Monday, April 30, 2012

Defending the East

This IDSA Issue Brief highlights India's need to have robust air power and high quality ground units in Arunachal Pradesh to resist any Chinese efforts to resolve China's territorial claims by force.

That matches my assessment of the military angle pretty precisely.

The poor transportation infrastructure on India's side of the border in contrast to China's ambitious efforts is also highlighted as a problem that I've noted.

Every Hot Streak Ends

North Korea likes to kill South Koreans as a signal that others need to negotiate with North Korea over how much aid to send north. Over the decades, the North Koreans have won this gamble.

The South Korean president has vowed that North Korea gets no more "signals" that result in dead South Koreans:

"We do not want a military competition with North Korea. We have to compete over how to make the people live happily," Lee said.

"However, there will be a strong response that does not tolerate any provocation."

Please. The North Koreans care nothing for their people's happiness and are so far behind in that competition that they'd never even think of trading their military competition for a happiness competition. Other than simply ordering their people to be happy, the North Koreans have no idea how to compete that way.

So it will remain a military competition.

I'd expect that South Korea--with a lot of American support--would lead an alpha strike on whatever North Korean units shoot at South Korea or at whatever base launched the units that shoot at South Korea. We've already stated that North Korea got their last free shot.

I expected such an attack after the North Koreans bombarded a South Korean island in November 2010.

An air response puts the fight in the area that our side is most dominant. If North Korea tries to escalate to ground fighting, they risk the complete destruction of their government.

President Obama tried to buy space with North Korea with his aid offer. North Korea spurned that generous offer by trying to launch a long-range missile. I wouldn't be surprised if North Korea's anticipated nuclear test is not the end of the provocations that North Korea plans. Perhaps they believe the upcoming election here means we won't dare respond to a North Korean attack that North Korea may believe is their only way to get aid flowing or allow the South Koreans to respond.

But South Korea will respond in force. Then we find out if the North Koreans believe meekly backing down or escalating is more dangerous to their crumbling state. They're gambling with their mortgage payment on the line, now. I just don't think they know how to do anything else but roll the dice and hope they can recover their losses.

Heck, by this point, North Korea's rulers may only be happy when they gamble.

Island Hopping

I've noted that in 1980, Saddam Hussein had planned to assault and liberate three islands in the Persian Gulf that Iran had occupied in order to solidify Arab support behind his war with Iran. He canceled that plan and found himself all alone on the ground in that long and bloody war. Gulf Arab states seem to have the islands more in mind now.

Indeed, they've carried out military exercises with an eye on those islands:

Gulf Arab states are beginning two days of joint military exercises, as fears of an armed conflict with Iran continue to grow.

The drills, dubbed "Islands of Loyalty," come amid an escalating territorial dispute between the United Arab Emirates and Iran over three strategic islands in the Persian Gulf.

Earlier this month, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited one of the islands, Abu Musa, sparking a war of words between Abu Dhabi and Tehran.

The UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Mohammed Gargash, said his nation was “fed up” with the Iranians’ “occupation” of the land.

Huh. I wonder if my speculation about gaining the visible cooperation of Arab states in a war against the mullah regime in Tehran (whether narrowly focused on nuclear facilities or more broadly on the regime) by retaking those islands is in the mix of options?

Sending in our Marines to spearhead assaults on the three Iranian-held islands would also be a nice signal to China about our capabilities to do the same in the South China Sea.

Heck, I'm not ruling out some smart diplomacy here.


Apparently, President Obama has settled on a campaign slogan: "Forward."

As long as we're playing "name that tainted historical reference":

I thought that reminded me of a Soviet propaganda slogan from World War II.

"Forward! Victory is close!" Well, Obama's minions do believe they are at war with fascists.

Just flesh it out to "Forward! Hope and change are close!"

This deserves a "heh," I'd say. Wouldn't you, comrades?

Stand for Freedom

Our latest mission to China will strain the ability of the Chinese to smile and pretend all is well within China in the face of our standing tall--even if our president would rather bow--for liberty:

Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell avoided reporters, and the U.S. Embassy declined to discuss his agenda. His trip, originally scheduled for later this coming week, comes after the White House said it is considering selling new warplanes to Taiwan and after dissident legal activist Chen Guangcheng fled house arrest and ended up, rights campaigners said, in the protection of American officials.

Both Chen's case, if he's in U.S. custody, and that of Taiwan touch on Beijing red lines against what it sees as meddling in China's domestic affairs. Beijing will have ample opportunity to voice its displeasure at an annual confab on Thursday and Friday attended by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and dozens of other officials.

The contrast is instructive, no? A blind man could see the difference. We'll see if our president can learn.

If we won't stand for freedom, who will?

UPDATE: We may not be standing for freedom. It takes special diplomatic skill to anger the Chinese and fail to defend dissidents at the same time.

Responsibility to Pretend

Unable or unwilling to justify overthrowing Khadaffi's regime in Libya based on our national interests but without international approval, the Obama administration essentially tricked the international community into providing something close enough to be twisted into a UN authorization and dressed it up as "responsibility to protect" (R2P). Oh, and the president didn't bother to get Congressional approval.

Sadly for this narrative of high-minded foreign affairs, Syria exploded in protest and then revolt. As opposed to the theoretical Libyan mass murder we intervened to stop, a Syrian massacre has been going on at higher and higher levels for over a year as the Assad regime demonstrates a brutality that should horrify all of us.

You'd think the president would be eager to haul out his shiny new R2P Doctrine. But no. When the thugs are out there killing, our president reacts--a year later--by establishing the Atrocities Prevention Board.

Really. A board. In what reality-based community does a thug regime recoil in fear from a board?

I'm sure in a couple years they'll have a lovely report out on exactly how many Syrians were killed, maimed, and imprisoned over the prior three years. Call this an exercise in Responsibility to Pretend. But hey, while the board studies the problem, our president gets more of that space from foreign problems that he so desperately wants to delay beyond the Tuesday after the first Monday in November 2012.

In reality, we already have a body that prevents atrocities in the Middle East. We call it CENTCOM.

Fanning the Flames

I'm going to laugh very hard now. Tip to Instapundit.

Not that wind farms are now a cause of global warming. But by making it warmer near them, it will provide warmists with a reason (it's getting warmer!) to build more wind farms to stop that horrible global warming.

Brilliant, really. Perhaps I shouldn't laugh at all.

Sunday, April 29, 2012


I've spent months worrying that we aren't going on offensive in Regional Command East in Afghanistan, only to read we are still planning to do so.

Now I find out a possible reason for the apparent delay in setting it in motion:

The 1st Infantry Division, known famously as the "Big Red One," took charge of military operations in eastern Afghanistan April 19, in a ceremony on Bagram Airfield.

In the ceremony, the division assumed command authority of Regional Command-East from the 1st Cavalry Division. The latter is returning to Fort Hood, Texas, after a successful year-long tour here. ...

"Our mission over the next year is to maintain the momentum of this campaign, relentlessly pursuing insurgent networks, assisting Afghan efforts to assert sovereignty along the border, and accelerating the development of the ANSF (Afghan National Security Forces)," said Mayville.

To tackle this mission, CJTF-1 wields a joint fighting force of more than 32,000 coalition troops. Their arsenal includes five U.S. brigade combat teams, as well as troops from nine NATO countries.

So we will knock back the Taliban, work to control the border with Pakistan, and improve the Afghan security forces to take control of the fight after this last year of American-led offensive operations.

I've noticed more casualty notices from Afghanistan lately. Since the Taliban "spring offensive" was such a failure, we may have quietly gone on our own spring offensive.

This is it. We have to do a lot this fighting season. Otherwise, the "good war" will have been for nothing. We can pretend al Qaeda is kaput, but give them a break and a sanctuary and they'll regenerate. The Long War isn't over until the Arab Spring can suck the wind out of Islamist propaganda and marginalize the jihadi appeal.

And if that change in Arab Moslem society doesn't take hold, the war won't be long, it will be forever.

Still Manning the Ramparts

Legal Insurrection, noting Don Surber's blog burnout, says that independent conservative bloggers are an increasingly rare breed.

