Saturday, June 30, 2012

Reset in Our Time

Reset! An authoritarian axis is forming:

Coinciding with Putin’s return to the presidency, he turned to strident anti-American rhetoric to bolster his domestic power and international reputation – the latter to persuade other states to join the axis against Washington. His ability to build this axis, with China’s collaboration, explains why Russia could be a significant geopolitical adversary – despite its profoundly weak economy fueled largely by petro-dollars. This has major implications in the Asia-Pacific: if China and Russia were to increase their economic and military cooperation, their power would be felt throughout the region, adding more tension to an area where the United States is already increasing its presence.

In building the axis, a critical stratagem was Putin’s decisions to skip the G-8 summit and Camp David, and instead to visit Germany, France, China, and Afghanistan before meeting President Obama. This calculated move strengthened Putin and put Obama on the defensive.

It's almost as if "reset" just means "sitting there and taking it, and pretending to like it."

What the heck, I'm sure they have no more territorial ambitions.

Every Option Available

Why is our use of force considered to be abnormal?

Here we have an author complaining that America attempts to solve problems with military force because our military is so capable of defeating any other nation's military in battle. While the author lists a number of cases since Korea where we used or escalated military means when we otherwise could have refrained from using force in the first place or escalating, he reserves his real anger for Iraq:

In 2002, the U.S. administration achieved its stated goals without firing a shot when Saddam Hussein readmitted UN weapons inspectors and allowed them free access to suspected sites—where, of course, they discovered nothing. By the time of the invasion, they had advised that the completion of their task would take “not years, not weeks, but months.” Nevertheless, the invasion went ahead under the assumption that most U.S. forces would be withdrawn by 2005 at the latest, with Bush administration officials estimating a total cost of $50–60 billion.

What rot.

Remember, as a condition of the ceasefire in 1991 after Desert Storm, Saddam was supposed to--in a matter of months--verify and prove he did not have weapons of mass destruction programs. Over time, Saddam stood that standard of proof on its head and people in the West--including the author above, it seems--started to accept that inspections were a game where we had to catch Saddam with something as Saddam hid what he had.

Yes, inspectors said they could accomplish their task in months. But as long as the rules of the game were Saddam's where we had to find something or Saddam was deemed innocent rather than the 1991 rules where Saddam was guilty until he proved he'd disarmed, how could we say with assurance that we searched everywhere we needed to look?

We simply couldn't under Saddam's rules that we played by.

As for the assumption that we could be mostly out by 2005 and that the costs would be pretty cheap, that assumption was not unreasonable. We did blitz Saddam's army despite claims of some that we'd face a brutal Stalingrad-on-the-Tigris that would bleed us white. With Iraq's oil potential, why shouldn't we have been able to get Iraq moving forward once again?

The problem is that I never imagined we'd allow Syria and the wider Sunni Arab world to funnel al Qaeda jihadis into Iraq. Nor did I imagine we'd let Iran get away with supplying pro-Iranian Shia Sadrists. By the end of 2003, we'd captured Saddam and Baathist resistance was fading. But then the spring offensive by the Sunni jihadis and the Shia Sadrists started a whole new war.

Even then, it still looked like we'd settled things down enough in 2005 to start drawing down troops by the end of that year. But Shia-Sunni Arab violence surged and then really exploded in spring 2006. It took the surge and the Awakening to finally break the Sunni Arab resistance. We and the Iraqis also broke resistance of the Sadrists in Baghdad and in Basra.

So the initial war was easy. Dare I say it--notwithstanding some very serious fighting--it was a cake walk in the big picture.

More broadly, rather than saying that we frequently use armed forces because we can--problem nails and our excellent hammer, he says--why not ask why we don't use armed force to solve problems more often? Countries around the world have disagreements with us and we do not resort to force to compel them to do what we want. Despite our excellent hammer, we do not in fact treat every problem as a nail.

But the fact is, Iraq was a nail waiting to be pounded. Iraq had long been a threat to the region and we even tried to be somewhat nice to him during the Iran-Iraq War when we "tilted" to Iraq to keep Iran from winning. That didn't work and Saddam invaded Kuwait. Despite getting pounded in 1991 to free Kuwait, Saddam continued to threaten neighbors and the region, both directly and with terrorism. Saddam refused to confirm his disarmament and in the mid-1990s was caught with a covert biological weapons program that inspections had missed. And even in 1991, Saddam failed to account for WMD raw materials and was found in violation of missile restrictions regarding range. We'd tried inspections and containment and sanctions, and nothing was getting Saddam to behave. War was not lightly begun and it was richly justified.

Even more broadly, isn't it fair to say that rather than America using force freely because we can that instead we happen to have all options open to us? In a dangerous world, why is our rate of use of force assumed to be too high? How many nations would use military force against a problem but don't because they simply don't have the option of using military force--but then get credit for refraining from using force as if it was a choice rather than a limitation forced by their military weakness? How many times should a non-US country have used force but did not because they could not over the last 60 years? Don't nations without hammers simply deny that they are looking at nails? And then boast that they are morally superior?

And lets think about China, who for years was credited with a soft-power "charm" offensive despite their growing military power, which these days seems happy to rattle their sabre if not use it:

A rising number of influential academic and military advisers to Beijing have argued that due to China's fast-rising quasi-superpower status - and the intensification of the country's competition with the United States and its Asian allies - the "low profile" approach has become all but obsolete. According to widely published defense theorist Yang Yi, "it is no longer possible for China to keep a low profile".

"When any country infringes upon our nation's security and interests, we must stage a resolute self-defense," Rear Admiral Yang told Xinhua News Agency in an interview. "Counter-attack measures [taken by Beijing] should be 'of short duration, low cost and efficient' - and leave no room for ambiguity or [undesirable] after-effects". The usually hawkish Global Times, which is a subsidiary of the People's Daily, said it all when it editorialized that for China to safeguard its national interests, "we must dare to defend our principles and have the courage to confront multiple countries simultaneously".

As Chinese power grows, we can expect China to use that force when it thinks it can.

Indeed, the Philippines could be an early target:

Major General Luo Yuan, a popular media commentator, has reiterated the People's Liberation Army's readiness to "teach the Philippines a lesson". Luo blamed nationalistic elements inside and outside the Philippine government for inflaming relations with China. "If the Philippines cannot rein in their folks, let us discipline them," he wrote last month. Regarding the alleged provocations of the Philippine navy, Luo warned "We have repeatedly adopted a forbearing attitude-and we have reached the limits of tolerance. There is no more need to show further tolerance".

And we've given China reason to think they can get away with disciplining the Philippines:

A months-long standoff over a remote reef system claimed by both China and the Philippines all but ended this weekend when the Obama administration signaled it would not intervene. That means Chinese patrol boats, which in April chased a Philippines’ warship from the Scarborough Shoal, will remain there as long they want. So, too, will Chinese fishing and commercial exploration ships.

Not that I wanted to go to war with China over this issue. But hopefully we arm up the Philippines to the point where China needs significant power to beat the Philippines if it comes to a fight over Scarborough Shoal.

And keep in mind that for all the talk of China being a rising power, we would stomp them in a fight right now. Yet we are not treating this crisis as a nail for our hammer.

For the actual problems we've attempted to solve by force for the last 60 years, you'd think the world would be grateful rather than disdainful. And you'd think Americans would at least be grateful that since we won the Cold War, we've face enemies we can beat without bleeding ourselves white or spending more than our huge economy can afford (remember, the entire Iraq war cost about as much as we spent at the stroke of a pen with that 2009 "stimulus" bill).

Never Let Them See You Sweat

Mayor Bloomberg is a piece of work.

Via Instapundit, we have this news:

Mayor Bloomberg wants to maintain his politically correct credentials on global warming — but hates to get into a hot car when he leaves an air conditioned building.

The solution his aides came up with could easily have doubled as a stunt on David Letterman’s show.

In full view of bemused tourists and other passers-by, workers yesterday performed what looked like a comedy routine: They hoisted a standard room air conditioner to a side window of one of the mayor’s SUVs parked in the City Hall lot to see if it would fit.

Well, he could just get in the hot SUV with a nice 32 ounce cold drink and wait the 2 minutes for the air conditioning to kick in.

Oh wait, he can't do that. Well, if his aide can carry an air conditioner, I guess he could carry two 16 ounce drinks for the mayor.

