dictatorships and monarchies worship stability above anything else out of fear that continuing unrest could engulf them. The real schism isn't between Shia and Sunni but between rulers and subjects who should know their proper place. Lest you object that the Arab League backed the Libya War, let me remind you that the Arab League only endorsed a NATO no-fly zone--which I regarded as pointless.

But I don't think what rulers or outsiders want can stop the chaos in the Arab world. We can only hope to guide and support forces to create something better out of the rubble that will be created in the wake of popular revolts. [UPDATE: To be clear, I'm including popular revolts that fail. ]

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Calling Doctor Kevorkian

The European Union rides on the back of the common currency. Do Europeans want to keep the Euro at any price?

“Tensions between the wealthy countries in the north, who are contributing most to the bailouts, and the ailing debtor nations in the periphery already threaten to destroy the monetary union. If a European version of the American Tea Party movement develops, it could very well become the kiss of death for the euro. The risk is substantial, as euroskeptics gain ground across the EU.”

I'd be happy if the European Union died. I believe I've been fairly clear about my opinion.  We can have friends in Europe, but I do not believe Europe can be our friend.

Ultimately, we'd all be better off without the European Union.

All Quiet on the Ajdabiya Front

As Libyan loyalist forces try to capture Misrata (or at least the port to cut off the rest of the city) and attack Berber border towns along the Tunisian border to lock them down, the loyalists seem to be digging in at Buraqyqah (Brega) with the rebels just east of the town, screening Ajdabiyah:

Around Brega, the Libyan army reinforced its positions and dug in its long-range missile batteries to conceal them from attacks by NATO planes, a rebel army officer said on Tuesday.

Comments by rebel officer Abdul Salam Mohammed suggested Gaddafi now had clear control of the fought-over town.

"There are 3,000 government troops in Brega and the next two towns. They have been building up their presence," he told Reuters on the western edge of the town of Ajdabiyah.

"We are controlling the area from here to al-Arbeen (halfway to Brega) but they still have snipers in the area, hiding in the desert behind the sand dunes, and they are active," he added.

Capturing Misrata and securing the border with Tunisia are more important than trying to capture Ajdabiyah to threaten the rebel heartland. So unless Khaddafi has more ground power than I think he has, I expect the loyalists to hunker down and bloody the nose of any rebel advance west on Burayqah.

If I was in charge of the loyalists, after capturing Misrata I'd devote forces to attacking and capturing the rebel oil assets in the southeast of Libya, which is outside the no-fly zone and outside of effective surveillance by NATO.

UPDATE: Austin Bay outlines the defensive nature of Khaddafi's forces lately, as they endure NATO air strikes and try to nail down the western side of Libya:

Stalemate? Possibly, but go back to the map -- Gadhafi faces war on four fronts. To the east, the Cyrenaica front. To the south, the Berbers. Misrata, though surrounded, hasn't cracked. The western front (Zuwara) may be quiet, but the area requires a garrison that Gadhafi might otherwise use elsewhere.

The dictator also faces a fifth front -- what might be called a 21st century fifth column, to use the Spanish Civil War term. The London Times quoted British Defense Secretary Liam Fox as saying: "All parts of command and control are legitimate targets so long as they are attacking civilians." On April 25, an air attack hit Gadhafi's headquarters. The coalition targeted a building, but in a dictatorship, the tyrant exercises supreme control.

The coalition will soon be operating Predators. The drones represent a tiny increase in strike and reconnaissance capability. As political and psychological warfare, however, they add punch.

Last week, Gadhafi was tooling around Tripoli in a convertible and shaking his fist. Now he must cast a wary eye to the sky.
Although the eastern rebels don't seem able to pose a threat to Khaddafi's regime, Khaddafi does not have the western portion of Libya locked down. Misrata is the obvious hole in his territory. But there are other areas that are in revolt or that require scarce manpower to hold lest they openly revolt.

The question is, does this unrest within his own bastion constitute enough of a threat to crack the resolve of the loyalists around Khaddafi? I've long held that air attacks alone don't defeat an enemy. But while NATO is only attacking from the air, there are rebel ground forces (armed civilians) resisting Khaddafi at the same time. The air attacks by NATO alone can be endured, I think, for longer than NATO can muster the will to bomb and endure the cost of the campaign.