This July it will be 10 years of blogging. Is there something wrong with me that I'm not on the cusp of burnout?

I think it helps that I have no comments to monitor or follow.

It also helps that I am under no delusion that one more blog post will change the world. This is about saying what I think about the Long War that we need to win so it can be checked against reality. I believe I know what I'm talking about. Now it is on record and it can be judged whether I do know what I'm talking about. I of course hope that I contribute to the public support of the military to get the job done. But I don't believe I'm more than a molecule in the wind that hopefully blows at their backs more often than not.

And I do like a good rant on global warming. Or going off on idiots posing as deep thinkers. Lord, there are a lot of them.

Sometimes I think I even get a funny post in on some topic.

I feel defeated when I comment on domestic politics, really. Compared to writing about our jihadi and thug enemies, that sometimes seems like a hopeless fight given the assets the left can deploy to the battle--including those idiots who for some reason get people to listen to them. Now that is depressing. I salute those on the right who fight that battle every day. I'll miss Breitbart for what he did.

And of course, I enjoy writing about my children and even the every day banal triumphs and crises of the modern middle class, middle-aged man I've become. (Seriously, when did I get old? It seems like yesterday that I was 25!)

Sometimes I get a little tired of blogging. But it never lasts long. And it rarely seems like a chore. Eventually something interesting comes out that I must comment on or that seems important to note. I really just have things to say, and this is such an easy way to do it that I cannot imagine getting burned out doing it.

So enjoy. Or not. But I'll still be here starting my second decade this summer.

Eventful Weekend

Well, this was certainly an eventful weekend with Lamb.

To preface the start, on Thursday I had a long day of travel, drinking, and a board game. And lots of junk food. It was great.

But with very little sleep, I had to spend nearly the entire day at Lamb's school where I had volunteered to help with the disability awareness day. I manned the wheel chair station. The kids loved that--until they faced the door challenge. Now they are aware of that.

Lamb was pleasantly surprised to see me since I hadn't mentioned I was on duty. Lamb's mom volunteered before work, too, and she stayed for a shift. I thought I was going to luck out and escape before lunch to go home and nap. No luck. Lamb's teacher asked if I could stay for the inspection mission and then the after lunch part. I managed to stay awake through all of that.

I just had time to go home and grab a cup of coffee, go get Mister from school, and then pick up Lamb before going home and making dinner for the three of us.

As a bonus, on Saturday morning my Ex asked if I could take Lamb to her girl scout outing where they could learn about plants and earn a merit badge. I was happy to do it and managed to find the place without too much trouble. She had a ball with that.

And while yesterday was an ordinary day, Lamb wanted to get to the great outdoors to fly her kite, go to the park for the swing, try out her carrot-trooper from the top of the play structure, swing, and shoot darts at her dad (It's like Running Man but with nerf bullets).

Then to top it off, I suggested we feed the ducks. Mister is no longer interested in that entertainment. Although he is still interested in heading for the mini-golf course soon. Sadly, Saturday was way too cold. Maybe next Saturday. We aren't tied to the TV for Red Wings games, after all. (Curse you, defective "lucky" donut!)

After wasting most of the bread on some mostly disinterested geese and failing to attract a young goose still in down that simply ran away from Lamb, we wandered around the perimeter of the pond and found a small satellite pond where a mother duck and seven ducklings so small that they had to be only days old! Jackpot.

Lamb was filled with the cuteness of it all, and even gave up the peanuts and pretzels she had brought along for her own snack after we fed the last slice of bread to the family.

Sadly, all I had was my 3-year-old flip phone for pictures, and if you didn't know it was a picture of a duck and ducklings, the little brown blobs are just, well--little brown blobs. And I have no way of getting those pictures off my phone. I really should get a new phone from my company, since they owe me one by now--and see if they can capture the pictures and save them for me.

These are the weeks I live for. Extra time and good memories.

Wrong Reasons for the Right Thing

Some time ago, I assumed that the Obama administration would sell Taiwan new F-16s to provide jobs in states that President Obama needs to win re-election, even if they didn't appreciate the wisdom of doing so. So the decision to simply upgrade fighters sold during Bush 41's tenure (sold with no small eye on his own re-election, I'll add) was a shock to me.

But perhaps re-election chances looked better from the Oval Office than they do now. We sent a letter to congress regarding Taiwan to say the sales office is open:

The administration of President Barack Obama is raising the possibility that it could sell new jet fighter aircraft to Taiwan to help redress the island's air power deficit with China.

If the move goes through, it would infuriate Beijing, which claims the democratic island as its territory and regards all foreign defense sales there as interference in its affairs.

Interestingly enough, the article raises the possibility that F-35s might be sold.

One, I doubt Taiwan would spend the money on that plane. And two, given that China would "infuriate" China, I imagine the Obama administration will sell older (but still good) F-16s and tell China it could have been worse.

But the ability to stand before a crowd of fighter assembly workers and engineers in the fall to proclaim X number of jobs secured for years to come would be priceless to the administration.

Whatever. Just get the planes to Taiwan.

NOTE: This is really annoying. No scheduled posting and no response from sending feedback.

Searching for Space

The standard Obama space program is to make sure our opponents know they can get more from us after President Obama is re-elected; and that to ensure that the president is around to make that deal, our opponents should lay low and give President Obama "space" to work on concessions later.

But Iran is a tougher nut to crack. So we'll look the other way if Iran stops at civilian levels of enrichment secure in the knowledge that if Iran does this, the fall out won't hit before the election this fall:

In what would be a significant concession, Obama administration officials say they could support allowing Iran to maintain a crucial element of its disputed nuclear program if Tehran took other major steps to curb its ability to develop a nuclear bomb.

U.S. officials said they might agree to let Iran continue enriching uranium up to 5% purity, which is the upper end of the range for most civilian uses, if its government agrees to the unrestricted inspections, strict oversight and numerous safeguards that the United Nations has long demanded.

As I said, of course there will be a deal with Iran. They'll pretend to agree to something of substance and we'll pretend to believe them.

Build up enough of 5% enriched uranium and Iran can go to town to get it to bomb standards after breaking that agreement.

That which was once a sign of Iran's drive for nuclear weapons magically (with the soothing balms of hope and change!) becomes an internationally sanctioned sign of cooperation! And all we had to do was change our mind about what is acceptable:

But a consensus has gradually emerged among U.S. and other officials that Iran is unlikely to agree to a complete halt in enrichment. Maintaining an unconditional demand that it do so could make it impossible to reach a negotiated deal to stop the country's nuclear program, thereby avoiding a military attack.

Note, too, how the military option has been stood on its head. Once it the "last resort" to keep Iran from going nuclear--a threat to compel Iran to negotiate--now the small chance we might use force is the argument we are making to make concessions to Iran to avoid having to make that call to stop Iran with force.

But threats of force are just for the rubes here who desperately want to believe our president will do what it takes to defend us.

Why President Obama is worried about an attack is beyond me. He already figured out how to position a bus behind the designated fall-admiral should the attack go badly. One pre-thrown admiral almost under the bus, eh?

Isn't nuance grand?

Spreading Out

Before 9/11, we kept a two-regiment Marine Marine Expeditionary Force (a division with a supporting air wing) in Okinawa. Now we are spreading the force out, after coming to an agreement with Japan on financing and basing:

The United States plans to locate Marine Air-Ground Task Forces (MAGTF) in Okinawa, Guam, and Hawaii and intends to establish a rotational presence in Australia in order to establish a geographically distributed force posture while sustaining the forward presence of U.S. Marine Corps forces in the region. This revised posture will ensure a more capable U.S. Marine Corps presence in these locations, strengthening deterrence and enabling flexible and rapid responses to various contingencies. The Ministers confirmed that these steps would contribute to Japan’s defense and to peace and stability throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

The Ministers confirmed that a total of approximately 9,000 U.S. Marines, along with their associated dependents, are to be relocated from Okinawa to locations outside of Japan. U.S. Marine Corps forces remaining in Okinawa are to consist of the III MEF Headquarters; the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing Headquarters; the 3rd Marine Logistics Group Headquarters; the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit; and base sustainment elements of Marine Corps Installations Pacific, along with essential aviation, ground and support units. The Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to achieve an end-state for the U.S. Marine Corps presence in Okinawa consistent with the levels envisioned in the Realignment Roadmap. Consistent with the usual practice of Alliance consultations, the U.S. Government is to notify the Government of Japan of changes to the organizational structure of the U.S. Marine Corps units in Okinawa.

