Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Got Milk?

I was recently on vacation:

Yeah. You really want to party with me.

Rest in Peace

Who knew that killing terrorists leads to fewer terrorists?

"The loss of bin Laden and these other key operatives puts the network on a path of decline that will be difficult to reverse," the State Department said in its annual "Country Reports on Terrorism" document, which covers calendar year 2011.

SEALs and drones have decimated al Qaeda's leadership and wrecked al Qaeda Prime.

And let's not forget all the jihadis we killed during the Iraq campaign.

Gosh, remember when Nuanced Americans told us that killing terrorists "just makes more terrorists"?

I sure remember. I hope this kills that always-silly advice about killing enemies.

UPDATE: Lest you forget the impact of the Iraq War:

Al Qaeda's Iraqi wing, Islamic State of Iraq, was badly weakened by the loss of top commanders in the war against U.S. troops, but the insurgents have carried out at least one major assault a month since the U.S. withdrawal in December.

The war has been largely won, but it is not ended. It's just that the Iraqis are fighting it without our direct help. Which is what I said we needed to do way back in 2003.

As long as someone is killing jihadis, we make progress.

You Didn't Lift That

A North Korean won Olympic gold. But he didn't lift that:

"I am very happy and give thanks to our Great Leader for giving me the strength to lift this weight. I believe Kim Jong Il gave me the record and all my achievements. It is all because of him," Om said.

But good for him, anyway.

UPDATE: Thanks to Instapundit for the link.

UPDATE: Thanks to The Whited Sepulchre for the link. I love the picture. I believe I've used it here.

UPDATE: Thanks to Michael Savage for the link.

UPDATE: Thanks to The Virginian for the link.

UPDATE: Thanks to I Hate the Media for the link.

UPDATE: Thanks to jumpthesnarkblog for the link.

UPDATE: Welcome Michigan State University fans. (Wow. I never thought I'd write that ...)

UPDATE: Thanks to James Taranto for the link.

UPDATE: Thanks to Alexandria for the link.

For Want of a Nail

The best one-sentence rejoinder to President Obama's "you didn't build that" theory of success:

The only reason Joe Sixpack didn’t find the Higgs boson is that he didn’t happen to be provided with a large hadron collider.

But don't chuckle too loudly and draw the administration's attention.

Otherwise it might be considered a "shovel-ready" project for a Stimulus II for all those people who can't get jobs installing insulation that they were trained to do under the first stimulus.

Sheesh, Put Your Shirt Back On, Vladimir

Putin celebrated the start of the construction of the 4th Borei class ballistic missile nuclear submarine:

"We believe that our country should maintain its status of one of the leading naval powers," Putin told a meeting of naval commanders and government officials at the sprawling Sevmash shipbuilding yard in northern Russia.

Russia surely needs the Borei subs to maintain their deteriorating sea leg of their nuclear deterrent. Without nukes, Russia can't defend their land borders. And without nuclear subs, their land-based nuclear forces are tempting targets for a disarming nuclear strike. Not that I think we have any interest in that. But for theory. And in case China gets ambitious in their nuclear arsenal.

But the idea that Russia needs the status as a leading naval power is ludicrous. Russia went broke trying to be a leading land and naval power when it was the Soviet Union. Then, the USSR needed a powerful blue water navy to cut off NATO from North America.

What's the reason now? Other than the geopolitical equivalent of a shiny red sports car?

Face it, Russia needs land and air power, first. Being a leading naval power implies to me a global reach with significant assets. Russia can't afford to be a leading naval power.

At sea, Russia without pretensions of global status based on Cold War nostalgia has limited navy needs.

One, they absolutely need enough ballistic missile submarines to keep a potent second-strike arsenal at sea.

Two, they need enough attack submarines and short range surface warships to maintain defended bastions in the Barents Sea and Sea of Okhotsk.

Three, they need small warships for coastal defense and operations in the small Baltic, Caspian, and Black Seas.

Four, if they are ambitious, they need amphibious warfare assets to project power against Japan, in the Black Sea, and in the Baltic Sea.

Five, if they feel really ambitious, they could organize several small squadrons centered around a larger capital ship to make propaganda visits abroad to show the flag and to provide a limited capability to use naval power for small contingencies such as citizen rescue and humanitarian reasons. But the amphibs the Russians are getting from France could satisfy that need--with escorts and logistics vessels--in a pinch.

But spend the money to be a "leading naval power?" What's the point?

Passing the Baton

We are certainly putting assets in place to attack Iran (including Massive Ordnance Penetrator bombs) if we choose to--or if Iran gets edgy enough under the psychological pressure to attack first. Even if we are carrying out security theater to pretend we are prepared to deal with Iran's nuclear ambitions for presidential election politics, the latter could still happen.

The Navy is adding to the assets, making it possible for either President Obama to strike after the election, or for the next president to strike Iran soon after taking office:

The U.S. is sending another carrier task force to the Persian Gulf, and the ships are heading out four months early and will stay at sea for eight months instead of four. There are already two carrier task forces in the Gulf area, and for a short while there will be three when the third task force arrives in five months.

So from December 2012 to March 2013, we'll have three carriers near Iran. Somebody in the White House will have options.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory

We could finally see the fall of Bashar Assad--the Syrian dictator who has much Iraqi and Coalition--especially American--blood on his hands, and watch Iran take a strategic hit as they lose their base for supporting unrest in Lebanon and Gaza, yet this writer thinks we should save Iran from this defeat by involving them in resolving Syria:

There is no easy way out of such a stalemated struggle, and this one threatens the stability of the whole Middle East. So the United States and its allies must enlist the cooperation of Mr. Assad’s allies — Russia and, especially, Iran — to find a power-sharing arrangement for a post-Assad Syria that all sides can support, however difficult that may be to achieve.

You see, he fears continued fighting in Syria. That precious "stability" bought by a thug holding his people down with fear and blood is at risk, and some analysts think the highest duty we have is to restore "stability"--no matter what.

Sticking it to enemies of America is a good thing. We can get revenge for years of Assad supporting Baathist and jihadi killers in Iraq and weaken Iran in the process. I call that a double-win.

Will it be painless? Probably not. But that is no reason to pull back from the cusp of a victory to give Assad a chance to continue his rule of Syria.

Is this to be the pattern we want to set? Any thug ruler can promise to make things worse just to get the West to support the thug ruler lest stability be endangered?

Oh, and the example of Syrian troops rescuing Lebanon from civil war neglects that Syrian domination just led to new problems and a Hezbollah state-within-a-state in southern Lebanon that threatens to start a wider war if it bombards Israel again.

I don't expect clean wins. Just work the next problem. Good grief, people, if you want happily ever after, go watch a Disney movie.

UPDATE: Max Boot doesn't think much of the author's suggestion, either:

The way forward in Syria does not lie in trying to perpetuate Iran’s malign influence, which is likely to be employed to keep the civil war going by providing backing for Assad’s security forces. The best bet at this point is to work, along with relatively moderate regional allies such as Turkey, the UAE, the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq, and Jordan, to bolster the more moderate rebel factions and to try to help them build up security and governance capacity so that they can take over once Assad is gone.

If our enemies are going to lose--let them lose. Is that such a hard concept to grasp?

The Water's Edge

President Obama sends new military aid to Israel and reveals our attack plans regarding Iran to Israel:

An Israeli newspaper reported Sunday that the Obama administration's top security official has briefed Israel on U.S. plans for a possible attack on Iran, seeking to reassure it that Washington is prepared to act militarily should diplomacy and sanctions fail to pressure Tehran to abandon its nuclear enrichment program.

There are denials that seem rather hollow under the circumstances.

What? Now that you mention it, Mitt Romney is in Israel.

Coincidence, I'm sure.

Unleash the Hounds

With France, ECOWAS, and the Mali government--or even the Tuareg separatists who seem to be having second thoughts about allying with drone bait--unable to do anything about the jihadi safe haven that has developed in the north, we seem to edging toward something:

The US is likely to weigh options ranging from military assistance to direct strikes to drive a growing al-Qaeda presence out of the coup-wracked African nation of Mali, a Pentagon official said on Thursday.

"We cannot allow al-Qaeda to sit in an ungoverned space and have a sanctuary and impunity," said Michael Sheehan, the Defence Department's assistant secretary for special operations.

