Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sailing Into Disaster

I hear that proponents of a "clean" (with no linkage to spending limits) vote to increase our debt limit are likening failure to do so to the launching of the Titanic 100 years ago. Disaster will follow a failure to pass this measure.

With all due respect, I think voting for a clean increase is the equivalent of voting for the iceberg.

Who Gets the Blame?

This will have an effect on the war:

Stocks of some foodstuffs are likely to last only weeks in parts of Libya under control of Muammar Gaddafi, creating a "time bomb" for the population, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Libya said on Tuesday.

Panos Moumtzis, who coordinates U.N. relief efforts for the conflict, said he had been given information by the Libyan government that showed it was using up stocks of food and medicine, which could not be replenished because of sanctions.

Interestingly enough, the Libyans deny the food shortage. Still, the UN didn't say the government was out of food--just that it is running out:

"They have given us some information on their stocks available," Moumtzis said. "For some food commodities it's a matter of weeks, others perhaps a matter of months. What is clear is that this cannot continue for a very long time."

So who does this hurt? NATO as the bombing and sanctioning side, which will be forced to agree to a ceasefire for humanitarian reasons?

Or the Libyan government which might see loyalist support crack under the strain of lack of food?

We may know in a matter of weeks. Or perhaps months.

A siege is an old-fashioned form of warfare, even if the smart bombs make it seem modern. But in this day and age, can we starve an enemy into submission?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Take That!

So Pakistan retaliates against America for the Osama bin Laden raid by ordering a number of Americans out of Pakistan who worked in "fusion centers":

However, these three fusion centers are there for the benefit of Pakistani security forces. American intel specialists at these facilities supply their Pakistani counterparts with information (from U.S. satellites, UAVs and other sources) that will assist Pakistani troops in their fight against Islamic terrorists in the tribal territories and Baluchistan. The three centers are also used to coordinate American, Afghan and Pakistani military operations along the border.

So closing them down will mean more dead Pakistanis, basically. Yet somehow that made perfect sense to the Pakistanis as a means of getting back at us.

Remember this episode the next time you tell yourself that Country X would never do something because it doesn't make sense and would just hurt them. What you mean is that we (probably) wouldn't do it in their shoes because it doesn't make sense to us. Ultimately, knowing what makes sense to "them" is another story altogether.

Mirror imaging is a dangerous thing. Count ourselves lucky when it just gets the other guys killed.

To and Fro

Syria continues to have trouble suppressing the protests demanding the ouster of the regime.

The question I had about how loyal the army would be has been answered. The bulk of the army is not willing to kill civilians. but they are willing to stand by while others do the dirty work. So the regime must shuttle loyal (and willing to kill) troops and secret police (with gangsters in support) from hot spot to hot spot, quelling unrest and moving on. But while they can clear these population centers, they don't have sufficient forces to hold them. So unrest reignites when the loyal forces move on. Promises of reform have not been believed. But the protesters haven't gotten any traction to actually overthrow the regime.

Hezbollah and Iran have sent gunmen and advisors to help Assad win. It hasn't been enough.

The question is, how long can this go on before the nominally loyal troops decide that they can't bear even to stand by and watch others shoot at civilians? I imagine watching foreigners killing fellow Syrians has to be tough to swallow, especially.

Memorial Day 2011

Remember those who died to protect America.

And don't forget that people around the world should remember, too:

Behind every American soldier, dozens of their countrymen tonight sleep soundly — and hundreds more in their shadow abroad will wake up alive and safe.

And free to complain about us, of course.

Defending Iraq

Without our continued presence in Iraq, Iran could entertain the notion of invading Iraq. When the balance of power had shifted to Iraq after the Iranian Revolution, Iraq pounced on Iran. Iran might return the favor while the balance (without American forces) shifts to Iran until Iraq can build up their conventional fighting capabilities. AEI looks at the balance of conventional forces.

I did my own back-of-the-envelope calculations of ground forces. I agree.

I took open source information about the Iraqi and Iranian armed forces and used my own guesstimates of the relative value of Iraqi and Iranian ground units, in a manner similar to what I did before the Iraq War. Part of it was anchored on estimates given to United States combat brigades and then adjusting Iraqi and Iranian units in relation to our units. I assumed the vast majority of Iraqi units are light infantry forces not yet capable of fighting conventional battles with any strength and that even the efforts at forming conventional heavy units has not progressed enough to reach full Iraqi effectiveness in that area. So I came up with two sets of numbers for the Iraqis--now and after converting to conventional capabilities. I also estimated notional deployments of Iraqi and Iranian ground units to estimate how much power each could bring to the border.

I estimate that Iraq's ground forces have a combat potential of 44 points. Iran has 140 points. This is more than a 3:1 advantage overall. That's a decisive margin.

Iraq could deploy a higher portion of their forces on their eastern border in the center (forward of Baghdad) and south (forward of Basra). I'll call it as 34 points there with 10 points in the far north and west. Iran would have 9 points in their northwest Kurdish region, 25 close to Tehran, 9 on the Afghan border, 9 on the Pakistan border, and 9 on their coast. That leaves 79 points for the main fronts in the center and south.

So Iran would have 79 ground points to Iraq's 34. With more than 2:1 at this scale, that is decisive. I know that a lot of writers would look at those numbers and chant the "3:1 rule" and say Iraq is safe, but that ratio applies to lower levels of analysis (and then considers the benefits of terrain and other factors on the "points" of the basic units). One side in a campaign with even a 1:1 equality overall could strip forces along the front to reduce local balances to 2:3 while massing combat power at the point of attack up to 6:1 or higher. Recall that the German blitzkrieg of France in 1940 had the Germans on the short end of tank numbers by a considerable margin and were pretty equal in troop strength. Yet the Germans concentrated the bulk of their tanks at the allied weak point and overwhelmed the spread-out Allied tank strength which could not mass to respond to the breakthrough. Campaign over.

So Iran, starting with a sizable overall strength advantage, could hammer the Iraqis along a small number of axes of advance. Iran would likely have trouble supplying such an attack for long, so their strength would dwindle in absolute terms. The question will be whether the offensive destroys Iraqi strength enough to maintain the Iranian edge and allow the offensive to continue. American air power would intervene in short order, but unless American spotters are on the ground it will be less effective than it could be.

So in the short run, Iran has the advantage. Will they exploit it to invade or even just use the threat of invasion to pressure Iraq to comply with Iranian demands?

American forces would play an important role in this short run. If we keep 3 Army brigades in Iraq, as I want, we'd add 27 points (I assume 9 per Army brigade). Toss in an afloat Marine Expedionary Unit (4 points) that could be landed quickly, and maybe another Army brigade in Kuwait, and we'd add 40 points to Iraq's total. Add in the equipment of two more Army brigades in the region that could be quickly manned by troops flown in and a Marine Expeditionary Brigade with equipment afloat (15 points), and we'd be able to quickly add 33 more points, for a total of 73 American ground points. Now the Iranians face a deficit of 79 to 107 US/Iraqi points. Add in the effects of American air power, which could double the effectiveness of American ground power, and the war would quickly become a matter of Iran defending Khuzestan (or Arabistan as the Iraqis probably still like to call it).

Granted, these numbers are just educated guesses on my part, but that's what the process would look like with real numbers based on deeper knowledge of the forces involved. Even with my limitations, clearly, with even a small American force inside Iraq with more on call, Iran wouldn't even try to invade and could not pressure Iraqi officials with that threat.

In time over a period of years (I don't know how many. Five years under "peacetime" conditions? Although Iraq's air force probably needs a decade to train, I think I read.), as Iraqi forces are equipped and trained for conventional warfare, I guess that Iraq's ground combat numbers go up to 114 points. If 25 points are committed to the north and west, that leaves 89 points to confront 79 available Iranian points on the main fronts. At this point, even the ability to simply quickly reinforce Iraq with 3 Army brigades (1 in Kuwait and 2 from prepositioned equipment, for 27 points) and a MEU and MEB (19 more points), plus American air power, will deter Iran from thinking about war. Iraq could also use their historically decent engineering capabilities to build fortificatons, mine fields, and obstacles along the border as force multipliers. I'll assume the use of poison gas for that purpose is right out, these days.