The United States is working to establish an operational U.S. Marine Corps presence in Guam consisting of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade Headquarters; the 4th Marine Regiment; and elements of aviation, ground and support units from III MEF. A base sustainment unit is also to be established there. The authorized strength of U.S. Marine Corps forces in Guam is to be approximately 5,000 personnel.

In conjunction with these adjustments, the U.S. Government also informed the Government of Japan that it is establishing a U.S. Marine Corps rotational presence in Australia, with other U.S. Marines moving to Hawaii to enhance operational capability there. In executing these moves, the U.S. government reaffirmed its commitment to sustain its current military presence and enhance military capability in the Western Pacific.

There is no replacement for the Futenma air base identified, although both pledge to keep working on it. So we'll remain at the base.

So we'll have III MEF and air wing headquarters on Okinawa plus a single Marine Expeditionary Unit (a MEU: reinforced battalion task force) and assorted units. The total will be 10,000 according to a background briefing.

We'll have a Marine regiment on Guam and elements of the air wing plus a brigade headquarters to command the regiment and supporting units.

We'll eventually rotate a MEU through Australia.

And we'll have the rest in Hawaii, which would be two Marine battalions, I assume, and supporting units. Which should be the balance of a second Marine regiment. Since we discussed the Australia deployment, I assume the Okinawa-based MEU will participate in the rotation through Australia, at least in part if not as a unit. The background briefing did say the Hawaii piece was more in flux.

I don't know if the Guam-based units will support the Australia rotation. I'd guess that since it has a brigade headquarters that the idea is to have MEUs in Okinawa and Australia (mainly supported from units in Hawaii) available for smaller missions in the South China Sea region from Japan to Singapore while the MEB is the immediate heavy land hammer should a major assault force be needed on short notice.

Spreading out in the face of greater Chinese ability to hit Okinawa enhances survivability of Marine Corps combat elements while also reducing the incentive China has to hit them early in a crisis to try to neutralize them.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Pretending to Signal?

Putting six F-22s close to Iran is more a signal to our domestic audience that President Obama is concerned about Iran than it is a signal to Iran:

America's most sophisticated stealth jet fighters have been quietly deployed to an allied base less than 200 miles from Iran's mainland, according to an industry report, but the Air Force adamantly denied the jets' presence is a threat to the Middle East nation.

I read elsewhere that we sent 6 planes to the United Arab Emirates. That isn't enough to kick in the door for an air campaign. It is enough to pretend to our people that we are ready to stand up to Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Stealth planes work because they are tough to see on radar. It would have been nice to also avoid publicizing their presence near Iran. The fact that the deployment is being discussed is an indication that they are meant to be seen.

Of course, maybe it is misinformation that only 6 are on the ground. If we have a lot more there (or nearby) ready to spearhead an assault, a cover story that we only have 6 deployed would get around the practical problem of being unable to hide the presence of some planes in the UAE for long.

UPDATE: Hmm. One of our cruise missiles subs is in CENTCOM's region:

In response to recent Iranian sabre rattling the United States has moved two carrier task forces and one SSGN (nuclear powered cruise missile submarine) to the Persian Gulf. While this puts about 80 carrier based combat aircraft in area, it also brings over 400 Tomahawk cruise missiles.

If we announce one, could one or two others be close by?

Maybe we are getting ready just in case.

The Axis of Annoying Bastards

Our friends, the Russians and Chinese:

China and Russia agree entirely with each other's positions on the crisis in Syria and on North Korea's nuclear program, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cheng Guoping said on Saturday in Moscow.

"The sides hold 100 percent coinciding positions on the issues of North Korea and Syria," Cheng, who was accompanying Vice Premier Li Keqiang on a visit to Russia, told reporters through an interpreter.

To be fair, I don't know if anyone could have diplomacy smart enough to successfully have an outreach to either Russia or China.

Of course, it would be nice if our executive branch understood that fact of life.

Who is the Enemy According to ECOWAS?

It is no shock that the ECOWAS force is unwelcome in Mali:

Mali's junta said on Friday it would resist any deployment of West African soldiers in the country and treat foreign forces sent there under a regional plan as "the enemy".

The ECOWAS force can't lead a counter-attack north and it is unneeded to protect the south from any attack from the north. Its only purpose would be to influence internal Mali politics. The junta would rather not have that, given it justified its actions to prosecute the fight against northerners. The junta has no way to make sure the ECOWAS force would want to reverse secession more than it wants to reverse a coup.

So Mali is too weak to fight the northerners.

ECOWAS is too weak and isn't welcome.

Only France could lead a credible force to spearhead a drive north.

The Iranian Connection?

Given all the prototypes of Iranian wonder weapons that show up in the press but never seem to be deployed, this analysis has fingerprints of Iran's influence all over it:

Analysts who have studied photos of a half-dozen ominous new North Korean missiles showcased recently at a lavish military parade say they were fakes, and not very convincing ones, casting further doubt on the country's claims of military prowess.

I have to wonder if the Iranians have advised the North Koreans to just pretend to be strong the way the Iranians have for decades. With North Korea's military rotting away, all they can afford to do is pretend to be advancing their military prowess.

I think the speculation about whether the flaws were intended and are a ruse to mislead us misses the obvious explanation that the pretend missiles are intended for a domestic audience. They explain why they have too little to eat and no freedom. This is the result, people: huge missiles that can smash our enemies in a few minutes. You may not be protected from your own government, but we'll protect you from the wolves that want to snap up our soon-to-be paradise.

Mostly it makes me wonder what else the Iranians and North Koreans have been trading. Will the rumored North Korean nuclear test be an Iranian one disguised as a North Korean test to make up for a failed missile test?

Iran has been buying time for years now. We've sold them a bunch and continue to do so with talks that won't go anywhere. When will Iran have bought enough time where they need no more? And what have they done with that time?

The Glittering Appeal of Stupidity

Iraq's Kurds, after enduring gas attacks, oppression, and the looming threat of Saddam, have built a much better life for themselves in a dangerous neighborhood. They have peace and security (but democracy in their internal matters has never really been achieved) given their head start over the rest of Iraq in rebuilding from wars. They appear to be ready to give that up, as their president said:

"What threatens the unity of Iraq is dictatorship and authoritarian rule," Barzani said in a 45-minute interview in his sprawling office outside of Irbil, the capital of the Kurdish region he leads in northern Iraq. "If Iraq heads toward a democratic state, then there will be no trouble. But if Iraq heads toward a dictatorial state, then we will not be able to live with dictatorship."

He called it a "very dangerous political crisis in the country" and said the impasse must be broken by September, when voters in the Kurdish region may consider a referendum for a state independent of Iraq.

Iraq might give up Kurdistan without a fight given their other problems of dealing with Iran, Sunni Arabs, and al Qaeda remnants. But I can't imagine that Iraqis will be happy about it and I don't think that the Iraqi Kurds can expect free lines of communication through Iraq to the outside world. And the Iraqis would likely fight for the border regions under dispute. The Kurds may be able to hold off the Iraqis up in the mountains, but I don't think the Kurds could hold for long the disputed border regions against a determined Iraqi assault.

The Turks, who have a major Kurdish problem, would not want to see an independent Kurdistan to their south. Turkey is unlikely to provide a route to the outside world unless the new Kurdish government completely sells out their brethren fighting in Turkey. Turkish troops could end up going deeper into Kurdistan and in larger units for longer periods.

Iran, too, has had Kurdish problems. Would Iran make nice to a new Kurdistan and risk encouraging their own Kurds to fight for autonomy or even the right to join the new Kurdistan? Open supply lines seem unlikely.

Syria won't like this development. But internal problems may limit Syrian reaction. We shall see what a secession vote triggers as far as Syrian concessions to their own Kurdish minority to keep them on the government's side. But I strongly doubt that an independent Kurdistan would even have an outlet to Syria.