Thursday, 30 JUN 88

EOCT--passed with one minor
retest on curved line distance.
Bull--I know I didn't miss by 350 m.
I redid it exact way and got it right.
G.I. party to clean barracks.
Real tired. No mail today. No
time to write. Tomorow inspection.

The end of cycle test--where we have to demonstrate that we know all the tasks we were taught--was done. I really was offended that on maps of all things--Hello? History major here--I was told I'd made a mistake and had to redo the task.

Shoot, in AIT the next summer when we had a day where we had to demonstrate we still remembered all our soldier skills learned in basic (which most trainees had just come from), I did the map test so quickly that the specialist administering the test asked me what my prior MOS had been--implying he assumed I'd been in the Army for quite some time. I used the opportunity to boast that my National Guard unit had taught me a lot before I came to school. The Guard was looked down on by the active duty troops, so it didn't hurt to bolster the image.

We had a cleaning marathon in the barracks before our inspection. Once again, I was just tired from all the activity. It wasn't all easy.

But really, only taking a swing at an NCO or officer could derail graduation at this point.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Yeah, That Does Suck

Pakistanis are complaining that jihadis cross from Afghanistan into Pakistan to kill Pakistani troops:

Pakistan told the UN Security Council on Wednesday that it had acted with restraint to a recent cross-border attack by Taliban that killed 17 Pakistani soldiers, but warned against recurrence of such provocations from the Afghan side.

Huh. Yeah, having enemies with a cross-border sanctuary does suck:

The Haqqani Network is Afghanistan’s most capable and sophisticated insurgent network. The Haqqanis enjoy sanctuary in the tribal areas in Pakistan along the border with Afghanistan. With the backing of elements within the Pakistan security establishment, the Haqqanis have used their sanctuary in the North Waziristan Agency of Pakistan to operate across the border in southeastern Afghanistan.

We have to deal with it, too:

For a company of paratroopers planted in the heart of Taliban country, newly built Joint Security Station Hasan in southern Ghazni Province is a chance to make a real difference.

Conceived as a blockade against arms, explosives and fighters streaming up through Ghazni's desolate Nawah District from Pakistan, JSS Hasan was established within view of the only bridge spanning the Tarnak River that is able to support heavy vehicles.

It's plain "country" living, with no running water, electricity, hot meals, only ankle-deep dust, dry heat and daily bombardment from enemy mortars and rocket-propelled grenades.

The reaction from Taliban fighters to security forces moving into one of their primary support zones has been violent, according to Capt. Philip Schneider, whose company of 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers built the post in an old, burned-out compound in the village of Hasan and man it with Afghan soldiers of 3rd Brigade, 203rd Corps.

"We take contact every time we go out," said Schneider, an armor officer who has spent nearly his entire career leading infantry, including a 15-month tour in Baghdad as part of the Surge.

"We didn't get much contact when we were building, but after, it was game on," he said. "We take indirect fire daily, and the road coming in here is full of [improvised explosive devices]. We've called in gun runs from A-10s and Apaches; we use danger-close artillery extensively and have had rounds fall within 200 meters of friendlies. The learning curve is very steep down here."

And we have to deal with this area this summer. Maybe we'll have next summer to defend gains we make this summer. But that's it. Then Afghanistan will be in the lead. What are the odds that Pakistan will do something to remove the need for combat outposts in dangerous parts of Regional Command East to deal with infiltration from Pakistan?

Maybe if Pakistan stopped trying to fight on both sides of the same war, they'd be better off. I know we would. And Afghans, too, of course.

Doomed Again

There were lots of books claiming Iraq was lost. And until we won that war, they persuaded a lot of people that we could not win in Iraq.

Afghanistan is getting the same treatment now. Not that being wrong about Iraq means this class of books is wrong about Afghanistan. But I don't see the doom that these books claim is coming. We haven't won yet, so we may not. But it looks like we are winning.

One author seems to want to lift any responsibility from President Obama for the pending defeat in Afghanistan that he believes must happen by blaming the military for sending troops to the wrong area and--what a shock--blaming Bush for being distracted by Iraq:

The problem was partly rooted in a 2005 decision by President George W. Bush to reduce American forces in Afghanistan and deploy them in Iraq.

Oh good grief. The seeds of defeat go back to 2005 when Bush diverted troops from Afghanistan to Iraq? Really?

Let's go to the statistics of our troop strength in both countries, shall we (from page 9)?

Year         Afgh.       Iraq         Total
FY2002     5,200          0                5,200
FY2003   10,400     67,700     78,100
FY2004   15,200   130,600   145,800
FY2005   19,100   143,800   162,900
FY2006   20,400   141,100   161,500
FY2007   23,700   148,300   172,000
FY2008   30,100   157,800   187,900

Excuse the lack of a table. I once spent way too much time to put a table in a post and regretted it.

In 2005, the decision was allegedly made by Bush to shift troops from Afghanistan to Iraq. So from 2005 to 2006, surely we'd see that, right?

Wrong. We had 1,300 more in Afghanistan in 2006 than in 2005. And Iraq had 2,700 fewer.

Huh.

And then, the author says, the military screwed up by focusing on Helmand with the initial wave of surge troops in 2009 rather than Kandahar. Poor Obama wrongly deferred to the military, and now we are doomed. Again.

I guess I won't waste more time on this. Why bother? Max Boot takes a stab at the book.

The "good" war in Afghanistan has not gone bad--in the sense that we've lost it. But it has gone bad as liberals abandon any pretense that they'd like to win it. This was easy to predict.

Which could mean we'll lose it. But that will be from decisions we are making right now and not from decisions made in 2005.

Contractors Overhead

Australia has hired an Israeli company to provide drone support for ground operations in Afghanistan:

For the last three years, the RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force) has been leasing Israeli Heron Shoval UAVs for use in Afghanistan. The RAAF actually rents the Herons by the hour, and in the last three years have bought 10,000 hours of flight time, using 19 Herons. Total cost per hour in the air for a Heron is over $20,000. That includes the services of ten people per UAV as operators (of the aircraft and equipment onboard) as well as ground support personnel. ...

About half the time RAAF Herons were used for surveillance of a village or remote compound to determine if the Taliban were operating there and if the place was worth a visit by ground troops. The rest of the time Herons were directly supporting ground troops. While the Herons were not armed, the UAV operators called in warplanes (with missiles and smart bombs), artillery or American UAVs that carried missiles.

There is still hesitation to use private military assets if they do the shooting. Somehow, a contractor designating a target but letting someone in a uniform pull the trigger on the bomb or shell that does the killing is OK.

It will be interesting to see who first lets the contractor pull the trigger too, either by arming the drones or by having contractor artillery on the ground as part of the private drone force package.

Private warfare may be driven forward by global budget problems that reduce resources available for defense but which do not lessen defense needs. Will a small country decide that their infantry formations can be motorized light infantry suitable for domestic disaster relief and civil unrest missions without artillery assets that are then rented along with their drone spotters in time of war?

Why yes, now that you mention it, you can buy a collection of posts from The Dignified Rant on this subject.

Dreaming of Rice Pilaf

The international Left complained about the humane and organized Guantanamo Bay detention facilities so much that instead of putting prisoners in a prison where they actually gain weight before release, they now never have to worry about the horrors of rice pilaf:

Bosaso [in Somalia], along with other remote prisons around the world, is one of the less well-known and least-understood aspects of the war on terror. When President Barack Obama came into office, he expanded the scope of Central Intelligence Agency and military-drone operations in the Islamic world, while also taking steps to end America’s role in detaining suspects captured overseas in that war. He shut the remaining CIA black site prisons in Europe, and handed over high-value Iraqi detainees to the Iraqi courts. Guantanamo Bay no longer takes new inmates, though it continues to house prisoners who haven’t yet been transferred to other countries.

Unwilling to confront the loons who believe Gitmo is a Nazi concentration camp, President Obama decided that his major response would be to kill terrorists with drones rather than take the heat for imprisoning captured jihadis.

But we can't kill them all, it seems. So Plan B is to just let them rot in other people's prisons where the jailers don't give a rip about the international Left's complaints.

I get so confused. Is this the "hope" or the "change" part?

It really is amazing what you can get away with when you are a super-liberal Democrat.

Comfortingly Normal

A political crisis in Iraq is underway. Is the prime minister calling out the tanks to surround the presidential palace and unleashing security thugs to kill and arrest opposition?

No, he threatens to call early parliamentary elections:

"When the other side refuses to sit at the table of dialogue and insists on the policy of provoking successive crises in a way that causes serious damage to the supreme interests of the Iraqi people, the prime minister found himself forced to call for early elections," said the statement on Maliki's website.

