Sunday, July 31, 2011

Fissures

I haven't known what to make of the murder of the rebel general Younes at the hands of other rebels. Infighting among rebels isn't that shocking or unusual of course. But does it mean the rebels, just now appearing to be gaining the benefits of months of training by capturing ( Burayqah (Brega), will lose whatever military effectiveness they have now? Or even present vulnerabilities that Khaddafi can exploit? This can't be good for our side:

As news of the killing spread, forces loyal to General Younes, mainly from his Obeidi tribe, began heading for Benghazi, while other fellow tribesman began spraying the hotel from where Mr Jalil had made the announcement with automatic rifle fire.

I hadn't heard that. Again, civil wars within a civil war are hardly shocking. But given how shaky the rebellion is and how shaky the NATO coalition trying to help the rebels win is, any development that slows down the defeat of Khaddafi is something that increases the chance that the loyalist side will not be the first side to break.

UPDATE: More on the eastern rebels in the wake of the killing:

The murder plunged the new government and its capital into turmoil, and raised urgent questions in NATO capitals about whether the TNC or its ragtag army were in danger of crumbling.

In a NATO war strategy that rests on blockade, air strikes, and indigenous ground forces, the weakening of the critical third leg of ground forces could save Khaddafi.

Cracking

Reports of Syrian troops wavering in their loyalty and even defecting have been common since the protests and violent crackdown began. Only one regular army division plus the Republican Guard force (a division-sized force of 3 line brigades and an artillery brigade) have been loyal (add in loyal militia, secret police, and any imported thugs, too) and willing to shoot at civilians. The rest have been kept in the barracks out of fear they will defect or desert.

Now there is a report of open fighting in Hama:

State-run news agency SANA on Sunday said gunmen in Hama and Deir el-Zour had erected barricades and sand barriers in the streets, and that extremists in Hama torched police stations, destroyed public and private property and fired from rooftops.

Well, the government would call them extremists. But there does seem to be armed resistance to the government, regardless of how the government would like to spin it.

And (via Instapundit link) now some Syrian officers are openly calling for revolt. A major general (two stars, if their rank structure is similar to ours, which would mean he could command a division) is the ranking officer, it seems.

Not a small fry but hardly a "top general" as the story says. But it is the most visible crack we've seen so far. If some more major generals flip or a higher ranking general makes the leap, then we might be able to say that the regime is falling apart.

UPDATE: Strategypage has a nice post on the Syrian situation, including this bit on the loyal forces:

The army is concerned about the loyalty of the army. With at least half the Syrian 400,000 security forces (police and army) of uncertain reliability, the government is using the 100,000 or so reliable killers (mainly Republican Guard and secret police, plus Hezbollah gunmen from Lebanon and security specialists from Iran) to terrorize (and slaughter, if need be) those civilians who continue to oppose the government. This is a risky strategy, because if enough less reliable troops and police shoot back, it's all over for the dictatorship. But the government hard-liners, led by the president's brother (Maher Assad), have won the argument over how to handle the unrest. There's no going back from this. Iran continues to send in more security experts, and perhaps trained killers as well. More Hezbollah gunmen continue to arrive from Lebanon. The Assad clan apparently is ready for a fight to the death.

Also, the tank assault on Hama isn't facing armed resistance according to the post. It may just be the usual government propaganda that foreigners are behind the protests and a justification for shooting. I thought it sounded like there was some truth behind it. Eventually, I figure, protesters will tire of just taking in on the chin and will fight back. But apparently not yet. It's hard to tell without reporters on the ground.

Let's See That Smart Diplomacy At Work

I think we will sell Taiwan the new F-16s they want. Taiwan needs them and we need Taiwan to be capable of resisting the Chinese. Perhaps the key is that President Obama needs the order to keep F-16 production lines open. This was a factor in 1992 with the elder Bush, too, lest you think I am being too partisan in noting that fact.

This telegraphs the sale, I think:

The United States and China on Friday held top-level talks on Taiwan, with Washington working pre-emptively to avoid a fallout as a decision nears on whether to sell fighter-jets to Taiwan.

US officials have said that they will decide by October 1 on whether to sell F-16 jets to Taiwan, a longstanding request from the self-ruling island which fears that China's rapidly growing military has gained a major edge.

If the October 1st decision isn't to sell the planes, why have talks to avoid fallout? A decision not to sell would automatically be welcomed by China and require no advance work on our part. Let's see if the State Department's newly unleashed nuanced smart diplomacy can make Peking like the decision. (Actually, I shudder to think about what we might decide to give up to keep China quiet--I'll be relieved if we sell the planes and China has a huge hissy fit.)

Of course, less than a wing of late-model F-16s (plus a couple wings of modernized F-16s, assuming we help with that project) isn't enough to stop China given the mainland's advances in military capabilities. Don't think that just because the battle to sell the planes is so hard that it represents final victory for securing Taiwan.

But the sale at least buys Taiwan a bit of time. Time to keep modernizing their military.

And time for our forces to prepare to fight in the western Pacific in the shadow of expanding Chinese military capabilities. In case that smart diplomacy doesn't work out, you know.

UPDATE: Thanks to The View from Taiwan for the link. TVfT also links to a story that I meant to comment on, and which is related: The Taiwan defense report recently released. The bottom line?

The edge the PLA has over the Taiwanese armed forces is becoming increasingly overwhelming, the Taiwanese military says, and within a decade, the PLA won't have a hard time forcing Taipei into accepting unification by military means if necessary.

Don't mistake a hard-one victory over the sale of fewer than 70 late model F-16s as the last victory. China would love Taiwan to believe that. Even with the F-16s, Taiwan faces a rough future. Oh, and they should pay attention to our defense budget trends if they think we can quickly ride to their rescue.

Taiwan has built a prosperous and free little country. But Taiwan pays very little to defend itself from China. No, Taiwan obviously can't match China dollar for dollar in defense expenditures.

But they don't have to. Taiwan has one defense problem--stopping China from gaining a foothold on Taiwan. Don't worry too much about a Chinese blockade. That's the best-case scenario for American intervention. A blockade takes time, we're very good at sea and in the air, and we'll have time to punch through a blockade. No, Taiwan just has to worry about being invaded.

China on the other hand has lots of defense scenarios all around their border. Vietnam to the south. India to the southwest. Restive provinces in their far west. Russia to the north. South Korea (and maybe a united Korea under Seoul's governance one day soon?) and Japan to their northeast. And Taiwan to the east. Oh, and America potentially at the side of any one of them in a crunch.

So Taiwan just has to be tough enough to make China wince at the thought of paying the price to take them. And Taiwan has to make China shudder at the thought of focusing resources to take Taiwan while leaving other portions of their border less defended than they might like.

Oh, and if Taiwan can't see any way to build conventional forces to do those things, they might have to consider what the article only hints at--building a nuclear deterrent to stop China. Rogue states mostly get away with it these days. Why can't a functioning democracy do it?

UPDATE: And thanks also to Mad Minerva for the link.

Window of Opportunity

So I've written that China isn't destined to overtake us as the top power in the world:

Let's imagine China and America in the year 2100, 89 years from now.

China's population is estimated to peak in about 2030 at 1.393 billion. By 2100, China will decline to 0.941 billion people. America, at a Census Bureau middle projection will tip the scales at 0.571 billion. At the high end projection, we'll have 1.182 billion people. Note that the projection made 11 years ago for today's population was 302,300,000 and the high end was given as 314,846,00. We are actually at 311,308,000, so we are closer to the high end prediction than the middle projection.

With all the caveats about projecting that far into the future, we could have from 60% of China's population to more people than China! Will China have twice the GDP per-capita as America then? With a population older than our population? Because if not, China's lead in gross GDP will not last and we will regain that title well before 2100 rolls around (unless India is the one to surpass us in gross GDP).

In part, I've relied on a concept that--while I didn't know it--is called the "Lewis turning point."