And it is possible that Iraq, Turkey, and Iran would all make a common offensive to defeat the Kurds. Iran would love that since it would likely spoil our relations with Iraq for a long time, giving Iran an opening to fill the gap. China and Russia would have an opening with Iraq, too. With Assad in trouble in Syria, that might seem like a great opportunity to replace an ally.

Without Kurds as an additional counter-weight to Shia dominance, the Iraq Sunni Arabs will feel even more isolated and they might get real stupid again. The wider Sunni Arab world might halt warming relations with Iraq in a reflection of that fear. Iran would love that development.

The Kurds themselves have to consider what we could do in landlocked Kurdistan even if we wanted to fight Iraq again, go against our NATO ally Turkey, and start a conflict with Iran over the Kurds when the prospect of Iranian nukes can't seem to work us up into a fight except in the most vague terms of "last resorts." At best, the peace and prosperity they have built would be sacrificed for the right to have their own postage stamps. At worst, they'll lose the very real sovereignty that they have in their loose incorporation into Iraq. This has "disaster" written all over it.

One day, it may be possible for Iraq's Kurds to split with the rest of Iraq peacefully the way the Slovaks split from the Czechs. But that day requires a prosperous and secure Iraq that is confident enough not to take the loss as a body blow and which welcomes trade with a friendly Kurdistan.

If ever we are to see some of that "smart" diplomacy we were promised by this administration, blunting Kurdish moves to independence right now would be a good time to unleash it.

UPDATE: Well, perhaps Iraq's Kurds are willing to sell out non-Iraqi Kurds:

To make matter worse, the northern Kurds have been negotiating with Turkey, to come to an understanding of what kind of Kurdish state the Turks would tolerate in northern Iraq. It would have to be a state that would not allow Kurdish separatists from Iran, Turkey or Syria to operate freely. If the Iraqi Kurds get the backing of the Turks, the Iraqi government will not be able to prevent the Kurds from going independent.

That kind of deal would change everything. The Kurds need to think hard about giving the Turks the monopoly on access to the outside world. Some smart diplomacy would be in order to get the Iraqi central government and the Kurds to come to an agreement that keeps the Kurdish regions part of Iraq.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Don't Worry About Freedom, Be Happy

Nanjing students set a record for people making a smiley face:

It took 3,110 students to make this.

That's nice.

These are 18,000 United States soldiers. Standing for liberty:

Still impressed with yourselves, Nanjing Agricultural University students?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

What's One More?

Mali is in trouble:

Within weeks, Mali has plunged from being a sovereign democracy to a fractured territory without a state, occupied by competing rebel groups in the north while politicians and coup leaders in the south jostle for control of the capital Bamako.

There is no sign the broken nation can be put back together soon - raising concerns among neighbors and Western powers of the emergence of a lawless "rogue state" exploited by al Qaeda and criminals.

What the heck. We didn't care enough about whether Iraq plunges from a sovereign democracy to a fractured territory without a central state to negotiate a long-term security deal. What's one more? Sure, we air dropped supplies to the government in the north before the north pushed out the northern garrisons, but we aren't going to do anything.

Mali can't defeat the secessionists:

While Mali lost control its north in a matter of days, it could be months - or even longer - before it gets it back.

Its army in tatters, authorities in Bamako have little choice but to enter into a dialogue with the rebels - a move that runs against public opinion in the south where the far-off northern rebels are viewed with frustration and often disdain.

And as I suspected, ECOWAS intervention is a joke:

With few armies in ECOWAS having had much experience of desert warfare, confidence in its ability to shake the rebels is low.

As one diplomat observed: "Anyone who thinks an ECOWAS force is a solution is kidding themselves."

Only France can do the job. We'll have to wait until after the May 6th runoff election in France before anyone in Paris will even raise the subject.

Being There

Stratfor looks at the India-China rivalry.

And like I noted, discusses that the lack of a land frontier capable of supporting decisive ground operations limits their rivalry. Each in theory can push naval power into the other's backyard. And air operations can support their navies or operate across the forbidding land frontier. But the lack of ground options that directly threaten the survival of the other is a brake on competition spinning out of control.

Of course, once both sides have enough nuclear missiles to obliterate each other, the lack of a ground option becomes less relevant to the rivalry. And may make the political rivalry for allied allegiance in the region more intense.

From our point of view, just having two giants facing each other helps us keep one power from dominating Asia. We don't really need to ally with India even if domestic Indian politics would allow it. As long as it doesn't escalate to war, we're good. And as long as it doesn't escalate to nuclear war, we'll be okay. But a democracy will always be a sentimental favorite for us over even a shadow of communism government.

A Spark Could Set Them All Off

Austin Bay provides an overview of the South Sudan issue.

He rightly notes the possibility of Egyptian intervention. Egypt has long considered what happens to the source of the Nile to be a vital interest.

And given internal problems that Egypt is facing, who knows whether someone in Cairo will believe a war with the outlaw regime in Khartoum is just what the doctor ordered.

Let's Talk Crazy

You are supposed to learn to love super-expensive light bulbs because they will last a long time:

It costs about 100 times more than an old fashioned one, but a new $50 light bulb is not as crazy as it sounds -- the new bulb can last up to 30 years, is just as bright as the old-fashioned kind, and use a fraction of the electricity.

Well, I suppose since my expected life span is still north of thirty more years, I'm good. But when I'm 80 years old, I might want a few 50 cent bulbs rather than putting the 30-year bulbs in my will.

But let me address some basic reality in a world of $50 light bulbs. People will steal them.

We live in a world based on cheap light bulbs. You have them out on your porch, in your car ports and all around in public areas and outside. All unguarded and unsecured. Who would worry about 50 cent light bulbs? Who would bother stealing 50 cent light bulbs when you can buy them with couch change?

But make them 30-year $50 bulbs and all of a sudden you create a market for stolen light bulbs. Builders would love them since even if they only have 20 years of life yet, what owner will come after them two decades later? How many times will you be willing to replace that porch bulb when it is stolen? If you own an apartment building, expect your tenants to unscrew the bulbs from public areas for their own use. Colleges? Your students will grab bulbs the way they grab toilet paper rolls. Businesses? You think people taking pens and post-its is a problem? Just wait to see how long your 30-year bulbs last. Hey hotels! You'll recall with fondness the days when towels were stolen by guests.

And for your basic destructive hooligans, vandalism becomes much more cost-effective with smashing a few light bulbs and calling it a day.

People, crooks steal copper wiring, brass door fixtures, and metal sewer covers to resell it because they make money doing it. You think stolen super light bulbs won't be sold out of car trunks?

Then we will have to buy shatter-resistant bulb covers with locks to keep the bulbs from being stolen or smashed. How much will that cost? Is it still cheaper in the long run? Don't forget the energy cost of making secured outdoor or public area fixtures!

In theory, the $50 but 30-year light bulb is great. I'm sure the math is very rigorous. In practice? It has problems. Why not let people decide if they believe it is worthwhile to buy a 30-year bulb? Indoors, it might be very appealing while for the outdoors the cheap theft-proof (because they are near-worthless) bulbs are the answer.

Stop deciding for me what is better for me! I just don't trust your ability to think of all the consequences of your "simple" decision.

Leaving Okinawa

We've apparently come to an agreement with Japan on moving some US Marines out of Okinawa. But not all will go to Guam because of cost issues:

According to Bloomberg, the new announcement will include a drastic scaling back of the number of troops headed to Guam, diverting about half of the 8,000 slated to leave Japan to Australia, Hawaii, or the Philippines.

I suppose that answers one of my questions about whether our planned deployment would be in addition to our forces in the western Pacific or just a move of existing forces.

If it is to be the Philippines, I doubt it would be permanent but would be training rotations. The Philippines likes that idea:

U.S. and Philippine commandos waded ashore on Wednesday in a mock assault to retake a small island in energy-rich waters disputed with China, part of a drill involving thousands of troops Beijing had said would raise the risk of armed conflict.

The exercises, part of annual U.S.-Philippine war games on the southwestern island of Palawan, coincide with another standoff between Chinese and Philippine vessels near Scarborough Shoal in a different part of the South China Sea.