Interestingly enough, the deaths of 3 US special forces reported early in the coup that unraveled the north are said to have been in an accident while with 3 women (who also died) while the troops were off duty.

Funny place for R & R. And a funny time. But what do I know?

But I assume all leaves are canceled, and if we do something our military options begin and end with special forces and drone strikes.

Or will France step up yet?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

I Want to Be a Bear-borne Ranger

Live the life of sex and danger (tip to Mad Minerva):

After weeks of denial, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko admitted that a small Swedish plane entered his country's airspace July 4, dropping hundreds of teddy bears on tiny black parachutes, the Belta news agency reports.

Rather awkward for your basic authoritatian thug ruler.

Although "hundreds" seems an exaggeration based on the video unless locals dropped a whole lot from tall buildings under the air cover they received.

Reminds me of Mathias Rust, who cracked the facade of Soviet power with a similar small plane stunt.

We Really Don't Speak the Same English

Apparently, the British people would rather have an American president who is neutral on the defense of British territory rather than someone who mildly notes problems with Olympics preparations that are no secret in Britain.


I'd say that sun has set.

Too Little and Too Late

Will Assad go right to Plan C without trying the Plan B of a Core Syria?

I've speculated that Assad could survive if he contracts his realm into a core of Syria that stretches from the Turkish border (excluding Aleppo) and arcing south through Damascus around Lebanon and reaching the Israeli and Jordanian borders. This would preserve the ability to argue they are the continuation of Syria and have infrastructure to have a chance of surviving. This would be Plan B.

The Sunni majority would be reduced to a manageable size for the security forces available to Assad, and Assad would continue to have a choke hold on land access to Lebanon and options for foreign policy regarding Israel and Jordan. This would make them valuable to Russia and Iran. Assad would lose options on Iraq, but they lost that war anyway.

But Strategypage provides information that casts doubt on Assad's ability to carry out Plan B:

The government is using its most trusted (largely Alawite) troops in Aleppo, an indication that most of the regular army is either gone (deserted) or now considered too unreliable to fight. ...

In the last few months, more and more of the non-Alawites have joined the rebels, fought alongside them and made it clear that the Alawites were on their own. Even some Alawites have either joined the rebels while others have opened negotiations to determine terms of local surrender. While Assad still has loyalists, their numbers, and reliability are declining. ...

There are less than 100,000 reliable soldiers and secret police. But over 20,000 armed militia have been raised from loyal (especially Alawite) populations. These gunmen are less disciplined and more prone to harsh treatment of rebel civilians. The militias are local forces defending their homes and families. Increasingly, the Alawite militias are organizing departures from Syria, or negotiations with local rebels about what it would cost to survive a rebel victory. ...

Russia announced that if its navy personnel in their naval base at Tartus were attacked by Syrian rebels, Russia would shut down their base and withdraw from Syria.

The rest of the army, they say, has largely "melted away." Which at least would avoid the problem of units defecting in place and seizing control of their bases. And it frees loyal units from the need to guard the suspect units.

But that's all the good news.

With only 120,000 loyal security forces, Assad can't hold a Core Syria of 10 million people (with about 5 million Sunnis left after some strategic ethnic cleansing to secure vital areas and lines of communication.

Worse, Russia just signaled it won't go to the mat for Assad. That announcement pretty much guarantees that the rebels will at least fire in the direction of the Russian base to get the Russians out.

And if even Alawites are looking for the exits and seeking to cut deals with the rebels, Plan B is even more shaky.

Assad may only have Plan C left--retreating to the true core areas of the Alawites, stretching from Aleppo to the coastal regions down to Lebanon. This lacks the infrastructure of Core Syria. Fighting for Aleppo makes more sense looking at it this way.

I suppose there is another bit of good news in all this. June saw 3,000 deaths in Syria and July should double that (far exceeding the worst months of the Iraq insurgencies in late 2006). If Alawite militia brutality angers the Sunnis enough, Alawites thinking of cutting deals may have no choice but to go along with Assad's fight-to-the-death strategy out of sheer survival instincts.

Using chemical weapons against rebels would make sense with this type of thinking, I might add.

Or Assad may have no strategy other than to fight with as much as he has for as much as he can hold, and hope for the best.

Oh, and the Syrians didn't shoot down that Turkish F-4 as a warning to keep out--it apparently went down all on its own.

UPDATE: Assad plays the Jewish and Sunni cards:

"Israel is the mastermind of all in this crisis," [Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-]Moallem told a joint news conference in Tehran with his Iranian counterpart Ali Akbar Salehi . "They (Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey) are fighting in the same front."

Remember, only the Alawites have to believe this if it gets them to fight to the death for Assad.

UPDATE: Do the Christians feel their survival rests on Assad's victory?

As evidence mounts that foreign Islamists are fighting alongside Syria’s increasingly radicalized rebels, Christians in Aleppo and elsewhere are taking up arms, often supplied by the regime.

So what about the Alawites?

You Didn't Wreck That

What President Obama should have said:

If you were unsuccessful, somebody along the line slowed you down. There was a godawful government official somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American red tape that we have that impeded your ability to thrive. Somebody invented permitting and inspections. If you’ve lost a business, you didn’t wreck that. Somebody else made that happen. The bureaucracy didn’t get invented on its own. Government created the bureacracy so that all the petty functionaries could take money out of your pocket.

Face it, our federal government is just too big and sticks its nose in too many things.

Heck, local governments, too, feel free to interfere based not on rule of law but on whim. Who knew that dissent was no longer patriotic?

Hey, it takes a village to wreck a business.

UPDATE: Mark Steyn wants to know who the Hell these apparatchiki think they are?

UPDATE: Thanks to Stones Cry Out for the link.

Supply Problem

So Syria's army will run out of supplies in a couple months?

Bashar al-Assad's military machine is on the brink of logistical meltdown and collapse, because it lacks petrol and food, and is having problems resupplying its soldiers, according to a Syrian general who has defected to the opposition. ...

According to Zobi, the embattled Syrian regime can last "one or two months at most".

Interesting. Is there some confirmation? Sure, the article says. Cue the expert:

It is, of course, in the interests of the rebels to paint a picture of a crumbling regime on the brink of collapse, but it chimes with the view of General Robert Mood, the former head of the UN monitoring mission in Syria, who told Reuters on Friday: "In my opinion it is only a matter of time before a regime that is using such heavy military power and disproportional violence against the civilian population is going to fall.

"Every time there are 15 people killed in a village, 500 additional sympathisers are mobilised, roughly 100 of whom are fighters," Mood said.

But Mood suggested it may take more than a few months for Assad's regime to fall. "In the short term it may very well be possible for him to [hold on], because the military capabilities of the Syrian army are much, much stronger than those of the opposition," he said.

That claim chimes with Mood's view? How? Mood says that it will take more than a few months for Syria to collapse--not the 2 maximum that the defecting Syrian general said.

And Mood doesn't say that supply shortages will cause it.

No, Mood runs out the lazy analysis that killing just makes more insurgents.

We heard a version of that a lot in Iraq. Killing jihadis just creates more, we were told. Funny enough, killing jihadis in Iraq was actually a very good idea that didn't just create more jihadis.

And the civilian body count in Iraq that opponents of the war said would do the same thing for jihadi recruiting didn't create more jihadis.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, killing jihadis is a good thing. Fighting jihadis is not counter-productive. Ineffectively fighting them is surely counter-productive. But that's not what Mood is saying.

If you want to discuss how Assad is ineffectively using violence to defeat the rebels, be my guest. Assad surely is being ineffective and surely is creating more rebels. But that isn't an iron rule about the results of killing civilians. Assad's father killed on the same scale 30 years ago and crushed a revolt rather than creating more rebels by shooting at civilians.

The article then speaks about rebel successes in interfering with supply lines to Assad's troops. This speaks to the supply situation but cutting supply lines is way different than saying Assad is running out of supplies. Iraqi rebels cut our supply lines, too. But they never cut off our supplies. So we didn't run out.

It is true that Assad's relatively small security forces need supplies to get the mobility, armored protection, and firepower that allows them to continue fighting. If Assad is ever down to small arms for his forces, he's toast.

But I'd guess Iran would work very hard to keep Assad supplied with the means to fight. Iran does not want to lose their client state. Would Russia abandon Assad, too, rather than provide the means to keep fighting?

