Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Nuts

The headline is ominous:

Horses could soon be slaughtered for meat in US

So I think, "How long have our supply lines been cut off?"

I mean, nobody told me we're surrounded. Things are bad. But that bad?

I guess I'll pray for clear weather and aerial resupply. Or maybe Winter Storm will rescue us.

The Pakistani Choice

The friendly fire incident that killed two dozen Pakistani security troops was an accident. All we know for sure is that our aircraft and helicopters fired the weapons that killed the Pakistanis. And we know that this was not NATO aggression as the Pakistani government is shamefully insisting to placate their anti-American public (an attitude that the government has also cultivated, thank you very much).

The question is how did it happen? There are a couple possibilities. One, those Pakistani troops were working with the Taliban and were too obvious about shooting at our side. Or, as some NATO officials have suggested, the Taliban engineered the incident by getting between our forces and the Pakistanis, and shooting at us from positions to make it seem like the Pakistanis were shooting.

If I remember correctly, sometimes the North Vietnamese would get between two American units and fire in both directions to get our units shooting at each other.

The second option seems to be the most likely explanation so far, in my opinion. This would reinforce my contention that our alliance with Pakistan is still a net positive. The Taliban may get some help from Pakistan, but their relationship with Pakistan is a net negative and they'd dearly love to break our alliance, in my opinion.

I'll add something else, too, that the Pakistani government should think about. The air strikes took place over two hours. Why wasn't there close enough cooperation to get the strikes stopped? Friendly fire incidents happen in war. Even when an enemy isn't trying to engineer them. Has Pakistan's self-destructive attitude contributed to the death toll of their own soldiers by downgrading contacts with NATO in retaliation for the Osama bin Laden raid or other perceived wrong doing that they've added to their Big Book of Anti-Pakistan Insults and Grievances?

This incident didn't come out of nowhere. The Pakistanis have contributed to the climate that led to it. Perhaps this is a big enough beating with the clue bat to knock some sense into them.

Or maybe they'll just continue to take our money, double deal on the Taliban just enough to make them a net positive ally for us, insanely focus on India as if India wants that cesspool all to themselves, and blame America for their problems.

What will Pakistan choose? I'm almost giddy in my level of anticipation. But hey, this is what foreign policy realism looks like.

UPDATE: Stratfor looks at the incident and environment. This sums it up:

What actually happened early on Nov. 26 is increasingly irrelevant; it is merely a symptom of larger issues that remain unresolved ...

So far, both we and Pakistan believe alliance with the other provides more advantage than disadvantage. Either could change their minds as the situation evolves. Our response is complicated by the fact that as we watch an Islamist, anti-American Iranian regime go nuclear, we could see a nuclear-armed country whose people are rabidly anti-American (did they even listen to the President's Cairo speech reaching out to the Moslem world?) decide that being on our side (however nominally) just isn't worth the risk.

The Situation in a Visit

Vice President Biden visited Iraq to reassure everyone that the departure of our troops doesn't mean we are washing our hands of the country or the region. Obviously, this is directed at Iran as much as Iraqis.

Several parts of the article summarize the situation.

First, Biden:

"Our troops are leaving Iraq, and we are working on a new path together, a new face of this partnership," he added. "This is marking a new beginning of the relationship that will not only benefit the United States of America and Iraq. I believe it will benefit the region and will benefit the world."

That's the big picture that we don't intend to walk away. And that a stable and prosperous friendly Iraq will benefit the region and the world. In contrast to Saddam's Iraq, of course.

Second, this is victory and it was not a wasted effort:

Biden said that people in both countries have had to overcome misperceptions about the relationship. He said people in the U.S. still ask whether it is worth it to spend so much energy and money in Iraq, a country where 4,485 American military personnel have died and tens of thousands of Iraqis have been killed.

"We have jointly demonstrated, it is worth it, it is worth it — as costly and as difficult and sometimes as controversial as it is," he said.

I'll add that we finally have a more realistic estimate of Iraqi casualties instead of the figures used to damn Bush. Yes, we're talking tens of thousands--not hundreds of thousands. At most, 120,000 died. That's a lot. But few died in our liberation campaign. Most died at the hands of jihadis, Baathists, and Sadrists trying to destroy the fledgling democratic Iraqi government.

VP Biden highlighted how many will be associated with our embassy:

Seeking to counter skepticism about why the U.S. will still have such a large presence in Iraq — the largest American embassy in the world — Biden said the U.S. needs to have experts in a wide range of areas "on hand, in country." The U.S. will also have thousands of security contractors to protect the embassy's facilities in Baghdad, Kirkuk, Irbil and Basra and diplomatic personnel.

He wouldn't have to do that if we still had 15K troops or more after this year. But he's trying to make lemonade out of lemons. I hope it works.

And we also have a notice of Iran's little friend in Iraq:

Followers of al-Sadr rallied in Basra and Baghdad on Wednesday, chanting "Biden get out of Iraq," and "No to America."

Why that three-time insurrectionist is still alive is beyond me. I fear we will pay for that oversight.

One thing not mentioned is the Kurdish question. But the Kurds don't seem like they will do something stupid to upset the status quo by seeking pointless formal independence. But it is a point of tension as the Arab majority sorts out issues with the Kurds.

Also, I'd like to take issue with the idea that we won't have troops in Iraq after this month because we wouldn't allow our troops to be subject to Iraqi legal jurisdiction. While technically true, it ignores that we just didn't try to work out an agreement as we have with so many other countries around the world. If we really have restored "smart" diplomacy, you'd think we could have gotten a "yes" from Iraq when everyone there and here understood our presence is important.

We won this war. It was worth it. Now we have to defend it from internal anti-democratic forces and the Iranians. This doesn't make Iraq less of a victory any more that having to de-Nazify and democratize German society, and defend West Germany from the Soviets meant that World War II wasn't worth it.

Subliminal Start?

I think Israel will take a shot at Iran's nuclear program if they believe Iran will go nuclear without the international community or America doing anything about it.

I figured that clandestine operations could be part of such a strike. But I didn't consider that Israel might begin the attack with clandestine attacks. Is that what is happening? (tip to Instapundit)

AN IRANIAN nuclear facility has been hit by a huge explosion, the second such blast in a month, prompting speculation that Tehran's military and atomic sites are under attack.

Satellite imagery seen by The Times confirmed that a blast that rocked the city of Isfahan on Monday struck the uranium enrichment facility there, despite denials by Tehran.

Or it could be America, I suppose. Ledeen thinks homegrown Iranians are doing it. Maybe. But if Iran's nuclear program is so popular there, why attack it to undermine the regime? And why hit what have to be pretty hard targets when easier regime targets are around? I admit I have no way of knowing one way or the other, but the internal angle seems too odd.

But it could be a rolling start of a disarming strike that attempts to do as much as possible before Iran really notices they are under attack and responds. Every facility that goes up in flames will be one less that must be hit with aircraft. Which is a reason that I'd think that Israel is more likely than America to be responsible if it is an attack from abroad. We have the power to use overwhelming force once we issue the go order. But Israel has limited assets and so reducing the target list would be very important.

And I recall that we did something similar before Operation Iraqi Freedom. Under cover of the no-fly zones over Iraq, we managed a slow-motion anti-aircraft defense suppression campaign taking advantage of every time some Iraqi popped off an anti-aircraft weapon at our patrolling aircraft to knock down Iraq's air defense radars. So there is a precedent.

And if Iran does lash out at Israel, they have an excuse to escalate. Or Iran could make a bigger mistake and lash out at America, drawing us into the fight when we might not choose to join the fight.

An interesting possibility that I hadn't considered before.

Or I'm connecting dots with no relation to each other. Hard to say.

But if things keep blowing up ...

Tantrums Always End

Gosh, who'd have thought that a movement led by cul-de-sac communists upset that they borrowed tons of money for useless college degrees would fizzle out without gaining wide support for their plight?

Tip to Instapundit on the fizzle link.

So fine, they held their breath until they turned blue. That was fun and productive, eh? But since they remain on their parents' health insurance until age 26, they can get that itchy rash contracted in their filthy hobo camps taken care of.

Now maybe those Occupy Wall Street protesters will take out their facial piercing jewelry, take a bath, and look for a freaking job. Oh, and do it in that order, eh nimrods?

Control the Air

This author believes that America has an interest in bolstering Indian air power.