The Marines may well be planning an islet-hopping strategy in the South China Sea where small units of good troops fight over tiny islets. Spreading out the Marines wouldn't be a problem if that is the strategy for coping with Chinese territorial ambitions in the South China Sea.

Desert One 32 Years Ago

Thirty-two years ago, our effort to rescue American hostages held by the new mullah regime in Tehran failed at a desert landing site within Iran. We left 8 dead on the ground in Iran.

President Carter wanted to avoid war. He hoped a surgical rescue mission by a small, elite force into the heart of a hostile city of 5 million would work.

It might have worked despite the complexity and narrow margins of error.

But if it had worked, the Iranian casualty count would have been enormous because the only way to hold off massed assaults by untrained fanatics on the walls of the liberated embassy would have been to hose down anyone near the walls with gunfire from orbiting C-130 gunships until the whole group of rescuers and rescued hostages could make a run for it.

I can't help but thinking that President Carter would have tried the American military personnel involved for war crimes even if the troops came back with the hostages alive.

Thirty-two years later, the fanatics who waged war on us by assaulting our embassy and taking our people hostage are close to having nuclear weapons.

Have a nice day.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Match the Threat to the Objective

Whenever someone points out that the Chinese military is outclassed by our military and that we therefore shouldn't worry too much about them, I can't disagree with the first part but don't understand the leap to the conclusion. Strategypage puts China's military in its place (even as they "salute" their cyber-theft of Western technology):

Just how real is Chinese military power? Technically, a lot of Chinese gear is well built. This we know by observing how China has absorbed Western (including Russian) technology over the last sixty years. They can build good stuff (if you have an iPhone or iPod, you are using Chinese built, or at least assembled, tech). China is still learning how to invent, design and build many of the iPhone/iPod components. Chinese have the talent and persistence to acquire the needed management and technical skills. It takes time, and Chinese leaders like to take the long view. That means realizing that current Chinese armed forces are not so good. Peacetime soldiers in general and Chinese ones in particular, develop a lot of bad habits that translates into defeats early in a war. But in a world with nuclear weapons, the old Chinese strategy of fighting a long war and grinding down a superior (man-for-man) force, no longer works. If you use conventional forces, you strike first and fast, then call for peace talks before the nukes are employed. This situation does not work to China's advantage. Chinese generals are going through the motions of creating a well-trained and led army, like many Western nations have, but are making very slow progress. Meanwhile, the Americans are particularly admired, with all their practical training methods and combat proven NCOs and officers. China still has far too much corruption in their military establishment, and too little initiative and original thinking, to create a force that can match the Americans. Going through the motions may work in peace time, but not once the shooting starts.

So the problem is that China can't hit us hard enough to defeat us quickly and end the fighting before the threat of nuclear weapons ends a fight.

Far be it for me to state the obvious, but that just means that China doesn't hit a nuclear-armed America whose conventional military is world class--indeed, in a class all our own.

China can defeat America just by defeating Chinese neighbors while keeping us out of the fight long enough for China to win. That could be a quick strike against Russia, North Korea (in case of collapse to keep South Korea from moving north), Japan, China, the Philippines, Vietnam, islands in the South China Sea, or India. Which of those targets can deploy armed forces as strong as ours?

How does our excellent military figure into the equation if China plans and executes a first strike that aims for limited objectives against a foe before anyone can mobilize against them and before the threat of nuclear escalation from a nuclear-armed state can develop?

China has the advantage of location. China can deploy a lot of power against a weaker enemy (or even against our forward-deployed forces) and call for negotiations after they grab something of value. This does not require inflating Chinese capabilities to something that can cross the Pacific and land on Hawaii.

NOTE: Scheduled posting capability still out. What gives?

No Call Left Behind: My Thomas Friedman Voice

Mad Minerva notes a blogger begging for people to watch his six on mocking a particular Thomas Friedman column.

Well. If you insist.

How can I refuse a poor, frustrated blogger's cry for help who has been recommended by another blogger with huge ... tracts of land?

I've long been impressed with the inanity of Friedman's writing. As I like to say, I won't say you can't drown in a pool of Tom Friedman's wisdom, but you would have to be drunk and face down to do so.

There is a lot to work with in Friedman's column, which starts out:

I had to catch a train in Washington last week. The paved street in the traffic circle around Union Station was in such poor condition that I felt as though I was on a roller coaster. I traveled on the Amtrak Acela, our sorry excuse for a fast train, on which I had so many dropped calls on my cellphone that you’d have thought I was on a remote desert island, not traveling from Washington to New York City. When I got back to Union Station, the escalator in the parking garage was broken. Maybe you’ve gotten used to all this and have stopped noticing. I haven’t. Our country needs a renewal.

And that is why I still hope Michael Bloomberg will reconsider running for president as an independent candidate, if only to participate in the presidential debates and give our two-party system the shock it needs.

Pejman Yousefzadeh has rules for his bleg. Before I start, let me just say that this is the most transparent attempt to split the anti-Obama vote as I've seen so far. If only to participate in the debate, indeed.

Second, Friedman needs to get a room. His sucking up to the president in even a call for someone to run against him--well, long enough to split the anti-Obama vote into frustrated passivity--is just embarrassing.

And third, the number of people clamoring for Bloomberg to run has got to number something upwards of Friedman, the members of Bloomberg's immediate family, and half of his household staff and retainers. So call it 200 tops. As a movement, it ranks right up there with your average Democratic astro-turf organization trying to simulate a mass movement.

But on to the mission.

I feel Tom Friedman's pain. He notices things. Things that go wrong. Things that go wrong and affect him.

Like the phone dropping thing. I mean, really, we can used to be able to put a man on the moon in orbit, and yet we can't make sure that very important pundits making very important calls while traveling not quickly enough on trains with a very important role in making us Green between very important cities to meet with other very important people (who he knows personally and has their phone numbers)?

This shall not stand! It must not! Are we incapable of doing great things these days? I say that President Obama must include in his next State of the Union address a call to arms to make sure that--by the end of this decade--no pundit will face the humiliation of a dropped call in the middle of schooling some foreign visitor to our shores on the nuance of our governing class. Will our president not take up this dropped clarion call to battle?

I can hear it now:

Finally, if we are to win the battle that is now going on around the world between the Lexus and the olive tree, the dramatic achievements in cell phone 4G coverage which occurred in recent years should have made clear to us all, as did the Sprint coverage surge, the impact of this infrastructure on the minds of pundits everywhere, who are attempting to make a determination of which 2-year plan they should sign up for. Since early in my term, our efforts in cell phone reliability have been under review. With the advice of the Vice President, who knows a big effing deal when he sees one, we have examined where the signal is strong and where it is not, where we may get four bars and where we may drop coverage. Now it is time to take longer calls--time for a great new American enterprise--time for this nation to take a clearly leading role in 4G cell phone coverage, which in many ways may hold the key to our future on earth.

I believe we possess all the resources and talents necessary. But the facts of the matter are that we have never made the national decisions or marshalled the national resources required for such leadership. We have never specified long-range goals on an urgent time schedule, or managed our resources and our time so as to insure their fulfillment.

Recognizing the head start obtained by the Chinese with their large cell towers, which gives them many years of leadtime, and recognizing the likelihood that they will exploit this lead for some time to come in still more impressive successes, we nevertheless are required to make new efforts on our own. For while we cannot guarantee that we shall one day have four bars continuously from New York to Washington, D.C., we can guarantee that any failure to make this effort will make us drop calls right in the middle of some extremely relevant anecdote.

I therefore ask the Congress, above and beyond the increases I have earlier requested for cell phone infrastructure, to provide the funds which are needed to meet the following national goals:

First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of sending a man to Washington, D.C. on Acela and returning him to New York City with no cell phone coverage interruption. No single infrastructure investment in this period will be more impressive to media pundits, or more important for the long-range exploration of our hot, flat, and crowded world; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish. We propose to accelerate the development of the appropriate cell phone towers. We propose to develop alternate train-mounted data transmitters and receivers, much larger than any now being developed, until certain which is superior. We propose additional funds for other smart phone developments and for longer-life batteries--batteries which are particularly important for one purpose which this nation will never overlook: the survival of the man who makes this daring Acela trip every once in a while. But in a very real sense, it will not be one man going to New York--if we make this judgment affirmatively, it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there without losing his cell phone signal.