Of course, should Iran escape sanctions, they could probably up their combat points by a good 50% by just getting adequate spare parts and supplies to put what they have in action--to 210 points--but a relatively small amount of nearby American ground and air power would again provide the margin of superiority to deter Iran. Without our presence, Iraq would need to go beyond their existing force structure in that case.

AEI also notes an advantage of American forces providing the necessary edge against Iran--it means Iraq does not need to build up its own defenses against Iran quite as much. Because if Iraq builds up its military to hold off Iran, it necessarily builds up a conventional military capable of offensive action. Just remember that Iraq built up its military to fight Iran and when that war ended in 1988, used that large military to quickly overrun Kuwait in 1990.

All in all, Iraq and the region need us to stay in Iraq to preserve the peace. And this is in addition to our important role in preserving and nurturing Iraqi democracy and rule of law.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Silly Pundit, Of Course He Is!

George Will asks, is Obama above the law?

The U.S. intervention in Libya’s civil war, intervention that began with a surplus of confusion about capabilities and a shortage of candor about objectives, is now taking a toll on the rule of law. In a bipartisan cascade of hypocrisies, a liberal president, with the collaborative silence of most congressional conservatives, is traducing the War Powers Resolution.

Let's not gloss over the silence of congressional liberals and anti-war leftists just to highlight the fact that most congressional conservatives are willing to back even a liberal president at war--rising above politics, you might even say. Those conservatives are at least being consistent.

And while I do think the war powers act is unconstitutional and unnecessary given the Congressional power of the purse (and so an attempt to avoid the responsibility of carrying out that power by having automatic cutoffs rather than putting Congress' fingerprints on a forced end to a war), past presidents have, as Will noted, "acted consistent with" the provisions of the act even as they denied it compelled them to comply with the act's deadlines.

But no matter. This president is a liberal. With a Nobel Peace Prize. And he is a Democrat, most importantly. So obviously this president is above the law, to answer Will's query. President Obama can apply his health care law--or not--to favor friends, and wage something less than a war-war when he says it isn't really a war.

I'm sure presidential lawyers are working up memos arguing that by failing to explicitly call for an end to the war, Congress implicitly approves it. Expect that to come out right about 90 days from the start of the war.

Is the American media going to call President Obama on any of this and risk a Republican in the White House in 2013? Of course not. Really, if war coverage follows economic news coverage, in summer 2012, the press corps be talking about how we "unexpectedly" remain at war kinetic, time-limited military actions with Libya

Just a Kid Having Fun

When I read about Weinergate (well, after I saw the picture), my first thought was Crocodile Dundee:



Ha ha. That's not a knife ...

Or maybe he'd just gone swimming:



Sorry, the good Congresscritter always struck me as quite the jerk when I've seen him perform on TV.

Still, who among us hasn't sent revealing photographs of ourselves to the world instead of to the one we intended it for?

But if you think this is embarrassing, imagine how he feels going through security to get to his House office?



Alright. I'm finished with this one. Sorry. It was too much fun to let it pass.

UPDATE: Kaus is calling for a third-party investigation into the claim by the Rep. that he was hacked and accusations that Breitbart is behind this. Fine by me. I don't know anywhere near enough to judge. And basically I don't care. Still, the Rep. did apparently take a picture of himself. Which is bizarre enough. And what I find funny. But if Weiner's defenders are defending their man not by saying who cares what he did but by accusing a convenient right wing journalist of doing this, I think it would be best for both parties to allow someone trusted to examine their files.

UPDATE: Wow! The right-wing smear machine is really good!



For God's sake! Can we not let this man get back to doing the important work for the people?

Escalation

Britain looks like it will commit its 12 Apache attack helicopters to the Misrata front:

The Qatar-based Al Jazeera television station broadcast video footage of what it said were foreign forces, possibly British, on the ground near the rebel-held city of Misrata.

There were a number of armed men, some wearing sunglasses and keffiyahs, or traditional Arab headscarves, who moved off when they realized they were being watched, the footage showed.

Further deepening their involvement, Britain and France have said they will deploy attack helicopters over Libya to better pick out pro-Gaddafi forces. Helicopters are more vulnerable to attack from the ground than high-flying warplanes.

If the helicopters stay well behind rebel forces to shoot over them, risk of being shot down is reduced. But there will be a greater chance of the Libyans shooting down one of these than high-flying aircraft. Lose some pilots dead or captured (especially the latter) and will the will to fight remain? I assume the helicopters won't risk coming ashore to establish a base but will be based aboard the British amphibious warfare ship flying close enough to the coast to carry out missions over Misrata.

Just for simplicity of command and control, I also assume the French will focus on the coastal front west of Ajdabiya. That's another dozen attack helicopters, I believe.

Plus, the British are serving notice that leadership in deep bunkers will be struck:

Britain is to add "bunker-busting" bombs to the arsenal its warplanes are using over Libya, a weapon it said on Sunday would send a loud message to Muammar Gaddafi that it is time to quit.

So the hope is that the threat of someone's army (it has to be a rebel one now, unfortunately) following in the wake of the helicopter strikes or the threat of dying under the coming aerial "blitz" will crack the morale of Khaddafi's senior people who fear for their lives.

Then again, there is probably a greater risk of collateral damage if a deep-penetrating bomb hits a shelter full of civilians. Do that once and can NATO resist the pressure for an immediate ceasefire that will follow?

UPDATE: Well, the rebels seem ready to have a go at the loyalists:

Libya's rebel foreign minister says they are preparing to strike hard and soon against a weakened Moammar Gadhafi as he faces new defections, a crescendo of calls to surrender power and his weakened war machine is threatened by stronger NATO airstrikes.

The rebel army can't be much improved since last it went into battle on offense. It would certainly help if the helicopter and air strikes send the loyalists running first.

Let's Hope Not

This paper argues that Australia will become America's primary ally in the Pacific.

Let's hope not.

I mean, I want closer ties with Australia--including defense. We certainly do need a staging area to confront China, if necessary, given problems we increasingly face closer to China because of China's growing military reach.

And Australia also provides a very convenient base for shifting forces between the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

Australia has an interest in cultivating American ties to avoid having to choose between India and China as those powers increasingly face off. Australia is a small country on a big continent and lacks the resources to really defend their territory on their own. And let's not even go into Indonesia looming over sparsely populated Australia. Indonesia is hardly a threat, but Australia has to worry just a bit by the very size of Indonesia's population (heck, it's a wonder Canadians don't have that worry, just a bit in the back of their minds).

But I don't want Australia to be our primary ally out there. The last time Australia had that role was in World War II when Japanese forces swept to Australia's doorstep. No matter how important Australia becomes, I want our relationships with Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan to rank higher in importance. Because if they don't, it means we've lost them to China's sphere of influence and we have been pushed out of the western Pacific.

No, I want Australia to be an important ally that provides a secure rear area staging base for projecting power in defense of our allies closer to China, from India to Japan.

Ten Thoughts on the Gaza Opening

So Egypt has opened their border with Gaza:


Egypt lifted a 4-year-old blockade of the Gaza Strip on Saturday, greatly easing travel restrictions on the 1.5 million residents of the Palestinian territory in a move that bolstered the Hamas government while dealing a setback to Israel's attempts to isolate the militant group.


Several observations are in order.

One, I guess we now know that it wasn't an Israeli blockade only, since it required Egypt to control their part of the border, too.

Two, there is no need for "humanitarian" groups to run the Israeli blockade at sea.

Three, powerful Gazans and some Egyptians who benefited from the smuggling tunnels will be upset.

Four, more weapons will make their way into Gaza to be used against Israel.

Five, more reinforced concrete buildings will appear in strategic locations suitable for fortresses, supply depots, and command bunkers.

Six, Gazans material well-being probably won't improve very much since the "blockade" was pretty tailored to halting material suitable for making war on Israel.

Seven, weapons in the pipeline to Gaza will leak, and there will be anti-Egypt attacks in Sinai and in Egypt west of the canal, too.

Eight, relations with Iran will take hits as Iran's role in these weapons supplies are revealed.

Nine, in time, Egypt will close the border again.