I'll have to agree with her, given that I think that India is a useful ally against China and that India needs air power more than anything else right now to match Chinese power.

While I'm at it, let me say again that I think India would be smart to choose American fighter planes to replace those aging Mig-21s that India wants to junk.

All the News Fit to Print

My interest in pointing out how awful our media is on reporting on war issues because of both their lack of subject competency and sheer bias keeps me coming back to the issue. Since so much of the bias angle can be seen in their coverage of domestic issues, I often have links to stories that touch more on domestic issues than I'd like.

But Bill Ayers--a domestic terrorist who prospered rather than being brought to justice like McVeigh--did indeed host a fundraiser in his home for the aspiring politician Barack Obama despite the indignant denials of the Obama campaign. The media basically accused Republicans of lying about this and refused to even dignify the charge.

Media bias is a problem. Sure, the new media can look where they refuse to inquire. That is something to celebrate. But this type of corrective inquiry is mostly limited to those who don't like the media bias and look for the information. For the vast majority of Americans who get their news from our media, the bias matters a great deal. Don't ever forget that.

Tip to Instapundit (who has had really a lot of interesting stuff of late).

Let Me Explain

Last night, I heard once more that supposedly clever little statement that those on the left think is just the end of the argument on border control. One guy said, on the issue of illegal immigration, "Show me a twelve foot fence and I'll show you a thirteen foot ladder." I hope he isn't so stupid as to believe that means a fence is pointless.

The implication is that we shouldn't bother to build a fence because people will find a way over it.

But the reality is that fences aren't supposed to stop illegal immigrants from entering our country. Indeed, no fence is designed to keep determined people out.

First, they are a signal that this area is off limits. For most people, that's enough. Just knowing. For others, the height of the fence does matter. Make it too difficult and it isn't worth it. Top it with barbed wire, for example. For the really determined, of course, the fence won't matter. Make it high and they use a ladder. Make it too high and they go through it with wire cutters. Make it too thick and they go under it.

But those things take time and effort. And that's the main point of a fence when you are talking about people determined to go past a fence--it requires time to do it. All the fence does is buy time. You ever wonder why some fences have those barbed wire extensions that angle in at 45 degrees instead of being angled out at 45 degrees to keep people out? It's to buy time. If someone crosses the fence and triggers alarms inside a building proteced by the fence, the criminal on the way out will be forced to take more time escaping because they now have to cross the fence again--with barbed wire angled toward them now. Police or security have a chance of catching up with the criminal to keep them from escaping with their loot.

This time element is true of obstacles in a defensive belt. Mines, ditches, and obstacles won't stop an advancing army--just slow it down. Leave the attacking army alone, and eventually they are through the mine and obstacle belt. Which is why armies don't set up such obstacles and call it a day. No, defending armies deploy behind the belt of mines and obstacles and defend the line. A defensive belt, no matter how much of a wonder of engineering it is, is going to fail if there are too few troops behind it to defend it. But if you have more time to shoot attackers who are also distracted by the need to move through the obstacles, you'll defend your line successfully.

The same idea applies to a border fence, although without the level of firepower, of course. When speaking of building a border fence to keep out illegal immigrants (And to be clear, I'm for legal immigration under controls we set. We are a land of immigrants and accepting people has made us great. But we really are allowed to set the rules. Really.), you can't just think of the fence as a stand-alone silver bullet that solves the problem. All a fence can do is slow down people trying to cross. And so we need enough border police with proper equipment and surveillance gear to intercept illegal border crossers using the time that the fence provides us to get to that section of the border and arrest them. For that matter, defense in depth has to extend into the country to identify them when (not "if") they make it past the border.

See? Defense in depth. Not a difficult concept. So the next time you hear that stupid thirteen-foot ladder comment, you'll know exactly why it is too stupid to live.

Death or Glory?

China's first carrier put to sea again:

China's first aircraft carrier began its second sea trial on Tuesday after undergoing refurbishments and testing, the government said, as tensions over maritime territorial disputes in the region ran high.

It will be a long time before China has a carrier to challenge one of ours in a fight. They have much to learn from this ship for operating a carrier.

If China wants to use it in a fight in the near term, I'm torn over what they'd do with it.

Will they dangle it like bait northeast of Taiwan to delay our Navy and get our admirals salivating over the prospect of sinking an enemy carrier? China learned what they can from the engineering side already, I imagine, so losing a second-hand Russian carrier if it buys them the time to conquer Taiwan is a small price.

Or would the Chinese load it with marines and helicopters as an amphibious warfare ship to get more of the first wave ashore on Taiwan?

One of the two, I'd think. Because it isn't going to wrest control of the western Pacific from us and our allies.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

No Small Matter

Japan is moving south.

This seems like such a minor thing in the scheme of things:

The deployment, to Yonaguni Island, is part of a general trend of transferring forces from Japan's northern flank to the extreme southern flank. Aside from a small contingent on Miyako Island, the southern islands have been totally demilitarized and vulnerable. The establishment of a so-called coastal monitoring unit can be seen as a means of asserting Japanese sovereignty over islands in a region of conflicting claims.

The decision to install a 100-man unit, estimated to cost ¥1.5 billion (US$20 million) and expected to be completed by 2015, is part of a growing trend by the nations that surround China to tighten up their defenses as they increasingly side against what they perceive as the growing belligerence of the region’s biggest country.

Yonaguni, only 28.8 sq. km in size and with a population of 1,700, overlooks the 300-km gap in the so-called First Island Chain, a maritime line running between Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia – all of which would potentially side with the US in case of war with China. If the situation were to turn sour in the West Pacific, it's the Miyako Channel where the US, Chinese and Japanese navies would likely grind together.

The Chinese are angry. As one analyst notes, anti-ship missiles here would be a potent threat to Chinese ships trying to head east to blue waters.

Taiwan is also a bit annoyed since this cements Japanese control of an island that Taiwan contests, but this will help Taiwan. The anti-ship missiles are obvious. Anti-aircraft missiles will also help secure supply lines and routes reaching from Japan to Taiwan, and will help screen American forces moving into the western Pacific (which the analysts also raises in the context of anti-ship missiles deployed there). Radar on the island would help Japan and America cover the Taiwan area and make our intervention more effective.

This is part of Japan's long-range plans to shift forces from a Soviet-era northern focus to a China-focused southern deployment. China doesn't like this one bit. But as long as we stay committed to the region, countries can live with China's anger.

China thinks that their growing power means the region can go back to treating China as the middle kingdom around which they must orbit, but China's neighbors have gotten used to not being tributary nations and don't want that old business as usual one bit.

Transfer Your Credit Card Balance Now!

Good grief. This can't end well:

Italy auctioned €7.49bn of three and ten year bonds this morning. It had hoped to sell between €5bn and €8bn.

Yields on three-year bonds rose to 7.89pc, up 2.96pc on last month.

The results place further pressure on Mario Monti, the technocrat prime minister, to drive through austerity measures.

It was the third time in a week that Italy had to pay more than 7pc to auction debt.

Their next step is to seek pay day loans.

Because we sure can't co-sign their loans, can we?

President Barack Obama said Monday the United States stands ready to do its part to help Europe with its deepening debt crisis, even as the White House ruled out any financial contributions from U.S. taxpayers.

If we hadn't been trying our best to match European levels of excess (and to be fair, we have surpassed them in some cases with only our size and position in the global economy shielding us--for now--from paying the price Italy is paying), it would be in our interest to help them to keep their economies buying our stuff.

Are liberals here still blaming our Tea Party's concerns over our borrowing for our credit rating problems rather than our actual borrowing?

The Beatings Will Continue

NATO's top civilian says that the Taliban in the south and southwest--our focus during the last surge--are hurting:

In an opinion piece in Monday's edition of The Washington Post, Gass, NATO's senior civilian representative in Afghanistan, said: "The Taliban have taken a ferocious beating over the past year" in their former strongholds in the southern and southwestern regions.

"They are demoralized and finding it harder to resupply with men, money and weapons. The fighting campaign they boasted of this summer has been a flop."

We can afford to hold these areas with fewer of our troops as we reinforce the east.