Secondly, an additional 23 trillion dollars, together with 7 trillion dollars already available, will accelerate development of the Rover cell tower. This gives promise of some day providing a means for even more exciting and ambitious smart phone Internet usage, perhaps beyond New York, perhaps to the very end of the solar system itself, somewhere in flyover country.

Third, an additional 50 trillion dollars will make the most of our present leadership, by accelerating the use of space satellites for world-wide-web communications.

Fourth, an additional 75 trillion dollars--of which 53 trillion dollars is for the Coverage Bureau--will help give us at the earliest possible time a satellite system for world-wide cell phone coverage observation.

Let it be clear--and this is a judgment which the Members of the Congress must finally make--let it be clear that I am asking the Congress and the country to accept a firm commitment to a new course of action, a course which will last for many years and carry very heavy costs: 531 trillion dollars in fiscal '13--an estimated seven to nine trillion dollars additional over the next five years. If we are to go only half way, or reduce our acceptable bars in the face of difficulty, in my judgment it would be better not to go at all.

It is a most important decision that we make as a nation. But all of you have lived through the last four years and have seen the significance of cell phones and adventures in cyber-space like Facebook and Angry Birds, and no one can predict with certainty what the ultimate meaning will be of mastery of cell phone coverage on the Acela New York-to-Washington run.

I believe we should go to Washington without dropping signal. But I think every pundit of this country as well as the Members of the Congress should consider the matter carefully in making their judgment, to which we have given attention over many weeks and months, because it is a heavy burden, and there is no sense in agreeing or desiring that the United States take an affirmative position in continuous 4G coverage on the East Coast, unless we are prepared to do the work and bear the burdens to make it successful. If we are not, we should decide today and this year.

This decision demands a major national commitment of scientific and technical manpower, materiel and facilities, and the possibility of their diversion from other important activities where they are already thinly spread. It means a degree of dedication, organization and discipline which have not always characterized our research and development efforts. It means we cannot afford undue work stoppages, inflated costs of material or talent, wasteful interagency rivalries, or a high turnover of key personnel--like me, of course.

New objectives and new money cannot solve these problems. They could in fact, aggravate them further--unless every scientist, every engineer, every salesman, every technician, contractor, and civil servant gives his personal pledge that this nation will move forward, with the full speed of 4G, in the exciting adventure of reliable cell phone voice and data coverage.

Let's raise the bars to success, America! All the way to 5 of them! Hell, make it 11! That's six better! All the time! No matter where you are on the Acela! If our president won't solve our train-based dropped call problem by 2019, who will? Do we want to live in a country that will not focus our energies on such a problem?

But hey, Friedman has at least made some progress in his column. He didn't call for emulating dictatorial China as the secret to repairing all the things that go wrong in America that affect him.


President Obama intervenes in Libya, which his supporters call a valid example of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) in action. Then Syria explodes, we don't feel any responsibility to protect, and the broad doctrine used to justify a single mission is shown to be obsolete already.

Defeating Khadaffi was certainly not immoral, mind you. But it would not have been high on my priority list of things our military should do. That said, it worked out reasonably well and I won't complain about pushing responsibilities on to the Europeans. So I won't complain about the mission itself.

Yet for all the talk of protecting others, I would like to put priority on protecting America and our allies from common enemies.

Like North Korea for example:

North Korea has almost completed preparations for a third nuclear test, a senior source with close ties to Pyongyang and Beijing told Reuters, which will draw further international condemnation following a failed rocket launch if it goes ahead.

The isolated and impoverished state sacrificed the chance of closer ties with the United States when it launched the long-range rocket on April 13 and was censured by the U.N. Security Council, including the North's sole major ally, China.

Why North Korea hadn't sacrificed the chance of closer ties with us because they are North Korea is beyond me. Thank goodness that we can at least be hit across the back of the head with the reality stick.

But as we look out at a world with North Korea going nuclear and Iran not far behind, could someone in the Obama camp articulate a Responsibility to Protect America (R2PA) doctrine?

Just a thought. However unlikely that is.

Whose Knuckles are Dragging Now?

Bitterly clinging to facts and an open mind.

I've always felt that it was a tremendous assault on our language to mistake being "liberal minded" for being "open minded." They certainly can be the same. But often they are way different.

Getting What They Wish

So we come to an agreement with Afghanistan so, the administration boasts, Afghans will be reassured that we will stand with them for a decade after we cease combat operations. But Iraqis get no such reassurance and no such agreement. I guess it must be because Karzai is such a better partner than Maliki. The buck stops there for this White House.

And as we contemplate Islamists exploiting new freedom in Egypt to take power, our failure to provide a reassuring safety net for Iraqis means some worry that Maliki is becoming an autocrat:

When the American military presence in Iraq ended in December 2011, Washington and Baghdad claimed that Iraq was a stable, sustainable democracy. However, this appears questionable as Nuri al-Maliki, prime minister since 2006, has continued his quest to dominate the state and to use its power to break opposition to his rule. His systematic exclusion of key politicians from power underlines the failure of the 2010 elections to deliver representative government, and leaves the country vulnerable to heightened sectarian tension and a new civil war.

We struggle to influence an Egypt where people will vote yet we walk away from a system we built in Iraq rather than defend free votes and the development of rule of law.

To be fair to the Obama administration, much of the anti-war crowd hated the idea of promoting democracy in Iraq and insisted that the Iraqis needed a strong man to hold the Kurds, Shias, and Sunni Arabs together and pulling under the yoke in the same direction. So this must be part of that "smart" diplomacy we were promised. Are we getting what our administration has wished for all along?

Yet some of the worries about Iraq are over-blown, I think. Democracy doesn't mean that the winners share power with the losers. It should mean that the losers are treated fairly under the law and that the losers have confidence that there will be scheduled free elections where they can again make their case. Yet we should be there to increase the confidence that this can happen. And we should not assume that Maliki has no reason to target Hashemi, who is being portrayed as a Sunni Arab martyr.

Focus on justice in the Hashemi case and in general promote rule of law. I've long agreed with Strategypage's assessment that the biggest threat to democracy we face in Iraq is getting rule of law rather than beating the Baathists, the Sunni tribes, Iranian death squads, separatist Kurds, or al Qaeda and their jihadi allies. We beat the armed threats. Will the Obama administration fail on the post-war mission as they seem determined to do?

Good grief, man, bust a gut to get a strategic agreement with Iraq that returns US forces so that Iraqis will have some confidence that we won't allow democracy to be subverted. We will get what we deserve if we don't work harder to get what we should wish.

Monday, April 23, 2012

You Get What You Pay For

So the 2009 stimulus act was an example of how big government can correct the excesses of capitalism by spending money to smooth the downturn. It was a great new era of competent big government:

We are in the year four of our lord, when darkness was made light, the seas gently receded, and the planet cooled. In the space of 24 hours in January 2009 the world was turned upside down: ...

But big government just spent the money on their supporters who didn't need smoothing as much as they needed stroking (Tip to Instapundit):

Grover Norquist and John Lott, Jr. uncover a startling fact: heavily Democratic states with lower poverty rates, lower unemployment rates, lower bankruptcy rates, and lower foreclosure rates received most of President Barack Obama's $825 billion Stimulus.

Huh. It was just a pay off to loyal constituencies in Democratic wish-list bills, as many noted at the time.

The federal government is too big and does too much.

The Good Strategic Partnership

Ah, the Obama administration can come to an agreement with a government for a post-combat mission American presence to defeat our common enemies:

American and Afghan officials announced on Sunday that they both endorsed a final draft of the strategic partnership agreement that will outline the US commitment here for at least a decade after the 2014 deadline to transition all security to local forces. ...

The details of the agreement have yet to be released, but it represents an important commitment for Afghans who have expressed concern that the US will drop support after their withdrawal, as happened after the Soviet war here.

Or what happened after 2011 in Iraq. I guess Iraqis didn't have any concerns about our loss of support against internal fissures and external pressure.