Ten, "human rights" activists will silently rejoice that they can again blame Israel for blockading poor, starving Palestinaians.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

India Pulls Two Out of the Air

India has reduced their choices for new fighters to two European firms, knocking out the two US firms:

After a gruelling, two-year process including field trials of the six aircraft in extreme weather conditions, the Defence Ministry shortlisted two European firms—EADS and Dassault Aviation. Swedish Firm Saab and Russian RSK MiG were the other two bidders left disappointed.

I think India would have been better off picking our fighters, since having common aircraft would make it easier for American forces to operate off of Indian bases to help them out during a war. Europe won't do that. Ever. But the European planes are newer and probably are a better technical choice.

But the first article notes a deeper purpose that makes sense:

‘The decision to favour Europe in this deal could also have been prompted by concerns about European economies falling like ninepins and being bailed out by cash-rich China,’ he wrote. ‘Building partnerships in Europe is important, even if less so than building one with the US. Moreover, while promoting Europe as a partner of the Indian Air Force, the US can still emerge as the key partner for India’s increasingly important Navy.’

Note that we have lots of expensive arms deals with India, such as P-8 ASW, C-130 and C17 transport aircraft, and M-777 lightweight 155mm howitzers.

Russia, too, has lots of arms contracts, including top-end fighter research and a carrier being refurbished.

Keeping America, Russia, and Europe locked into arms sales to India would tend to reduce Chinese opportunities to isolate India by dangling money at any of the three and insisting that nobody should arm their foe India as a price of doing business with China. But is a European country going to be that steadfast in the face of Chinese pressure?

Which Greek Example

The idea that America is managing our decline by learning to lead from behind sounds an awful lot like Britain's past notion that in their decline they could be Greece to our rising Rome--guiding the brutes with more power than brains. Nice thought. It didn't work then. It won't now:

There is something about President Obama's exclusive reliance on the most idealistic bits of Western civilisation which reminds me of Harold Macmillan's idea that Britain should be Athens to America's Rome. It contains within itself an admission of defeat.

We can pretend that choosing to abdicate leadership and downgrade our military doesn't really mean much when we can just lead from the middle of the pack. But it isn't true. And even if it can be done, our test case for the concept consists of leading from behind to push two other countries long past their prime rather than guiding a rising power like China or India.

Worse, I fear that any notions we might have or replicating Greece might come true--except that we will follow the path of modern Greece and not the contemporaries of Rome.

Memo to Khaddafi

Italian troops in Lebanon suffered casualties yesterday. So today:

Italy says it wants to reduce its contingent in a peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon, a day after six Italian peacekeepers were wounded by a roadside bomb on a U.N. convoy there.

How many casualties would Libya have to inflict on Italy to get them to close their bases to NATO warplanes?

Not That Moment Yet

Russia's decision to side with the removal of Khaddafi is a good sign. Although it might just be a good sign for the formal removal of Khaddafi as a symbol while the regime itself survives under someone else. A someone else grateful to Russia for their survival and rule.

Still, it does make it more likely that the rank and file might crack under the pressure of NATO's air attacks and sanctions. But this is a little premature, if it is intended as a symbol of NATO victory:

"RAF Typhoons, along with other NATO aircraft, last night used precision-guided weapons to bring down guard towers along the walls of Colonel Gaddafi's Bab al-Aziziyah complex in the center of Tripoli," Major General John Lorimer, chief British military spokesman, said in a statement.

"Last night's action sends a powerful message to the regime's leadership and to those involved in delivering Colonel Gaddafi's attacks on civilians that that they are no longer hidden away from the Libyan people behind high walls," he said.

Being done from the air means it is not exactly a pulling down of the Saddam statue in Firdos Square moment, if you ask me.

Enemy of the State

Moqtada al-Sadr is threatening a fourth uprising:

"If the Americans don't withdraw, we will re-activate the Mehdi Army. At the moment their activities are frozen, but if the Americans stay, that will change.

"We are still the resistance and we can still hit their bases, troops and equipment as long as they are in Iraq."

American combat forces are necessary to keep differences in the political arena and to protect Iraq's borders. Without our presence, Iran could invade Iraq, Iran could instigate a civil war, or Iran could just exploit a civil war.

So naturally, Sadr--Iran's vicious little pit bull--opposes America's continued presence.

Defending Iraqi democracy and sovereignty will require taking down that living piece of Iranian-sponsored garbage. We've let him get away with three uprisings. Will he get a shot at a fourth?

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Polish Front

Poland feels very exposed being so close to Russia and living on such a flat piece of terrain. They'd like American forces with them just in case, and they'll bring this up to President Obama on his visit:

Michal Baranowski, of the Warsaw office of the German Marshall Fund, explains why.

“The presence would signal continuous American engagement in Europe, and in Poland in particular, which provides a strengthened guarantee of security for Poland. So making sure that the U.S. still looks to this part of Europe is something key for the Polish public and the Polish politicians,” said Baranowski.

Until 2009, Poland and the Czech Republic had been slated to host an American anti-ballistic missile shield. But these plans were scrapped. Instead, more mobile SM-3 interceptors will be deployed in Poland, as well as a possible rotation of F-16 warplanes.

SM-3 anti-missiles are good. But they are not "more mobile." I don't know where they get that. They will be stationary launchers. Perhaps they are more "movable" than the bigger Bush plan missiles, but they are not more mobile.

The F-16s would also be nice. Not mentioned are Patriot anti-aircraft missiles that I'd like to see becomes a permanent deployment. I'd also like to see us put material configured in unit sets in Poland so we could quickly fly in troops from the United States to man the stuff and have a couple heavy brigades to assist existing Europe-based American forces to defend Poland.

Poland deserves our help. They've helped us in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they have a history of getting stomped because they are surrounded by strong powers.

Change

The Russians are giving me whiplash. First they seem opposed to intervening in Libya. Then they don't veto the Security Council authorization for kinetic operations. Then the Russians protest we are going too far and seem to support a ceasefire.

Now the Russians want Khaddafi out:

Russia believes Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi should give up his rule and is prepared to help broker his departure, a senior Russian official said on Friday.

The offer -- a change in tone from the Kremlin's previous criticism of Western intervention in Libya -- will provide a boost to NATO powers who say they are determined to finish the job they started and end Gaddafi's 41-year rule.

So how'd we convince the Russians to say this? Or did we bargain away something for this concession? And if we did, did the Russians arrange a tag-team with China to pick up the "save Khaddafi" fight for a while?

If this is sincere, it will tend to undermine Libyan hopes that if they can hold out a bit longer they will be saved.

But What About Our Needs?

The Russian whining about our truncated missile defenses in eastern Europe is both pathetic and insulting to out intelligence.

Claiming that our defenses will make their missile forces obsolete after 2015 and therefore that they need to have there finger on the button of our missile defenses brings three thoughts to mind.

One, the missile defenses will be so thin that it is ridiculous to claim that Russia's missile forces--especially when you condier their theater-range stuff outside of  New START.

Two, why is it so important to Moscow to have the ability to nuke eastern Europe? Is this what "reset" has led to? I know that button didn't mean what we thought it meant at the time. What do the Russians think it means?

Three, if Russia is to get a finger on the button that would defend eastern Europe from Russian nuclear missiles, why shouldn't we get a finger on Russia's nuclear missiles that might nuke eastern Europe?

Russia needs to stop picking fights with the West, which doesn't threaten them, before Russia needs our help against the growing threat that China poses to Russia's control of their own Far East.

The Root of All Evil

Well, not evil. But when so much money is involved, our Congressional representatives would have to be super human to avoid corruption and waste. Instapundit notes that a poll shows 58% of respondents wouldn't care if Congress met every other year.

My background in the state legislature has given me a healthy respect for the legislative branch, so I can't go along with something like this that would transfer powers to the 24/7 executive and its executive rule-making bodies that apply (or don't) the laws plus the ever-present courts who interpret the laws and judge how the executive carries them out.

As I've said before, if you don't like the policies of the federal government, the answer isn't to periodically change the policies followed by the federal government by voting in new people at the top, but to reduce the importance of the federal government to its core areas. Otherwise it's a losing game as federal powers ratchet up and expand to new areas, and slow only occasionally, with the executive agencies fighting a delaying action until the people at the top are more in line with what the permanent bureucracies want.