The Ugly Business of Realpolitik

As I've long said, Pakistan is the black sheep of our alliance. We need them despite the problems they cause us. Victor Hanson states the problem well:

For those of us who are sick of Pakistan in general, it would nevertheless be necessary to explain what might be a better strategy than the present one, or why our present requirements are not really that important: It is easy to mock the present diplomacy, but far harder to come up with one better as long as we are in Afghanistan, and Pakistan uses fears about its nuclear arsenal for all sorts of advantage. For the present, then, we will probably try to mend fences, continue the pretense, and rack our brains for a better strategy that does not subsidize those who are helping to kill American soldiers.

Explain to me how, without Pakistan as an ally, we can keep a nuclear-armed power out of the hands of jihadis (or from collapsing to allow nukes to flow to jihadis), supply our troops in landlocked Afghanistan, and win the war in Afghanistan without at least some help at beating down the jihadi sanctuaries inside Pakistan?

I'm sick of Pakistan. I've expressed my frustration. I'd love to hear a way out of this problem. But I don't see one. We're stuck. Well, I do see one way to at least start the solution. But that isn't happening, eh?

Until we find an alternative to supporting the Pakistan we have, we suck it up and wait for a chance to solve the problem of Pakistan. I certainly have some level of sympathy for the problems that Pakistan faces. But not enough to think we should stick by them when we no longer have to.

Barbarians

Why does anybody keep an embassy in Tehran?

Dozens of hard-line Iranian students stormed the British Embassy in Tehran on Tuesday, bringing down the Union Jack flag and throwing documents from windows in scenes reminiscent of the anger against Western powers after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The mob moved into the diplomatic compound two days after Iran's parliament approved a bill that reduces diplomatic relations with Britain following London's support of recently upgraded Western sanctions on Tehran over its disputed nuclear program.

The protesters broke through after clashing with anti-riot police and chanting for its takeover. "Death to England," some cried in the first significant assault of a foreign diplomatic area in Iran in years.

Yeah, we want this kind of crowd to have nuclear weapons.

UPDATE: No Iranian embassy situation is complete without hostages:

Iranian protesters briefly took six British embassy staff hostage on Tuesday when they stormed two diplomatic compounds in Tehran, smashing windows, hurling petrol bombs and burning the British flag in a protest against sanctions imposed by Britain.

Briefly. This time.

I'd also like to point out that Britain's arsenal of 160 operational nuclear weapons did not deter non-nuclear Iran from assaulting their sovereign territory and seizing--however briefly--British citizens.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Pressing Issue

But that's how you press the "reset" button!

Let It Ride?

Via Hot Air with a tip to Instapundit, there is a plan for a "no-fly zone" over Syria with Arab and possibly Turkish planes enforcing it, with American logistical support:

The sources told Kuwait's al Rai daily that the no fly ban will include a ban on the movement of Syrian military vehicles, including tanks, personnel carriers and artillery, adding that this move would aim at curbing the movement of Assad forces, and cripple their ability to bomb cities.

Jordan has been vocal against Assad lately, which I thought significant. And Jordan highlighted Syrian forces firing on a woman fleeing Syria for safety in Jordan. In case Jordan needs justification easily visualized.

You'd need Jordan and Turkey involved with this or you simply can't do it without our aircraft carriers. That's just geography. I can't imagine Jordan doing this alone. Even with some token support from the wider Arab world. This must be a Turkish mission with Arab presence for show mostly.

Turkey's role is all the more important if this is merely the step before sending Turkish troops into Syria to establish humanitarian safety zone enclaves. The Turkish military doesn't want to do this, the article states. But would they reject an order from the government? Are they just saying this to avoid telegraphing their intent? I don't know. Or do they just need the right document verifying Syrian human rights violations and a reason to implement "responsibility to protect?"

In Geneva, a United Nations commission of inquiry said Syrian military and security forces had committed crimes against humanity including murder, torture and rape, for which Assad and his government bore direct responsibility.

It demanded an end to "gross human rights violations" and the release of those rounded up in mass arrests since March by Syrian forces quashing pro-democracy demonstrations.

Over 3,500 people were killed in 8 months, the UN says.

Further, I have to protest that--like our "no-fly zone" over Libya--the proposal for Syria is not a no-fly zone. Even more so than in Libya, the Syrians aren't using their air force to bomb civilians. This is a proposal for a pure air campaign with a euphemism to conceal the fact under a more benign term. This is all the more reason to think that the Turks must be involved, because even in Libya, Arab air contributions were not involved in bombing missions.

Syria has more means to fight back than Libya had. I'm not sure what they can get in the air, but it will be more than Khaddafi managed. Ditto for air defense missiles. And Syria has chemical warheads for their ballistic missile arsenal. We were lucky to face such a weak enemy as Libya. And lucky that we ignored our mandate and pushed for regime change under the charade of "no-fly zones." But the allure of immaculate aerial interventions is strong. And really, what part of responsibility to protect is unclear?

Our "logistical" help better be just awesome, is all I'm saying.

UPDATE: Turkey isn't ruling out military options, according to the foreign minister:

Davutoglu said the possible scenarios included setting up a buffer zone to contain any mass influx of Syrian refugees.

"If tens, hundreds of thousands of people start advancing toward the Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey borders, not only Turkey but the international community may be required to take some steps such as buffer zone. We don't want that to happen but we must consider and work on that scenario," he said.

The Turkish army set up a security buffer zone inside northern Iraq during in 1991 and has maintained small detachments there ever since.

Russia opposes any UN authorization to anything, citing how UN humanitarian authorization was used for regime change in Libya.

Also, Turkey said it might reroute trade through Iraq to avoid Syria. That could make Iraq more comfortable with intervention, too, I'd think.

Boobs

Climategate 2.0 shows again that people claiming to be scientists on the climate issue aren't acting like they are interested in science:

This is the real significance of the climategate emails. They show that major scientists who inform the IPCC can't be trusted to stick to the science and avoid political activism. This, in turn, has very worrying implications for the major international policy decisions adopted on the basis of their research.

That tells me what I need to know. I don't need to know about the accuracy of the interpretation of every single email involved. The bottom line is that the data for the entire project are questionable and Phil Jones, who was in charge of the data set, lied about it (tip to Instapundit):

Here’s my problem with all of this, Dr. Jones. You tried out a variety of claimed reasons for not responding to a request for your data. None of them were even remotely true. They were all intended to hide the fact that you didn’t know where the data was. Dave clearly spelled out the problem: “we don’t know which data belongs to which stations, right?”

You claimed that the data was out there on the web somewhere. You claimed you couldn’t send any of it because of restrictions on a few datasets. You claimed it came from GHCN, then you said from NCAR, but you couldn’t say exactly where.

You gave lots and lots of explanations to me, everything except the truth—that your records were in such disarray that you could not fulfill my request. It is clear now from the Climategate emails that some records were there, some were missing, the lists were not up to date, there was orphan data, some stations had multiple sets of data, some data was only identified by folder not by filename, you didn’t know which data might have been covered by confidentiality agreements, and the provenance of some datasets could not be established. The unfortunate reality was that you simply couldn’t do what I asked.

And if he wasn't lying about it, his lack of knowledge about it is equally damning. Knave or fool are equally damning choices, eh?

In the end, Doctor. Jones stands there telling us we don't need to know anything more about the model. The data are real and they're spectacular!



As I've said many times on this issue, we don't even need to have the debate over whether authoritarian and socialist policies are the correct response to the problem of global warming. That question should be answered with a firm "no" even if the science is settled on the issue of what will happen and what the consequences of that will be.

But we aren't at the point of settling the science. Hell, we aren't even at the point of settling on the data that is the foundation of the science! And the scientists themselves know that they can't prove what their faith tells them is true. Which is lovely for them--freedom of religion, and all that--but why we should have to pay for their beliefs is beyond me.

UPDATE: Doh! Now I know why the Seinfeld reference came to me when I read the main story--I'd already seen it. Funny enough, that episode was also on TV yesterday after I wrote the post. Spectacular, indeed.

The Party is Over

I think I just heard our credit rating go up.

Good riddance.

UPDATE: He remains a one-man reason why people can say we just aren't ready for democracy.

Defines the Term, Doesn't It?

Mark Steyn notes this birth announcement from Germany:

Doctors were left astounded after a gigantic baby set a new record for Germany’s heaviest-ever naturally born newborn Friday. The boy was named Jihad.

Without commenting on the demographic aspects of this, if giving birth to that baby wasn't a "struggle" for the mother, I don't know what is.

Lord knows, I'd be screaming "Allahu Akbar!" when that little guy crowned ...