Tell me again that President Obama tried hard to get a similar agreement with the Iraqi government.

NOTE: And now scheduled postings aren't working.

That Used to Be Dross

I don't read Thomas Friedman. Oh, I experimented in my blogging youth. But I lost a lot of brain cells doing it despite my efforts not to inhale. Luckily it is only a five dollar fine in Ann Arbor, so I don't have a criminal record. If you are a regular reader, you know that while I won't say you can't drown in a pool of Friedman's wisdom, you would have to be drunk and face down to do so.

But sometimes people I like enough to read have read Friedman, and they comment on him. But they get paid to read Friedman's dross, and my computer screen can stand only so many spewings of beverages as I read him. Perhaps if ink was cheaper I'd have a way out of that dilemma. Sure, sometimes what Friedman writes is so stupid it is amusing, but the next morning I wonder what was so funny. And then I remember that Friedman is but a regurgitator of conventional center-left wisdom. And then I get all sad, and stuff.

Anyway, Jonah comments on Friedman's pool of wisdom of saying that we can no longer do great (as in big) things because of gridlock. The recent record of great things (big although many are also stupid) our governing class has done would seem to nullify that assessment. If we aren't doing great things, just what in the heck are we spending so much money on under this president?

To be fair, Friedman might just be trying to sell copies of his latest book--which all seem to be a reordering of paragraphs from his last book run through a thesaurus program with a catch term added ("vetocracy" in this article's case, although I cannot say if that is his latest book's term to be used at east coast cocktail parties)--That Used to Be Dross.

I always get queasy when I get too close to Friedman's writing. Alas, that used to be lunch.

Ah, Just Different New Technology

When President Obama decided to abandon the Bush plan to put in anti-missile bases in eastern Europe that could intercept Iranian missiles heading for Europe or America, he said that his plan would use existing Navy missiles that could be put in quickly. The administration said that their new plan would be just as good--and done faster--than the Bush plan.

I didn't understand that since the Navy missiles had too short a range to defend Europe except by putting launchers all over the continent from the Atlantic to Poland and from Norway to Greece.

Worse, those missiles could never stop missiles flying over Europe to America.

So I was puzzled about those administration claims that they improved a faulty Bush plan.

Apparently, the Obama plans aren't that hot:

Obama claims his system would be more reliable than what had been planned by Bush because the new plan was based on tested technology.

"We have made specific and proven advances in our missile defense technology," Obama said at the time. "Our new approach will, therefore, deploy technologies that are proven and cost-effective and that counter the current threat, and do so sooner than the previous program."

But the two reports cast doubt on the technology and Obama's timetable.

Oh, and the mis-match between claims that the Obama plan could defend America with missiles that obviously couldn't do the job is clearer now:

Soon after Obama took office in 2009, he revamped the program as he looked to improve relations with Moscow. His plans called for slower interceptors that could address Iran's medium-range missiles. The interceptors would be upgraded gradually over four phases, culminating in 2020 with newer versions, still in development, that the administration says will protect Europe and the United States. The early phases call for using Aegis radars on ships and a more powerful radar based in Turkey. Later phases call for moving Aegis radars to Romania and Poland.

Ah, there was a plan to eventually defend the United States. But it relies on new technology that isn't as secure as the Obama administration made it out to be. I was right that the Navy missiles simply wouldn't protect America even if they could--if deployed widely enough--defend Europe.

So we scared allies over our ability to disregard previous commitments and won't gain any technical advantage--and may not be able to protect America at all.

Oh, and the Russians are still whining about our plans like annoying brats.

But other than those minor things, the Obama missile defense plan is swell.

NOTE: Hey! Scheduling worked. Woo hoo! I really don't have many complaints about Blogger. I'm just happy they can make money providing a free service to me.

Ring Around the Crazy

Everything we do should have the objective of collapsing that dangerous gulag with a UN seat, North Korea. These people shouldn't be allowed to write with sharp pencils let alone have nuclear weapons:

The North has for months been criticising the South's President Lee Myung-Bak in extreme terms and threatening "sacred war" over perceived insults.

There have been no incidents but the language has become increasingly vitriolic. Some analysts said they believe a military provocation is likely.

"The special actions of our revolutionary armed forces will start soon to meet the reckless challenge of the group of traitors," said a statement on the official news agency.

The North said its targets are "the Lee Myung-Bak group of traitors, the arch criminals, and the group of rat-like elements including conservative media destroying the mainstay of the fair public opinion".

It said the actions "will reduce all... to ashes in three or four minutes... by unprecedented peculiar means and methods of our own style".

North Korea is trying very hard to make good on their long-standing threat to turn Seoul into a sea of fire.

We need an iron ring around North Korea to squeeze them until they collapse. If we don't succeed, we shall surely all fall down. Don't say North Korea didn't warn us.

Ready to Do the Inconceivable

Experts say that Israel cannot possibly strike Iran and knock down Iran's nuclear programs by any significant degree. The Israeli military's chief-of-staff says they are ready to strike Iran if they need to:

"We think that a nuclear Iran is a very bad thing, which the world needs to stop and which Israel needs to stop -- and we are planning accordingly," Gantz said.

"In principle, we are ready to act.

"That does not mean that I will now order (air force chief) Ido (Nehushtan) to strike Iran," he added in the interview which will be published in full on Wednesday, on the eve of Israel's 64th anniversary as a state.

This could all be a bluff to scare America into attacking Iran (if we really believe Israel can't attack but will try and fail) or to scare Iran into making real concessions.

Or it could mean that after nearly a decade of pondering options, the Israelis are thinking of ways to hit Iran that are within Israel's capabilities.

Is it inconceivable that Israel could strike Iran? A lot of experts seem to think so. I'm betting that word doesn't mean what they think it means.

How They Debate

The media is biased toward the left. It is most infuriating when they discuss military issues. Although I have to admit that their lack of knowledge on the subject competes with plain bias as the worst offender.

But the bias exists. Sure, you can point to Fox news and the Wall Street Journal editorial page as conservative outlets, but in the vast firmament that is our media universe, the vast majority is liberal. They show it in the topics they cover and the questions they ask (or don't ask) even when they try to be fair. They live and work in an environment where everyone agrees with them so they think that they've covered all the angles. The JournoList scandal was surprising because the left wing herd marches in lock stop 95% of the time, so why conspire to get it up to 99%?

Yet whether it is on issues of dogs (Romney letting one ride on the roof is a story but Obama eating one is not a story) or substance where if a Republican had done it it would have been a lead story with multi-colored charts of connections and influence; yet if a Democrat does something it is just ignored.

Those are annoying. But I'm used to it. I'm just grateful that there are some news outlets to support new media efforts to refute the narrative of the left that used to get its way.

What is really annoying is when the left-wing media tries to pretend to be fair. Heck, they may actually believe they are being fair when they do this, given what they believe. What is really annoying is when someone like NPR has a story about Issue A and how Republicans think about the issue. Then they have a debate with two competing analysts about whether Republicans are evil to think that way--or just too ignorant to know better. I mean, if you can't conceive of the Republican stand being correct, your only two explanations are bad intent or stupidity.

In an election year where the left has to defend their hope and change narrative of 2008, expect a lot of these stories.

UPDATE: If Axelrod thinks something is a scandal depending on the party, you can be sure the media thinks the same way. That isn't an evil-or-stupid debate, but we have time for that to kick into gear.

New or Old Stryker Concept?

Strategypage writes that the Chinese like our Stryker wheeled armored personnel carriers and are patterning new brigades after our Stryker brigades:

The ZBL 09 entered service in 2009, and some combat brigades are being equipped with it, to operate somewhat like the American Stryker brigades. China has been developing new wheeled armored vehicles for over a decade. Until recently these were all based on Russian designs. The ZBL 09, however, borrows more from the West. Still, some of the more recent (five years ago) Russian type designs were interesting and instructive.

Some versions have large caliber guns that could be used against main battle tanks as well as for infantry support.

If China is basing their wheeled brigades after our Stryker brigades, are the Chinese thinking of them as counter-insurgent forces as they have been used or as medium brigades that bridge the gap between leg infantry and heavy brigades?