How ... normal. Well, for your parliamentary types it is normal, anyway. So I make allowances.

What a far cry from dropping people in shredders.

May all political disputes be handled this way.

Some Blood for Some Oil

I think I can say with some confidence that China won't face protesters chanting "no blood for oil" if these disputes escalate to shooting:

Vietnam’s state-run oil explorer warned China to halt efforts to develop disputed areas of the South China Sea that Hanoi’s leaders have already awarded to companies including Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) (XOM) and OAO Gazprom. ...

The tender threatens to escalate tensions after Chinese vessels last year cut the cables of a PetroVietnam survey ship and chased away a boat in waters delimited by the Philippines. The blocks are the southernmost put out for bid by China in about two decades, according to Arthur Ding, a research fellow at the Institute of International Relations in Taiwan.

And there sure as heck won't be anti-war protesters here denouncing China for using force in the South China Sea.

Wednesday, 29 JUN 88

PT test today. Wrapped my
upper thigh, Ben Gyed everything.
did push ups--50. Sit ups--73.
2-mile run 14:16.My leg
held up--I even sprinted
the last 1/4 lap. Pizza
party tonight. Can drink pop now
and eat anything we want.
Tried to call [fiance]. She was
at class. I knew it but thought
I'd try anyway. EOCT tomorrow.
Inspection Friday now.
We won AFPT banner. Gave
Motivation banner to 3rd platoon. They
also got 100%. We won since all
us old farts kicked ass and boosted
our average. All but one passed
Army standards. 2nd platoon had one
PT failure. We missed 100% company
pass by one. Letter from [fiance]
today. Good to hear from her.
Only 8 more damn days here.
I hope we get paid Friday. I've
got $2 left.

My leg held for the PT test and I did fine. I remember running with another platoon-mate. It helped to run with someone else to maintain the pace. When there was a quarter mile to go, I told him I was going to sprint home in case he wanted to join me. It felt good to have the juice to pour it on at the end.

Our 1st platoon had a lot of older members like myself. Since Army scores are weighted for age, just doing as well as younger troops gave us old farts more points. So we won the PT banner. Not that we needed that edge to pass. In AIT, once young trooper with a reputation for being a runner lost out to me in raw time in one timed run, I recall. Maybe he wasn't trying hard that day, but still.

I remember the drill sergeants standing the single company failure from 2nd platoon in front of us all and explaining that he was why we wouldn't get a pass. Oh, I'd hate to be that one guy standing in front of all of the rest.

I don't remember if we had to buy the pizzas. If we did, I was out of luck with only 2 bucks left before pay day.

This was the last real hurdle for me since it relied on my bum leg holding out. Taped up and numbed, it held out.

Hooah.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Don't Lose What You Might Need

Helen Smith (the Mrs. Instapundit) has problems with a new book on the problem with boys, including this advice:

The first of the author’s 10 rules for boys is to “Lose the Swagger, Kid.” Apparently, boys are prone to bad messages that tell them to be “hyper-macho” and the author seems to think that gentle, compassionate reading boys are the answer. I understand that the “thug culture” that tells boys to act like gangsters is not a good message. However, I wonder if she gets that boys are not girls and that male traits are often positive and natural.

And sometimes those male traits are needed.

I was born and raised in Detroit. I'm not claiming that I grew up in inner city poverty or anything. But I knew a kid who was shot. I was chased by police. I took some stitches in my head due to attack on a group I was in (I drew extra attention, it seems, by trying to fight back in the surprise attack). I saw a drug bust by the Mod Squad and instinctively knew how to react to gun fire. Our neighbors used a Molotov cocktail to settle a neighborhood dispute (not with my family).

In my neighborhood you needed a swagger.

I didn't really know I had it. But I did. Heck, it probably kept me from getting hazed as a freshman in my suburban high school. Eventually, classmates would ask me if Detroit was really as bad as they heard. I'd tell them, no, it's an exaggeration. For example, last week only 3 people in my neighborhood were killed and I only knew one personally. Eventually, they figured I was joking.

It wasn't until college that friends would tell me that I would get a "Detroit" accent when I drank. And I had the swagger. For Detroit it was the rolling shoulder walk. I don't know if that is universal. Mine was not as exaggerated as the droopy pants youths you might see. Heck, I was a skinny white kid. But it was there. Rather than being a sign of a thug culture exclusively, it is also a "don't ef with me" signal. You walk head up through terrain you don't know and you roll your shoulders as if you fear no evil though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death. Anything that sows some doubt and buys some time to get through hostile territory is valuable.

Mind you, my first line of defense was avoiding hostile territory. I wasn't a fool who thought my skinny frame scared many--if any--for long if I was walking a certain way. But sowing doubt for even 10 seconds could get you out of the danger zone.

I don't walk that way now. I live in Ann Arbor. But even today if I am in unfamiliar territory, the rolling shoulder walk comes back naturally. It's kind of funny, actually. Heck, it doesn't even matter if I had a keep-away walk or if I thought I did. The need for it was clear.

Yes, gangster culture is destructive--if you aren't on gangster turf. You don't want to shoulder roll into your interview while wearing a suit--especially with droopy suit pants.

If you are in gangster turf, you do not want to lose the swagger. "Humility" is the same as "target" or "victim."

Lose the need to swagger and you lose the swagger. Don't kid yourself otherwise. Hey, maybe more security in poor areas would help more than just telling young men not to swagger.

We Don't Have a Side

Egypt is a tough problem:

The military and the Muslim Brotherhood are wrestling over how to share power in a country that for the time being has no sitting parliament, no permanent constitution and no clear path toward democracy after last year's ouster of Hosni Mubarak, a long-time U.S. ally who banned and oppressed the Brotherhood.

As a result, current and former U.S. officials say, the United States faces a multidimensional diplomatic challenge. It must deal with everyone as it tries to sustain strategic cooperation with Egypt on its peace treaty with Israel and U.S. access to the Suez Canal, while advocating for democracy in a country whose dominant popular force is an Islamist party.

I can't get too worked up over President Obama's handling of the problem because I don't think that the solution was to condemn the Arab Spring and deny Egyptians the chance to vote, and instead rely on the army to put down Islamists. Many conservatives enjoy pounding President Obama over the Egyptian voters' desire to put Islamists in power.

The Arab Spring was the result of people living under despots who simultaneously repressed Islamist political movements while stoking Islamist feelings to bolster their own regimes. The longer the local rulers kept the lid on tight, the more the people looked to Islamists to save them from the despots. Supporting Mubarak in the face of the Arab Spring could only radicalize the people more as time went on so that when the government finally did fall, the replacements would be even more radicalized.

Remember that before the Arab Spring this strategy didn't prevented jihadis from attacking us. Remember 9/11?

In the end, we can't count on despots to control their own people. Even at the risk of short term problems, we have to hope that the people themselves will turn against jihadis. In Gaza, Hamas is no longer popular. Which is why Hamas won't allow free elections.

The problem's solution is not to deny Arabs the first vote but to work as hard as we can to make sure that regular and reasonably free elections take place after the first election. We have to work with all parties because we shouldn't have such a vested interest in any one party winning an election. I have some faith that if we can make sure future elections take place under rule of law, that the people will eventually stop making the worst choice possible. Or that radicals will be swamped my moderates over time as parties seek to maintain public support. We shouldn't have a "side" we need to win. The game itself has to be the objective.

And if the Egyptian people don't learn to elect good men and instead decide to be aggressively violent, at least there is no longer the excuse in the West that we shouldn't fight them because the people aren't responsible for what their despots do.

That clarity has some value, too.

Fine, Get There First--But Stay

The Marine Corps is returning to their amphibious role, first embraced before World War II and enshrined by that war in the Pacific and at Inchon in the Korean War:

After spending nine years heavily involved in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. Marine Corps has most of its troops again training for duty at sea and the kind of raiding operations the marines have long specialized in. While some marines will remain in Afghanistan until next year, most are now regaining their seagoing and raiding skills. The marines also believe that there will be more need for short term operations, where getting there fast is more important than staying around for a long time. To that end, the marines and the navy are scheduling a lot of amphibious exercises over the next year, something there has not been a lot of in the last decade.

