Sunday, September 30, 2012

Asking for It

Damn those Iraq-invading, Islamophobic Buddhists!

Hundreds of Muslims in Bangladesh burned at least four Buddhist temples and 15 homes of Buddhists on Sunday after complaining that a Buddhist man had insulted Islam, police and residents said.

If only the Buddhists would get out of Bangladesh where they have no business being, those poor Islamists would leave them alone.

But say it again, anyway--it's our fault Islamists hate us.

And I Love Freedom

If it was just a rally to protest (peacefully) disrespect for their religion, I'd have been fine with this protest. Moslems in America are free to be upset with something they think insults their religion.

But when they call for blasphemy laws to shield their fragile faith, I draw the line. I love freedom. The First Amendment has no carve out for the Easily Excitable.

But the protesters had best hope that their perhaps more religious brethren in the Old Country don't see their poster:


But hey, what's that in the upper right hand corner? Is that the Playboy Bunny symbol?


The jihadis back home aren't too forgiving. They've gotten upset for less than that kind of faux pas.

If I was an organizer of the rally, I'd keep a low profile for a while.

Nullifying Love of Death

Fanaticism is not the same as being well trained.

Jihadis like to say they will beat us because we love life too much to fight those who love death. This is incorrect. At its most basic, we have civilization now because those who were barbarians have lost in the long run despite periods of threat.

In 2006, Israel let the fanatics of Hezbollah fight the war they expected--defending prepared positions against small Israeli frontal assaults. I've argued that Israel needs a war of maneuver that will disrupt the enemy plans and force them to react to unexpected events.

The Kenyans have shown how this is done by forcing the death-loving al Qaeda jihadis in Kismayu out of that crucial port by coming at them from all sides rather than letting the jihadis dig in and wait for the frontal assault:

Kenyan warships shelled the southern Somali port of Kismayu overnight after al Qaeda-linked rebels said they had abandoned the city, residents said on Sunday.

Stunned by an assault by sea, air and ground forces late on Friday night, al Shabaab rebels fled the city that had been their key source of revenue, retreating to surrounding forests and towns.

The shells may have been targeting any remaining pockets of resistance or military installations in the city that was the rebels' last stronghold.

Well trained troops could recover from surprise and possibly counter such a move. Al Qaeda in Somalia is not a well trained force. They are fanatics who could die in place if told to defend some location from an enemy attack. But the Kenyan attack disrupted the thinking and equilibrium of the jihadis and they ran.

Oh, if they aren't killed they will recover and continue their fight. But without money from the port operations, the less-than-fanatical who require a pay check won't show up.

No insult to the Kenyans, but I wonder if we had a hand in coming up with the idea for the plan or filling in the details of a Kenyan plan for the assault. That would be consistent with our approach in the region.

Israel should take note of the impact of what had to have been a fairly small Kenyan amphibious assault on the coast that cut off Kismayu from the north along the coast.

Love maneuver.

Always Something to Hate

Jihadis are fully capable of hating what people long gone have left behind:

Heavily armed Islamist fighters in Mali destroyed the tomb of a local Sufi saint near Timbuktu on Saturday, witnesses said, the latest attack on traditional shrines in the rebel-occupied north.

Don't ask why they hate us. Ask why they hate everyone. And everything.

If we were long gone, they'd smash our monuments and statues as a threat to their purity.

The Mother of Invention

The Israelis aren't saying how they'd try to degrade Iran's nuclear program. We say we've figured out how they'd do it. But Israel knows we could "reverse engineer" plans from capabilities. Which means either Israel can't do the job and doesn't want to admit it or that we have no idea how Israel will do it. And either way it means that the Israelis don't trust us to keep the secret.

We think we know Israel can't attack Iran with any hope of degrading Iran's nuclear program:

The result is that, at a time of escalating public debate in both the United States and Israel around the possibility of an armed strike on Iran, high-level Pentagon war planners have had to "fly blind" in sketching out what Israel might do -- and the challenges its actions will pose for the U.S. military. "What we do is a kind of reverse engineering," the senior planner said. "We take a look at their [Israeli] assets and capabilities, put ourselves in their shoes and ask how we would act if we had what they have. So while we're guessing, we have a pretty good idea of what they can and can't do." ...

But it's not clear that Israel, even with its vaunted military, can pull off a successful strike: Netanyahu may not simply want the United States on board politically; he may need the United States to join militarily. "All this stuff about 'red lines' and deadlines is just Israel's way of trying to get us to say that when they start shooting, we'll start shooting," retired Admiral Bobby Ray Inman told me. "Bottom line? We can do this and they can't, because we have what the Israelis don't have," retired Air Force Colonel Sam Gardiner said.