But this article doesn't really shed any light on what Assad's supply situation really is. Either Assad is running out of supplies, Assad's forces can't be kept supplied because of rebel interdiction, or Assad is supplying the rebels with more recruits than he can handle by attacking civilians.

Exodus From Sanity

Greens held a revival meeting serious science-based critique of a technical drilling process in Washington, DC.

I assume this at least means corn-based ethanol would also be forbidden:

“It’s time to stop getting our energy from the ground… we are here to work toward the day and envision the day when we will get our energy from heaven,” a Unitarian-Universalist preacher told the ground at the interfaith event to kick off today’s rally, a service that also featured a rabbi singing about how “farmers turn on the spigot in their kitchens and the water turns to flame.”

Before the speakers began, the organizers led the crowd of hundreds in a chorus of “This Little Light of Mine.”

Ah, science!

It's funny that a burning bush was once considered a sign of God's presence. Had Moses been surrounded by today's eco-freaks he'd have wet his pants, declared making bricks without straw "sustainable," and encouraged the Israelites to continue with their low-carbon footprint lifestyle in Egypt.

I suggest the protesters sing the Prattle Hymn of the Republic the next time they gather to speak in tongues and handle fakes.

I fear interpretive dance is getting closer by the moment.

UPDATE: The green faithful are upset that we can get more energy from the ground:

Back in those salad days of green arrogance, there was plenty of scoffing at the ‘peak oil deniers’ and shortage skeptics who disagreed with what greens told us all was settled, Malthusian science. “Reality based” green thinkers sighed and rolled their eyes at the illusions of those benighted techno-enthusiasts who said that unconventional sources like shale oil and gas and the oil sands of Canada would one day become available.

Environmentalists, you see, are science based, unlike those clueless, Gaia-defying technophiles with their infantile faith in the power of human creativity. Greens, with their awesome powers of Gaia-assisted intuition, know what the future holds.

Their green jobs are nowhere to be seen as government-favored solar companies go bust and oil companies bring up more and more gas and oil.

These are truly hard days to be a Green. Faith is shaken by events in the real world unsupported by even a single computer model of what must be.

But the faithful will not be swayed by these trials. They have only to remain faithful and they will be rewarded.

Who knew that Green Jobs are people and not ways to earn money?

Getting Crowded At Sea

Following on the heels of China's moves to make a creeping annexation of the South China Sea, Japan indicates that it would fight for the East China Sea:

Japan's defence minister on Friday warned Tokyo could send troops to a chain of East China Sea islands at the centre of a territorial row with China if the simmering dispute escalated.

Satoshi Morimoto said Tokyo's position had not changed, but confirmed that it would use force to defend the islands known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese.

The islands are northeast of Taiwan.

It's getting crowded out there. Our Marines could be kept busy.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

T-OOOOO Model Unleashed

One can only hope that these liquid metal terminators masquerading as Olympic mascots will at least wipe out the Teletubbies.

Come on, T Quintuple Ohs. If they can eliminate the Smurfs while they are at it, all the better.

A Bridge Too Far

Assad's forces are going after the large city of Aleppo near the Turkish border:

The Syrian army launched a massive assault on rebels in Aleppo on Saturday amid growing world concern about the risks of reprisals against the civilian population of the country's second city.

Troops backed by tanks and helicopter gunships, which had been massing for the past two days, moved on southwestern districts of the commercial hub, where rebel fighters concentrated their forces when they seized much of the northern city on July 20.

I think Assad might be biting off more than he can chew. Sure, it is a big and important city with regime defenders to protect, but it is close to Turkey and adds more people to the defense perimeter of Core Syria than I think Assad has the forces to pacify.

Assad would be better off to hammer the rebels in Aleppo and wreck the city in the process while evacuating people and assets he wants within the Core Syria border. Park them in Sunni areas to drive Sunnis out of the Core Syria borders and pacify a truncated state where Assad loyalists are a larger percent of the population than today's 25% maximum.

I'll admit that retreating to a Core Syria realm might degenerate into a rout, but what other option does Assad have to reverse the course of the war that ends with a Sunni revolt winning and hunting down Alawites and their allies?

A Pre-Prism Rainbow

A liberal campaign staff not diverse?

Oh, please. I'm sure that several in that room are 1/32 African American or Hispanic.

That counts there, I understand.

Or maybe the one young man in the picture cited is 32/32 African American, and according to their rules, you can spread that out among a number of people.

Is this game fun now that everyone can play?

Get a Red Sports Car--It's Cheaper

Does Russia see having an overseas base as simply a symbol of their renewed power?

I find this amusing:

Russia hopes to establish its first naval base abroad since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union and is looking at Cuba, Vietnam and the Seychelles as possible locations, state-run RIA news agency quoted the navy chief as saying on Friday.

They have a resupply station at Tartus in Syria. I guess Russia is worried about keeping that.

But what cracks me up is the selection. Why would any of these help Russia materially?

Cuba? Does Russia want to exploit the fact that President Obama ignored limits on Russian shorter-range nukes to reintroduce nuclear missiles to Cuba? Does Russia think it might need to interdict American convoys going to NATO Europe? Would Russia defend that embodiment of tin-pot dictators, Hugo Chavez? Seriously, what advantage would Russia get from a base in Cuba?

Vietnam? That's so far from Russia that no potential opponent could be resisted from there. It's a base begging to be destroyed. Or does Russia think it might need to send their Europe-based fleet to the Far East again and would like a secure base to refuel before sending it north? I don't think it would work out any better than the last time the Russian fleet called at Cam Ranh Bay on the way east.

The Seychelles? Are the Russians really eager to fight far-ranging pirates? Do they think they could mess with our presence on Diego Garcia from there? What would be the purpose?

Is the point of a base just to have the base?

If Russia wants a base that matters, they should look to Crete. It's a long shot play, but at least it would matter. If not there, Russia should just get a sports car to impress the babes. Or a weave.

Seriously, what are the Russians thinking?

Illegal Settlements?

China is staking out claims to the South China Sea by simply deeming it a city.

Neighbors don't like this:

China's move to base troops on a disputed island in the South China Sea has raised concerns about a possible military confrontation in an area where China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, Brunei and the Philippines all have competing claims.

China's newest city and military garrison is on an island that also is claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan, at a time of increasing tension over mineral and transport rights in the South China Sea.

I don't suppose the sainted international community will condemn and ostracize China for illegally settling disputed territory.

No. Never mind.

During the last Summer Olympics, Russia got to grab some territory from Georgia during the pageantry celebrating internationalist cooperation and good will. Is this the event that shows it is China's turn?

Since when are the Olympics the sign we need to go to DEFCON 3?

Imprinting Thought Patterns

You never know how you are going to influence your child. A while back, Lamb was attempting to make me pass out by putting her stinky feet near my nose. I responded in kind and told her two could play that game.

She resisted. I didn't try that hard anyway. But told her that her protests about my stinky dad's feet were ill founded. My feet, in fact, smelled like lilacs and morning spring dew, I told her with all due gravity and pride.

To my surprise, she's used that line several times now. I guess she liked it. It's like a little bit of me walking around in another body.

That is so cool. I do promise to use my powers for good and not evil.

Friday, July 27, 2012

OK, Am I Evil?

A couple weeks ago, I received an email from a distraught lecturer or grad student (I assume) teaching an upper level medical course (700-level) seeking help with a classroom microphone that was picking up signals from another source.

Helpful man that I am, I replied and explained to the man that I wasn't the right person to contact for technical help--despite the umich email address.

There. What a nice man I am. Taking time to inform the teacher of his error. How many people would have just left the man dangling by deleting the email and getting on with their lives? I'm just a little bit superior, now, aren't I?

So a couple days ago, I get another email from the same guy with the same problem.

This is a dilemma.

Do I continue to be nice?

Or do I have some fun?

So I sent this: "Try wrapping the signal base with foil to reduce signal overlap." in reply.

Clearly, I'm not as superior as I'd like to think. I'm sure some level of Hell is reserved for people like me.

Sorry, Minerva, I just couldn't resist at this point. I should teach him to read and remember his email, shouldn't I?

New Olympic Event?

As the 2012 Summer Olympics begin, should our eyes be on thug-state rulers at the opening ceremonies to see if we can detect which one has decided on the Cross-Border Leap as their Olympic event?

That would be a reference to Russia's invasion of Georgia in August 2008 as Putin sat watching the events in Peking.