I'm young enough to not remember a time when the federal government wasn't dominant but old enough to remember the expression "don't make a federal case out of that." Do young people even understand what that means? In a world of federal government intrusion into every aspect of our lives, it makes no sense. Everything is a federal case.

That expression means "don't make such a big deal out of that." That's because the assumption was that if the federal government got involved, it had to be a very important thing, indeed. Otherwise, the states or local governments--or Heaven forbid, families or societal norms of acceptable behavior--would address the issue.

Congress should meet every year. For better or worse they are our representatives and they balance the executive and judiciary. We should value that. But let's curtail the scope of what the federal government sticks it's fingers in. Let's make a federal case out of only very important things.

Maybe restoring United States Senators as appointees of the state legislatures would be a good start to restoring the balance of power and reining in Washington, D.C.

UPDATE: Steyn has related thoughts about how Washington has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

The Last Pearl

China has surely stated the obvious about solving the Somalia pirate problem by raising the option of sending in ground troops:

Chinese military leaders are pointing out that there is no other option, especially if the pirates are to be shut down. The Chinese are willing to contribute to the invasion force, but not to do it by themselves.

I'm sure the Chinese would love to establish themselves ashore in Somalia where they could base warships and aircraft to anchor the western end of their planned "string of pearls" bases along their supply lines through the Indian Ocean.

As much as we would like to smash up the pirates, I wouldn't let the Chinese ashore there. They'd never leave.

The Ballad of Bravely Bold Sir President

Vice President Biden composes a ballad to the guts of our president.

Yeah, everyone before him was a pansy facing bureaucratic rumbles, at best. I'd simply blame Biden for this over-the-top, self-esteem bolstering exercise, but he's just following a lead from the top.

Really, Biden's speech almost touched on the time President Obama had nearly stood up to the vicious Chicken of Bristol.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Shameful Use of Force

In Iraq War veteran was killed by police in a raid gone wrong:

Dupnik’s SWAT team initially claimed that Guereña fired at them while they were serving a warrant — as he slept. They claimed that his bullets hit the bulletproof shield that the entry team hid behind, and that the barrage of bullets they fired back was in self-defense.

Only, Guereña never fired his weapon. Awoken by his wife with screams that men with guns were invading his home and threatening his family, Jose Guereña armed himself with a AR-15 rifle and crouched in the hallway. The SWAT team unloaded upon Guereña on sight. He apparently recognized the home invaders as police. He took 60 rounds, but never — as the Pima County Sheriff’s Department was forced to admit — took off his weapon’s safety as he was being killed.

Guereña held his fire, apparently unwilling to kill police even though they riddled him with rounds. And did not allow medical attention until it was too late. Oh, and there was nothing to indicate any reason for raiding that home.

I'm sick to death that our police forces are becoming more and more militarized even as we try to wage war as a law enforcement issue. Will somebody be prosecuted for this murder?

This is just wrong.

UPDATE: Note, I know they are "sheriffs," but I think of them a falling under the generic term of local "police."

No Way!

Surely, a Chinese charm offensive has no room for this sort of stuff:

Taiwan's top spy says the island has uncovered Chinese intelligence agents visiting the island under the guise of tourists, or participants in expanding trade and cultural activities between the sides.

Truly, I'm shocked.

Next you'll be telling me the Chinese could slip in special forces to assist an invasion using tourism as a cover.

Dude. Seriously?

I don't know whether Iran had a role in the 9/11 attack, but I do know that this charge is just ridiculous:

The possibility of Iranian involvement in the attacks was a surprise to many foreign policy specialists at the time of the report, given the Bush administration's fixation on the possibility that another country—Saddam Hussein's Iraq—was tied to the 9/11 plot, a connection that was mostly rejected by the 9/11 Commission.

God almighty how long will this false charge live? The Bush administration was not fixated on the possibility that Iraq was involved in 9/11. The Bush administration did not even argue that Iraq was involved in 9/11. While I would not be shocked to find that they were involved, so far I've seen only indications of linkages between al Qaeda and Iraq in general rather than plot coordination. Indeed, when the attacks occurred, I figured there were two suspects--al Qaeda or Iraq. Iraq never rose out of the ranks in any arguments I ever heard.

What the Bush administration said repeatedly about Iraq was that in light of the 9/11 attacks we couldn't afford to risk an anti-American regime like Saddam Hussein's Iraq continuing to operate given its record, potential oil wealth, and support for terrorism. Anti-war types constantly replied to that argument with the amazingly resilient non sequitor that Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11!

Arggghhh. And it continues! Only the out-of place, twitchy interjection of "Halliburton!!!" would fully reflect the debates of 2002.

Filling the Vacuum

So will there be a Coast Guard for space? (Tip to Instapundit)

I still think space is a natural mission for the Air Force to assume--and not for a separate service to be cut out of the Air Force.

The Air Force is losing missions (as it should) as ground forces exploit UAVs and precision weapons to carry out reconaissance and strike missions once performed by the Air Force. But by refusing to go to space where there are new missions evolving, the Air Force loses an opportunity to pick up those missions.

Some organization will carry out the space missions. The Air Force is running out of missions and time to be that organization.

Give It To Them

Iran's Sadrist hand puppets marched to threaten the Iraqi government:

Tens of thousands of militiamen and supporters of anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr marched in Baghdad Thursday in a dramatic show of strength, saying to both the U.S. and Iraqi governments: If American troops stay past Dec. 31, there will be violence.

"I am asking for the withdrawal of the occupation. I am ready to fight from this moment. I am ready to sacrifice. I am ready for death," said one of the marchers, 42-year-old Hussein Abu Lika.
We need to stay to protect Iraq's democracy from thugs exactly like these and to defend Iraq's territorial integrity from the protesters' patrons, the Iranians.

I say we stay. And if that marcher is ready for death when we do? Give him that death he is ready for. And the rest of his Sadrist scum can go with him.

Snitzkrieg

I was told that we'd have our relations with "Old Europe" fully restored by now. So what's with this?


Since President Obama ordered the special forces strike that killed mass murderer Osama Bin Laden earlier this month, the German government has grown increasingly reluctant to help Washington find terrorists who are fighting U.S. and allied troops in Afghanistan and Pakistan.


At this rate, we'll soon be launching drone strikes on jihadis sitting in Hamburg.

Don't Grumble, Give a Whistle!

What a freaking idiot (tip to Instapundit):

What if gas hit $5 a gallon? Here are some benefits (and we're serious about most of them)[.]

Once you get past the idiocy of the premise, it is nigh well impossible for me to separate the serious from the not-serious "benefits."

I guess we can look forward to these scenes at our gas stations:



Always look on the bright side of $5.00 per gallon gasoline.

Dare we hope for the blessings of higher prices than that?

The Real Hide and Seek World Champion

Forget Osama bin Laden. This guy knew how to hide:

Bosnian Serb wartime general Ratko Mladic was arrested in Serbia on Thursday after years on the run from international genocide charges, opening the way for the once-pariah state to approach the European mainstream.

The general, accused of orchestrating the massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the town of Srebrenica and a brutal 43-month siege of Sarajevo during Bosnia's 1992-5 war, was found in a farmhouse owned by a relative, a police official said.

President Obama is on a roll. First he wrapped up a to-do list item of President Bush and now he's checked one from President Clinton.

Saving Khaddafi

Khaddafi proposes a ceasefire:

Spain says it and other European governments have received a message from Libyan Prime Minister Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi proposing an immediate cease-fire in his country's war.

And the African Union is demanding an end to NATO-led bombing:

"As far as NATO airstrikes are concerned... you will see (in the summit declaration not yet made public) a clear call by heads of state and government for those airstrikes to come to an end," Ramtane Lamamra, the AU's most senior peace and security official said.

"This is part of the requirement for political solutions to become possible," he said, adding: "The African Union shares the belief... that what is taking place now goes beyond the scope of (UN resolutions) 1970 and 1973."

Can NATO's will to win (with the limited means applied) resist these calls? That will only grow stronger?