But while NATO's will to bomb lasts, rebels surely take heart and resist. And as long as the rebels in the west resist, there is a chance that the loyalists will crack and either bring down the Khaddafi regime directly or desert to save themselves under the constant fear of losing.

Facts Are Stubborn Things

There were links between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda (via Wikileaks):

A former Guantanamo detainee “was identified as an Iraqi intelligence officer who relocated to Afghanistan (AF) in 1998 where he served as a senior Taliban Intelligence Directorate officer in Mazar-E-Sharif,” according to a recently leaked assessment written by American intelligence analysts. The former detainee, an Iraqi named Jawad Jabber Sadkhan, “admittedly forged official documents and reportedly provided liaison between the governments of Afghanistan and Iraq.”

Sadkhan’s al Qaeda ties reached all the way to Osama bin Laden, according to the intelligence assessment. He reportedly received money from Osama bin Laden both before and after the September 11 attacks.

Not, I hasten to add, that this linkage means Saddam had a role in 9/11. I never said that. The Bush administration never said that. But the anti-war left always responded to allegations of Saddam-Osama links with the outraged denial that Saddam had anything to do with 9/11! Mind you, I wouldn't be shocked if evidence turned up to link Saddam's regime to 9/11, but I haven't read anything that indicates that is a real possibility. But general links? That is no surprise and there is evidence.

Why it would be so outrageous for Saddam to work with al Qaeda against their common enemy, America, is beyond me. Arguments that Osama bin Laden hated Saddam and so couldn't cooperate with Saddam make this linkage even more likely. Why wouldn't Saddam try an outreach to an enemy to turn that enemy's attentions toward another enemy of both of them? Win-win, eh?

For people who celebrate nuance and foreign policy realism, the anti-Iraq War people continue to have a disturbing lack of appreciation for realpolitik.

Good Timing!

So myopic are the pro-Hamas activists that they don't notice that a better destination for a new "aid flotilla" would be Misrata, Libya, or, perhaps, Daraa in Syria--you know, if they really want to help Palestinians in need:

Palestinian refugees — generally the most hardscrabble of all Syrian residents — smuggled flour, water, bread and canned food into town. "We are so grateful to them," the resident said.

But what's the fun in that?

Really, Israel could sink the whole damn convoy and not be noticed in the unrest all around it.

Seeing the Light

I'll give credit to the Obama administration for this news:

The United States told the Iraqi government last week that if it wants U.S. troops to remain in Iraq beyond the deadline of Dec. 31, 2011, as stipulated by the current Status of Forces Agreement between Washington and Baghdad, it would have to inform the United States quickly. Unless a new agreement is reached soon, the United States will be unable to remain. The implication in the U.S. position is that a complex planning process must be initiated to leave troops there and delays will not allow that process to take place.

What is actually going on is that the United States is urging the Iraqi government to change its mind on U.S. withdrawal, and it would like Iraq to change its mind right now in order to influence some of the events taking place in the Persian Gulf.

The problem complicating our withdrawal is Iran. Without our continued robust presence in Iraq until Iraq's government is truly stable enough to stand on its own (and I consider 25,000 US forces is a minimum to be credible), Iran could undermine Iraq, reverse our progress there, and extend Iran's influence around the Gulf region and cause or exploit unrest.

Secretary Clinton has been off the radar screens completely. Let's hope she is in Baghdad convincing the Iraqi government to openly call for US troops to remain after this year.

I hope the Obama administration is successful in this effort and that it is not just going through the motions of trying to stay to insulate the administration should Iraq falter without our military presence. Of course, the irony of the situation is that the anti-war left would never have let McCain do this if had won the 2008 election. President Obama, he who won the Nobel Peace Prize and bombs an Arab oil-producing country with his left base only quietly seething, could get away with keeping our troops in Iraq for another decade.

I wish the Obama administration good luck and will gratefully sing praises to President Obama if we succeed. Although my praise will be tempered by how many fewer than 25,000 remain.