I can understand why the Marine Corps doesn't want to be thought of as a "second Army" that does what the Army does. With budget difficulties, Congress might wonder why we have a Marine Corps as big as we have (even though it will drop to 23 infantry battalions--8 regimental combat teams, I assume). And the Marines know from a decade of fighting next to Army volunteers that the Army's troops are every bit as skilled as the Marines. The Marines no longer have the edge that their volunteers provided over draftees.

So it is fine that the Marines are relearning amphibious warfare. Like the Army relearning conventional warfare, this is a logical response to the end of large-scale counter-insurgency missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. I have doubts that we'll need large multi-brigade assaults (maybe on Hainan Island), but company- or battalion-sized amphibious missions are certainly useful in different locations.

Yet I think it is a mistake for Marines to focus on the getting their first mission and assume they just leave after handing off the mission to the Army. One, the Army has lots of units that can get there fast, too, by airlift. Rangers, paratroopers, or airmobile or even Stryker units in battalion or brigade sized units can be airlifted at least as fast as a Marine battalion afloat can reach many places. So banking on being there first might not pay off as a reason to exist.

Second, trying to avoid staying on the ground for long ignores the reality that since 1950, the Marine Corps has been the most significant ground force to fight alongside the Army in our wars. The Army needs the Marine Corps. The Marines will be ordered to fight with the Army if needed regardless of whether the Marines would like that mission.

The Marines would do better to focus on being the bridging force between a rapid response of a battalion-sized task force and a large-scale multi-division campaign. I wrote about this idea before 9/11, and as our COIN campaigns wind down, that strategic environment is returning. Building on their amphibious skills, the Marines could also work to be the assault force that can pierce enemies dug in like an amphibious assault without water, allowing the Army's heavy forces to exploit that hole. And the Marines can use their infantry for city combat, freeing Army heavy forces for mobile warfare. Illustrations supporting this idea were not published but are available here.

The Marine Corps can't save itself from budget cutters by focusing on a niche mission that only it sees as valuable. The Marines surely need to regain competency in amphibious warfare. But they need to be ready to do what the nation needs them to do--even if that means fighting next to the Army in a long conventional or unconventional campaign.

The Marines can't afford to just stay long enough for the meet and greet, and then leave the Army to stay for the entire party and the clean up after.

Whew, This 5-4 Decision is Good

Liberals have spent a month or so really complaining (tip to Instapundit) that a 5-4 decision against ObamaCare would have been the sign of a right-wing coup against rule of law. So let's all heave a sigh of relief that this 5-4 vote upholding ObamaCare demonstrates a fine respect for rule of law:

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the centerpiece of President Barack Obama's signature healthcare overhaul law requiring that most Americans get insurance by 2014 or pay a financial penalty, a historic ruling that gave the White House a big win ahead of Obama's re-election bid in November.

So I suppose I should give my initial response to the act since I've complained about it. I'm no lawyer, so feel free to disregard my opinion. (As if you needed my invitation to do that!)

One, I won't declare the U. S. Supreme Court illegitimate because it upheld the law.

Two, I draw great comfort from the fact that ObamaCare was upheld not on the ability of Congress to compel a person to do something under the Commerce Clause, but was upheld on Congress' taxing power. That prevents this from being a direct slippery slope to giving Congress the power to tell us to do anything. I think this is very important because Obama's lawyers were unable to draw a line between compelling the purchase of health insurance and other more obvious wrongs (like making us buy broccoli).

Three, while it would have been nice, it shouldn't be necessary to rely on a single court vote to save us from either unconstitutional provisions or simply bad law enacted through bad process and bad political deals.

Four, I suspect some of the public opposition to the law will decline because it has been held constitutional by the court. Republicans will need to make the case for repealing the bad law rather than railing against the unconstitutional law.

Five, with his refusal to apply immigration laws to a class of illegal immigrants, President Obama has set the precedent that a future president can refuse to prosecute refusals to buy health insurance.

Six, a future president could issue waivers for complying with ObamaCare provisions to everyone and not just to President Obama's supporters the way President Obama has already issued waivers.

Seven, at least we have some clarity that a tax is a tax even if you try to call it something else. Pouring hope and change over a tax doesn't make it less of a tax.

Eight, this is a political victory for President Obama. Period. You can say that Republicans have an issue, but there is no way that President Obama would have chosen to deny Republicans this issue at the price of the centerpiece of his first term being thrown out.

The world did not end. Our government did not endure a figurative coup over this decision. And we have a lot of work to do.

So there you go. For what it is worth. I now resume my regular defense blogging.

UPDATE: And thanks to Mad Minerva for the link on my totally unlawyerly take on the case (although I did work for two decades in the legislative arena, I'll at least say).

UPDATE: More on the importance of the Commerce Clause limitation (tip to Instapundit).

I will say that I am extremely annoyed that many are saying the decision "saved" the court by avoiding another 5-4 conservative decision on an important case. This is the liberal interpretation, of course. But nobody has explained to me why the 5 conservative justices voting one way is political while the 4 liberal justices voting the other way isn't political. That's just part of the liberal mind set that says their view is "normal" and conservative views are strange.

Yet the "strange" view that the Commerce Clause should have limits has been upheld.

There also seems to be the assumption that people will be angered and energized by the decision to oppose the Democrats on the fall to overturn ObamaCare. I hope so. But my hunch is that this assumption is based on the fervor of those who pay attention to politics applies to everyone. My guess is still that the controversey over the court fight led many to oppose the act, but that now that it has the highest court's stamp of approval, opposition will decline in polling unless the opposition to the act make the case anew against ObamaCare rather than assume that anger over the court decision will propel them across the finish line in November.

UPDATE: OK, let this be my last update. Why I'm not upset about the decision, even though I'm disappointed that the law was not struck down:

If you were above all interested in the bill being struck down, it was mostly a loss. On the other hand, if you were more concerned about the qualitative expansion in the power of the government that the bill represented, it was definitely a win.

Unless we are just getting a Commerce Clause in Taxation's clothing, of course.

And let me add that the chaos of a law upheld while only the individual mandate was struck down could have been worse. Would Democrats have repealed the remainder of what they passed with such difficult in order to start over if they had any power to stop repeal? Or would they hold America hostage by implementing the law as much as possible until the pain of the act compelled the majority to "fix" ObamaCare?

I would like to note that after the left bitterly complained that the court would issue a political rather than a legal decision, the majority may have relied on a political decision by Roberts to call the individual mandate penalty a tax in order to avoid a left-inspired hysteria over the "legitimacy" of the high court had he ruled on the law based on what Congress and the Preaident called that money grab.

UPDATE: OK, let me at least link to Mark Steyn. I confess that I won't say I'm confident that the Commerce Clause has taken a decisive hit to prevent it from being the universal justification for whatever Congress wants. And while at some level I am happy that the ruling at least says that a tax is a tax even if Congress tries to call it something else, I'm not confident they got it right with this penalty/tax. And while I certainly always followed the rule in college that if you can't answer the question asked, rephrase the question to one you can answer, I'm not happy that the high court appeared to do exactly that by calling the ObamaCare penalty a tax.

I'm not happy with the decision. I have hope it will work out in the long run. But it worries me, too.

UPDATE: OK, one more. Via Instapundit, the White House denies that the ObamaCare tax is a tax even though that is the only way it is constitutional.

I'll say it again: our federal government is just too damn big and it makes criminals of everyone. God gave us only 10 crimes to remember. Our federal government issues that many commandments every hour.

Stop thinking we can put better people in charge. Reduce the scope of their control and it won't matter.

Camelot! It's Only a Model

You have to love global warming "science." We're heating up so much that Antartica is melting. That's what the consensus said.

Except that it has been melting only in the computer models, and when actual observations are made, the model is proven wrong:

Twenty-year-old models which have suggested serious ice loss in the eastern Antarctic have been compared with reality for the first time - and found to be wrong, so much so that it now appears that no ice is being lost at all.

Oh well, the Knights of the Warm Table can still sing and dance at their big global warming conferences where they jet off to in order to tell us to lower our carbon foot print.



This new learning certainly amazes me, too.

UPDATE: Thanks to Pseudo-Polymath for the link.

Tuesday, 28 JUN 88

Easy day--reinforce. Weapons maintenance.
Polish brass. Early to bed for
the PT test is tomorrow.
We'll eat a Snickers bar 1/2 hour
before test. I hope I don't
screw my leg up too much on the
run. I know I'll make it but at
what price to my right leg?
Fuck it. I'll graduate and then
recover. Drills continue to be cool
as Hell. Almost unnerving. Am I still
in the same Army I joined?
Basic training is finally winding
down.