Distracted By Iraq

As terrorists remind us that fighting in Iraq is only "responsibly ended" for us, let's remember the role that the Iraq campaign played in defeating al Qaeda:

The war in Iraq did serious damage to al Qaeda. This was because of the many Moslems killed as a side effect of attacks on infidel (non-Moslem) troops, Iraqi security forces, and non-Sunnis. Al Qaeda played down the impact of this, calling the Moslem victims "involuntary martyrs." But that's a minority opinion. Most Moslems, and many other Islamic terrorists, see this as a surefire way to turn the Moslem population against the Islamic radicals. That's what happened earlier in Algeria, Afghanistan, Egypt, and many other places. It really has nothing to do with religion. The phenomenon hits non-Islamic terrorists as well (like the Irish IRA and the Basque ETA).

That was some "distraction," eh?

A distraction for al Qaeda, that is.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Some Light Defense Reading For You

The Army War College has a two-volume set out on national security issues.

Enjoy. If your weekend is looking thin on the ground.

This material will be on the final exam.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Trust But Terrify

This isn't that new. But it has been annoying me for some time. Part of me just wants to ignore it. Another part rebels because it is so ridiculous. So what the heck.

Saying that Pakistan is a potentially bigger nuclear problem is not the same as saying that Iran isn't a nuclear problem that we should deal with. But that's exactly what Buchanan is arguing:

"Iran is not seeking to have the atomic bomb, possession of which is pointless, dangerous and is a great sin from an intellectual and a religious point of view."

Thus did supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declare in February that Iran's possession of atomic weapons would be a mortal sin against Allah.

It is also the unanimous judgment of the U.S. intelligence community, declared in 2007 and affirmed in 2011, that Iran has abandoned any program to build nuclear weapons.

Is the Ayatollah lying? Is the entire U.S. intel community wrong?

Yes on the former, and no on the latter--if you understand that our intelligence community has only narrowly said they can't detect active direct weapons aspects of Iran's nuclear program. That's a far cry from saying we conclude Iran abandoned programs to build nuclear weapons. The answer to the latter is yes, if you are actually asking what most people believe the NIE concluded.

This bears repeating: The 2007 NIE did not clear Iran of the charge it is pursuing nuclear weapons technology. Yes, I know.

Buchanan's confidence that we could detect--with enough clarity that even Buchanan admits it?--an Iranian weapons program in time attack it is touching, but ignores the reality that our record on detecting nuclear programs before they literally explode is really bad.

But having persuaded himself that Iran is no nuclear threat, Buchanan asks why we aren't more worried about Pakistan:

The Financial Times' Gideon Rachman argues that our obsession with Iran is obscuring a far greater potential threat.

Pakistan possesses perhaps 100 nuclear bombs and is building more, and anti-Americanism there is far more rampant than in Iran.

As if he would have us disarm Pakistan because he thinks they are a bigger threat! He brings up Pakistan only to argue that if we won't deal with them why should we deal with Iran?

And I'll say it again, as worrisome as Pakistan is, if Iran had a pro-American government willing to work with us (mostly), we'd consider it a triumph of foreign policy.

Buchanan's argument against attacking Iran to keep them from going nuclear is asinine, relying on this argument:

Otto von Bismarck said that preventive war was like committing suicide out of fear of death. Are we Americans headed for yet another unnecessary war?

Excuse me? In the context of nuclear weapons, this is silly. Sure, he has a point that starting a conventional war because you believe your enemy will otherwise start the war gets you a war either way--but without saying who wins. But in the context of launching a preventive war to destroy nuclear weapons capabilities, the difference is whether you get a conventional war now or a nuclear war later. We can excuse Bismarck for not considering about nuclear weapons.

Basically, Buchanan thinks we are obsessed with stopping Iran from getting what Buchanan says Iran does not want. And that we should cut some deal with Iran to just get along. I'm not sure what we talk about if Iran isn't pursuing nuclear weapons, since talking for the Iranians simply involves the West accepting Iran's nuclear rights and halting sanctions.

In the end, I hate even addressing Buchanan's complaints because deep down I assume he just blames this all on Israel. I mean, if we're talking obsessions, if Buchanan is wrong, Israel is a hole in the ground. And one more strange obsession of America is gone.

So Buchanan wouldn't want to deal with Pakistan with 100 nukes and he doesn't want to deal with Iran with zero nukes. I think I see the common thread.

Buchanan's ability to trust the mullah regime in Tehran is terrifying. He may not have learned to love the Iranian bomb, but he has learned to love doing nothing about it.

A Detour Into Deep Physics

This is hilarious. I know I'm late to the party.

It took the discovery of the Godawful Particle, but it makes about as much sense as anything I've read about Roberts' position on Obamacare.

Squirrel field! Iowa Hawk, you magnificent bastard.

Second Wave

With some imagination, I think Israel could get off a first wave of attackers to hit Iran's nuclear facilities.

The advantage of America doing the strike isn't just that we could attack with a bigger punch, but that we could keep attacking. Israel needs surprise for their first punch and after that it gets risky. Having Israeli pilots captured would be really bad news for the Israelis. So subsequent waves are out.

Or are they?

News that Israel is moving on from their A-4 planes as trainers means that Israel has 50 A-4 elderly attack craft available.

Could Israel outfit these as attack drones suitable for follow-up attacks for days or weeks after the initial strike to finish off any damaged targets or hit undiscovered targets?

I'm just speculating in the spirit of trying to think outside the box on the assumption that the Israelis will be doing the same thing.

The Illusion of Success

I think only gullible and defeatist Westerners believe the Taliban are resurgent:

The Taliban maintain the illusion of success (at least among themselves) by killing and bribing more Afghan police, soldiers, and leaders. Back in Pakistan (Quetta, Baluchistan,southofHelmand,andKandahar) the Taliban leadership knows better. Areas of Taliban influence are shrinking and the number of Afghans actively resisting or organizing militias and fighting the Taliban are increasing. Most Afghans do not see the Taliban as religiously inspired nationalists (as the Islamic radicals view themselves) but depraved hired guns for the drug gangs.

And the idea that we missed a grand opportunity to cut a deal with these depraved thugs is ludicrous.

We hammer the Taliban. The Taliban leaders know they are getting hammered. Our Left believes we can't beat the Taliban.

Is it any wonder the Taliban think God is on their side?

Seriously, people. It should be embarassing to think of giving up to these guys.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Living to Fight another Day

This author doesn't think that Assad could retreat to an Alawite homeland and abandon the rest of Sunni Syria:

[There] are strong reasons to believe such an Alawite state would not be welcomed by ordinary Alawites, and would not succeed in any event.

His main objections are that not all Alawites share in the regime's preferential financial benefits; that as a result most Alawites will side with a Sunni Syria that does not seek revenge; that the Sunni-dominated enlisted personnel would not fight for a rump Syria; that a coastal enclave in Alawite areas isn't enough of a state to survive; and that a coastal enclave would look like a Crusader state hearkening back to colonialism.

The last is just silly. If anything, the Crusades were about liberating the Holy Land from Moslem conquerors.

Of the rest, the first is surely true as far as the premise. Yet in Iraq, Sunnis fought against the Shia majority despite the fact that the Baathists had the wealth and not all Sunni Arabs. Alawites--even poor ones--were at the top of the pyramid in rank. And unless that second objection is rooted in rock solid promises of no retribution--in the Middle East, no less--and believed by the Alawites, forget that happy surrender and let's not argue over who killed who.

The army question is already answered since the Assad regime only trusts a fraction of the army and intelligence and police formations loyal to Assad. The Sunni conscripts are already confined to base. So Assad has the army he'll have in Core Syria.

The most meaningful objection is that the coast where the Alawites are a majority are not viable as a state. I think this is right. Which is why I've suggested that Assad needs Syria running in an arc from the Alawite coastal areas to Damascus and south to the Israeli and Jordanian borders. Such a state--with Alawites and other loyal minorities pulled into the new borders and some Sunnis expelled--could have a population only half Sunni. Remember, Assad doesn't need a pure Alawite state. He just needs to not be outnumbered so much that weapons and brutality aren't pointless.

Retreating to a Core Syria may fail in the end. But trying to hold all of Syria will fail sooner. With chemical weapons to deter enemy intervention and Russian support on the ground, Assad at least has a chance to live to fight another day.