The Big Lesson

China has limited recent experience in warfare. While the basics of military strategy are timeless, the changes in the tools have been so dramatic since last the Chinese fought that there is great risk that if called to fight, the Chinese generals would have few clues about how to use them effectively.

So China must learn from other people's recent wars:

Why did observers of the PLA want to study what Chinese military analysts might learned about non-Chinese wars? The answer is twofold. First, the PLA has not fought an actual war since 1979. Yet, during the last 3 decades, fundamental changes have taken place on the battlefield and in the conduct of war. Since the PLA has not fought since 1979, it had no experience in the changing face of war, and thus could not follow Mao Zedong’s admonition to “learn by doing (在战争中学习战争)”; instead, it must look abroad for ways to discern the new pattern of warfare in the evolving information age. Studying Chinese military analysts’ observations of non-Chinese wars therefore provides us a glimpse of what the PLA takes from others’ experience to improve its capability and to prepare itself for dealing with China’s national security issues, such as Taiwan, the South and East China Sea disputes, and internal unrest in Tibet and Xinjiang, to name the most obvious ones.

Second, Chinese military analysts have noticeably more freedom in assessing and commenting on the strength and weakness as well as the success and failures of other countries’ wars. Indeed, for political reasons, Chinese military analysts have to emphasize the heroics and triumphs of the PLA’s war experience and downplay setbacks and failures.2 While there is certainly recognition of the daunting challenges—in Korea, for example, accounts readily acknowledge that the Chinese People’s Volunteers (CPV) were totally unprepared logistically and devastated by airpower—there are limits to the levels of candor. To date, there is no critical analysis of the PLA’s claimed success or dismissed failure in the Sino-Vietnamese Border War of 1979 by Chinese military analysts (however, there are a few studies done by scholars outside of China3). Studying Chinese military analysts’ observation of other people’s wars, therefore, provide us key hints as to what Chinese military analysts consider important aspects of current and future military operational success and failure.

While we can learn things about what the Chinese write are lessons (and from what they don't write about), there is a problem of assuming that any lessons are incorporated into how their military is equipped, organized, and trained. But the leaders themselves can learn and that might be the most important thing we can learn about what they are learning:

This leads us to the first policy implication, namely that the military lessons that the PLA learns are embedded within a broader Chinese domestic political reality that shapes and colors them. This seems especially the case because the PLA seems to learn its lessons more at the high operational to strategic levels of war, precisely the domain where politics most inserts itself.

That being the case, I think that the best higher level lesson the Chinese leaders have learned from is World War II. Oh, not China's part in their long and bloody struggle with Japan on Chinese soil. The other people's war of interest is Japan's war against America. This war provides the high operational and strategic level of lesson that the Chinese leaders can readily absorb.

Consider what Japan did in the opening weeks of war:


Japan needed to secure the natural resources of Southeast Asia (all those red lines on the left) and believed that they needed to keep us pushed back by ejecting us from the region and establishing a perimeter to keep us away (those red lines on the right).

Today, China needs to secure the resources of the South China Sea and conquer Taiwan. Keeping us away will again be key to the east Asian power trying to control the area.

But China doesn't have the capability to eject us from the western Pacific. We are in South Korea and Japan, in strength. Unless China wants to send their army into a new Korean War to eject us and conduct a major campaign against bases in Japan to smother our forces in those places to keep us effectively pinned, keeping us away won't involve direct assault as the Japanese did.

Nor is China in any position to capture Guam and other islands to screen their main efforts in the South China Sea and Taiwan. So our forces are going to be in the area and capable of rushing west to intervene. The key to screening China's main effort is thus one of deterring us from intervening in the first place in a timely fashion to affect China's attack plan. China's anti-access strategy is the key to this. All they have to do is make America too cautious to intervene quickly or to make us pay if we rush insufficient forces into the battle because we need to get their fast. Remember, China doesn't have to beat us in battle to defeat us. All they have to do is delay us long enough to achieve their objectives.

So China could learn lessons from Japan's opening campaign:

1. Avoid attacking us to make our decision to intervene for us.

2. Deploy forces to deter us from intervening rapidly.

3. Quickly carry out military operations to win while we dither or gather forces.

These are things I've been going on about for years.

But there is one other thing that China could have learned, too. Chinese leaders could have learned that Taiwan isn't the only objective in such a war. China has already declared the South China Sea as a core objective right up there with Tibet and Taiwan. While I don't think China would attack Japan or American territory to avoid pushing us into the fight too early, I'm beginning to think I shouldn't assume Taiwan is a narrowly focuses issue. Perhaps China would figure they should take advantage of their decision to anger people by starting a war over Taiwan to also conduct operations to secure islands in the South China Sea over the objections of the smaller powers with competing claims. If China uses mostly civilian transports to move their invasion force to Taiwan's ports in a bolt-from-the-blue invasion, China's more limited amphibious assets could be used to seize the small islands that provide owners with the right to claim seabed resources. If we can't rush in to help Taiwan, we surely can't rush in to defend those little islands scattered south of Taiwan.

China could deploy military assets to Vietnam's border to keep Vietnam quiet. Remember that in 1979, Vietnam had a battle-hardened army to bloody China with. Vietnam's army has lost that experience and has fallen behind in technology. China would likely have the edge now, with two inexperienced armies contending but with one sporting better weapons.

There is another reason China doesn't need to physically create a barrier to stop our intervention as the Japanese did. Remember that the Japanese figured we were not going to endure the casualties to penetrate their shield and so would sue for peace leaving them with their conquests. China has nuclear weapons capable of reaching our soil for that kind of body count deterrence. And if worse comes to worse, those nukes would at least keep us from grinding China down and forcing a surrender as we did in 1945, with the use of our own nuclear weapons to press the point.

We may like to figure out what tactics and weapons the Chinese may want to adopt based on other people's wars, but didn't Sun Tsu say that wars are best won before the shooting starts? The Chinese might not be looking to learn weapons and tactics. Learning from--and improving on--Japan's war against America is probably the most important lesson that China's leaders can take away from other people's wars.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

How Many Bureaucrats Does It Take To Screw Up a Light Bulb?

I know that the ban originated during the Bush presidency, but the idea that our federal overlords will tell us to stop manufacturing 100 watt incandescent light bulbs is an affront to my sense of liberty that is more insulting than most of the other big stuff they are trying to jam down our throats for our own good.

I know our betters keep telling me that the new bulbs are better. But if they are better--like cheaper to buy or operate, or just provide better lighting, wouldn't people freely adopt it? I'm sorry, but when you force me to use it, I suspect it is simply inferior and denying me alternatives is your only way to get me to use it.

At some point, we reach the straw that breaks the camel's back. Could this inspire true outrage at our over-reaching federal government?

UPDATE: Thank goodness the 100-watt ban goes into effect in January 2012 and not December 2012. Could this idiocy be undone yet at this late date? (tip to Instapundit)

I remain amazed that for Democrats aborting a pregnancy is a matter of "choice"--even for teenage girls--but what kind of freaking light bulb I use to illuminate (and in the winter, warm) my home is beyond my capacity to rationally choose. Just ef them all.

Ah, But Some Are More Equal Than Others, Comrade

Thank goodness these are the children of the ruling elite, otherwise they'd be candidates for reeducation camps (tip to Instapundit):

State-controlled media portray China's leaders as living by the austere Communist values they publicly espouse. But as scions of the political aristocracy carve out lucrative roles in business and embrace the trappings of wealth, their increasingly high profile is raising uncomfortable questions for a party that justifies its monopoly on power by pointing to its origins as a movement of workers and peasants.

Oh, cut the young aristocrats some slack, you smelly 99 percenter. These are the children of reasonably enlightened autocrats, don't you know? Surely this is all part of the plan to reach a new, green, infrastructure-rich economy that will give Western pundits thrills up their legs as they gaze in adoring love at what has been created.

When the revolution comes, these scions will be the first up against the wall, that's for sure. I'm equally sure that their ruling elite parents who got where they are the hard way (killing and jailing whoever stood in their way) aren't going on any long marches to defend their position.

Interesting enough, the Chinese are trying to eliminate college degrees that are worthless to the holders (also a tip to Instapundit):

China’s Ministry of Education announced this week plans to phase out majors producing unemployable graduates, according to state-run media Xinhua. The government will soon start evaluating college majors by their employment rates, downsizing or cutting those studies in which less than 60% of graduates fail for two consecutive years to find work.