I never did go on sick call as I wanted. I was so close to getting out and could see that despite my leg I'd pass the test. I did ask one drill sergeant (Tango--the really foul-mouthed one) if I could go easy on my leg. He asked me what my last PT scores were and agreed I could be unofficially on easy physical duty until the test. So with the days getting easier and that, my leg was not getting worse at least.

We went over the tasks we'd be tested on some more. More weapons maintenance. Didn't we finish that up? I guess not. And there was always brass to polish. My memory is that you could buy non-brass replacements for that stuff in the PX to avoid the need to constantly polish it to avoid tarnish. I can see how active duty soldiers would pay for that luxury.

We'd get sleep and a burst of sugar and protein right before the PT test.

And the ability of the drill sergeants to be one of us after the constrast of "Day One" treatment was pretty amazing. Another reminder that modern drill sergeants aren't sadists but using harsh treatment for a purpose--to get us used to operating under stressful conditions so that if we were in war we'd have a shot at operating under actual stressful life-and-death conditions.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Polar Bear

To be fair, Putin can see Alaska from Russia:

Russian strategic nuclear bombers threatened U.S. airspace near Alaska earlier this month and F-15 jets responded by intercepting the aircraft taking part in large-scale arctic war games, according to defense officials.

The Russian war games began the same day President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin held a frosty summit meeting in Mexico June 18.

U.S. officials said the arctic exercises over the Russian Far East and Pacific appeared to be a further sign of Russia’s hardening posture toward the United States.

The Obama administration made no protest of the bomber intrusions, according to the officials, in line with its conciliatory “reset” policy of seeking warmer ties with Moscow.

Canadian aircraft assisted. I assume they were F-18s rather than either F-15s or F-16s mentioned, since Canada has neither.

I think a Polar Command is in order.

UPDATE: It seems appropriate to note this Strategypage post again--and wonder if Russia really can stand up a ground unit capable of fighting in the Arctic.

UPDATE: We say we don't think this means there is any change in Russian attitudes:

SEC. PANETTA: Well, you know, I think we -- we continue to -- to be able to work with the Russians in a number of important areas. P-5-plus-1 is one area where we're continuing to work with them. We work with them on other issues. We maintain military-to-military relations with the Russians.

With regard to the -- the planes that sometimes peruse up in the north, this is not an unusual situation.

We -- we've oftentimes seen their planes come into that area, and I don't think we regard it as anything that is provocative at this point.

GEN. DEMPSEY: Yeah, and I'd add we -- you know, we have a very close relationship with Canada in terms of our -- our security to the north. And so from time to time, we assess whether we see this as in any way a change of some sort of message. And to this point, we haven't concluded that it would be any message of any particular kind.

Saying there is not unusual isn't as comforting as Panetta might think.

And no message? While our leaders met the Russians probed our air defenses? Well, to be fair, Dempsey just said no "particular" message. But it was a general "we're here and we don't particularly like you" message. That's not terribly comforting, either.

Sadly, the People Are Not Reasonably Enlightened

What do you do when people keep eating too much even though it would be better for them--and society--for them to eat less?

Well, you can have intensive counseling for those people who eat too much. People who eat too much cost the health care system a lot.

Except that the counseling would be more expensive than any results in the short run.

And those costs would be shifted to those who don't eat too much rather than being on the wallet of those who eat too much and pay higher insurance premiums now.

And in the long run there is no proof that such counseling does any good, meaning costs in the long run won't go down, either.

Perhaps we can simply wait and see what reasonably enlightened despots in Peking do in the face of their own weight problem.

Or, depending on the Supreme Court ruling tomorrow on ObamaCare, our government can simply skip the futile counseling route and simply order those with a weight problem to eat brocolli and limit their sugary drinks to 16 ounces or less.

Remember, when government "cares," they care about what they care about--not what you might as an individual.

Have Fun Storming the Castle

The Turks won't get a formal assist from NATO over the shoot-down incident with Syria:

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has vowed that NATO will "stand together with Turkey in the spirit of strong solidarity" amid heightened tensions with Syria following the downing of a Turkish jet last week.

Rasmussen said that the security of the alliance was "indivisible" but that NATO diplomats who met in Brussels on June 26 did not discuss whether to invoke Article 5 of NATO's charter, which would categorize the downing of the jet as an attack on the entire alliance.

And even if it did invoke Article 5, individual NATO members are free to determine how they will respond. NATO nations participate as they wish in Afghanistan and participated as they wished over Libya.

Kind of like how Turkey skipped the whole Libya War despite NATO running it. Belgium participated a bit, for Pete's sake! As did Qatar and the United Arab Emirates--not NATO members last I checked.

Effective NATO assistance requires America, of course. Even if we "lead from behind."

So in addition to Turkey's inadequate alliance solidarity in regard to Libya, let's remember how Turkey refused to help us in Iraq in 2003 by denying us the ability to send our high-tech 4th Infantry Division (mechanized) into northern Iraq from Turkey.

But now Turkey wants NATO and American support for dealing with Syria.

I hope Assad goes down. And if Turkey goes in, I wish them well on that mission.

But don't think for a moment that I don't relish Turkey's difficulty in getting more alliance help than they are getting.

Professor Strangelove

Daniel Pipes is astounded that Kenneth Waltz can possibly argue that we should welcome and learn to love a nuclear-armed Iran:

Waltz has also published in the July/August issue of Foreign Affairs the single most preposterous analysis by an allegedly serious strategist of the Iranian quest for a nuclear weapon. His title and subtitle neatly sum up his argument: "Why Iran Should Get the Bomb: Nuclear Balancing Would Mean Stability."

Pipes even wonders why he is still a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, given that they published and led with that article.

I'm way ahead of you on both counts, Professor Pipes.

To answer the rhetorical question posed about whether Professor Waltz is the "stupidest strategist," the answer is no. The frightening thing isn't that his arguments are stupid but that it seems to reflect the emerging consensus of our foreign policy elites.

Stupidity is excusable. Delusion is far more dangerous. I don't know why we spend so much time wondering if Iran's leaders are rational. I wonder if our so-called foreign policy elites are rational.

The Ends Above All

It really is discouraging that so many on the left see no difference between having people do something because they want to and ordering people to do that something.

UPDATE: Which makes it all the more important for the Supreme Court to strike down the ObamaCare mandate tomorrow. The administration could make no legal argument on the limits of this power beyond the health insurance mandate, meaning that there are no legal limits to what those who would make us do the right thing can legislate.

Let's Be Fair to President Carter

I know it is a parlor game among conservatives to weigh whether President Obama is better or worse than President Carter. Things like this would seem to tilt the scales in favor of Carter's exceptional awfulness:

Jimmy Carter, America's 39th president, denounced the Obama administration for "clearly violating" 10 of the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, writing in a New York Times op-ed on Monday that the "United States is abandoning its role as the global champion of human rights."

Sure, former president Carter is a national embarrassment. But when making comparisons with President Obama, remember that President Carter's ineptitude took some time to become sheer repulsiveness as a former president.

Compare apples to apples, eh?

Jimmy Carter really is a repulsive man. "Model ex-president," indeed.

Monday, 27 JUN 88

I'll leave here July 8th after all.
Must let [fiance] know.
Reinforcement, small detail,
polished brass. Drills suddenly
quite cool and bullshitting with
us. PT test Wednesday. EOCT Thursday.
My leg feels much better but still hurts.
Brigade inspection Saturday. Training
just about over. Soon we'll
be fucking around counting days
to shipping out. I'm damn
glad I'm split option. Blew
[Sergeant Delta's] mind when he found
out I'm working on my master's
degree. Already impressed XO
by listing WTO nations when he
asked off-hand if anyone knew.
10 more days plus trip home.
Despite everything I still feel like
a civilian. I didn't expect this.
Perhaps I'll feel differently after
graduation.

I had a definite day for leaving. Woo hoo!

We were in a holding pattern until the final PT test and end of cycle test. Even the drill sergeants didn't see the need to come down hard on us.

And with easier days, I wasn't straining my leg. Life was good.

I can't remember why it came up, but someone mentioned to one of our drill sergeants that I was working on my master's degree. He was fairly stunned about that.

Regarding the company executive officer (XO), he was actually being somewhat of a jerk, trying to show off. So I told him what the Warsaw Pact nations were.