UPDATE: The idea that Assad might want to retreat to a Core Syria is going mainstream.

But this seems right in that Core Syria doesn't mean Pure Alawite Syria:

But if Sunni rebels take Damascus, resistance in an Alawite enclave could not hold out, wrote University of Oklahoma professor Joshua Landis, who runs a popular blog on Syria.

"Assad has done nothing to lay the groundwork for an Alawite state," he said. "There is no national infrastructure in the coastal region to sustain a state: no international airport, no electric power plans, no industry of importance, and nothing on which to build a national economy."

"Whoever owns Damascus and the central state will own the rest of Syria in short order."

Again, Assad doesn't need a pure Alawite state to survive. He just needs better odds against the Sunnis.

Core Syria doesn't mean abandoning Damascus--and it really can't mean that.

The Venice of the East?

From a tiny perch on a small city in the Paracel Islands, China has decided to give an administrative form to their rather expansive claim to own the South China Sea:

Sansha city was established in June as China's administrative base for the whole South China Sea area, including the disputed territories of the Spratly Islands and the Scarborough Shoal.

A bold move. And coming on the heels of the strong-arming of ASEAN (and thanks for that, Cambodia) to keep the organization from even mentioning territorial disputes--let alone siding with ASEAN states against China--this can't help China's image much.

As long as our military's pivot isn't just a marketing slogan, we have a role in making sure China doesn't get away with this sea-grab by making sure China's annoyed and worried neighbors know that arming up in response isn't a futile effort.

A city the size of an entire sea? Don't ever say the Chinese aren't ambitious.

UPDATE: Neighbors aren't happy:

Vietnam and the Philippines on Tuesday lashed out at China's moves to establish a military garrison in the South China Sea, amid escalating tensions in the disputed waters.

Marines in Australia aren't a bad idea, eh?

Hello, Turkey

Syria's army may be hard pressed to pacify Syrians let alone stop a Turkish invasion, but that doesn't mean Syria doesn't have options if Turkey crosses the border:

Western states expressed alarm after Syria acknowledged for the first time that it has chemical and biological weapons and said it could use them if foreign countries intervene.

I'd guess that's right. Use of chemical weapons on civilians or rebels would be an invitation to invade--hey, we'd have round two against a Baathist thug (with WMD confirmed rather than suspected)--but Assad has only that card to play to hold off the Turks.

Not that gas would stop a fast-moving mechanized force from advancing on Damascus. Troops can cope with gas if trained and equipped for it.

Of course, if Assad is really threatening Istanbul, that's another matter. Assad would count on civilian panic amongst Turks to scare off the invasion.

And if that doesn't work, Assad and his buddies would be shot and then tried for war crimes.

UPDATE: A more ominous take on Syria's threats. But I just don't buy that threats against Turkey or Israel for actions shy of overt conventional attacks on Assad's forces could lead to use of chemical weapons against Israel or Turkey. The former would reply with nukes on military targets--otherwise how does Israel maintain deterrence? The latter would bring in NATO air power. Heck, the former might lead to that to keep Israel from using a nuke in retaliation.

Monday, July 23, 2012

But Who Don't We Draft?

I don't understand why the question of starting a draft to staff our military has arisen again. Our volunteer military is working. Why risk screwing it up with a draft?

And there is another problem with a draft that some argue is more fair than counting on volunteers: our military is too small to need everyone who could be drafted.

I think we have over 4 million people turning 18-years-old every year as a pool to draw from.

We need over 250,000 recruits each year for all services in the active and reserve components.

Right off the bat, we have some unfairness because 3.75 million young men and women wouldn't be put in uniform each year even as a quarter million are forced into service. Clearly, some of the 3.75 million not chosen to serve would have volunteered while most of those drafted would not have otherwise chosen to serve.

So what is the fair way to decide what small fraction of our population serves in uniform?

And are complicated rules and a large bureaucracy to follow them a better way than seeking volunteers?

But then again, this is from Tom Ricks. I don't expect much. Funny, I once thought he was a good reporter. But attempting to make the leap to defense analysis has been a bridge too far.

A Real War This Time

Strategypage reports that Hezbollah's vaunted anti-tank defenses weren't really as good as reports first indicated in 2006.

Which is another reason I've long believed the next round with Hezbollah in Lebanon would see the Israelis revert to a ground strategy instead of the weak spasm of scattered attacks that took a back seat to air attacks across southern Lebanon. I think they go deep.

With Syria and Iran kind of busy, Israel has a green light to go deep and do real damage.

Science Continues

I found this a while ago, and forgot about it. But it is still interesting. This study isn't a smoking gun to refute global warming.

But it does dent it by arguing through tree rings that we have had warmer periods in the last 2,000 years and that the relative positioning of the Sun and Earth through orbital variations are pretty important to our climate.

For me it highlights the problem of relying on proxies for global temperatures that let climate scientists claim they understand the temperatures of the past. The extrapolation necessary for limited proxy data interpretations to give me a lot of trust is just too much. So much so that I won't cheer and say this study of proxy temperatures is the one that finally got it right. But it does show the uncertainty.

Second, the highlighting of the effects of the big hot thing up in the sky on how warm our planet gets is surely the most important thing. We spend our time trying to figure out how much we puny mortals affect the climate that we neglect that this is a sun-centered solar system. Without the sun, our supposed efforts to heat the planet would quickly result in Earth becoming a block of ice on the surface.

But at least science continues in spite of the faith-based efforts we've had so far to get us to believe in global warming climate change global weirding.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Disturbing 1930s Vibe

Europe's long peace is threatened by the massive debt accumulated and the temptation to blame others for the problems this borrowing has caused. One major refusal to pay debts and rein in further borrowing could cause chaos:

Europe is one demagogue away from causing an earthquake in global finance such that the current problems seem a tremor in comparison. If Silvio Berlusconi – the only truly populist politician the continent has produced in the last half a century – were 20 years younger, I fancy it would have been him. As it is, a great deal now depends on whether a man will emerge somewhere in Europe capable of pushing nervous and resentful electorates over the precipice to outright default.

Is a man on a white horse really so far fetched?

And if Western Europe--the forward line of NATO--falters for even a bit, would Russia--which has dangerously promoted the idea that NATO expansion was a stab in the back--take advantage of the disorder to engineer an anschluss with Belorus and Ukraine?

Do you really wonder why I keep beating the dead horse of keeping a robust American Army presence in Europe?

Good for the Gander

With Greece battling the EU to change their financial policies; Greece working with Israel as the Turks turn away from Israel; Russia setting up a naval base in Syria; Turkey taking the lead in opposing Russia's ally, Assad; and Russia working more closely with Israel over energy resources, could we see a major Russian play for the loyalty of Greece?

Would Greece default on their debts to the world, and pull out of NATO as well as the EU, if Russia offered to back Greece's economy and finance (and shield from Turkey) projects to exploit off-shore Greek (and Greek Cypriot) oil resources? Could this flip in foreign policy be seen in Athens as the solution to Greece's financial and diplomatic problems?

Would Russia like to get our bases on Crete to support their eastern Mediterranean goals--and stick it to us in the process with a little payback for America winning the Cold War and poaching the former Soviet empire for NATO expansion? (OK, asked and answered.)

Could the Truman Doctrine be rendered null and void?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Getting Shakespeare

It always cracks me up when a supporter of Obamacare will rattle off 3 or 4 provisions of the act that are popular with voters. No doubt, some of that massive act are popular. How inept would they have to be to fail to put anything good in it?

But even if you assume 4 provisions that take 10 pages each to define, what about the other 2,660 pages of Obamacare statutes?--and I have no idea how you count the reams of administrative rules that follow in the wake of that massive piece of legislation.

The defense is simply astounding to me. If you had enough monkeys typing away for long enough, how could you not get a provision letting you keep your 26-year-old "child" on your health insurance?

Damascus Dan

Syria's media is insisting that all is well and that people should remain calm:

EVEN by the standards of Syrian state television, the gap between fact and fiction yawned unusually wide on July 15th. With street battles rattling Damascus, the capital, for the first time in Syria’s 17-month uprising, a roaming camera crew struggled to find a picture of reassurance. “Nothing’s happening! Its completely quiet!” a trio of veiled women shouted at the microphone poked through their car window, as gunfire crackled in the background. They seemed anxious to speed off, as did a lone pedestrian waylaid on an eerily deserted boulevard, who briskly agreed that things were “normal—very, very normal”.