Smart move. Ours camp out in our parks, claiming to occupy them in the name of the rest of us. For them it is just Revolution Theater. China's unemployed grads, in contrast, might actually lead a revolution of those people already rioting in increasing numbers against elite corruption and privilege.

Same Border. New Debate

As we continue the old debate of whether virtual fences--or any fences at all--are appropriate for our border with Mexico, we find we need a new debate of whether we need minefields and armed drones defended by heavily armed para-military forces with conventional military forces on call for help (tip to Instapundit):

Todd Staples, the Texas agriculture commissioner and a candidate for lieutenant governor, argued that many leaders in Washington, D.C., continue to ignore the violence along the border. In a recent article he wrote, "A Webb County rancher checking his cattle is shot at and barely escapes with his life; the suspects are linked to drug cartels. Workers in a Hidalgo County sugarcane field are told by cartel members to stop harvesting the crop 'or else," because the sugarcane provides coverage for cartel coyotes smuggling drugs."

Vickers said he knows ranchers who have moved their families into nearby cities for their protection and have taken other safety measures. "Everyone is packing a weapon and carrying a cell phone with them. and they're crazy if they don't," he said. "This is happening on American soil; this is a war zone here, there's no question about it."

The use of the phrase "war zone" to describe the U.S. side of the border is controversial. The report to the agriculture commissioner states, "Living and conducting business in a Texas border county is tantamount to living in a war zone in which civil authorities, law enforcement agencies as well as citizens are under attack around the clock."

We didn't decide to resolve the old debate in favore of defending our border against unarmed migrants. Eventually, the infrastructure of moving people was exploited to move drugs and the armed guards followed to escort the drugs north.

If we don't resolve this new debate, we will find another one waiting for us if this bad situation gets worse. Then we will be debating whether to conduct hot pursuit into Mexico to kill these drug cartel armed forces that are developing.

How Eager For Martyrdom Are They?

If Israel attacks Iran, Iran will strike Turkey. If American attacks Iran, Iran will strike Turkey. That's what the nutballs say:

Iran will target NATO's missile defense installations in Turkey if the U.S. or Israel attacks the Islamic Republic, a senior commander of Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard said Saturday.

It's nice to see Iran fleshing out the details of their Sicilian Expedition strategy.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

He Wants to Believe

Great, now I have to wonder if Dindons rôti farci aux Truffes of 1863 is false, too! Tip to Instapundit.

The truth is out there. Professor Yearsley knows it.

The Last Surge

As I suspected, winning in the east of Afghanistan will require more forces than we have deployed there. And we will add them despite our reduction in forces over the next 9 or 10 months:

Allen said Afghan security forces, often criticized for weak battlefield performance, desertion and a lack of will, are closer to being ready to assume lead responsibility for their nation's defense than many people believe.

"The Afghan national security forces are better than they thought they were, and they're better than we thought they were," Allen said.

That is why he thinks it's safe to lessen the Marine's combat role in Helmand, reduce their numbers and put the Afghans in charge.

That approach also allows Allen to build up elsewhere. He said that in 2012 he will put more U.S. forces in eastern Afghanistan, increase the number of U.S. special operations forces who are playing an important role in developing Afghan forces, and add intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance resources. He said he plans to add "several battalions" of U.S. forces in the east. He gave no specific troop number, but a battalion usually totals about 750.

"I'm going to put a lot more forces and capabilities into the east," he said. "The east is going to need some additional forces because our intent is to expand the security zone around Kabul."

I think we have 10 Coalition battalion-sized forces in the east now, so this amounts to another reinforced brigade at our disposal, plus special forces, recon, and firepower assets. Obviously, much of the reinforcement has to come from Afghan forces to build sufficient troop density.

Marines wonder whether it is safe to shift focus to the east and leave Helmand and Kandahar provinces mostly in Afghan hands to defend. Hard to say if we are risking losing the south in order to take a shot at winning the east. But we kind of have to. Our troops will leave, and the clock is running out on nailing down the east in preparation for major reductions in troop strength by 2014. Is it better if we stay in the south and hold it but don't gain the east?

At least by shifting, we have a chance at holding the south and taking the east. That's the only way to go if we play to win.

The Long Road Ahead

This writer argues that the 2008 Russo-Georgia War was a turning point for Russia's foreign policy:

Looking back on the five-day war, it is clear that it was a major turning point for all sides involved.

For Russia, it was psychological revenge after 20-year-long geopolitical retreat. It was proof that Moscow can say no. The United States and its allies were shown that Moscow was serious about drawing a line in the sand. They accepted the signal.

We shall see if the war halted NATO expansion and Russian crumbling. A statement of intent is not the same as having the ability to carry out that intent. As I wrote two years ago:

I am troubled because it may represent a change in how Russia's leaders sees the former Soviet republics. Russia before the invasion of Georgia may have been the low tide of post-Soviet Russia, angry at their loss of empire but unwilling to do anything about it. And with the invasion, we may be at the starting point of a new Russia built on picking up as much of their loss lands as possible.

If Russia's aggression against Georgia (and yes, it was aggression, even if Russia managed to get only the Georgian shooting seen as the first shots of an obvious trap that Georgia foolishly walked into) is a signal that the loss of empire is not permanent--and if the Russians rebuild a military capable of backing that desire--this could be a Russian version of Operation Urgent Fury that signaled that we did not accept the Brezhnev doctrine that communism could only advance and never be pushed back.

President Reagan's invasion of Grenada was no display of awesome military skill. But 6 years after that, the invasion of Panama was. And in 1991, Desert Storm was a display of renewed military skill. The last decade has shown the depth and breadth of the skill that we built to back our intent.

It is too soon to say if Georgia was a real turning point. But it isn't too soon to say that Russia wants it to be. In 1983, as we evaluated our shortcomings on display in our small victory, who would have looked ahead to see communism rolled back right through Moscow less than a decade later?

Train in Vain

I find it rich that a writer can speak of Tea Partiers as part of the GOP crazy train when he is one of the writers who built the transcontinental crazyroad that got us to our current state.

You don't have to agree with every Tea Party associated person's statement to understand that the basic desire of all of them is to control out-of-control federal spending. That is the important message here. Not whether any individual position makes sense.

Americans see their dreams come tumbling down. And they try to keep the wolves at bay. But Alterman doesn't understand the Tea Party's point of view. I suppose there is nothing I can do.

Some things you can explain away. If you just stand by your man. Which is all that Alterman is doing.

Slow Down, Please

Egad! We did this yesterday!


Mister noted that the tree just gets smaller and smaller each year. No doubt. This is my tree's 12th Christmas and now Mister is taller than it is! Mister was a little bummed about a football game we were watching and didn't feel like putting up his share of decorations. He even told his sister to put his up. Oh well. Only later did he say he actually did want to put them up. Darn. I asked repeatedly. But if he was too old for this formerly fun event, I didn't want to force him. Lord knows how teenagers think. As time goes on, he puts away things of his childhood. This was one more, it seemed. How, I asked him, can I read his mind if he tells me he doesn't want to hang decorations? I apologized, but did insist that if he is thinking something he wants me to know, he can tell met what he is thinking. One benefit of divorce is that he'll have another shot at it with his mom.

I always put the Christmas decorations up the day after Christmas. It's my tradition. But I'm stunned. It seems like just a week or so ago that I returned from vacation and was getting ready for the new school year for my children.

I mean, I went on a field trip with Lamb to an actual field (well, a nature reserve):


That was interesting. The Leslie Nature Center, I think. Or something like that. For me, the biggest attraction was the naturalist who took us on the tour. Boy did she remind me of someone I once dated. Which led me to think that if only I was a decade younger--I'd still be a decade too old to even think about her. No picture. I'd have felt like a weird creep snapping her picture. So I'll stick with the beauty of nature.

I took Lamb to a movie night at school where the kids spread out blankets on the floor and munch on fund-raising snacks. It was Rio. I movie she liked enough to then ask to get it for her birthday.

I took Mister and Lamb on a Michigan Stadium tour, along with their aunt. This was Mister's second trip and Lamb's first. It was much fun all the way around, and the luxury seating areas were pretty awesome, I must say.


For Mister, with a much better season on the field, it was all the better:


Our seats are in the background.