Despite all the training, I still felt like me. I was a civilian wearing a uniform. I'm not sure what I expected.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Buffer Zone

I figured that Turkey had a free escalation after Syria shot down one of their aircraft.

It would seem that Turkey is carving out a vague buffer zone inside Syria along their common border by warning the Syrians to stay away from the border:

Turkey warned Syria on Tuesday to keep its forces away from the countries' troubled border or risk an armed response — a furious reply to the downing of a Turkish military plane last week by the Damascus regime.

As time goes on, that distance that Syrian forces must keep between themselves and the border will likely go up.

And the Syrian rebels will fill that protected void over time, effectively becoming a sanctuary and free zone.

UPDATE: This article agrees with my buffer zone thinking:

Rebels welcomed Erdogan’s remarks, saying that a more aggressive Turkish posture will provide a significant boost.

“The Turkish reaction is serious and firm,” Col. Malik Kurdi, a spokesman for the Free Syrian Army, said by telephone from southern Turkey. “This new situation will strengthen the Free Syrian Army not only in Idlib and the border areas, but in the whole of Syria.”

If the rebels can seize the initiative and push Syrian forces back from the border, the Turkish threat could create some form of buffer zone along the lines that the Syrian opposition has been calling for, said Salman Shaikh, director of the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar.

Much will depend on what Turkey does the first time Syrian military assets cross whatever Red Line that Turkey draws inside Syria. If turkey aggressively defends that line, the rebels have a free Syria.

Not Exactly Expendible

We don't have many mine sweepers, relying on allied ships or our helicopters for the job. So sending four of our mine countermeasure ships--about half of them, I think--to the Persian Gulf is a big deal:


Four U.S. minesweepers have arrived in the Gulf to bolster the U.S. Fifth Fleet and ensure the safety of shipping routes, the U.S. Navy said, as an Iranian military chief suggested on Monday that Iran might try to block the Strait of Hormuz to defend its interests.

Actually, all of our MCM ships might be in the Gulf since we already had four there, it seems.

At least they are small vessels and not big expensive ships dangled out as a temptation for Iran to strike first. But we don't have many to lose.

I'd be careful about what we send into the Persian Gulf until we can pound Iran's assets from afar.

Sunday, 26 JUN 88

Won Motivation and Teamwork
banners. Pass 8-11 and 12-4.
Our drills did our details for us
after our CO cancelled our
official pass to put us on
detail. Pretty cool. After
dinner worked on lockers. Will
be up late shining shoes, boots, &
brass. Talked to [fiance] finally.
The end is so near. Leg feeling
better but I'm sure I'll fuck it
up on PT test Wednesday.
11 more days.

We won more bits of cloth that we seem willing to die for. Ultimately we trust that our leaders and people ask our troops to die for good reasons.

I don't remember what I did on pass. I remember some free time where I saw some Snowy River movie with our platoon guide. This might have been that day.

More important is that our drills made it possible. Our captain had decided we needed to work. Our drill sergeants decided we needed a reward. So our drills did our work for us. That was cool of them.

But the break was short and we'd do a lot of work, too, to look good in our gear.

The break in duty probably helped my leg situation. I was reasonably sure I'd screw it up on the PT test, however. But with only 11 days to go, if my leg went out after the PT test, I'd be good to go.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Twisted Sister

The North Koreans, who seem to enjoy killing South Koreans notwithstanding the 6-decade-old "ceasefire" and who like to boast of their ability to turn Seoul into a "sea of fire," have their panties all in a twist because a North Korean flag was staked out on a hill side that was being used for target practice:

The U.S.-South Korean drills Friday were the allies' biggest since the Korean War, and South Korean military officials called them a warning to North Korea. A huge North Korean flag on a hill disappeared behind flames and smoke as South Korean jets and U.S. helicopters fired rockets. The flag wasn't hit.

"It is an extremely grave military action and politically-motivated provocation to fire live bullets and shells at the flag of a sovereign state without a declaration of war," said the North's statement, which was dated Sunday but was released by the official Korean Central News Agency early Monday.

What a bunch of annoying twits the North Koreans have become. Without the fear factor of wondering if we can hold off their offensive, they have become tiresome.

Talk to the JDAM, Pyongyang. Talk to the JDAM.

The ecoBeatings Will Continue

I hate--with a passion--Sprint's new ecoEnvelopes.

Let's ignore the fact that opening the ecoEnvelope, which doubles as the return envelope, requires so many careful steps to accomplish as to approximate a Turing test.

I guarantee that the ecoEnvelope with my earthBurning check is ripped open by machine at Sprint corporate headquarters without all the tender loving care to detail that I am required to apply to the ecoEnvelope opening process, fortified by my knowledge that I am saving paper, water, and greenhouse gas emissions.

But aside from that.

I assume that virtually all the savings to paper, water, and emissions from using the Sprint ecoEnvelope system comes from the fact that the ecoGlue used on the ecoEnvelope doesn't work at all, counting on the adhesive properties of my ecoSaliva alone to close and seal the ecoEnvelope. If my check falls out of the bottom of that ecoEnvelope while the earthBurning US Postal system transports it via earthBurning plane and truck, well that's sad--but I do have alternate ecoOptions to use, now don't I?

I know all this is really just a way to ecoPunish me until I give up and just pay online, by phone, or via mobile web. But given the profit margin that Sprint has on my low-use voice phone account, the idea that I should be sad or embarrassed that making Sprint send me paper envelopes to pay my bill to them costs Sprint 50 cents is a bit much.

I guess I should follow the full ecoEnvelope instructions and use my sorrow- and frustration-induced tears to moisten the ecoEnvelope ecoGlue designed to chemically react with those tears to form the perfect ecoBond.

Just ecoBite me.

A Check of Some Sort

Turkey won't get a blank check from NATO, but Turkey is disputing Syria's account of that Phantom shoot down and wants NATO backing for Turkey's eventual response:

"Turkey has requested consultations under Article 4 of Nato's founding Washington Treaty," [NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu] told Reuters.

"Under article 4, any ally can request consultations whenever, in the opinion of any of them, their territorial integrity, political independence or security is threatened."

Turkey wants to be sure of the strongest backing once it decides its official response, reports the BBC's Jonathan Head in Istanbul.

The government has promised that it will be strong, decisive and legitimate, and that it will share all the information it has with the public.

The meeting will take place Tuesday.

Turkey wants Assad gone but doesn't want to invade. I have no idea what escalation Turkey will decide on in response.

UPDATE: On a technical note, Defense Industry Daily writes that the Phantom shot down was a recon version RF-4 Phantom 2000 and that the Syrians shot it down with a SAM-11 anti-aircraft missile.

UPDATE: Hmmm. Syria claims that the shoot down was accomplished by anti-aircraft artillery:

"The Syrian response was an act of defense of our sovereignty carried out by anti-aircraft machinegun which has a maximum range of 2.5 km."

But Turkey insists it was missile fire:

"According to the data in our hands, it points to our plane being shot by a laser or heat-guided surface-to-air missile. The fact our plane was not given an early radar warning, suggests it was not a radar-guided missile," said [Turkish Deputy Prime Minister] Arinc.

Automatic weapon fire would bolster Syrian claims that the plane was close to Syria's shores.

Not that I think this dispute changes the crisis. But Assad is sure hoping it matters.

UPDATE: A second shooter:

Turkey's deputy prime minister says Syrian forces have opened fire on a second Turkish plane that was searching for the wreckage of a jet earlier shot down by Syria.

Huh.

Saturday, 25 JUN 88

Sent on KP duty. Missed inspection.
Pain in my groin. Fear hernia
is close. Suck it up and make
it past PT and EOCT.
Go on sick call Friday.
Won battalion inspection. 1st Platoon
fire watch tonight. Hope to
call [fiance] tomorrow.
12 more days!

My memory of KP (kitchen patrol) is vague. I did not peel potatoes, I'm sure. Mostly I just remember it being hot and humid in my uniform inside a large kitchen. I don't think soldiers experience KP any more since contractors provide such services. This allows troops to focus on combat, training, and resting from combat or training. Back when we had a mass Army of draftees representing lots of cheap manpower, it made more sense. I hated that duty. In the Guard, I really hated it. One guy in my unit used to joke, "Brian Dunn: E-4, MA, KP," when I got the duty, because my years of education were being put to use washing dishes.