Just having this option out there will bolster the Loyalists who won't have to believe they need to win to survive--just survive to win.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Geological Politics

America will work with Poland to exploit a new energy resource:

Global fuel giants are exploring Poland's shale gas deposits, which a recent US study pegged as having a potential 5.3 trillion cubic metres of natural gas which could last Poland some 300 years.

Given Poland's security worries and Russia's proximity, having energy supplies that could be exported to Ukraine and Germany to lessen Russia's leverage over those two countries would do wonders to improve Polish national as well as energy security.

The Anschluss Will Be a Foreclosure

Well, the Anschluss between Russia and Belorus that I've expected won't involve anything as obvious as tanks rolling into Minsk. Russia will just buy the place:

Vladimir Putin, Russia’s prime minister, flew to Minsk on Thursday to offer Belarus about $3bn in loans over three years from the Eurasian Economic Community, in return for undertaking economic reforms and privatising state companies – which could see Russia take controlling stakes in strategic assets such as oil refineries and pipelines.

A year and a half ago, Putin said that economic preferences for Belarus would require political integration. I wonder what elements of control Moscow extracted for these loans?

No need for Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia to be nervous at all, eh?

Are We There Yet?

This author has a point that the NATO war against Libya is doing reasonably well and that we shouldn't be too impatient to achieve victory. Let me comment on a number of things he says:

With each passing day, the regime grows weaker and the rebellion grows stronger. The rebel heartland in eastern Libya is militarily secure.

True enough. But the security is from NATO activity that has degraded loyalist offensive capabilities and the air umbrella that keeps the loyalists from massing. The rebels are surely better organized and armed by now, but the key in the security is the inability of the loyalists to attack.

If the Gaddafi regime believed it could control the rest of Libya, that hope has evaporated with the relief of Misurata. With the rebels’ training and organisation improving, and Nato’s continued engagement, Gaddafi’s forces will be unable to retake the operational initiative, struggling to retake lost territory or suppress new outbreaks of insurrection.

Failure to take Misrata is indeed a telling sign of weakness. And continued revolts south of Tripoli and near the Tunisian border are also signs that Khaddafi's grip is weak.

When it comes to Nato’s role, the precision with which its attacks are carried out tends to mask the extent to which it has degraded the regime’s capabilities. As of last Saturday, Nato claimed to have hit more than 860 targets, including 98 tanks, 72 artillery or rocket systems and around 40 armoured vehicles.

This doesn't impress me. In two months of air attacks, destroying 210 major pieces of equipment given all that Khaddafi started with is really nothing.

Equally important, the target list included more than 300 ammunition stores.

That could be significant. But if Khaddafi bought ammo the way his fellow dictator Saddam did, it might not be important at all. Saddam's ammo sustained insurgencies for years and we were on the ground to--in theory--control them.

Then there is the impact that repeated defeats, increasing casualty numbers and equipment losses will have on the morale of the regime’s troops and its foreign mercenaries, which has been ignored.

Yes, that is important. And it could be key. But if the mercenaries aren't dying in high numbers because the air campaign is fairly small, as long as they get paid, will they crack? And bad morale could be endured if there is nobody on the ground to exploit the poor morale. And does fear of losing bolster what defeat is degrading? Armed forces and countries can endure far more damaging air bombardments (as a British author should know) than we are inflicting on Libya and keep resisting.

The real danger, in short, is not of a protracted stalemate, but of a sudden regime collapse: as the campaign goes on, and the capability of Gaddafi’s dictatorship to intimidate the population is eroded, the true extent of support for him among the Libyan people will be exposed. If it turns out to be shallow, the regime could suffer an abrupt end.

True enough. Current trends do run against Khaddafi if given enough time to play out. But will NATO get the time? That seems uncertain given the author's words to buck up our will to continue the fight:

It is therefore essential not just that Nato retains its resolve, but that the coalition is prepared for a sudden crumbling of the regime’s forces, and that it puts the plans and resources in place to deal with the aftermath.

The loyalists could crumble. But so too could NATO. If we crumble, it doesn't matter if we got darned close to defeating Khaddafi. We'll lose.

The question is, what could cause NATO's will to fight to crumble? Waves of refugees reaching Italy? A major mistake in bombing that kills Libyan civilians in large numbers? A Libyan air or missile strike on a major NATO warship? Rebel atrocities that make siding with them too difficult to justify? A Greek default?

Or might a UN General Assembly effort to impose a ceasefire backed by the African Union, Russia, and China be too much for the coalition fighting Libya to resist?

Heck, perhaps the loyalists are hoarding a mobile force in the hopes that a good sand storm will ground NATO air power for a few days and allow the loyalists to either make a major effort to take Misrata or try to dash through Ajdabiya to make another grab for Benghazi.

Are we winning? Yes, I'll grant that. But winning at the moment is not the same as having won. I feel the same about Iraq and Afghanistan. A lot of factors are involved in judging that we are winning, and if some of those factors change, the calculation could change the judgment very quickly. So while time may be on our side (if trends remain the same), time is also the only factor that gives hope to the loyalists that they could emerge victorious. President Obama himself acknowledges this:

"I absolutely agree that given the progress that has been made over the last several weeks that Gaddafi and his regime need to understand that there will not be a let-up in the pressure that we are applying.

"I believe that we have built enough momentum that as long as we sustain the course that we are on that he is ultimately going to step down," he added. [emphasis added]

That's the key, eh? As long as we can sustain the course, we'll win.

But how long can we sustain the course?

UPDATE: Again, President Obama notes the problem of not having a ground component:

"Once you rule out ground forces, then there are going to be some inherent limitations to our air strike operation," Obama said, adding however that the aerial bombardment would eventually force out the Libyan strongman.

And a senior NATO official says:

NATO must "speed up the systematic destruction of Tripoli's military machine with the goal of neutralising Kadhafi's forces for good," the official said, adding allies hoped Kadhafi would fall by late June or early July.

In defense of the lack of Western ground forces early in the war no matter how much more miltiarily effective that would have been, I will concede we'd have taken a propaganda hit as many--Westerners and rebels--would have accused the West of stealing the rebellion from an inevitably victorious rebel army. Only now, after the rebels proved themselves incapable of winning and after many more thousands of civilian casualties, would Western ground intervention be more acceptable

Meanwhile, other nations try to end the fighting. Turks, South Africans, Egyptians, and the African Union all want to end the fighting, perhaps with Khaddafi departing. But who knows if that would be the key demand? Russia says NATO is going beyond UN authorization. Might not a ceasefire that splits Libya seem acceptable to many who want the fighting stopped?

And Khaddafi still fights on seeking ways to fight away from NATO power:

A rebel commander in southeast Libya, Ahmed Alzway, said rebel fighters fought off a Sudanese mercenary force 18 miles (30 kilometers) west of the southeast oasis of Kufra. The rebel force pursued, dislodging the Sudanese fighters from a fortified position further out in the desert, Alzway said.

Also interesing:

Tornado and Typhoon jets also destroyed a radar station in the coastal city of Brega during the Tuesday night raid.

Brega (Burayqah) is near the coastal frontline west of Ajdabiya. I don't know if what was destroyed was an air defense or sea search radar, but either way it would be useful to destroy if the British plan to send their helicopter carrier closer to shore to use their embarked Apache attack helicopters to support the rebels ashore.

The war goes on.

Almost an Ally

Pakistan has taken a good step:

Pakistan has returned to the United States wreckage of a U.S. helicopter destroyed during the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, a Pentagon official told Reuters on Tuesday, but the gesture was expected to do little to improve strained ties.

But it was a tiny and insignificant step. They are still playing games with us:

But bits of the helicopter, including the tail section, remained behind and the United States demanded that Pakistan return them to U.S. custody.

So the Chinese could still get a close look at our technology.

This is no way for Pakistan to convince Congress to keep the money spigot open to them.

Death or Glory?

North Korean threats against South Korea, Japan, and America aren't generating the goodies that Pyongyang once achieved with those threats. Actually behaving and halting nuclear and missile work to promote aid, investment, and trade seems to be out of the question for the Pillsbury Nuke Boy.

So it is off to China (for the third time in the last year) for help:

South Korea's Yonhap news agency said Kim was in Beijing "apparently for a summit meeting" with Chinese President Hu Jintao, who received Kim on both his visits last year.