I also went to a water park to celebrate Lamb's (and mine) birthday, with Mister and their mom. Lamb was pretty pleased that I came along. The night we arrived at Kalahari during the week, I took Lamb down to the park and we just about had the run of the place to ourselves. No lines at all. It was eerily quiet but great. The next day it was more crowded but still not too bad. It's a pretty good water park.

I took Lamb to a birthday party at a theater, which was a new venue. We saw Puss in Boots. They have a small room to hold a party in before seeing the movie in a reserved spot.

Halloween was a big hit, too. It's candy related so obviously a top tier event. The weather held and Lamb continued her string of winged entity costumes:


Snow princess this year. That's her pet lion. Calvin and Hobbes inspired her to elevate him to pet status. I carried him in his costume (which was originally Mister's and later something for Lamb to play with). The weather was barely good enough not to be an ordeal. One dad complimented me on my toddler's costume--until he realized it was a stuffed animal. He laughed. And was probably relieved that I wasn't holding an actual child that way.

Mister is long past enjoying this, of course. Going trick or treating is something that will fade away in a few years. Sigh. Maybe, after this ends, when I have grandchildren, I'll return to the dark streets.

We had another field trip to Hill Auditorium to see a New Orleans jazz band play. Not my cup of tea, but it is nice to go on the field trips and Lamb really likes me to go along.

Mister had an orchestra concert this year, too. I took him to the practice but missed the actual performance so Lamb didn't have to go (still a bit sick) and so his mom could go. She usually has to work during these things so it was nice she could make it.

I suppose a highlight of the football season was the Nebraska game last week. It was a tense affair for a while, but we gradually pulled away and won in a convincing manner. I can't believe we have won 9 games this year, when experts thought it would be tough to reach 7. I'd have been quite content at 8, all things considered. We should probably get 10--and end that most unfortunate streak against that school in Ohio. Should.

And Lamb wrapped up her Girls on the Run class this year with a 5K run (well, mostly walk) that her aunt went on with her. I almost went, too, even though the cold weather has ended my running season (only the force of the UCMJ could get me running in the cold). But running 5K would have been a stretch for me. I was running almost that much before I stopped, so I assume I could have pushed it. But it is such a girl empowerment thing that I also felt that I would have been a bit out of place. So I welcomed her across the finish line:


One must run at the end no matter how much you walked! This ended at Eastern Michigan University's stadium, so it was the first year that both Lamb and I have been on the field in two stadiums.

And yes, she's wearing a pink cape as part of her team uniform.

So there you go. Those are the highlights of a fall that has flown by. I know I've left out a lot of good but ordinary stuff of life. That's OK. Even if the specifics don't get recorded, they contribute to the background noise of contentment and satisfaction over life. Quantity has a quality all its own, no?

But good grief, it is all going by so fast!

This Won't Help

NATO helicopters and aircraft apparently killed perhaps 28 Pakistani troops and Pakistan retaliated by interrupting our supply line:

NATO helicopters and fighter jets attacked two military outposts in northwest Pakistan on Saturday, killing as many as 28 troops and plunging U.S.-Pakistan relations, already deeply frayed, further into crisis.

Pakistan retaliated by shutting down vital NATO supply routes into Afghanistan, used for sending in almost half of the alliance's non-lethal materiel.

It is odd. About 40 Pakistanis were at the outpost and the strike killed or wounded nearly all of them. With helicopters and aircraft involved, this was a pretty big deal and may have been planned. I don't imagine that this was just a mistaken grid coordinate error made in the heat of battle.

Given that Pakistan has been angry with us for killing Osama bin Laden and exposing how much jihadis could get away with inside Pakistan, I don't assume that this attack just came out of the blue against some unsuspecting outpost.

We'll hear more, I assume. Maybe we really made a horrible mistake. Friendly fire incidents happen even in this age.

Or maybe the mistake is that the Pakistanis assumed they could get away with some brazen support of the Afghanistan Taliban from one of their frontier posts. It could go either way. And either explanation won't help our relations one bit.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Plan of Action

Our Department of Justice might want to write down how they carried out the Fast and Furious operation (tip to Instapundit).

If it is true that 3,000 Mexicans have died as the result of the operation, DOJ might want to share the process details with the CIA in case we want to destabilize an enemy.

I'd say that it couldn't possibly be true since surely the Mexican government would publicize that. But they seem as determined to prove that arms come from American gun dealers as our DOJ, so maybe professional courtesy keeps them quiet.

My guess is that this is an exaggeration. But Mexicans have certainly died because of our DOJ. How many do we need to call it a scandal and crime, if not a plan of action to use against enemies?

Getting Ready to Rumble

One thing I should have mentioned in my post about troop numbers in Afghanistan is that we are using a phased approach to dealing with the Taliban that requires fewer numbers of troops overall by attacking in the south for the main effort while using fewer troops than necessary in the east. I know I've addressed this in the past, but forgot to repeat it. And I should have.

This briefing addresses troop numbers in Regional Command East:

Obviously, we have 68,000 Afghan security forces, and we have today just over 29,000 coalition forces.

That's 97,000 troops. Recall that I said that if we assume the high end of population in the area (1o million) and assume a higher than usual number of troops if we want to interdict the border and apply counter-insurgency troop density in the whole region (2.5%), we'd need 250,000 troops. But I might be too cautious. We might only really need 150,000 if the population is lower as the general states, and if we really don't need the extra troops I assumed for border interdiction.

This doesn't count contract security--which is probably concentrated more here because of the supply convoys still coming from Pakistan. Nor does it count local defense forces and unofficial militias that will defend against the Taliban. Still, we're short tens of thousands of troops in the best of circumstances.

Not that Regional Command East's mission was simply a holding action. No, anticipating that one day the east would be the main effort with troops going all in to cover the main population centers to pacify them, we were engaged in shaping operations to prepare for that day. I assume this means stuff like preparing the infrastructure (bases, roads, and other stuff for both our troops and local people); building up Afghan governance and security capabilities; preparing an intelligence map of the area, people, and enemy; and hammering leadership and enemy infrastructure to weaken them before the main effort to come.

I think that we'll need to put more troops in Regional Command East. So far, the command has been spared reductions from the first surge reduction. But that isn't enough. This exchange hints at the issue:

It's Courtney Kube from NBC News. You mentioned in your opening statement that you believe that the inputs are right in your area over the last year of the increase in U.S. troops there and Afghan troops, but we've been hearing more and more that there will be a third or another increase of U.S. troops into RC East next year and maybe into the middle of the year before the surge starts drawing down.

Do you still anticipate that? Do you anticipate that you'll have an increase in troops and perhaps an increase in operations in your area coming early 2012?

GEN. ALLYN: Well, thanks, Courtney. And I know you're well aware that this was really the first full fighting season with all the surge forces on the ground. And I think we can clearly see the impact that it had on denying the insurgents any opportunity to regain lost ground both in the south, the southwest, and also in the areas that we wrested from their control during the summer campaign.

We are obviously still in the process of the early phase of the 2011 reductions, and we are on track to meet that by the middle of next month. And the resources that we have now are -- have us in good shape for both the winter fighting season and heading into the spring campaign. And I'd say any future decision that General Allen or General Scaparrotti make on resources is something that is probably best addressed to them.

One, it isn't his lane to complain in public about troop numbers he's given to carry out his missions. He's had enough so far to carry out his missions. Two, you'd hardly want to telegraph to the enemy that they will face more troops. And three, it isn't his place to step on the message of his commander in chief that we are drawing down by highlighting a pending offensive.

We have several options that we will use. One, we can shift existing forces from the south and southwest which are shifting to the holding phase from the clearing phase. This will involve Afghan and Coalition forces, including those forces whose presence will be available until fall 2012. Two, we are still creating more Afghan security forces. These can either be sent directly to the east or used to replace more experienced troops in other areas of the country that will then be sent to the east. Three, we can raise more local defense forces for static village defense. And four, we can reduce pressure on the border by getting Pakistan to apply more pressure on their side of the border (including more intense drone strikes by our CIA) which means we don't need as much troop strength to interdict the border.

I think we will have the troop strength to carry out our missions and win. But it is more tricky with less froom for error.

And winning will have effects beyond Afghanistan. Once, jihadis said we could fling cruise missiles wouldn't dare stand toe-to-toe with them. And they said they could outlast us. They don't boast of their ability to beat our warriors any more. And after ten years of fighting during which we've increased our effort over time, it is more difficult for them to say that they can outlast us. They may think that 2014 is a magical save date, but we can still pound them down enough so that much lower effort on our part can complete their defeat, relying on local Afghan forces to complete the job we've been doing.