AND now a RAND study should stifle some of the hyper-ventilating amongst the Commie fan boys in the West who dream of China's rise. Says the RAND monograph:

China is likely to become the most important contender over the next 40 years in terms of national resource base, but its relative GDP has everything to do with how high its per capita productivity gets vis-a-vis the Untied States. If it achieves Japan-like levels of productivity by 2050, its GDP will be double America's. If, however, it begins to level off as it approaches productivity levels characteristic of South Korea today, then China's economy will be somewhat larger than the American economy. Finally, if the many challenges that China has --pollution, corruption, and financing the elderly--are not met, China may reach an economic inflection point earlier rather than later and fail to surpass U.S. GDP levels. Demographics suggest that if China's economy cannot surpass the Untied States' by 2050, it might never do so.

Oh, and a sincere "eff you very much" to RAND for disabling copy functions in their PDF. That was thoughtful for something that they presumably want disseminated widely. No, really, I didn't mind freaking retyping something from the freaking web in the freaking 21st century. I'm fine with that. Really.

But I digress.

China wants to pass us by. They could do it. We shouldn't want them to, however. And unless we shoot ourselves in the foot and cripple our own economy to essentially throw the race (and God help me, I go to sleep every night trying to convince myself that our leaders aren't doing just that), there is no reason we have to give up our lead. Or if we do drop to the number two spot, no reason we can't regain the lead.

And never forget that when our relative power is in the balance, our geography gives us one heck of an advantage over China. In the future, when people speak of the "American century," we should be able to respond, "be more specific."

Calling in the Temps

Well, when our government plans to gut our active component military despite kinetic engagements in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, the Horn of Africa, Iraq, and Libya, you have to expect that the military will need to call on our reservists more often:

Reserve-component leaders made the case this week for legislative changes that would give Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta more flexibility in using Guard and reserve members to support theater security cooperation and other military missions around the world.

Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee’s military personnel subcommittee, the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard leaders cited the reserve components’ vast experience supporting a broad array of contingency missions.

Particularly in light of looming budgetary constraints, they said, it’s foolhardy not to enable the Defense Department to take full advantage of these capabilities.

I know this could never be considered a "back door draft."

I know this with certainty because George W. Bush isn't the president.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Quite a Loophole

Not that I'm crying for Khaddafi. He deserves whatever bad fate we can engineer for him.

But what can't we bomb under this reasoning?

NATO warplanes bombed three Libyan state TV satellite transmitters in Tripoli overnight, targeting facilities that have been used to incite violence and threaten civilians, the military alliance said Saturday.

The mental gymnastics we display to wage war without officially waging war is amazing. Couldn't we bomb libraries because pro-Khaddafi books in them are used to incite violence and threaten civilians?

Or wouldn't mosques be a target set for the same reason?

Don't loyalist hospitals treat wounded loyalist troops whose recovery would threaten civilians?

Wouldn't kitten adoption centers be targets because loyalist mercenaries need to kick back, pet their purring kitties, and relax after a long day of violence and threatening civilians?

I mean, once you accept that dangerous Khaddafi talk radio is a threat to civilians (Fox News Channel should be careful, given the administration's views on them, eh?), the sky's the limit on legitimate targets, isn't it?

Yeah. This is much better than waging war after a declaration of war by our Congress. Hey, the war protection of civilians is being waged under the standards of the sainted international community, so how could it be bad?

The Wisdom of Our Founding Fathers

Instapundit, in a post titled "Demonizing the other," caught my attention. Mostly because it addresses a topic I addressed with the exact same title. But when I read the Althouse post, another more important point came to mind. Althouse discusses an author back from Cambodia who is saddened that his home city, Madison, Wisconsin, is no longer the place he remembered it as when liberals happily ran the place:

You see, when the alienated young man returned from the place where he felt alienated, he found that he was still alienated, because his city had changed. It used to be so harmonious, but somehow these people who were not the Madisonians he grew up with had taken over political power.

Well, Mr. McCoy, I hate to bring you down, but the city of Madison is the capital of an entire state, and, sometimes, an election gives the majority and the governorship to — gasp! — that other party, the one the people of Madison would like to discipline its citizens never to mention any positive feeling for. That discipline was the harmony of Madison that you remember, pre-Cambodia. When the Republicans from the hinterlands came to town and began to enact their policies, Madisonians had a collective nervous breakdown in public.

Post-protests, McCoy is bummed out to find Madisonians in a bad mood. They failed, despite strenuous efforts, to deny Republicans the power that had been legitimately and democratically won in a thoroughly fair election
.

Yes, the ability to demonize "the other" is a good topic. But I'm more interested in the idea that in the budget struggle that affected the entire state, Madison residents are sad they couldn't reverse the statewide tide on their own.

Can we be thankful that Washington, D.C., isn't a voting territory able to exert that kind of pressure on our federal leaders? Indeed, perhaps our states should follow the example of our federal government and create state capital districts outside of the municipal boundaries of state cities in order to provide a little more insulation from locals who feel entitled to run the entire state despite the wishes of outsiders who unfortunately represent the majority but fortunately are too far away to match the locals' numbers on the streets.

We can be grateful the mob lost in Madison, but they never should have been on the field in the first place.

When This Starts to Make Sense ...

When I first saw references to coining a trillion dollar coin to cope with our deficits and debt, I assumed it was a joke. Apparently, this is an option raised in all seriousness. WTF.

What the heck, why not just pass a law declaring Monopoly money to be United States currency? I mean, who doesn't have a game or three lying around their home? Now that would be a stimulus, huh? Every household would get a lot of money to stimulate retailers.

It is an option superior to the coin one in that it at least spreads the pretend wealth around.

If you think some of our leaders aren't stupid enough to look for a solution like this, guess again. They're that stupid.

New Dawn. Old Dusk

Iraq has not descended into civil war since we relinquished primary responsibility for security to the Iraqis. But security is down over the last year:

Frequent bombings, assassinations and a resurgence in violence by Shiite militias have made Iraq more dangerous now than it was just a year ago, a U.S. government watchdog concludes in a report released Saturday.

We are still needed in Iraq. Our presence provides guarantees that resorting to violence outside of the political process is not the means to resolve political disputes.

We know we are needed to keep Iraq moving forward. The Iraqi leaders know this. And the Sadrists know this, too, which is why they are the ones throwing obstacles in the way.

The Iraqis should ask us to stay. We should stay. And if the Sadrists continue their campaigns of violence, the Iraqis should lean on our presence to finally smash that bastard Sadr's forces once and for all.

Sadr has fought the government three times already in major campaigns, threatening to plunge Iraq into chaos and darkness. Until he is dead or wins, he'll keep trying to win it all (with his Iranian backers cheering all the way).

UPDATE: Well, this doubling of Iraqi purchases of F-16s is a good sign that the Iraqi government will agree to some US presence after we are gone:

"A delegation from the Iraqi Air Force along with advisers will travel to revive the contract to include a larger number than the contract had agreed before... we will make it 36 instead of 18," Maliki told reporters.

"We have to provide Iraq with airplanes to safeguard its sovereignty," he said.

Sure, civilians could do this, but having our Air Force there for safeguarding their sovereignty could be a powerful reason to keep us.

I don't think we'll have nearly as many US forces in Iraq as I want after this year. I just hope it will be enough.

The Indian Fighter Competition

I've commented on the Indian fighter purchase competition. Our entries lost and I think it was a mistake on India's part. It is surely an important issue. I'm a ground-centric kind of guy, and even I think that the Indian air force is the key to Indian defense needs right now, and the fighter decision is India's most important defense question this decade.

DID has a nice discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of all the planes involved in the competition.

I know that after a century of focusing on security interests in an arc from Western Europe, to the Middle East, and on to the Western Pacific, it is not a habit of Americans to think of the Indian subcontinent as a major theater of interest. That region was a gap in the arc we focused on.

But a new arc from the Middle East to the Western Pacific (with a major extension southeast to Indonesia, Australia, and New Zealand) is emerging as the main front given the rise of a potentially hostile China.

We need to pay more attention to what India does. How India chooses its new fighters is as good a place to start as any.

Stopping a Revolt?

The resignation of a bunch of top Turkish generals was certainly shocking:

Turkey's president acknowledged Saturday that the resignation of the nation's top military commanders was unprecedented, but he said it would not cause a crisis.

The commanders suddenly quit Friday to protest the arrest of dozens of generals as suspects in an alleged plot to overthrow the country's Islamic-rooted government.