Impoverished North Korea has been scouring the world for food aid and analysts say Kim is keen to ensure China's support for his youngest son to eventually take over the family dynasty that has ruled the North since its founding.

Kim will also want diplomatic support from China, his country's sole major supporter, said Cai Jian, a professor of Korean studies at Fudan University in Shanghai.

"It's unlikely, but not out of question, that a national leader would directly stretch out his hand for economic aid," said Cai.

"So I would think that what he's seeking is more diplomatic and political support. For example, in dealing with South Korea and the United States," he said.

So Kim Jong-Il won't ask for goodies from China and only wants support against countries that won't provide goodies without progress on security issues? What's left?

I worry that with threats to South Korea not working and North Korean efforts to salvage their economy failing, that at some point the North Koreans will try to extort money from China instead of from the West which isn't playing that game now. The North Korean threat could take advantage of China's fears of losing their buffer state ally by telling China that Pyongyang is so desperate that they see no other option than to roll the dice and attack South Korea to conquer or die.

Then China would have a choice: provide aid or risk North Korea carrying out the threat and probably getting defeated and possibly experiencing regime or state collapse.

UPDATE: Huh:

"North Korea is now focusing its energies on economic development, and really needs a stable environment around it," Kim told Chinese President Hu Jintao, according to China's official Xinhua news agency.

"We hope there will be an easing on the Korean peninsula, are adhering to the goal of denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, and advocate restarting the six-party talks. We have always maintained sincerity about improving relations between north and south."

That's an awfully pacifistic statement for such a belligerent despot. I wonder if Kim Jong-Il did try to get Chinese backing for a military solution and got told to sit down and shut up in no uncertain terms?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Selecting New Voters

Dennis Kucinich may shop for another district willing to elect him with his district on the redistricting chopping block:


Ohio's congressional delegation is shrinking; Washington state's is growing. So with the prospect of losing his congressional seat to redistricting, Ohio congressman Dennis Kucinich is exploring a House run in Washington, far away from Cleveland, the city he was once the mayor of. “My district appears to be on the block, so I am looking at options, and I am not limiting those options to Ohio,” Kucinich told the New York Times.


His constituency is left-wing nutball, and spans the country. So it doesn't really matter what piece of real estate he technically represents. Quite honestly, he'd represent Uranus just as readily as any place on our orbital plane.

The man is just not of this world.

Responsibility to Control

The Libya War is raising the issue of the responsibility to protect. That is, the responsibility of the world community to intervene within a state when it attacks its own citizens or even fails to protect its own citizens from violence or even natural disasters:

The doctrine of “responsibility to protect” (R2P) holds that when a sovereign state fails to prevent atrocities, foreign governments may intervene to stop them. Human-rights advocates say it saves lives. Sceptics see it as too easily misused to be useful: a cover for imperialism, or even an incentive to kill (because even if a massacre is not looming, an unscrupulous warlord might be tempted to engineer one against his own people to spur outside support).

Previous uses of R2P have been solo ventures. In 2008 Russia used it to justify attacking Georgia, and France cited it after the cyclone in Myanmar, implying that humanitarian aid might have to be brought in by force if the regime persisted in stonewalling (it backed down). But before this year, no mission had been authorised by the UN Security Council that so explicitly cited the new principle.

One problem is that this is outside the norm of states controlling what goes on inside their own country. R2P can seem like a humanitarian idea, but Iraq could have been justified by R2P if it hadn't been justified by our national interests. And like it or not, it does run contrary to centuries of practice in our international system.

I think we'd be better off insisting on a doctrine that works within the existing system and which would allow us to deal with a number of problems that otherwise are protected by the system: R2C.

That is, "responsibility to control (R2C)." How many places in the world are in theory under the control of a sovereign member of the international system but is in practice outside of any national control and simply a haven for terrorists or criminals?

Under R2C, if you don't control your territory to prevent it from being used as a haven for terrorists, criminal gangs, or pirates, other countries gain the right to police that area. I called it the Lexington Rule:

One of the problems with dealing with non-state actors is that they have enough power to defy the state government that has the responsibility for policing that piece of territory. So when a country goes after the non-state actor exercising the power of a state to wage war, the country runs afoul of the Westphalian assumptions because the country is attacking the formal territory of some state government even if that government does not control the territory. The Hizbollah War is a case in point.

So what if we modify our rules of recognition? Let's split our recognition. We recognize a government that holds a UN seat and borrows money and is responsible for its actions, as we do now. Right now it is all or nothing. You are recognized or not and if you do you are given credit for controlling everything within the lines on the map indicating your country. The government has legal responsibility to control their territory, but in practice there is no way to compel them to do so and yet international law prevents others from trying to install some level of control--or at least to destroy threats gathering in those areas beyond government control.

But as part of this recognition, we also declare the boundaries of these recognized governments that reflect effective control and not just legal fictions based on lines on maps. For most countries, we'd use the formal boundaries. Germany controls their territory. But not all countries are in this situation.

Where a country's government does not or cannot control all their territory, we should declare areas "free of control" by a national government and therefore deprive the non-state actor from hiding behind the nominal legal government when they are attacked on their de facto territory that the non-state actor rules.

Not that the United Nations would ever sanction this idea. But I think R2C would do more to further world peace than R2P.

What Could Go Wrong?

This experiment is going to be interesting to follow and I'm glad I'm far away:

The Supreme Court ordered California on Monday to release tens of thousands of its prisoners to relieve overcrowding, saying that "needless suffering and death" had resulted from putting too many inmates into facilities that cannot hold them in decent conditions.

Of course, with the overcrowding, there has already been an effect. Judges know that there is no room and so I'm sure have been using whatever discretion that they have to reduce sentences or divert defendants to alternatives. And prosecutors have used their discretion to reduce charges against defendants or not to bring cases to trial. And I have no doubt that police departments know who it is pointless to arrest and perhaps whole categories of crimes are now in practice decriminalized.

Criminology majors everywhere are rejoicing.

Wants Versus Needs

Taiwan definitely needs new F-16 fighters and submarines. President Ma even says so, repeatedly:

Taiwan on Sunday said it was still pursuing its bid to buy eight submarines and dozens of F-16 fighters from the United States despite warming relations with former arch-rival China.

The Taipei-based China Times reported Sunday that Taiwan had decided to accept a US proposal of just four conventional submarines to help expedite the arms deal which has been in limbo since 2001.

Taiwan has two in operation and two museum pieces barely fit for training purposes in port. On the surface, a request for four puts Taiwan up on what they have and no more than equal to what they had. But of course, China's navy is now far more powerful meaning that getting more submarines is necessary for Taiwan's defense. Especially if half the subs are knocked out in port by some of those missiles that the Chinese bizarrely deny are pointed at Taiwan (tip to Mad Minerva). So having eight may merely guarantee that three or four can be at sea at any one time to actually fight.

The View from Taiwan in that post also rightly wonders if Ma really wants those weapons despite his requests. I must say that when I heard Ma recently bringing up the issue of America selling him fighter planes and subs, I wondered that, too. Specifically, I wondered if he really wants submarines since we don't make conventional submarines. I know we are supposed to figure out how to find a builder since countries that build them are too afraid of angering China to sell Taiwan any subs, but I don't see that happening. Why not just ask about the F-16s which we do build and see if Taiwan can get Russia to sell Taiwan subs,an option I've mentioned before.

The reason could be that Ma wants to tie something he doesn't want but can get from America (F-16s) with something he neither wants nor can get from America (subs), and so ensure he gets neither planes nor subs. The fact that Taiwan needs both is not relevant, apparently.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Would You Believe ... October 21st?

Epic Apocalypse Fail:

California preacher Harold Camping said Monday his prophecy that the world would end was off by five months because Judgment Day actually will come on Oct. 21.

There's film:


No, It Was a Good Weekend

This is really a strange way to look at things:

Harold Camping's recent admission that he's "flabbergasted" the world didn't end last weekend sounds somewhat pitiful.

"It has been a really tough weekend," Camping said Sunday, after emerging from his Alameda, California home for the first time to talk to a reporter from the San Francisco Chronicle. ...