This is the "good" war of "necessity," isn't it? Let's win it.

Just Gaze at the Forest

I know the Climategate 2.0 emails are being attacked by Global Warmers. They have attacked skeptics for quoting some out of context or not understanding the science that explains the wording of particular email quotes.

Fair enough on the specifics, in many cases. I can't judge lots of those criticisms. But we can't overlook the forest by staring at the tree rings.

I can judge the fact that the so-called climate scientists defending the consensus have clearly acted in non-scientific fashion over the efforts by skeptics to get their data. The climate consensus community resisted following the law to release data, wouldn't admit that they had lost much of the data, attempted to punish and exclude climate scientists not fully gorged on the Koolaid, fudged the science to get results and impressions they wanted for political purposes, and discussed how to avoid having emails subject to FOIA requests--which in itself is apparently a crime.

The overall impression--despite individual perfectly reasonable criticisms of concluding too much from individual excerpts--is that the climate consensus has something to hide and isn't comfortable defending their claims in the light of day where other scientists can test their claims with more science. More science is the cure for questions about science, isn't it? I thought punishing heretics was the realm of intolerant religion.

If there isn't a scientifc crime, why is there a cover up?

Musical Chairs

Yemen's president will step down:

Yemen's autocratic leader agreed Wednesday to step down after months of demonstrations against his 33-year rule, pleasing the U.S. and its Gulf allies who feared that collapsing security in the impoverished nation was allowing an active al-Qaida franchise to step up operations.

I haven't addressed this Arab Spring uprising very much because I figured it really wasn't related to the other unrest, and was basically just the ongoing unrest that has plagued Yemen. I thought that whoever ended up in the palace would eventually move against al Qaeda out in the boondocks because they'd be a threat to the government. And the new rulers would eventually want our support to do that. Saudi Arabia has high interest in keeping Yemen from being a threat, too, so we have that going for us as well.

Call it the Yemen Climate. Maybe continued efforts to gain control of the government by different factions won't involve open fighting. Who knows?

Yes, giving al Qaeda room to grow while the fighting went on was a problem. But not enough to overtly intervene.

So far, I haven't seen anything to make me change my mind about the basic situation and this announcement doesn't do it either. I have little hope that something really better will come out of this for Yemen's people, as I still have hope for other countries like Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya that have gotten rid of their pre-spring autocrats. It could end up being musical chairs there, too, but they at least have a shot at real change.

Yes, Thankful

I had a fun (if small) Thanksgiving. It doesn't take me this holiday to remember that life is good and that I have a lot to be thankful for.

I can only remember one Thanksgiving that really blew chunks. But it involved Ann Arbor police pointing their weapons at me. And by the end of that night, I quit my job.

Yeah. That one pretty much sucked. But that was decades ago.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

We've Been a Pacific Power

Lacey gets to the point of something that bugged me about our recently unveiled Asia focus:

With a considerable amount of fanfare, the Obama administration has spent most of the past two weeks “pivoting” our foreign policy toward Asia. This “pivot” is being broadcast as if the current administration was the first to notice Asia’s importance. Never mind that American presidents have been actively involved in Asia at least since Commodore Matthew Perry was sent there to force open Japanese ports for trading. If we forget about the Pacific theater in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Nixon’s trip to China, etc., then maybe it is possible to believe that this administration is the first one to take note of Asia’s importance. Of course, Presidents Clinton and Bush visited Asia over a half-dozen times each. So there is a chance the region was relatively high on their agendas.

I did mention that we've been working on Asian issues for a long time before the Obama administration noticed it. So even while I saluted the initiative, it bugged me. This is why. The administration can't help but try to act like anything BOE (Before the Obama Era) didn't happen. If it is new to them, it must be new! And so now they claim they will correct what was ignored by others (coughBushcough) until now. Baloney.

I know our left likes to say that Bush ignored Asia while he went off on (Congressionally authorized) bad wars of choice, but that is false. Obviously, wars against al Qaeda and campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan got the most press coverage--and being actual shooting wars did demand an outsized presidential focus--but we were active in Asia, too. These include expanding relations with India, strengthening defense ties with Japan and Australia, repositioning our forces in South Korea (away from the DMZ where they were hostages to North Korean artillery) and Japan (to Guam) to make them deployable and more secure rather than tied to static defenses, shifting naval power to the Pacific, and working with Southeast Asian states to bolster ties. All that was done during the Bush administration.

So yes, the Obama administration is doing something good here--if they follow through with deeds after the words to defend what we've staked out. But as with many of the good things that this administration has done in foreign policy, it is in the context of resorting to the right thing after trying to do the stupid things they thought were smart and "anti-Bush."

Being an optimist, I'm hoping that the next right thing will be to negotiate an agreement with Iraq to return our ground and air forces to Iraq.

Point of No Return?

Turkey says things in Syria have gone past a "point of no return" even though Turkey tried to convince Assad to stand down and stop killing their people to defend the regime with no concessions:

"Despite all this the Baath regime continues to use oppression and violence on its own people. Violence breeds violence. Now, unfortunately, Syria has come to a point of no return," he said.

One indication of the point of no return is that the Syrian opposition is using violence more and the loyalty of the army is cracking more visibly:

The growing number of attacks by former army men is causing the government to be careful which army units go where. This is because most of the troops are from religious groups that benefit little from the Assad dictatorship, and are suffering most from the current violence. The deserters have organized themselves, rather loosely, into the FSA (Free Syrian Army) and are carrying out more and more guerilla attacks. These are beginning to include assassinations of pro-Assad army and political leaders. Attacks on military bases are occurring, and desertions are increasing.

Also, minorities that sought the protection of the Alawite minority regime against the Sunni majority that traditionally oppressed them are starting to think about switching sides:

Some of the other minorities (Christians, Druze and so on) who have long been the Alawite Assad's allies are openly questioning who they should be backing. If these groups wait until the end, they will suffer enormous retribution. But if these groups switch sides at the right time, they will suffer less, and be able to remain in Syria. The timing of such defections is critical. If you turn too soon, the government forces will hurt you badly. If you go over to the rebels too late, you will still be seen as part of the Assad dictatorship.

So, is Turkey's response past the point of no return? Will they move into northern Syria to set up "humanitarian" safe zones where anti-regime elements could seek refuge and have a sanctuary from which they can challenge the Assad regime? Or would it be "humanitarian corridors" into the heart of Syria defended by foreign troops, as France is proposing?

Interestingly enough, Hezbollah seems to be getting ready to implement their Plan B should Assad their protector go belly up (also from the Strategypage link above):

The revolution is spilling over into Lebanon. There, Hezbollah is rumored to be planning a coup to install a Shia dictatorship.

Oh, and one more thing, on the way back home from deployment in CENTCOM's area of responsibility, the George H. W. Bush carrier battle group is hovering near Syria:

The U.S. navy said the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush arrived this week in the Mediterranean. It made no reference to the unrest in Syria and said the ship would continue through the Mediterranean en route home to the United States.

A Western diplomat in the region said about the U.S. aircraft carrier: "It is probably routine movement but it is going to put psychological pressure on the regime, and the Americans do not mind that."

I wondered if this carrier would be used against Libya since it was getting ready to sail when we were going in to Libya (well, over Libya). She didn't. But now we might need her if Syria really is past the point of no return. I'd expect it to provide cover for an evacuation of Americans from Syria through Lebanon rather than to take part in action against Assad. But you never know. Even now the Obama administration lawyers might be working out the details of how such a contingency could be defined as not-a-war.

Assad certainly isn't winning the struggle right now. Beyond that, a lot of results are still open--including the ultimate victory of the Assad regime. Who knows how long the Syrian people can endure the killings and arrests? Perhaps not as long as the Syrian army can endure defections. If events are past a point of no return from the spring, summer, and fall of civil unrest we've seen so far, we still don't know what the next point will be. It depends on what Turkey, France, Syria, the Syrian people, the Arab League, the UN, and NATO do. We all have a say in this, even if no one controls it. I guess that's my point.

In Defense of Gobbler's Drift

Mad Minerva has a funny William Shatner video on the danger of dropping a turkey into a fryer with the flame on.