Was there even a plot? If so, it seems strange that the plotters would have just quit rather than trigger the plot. The government has imprisoned 250 officers that could just be a purge of secular officers. Those resigning say they did so in protest of the arrests.

Victor Hanson addresses the issue in light of the widening divisions between the hitherto secular armed forces leadership and the consciously Islamic civilian rulers and sees a revived Turkey emerging, after the armed forces are Islamicized, that doesn't really care about its Western ties:

At some point, an ambitious Turkey, its military and government now in sync as in past Ottoman fashion, will reassert its prior influence in the Eastern Mediterranean and Aegean without too much worry over what a NATO rendered impotent in Libya, an imploding European Union, or a nearly insolvent U.S. might say.

Could be. Although I doubt that in the long run there is danger of close Turkish-Iranian relations. My Dictionary of Wars lists 9 "Turko-Persian Wars of [insert year]." I was just scanning so there may have been some named wars, too.

For right now, I want to know if there is no crisis, as the Turkish president states, right now. Turkey has been leaning forward in opposition to the Syrian government's crackdown. With violence in Syria spreading to oil producing areas in the east (there have also been stories of pipeline bombings out there), the Syrian government may be faced with an accelerated need to choose between flight or massive killing to subdue the rebellion.

What will Turkey do if the Syrian government decides to wade in and start killing civilians on a large scale? And what does the turmoil in the Turkish armed forces mean for that decision? Does it make intervention by Turkey less likely?

Or does the Turkish government decide it would rather have their wounded and angry military engaged with a foreign mission rather than nurse grievances against their government?

Will Turkey stop a revolt in Istanbul by supporting a revolt in Damascus?

UPDATE: Austin Bay outlines the resignation issue. I honestly don't know enough to worry or not worry about developments. Turkey has been distancing itself from us for nearly a decade now, it is clear (the refusal to let 4th Infantry Division into Turkey to assault northern Iraq in 2003 was stunning to me). That is disturbing enough. But Turkey is in a dangerous part of the world with often hostile Russians, Persians, and Arabs close by. Do the Turks really want to alienate us completely?

Is Prime Minister Erdogan a Turk who is a Moslem or an Islamist who happens to be a Turk? And are his followers strongly one or the other? I don't assume one man can drag an unwilling country too far in the direction they don't want.

Friday, July 29, 2011

At War With America

Can we finally, at long last, notice that Iran is waging war on us?

The U.S. Treasury has accused Iran of supporting Al-Qaeda and slapped financial sanctions on six people it says are operatives for the terrorist organization in Pakistan, Iran, Kuwait, and Qatar.

The agency said on July 28 that Iran is a "critical transit point for funding to support Al-Qaeda's activities in Afghanistan and Pakistan" and said it had uncovered a network that "serves as the core pipeline through which Al-Qaeda moves money, facilitators, and operatives from across the Middle East to South Asia."

We'll see more attacks like this in Afghanistan if the Taliban and al Qaeda can count on continued support (advice and material) from Iran:

A group of suicide bombers attacked several government buildings in central Afghanistan Thursday, killing at least 19 people and wounding 37 others in one of the deadliest attacks to hit the country in recent months.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the coordinated attack in Tarin Kot, the capital of Uruzgan province. The group said it used a team of six suicide bombers to strike at the governor's house, police headquarters and the base of a militia commander who provides security to NATO convoys.

The initial explosions were followed by heavy gun battles between militants and Afghan security forces and guards. A NATO spokesman said the international coalition sent reinforcements, including air support, to help the Afghan forces repel the assault.

Once Iran has nuclear weapons that they believe will shield them from our power (assuming that Iran doesn't want to test the proposition that Israel is a "one-nuke state"), what more will they do to wage war on us?

And if our response is muted now, what will we do then?

Between Hegemony and Colonialism

China and some Middle Eastern countries have discovered that simply buying prime land in Africa to raise crops and then export them back to the mother country is way better than simply controlling an entire poor country, with all the problems of governing and controlling the people which that method requires:

Rich countries grabbing farmland in Africa to feed their growing populations can leave rural populations there without land or jobs and make the continent’s hunger problem more severe, an environmental think tank said on Tuesday.

The trend is accelerating as wealthier countries in the Middle East and Asia, particularly China, seek new land to plant crops, lacking enough fertile ground to meet their own food needs, the Worldwatch Institute said.

I have no particular expertise to judge whether this is more of a problem than an opportunity for Aftican countries (they earn money and get access to modern crop methods, no?), but I do know that if a European country or America was doing it, it would automatically be condemned widely as evil.

Just On the Other Side

So a brave conscientious objector and anti-war Moslem American soldier decided he had no conscience problem with waging war on America by plotting to attack Ford Hood troops.

As Instapundit often noted during the Iraq War protests, sometimes the anti-war people aren't so much pacifists or against the particular war as they are really just on the other side of the war cheerleading for our defeat.

I also have to ask why a Moslem soldier in the American Army would have a conscience problem in waging war in either Iraq or Afghanistan where we defend Moslems and fight at the side of Moslems against jihadis. Oh yeah, I guess it is because we defend Moslems at the side of other Moslems from people just like that arrested soldier.

Nail this guy (assuming, as my lawyer advises that I mention, if he is truly found guilty of what he is accused of plotting). If plotting to kill troops and civilians on an American military base isn't treason, what is?

Desert Raiders

I missed this since I was out of town at the time, but a week ago the Libyan rebels launched an attack in the deep southwest from positions in the deep southeast (tip to Austin Bay, who has an interesting article):

The rebels captured a small village south of Sebha on Monday. The fall of Sebha, one of Col. Gadhafi's three regional power centers, would be a huge symbolic and strategic blow.

The city of 130,000 is a logistics hub for the regime, channeling food, fuel and other war supplies northward from southern farmlands and neighboring Algeria, Chad and Niger, said rebel leaders.

This is the map the article provides:


I'm sure Western advisers had a hand in suggesting and organizing that move. Austin Bay notes the significance beyond the logistics impact:

The political effects of the attack may be even more important. Sebha is the hometown of many Gadhafi political and military loyalists. It now requires protection -- Gadhafi faces a seventh front.

If the loyalists had followed through with efforts in the deep southeast outside of our no-fly zone, they wouldn't have had this setback.

The rebels are making real if painfully slow progress in the war (and are making progress on the eastern coastal front, snuffing out loyalist resistance in Burayqah/Brega), and Khaddafi is slowly losing. With NATO efforts to achieve some sort of political agreement, I can only assume that the alliance worries it will fall apart faster than Khaddafi's side will.

The sad thing is that if Libya is de facto partitioned, it will look like a Khaddafi victory to have survived the attack of the world's greatest military alliance, even in a rump Libya largely centered around Tripoli.

But if we had--as I wanted early on--simply helped the eastern rebels survive without making Khaddafi's immediate defeat our goal (although I admit it would have required direct intervention in the air as we did, rather than mere diplomatic and material support as I wanted), we would have viewed our intervention to allow a "free" (whatever that would mean in practice) East Libya to emerge as a victory.

"Leading from behind" would have looked brilliant; Britain would have gotten important diplomatic advantages over Germany in regard to French friendliness; and France's Sarkozy would have gotten a small but glorious military victory to ease his path to election victory.

But we go to war with the strategy we have and not the strategy we would like to have, I guess. Deep desert raids are neat and all, but we arent' willing to commit the forces to achieve victory so we are unlikely to get victory.

No Cover From Our Troops

This is pretty cool:

The U.S. Army Driver’s Vision Enhancer-Family of Systems (DVE-FOS) program now has a second supplier (BAE) to help with production (and keeping prices down). The army and marines are buying nearly two billion dollars worth of DVE equipment. DVE is an infrared (heat sensing) system that consists of a 2.5 kg (5.5 pound) sensor, and a flat panel display that shows the driver what is in front of the vehicle, despite night, fog, smoke or dust. DVE can spot standing man in a sandstorm at 190 meters, while at night, in clear weather, a stationary vehicle can be seen at 1,700 meters (over a mile).

Along with responsive precision firepower, the ability to operate in periods of poor visibility will make our troops faster and more dangerous for our enemies.