Oh well. That was my duty, and I did it. I won't say that the prospect of having that duty didn't play a part in my decision not to reenlist when my term was up. Once I decided not to go to NCO school when I got a good career job and didn't want to have a rival military career that might interfere (I was an at-will employee in a political environment--shoot, my hiring had to be confirmed by a joint committee that had responsibility for my organization--despite being in a non-political position).

At least I missed the boredom and tension of an inspection. I'm sure my absence isn't what allowed us to win.

And we had more fire watch duty.

Doing labor did have the effect of aggravating whatever was wrong with my leg. It really wasn't a hernia risk (remember, Doctor Dignified is not a real doctor--he has a master's degree, in history!), but the muscle damage was so close that it just radiated out from there to feel like a groin injury. I never did find out if there was cartilage tearing as the doctors wondered. I eventually healed after getting out of basic.

I remained focused on the physical training test and the end of cycle test on military skills. I wasn't really worried about either, except that I worried that my leg would just fail on me.

I could count down days at this point. That made me happy.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Subcontracting War and Peace?

China has a plethora of armed naval forces that could start a war at sea. Might they get one?

The Philippines alleged on Sunday that a Chinese vessel accidentally rammed a local fishing boat north of a disputed South China Sea shoal, killing one and leaving four others missing.

Is China willing to subcontract the question of war or peace to the most aggressive and nationalistic ship captain in China?

This Nuance Thing is Fascinating

We hold back from backing Syrian rebels who seek to overthrow the odious Assad regime because we don't want to "militarize" the conflict.

Somehow that issue didn't arise when Fast and Furious was executed (tip to Instapundit):

Hundreds of people died because of the operation, but no one takes responsibility.

I clearly just don't get nuance.

The Internet Taunts Me

I can't believe how many hits I get from people searching "brian j. dunn affair".

And none of the people conducting that search appear to be hot women seeking same with this Brian J. Dunn.

When the Internet is essentially mocking you, you need to reconsider your life, no?

The Vittle Kingdom

The Chinese are getting fat:

China’s urban areas are booming economically, but that trend is paralleled by another one with serious implications for public health: obesity rates have skyrocketed over the last generation. The number of Chinese people who are obese quintupled between 2005 and 2011, to nearly 100 million people. The World Health Organization estimates that 38.5 percent of the population was overweight in 2010, up from 25 percent in 2002. Male children from high-income families have an especially high rate of obesity.

Since they aren't Americans, we can all be grateful that it isn't due to some moral or cultural failing. I'm sure there is some ancient and wise reason more of them are eating more vittles.

Mayor Bloomberg could offer advice, I'm sure.

Stars are Aligning

It seems like the stars are aligning for a strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.

Negotiations to end Iran's drive for nuclear weapons-related capabilities are going nowhere, with Iran refusing even to pretend to cooperate.

Cyber-war may have reached its limits, requiring more kinetic means. I find it hard to believe that our administration would make such blatantly politically motivated leaks if these programs really had legs. I find it easier to believe the leaks were done because the programs are believed to have run their course.

Israel may have reached their limits of tolerance, meaning pressure is on us to really do the job right.

Our election is coming up and a demonstration of presidential martial resolve couldn't hurt the president.

And if that isn't enough, we have the new global oil situation, with new production, high US oil reserves (and I expect that is true globally), prospects of lagging demand, and the ending of our money-printing policies that have raised oil prices the last several years.

This makes the worry that a strike on Iran will do more than create a short-term spike in oil prices until all those factors reassure markets that enough oil will flow.

Western refusal to really confront Iran over their nuclear ambitions may have lulled the Iranians into thinking we will never stop them. Our efforts to convey to the Iranians that this time we are serious may thus have history working against us.

Every election, we are told to beware an October surprise (remember how that horrible excuse for a Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said in 2004 she wouldn't be surprised if Bush had Osama bin Laden on ice waiting to reveal him for reeelction purposes?). This time there might be enough good reasons to strike Iran to make political reasons for striking an acceptably low portion of the decision chain.

I really think Iran's mullahs should worry. Our president would settle for an agreement that appears to force Iran to blink if the reality isn't apparent until mid-November. If he can't get that, he could order strikes without too much worry that the political motives will seem paramount to all but a smaller minority of voters.

Nuance Prevails

Egypt's old guard had a choice of taking all the marbles and putting their own in the presidential palace or accepting a Moslem Brotherhood candidate and counting on their ability to deprive that president of real power.

They chose the latter:

Islamist Mohamed Morsy of the Muslim Brotherhood was elected president of Egypt with 51.7 percent of last weekend's run-off vote, defeating former general Ahmed Shafik, the state election committee said on Sunday.

He succeeds Hosni Mubarak, who was overthrown 16 months ago after a popular uprising. The military council which has ruled the biggest Arab nation since then has this month curbed the powers of the presidency, meaning the head of state will have to work closely with the army on a planned democratic constitution.

The army may well have floated the prospect of a Shafik victory in order to make the somewhat hollow victory of Morsy seem more significant.

Egypt certainly isn't working out as one could hope. We shall see how democracy fares and whether the Egyptian elites can weather the storm of the Arab Spring until fervor for change dissipates.

Pernicious When Not Superfluous

The sudden discovery by our administration that we really need to join a UN treaty we've gotten along without ratifying for several decades now is mystifying, as I've recently written.

It is nice to see a mainstream pundit push back against the administration dismissal of objections as "black helicopter" nonsense:

There they go again. Like those who say climate change is an emergency too obvious and urgent to allow for debate, some proponents of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, a.k.a. the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST), say arguments against it are nonexistent. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says any such arguments “no longer exist and truly cannot even be taken with a straight face.” Favoring condescension over persuasion, she ridicules people who she says think that, because the treaty was negotiated under U.N. auspices, “the black helicopters are on their way.”

Clinton’s insufferable tone is not a reason for the necessary 34 senators to reject ratification. It is, however, a reason for enjoying their doing so.

LOST, approval of which is supposedly somehow suddenly imperative, emerged from the mists of U.N. deliberations that began in the 1950s. The result, three generations later, is pernicious when it is not superfluous.

I really liked that part about being a reason to enjoy Senate rejection. I really find it offensive that Clinton belittled objections to a treaty we've gotten along without joining for decades now. I don't believe in the nearly decade of writing The Dignified Rant that anyone can point to even hints of black helicopter thinking on this site. Indeed, in my job I had the duty of responding to various conspiracy questions and had my own "X-Files" folder where I stored this work. So I fully understand--and resent--the accusation of lunacy that Secretary Clinton has leveled.

Sea rights have a long history without LOST. We don't need to join this treaty to exercise diplomacy on sea rights. We ultimately need a strong Navy to defend our interpretation of sea rights. LOST hasn't prevented crises among those who have already signed it.

And it just sends money to Third World despots and UN apparatchiki who will squander it when they don't use it against us.

The timing of this administration is fascinating. Pile up debt at record rates and choose this time to give away potential revenue streams like money isn't important to us.

Do read it all.

And hope that our Senate has the sense God gave mossy rocks to reject LOST.

Friday, 24 JUN 88

Bayonet course. Screwed up
my leg again. I'm getting
tired of being in virtually
constant pain somewhere on
my body.
Platoon fire watch until midnight.
Very tired. Letter from [fiance]!

It was just discouraging to be so battered. All I tried to do was go through the bayonet course with some enthusiasm. And my fragile leg was torn up again.

I'm not sure why the entire platoon was on fire watch unless we drew duty to guard others. If it was just our own barracks, we'd have the duty as individuals and have the fun of waking up your replacement in the dark and making sure they were up and ready before going to sleep. The Army doesn't like you get away with "I woke up my replacement! It's not my fault he didn't get up!"

Yes it is. Someone must guard those who sleep, and a technical hand off is not a hand off. Your are on duty until someone else is. Indeed, it's a general order: "I will guard everything within the limits of my post, and quit my post only when properly relieved." Words to that effect, anyway.

Whatever platoon fire watch was--dang, but I can't remember--it left me with little sleep.

But at least I got a letter. That was always good for morale.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Gift-Giving Guide

If you aren't into mocking the Obama campaign's plea for putting gifts to the campaign instead of high-end cooking gear on your wedding registry, and would instead like to go along with that request, please keep in mind that President Obama already has the "something borrowed" ("The Debt rose $4.899 trillion during the two terms of the Bush presidency. It has now [as of March] gone up $4.939 trillion since President Obama took office.") part.

It's a slippery slope the president is on.