Do the Chinese think of our old ideas about a brigade that can be airlifted in to fight? Good grief, I still remember alarms here that the Stryker couldn't fit in a C-130 without removing bits and pieces--as if a Stryker crew would need to fight their way off the plane while rolling down the ramp!

If the Chinese aim for Taipei with airborne drops, being able to airlift in medium mechanized forces would be very useful until heavier stuff can be shipped across the Taiwan Strait.

But I've long been suspicious about this type of unit despite Chinese claims that they have nothing to do with Taiwan.

So what version of our Stryker concept appeals to China?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

How Cute is This?

The Easter Bunny delivered a couple bunny paratroopers with the candy basket. Lamb rather liked them.

A couple days ago, she called them "carrot troopers."

I thought that was pretty clever. Apparently she thought I said they were "parrot troopers" rather than "paratroopers." She thought airborne rabbits needed a non-bird name.

That's my girl.

No, Exactly as Expected

Hamas is failing the people of Gaza:

“They say they are the resistance against the enemy,” said Umm Mohammed, 26, bouncing a baby on her knee. “Where is the resistance?”

The militant Islamist movement surged to a surprise victory in Palestinian elections in 2006 with promises of clean governance and a reputation for terrorist tactics against Israel, which had withdrawn from Gaza the year before. But after five years of Hamas administration, many in this besieged strip say it has lived up to neither. Hamas is fast losing popularity, and recent surveys indicate that it would not win if elections were held in Gaza today.

This is why I didn't believe the Hamas victory in Gaza's elections was a disaster and why I believe our response to the Arab Spring should be to ensure rule of law and continued free elections rather than trying to engineer who wins the first and possibly only election.

If Moslems want to elect nuts, they will. The nuts will screw up. As long as the people can ponder their choices and feel the results of having nuts run their lives, in time fewer voters will respond to the "Vote Nuts! It Feels Good!" campaigns. Eventually, nuts might even be marginalized rather than lionized for their nuttiness.

Unfortunately, Hamas is unlikely to volunteer an election today. Not when European "peace" activists think Hamas is the greatest thing since sliced bread Judenfrei declarations.

And on a more depressing note, the residents of Gaza haven't gotten to the post-nut stage. In part, they just aren't satisfied with trying to kill Jews. Hamas would do better in local polling if they managed to kill more Jews despite the failure to govern effectively.

But hey, I guess you don't shake off the dose of stupid you live with all at once.

NOTE: Scheduled posting still out of whack.

UPDATE: Ah, a Judenfrei story so soon. Not Gaza, but close.

Waging War from Your Parents' Basement

One man became a one-man intelligence agency for the Libyan rebels. Instapundit quotes one part:

"­Benfayed got hold of the city’s only two-way satellite Internet connection and started accepting hundreds of requests to connect on Skype. He organized his contacts into six categories: English media, Arabic media, medical, ground information, politicians, and intelligence. His contacts included ambassadors and doctors, journalists and freedom fighters. A source of high-grade military intelligence soon turned his ad hoc operation into a control room. . . . After about a hundred hours of work, Martin had 250 or so direct contacts in Libya and elsewhere. He created, in effect, a private intelligence network. Initially, he expected only “ambient” or background information, but the intelligence he gathered soon proved useful for both strategy and tactics."

I addressed the growing ability of private individuals to wage war in my compilation of blog posts addressing private warfare. Eventually, people like Benfayed will be able to initiate kinetic actions on their own from their computer. And after that, even conduct them. Someone will supply the need.

When nations are too weary and too broke to defend national interests, sub-groups of citizens with the motivation and means to wage war will fill the gap.

NOTE: No, this was not posted when it was supposed to be.

The 200

Speaking of sacrificial vanguards:

About 200 soldiers claiming to be government loyalists have moved back into northern Mali saying they will fight to take it back from Tuareg-led separatist and Islamist rebels that routed the army across the region three weeks ago.

"The 200" isn't as inspiring as they might hope.

I'll be shocked if Mali or even ECOWAS manages to put an offensive together any time soon without a core of French troops.

Not Exactly THE 300

This image puzzled me the first time I saw it regarding Syrian protesters:

The 300?

Oh, that 300:

The Security Council unanimously approved a resolution Saturday expanding the number of U.N. cease-fire observers in Syria from 30 to 300 and demanding an immediate halt to the violence that has been escalating since the government and opposition agreed to end hostilities more than a week ago.

Well, they could help stop the Persians. But don't ask them to go shirtless. These 300 may fight in the shade, but it will be pool side under an umbrella if UN history is a guide.

And if this 300 represents the vanguard of an entire UN army, it will only work as long as the Turks are blessed for the job.

No Blood for Oil

Well, not much blood, anyway. South Sudan has pulled back from confronting Sudan over oil fields both claim:

Sudan and South Sudan both claimed to be in control of a contested oil town near the countries' ill-defined border on Friday after the south said it was withdrawing its troops to avert a return to war.

Last week, South Sudanese troops took over the border town of Heglig, which they call Panthou, sending Sudanese troops fleeing and sparking condemnation from the U.N., America and Britain. This time, Sudan sent South Sudanese in headlong flight, Sudanese officials said.

Facing international condemnation, the spokesman for South Sudan's President Salva Kiir announced Friday that the south would withdraw its forces within three days but still believes that the town of Heglig is a part of South Sudan. Kiir said he expects its final status to be determined by international arbitration.

South Sudan is very weak compared to Sudan, and attempting to settle the dispute with armed force is folly. While the good will of the international community and your own resources will help you get what you want, South Sudan doesn't have the latter. So it doesn't hurt to at least have the former. Now at least, South Sudan's friends can point out that Sudan really is an evil state:

"In parallel, we're also calling on the government of Sudan, as we have regularly, to halt their own cross-border attacks, particularly the provocative aerial bombardments, so that we can get back to a place where these two sides are working together," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters in Washington.

And the Darfur genocide stuff, you know.

And it isn't just about one oil region. If shooting starts in earnest over where that border is, fighting could easily spread:

The stage is set for a wider war in east Africa if the Sudan-South Sudan War continues. The war would also involve numerous rebel groups and militant tribal militias operating throughout Sudan and South Sudan.

Then there are the ethnicity and religion factors. Sudan considers itself Arab and Moslem. Sudan actually considers itself an Islamic republic (religious dictatorship). South Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda are all largely Christian and black African. The animosity between black Africans and Arabs is thousands of years old and still active. It means that the Arab world will hold their nose and support Sudan in their war against the "blacks". Sub-Saharan (black) Africa will support South Sudan. It's an old war and it's not just about Sudan.

Israel has supported South Sudan in the past, too.

Strategypage also sketches the armed forces of both sides.

Who knows what could happen? But one thing that won't happen is a deep bout of "why do they hate us?" hand-wringing in the black African states as they ponder another fight with Moslem Arabs. I guess they may not have much else, but they do have self respect.

UPDATE: Hatred in Sudan seems to be a way of life:

A Muslim mob has set ablaze a Catholic church frequented by Southern Sudanese in the capital Khartoum, witnesses and media reports said on Sunday.

A lovely bunch of people, there, no? But at least Sudan has China in their corner. Another lovely bunch of people, it seems.

UPDATE: China is caught between standing support of Sudan and a desire to secure oil supplies form South Sudan, too. Hey China, isn't being a global power fun?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Justification for a Rush to War?

Wow, anything really is possible in the age of hope and change:

The US has already told Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan that it would assist those those countries if chemical weapons were found crossing their borders.

Russia, Syria’s strongest ally and a longtime arms supplier, knows well that the weapons are a big problem, one that may blow back on Russia itself if they go missing. Their use by Assad forces would constitute a war crime, and would likely push the international community to approve a quick invasion of Syria.

Use of chemical weapons by a Baathist minority government against the ruler's own people would be a war crime justifying a "quick invasion" of Syria?

Fancy that.

Now that I think about it, we even mentioned that back in 2002:

... the current Iraqi regime has demonstrated its capability and willingness to use weapons of mass destruction against other nations and its own people ...

Gosh. What's different now?