Syrian security forces are fighting at Aleppo at the northern end of the Jordan-to-Turkey road, but if Assad wants to retreat to Core Syria, I think Aleppo is a bridge too far. Friendly populations need to be evacuated from there.

Assad has to cut his losses at some line, and Aleppo is too far forward of that line, I think.

As long noted, most of the Syrian army is too shaky to fight and is confined to barracks. The rest is doing a fair job of ethnic cleansing along that road corridor.

And the story says that Assad has two brigades in reserve, still.

Seriously, Assad's army has to be tired. They're taking way heavier casualties than we did fighting in Iraq, and Syria is up against more meager opposition. The troops just can't keep up this pace. Two reserve brigades is enough for an emergency but not enough to relieve troops in battle to allow a fight that drags on years.

But two brigades could be fire brigades to rescue retreating units and people as they withdraw to Core Syria.

Tuareg Awakening

Northern Mali is in bad shape. The Tuaregs had hoped for independence and instead got jihadis who are intolerant of pretty much anything but praying and killing Infidels. The Tuaregs chose their allies poorly.

The ECOWAS and southern Mali forces training for operations in the vast north number only 4,500. Without a regiment of French Foreign Legion to spearhead the assault, I don't think that force is capable of scattering the jihadis and their still-allied Tuareg forces.

But the Tuaregs seem to be having second thoughts about independence under the conditions they have. I've read Tuaregs may be willing to turn on the jihadis if the Tuaregs get more autonomy within Mali.

That would satisfy a lot of concerns about the status quo. No African state wants secession to set a precedent. No regional states want jihadis to set up shop and spread unrest. No Western state wants a jihadi haven. Southern Mali wants to restore the country. And northern Mali wants a better deal but doesn't want jihadis to run their lives.

Could there be a Tuareg Awakening?

The Last Resort

Even more on Assad wanting to run an Alawite regime rather than all of Syria, which increasingly looks impossible to achieve:

Many Middle East analysts view Syria through one lens: a troubled state in need of regime change. But recent events indicate that a new paradigm is needed—one that accepts that the Alawite drive for communal survival may preclude survival of the present Syrian state.

I've thought this was an option for quite a while now.

If Kofi Annan can't save Syria under Assad's rule with talks and if Russia and Iran can't save Syria under Assad's rule with violence, either Assad has to go or Syria does. I know what Assad would choose.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Defending Core Syria

With others also wondering if Assad will retreat to the Allawite core of Syria, perhaps along the coast with perhaps inland buffer zones, I supposed I should look at my more expansive idea of what I will call a Core Syria with a higher proportion of Allawites and other supporters. Could Syria hold that territory and pacify/control that population?

To recap, I think Assad needs an arc from the Turkish border, around Lebanon to the Israeli and Jordanian border, including Damascus.

This preserves Syrian claims to Turkish territory, centers the country on the Allawite homeland, keeps the UN seat by continuing to be the recognized Syria, retains the option of being hostile to both Israel and Jordan, and controls the land borders of Lebanon.

Everything else to the east is abandoned to whoever wants to govern it. Let's look at the map:

I figure Assad needs to control the provinces of Idlib, al Ladhiqiyah, Tartus, Al Qunayurah, and Daria; the city of Damascus; plus the western parts of Hamah, Hims, and Dimashq provinces, arcing from the eastern border of Idlib down to the eastern border of Daria.

A 2004 census gives those provinces a total of  10.1 million people. I'll call it even by assuming populations increased but that the eastern portions of Hamah, Hims, and Damascus will reduce the population to control--but not by much since a lot is fairly barren.

With 75% of Syria's population Sunni, in theory Assad could gather the entire 25% Allawi, Shia, Christian, and Druze in the Core Syria and increase their share of the population in Core Syria to about half the population. With the guns, money, and secret police, I have to believe that's a base of support capable of suppressing resistance to his rule in this Core Syria.

It is commonly reported that Assad has 200,000 loyal ground forces (army, secret police, and loyal militias/gangs). Standard counter-insurgency states that you need troops equaling 2% of the population to control/protect them. 200,000 is almost exactly 2%. I have to conclude that Assad would have the horses to control a Core Syria.

If those troops can keep fighting for the duration without a rotation base to relieve them.

What I also don't know is what the logistics for this move would entail. Is it possible to move supporters from outside the core? Can strategic assets be relocated (chemical weapons, ballistic missiles)? Would Assad need to ethnically cleanse areas of Sunnis to make room for incoming supporters? Would Assad want to destroy the abandoned areas as much as possible to deny easy use by whoever takes over? And how would a Core Syria's economy function? Would it become even more reliant on Iranians and possibly Russian support? Could China be enticed to provide diplomatic support and money?

Retreating to a Core Syria would be a major decision with a lot of difficulties to overcome. But it might have the advantage over trying to hold everything in that it doesn't end with the Assad family hanging from lamp posts in the Damascus public square.

The option is better from the Assad clan's perspective, no?

Drugs and Dregs

Wow, that sure is a lot of effort:

Two drug-smuggling tunnels outfitted with lighting and ventilation systems were discovered along the U.S.-Mexico border, the latest signs that cartels are building sophisticated passages to escape heightened surveillance on land.

Both tunnels were at least 150 yards long. One began under a bathroom sink inside a warehouse in Tijuana but was unfinished and didn't cross the border into San Diego. The Mexican army found the tunnel Wednesday.

It's kind of impressive.

Then you remember the tunnels into Hamas that smuggle goods and weapons.

And you remember that insurgents and terrorists in Afghanistan and Colombia joined forces.

And you remember that Mexico doesn't exactly have a handle on their northern provinces overrun with drug gangs.

And you also remember that PRI is back in power in Mexico, whose determination to battle the drug gangs wasn't very high the last time they held power. Heck, they figured, the drug trade was our problem--not their problem. If gringos wanted to send dollars south into the Mexican economy, who were they to complain?

Then it became their problem big time. But the problem is perhaps too difficult for the PRI to fight with any enthusiasm.

Now it may be our problem again. If some of the drug gangs team up with jihadis to make use of tunnels like that for things worse than drugs.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

War is an Option

Don't assume we can only briefly delay Iran's nuclear programs if we really hit Iran hard in a multi-week campaign.

Remember, when we hit Iraq's WMD infrastructure in 1998's Operation Desert Fox, we assumed we could only delay Saddam for a year, if memory serves me. We seem to have done far more harm in the four-day assault.

But I'm on record as believing that buying even a year of time is worth the risks.

Bigger Than Two Men and a Truck

While I've not been shy in speculating that Assad might try to retreat to a Core Syria to lower his security needs to match his security assets, I remain very aware that this is a map-reading exercise that doesn't go into the complexity of shrinking your country.

I remain aware because I still remember the effort by South Vietnam in the waning days of the war, when they lost our support and North Vietnam was invading, to "strategically withdraw" from the border areas of South Vietnam to defend a core South Vietnam in the southern part of the country.

Once the retreat began, troops became further demoralized and worried about family. And the whole thing collapsed.

Which is why I thought that Russian troops on the ground in Syria could be a morale booster for the Alawites and allies if they try to retreat to a Core Syria.

Yet despite the difficulties and uncertainties of pulling it off, Assad has to make a choice soon about doing something different or seeing his tired troops just collapse from the effort at playing whack-a-mole.

UPDATE: And remember that Syria can't rotate troops they way we did even when our rotation base was stressed. Syria's armed forces have already exceeded our maximum 15-month Army deployments during the surge.

Why Summer in Ann Arbor is Great

The weekly lunch hour musical performances in Ann Arbor are taking a break for the Art Fair.

Last week, Scars on 45 played.

Amusingly, the female member of the band wasn't on hand at start time and fellow band member (and husband) asked the crowd to yell out, "Aimee, where are you?"

She was shopping.

But got to the counter where she realized she'd forgotten to bring money. Shopping fail.

Before too long she ran to the stage to applause. At some point, some man (not me) asked her how single she was. Her husband, with the guirar, answered, "zero."

I saw them last year, too, and liked them. So it was a musical success, anyway.

And I like art fair, too. Summer in Ann Arbor is pretty good.

She's Got Some 'Splainin' To Do

The Iraq War was supposed to inflame the Moslem world against us.

Yet we won and Moslem states seem to work with us just fine.