May we never have to face an enemy as well-equipped and trained as our troops.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Thank You For Your Interest in the US Military

After trying back in June to intercept one of our U-2 reconnaissance planes flying in international waters between China and Taiwan, the Chinese have told us we should stop that.

We replied that we will file their request with the others:


Truly, you can tell that Admiral Mullen will give the Chinese position deep consideration:

“The Chinese don’t like our routine reconnaissance flights in international air space, and we don’t like any attempt to inhibit freedom of navigation and access to the global commons, to include international waters and airspace,” he said.

How balanced! They don't like it when we do something legal and we don't like it when they try to stop us from doing something that is legal.

Oddly Familiar

There was quite a reaction in China to what should have been a routine abuse of state power:

Chinese police have quelled a mass riot sparked by rumours that a disabled fruit seller had been beaten to death by local officials.

State media reported that hundreds of people threw stones and clashed with police on the streets of Anshun, in the southern Guizhou province.

Oh yeah, kind of like how the Arab Spring started in Tunisia.

How Chinese rulers can sleep well at night is beyond me. They'll find that the aircraft carrier fleet they are building will be quite useless in places like Anshun.

Fish Funeral

Lamb's second Betta fish died. She's older now and even remarked that she cried for 10 minutes unlike her first experience when she cried for a day (off and on).

But she has expectations for a fish funeral. She wanted a casket. So I scrounged my last ring box with some tissue paper. And she wanted a headstone. So I cut a piece of scrap wood, painted it and inscribed it with the information about the beloved fish, and hot-glued popsicle sticks on it to stick in the ground. Lamb thought it was all right. So I dug the grave next to the first fish and buried the box, and Lamb arranged rocks around the headstone as decorations.

She wants a new fish. And she'll love that fish, too.

I'm not a fish person. But I've been to two fish funerals now. Although as a child I did bury two turtles.

Life goes on.

The Sky is Not Falling

Once again we find that a climate computer model is not actually the same as climate reality (tip to Instapundit):

NASA satellite data from the years 2000 through 2011 show the Earth's atmosphere is allowing far more heat to be released into space than alarmist computer models have predicted, reports a new study in the peer-reviewed science journal Remote Sensing. The study indicates far less future global warming will occur than United Nations computer models have predicted, and supports prior studies indicating increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide trap far less heat than alarmists have claimed.

The climate scientist "consensus" doesn't understand the climate and their efforts to tell us how to solve something--at enormous costs--they haven't proven is a problem is just amazing.

UPDATE: The climate scientists counter-attack, claiming the study does not "debunk" man-caused global warming and the associated claims of bad things and advice for what we should do.

That's fine. In this post I didn't claim the study debunks global warming. I said it shows that the models are not reality and we shouldn't base policy on assumptions that the model is reality. Even the study author agrees with the counter-attack's point, saying:

Spencer agreed that his work could not disprove the existence of manmade global warming. But he dismissed research on the ancient climate, calling it a "gray science."

And even a critic of Spencer's study gets the bigger point:

Dessler, the A&M climatologist said that he doubted the research would shift the political debate around global warming.

"It makes the skeptics feel good, it irritates the mainstream climate science community, but by this point, the debate over climate policy has nothing to do with science," Dessler said. "It's essentially a debate over the role of government," surrounding issues of freedom versus regulation.

Global warming is just the latest excuse to impose socialist economic and government structures on people who want nothing to do with them and can only be scared into letting it happen.

So Logically ...

The Navy needs numbers. Too few hulls, no matter how good, can't be everywhere they are needed at the same time. I've said we need to pick a number and then figure out how to use the money we have (not the money we hope to have) to reach that number. The Navy has picked a number, at least:

Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert, Vice Chief of Naval Operations, U.S. Navy: On current ability to meet needs of commanders in field, “To meet Combatant Commanders needs unconstrained, doing some analysis, I need about 400 ships. I have 285 ships.”

So we've got that. But the Navy still wants all the big deck carriers it can retain. That isn't choosing. We can have 400 hulls or we can have eleven super carriers. We can't have both. We might not be able to have either, actually, but we do have to choose to move one way or the other. Eleven carriers means fewer other ships we can actually maintain; or getting closer to 400 total ships in the battle force means we have significantly fewer than 11 super carriers on active service.

Well actually, the Navy is choosing. It is choosing to have too many ships to maintain properly and having too few ships to do all we need. The Navy can choose to evolve the fleet wisely or let it evolve on its own. We're seeing that already.

The Navy shouldn't pretend it can get all the money it needs from Congress to buy all the ships it wants at the price it pretends our shipyards can deliver them. Effects follow logically from the choices our Navy makes--or doesn't make. We can count on that.

Can we not learn a lesson from the Russians who foolishly clung to their Soviet-level arsenal for far too long in the vain hope that somehow the money would show up to keep that massive force alive?

A Hollowed Ship for a Hollow War

According to my Jane's email update, Britain will send the de-planed (the British have no more ship-based planes until the F-35 is ready) Illustrious aircraft carrier with attack helicopters to fight Libya:

UK military planners are preparing plans to deploy the Royal Navy's (RN's) remaining Invincible-class aircraft carrier, HMS Illustrious , to the Mediterranean Sea with a squadron of attack helicopters embarked to sustain strike operations against Libya into 2012. At least one of the RN's new Type 45 Daring-class destroyers is expected to be deployed on the type's first combat mission to accompany HMS Illustrious if the plans are approved by the UK National Security Council[.]

Now, the amphibious warfare ship Ocean is there with a dozen Apache helicopters.

We'll see if there is a war going on when "Lusty" gets there.

UPDATE: I can often count on the lads at Strategypage to cover events I notice. This is good background on the larger picture of British naval aviation.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Welcome to the Arctic

During the Cold War, the main front between NATO and the Soviet Union was West Germany. The Arctic region was our flank and was where Soviet fleet elements would sortie from to take a shot at our sea lines of communication between North America and Western Europe. When we won the Cold War and the Soviet Union itself collapsed, the conventional military threat to NATO dissolved. But with more attention being paid to the Arctic in a scramble for resources, the Arctic is becoming the front line between NATO and Russia. As I've noted before, Canada is now on the front line.

So Canada must adapt, and in the process bolster their claims to sovereignty up there (even claims America does not recognize). But one Cold War relic could help Canada out. The Arctic was a Cold War front line in one respect--Soviet nuclear missiles (or bombers) would come from that region heading for America, and we and the Canadians built up the infrastructure to detect and/or defend (in the case of the bombers) against that threat. That infrastructure could be of use to Canada for their new frontline mission:

The Canadian military is looking to construct new "hubs" - small military bases that consist of a runway and a supply warehouse in areas the Forces believe they might need to suddenly deploy to - in the North. But existing infrastructure already exists in Churchill, Man. For many years, Churchill was the military's major base in the North. It could be so again. It is a deep sea port and its runways were used by American B-52 bombers during the Cold War, so it could likely accommodate the C-17, the largest cargo planes in the Canadian fleet and the centrepiece of our northern search and rescue plans. The Canadian Forces, specifically the navy and air Force, were based in Churchill through-out the Cold War and their buildings, airstrips and officer accommodations still stand in the town, though now abandoned.

Expanding the Canadian Forces' presence in Churchill would have dual civilian and military benefits as the Port of Churchill is central to creating an Arctic gateway. The Arctic gateway concept seeks to create a trade route through the centre of North America, using the railroad that links Winnipeg to Churchill to ship goods at a reduced distance to Russian and Asian markets.

The Canadians have a great interest in looking north and will devote more resources to defending their interests there. It will be intersting to see how Canada adapts to being the front line of NATO needing the help of alliance members rather than being the rear area sending help to the front.

UPDATE: Russia intends to send some of their only combat ready forces to the Arctic, showing how important the area is becoming:

Units of the Russian Airborne Troops may be deployed in the Arctic as part of a permanent multi-branch contingent in the region, the Airborne Troops chief of staff said on Thursday.

Don't be surprised. Front lines always have troops on both sides of the line. Especially when the line is in dispute.

Pass the Popcorn?

North Korea will stage large-scale military exercises:

South Korean government sources say, based on information from intelligence teams, North Korea appears poised for a rare, large-scale military drill.