UPDATE: Arggh!! It's like coaxing a wary squirrel to take a cracker from your outstretched hand. On the one hand, Maliki admits:

"The internal security situation does not need this," he said. "As for the external defense of Iraq's sovereignty, then Iraq still suffers from shortages."

Good. A plausible reason to keep American troops in Iraq. But then Maliki backtracks:

"There is no one from Iraq's neighbors who is thinking of sending his troops to Iraq. So, Iraq's sovereignty is protected by the fact that there is nobody in the current circumstances who would violate Iraq's sovereignty," he told reporters at a press conference.

Maliki knows better than to think he doesn't need us. He has faced down the Sadrists and their Iranian backers before. Can he do it again?

The Confusion Continues

I remain conflicted over whether Wikileaks people should be imprisoned for releasing our secrets in an effort to harm American foreign policy and war efforts or given the Presidential Medal of Freedom for bolstering our foreign policy and war effort by failing to produce any smoking guns of wrong doing. The latest is on the sources of weapons used by the Mexican drug cartels:

A secret cable from the U.S. embassy in Mexico exposed by Wikileaks claims the 90 percent of the weapons used by Mexican drug cartels come from sources in Central America. Light automatic weapons, grenades, and some anti-tank weapons were stolen from Central American military units and then smuggled into Mexico. This story runs counter to the allegations that US sources (pawn shops, gun shows, and US gunrunners) have armed Mexico’s cartels.

This is especially funny since the anti-gun crowd and our own administration repeats the lie that 90% of the cartel's weapons come from America. The credibility of the leaked cable is bolstered by the fact that our own government found it necessary to ship weapons to the drug cartels to try and prove that American sources are responsible for the guns in drug dealers' hands.

I don't rule out the possibility that Julian Assange will get his own statue inside CIA headquarters one day. Even more humorous, he is still celebrated by the left as a hero even though he's nailed America for nothing.

A Blue Water Dream

So China will launch their first carrier this year. I've noted that expectation. But this Taiwanese worry is off base:

An aircraft carrier group would potentially double the military threat posed to Taiwan by China by allowing the Chinese to approach from directions other than across the Strait, experts warn.

That's ridiculous. Sure, if China could put a fleet of a half dozen carriers east of Taiwan, that would be a real problem. But for now, unless China wants to use their first, Russian-built carrier as a speed bump deliberately sacrificed to slow down American intervention long enough to allow China to conquer Taiwan, the Chinese won't send their carrier east of Taiwan. It would not be a mortal threat to Taiwan as much as a decision by Peking to allow Shi Lang to lead a short but exciting life.

The Chinese carrier and its escorts east of Taiwan would be caught between the anvil of Taiwanese land-based aircraft and the hammer of American carriers, submarines, and surface ship anti-ship missiles in the Navy and land-based American aircraft sortied from Japan and Guam.

Our admirals have wet dreams about this possibility. I say that in a good way, mind you. They are trained for this eventuality with the tradition of the the Pacific campaign of 1942-1944 as their Golden Age of carrier warfare always in mind. They'd crush the Shi Lang and China's new DF-21s wouldn't save China's first carrier.

Taiwan has lots of defense problems in fighting off China. Shi Lang is not one of them. If China thinks the carrier is the key to capturing Taiwan in this matter, well, they're just having a blue water dream over that fantasy.

UPDATE: I almost titled this post "Between a ROC and a Hard Place," but I believe I used that already long ago.

Time To Send Money, Guns, and Lawyers?

Has Assad made the decision to go in big and kill a lot of Syrians to crush the spirit of resistance? Or is this just a calculated escalation to see if something less than that can cow the protesters and halt the momentum of protests that ratchets up every Friday before they become too big to contain? Hard to say, so far:

Gunfire and artillery echoed early on Tuesday around the besieged city of Deraa, the heart of Syria's month-long uprising, as civilians sought refuge indoors from tanks and snipers on the streets, a resident said.

President Bashar al-Assad, facing a nationwide challenge to his 11-year autocratic rule, sent the army into Deraa and two restive suburbs of Damascus on Monday to crush protesters, killing 20 people according to a prominent Syrian rights group.

Is it really "artillery," as in indirect fire which would indiscriminately kill civilians? Or is it direct tank fire? Which is bad enough, but not an indication of Hama-level brutality.