But any minute it will get bad:

A senior adviser to the US military has warned that the West has yet to see the repercussions of the war on terror in Iraq and fears some Islamists may still be set on seeking revenge.

Huh. The Iraq War should have gotten the Easily Excitable lathered up to kill us.

We beat the jihadis in Iraq and the Moslem world doesn't seem inclined to sign up for the jihad.

Note too that the "good war" in Afghanistan is now part of the complaint against us.

But any minute, Moslems will realize they need to seek vengeance for Iraq and Afghanistan, join the jihad, and try to kill us.

Could be. After all, before both Iraq and Afghanistan, jihadis hit us on 9/11. And the Cole bombing. And the Saudi housing bombing. And another earlier try to take down the Twin Towers. And the Beirut Marine barracks bombing.

Funny how Moslems got worked up to kill us before Iraq. Huh.

Besides, our president delivered an outreach speech in Cairo and cleared up that anger management issue back in '09. We're good to go.

Although bombing oil-rich Libya into submission last year might rekindle memories of Iraq. So you never know.

God help us. She was a senior freaking adviser to us. But we won anyway.

Maybe Moslems are starting to realize there are repercussions for following hopped-up jihadi nutcases who want to slaughter innocents for their god.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

An Inconvenient Conviction

A man was convicted of threatening to kill our president. Which is good. President Obama is our president, and you just don't do that. Stay vigilant, Secret Service.

Our feds have tools to identify these threats, of course. Department of Homeland Security understands that white male--probably from one of those southern states, you know--veterans of fighting our nation's wars are an identifiable threat. So--wait. What?

Oh. The man convicted wasn't a white southern male veteran who was radicalized into hate thoughts and motivated to kill? He was a Moslem who was radicalized into a Islamo-fascist killer? And an illegal immigrant, to boot?

Fancy that.

So ... Never mind. Sometimes you just can't generalize about an individual's beliefs and motivations.

UPDATE: Thanks to Stones Cry Out for the link.

Wheel of Misfortune

As China's power grows, those on their border worry that increased Chinese power projection abilities will be directed at them.

India, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Taiwan are the most obvious worriers.

Now Japan can worry as Chinese military capabilities allow China to contest islands in the East China Sea:

Although the sovereignty dispute between China, Japan and Taiwan over the Senkaku/Diaoyutai Islands in the East China Sea has always had its military component, from the 1970s onwards the three sides generally refrained from engaging in behavior that risked exacerbating tensions to the point where armed clashes could occur.

Recent developments, however, indicate that this self-restraint might be over, and that the conflict may be about to enter a new — and possibly far more perilous — phase.

Once safely distant from all but Chinese nukes, Japan now must face a Chinese navy and air force capable of reaching Japan. So Japan now worries and pivots south away from their Cold War orientation toward Russia.

Russia is growing more wary of China. And they have historic fears of being swamped in their Far East. If Russia manages to rejuvenate their conventional forces, they can act on their worries to be more forceful against China.

Shoot, the way China is going, North Korea will turn on Peking.

Spin the wheel in Peking and no matter where it points you find worried neighbors--or neighbors who should be worried.

Faust and Furious

More and more, it really looks like our government tried to make a deal with the Devil in order to make American gun dealers look like the heart of Mexico's drug war problem. Fast and Furious as executed under this administration makes little sense otherwise, unless you accept levels of ineptitude that I am not prepared to believe is possible.

We shall see if the victory of PRI in Mexico's presidential election is where the real deals will be made.

Yet however much it may be understandable that Mexicans might be furious with this program and hope to just make the drug war problem go away by bringing back PRI, pretending that the violence is really our fault and making new deals with the drug cartels will just make new Hells possible.

That Ship Has Sailed

In one sense, I don't understand the debate over risking war with Iran over their nuclear programs.

After all, Iran has been at war with us since 1979. Capturing our embassy, supporting enemies who killed us in Lebanon, attacking us in the Persian Gulf, attacking us in Iraq, attempting to bomb targets in our nation's capital, and supporting enemies who kill us in Afghanistan.

In what sense would we be starting a war with Iran?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Damned and Damner

The Syrian people are being blessed by the combined compassion of Kofi Annan and Vladimir Putin:

Syria peace mediator Kofi Annan was due in Moscow on Monday for talks with President Vladimir Putin amid growing pressure on Russia to finally back the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad.

Syrians are so screwed.

Rally 'Round the Dinner Table

I've read that the new Iran sanctions are so full of holes and exemptions that Iran can cope with them.

But then Strategypage writes this:

The new sanctions, meant mainly to cut Iranian oil sales and smuggling efforts (in response to earlier sanctions) are hurting. Inflation and shortages of imported goods are both getting worse. This hurts most Iranians and has turned public opinion against the nuclear weapons program.

Interesting. I was always skeptical of the claims that Iranians would support a nuclear program no matter what.

And just when Syria's Assad needs all the financial help he can get from Iran.

Mine Warfare

French Foreign Legion troops are in a battle with illegal gold miners who have armed up to protect their operations:

The Legion is spoiling for a fight. In the weeks ahead, their jungle warfare skills will be tested in an escalating battle between illegal gold miners and French authorities. Last week a gang of these miners (garimpeiros) killed two French military noncommissioned officers during a raid near the isolated jungle town of Dorlin. The operation to disband the miners was met with violence from the start. First, a helicopter was peppered with bullets from below as it flew over the camp. The subsequent raid on the ground was met with a well-coordinated attack; in addition to the two soliders killed, another two were seriously wounded. The attackers fled toward nearby Suriname as French forces sought to seal off the border. As of this writing they have not been found.

Tip to Instapundit.

Private warfare, huh?

Confusing Apples With Oranges

Good grief, is this silly analysis of Afghanistan getting more attention? Part of it asserts we blew a chance at a negotiated settlement with the Taliban:

"We squandered the troop surge," says Rajiv Chandrasekaran, author of Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan, "because of this nasty bickering in Washington."

Much of the tension centered around Richard Holbrooke, the veteran diplomat appointed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in early 2009 to be the point man for Afghanistan policy. Holbrooke was brought in to try to forge a path toward peace talks with the Taliban, essentially ending a decade-long war. But he was undermined, says Chandrasekaran, by the White House and even members of his own team.

But what does negotiating with the Taliban have to do with this problem cited in the article?

"What we fail to understand was that the Afghan people largely wanted to be left alone and they hate their government, in many cases, as much as they hate the insurgents. And when we went to them and said, 'Ah, we're coming here to help bring your government to you.' They said, 'Whoa we don't want out government!' "

I agree that trying to create a centralized Afghan government is a mistake. I said so before the surge:

The end result in Afghanistan, if all goes well, will be a nominal national government that controls the capital region and reigns but does not rule local tribes and which actually helps the locals a bit rather than sucking resources from the locals, who in turn do not make trouble for the central government or allow their areas to be used by jihadis to plan attacks on the West. We press for reasonable economic opportunities, with bribes all around (I mean, foreign aid), to keep a fragile peace.

Truth be told, if this is all that Chandrasekaran highlighted, I'd have no problem with the criticism. I'm still not sure if we are trying to base victory on a stronger central government or working with locals for security and governance.

This issue of governance structure is completely separate from the issue of negotiating a peace deal with the Taliban. If talking is meant to pry away the less fanatical Taliban supporters by getting them to agree to live under he new order in order to isolate and defeat the hard core Taliban, that's fine. We did that in Iraq with the Awakening.

But if talking is for the purpose of letting the Taliban win in some areas in exchange for not shooting at us while we withdraw, that's actually a defeat no matter how much it is disguised as a triumph of diplomacy.

And basing a book advocating talks with the Taliban on the vaunted talents of Holbrooke to deliver a diplomatic coup is nonsense.

Good Enough?

Iraq has not collapsed 7 months after our departure. We have several thousand ex-military there for training and security, but it has not been enough to keep the Iraqi security forces in top form:

The security forces, under attack by gangsters and terrorists using bribes and threats (of murder or kidnaping) are becoming less effective. This has made it possible for Sunni terrorists (al Qaeda and several local groups) to keep operating.

Luckily, we weakened the enemy enough to make this flaw less than fatal--so far.

And I hope that there is enough accountability in the Iraqi system for voters to pressure or punish leaders for failing to provide security and economic growth.