Government officials, who do not want to be named, say they are “observing closely” North Korean positions. But they say there are no indications the massing of military personnel appears to be anything more than a drill.

Unless the North Korean government has actually decided to roll the dice and try to reverse the erosion of their regime with an invasion of South Korea, this could be quite entertaining.

One, it will eat up a lot of North Korean war reserves to move their stuff around and keep it running.

Two, it won't scare South Korea into passivity and prompt an eagerness to send aid north to keep the huge North Korean killing machine on its leash? Why? Because the balance of forces has been tilting in favor of the south for years now, and actually seeing the North Korean military in action with its museum-quality machinery will provide us with a whole lot of opportunities to see just how crappy the North Korean military has become. I doubt even the northern rulers fully appreciate how bad it is. The look on their faces when they see their glorious army thrashing about like a beached and injured whale would be worth the price of admission alone.

And it won't scare us into signing a peace treaty with North Korea, as North Korea demands. We shouldn't do that, of course, since North Korea likes to maintain the fiction that South Korea doesn't really exist except as a puppet of America, and so North Korea won't sign a peace treaty with South Korea--just with us.

Still, I retain worry that it isn't an exercise. Yes, North Korea would almost surely lose the war. But there is a small chance that breaks could all go Pyongyang's way and lead to an improbable victory.

And the way things are breaking down inside North Korea, there may very well be a higher chance of the army becoming a threat to the regime. Kim Jong-Il and his cronies wouldn't be the first rulers to send an army they don't fully trust into a war to, at the very least, keep that army busy with a foreign enemy rather than letting it sit around in the barracks pondering how much better things would be if they were in charge themselves.

North Korea's rulers might think that even if the army gets decimated in a war, fear of North Korea's nuclear capabilities (whether it exists or not) could stay our hand and keep us from counter-attacking into North Korea. And the shock of even winning a war that came out of the blue might prompt South Korea to open the spigot of aid after the war. Under those circumstances, chopping up the North Korean army might be a favor to the regime in the north that can't afford to demobilize disillusioned and hungry soldiers. I mean, as long as it doesn't go any farther than that and things go according to the North Korean script.

But who knows? North Korea might win a war and provide North Korea with enough loot to keep their racket going for another generation. As unlikely as that seems, if it is the only way out the northern leaders see, they might take a shot. So sit back and enjoy the exercises if it is only a misguided effort to bully South Korea.

But keep our weapons within easy reach in case it isn't. Crazy rulers can do crazy (to us) things. They might not think that the sinking of the South Korean corvette and the shelling of that South Korean island were wrong in concept. They just might believe they were too small in scale to achieve a proper respectful attitude in Seoul.

Ignoring the Obvious

From our glorious State Department, which sometimes makes the Corps Diplomatique look like special forces, comes this foray into cause and effect:

The Obama administration says Osama bin Laden's death has raised the risk of anti-American violence worldwide.

Got it. Bin Laden dead. More danger. Cause and effect.

Wait. What? Killing bin Laden has made the world more dangerous for Americans?

But didn't Democrats spend more than half a decade complaining that we'd "taken our eye off the ball" by fighting in Iraq and therefore failing to devote our resources to finding and killing Osama bin Laden, the true source of our jihadi problem?

But now we are being led to believe that killing bin Laden only inflamed our jihadi problem?

I know this is difficult for State Department types and most Europeans to grasp. But noting that jihadis try to kill us whether we've ignored or killed bin Laden misses the point that the jihadis are trying to kill us regardless of what we do. It isn't about bin Laden's brain wave status or any other policy. We really haven't caused their hatred of us and we really can't appease them by doing something we aren't doing now or halting something we are doing now.

Much like trying to kill us whether bin Laden was alive or dead, the jihadis will keep trying to kill us whether we buy their oil or don't and whether we do this or that or don't do this or that.

So let's just keep killing the jihadis when we find them. We can beat them--and we could crush al Qaeda prime if we keep hammering them (tip to Instapundit). And try to make sure that the time we are buying will allow the Moslem world to defeat the jihadis within them and strangle the ideology that breeds that vermin (who victimize fellow Moslems far more than they hurt us, remember).

The war on terror is not about us and it never has been.

Plan B in Northern Iraq

We'll be leaving Iraq and so our buffer role will be slashed. Yet the need for a buffer in the gray zone between Arab Iraq and the Kurdish north is still needed. So this is how we will try to reduce the friction:

Iraq's experimental Golden Lions security force made up of old foes is getting ready to stand alone as U.S. forces withdraw along the potentially explosive fault line of Kirkuk, the disputed northern oil city.

Assembled as a beacon of stability in a volatile mix of Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen, the Golden Lions brought together Iraqi soldiers and police with the peshmerga of the semi-autonomous northern Kurdish region under the watchful eye of U.S. troops, who act as a buffer between the wary allies.

The force is 380 strong. I'd be happier if an American battalion worked with it for as long as we need to reduce friction. But then, I've been going on about having at least 3 American combat brigades plus special forces (plus supporting forces, totaling 25,000) remain in Iraq after this year for a while now.

Overeating

I'm worried about having sufficient numbers in our Navy to have ships where we need them. But before we can worry about having more ships, we absolutely need to make sure the ships we have are combat ready. They are not, according to my Jane's email updates.

Says Jane's, "The US Navy (USN) is relying heavily on a maintenance option the service considers 'a drastic measure to only be utilised as a last resort' to allow its ships to pass basic inspections and maintain the fleet's operational effectiveness, according to previously unreleased data provided to the US Congress and obtained by Jane's . In four consecutive quarters in 2010 the USN a cannibalisation rate that was twice the maximum allowed limit (MAL) of about one instance per four ships (.28) [.]"

This should be unacceptable. Instead it is the new normal. Or do you think that even less money for the military over the next decade will have no effect on this state of affairs?

Living by the Sword

Blowback is a bitch.

Even aside from the great advantage we (and the entire region) can enjoy from the fall of the Assad regime, which has become conduit for Iran's destructive foreign policy, we can also enjoy the sheer justice of Syria coming under sectarian pressure. Syria spent years stoking sectarian differences inside Iraq hoping to spark a full-blown civil war that would leave Iraq in chaos and vulnerable to jihadis and Sadrists who would pick up the pieces. Syria and their Iranian overlords failed in that project. Lots of Iraqis died in the process, of course. And the remnants of their campaign lingers on even as it has no hope of succeeding right now (but until they are wiped out, they could be the core to build a new insurgency--just ask the Taliban what they think about letting the Northern Alliance survive their civil war).

And now, Syria faces the demon it unleashed in Iraq:

The danger of sectarian strife is real, analysts say. It might even appeal to the authorities -- and some of their opponents -- as a way to break the deadlock. But it carries high risks for the Assad dynasty, as well as the opposition.

"This is a dangerous strategy for a regime trying to survive," said Eugene Rogan, director of the Middle East Center at Oxford University. "You watch your army disintegrate if sectarianism becomes an issue." ...

"The security solution hasn't worked. The regime has decided to go for civil strife because it senses that it is losing. The protests are spilling over and spreading to the capital," said a Damascus-based Arab journalist who declined to be named.

Here's the really funny part:

Sectarian paranoia is evident, with Assad trusting only two elite units commanded by his brother Maher -- the 4th Armored Division and the Republican Guard -- as well as secret police and Alawite militia, known as Shabbiha, to deal with dissent.

"The coherence (of the security forces) is already in question. Sectarianism is already a problem, the loyalty of other units cannot be counted on," Rogan said.

Throw in advisers, at least, from Iran and Hezbollah on the Syrian government side. But the point is that the bulk of the army can't be trusted even now. Assad has two divisions (the Republican Guard is four brigades strong, including an artillery brigade) plus para-militaries and secret police goons. He's slowly losing while the rest of the largely Sunni army sits disarmed in their barracks. How long into a sectarian strategy by the government would those idle troops sit there before deserting or joining the protesters?

Boy Assad's father had it right, hit 'em hard and hit 'em fast, like he did in Hama. Shock them into passivity. But after the slow killing has failed, I don't think shock and awe would work. The protesters have been desensitized to government violence. I think the odds are that the people would be scared into open revolt rather than protests and that the army would splinter.