Camping's PR aide, Tom Evans, told the L.A. Times that the group is "disappointed" that 200 million true believers weren't lifted up to heaven on Saturday while everyone else suffered and eventually died as a series of earthquakes and famine destroyed the Earth.

Really? We didn't have massive death and destruction over the weekend and that is a tough weekend? Now, that attitude is flabbergasting.

Sure, the end of the world would have meant I didn't face the disappointment of my son failing to appreciate Monty Python and the Holy Grail at all.

But I would have missed taking Lamb out to the park to fly her new kite. Actually, I'd been forgetting to buy a new kite with the old one barely hanging on to life. And then I found two kites in my closet that I clearly bought some time in the last year. Lamb was thrilled. So I put it together and dad and daughter walked to the park where we got it in the air and soaring without having to run to keep the kite airborne! I think the wind was getting a bit strong because while it would fly right for a while, eventually it dove down to the ground. I think Lamb enjoyed it when I tucked my head and covered my head with my arms whenever it dove at my general direction.

And Lamb hit the swings for a bit, too. It was grand.

I'd have missed that. And I'm a little angry at the people hoping for the end of the world. They really expected only 200 million on the planet to ascend to Heaven? Really? How many children were judged too evil for salvation? What type of religious person condemns children to death and damnation?

I don't pretend to know what God has in store for our world or for me and my family. And neither does Camping. He should be ashamed to pretend to know God's will for us--or his standards of judgment.

Spearhead

The coastal front of the Libyan civil war has been pretty quiet lately. Loyalists seem content to hold just west of Ajdabiya well forward of Sirte and holding key oil installations while focusing on rebel-held areas south of Tripoli and trying to do something about Misrata. Rebels seem content to train and organize (I assume) rather than fling their recruits or scarce trained manpower against the loyalist front.

This development indicates to me that the coastal front will become active:

France plans to deploy attack helicopters in Libya, the first to be used in the coalition against Muammar Gaddafi's forces, a French newspaper reported on Monday.

Twelve helicopters were shipped out to Libya on French battleship Tonnerre on May 17, daily Le Figaro reported, to help break a military stalemate three months into an uprising against Gaddafi's four-decade rule. ...

According to Le Figaro's source, French special forces, who have been operating in Libya to help identify targets for NATO planes since the start of air strikes, could now be reinforced and deployed to guide helicopter attacks.

Let me digress for a moment. Tonnerre is not a "battleship." It is a an amphibious warfare ship capable of carrying helicopters. A "battleship" is not just another name for a "warship"--the generic word for navy combat vessels. A "battleship" is a very specific type of warship that we were the last to use. Editors please take note.

Anyway.

With French special forces on the ground to spot targets for those French attack helicopters, this team could spearhead an advance by newly organized and equipped rebel troops, along with the usual air support. British, French, and Italian advisers are doing the organizing, I assume. And planning the offensive. Egyptian special forces could provide advisers at the unit level on the rebel side.

I've long wondered what army would be found to drive into the loyalist areas and make Khaddafi "go." We may have an answer soon.

UPDATE: The British, too, will add attack helicopters from the naval task force I mentioned a while ago. The article says:

French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet said separately that London would deploy helicopters aboard its HMS Ocean aircraft carrier as soon as possible.

Perhaps recent NATO attention to striking Libyan naval assets was to pave the way for the French and British to move their amphibious carriers closer to the coast to launch missions without basing the helicopters ashore.

With a battalion of British marines in the task force, too, could the British and French be thinking about putting a multi-national brigade task force ashore to help the drive west?

The article also writes about more intense NATO air attacks on Tripoli:

An AFP journalist said the raids lasting more than half an hour began at around 1:00 am when powerful blasts were heard in the sector around Kadhafi's Bab al-Aziziya residence.

More than 15 strong blasts were heard in the neighbourhood, with the sound of warplanes roaring overhead.

Intensifying air attacks on Tripoli is risky since it provides more chances for something to go wrong on the propaganda front. One bad hit or loyalist success in portraying high collateral damage with good visuals could be fatal to the NATO air campaign.

To really be effective, the air attacks should have a ground component to exploit the damage done by the raids, otherwise the loyalists can recover from whatever damage the raids achieve.

I still think it is a race between the collapse of the loyalist will to fight and the NATO will to fight. NATO actions seem like they could accelerate both "clocks" for making resolution one way or the other take place faster.

Also, whatever happened to that precision weapons shortage that NATO was facing that I read about fairly early in the war? Are factories rushing them to the planes as fast as they are produced? Did the Europeans have war reserve stocks that they broke open? Did we manage to supply weapons they can use on their planes?

Or is the planned use of attack helicopters with their own precision weapons not part of a deeper plan to spearhead a rebel offensive but just a way to preserve aircraft precision weapons for deep targets? That is, might the French sail off of Ajdabiya to support the rebels instead of using aircraft around the city and the British sail off of Misrata to support rebels there?

UPDATE: The British say they are still in the pondering stage and have made no decision to use attack helicopters. Although Strategypage says France and Britain will use a dozen attack helicopters each off of their amphibious ships. Strategypage also writes that the Moslem world is turning more against Khaddafi, citing Turkey in particular. And I should note that Strategypage still thinks Khaddafi will lose this war.

Again, I'll agree that the competing existing vectors favor NATO victory. But I don't have high confidence that the trends will remain constant long enough for NATO to win unless we get lucky. I think the chances of the NATO vectors changing for the worse are greater the longer the war is unresolved.

Unclear on the Concept

Even after letting numerous American deadlines for Iran to halt nuclear weapons programs pass by with no action, after seeing Khaddafi and Assad remain in office when they "had to go" (admittedly without set deadlines), and after seeing no budget for this fiscal year approved anywhere near the beginning of this fiscal year, May 2011 has been a particularly cruel month for deadlines that apparently mean nothing.

First we had the debt ceiling deadline that would strike us down on May 16th. That's run out to August 2nd, now.

Then we had the May 20th deadline to end American participation in the Libya War under the war powers act. The war goes on and nobody will do anything about it. I happen to think the law stinks and figure if it is to be declared unconstitutional, the time when a very liberal president wants to ignore it will be the time it happens.

And of course, May 21st was supposed to be the end of the world and yet here we are. I'll cite nothing online to support that statement.

I'm perhaps thinking that someone (pehaps it is me) is unclear on the concept of what a "deadline" entails.

God, What an Idiot

Thank goodness she's on their side.

I hadn't realized that Cynthia McKinney, former United States Representative (D-Bizarro World) was still up and around. Apparently she's on her rogue support tour, standing up for Khaddafi and traveling to Iran to bolster those nutjobs, too.

Every two years we entrust only 435 people to vote on legislation in the House of Representatives. She was one of them. Of course, so is Nancy Pelosi. And good grief, Reid is one of only 100 Senators.

What the heck, even idiots need representation. Are we a great country, or what?

Unable to Kill Outside of the Box

Gosh, remember a decade ago when exciting, nimble "4th generation" networked terrorists would run rings around our security bureaucracies unable to react quickly enough to the terrorists' flat organization able to innovate on the move and attack at our points of vulnerability before we could possibly hope to identify those points let alone defend them?

Well, let's see how al Qaeda Prime's former Number 1 waged his ominous "netwar":

The computer files hauled from his hideout in Pakistan have provided intelligence officials with an unparalleled glimpse into the mind of al-Qaida's founder. But perhaps most surprising about the first two attack scenarios to surface in those documents is just how predictable they were.

He hoped to attack trains, just as terrorists had done in Mumbai, India, and Madrid. He retained his fascination with attacking airplanes. And, according to U.S. officials and a law enforcement bulletin Friday, he wanted to hijack oil tankers and blow them up at sea. ...

"This is nothing new," said Christopher Davidson, a professor of Middle East politics at Durham University in northern England. "This is just confirmation of what most security and terror analysts had guessed."

In short, bin Laden wanted to attack just where the U.S. figured he would.

Too many in the West puff up our terrorist enemies by constructing elaborate theories about how brilliant they really are. In reality, they are just paperwork-pushing bureaucrats with blood directly on their hands.