It was humorous--but too focused on one of the many disasters that can happen. I think the video makers would have done better to follow the script of Duffer's Drift to show all the things that can go wrong on the way to doing it right.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving. And a safe one. Even though you may have lots of Thanksgiving oven-cooked turkeys behind you, chances are you don't know as much as you think you know about deep frying a turkey.

Make sure, that when this day is over, you aren't saying "As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fry."

Waste Not, Want Not

So I mentioned that our friends the Russians apparently are really keen on maintaining their ability to nuke Europe without losing a small percentage of their short-range nuclear arsenal to our planned missile defenses against Iran's smaller developing capabilities. Waste not, want not. This isn't the first time the Russians have expressed this goal.

This author thinks that we should explicitly target some of our nuclear missiles at Moscow and watch them sober up. I disagree. We can quickly target them if needed. If the Russians are dumb enough to think our missile defenses threaten them, they're dumb enough to think that targeting Moscow is serious. If the Russians are just paranoid, then obviously targeting Moscow doesn't help us with that problem. And if Russia is cynically portraying a non-threat as a threat? Well, we've helped them out and done nothing to really check the Russians. Not that the Russians don't do fine without our help by just lying, mind you. It's the failure to check them part that bothers me.

So let's take advantage of Russia's provocative statements by reassuring our eastern NATO allies cursed by geography to lie too close to Russia. Let's redeploy some of our ground forces to Poland. This should be a NATO-wide program. Oh, not a lot, mind you. I don't want to rattle an obviously disturbed Russia. And Russia had trouble pounding Georgia despite lots of advanced planning and Georgia's failure to build more than a peacekeeping army. So we don't need to recreate our Fulda Gap defenses on the Bug River.

But why can't we deploy air defense and advanced elements (with local security MPs) for a division-sized force to southern Poland? We can set up equipment depots for the brigade sets of stuff and supplies they'd need. So just in case, we can fly (or drive or train) in the troops to draw the equipment and take the field. We have this in Germany (REFORGER: or REturn of FORrces to GERmany) and around the globe. Why not REFORPOL? Have a US division headquarters with an aviation and fires brigade plus a couple heavy brigade combat teams, supported by 1 German (or the Franco-British) and 1 British combat brigade (perhaps with another NATO country providing one of the battalions of the Brigade--the Dutch would be a good candidate).

This is the kind of reassurance our newest NATO allies would appreciate and one that doesn't play with nuclear brinkmanship to make a point. I'm really not keen on returning to the days when I knew our and their CEPs and all that. I'm perfectly content to look at the world's military issues in conventional arms terms. Our Cold War strategic situation wasn't really simpler back in those days. It was just that the nuclear issue was so freaking huge that it dwarfed all the other issues that we focus on today, now that we aren't fixated on global nuclear destruction.

Lets show the Russians there is a price for rattling their nuclear sabres at a non-threat to score points at home. And lets show our allies that we are serious about defending all of NATO. But don't raise the issue to nuclear levels. Don't waste this opportunity.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Defending the Perimeter

When we stake out our perimeter in Asia in the face of Chinese attempts to bully neighbors, we have to expect that we may have to defend that perimeter.

The weak Philippines trusts us enough to re-engage with us rather than cave in to their powerful neighbor:

The U.S. and the Philippines signed a new defense agreement that provides more training and equipment for Filipino forces, and assurances of American support if the Philippines is threatened by China. This is a serious matter, as China is claiming areas, 80 kilometers off the Philippines coast, where oil exploration is going on.

And South Korea feels secure enough of our backing to send a strong signal to the North Koreans--one year after their island was shelled by North Koreans--that Seoul will take no more steps backward when North Korea opens fire:

Wednesday's drills involving aircraft, rocket launchers and artillery guns took place off Baengnyeong Island, another front-line territory near the disputed maritime border, and were meant to send a strong message to North Korean rivals stationed within sight just miles (kilometers) away.

The exercises represent far greater firepower than the South Korean military mounted last year in response to the artillery shells showered on military garrisons and fishing villages on nearby Yeonpyeong, Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman Lee Bung-woo said.

Oh, and when we establish a perimeter in Asia, there is danger in letting China think that there is ground outside that perimeter that we won't defend. Like South Korea back in 1950. Taiwan comes to mind today. Which I suppose should also be a lesson to China if they think Taiwan is outside our new perimeter.

Don't tell me words don't matter. I think someone once said that. Of course, the meaning might not be clear until it is too late. And sometimes foes just interpret our words to justify what they want to do anyway, regardless of our intent. And sometimes, we change our mind about those words.

And the actions we might have to take because of words can be difficult.

UPDATE: The North Koreans are threatening to destroy Seoul:

North Korea threatened Thursday to turn Seoul’s presidential palace into a “sea of fire,” stepping up its rhetoric one day after South Korea conducted large-scale military drills near a front-line island attacked by the North last year.

Well, just the presidential palace, to be fair. Some might call this "progress."

I still worry that the North Korean rulers have no real idea of how bad their military is, and will decide on war because they think they can win.

But maybe this is a sign of progress. Is just threatening the palace with a pond of fire an indication that Pyongyang knows that turning all of Seoul into a sea of fire is an invitation to the destruction of the North Korean state?

E-Gypped?

The Twitter revolution in Egypt feels it was sold out:

Egyptian police clashed with anti-government protesters for a fifth day in central Cairo Wednesday as a rights group raised the overall death toll from the ongoing unrest to at least 38. The United Nations strongly condemned what it called the use of excessive force by security forces.

The clashes resumed despite a promise by Egypt's military ruler to speed up a presidential election to the first half of next year, a concession swiftly rejected by tens of thousands of protesters in Tahrir Square. The military previously floated late next year or early 2013 as the likely date for the vote, the last step in the process of transferring power to a civilian government.

Parliamentary elections are in just a week. One would hope that the participation of Islamists in these clashes (even though the Moslem Brotherhood is trying to stay out) would be a chance for voters to remember just how badly they can expect jihadis to act when in power. Isn't Iran a reminder? Shoot, just being reminded of what jihadis can do when they get violent should be a lesson. Remember Iraq's insurgencies and terror campaigns?

But you never can tell. This is why we need to stay involved to make sure that there really is a transition to regular and free elections. Otherwise, the first election could just be a means to ratify the next dictatorship. The people on the streets fear that means the military that ousted Mubarak in the name of the first protest movement gets that job. I worry more that the jihadis take the slot.

The Occupy Cairo movement was fun, but the real work is in setting up rule of law and then governing under those restrictions on power. That can't be done on Twitter. If Egyptians can't learn from Iran and Iraq, maybe Egyptians can learn from the fiasco that our own Occupy types created when they got even local power.

Or maybe Syria truly explodes to provide a more timely and closer reminder.

From the start of the Egyptian crisis I said we had to stay involved to win. Ousting Mubarak was just a chance to win--not a win itself. We'd have to be doing it quietly to do it effectively, so I can't say we are failing. Even involvement doesn't guarantee success. But don't believe that our alternative to what we are seeing now was quiet--if tough--stability under Mubarak had we backed him in the first crisis of their Arab Spring. Even if Mubarak had survived, the people would have seethed under his rule, resented our role in propping him up, and given the Islamists more credibility when the crisis of succession kicked off when Mubarak tried to hand off power to his son.

Egypt was a boiling pot with the lid held down tightly. No matter what we did, it was going to be a problem. And no matter what we do, it could still turn out badly. Given that what we need to do to influence the path Egypt takes must be done quietly, I can't even say whether we are botching this or doing our best in difficult circumstances.

Egypt has been horribly screwed up for a long time and there is only so much we can do. the Egyptians have been gypped and they know it. If we "lose" Egypt, I won't blame President Obama for failing to figure out how to make up for horrible Egyptian decisions over many decades. And don't blame President Bush, either. Remember that he was pushing Egypt to reform until proponents of foreign policy "realism" forced him after 2005 to back off that democracy project that so many ridiculed. I'm not saying it would have worked given the long history of poor decisions made by Egyptians. I'm just saying that Bush knew that something had to be done because doing nothing didn't mean the pot wasn't boiling unseen beneath that lid.

And hey, even if things go really badly in Egypt, we at least had a good run after flipping Egypt during a crucial time during the Cold War. You never really solve your foreign policy problems. You just hope to do well enough until the next big one comes along.