And now let's get into the real fun of watching what goes around comes around. What will all those Baath Party Sunni Arabs from Iraq do when the sectarian war comes? They are transnational in theory. Might they not side with the Sunni people against the Alawite Baathists and become the core of an educated and experienced government of Sunni Arabs? (For that matter, so too are any jihadis who got stuck in the pipeline inside Syria on their way from the wider Arab world to Iraq.)

It seemed like a good idea at the time to sow sectarian strife in Iraq and harvest the wealth of the Iraqi Sunni Arab refugees that Damascus welcomed into Syria in massive numbers.

Now those Sunni Arab Baathist refugees are a potential element of a power struggle within Syria. Back in 2006, we refused to run from Iraq despite the cries from our anti-war side to retreat. We surged and then we won. So instead of winning that first bet on the power of the Sunni-Shia divide, the Syrians may find they must go double or nothing just to survive.

So those who have hopes that protests might unseat Assad and bring real reform should give thanks to President George W. Bush and the soldiers and Marines on the ground in 2007 who broke the back of the Syrian-Iranian effort to spark a civil war inside Iraq. The blowback from that operation is burning inside Syria right now and may blow up yet.

This Time for Sure?

I've stopped looking for the latest event in North Korea that would signal the collapse of the regime or the state itself. Normality in North Korea is so bad that figuring out what bad thing is so out of the ordinary as to signal doom is pointless (from my vantage point, anyway). But Strategypage writes that the regime is certainly teetering as the base crumbles:

[The] North Korean police state is coming apart. This is not like in the past, when there were often rumors of imminent collapse in the north. This time, there are more ways to get factual evidence of what is happening.

It isn't just the people taking it in the pants, anymore. The pain has spread to the military and secret police. Only the still-pampered elites thrive. The rest are enduring at best and starving at worst. And even without a free press and freedom of speech, the people of North Korea know how bad it is and that it isn't that way in the rest of the world.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Realism Falters

We can't catch a break. We practice foreign policy realism and look the other way while the Sunni minority government on Bahrain cracks down on their Arab Spring moment, and still our naval base is under threat (and I stood by that choice given the importance of the base to America). Strategypage says we are looking for another base option on the western side of the Persian Gulf, just in case.

So, Frisk the Norwegians and Moslems?

The left seems to be making a lot of the fact that the Norwegian mass murderer is a self-proclaimed Christian.

Not that the left gives jihadis that benefit of the doubt when they claim they are true Moslems. No, in that case they aren't "true" Moslems at all. And I think there is some truth to that, although with thinner evidence than the same conclusion applied to modern Christian mass murderers.

So unless the left wants to conclude that being a Christian led President Obama to bomb Libya (or will the left embrace "birtherism" to help that along?), the left might want to tone down the clinging to Thor and guns stuff unless they want the logical conclusion to be that we profile Norwegians and Moslems at airport security checkpoints.

I guess that's about all I have to add to this. This is a domestic tragedy and my sympathies are all I can really report on.

Unless further arrests show the killer cooperated or had contacts with Moslem jihadis, already clearly angry with Norway. Then we can start the whole "significant operational links" argument in the snow, I guess.

Oh, I guess the killer does have one major thing in common with jihadis. Like jihadis who kill mostly other Moslems in their war on the West, the Norwegian killer murdered his own kind rather than target actual Moslems who apparently inspired his rage. So there you go.

UPDATE: Related thoughts from Delingpole.

Getting Strait to the Point

China recently scrambled jets to intercept one of our spy planes flying through international air space over the Taiwan Strait:

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was asked about a June 29 incident in which two Chinese Sukhoi-27 fighters briefly crossed a line in the center of the Taiwan Strait that is considered an unofficial air boundary between both countries.

Asian media reported the Chinese jets were attempting to intercept a U.S. U-2 reconnaissance plane.

"We won't be deterred from flying in international airspace," Mullen told reporters in Washington in response.

I saw other reports that said the Taiwanese scrambled their older F-16s to intercept the Chinese, in turn. But no contact was made. (Ah, here it is.)

Since we aren't going anywhere, as Mullen stated, it certainly helps Taiwan's case for modernizing their air force that their older F-16s were the only friendly force standing between our U-2 and another EP-3 incident.

You'd think the Chinese would avoid giving the pro-sale factions here a selling point so easily.

Now We're Just Pretending to Win?

After pretending to wage war on Khaddafi's Libya, the NATO alliance is willing to pretend to win that pretend war:

Efforts to find a deal to end the civil war in Libya intensified on Tuesday, with a U.N. special envoy heading for Tripoli and Western powers signaling that Muammar Gaddafi could stay in the country if he gives up power.

U.N. envoy Abdul Elah al-Khatib, who visited the rebels in Benghazi on Monday, is looking for a "political process" that will end a war that has failed to dislodge Gaddafi despite months of rebel attacks backed by NATO bombing raids.

France and other Western members of the anti-Gaddafi coalition have signaled that the Libyan leader could stay in the country provided he and his circle agree to step down.

Once the Western and UN diplomats are circling the area, you know that victory is dead.

I have to ask, since this seems to be the fig leaf for NATO to pretend we've won, what does it mean for Khaddafi to "agree to step down"?

Remember, Khaddafi doesn't officially have a government title:

Qadhafi remained the de facto head of state and secretary general of the GPC until 1980, when he gave up his office. ...[He] holds no formal office[.]

So what do we do, let him restate his non-official position? Make him promise not to de facto rule the country even as he stays in it and continues to have no formal position?

Just what would it mean other than allowing NATO to pretend it changed the regime?

UPDATE: Khaddafi is surely hurting in his rump realm under pressure from rebels and bombed by NATO, but he isn't appearing desperate:

The U.N. envoy, Abdul Elah al-Khatib, arrived in Tripoli straight from talks with rebels in their eastern stronghold of Benghazi on Monday.

He met Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi Ali Al-Mahmoudi who said they had a productive dialogue -- but about implementing U.N. resolutions, not negotiating an end to the five-month-old conflict in which neither side seems to have the upper hand.

"This aggression (air strikes) needs to stop immediately, without that we cannot have a dialogue, we cannot solve any problems in Libya," Mahmoudi told a news conference afterwards.

Bold words. Can he back them up?

I mean, I'm not shocked that Khaddafi has survived. If you've followed this blog on the war, that's clear. His forces have nowhere to go, are far better trained and organized, face no trained and equipped army, and have adapted to the heavily restricted NATO air campaign (the air campaign has hurt the loyalists and saved the rebels in the first day of attacks, but alone it has not been decisive in regime change).

But NATO is one good intelligence tip away from landing a smart bomb within its blast radius of Khaddafi. This war is still a race between whether that bomb hits first or NATO will to fight falters first. Does Khaddafi really think he can insist on a halt to bombing before talks start? Nice work if you can get it, as the saying goes.

I think he should get talks going before playing the "halt bombing or I walk from the talks" card. Get the Europeans talking and they'll talk. They love to talk. They hate it when the talking stops. They'll cave on bombing then, not wanting to be blamed for the "failure" of diplomacy.

UPDATE: So who will dare fight during Ramadan? Khaddafi would be wise to declare a unilateral Ramadan ceasefire. Practically speaking, he's mostly just sitting and taking the punches anyway. Why not make it official? If the rebels dare to fight he can tag them as un-Islamic. And if NATO keeps bombing? Well, the propaganda writes itself, no? And this despite the fact that historically Moslems have had no problem continuing to wage war during Ramadan. And we have managed just fine in doing the same through years of fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. But NATO is a lot shakier as a group.

Monday, July 25, 2011

I Avoid Motion Sickness

Summer really feels like it is here when the carnival comes to town. The Ann Arbor Jaycees sponsor it and I hope it is always a hit and keeps coming back.

That happened a couple weeks ago, actually. Last year, for the first time, some of the rides induced some nausea. I like to think that it was because the carnival lacked the "buffer" ride of the bumper cars. The kids like them and so I could always drag them off for a ride there and let my stomach catch up with me from wherever it was flung on some other spinning or whipping ride. Or maybe I'm getting old. Hard for me to say.

My Ex and I took them for a sneak peak the first night just to see the lights and sample the rides.