I'm still cautiously optimistic that Iraq will turn out well.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Last Resort

I don't know if this is just security theater, but we are working to keep options open:

The Pentagon is sending the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis to sea four months ahead of schedule to ensure that there are at least two carriers in the Middle East.

Even if Iran doesn't think we will stop them, they can't discount the possibility completely when we have the assets nearby.

Divide and Conquer

Eschewing charm, China played power politics in ASEAN to divide and conquer opposition to China's expansive claims to the South China Sea:

Southeast Asian nations have failed to reach agreement on a maritime dispute involving China, ending a foreign ministers' summit in disarray after Beijing appeared to split the 10 countries over the contentious issue.

The Philippines said in a statement on Friday that it "deplores" the failure of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit to address the worsening row, and criticized Cambodia in unusually strong language for its handling of the issue.

We responded by bolstering the notion that all the smaller nations should approach China in a united front rather than being picked off one by one by China:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned on Thursday of more confrontations in the South China Sea without a region-wide solution as China rebuffed calls to expedite talks on rules for operating in disputed waters.

Never forget that we have an important role in bolstering the many and varied countries around China that would prefer not to be bossed around by China. Divide and conquer would be a lot easier if we weren't nearby and strong.

The Philippines needs to arm up. This isn't Obamacare--they can't just restart the American alliance after being out of it for two decades at their choice, and now assume their preexisting condition qualifies for unconditional insurance for their claims against China.

Obviously, the Philippines can't cope with China on their own. They don't have the resources.

But Manila can make sure that China has to make a major effort over a longer period of time to defeat the Philippines and assert control over disputed islands. That will raise alarms in the region over China's ambitions and increase the risk that China has to run that America will intervene in some way.

Too Dumb to Believe

Sometimes people simply get what they deserve:

A multistate identity theft scam that claims President Barack Obama will pay your utility bills appears to have widened. ...

The scheme was first reported in May, when Dallas-based Atmos Energy warned its 3 million customers in 12 states that scammers had been asking for Social Security numbers to enroll in the faux federal program. According to the pitch—distributed via email, Facebook, text message, phone and, in some cases, door-to-door sales—the government would pay a month of energy costs through credits offered by the Obama administration.

In the end, that scam will cost the country less than the scam that lies behind it.

That's why the scam worked, eh?

One Glue Failure Away

Once again, after licking the Sprint ecoEnvelope in the vain hope of triggering its supposed adhesive qualities--after performing the monthly ecoPunishment of disengaging the return envelope for daring to pay by mail, I had to use glue to seal the envelope.

I'm thinking of firing up my gasoline-powered ecoDestroyer car and running the oil-based ecoTires back and forth across the ecoEnvelope to see if a ton of Detroit's best can somehow unleash the adhesive qualities of the ecoGlue with pressure beyond even my capacity to pound my ecoFist over and over into the stupid thing on my dining table.

And I'm reasonably certain that cursing the company isn't the key.

Seriously, this is pissing me off so much that I'm this close (imagine me holding my finger and thumb about a centimeter apart) to switching carriers. I'm due for a new phone from Sprint since my two-year period is long over. Maybe I need to exoSkedaddle to a phone company that doesn't hate me for destroying the planet.

Let's see how that next ecoEnvelope goes, shall we?

Rationality Fails--Or Changes

Iran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz to block all oil exports from there:

Iran could prevent even "a single drop of oil" passing through the Strait of Hormuz if its security is threatened, a naval chief said on Saturday, as tensions simmer over Tehran's nuclear program.

We have reacted by moving assets to the Gulf to deal with various levels of threat.

Besides, would Iran really be foolish enough to react to our restrictions on their oil exports by doing something that completely cuts off their oil exports and mobilizes even skittish Europeans to fight Iran to keep their oil imports coming?

Military analysts have cast doubt on Iran's willingness to block the slender waterway, given the massive U.S.-led retaliation it would likely incur.

This is excellent reasoning with only one problem--it could become wrong at any moment.

That reasoning, after all, kept Iran from trying to close the strait despite years of Iraqi efforts to shut off Iranian oil exports during the Iran-Iraq War (which I prefer to call the First Gulf War) through an air campaign that targeted Iranian tankers and Kharg Island.

The Iranians even followed that reasoning as American efforts to "tilt" to Iraq to keep them from losing the war made it look like we were co-belligerents with Iraq.

The Iranians followed that reasoning right up until 1987 and 1988 when the didn't follow that reasoning, and challenged the American-led naval flotilla guarding the Persian Gulf:

Iran did in fact attack the United States Navy during the Tanker War during the Iran-Iraq War, and suffered losses in clashes with our forces during 1987 and 1988. For years, the Iranians endured Arab and American efforts to support Iraq in the war that Saddam launched in September 1980, knowing that the Persian Gulf was the source of income and supplies for Iraq. Yet Iran endured rather than striking out, knowing that they needed the Gulf, too, and perhaps understanding that the alternative to Iraq using the Gulf was not Iran only having use of the Gulf. But the pressure of war led the mullahs to abandon their caution and sail into battle that they lost.

As I noted in the post, the Iranians seem to believe that the chance of war this year is pretty high, so they'd best prepare for it. Striking us first if they believe we will strike anyway will seem quite reasonable to them.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The New Old Front

Hamas believes Egypt will support them in Gaza against Israel.

And the Israelis moved Iron Dome anti-rocket defenses to the southern border with Egypt.

At this rate, Israel will need to update their war plans to advance across Sinai to the Suez Canal.

So who expels the MFO which watches everyone and makes sure Egypt doesn't reinforce Sinai unnoticed?

In Need of Money, Guns, and Lawyers

Here is an interesting overview of the Syrian revolt, as of last month.

Their estimate of 40,000 insurgents in the field is fairly fascinating given that in Iraq the estimate of enemy full-time fighters in the field never exceeded 25,000. Which gives you a sense of how narrow the Iraqi insurgencies were. With all the money and weapons available to them, our enemies didn't have the popular support to really challenge us despite widespread impressions in the West that the Iraqi insurgencies were a national resistance to our occupation.

If the Syrian insurgents had more money and weapons, I have to think that they could put more in the field.

The figure of 40,000 probably isn't comparable to the 25,000 figure for Iraq. In Iraq, that represented the full-time fighters, who were probably 10% of the total dominated by part-timers who occasionally fought. That's typical, as I understand it.

Given that Iraq's insurgents during the height of the fighting there managed daily attack numbers that Syrian insurgents manage in a month (over 150 lately), the 40,000 "active fighters" in the Syrian resistance, as the foot note for that figure calls them, cannot mean full-time fighters. If it was, the Syrian opposition would be doing a lot better than their Iraqi counterparts did given that the Syrian opposition faces far fewer and lower quality counter-insurgency forces than the Iraqi insurgents and terrorists faced. The security force quality issue is clear from the far greater casualties that the Syrian security forces are suffering compared to Coalition casualties. Even in the worst months of the insurgencies, far more numerous Iraqi forces did not endure the recent levels of Syrian casualties (404 in May).

It seems to me, from my pajama-clad view, that it makes more sense to think of the Syrian opposition army as having 4,000 full-timers with the rest part-time help. With a sixth of the Iraqi insurgencies' numbers and far lower material support, the far lower attack numbers of the Syrian resistance compared to the Iraqi insurgents make more sense.

Already, the insurgency's ability to hold out-of-the-way terrain exceeds the capacity of the Syrian security forces to clear and hold. With more arms, the large number of potential recruits from the 75% Sunni population could exceed the activity of the Iraqi insurgents quite easily. Arms are clearly the limiting factor for the Syrian insurgents. Maybe we should get our BATF on this problem.

Ready for Low-Level War

We have plenty of big stuff in the Central Command region to fight Iran if Iran goes big and tries a Viking funeral ride with their military.

If Iran tries to fight a low-level fight, we are ready, too:

One of the Navy’s oldest transport ships, now converted into one of its newest platforms for warfare, arrived in waters off Bahrain late last week, a major addition to the enlarged presence of American forces in the Persian Gulf designed as a counter to Iran.

I've mentioned the Ponce development. Click through for a link about the last time we were involved in a low-level duel with the Iranians over freedom of navigation in the Persian Gulf.

I wouldn't discount Iran's ability to hurt us. Respect them in that regard.

But don't discount our ability to take whatever Iran tries to dish out and pound them into the ground in return.