Fourth generation warriors, indeed. How many times have we been told over the years that by attacking and destroying the Taliban regime in Afghanistan we fell for Osama bin Laden's "deep plan?" Instead, it looks an awful lot like we kicked his ass and left him under virtual house arrest unable to think--or kill--outside the box, until we killed him in that box.

We are the ones who are winning this war, as I wrote in the days immediately following 9/11--not helpless giants:

Intelligence and covert operations are the first line of active defense and the first echelon of attack. The aerial suicide attacks on our people and the symbols of our power took enormous amounts of time to carry out. This is one weakness of our enemy. While they may carry out small attacks using small arms or small bombs at a moment's notice, truly horrific attacks require time because they must be planned in the shadows to avoid detection. We must increase our ability to detect such preparations and make sure the information is interpreted to provide timely and specific warnings. Then, the people who need this information must actually get the warning in time to take actions.

More importantly, we must exploit the fact that these attacks take time to organize. Intelligence must track the enemy terror cells in order to strike the enemy and disrupt them by keeping them on the move and by killing or arresting their operatives. We must sow confusion and paranoia in their ranks to slow them down and get them to fight each other. Our ability to use so many weapons is one advantage of being a powerful state. We may be a large target but we are not a helpless giant. America can direct precise or massive force quickly and globally as needed. Keeping the initiative is crucial. This will compel our enemies to start their preparation from scratch again and again. Giving the enemy time to prepare only guarantees that eventually they will be ready and will strike.

Careers are made in the West by inflating our enemies' brilliance. Don't confuse these academic-created images of 10--feet tall terrorists with the reality that we fight--and kill or arrest--every day. Our enemies may be evil, murdering, bastards, but they aren't evil geniuses running rings around us.

Don't get me wrong, they can and do innovate. This doesn't mean we can assume we fight total idiots. But remember that we innovate, too. And our enemies have to fill out paperwork and file it.
Our enemies need to be killed and we can kill them. Let's get on with it.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

I Don't Even Know You!

Let me be clear, my son is great. I'm very proud of Mister. But last night I put Monty Python and the Holy Grail in the Blu Ray player to share this movie with him.

He was completely bored and didn't like any of it. He didn't even bother to notice the jokes of the opening credits. And I let it run through the tale of Sir Robin! Nothing. The only hint of appreciation was when he recognized a line ("It's just a flesh wound ...") during the Black Knight scene from National Lampoon's European Vacation.

Yes, I replied! That was Eric Idle. He's in this movie.

What is wrong with kids these days? When I saw this movie at his age, I cried from laughing so hard. I still laugh even though I mostly know it by heart. I still notice new things in the background.

If we can't share Monty Python, I'm not sure I can even begin to think about paying for his college. One must draw the line, mustn't one?

Lest you think he's hooked on high brow PBS stuff, he actually laughs like a maniac with Married With Children. So there is that.

But a dad can only do so much to raise them right. I guess I can only hope he gets into a good crowd in his college dorm that can teach him--if through peer pressure and repetition if nothing else--that Monty Python is funny.

Hitting Them Where it Hurts

If this attack on a Pakistani base is the responsibility of the Taliban or other jihadis, it hits Pakistan where it really hurts:

Gunmen attacked Pakistan's naval aviation base on Sunday, starting fires, setting off explosions and fighting pitched gunbattles inside one of the country's most heavily guarded military installations. ...

Another spokesman said that one P-3C Orion, a maritime partrol aircraft, had been destroyed. "The attackers are still inside and intermittent firing is continuing."

Note that the base houses naval aviation. These are assets aimed at India--not at the Taliban.

This appears to be a message that the India-centric Pakistani military and government are meant to really listen to.

UPDATE: Pakistani forces have wiped out the attackers. But the headline of the article is just bone-headed:

"Pakistan retakes naval base after just six militants lay seige"

No, the Pakistanis did not "retake" the base. That implies the enemy took the base. Which itself is contradicted by the end of the headline which says the enemy "lay seige" to the base--which means isolating it and attacking or otherwised trying to pressure the defenders into surrendering.

The enemy neither lay seige to the base nor captured it. The enemy penetrated the base and held out on a suicide mission until the Pakistanis re-secured the base. No wonder reporters can describe the enemy has "resurgent." Just making suicidal attacks with no hope of victory is enough to be declared "winning."

Yes, there was some sloppy security to allow the attackers to penetrate the perimeter of this base. But that's a far cry from saying the enemy is capable of defeating the Pakistani military.

Not Exactly Shock and Awe

China's missile arsenal pointed at Taiwan will increase next year:

The number of Chinese missiles targeted at Taiwan is likely to reach 1,800 next year, despite improving ties between the former arch-rivals, Taiwanese media said Friday.

I assume not all are precision weapons. Still, even if all of them are, they are not a decisive weapon alone. Chinese aircraft would need to be part of the offensive to really cripple the Taiwanese.

Remember that in the first 5 days of NATO's offensive against Libya's far weaker air defenses and air force assets, NATO fired 168 precision cruise missiles along with 222 strike sorties. Assuming that each plane sortie carried 4 precision weapons, we're talking only a little more than a thousand hits on Libyan targets. That was clearly survivable and Taiwan could fight through a Chinese missile barrage.

Or consider the Iraq War invasion:

The US Forces flew 37,000 missions during OIF, dropping 23,000 precision guided weapons (over 66% of the total ordnance dropped) and launching 750 cruise missiles.

So even close to 24,000 US precision weapons dropped mainly over the course of 3 or 4 weeks--I assume--until conventional Iraqi resistance collapsed did not prevent the Iraqis from deploying ground units and resisting our invasion.

The point is that Taiwan should not tremble and panic in the face of these weapons. Nor should Americans throw up our hands at the thought of trying to defend Taiwan from a Chinese attack. China will need far more than these missiles to inflict deep wounds and will face threats of their own to getting ashore on Taiwan for the killing blow.

Work the problem.

Take a Hike

The Russians already got the Obama administration to back down over the Bush missile defense plan, claiming wrongly that the missiles could hit Russian missiles heading for America.

So the Obama administration cancels that plan and puts in place a plan to add missile defenses to eastern Europe that don't defend American from missiles inbound from Iran but still protect Europe from Iranian missiles.

The Russians are still bitching:

Moscow has pressed for binding guarantees that a European missile shield would not weaken its nuclear arsenal, saying on Friday that the system now planned by the United States could threaten Russia's security after 2015.

Russia, not content that New START leaves Russia with no limits on theater range nuclear missiles, is apparently upset that the threadbare missiles defenses we plan for NATO to stop small numbers of Iranian missiles might force Russia to waste a number of nuclear missiles if Moscow should decide that Europe needs a good nuking to teach them manners.

Am I the only one disturbed that the Russians value so highly  their ability to nuke defenseless eastern European countries?

I do believe we should invite the Russians to take a hike along the Appalachian Trails. With themselves, of course. Vigorously.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Pressure

NATO continues to add pressure to loyalist forces that appears to be affecting morale in loyalist areas:

NATO widened its campaign to weaken Moammar Gadhafi's regime with airstrikes on desert command centers and sea patrols to intercept ships, the military alliance said Saturday, amid signs of growing public anger over fuel shortages in government-held territory.

This is good. The rebels aren't going to march in and defeat the loyalists--and neither is NATO--so defeating the loyalists requires their military assets to crack and either desert or defect. Having to face too many angry civilians could be one way to crack their morale. Repeated air attacks might also do it.

But NATO is in a race against time because pressure to halt the war short of Khaddafi's ouster are also apparent:

At the same time, however, NATO has come under increasing criticism that it is overstepping the U.N. Security Council's mandate, which provides for the protection of civilians but not for wider attacks. The Pan African Parliament, the legislative body of the African Union, plans an emergency session next week to discuss what it calls NATO's "military aggression."

This is one more part of the pressure to save Khaddafi, which includes divisions within NATO over goals, the UN Secretary General's push for a ceasefire, Russian and Chinese opposition to regime change, the cost to Europeans of waging a war that has not concluded quickly as expected, other opposition to the war (Brazil and Venezuela to name a couple South American notables). Add in that the Arab world is probably one big collateral damage incident from demanding an end to the war and I still don't know who will break first.