The real enjoyment started the next day in blazing heat with wrist bands that promise unlimited rides. We stayed 2-1/2 hours and went through quite a bit of lemonade.

The lemonade is always suspect. You can get a medium for $4.00 or a large for $5.00. The large can be refilled for $3.00. I suspect the medium actually has as much lemonade as the large. Actually, I suspect the medium actually has more and they want you to think that at worst they are the same so you break even with the large and a refill over two mediums. But I still tip the guy. What the heck. Carnival life can't be easy so why complain too much about small ruses?

And really, for $20 per wrist band, the kids get lots of entertainment. And Lamb is just barely tall enough so that she doesn't need me to go on the rides. I can send Mister with her and stay on the ground firmly united with my stomach. So there are smiles all around this trip.


And some of the usual rides were great fun, like the hang glider-like one:


The giant slide has lost some of its allure, although Lamb still tried it a couple times:


And one looked like a real stomach separator. Mister agreed. Lamb loved it:


Lamb is on there with a little friend from school who she ran into while we were there.

But no ferris wheel this year! How is that possible? Along with no bumper cars, those were noticeable losses.

But at least the carousel still had a little appeal:


We went once more on the last day, too. Their aunt (my ex sister-in-law) came along, too, and I got her to go on some of the rides, and avoided all rides for the first time. Woo hoo!

And I ate a corn dog. Man, those are good. Once a year can't kill me, right?

It was even hotter than the first day visit, so this time it was just an hour-and-a-half trip. But they still got their money's worth out of the wrist bands (defined as going on more rides than buying equivalent amounts of tickets instead would have achieved).

Lamb also tried one of the games and won three little stuffed fish which she loves even though they probably cost a tiny fraction of the game price. She also tried the ladder climb but fell off every time despite a kind operator who tried to steady it a bit for her.

We finished up with a trip to the pool for some needed cooling off.

Now, with these memories still fresh, July is almost over. And school starts in September. Good grief! summer just really started, didn't it?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Never Have So Many Paid So Much For So Few

Smart bombs are expensive. We buy a lot since we expect to need them. Europeans bought few because they are expensive and they know we buy a lot and know how to use them.

Early on in the Libya War, there were reports that the NATO allies were running short of those bombs. We haven't run out, so we obviously made do. Strategypage mentions the shortage:

The air campaign in Libya has depleted the smart bomb inventories of some participants. Only eight of 28 NATO nations are participating, with France and Britain dropping most of the bombs. Even so, Denmark and Norway recently exhausted their supplies and are receiving additional smart bombs from Germany, which has not taken part in the Libya operation. The U.S. is also believed to have helped out some other nations who are running low.

Some 2,000 smart bombs have been used in Libya so far.

Wow, only 2,000 used and the shortages started months ago. How many of those 2,000 were US, I wonder?

All that talk about "responsibility to protect (R2P)" will founder when the parliaments of European democracies discover the price of buying the smart bombs that allow intervention without killing off the people you are supposed to protect with off-target dumb bombs.

Of course, that R2P talk would just kill NATO, so the purchasing debate might be moot.

The Sailors are OK

I may be worried that the Navy can't seem to maintain sufficient numbers for a global role, but at least the sailors are of high quality.

Says Strategypage, "While the navy keeps having a difficult time designing and building new ships that it can afford, and do what they are supposed to, the quality of its sailors have never been higher."

Our sailors are the foundation for anything that sails. So we've got that going for us.

Of course, even with reduced numbers, the ships and planes themselves are not OK. This is disturbing: "Currently, about 20 percent of navy ships have failed readiness inspections or are unfit for combat. About 40 percent of ships at sea have one major system broken. About half of combat aircraft and helicopters at sea are not fully functional."

Not to worry, right? So what if our ships aren't ready to fight at full effectiveness? That "smart diplomacy" we are blessed with now will prevent any war in the first place, right? I mean, who could blame foreigners for wanting to attack George W. Bush's America? But now we are in the new and improved (now with hope and change!) Obama's America.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Norway Hammered

Norway has suffered a lot of casualties in the murder spree.

It doesn't appear to be the work of jihadis. But jihadis have had Norway in their sights for years now, for a number of "reasons."

So I'll wait to draw conclusions and stick to offering my sympathies. This was a huge death toll for a small country.

Close But No Cigar

My Jane's email updates notes that China's Shi Lang aircraft carrier (ex-Russian Varyag) will not put to sea until perhaps August:

The much-anticipated first sea trial of China's refurbished aircraft carrier Varyag has been postponed until August at the earliest because unspecified mechanical problems, according to Chinese media. Earlier reports had said the Kuznetsov-class carrier would go to sea on 1 July to coincide with the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party[.]

It will be interesting to see where the Chinese send the ship for its first cruise. It will be a long time before this ship is a military factor rather than a diplomatic factor.

Of course, even when it is a military factor it wouldn't last long in a war with our Navy. It's funny that people who (rightly) worry about the survivability of our carriers in the face of Chinese missiles don't seem to remember that our missiles can sink their ships too.

UPDATE: China says this will be a research and training vessel and not an operational one. Well, yeah. China may build more carriers, so needs to know from experience how to build them. And even if China intended this to be a frontline carrier, it would take years of practice to make it a combat vessel in more than name only. So yes, in the short term it is a research and training vessel. It can be nothing else.

And in the meantime, as it trains and provides research insights, the ship can scare and impress the locals by making training visits to ports in the region and far afield.

Urban Farm

So I went running recently, and spotted this in a drainage ditch next to a strip mall by a sidewalk I use:


Fascinating! Notice that the little farm in the center of the picture gets irrigated from the drainage pipe in the upper left. It is protected from flooding by channels and excess water flows to the bottom. The bed on the right is new and nothing is really growing yet.

I assume this is a garden for some type of spice or herb. It is tiny so can't really be for a food product.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Thinking the Unthinkable

I mentioned reports that we hope that within a year we will have all of our supply lines to Afghanistan bypass Pakistan completely. I hate to think we might have a problem, but that seems to be the trend.

Well, until that happy time, we will try to make sure we can substitute an airlift from nearby airports should Pakistan supply routes be cut off (by an angry Pakistan?).

That's the plan, anyway. It's nice for the Pakistanis to know that.

That Will Leave a Mark

The Chinese are reportedly prepared to use EMP weapons against Taiwan or against our forces trying to intervene to protect Taiwan.

Of course, the problem is that rather than being grateful that China didn't slam a HE warhead into one of our carriers, we might be doubly mad at being nuked--even if only a little.

UPDATE: Strategypage doesn't think that China has managed to develop the long-sought non-nuke EMP weapon. Which is what I assumed and why I think that using a nuke to EMP our carriers is unlikely.

A Girl Thing?

So my daughter had a moment of universal girl mind meld when I took her and Mister back to their mom's.

Earlier, while washing dishes after dinner, I spotted a largish insect on the window inside. It must have come through the screen. It was a firefly so instead of squishing it, I grabbed it and then reached for a jar in the cupboard. I actually managed a live catch and dropped it in the jar, closing the lid with no escape. I hammered a few holes in the lid for air and showed it to Lamb.

By the time it was getting dark and fireflies outside were starting to light up, our firefly was not lighting up. So we took the jar with us for the car ride. I said we'd release the bug at mom's whether it lit or not.

We arrive to let the firefly out and by chance, the neighbor girl and a friend are out on their lawn with jars trying to catch fireflies! I've never noticed that before. So Lamb lets hers out and immediately wants to catch another. The three girls are running on the lawn. They had caught several and give Lamb one; and Lamb spotted one landed on my car that I grabbed. We now had one small and one large. The large one lit up in the jar and we went inside.

I ended up taking them home with Lamb asking me to look up on the Internet (funny how they now grow up to know that this is the key to obscure information) what they eat (pollen, apparently).

But alas, in the morning the big one was belly up. So I released them outside hoping the still one was not dead. Alas, it was an ex-firefly.

But I'll tell Lamb it woke up and flew off. She'd be sad if her desire to keep little bug friends led one to die. I'd hate to spoil that unexpected girl moment she had in pursuit of fireflies with other little girls.

Retente

It's hard not to think that our "reset" with Russia is little more than an update of "detente" with the Soviet Union.