Of course, the Syrian government can't brutalize in secret as it did three decades ago. Can the largely Sunni lower ranks in the army kill on a large scale for their Alawite ruling class? I've read that the military is absolutely loyal, but I have my doubts. Are there enough loyal Alawite units to brutalize a geographically broad uprising?

It may be that the Assad regime feels stuck between having the capabilities with their largely Sunni army to contain and suppress a geographically widespread unrest--but only at a fairly low level of violence--and, with their much smaller loyal Alawite forces, the capability to brutally put down an uprising in a small area.

If the army can use enough force on a broad front to demoralize the bulk of the protesters without using so much that the army breaks or defects, Assad avoids the dilemma of having an uprising too widely dispersed for his small number of loyal forces to murder their way through or an uprising too focused on regime change for his Sunni soldiers to suppress at low levels of violence.

Put another way, the Assad regime can handle a localized revolt by using maximum force or mass protests nation-wide by using intimidation and small amount of force. The problem comes when a nation-wide movement evolves into a revolt. Then, Assad might decide that the only way to smother the embers of revolt is to get the army and people focused on a foreign enemy.

Given that Assad believes that anti-Israel policies unite the rulers and people, Assad may try to provoke a war with Israel to save his regime. Losing a war in order to save his regime would be a good trade if only potentially rebellious Sunni soldiers pay the price in blood. Assad would have to make it a limited war to avoid giving Israel reason to destroy the Assad regime anyway by driving all the way to Damascus in a counter-attack. If Israel falls short of that step, even if they bomb Damascus, Assad would find that a price he'd pay to stay in power.

So it may be time for Assad to call in any chits he has with Iran to convince Iran that failure to act means Iran loses a key client state. Not that Iran should get involved, since that alone might be provocation enough for Israel to go to total war against the Assad regime (although Iran might join the fight anyway, believing they have opportunity rather than danger).

Lebanon is the obvious choice for a battlefield in a war against Israel. If Syria marched a mechanized division into southern Lebanon "to show solidarity with" Hezbollah and the Lebanese people--and under the excuse that this is the source of all that foreign (Israeli) meddling that Assad claims is enflaming the unrest--he could generate a crisis that would compel Israel to decide whether to strike first to evict the Syrians. If Israel holds back, just the crisis might mute the budding revolt inside Syria. And if Israel strikes first at the Syrian expedition, it would be tough for protesters to stay in the streets without appearing to be allies of Israel. Assad could hope that Israel would be willing to keep the scope of the war limited to Lebanon and that the eventual loss of one of his divisions (assuming the UN doesn't demand a ceasefire to save the division) is well worth the price.

Of course, seeking a foreign enemy could backfire. Once the war ends, Assad would face a people angry at Assad for his repression and for losing a war. Assad wouldn't be the first dictator to miscalculate the rally around the flag ploy.

But Assad only has to think it would work for it to happen. Heck, all he has to have is the hope that it might work as opposed to the near certainty of defeat if he does nothing. He may believe he must do something to cope with the current crisis and worry about future crises later.

But for all the potential problems of losing the devil we know should Assad's "stability" break, at least this is a crisis in an enemy state rather than in an allied state. And if we can avoid the worst bad things that could happen in Assad's fall, we'd have opportunities as all the bad things we know (and are strangely comfortable with) end or are greatly reduced. Remember, if this crisis had taken place in 2005, the near-civil war in Iraq might never have taken place (at least not on the same scale) with a Syria too much in chaos to facilitate the jihad in Iraq.

UPDATE: It's bad enough for our State Department to tell Americans to get out:

The U.S. Department of State urges U.S. citizens to depart immediately while commercial transportation is readily available. Given the uncertainty and volatility of the current situation, U.S. citizens who must remain in Syria are advised to limit nonessential travel within the country. U.S. citizens not in Syria should defer all travel to Syria at this time. The Department of State has ordered all eligible family members of U.S. government employees as well as certain non-emergency personnel to depart Syria.

Uh oh. I hope our amphibious warfare platforms are still in the Mediterranean Sea. Evacuations by non-commercial means could become necessary.