Thursday, 23 JUN 88

Phase II PT test 46 PU, 64 SU
and 15:24 run. Disappointed over
SU but expected decline in run
from leg. Still  it is good enough
for Army standards. Also,
ran the confidence course. OK
but hurt my leg on it. Reinforcement
training with Van Loben Sels and other
assorted brass looking on.
Final cleaning of weapon. Inspection
coming up Saturday.
Only 14 more days to go.
I'm basically tired. I never thought
we'd get our blue banners.
I wish I could call [fiance] but
weekdays she's at class in evening
and that's the only time I get to call.

Push ups and sit ups were as many as you could do in 2 minutes. The run was for 2 miles. I thought I'd do better in sit ups. At the time, for whatever reason, I could do a lot. I recall once when we sick, lame, and lazy were doing PT on our own, one guy was holding my leg and I did 100 sit ups. He called BS on me, so I said, fine, you count them this time. And I did 100 more. Not in two minutes, but I did them. Considering how badly my leg hurt, I wasn't disappointed with the run time. This wasn't the final PT test, of course.

And of course, I injured my leg on the confidence course. It was interesting at first because we had a family watching our progress on the course for a while. Our drill instructors warned us to keep our language clean while we had guests. We succeeded. Thankfully, the family didn't stay that long.

The post commander, one Major General Van Loben Sels, watched us go over training tasks. I'm sure that was something more tense for our drill sergeants and company officers who would have Hell to pay if we screwed up at that moment in time.

Final weapons cleaning was really a sign we were wrapping up. I remember sitting around with a bunch of guys--some you like and some you don't--and one of the guys I didn't like was mouthing off to someone else about kicking their butt at some point in the near future for past transgressions against said guy. So I turned to another guy in the unit--a good guy--and said, "Private [Golf], you've been pissing me off. Two weeks from this Saturday, I'm going to kick your ass." He chuckled, and returned the favor with equal precision about the point in time he'd kick my ass. We kept going a bit as others laughed and the one guy kept muttering, "You think I'm kidding. But I'm going to kick his ass." I'm unaware of any ass kickings. I know I missed my scheduled kicks and kicking.

Of course, that was one of the problems of basic training. A bunch of civilians get in shape and go through major pain and misery and think they are Rambo--and promptly get their asses kicked when they try to use new muscles on someone who quite possibly is Rambo. The funny thing is, basic training standards aren't as high as the standards of the Army once you are past that point. But for new soldiers, the jump from civilian standards seemed quite high.

But we had our blue banner showing we were in the final stage of training.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Wild Airless Yonder

The Air Force continues to inch forward to real space capabilities:

A U.S. Air Force X-37B UOV (unmanned orbital vehicle) returned to earth on June 16th, after 469 days in space. This feat was made possible by the fact that the X-37B carried with it a large solar panel, which came out of the cargo pay, unfolded and produced enough power to keep the X-37B up there for even longer. The air force has not said what the X-37B was doing up there all this time. The air force has revealed that it is designing an X-37C, which would be twice the size of the X-37B and able to carry up to six passengers. Think of it as Space Shuttle Lite, but robotic and run by the military, not NASA. This has the Chinese worried, and they are not being quiet about their fears.

I never understood early complaints that the X-37B is too small to be militarily useful. One, it apparently is useful even as is. And two, if it works we can scale up.

The payload such a stealthy spacecraft can carry is no doubt useful. I find it interesting that it can carry 6 passengers. With weapons, that would be a small squad, no? Even if you assume to crew to fly the craft, you still have a fire team. I guess it depends on what "passenger" includes.

And with the ability to board manned space stations, wouldn't that be an interesting capability for an Air Force truly aiming high?

Redefining Chutzpah

The classic example of chutzpah is a young man murdering his parents and pleading to the judge for mercy because he's an orphan.

Now we have House Democrats stonewalling for a year and a half a committee investigation into the White House's Fast and Furious program that led to the death of border agent Brian Terry, now complaining about the cost of the investigation and how it is keeping the House from doing important work.

That's chutzpah.

Tip to Instapundit.

A Thousand-Year Currency?

I have long viewed the European Union as a budding Soviet Union Lite that will crush democracy in Europe. The euro currency was just the storm trooper of that new political entity that Euro-centrics pretended was all that stood between peace in Europe and the warmongering people who had led Europe to war so many times in the past.

So it is humorous, as Mark Steyn notes, that the most recently guilty people of Europe may gain the dominance that they once tried to get by force of arms with a currency:

It requires a perverse genius to invent a mechanism designed to consign the horrors of the mid–20th century to the trash can of history that winds up delivering you to Mitteleuropa circa 1934. Sometimes the road forward leads you right back where you started. While Eurocrats still peddle the standard line about the EU acting as a restraint on the Teutonic urge to regional domination, the British defense secretary recently demanded that it was time for Germany, as the wealthiest nation on the Continent, to step up to its responsibilities and increase military spending. I would doubt Frau Merkel would take his advice, if only because the euro seems to be doing for Berlin's control-freak complex what neither the Kaiser nor Hitler could pull off.

And Europeans are just about begging the Germans to run the place.

The really funny thing is that the Germans don't seem like they want the job any more. I guess the thrill of the chase was more fun than the conquest, and the Germans have decided that they don't want to belong to any club that wants them.

The Phantom Menace?

Syria shot down a Turkish F-4 Phantom over the Mediterranean Sea, in what was apparently international air space:

Two crew were aboard the F-4 jet, Turkish state news agency Anatolia said, citing Malatya governor Ulvi Saran.

Hurriyet daily newspaper reported that the plane had gone down in international waters and that the two airmen had been found alive and well by Turkish forces.

I assume it was one of their recon versions, though the details don't say. Nor does the article say how the aircraft was shot down.

I have to wonder if the Syrians were worried the plane would see something that Syria didn't want Turkey to see. Or did the Syrians think it was Israeli?

If Turkey wanted a pretext for war, this would have been it. But Turkey seems ready to let it go:

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday Syria had admitted it had shot down a Turkish warplane in the Mediterranean and apologized[.]
Syria was at least not foolish enough to delay an apology. Assad does not want to provoke a Turkish invasion in any form.

UPDATE: Technically, that apology article never said the Turks accepted the apology:

"Turkey will present its final stance after the incident has been fully brought to light and decisively take the necessary steps," the office said after a two-hour emergency meeting between prime minister, the chief of general staff, the defense, interior and foreign ministers, the head of national intelligence and the commander of the air force.

Turkish media had reported earlier that Syria had apologized for the incident, but Erdogan made no mention of any apology.

Syria says the Turkish jet was low and flying very close to Syrian territory--with a wing man--and was shot down by anti-aircraft fire.

But why? The article speculates that Syria wanted to counter the bad effect on morale of incrasing troop defections to the rebels. But why would risking war with the one country capable of mounting an invasion and staying be the thing to convince shaky troops to stick with the Syrian army?

Turkey has a free escalation if they want it. They do indeed seem to want it.

UPDATE: Wikipedia (of all places) says it was the recon version of the F-4. But the article cited for the sentence with that detail in it does not say it was a recon aircraft.

If true, what didn't Syria want Turkey to see? Are the Russians up to something? And what might the Turks see that we wouldn't?

UPDATE: Another Wikipedia article notes that the recon versions of the F-4 are not based at Malatya where the plane shot down took off from. While this doesn't prove Syria wasn't trying to hide something, it makes it less likely Turkey was trying to find something.

UPDATE: Some Turkish television reports say the planes were on a recon mission.

UPDATE: Something I didn't really focus on before might be relevant:

[The Turkish president] said it was routine for fast-flying jets to cross borders for a short distance and that an investigation would determine whether the F-4 fighter was brought down in Turkish airspace.

If it is true that Turkish planes routinely cut corners there and the Syrians have had no problem with it, it looks more like an ambush. What would have caused the Syrians to decide to no longer accept that routine flight path and shoot at planes not prepared for being shot at?

I don't see this as evidence of Syria's great air defenses, as some are arguing was the point of the shoot down. Oh, they are better than Libya's. But shooting down a plane flying straight at short range which is not anticipating being shot down isn't the hardest thing to do. I wonder if the other plane was shot at, too?

UPDATE: It was apparently a recon jet:

Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc insisted the plane was not a fighter jet but a reconnaissance plane and said Turkey was awaiting an explanation from Syria.

The Syrians also say it was anti-aircraft artillery that brought the plane down. If they are using terminology as I would, that means guns rather than missiles. But it may just be a translation thing or terminology, and mean nothing.