What makes it hard to justify is that Russia is so much weaker than the Soviet Union. Why do we need to make concessions for better relations? If we are so bent on crushing Russia (as Russia believes) and if we have the power to do so (outside nuclear weapons, we do), why isn't Russia giving us concessions to keep us from finishing the poor buggers off?

I mean, good God, the Russians are burying their heads in the sand (or elsewhere) when it comes to Chinese power and Chinese intent in their Far East. Why? Because Russia knows they are weak and can't do much about China. And if the Russians raise a peep, China might react harshly--unlike the West that eagerly wants to know what we did to anger the poor little darlings in Moscow. Our fault, for sure, right?

Not that I want to start a new Cold War with Russia. They should have taken the opportunity to join the West. But they did not. Paranoid Russia is waging a cold war already in their own minds against imaginary American plots, which spills over into their policies.

I keep hoping that the old Soviets in leadership will die off and maybe Russia will join the West. But the new Russians are turning out to be just as bad.

Communism didn't make Russians paranoid, it seems. It just made them less efficient and more brutal.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Save the Planet!

So, if preventing the global temperature from going up is so important, will Warmists support burning coal to halt the effects of global warming?

Well, considering their opposition to nuclear power and natural gas production through fracking--and using both instead of oil would reduce carbon dioxide emissions-- I think we know the answer is "no."

Well, I guess global warming can't be so bad if every solution isn't on the table.

Although if the objective is simply to tell us how to live our lives, then their opposition becomes clearer.

Enough?

The French have decided that the war is taking so long that negotiating an end to the war might be easier.

Khaddafi is weak but he has been too strong to topple in this semi-war. So now the alliance is willing to simply end the war.

Do They Believe in Us?

This author argues that China would prefer to drive us from the Western Pacific not with war, but by convincing neighboring countries that rely on us that it would be safer to come to terms with China and buy their safety that way:

Does China want war with the United States? Almost certainly not. What China does want, apparently, is to shift the military balance in the Western Pacific so that the United States will not be able to provide credible military support to longtime security partners such as Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.

We had a word for this phenomenon during the Cold War: Finlandization. Then, the United States sought to maintain a stable military balance with the Soviet Union. One reason was that if the balance shifted in Moscow’s favor, America’s European allies might conclude that Moscow could not be resisted and would fall under Soviet sway. All of Europe would share the fate of Finland, which remained nominally independent after World War II but abided by foreign policy rules dictated in Moscow.

I can't say I think much of the author's analyses as a general rule, but this is spot on. I've noted the situation myself:

So we have to be careful about maintaining our power in the Pacific and maintaining our reputation for supporting allies and fighting until we win. If any nation, like Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Australia, or Vietnam think that they can't count on us for effective military support, they'll withdraw from the potential balancing coalition against China. And once one country defects, the power potential arrayed against China will drop enough to perhaps push another country to defect and align with China rather than with us.

Thus, even a reduction in our military power that may seem marginal to us could be what tips the system against us in a cascade of defections, causing a dramatic drop in coalition power arrayed against China, and denying us the capability of operating in the western Pacific. Instead of being a rear base to support our allies against China, Guam would become an outpost as we are pushed back to the Aleutians-Hawaii line for our line of defense against Chinese naval power.

War is hard work. Of course China would like to beat us without war. If China wants to take the lead slot, make them work for it, at least.

They Will Be the Best

This article was inspired by a stray comment that Iraq has the best army in the Arab world. It seeks to set the record straight.

Which is fine. We built a counter-insurgency light infantry force and Iraq is only beginning the transition to a conventional force. If there is widespread opinion that the Iraqi army can already stand on its own to defend their borders, great. But I didn't really think many people believed that.

I guess I have no problem with the article at all, which is good and informative, I happily admit; but the idea that but for this article a great ignorance will endure seems a bit much. I could be wrong, in which case I offer extra kudos to the author for the effort.

I think it is fair to say that the Iraqi army will be the best Arab army when we finish building it. We're building good soldiers who have combat experience and with conventional training and equipment, they'll be a solid--not great--army.

Oh, and a month and a half ago I did my own back of the envelope math on the Iraq-Iran conventional balance to show that Iraq still needs our help to deter an Iranian invasion.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Not That There's Anything Wrong With It

Well, in an age of gays in the military, who can be surprised at this?


That's right. A camouflage snuggie. Not that there's anything wrong with it, of course.

It is a perfectly acceptable alternative warming device.

A Quieter, and More Dangerous, Place

Strategypage provides a nice overview of the introduction of precision weapons into our arsenal.

We expect perfection in our bombing with no civilian casualties. Remember that it wasn't that long ago that it was almost collateral damage to hit the military targets if they were fighting near civilians, with all the dumb bombs dropping around them.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Them

I'm late to the article in question below, I know. But the issue it raises won't go away any time soon.

So is media bias to report any hint of anger at conservative events while downplaying actual violence at left wing gatherings a sign that the people in the media by and large prefer big government solutions?

Sure, I imagine the reporters do prefer big government. But the reaction to protests takes place at a much more basic level. I think the answer is personal.

The media is full of people on the left wing. They know the left wing types out there protesting. Indeed, a lot of the media used to be those left wing types out there protesting. So, knowing them, when violence breaks out in a left wing protest, it is easy to see their motives are pure and they are simply--momentarily before calming down--acting out of frustration that they can't do more good things. It will pass. And they mean well.

But the right at a protest is different. The media doesn't really know them. They can't imagine they are up to any good at all. They are viewed as a mass of racist, homophobic, misogynistic, anti-science sloped forehead types. They may be able to stay calm for a while when the cameras are on them, but they are seething with rage. So when there is the tiniest hint of anger, to the media this is just that vast true face of vile anger about to break out and unleash a wave of counter-revolution to undo all the good that the left has done.

I think it is as simple as that. The members of the media give their friends the benefit of the doubt and suspect the worst of those they don't know. Heck, all of their friends think that way, too. Why shouldn't they?

Simply Wonderful

Are we having fun yet (from my Jane's email updates)?

In a speech in June given to the United States' joint analysis centre at RAF Molesworth, published in The Guardian on 30 June, Prince Turki said: "We [Saudi Arabia] cannot live in a situation where Iran has nuclear weapons and we don't. It's as simple as that[.]

What could go possibly wrong in that scenario?

Yeah, I'd hold off on that award ceremony for Secretary Gates.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Better Hope the President Doesn't Hear of This

If the 2012 election is close, would someone consider challenging North Dakota's electoral college votes?

Back in 1889, North Dakota was carved out of the Dakota Territory and admitted to the Union at the same time as South Dakota. Or so everyone thought.

But the state founders who drafted the constitution left out the key requirement that the governor and other top officials take an oath of office, putting the state constitution in conflict with the federal one.

I wouldn't put it past the campaign people to ponder this.

A shame that the man pushing this issue for so long couldn't have waited until 2013.

Encouraging Them to Be Self Sufficent?

Taiwanese are here to urge the Obama administration to sell them needed late-model F-16 fighter planes:

Washington has yet to announce whether it plans to supply the C/Ds, a move that would especially anger mainland China, which opposes all arms sales to Taiwan and regards the democratically governed island as part of its territory. ...

Speculation is growing that the Obama administration, which has sought to improve relations with Beijing, would agree only to the upgrades.

Yang, a former adviser to Taiwan's National Security Council, dismissed as guesswork reports that Vice-President Joe Biden would inform Beijing during a visit next month that the U.S. would not supply the F-16 C/Ds that Taiwan seeks.

This should be a lesson to Taiwan that relying on American support is dangerous. Of course, Taiwan used to buy from the French and others to keep weapons flowing. But we are the last standing. And if we are unreliable, Taiwan would be wise to be able to build their own advanced fighters.

And if they can't do that, nuclear missiles will do in a pinch to make up for conventional deterrence failure.

I mean, we must be intending this result, right? That is a logical response to our failure to supply Taiwan with conventional weapons sufficient to deter China. Surely our "smart" diplomacy understands that basic fact.

Still, another logical result is that Taiwan might be forced out of military weakness to cut a deal with China sacrificing liberty for safety from attack.

Surely, we don't intend that outcome, right?