If we can reverse engineer how Israel would try, why wouldn't Israel just tell us? It could be that the Israelis can't do the job. But since the question of Iran's nuclear program has been a matter of higher concern for about a decade now, you'd have to accept that the Israelis have not spent the last decade getting the capabilities to strike Iran. It has certainly been clear since 2006 that we aren't going to attack (Bush would have been impeached and Obama doesn't have it in him).

And I have to disagree with what the colonel says about Israel lacking what we have. The crucial difference is that Israel has what we don't--the worry that they're a one-bomb state and that Iran gets that bomb.

Back to the reverse-engineering claim. I have to disagree again. We look at Israel's capabilities and we can reverse engineer what Israel would do if Americans were in charge of planning the operation.

The idea that a commando raid is the height of thinking outside the box is ludicrous. With our resource-rich way of waging war, we have no idea how Israelis might truly think outside the box. We actually think that putting 400 troops on the ground in Iran isn't right inside the box of big operations. Shoot, there's a book about that operation--written in 1991. It was pretty good.

I think Israel can reach Iran. If Iran threatens to cross whatever red line Israel thinks puts Iran out of reach, they'll act.

And given how long Iran has been attacking America and killing Americans, from the Embassy Crisis over thirty years ago, to the Beirut barracks bombing, to the Persian Gulf, to Iraq, and even today in Afghanistan, I'd hope our military would be a little more focused on what we will do to Iran if they dare attack us rather than pretending the Israelis are the bad guys in this drama.

Maybe the Israelis would share more about their plans with us if they thought we could be trusted to treat the secret as if Israel's life depended on it rather than President Obama's second term.

Moral Superiority

Why do electric vehicle owners hate the planet so much? (Tip to Instapundit)

Remember, we aren't even supposed to dispose of little batteries in the garbage because they are so toxic. Electric cars have huge freaking batteries that wreck the planet in production and disposal.

This still isn't the rigorous full life cycle cost comparison that I'd like, but I still smile.

Thrown Under the MIRV Bus

The Obama administration announced with much fanfare our "pivot" to Asia (which in my mind is more like a pivot away from the Middle East). Apparently, our nuanced signal of stiff-arming Taiwan did nothing to convince China to give us more space in Asia.

This is pretty shameful:

The U.S. has agreed to ship back Pac 2 Patriot anti-aircraft missiles Taiwan sent to the United States for upgrades in 2008. These were to have been sent back in 2009 but were delayed for three years by, well, no one will admit exactly what the reason was. Might have had something to do with China pressuring the United States to not send weapons to Taiwan.

China kept deploying more ballistic missiles opposite Taiwan, and now has 1600 of them. How's that for nuance?

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Projection Apples and Sea Control Oranges

The debate over the survivability of our large aircraft carriers is not a simple debate over whether they are more useful than they are vulnerable and expensive. They are both--depending on the mission.

So let's have another carrier debate:

Have aircraft carriers become obsolete? Since 1949, analysts have argued that some combination of strategic bombers and cheap anti-shipping weapons have rendered the aircraft carrier a relic. The latest round in the conversation over the continued viability of aircraft carriers was spurred by Robert Haddick’s Foreign Policy column suggesting that improvements in long range strategic airpower and ballistic missile technology could render the carrier irrelevant.

There’s no single answer as to why the carrier persists, but the experience of the last sixty-five years has helped give us a handle on the persistent utility of the flat deck aviation warship.

Carriers have responsibilities in two areas: power projection and sea control.

Power projection is what we've done with our carriers since world War II. Sail them off the coast of some country that doesn't possess a potent navy or air force, and use it as a floating air base. Without the need to fight for control of the sea, we exercise that control of the sea from the start of a conflict. We've done this a lot. And the carriers have performed superbly.

This history of power projection is what the defenders of carriers point to.

But what the anti-carrier side points to is usually the sea control mission. In this mission, by definition we face a nation with a navy and air force capable of fighting us for control of the seas--or at least denying us full control.

And for nations without carriers, advances in persistent surveillance and guided missiles give them a potent weapon to use against our big carriers.

Further, while defenders of carriers like to call them sovereign pieces of American real estate that can host our planes, unlike actual real estate, our carriers float and therefore can sink. Or just burn and become mission kills. Really.

We don't like to admit it and rarely practice what we do if a carrier goes down, but they can be sunk. They can be sunk by relatively cheap missiles. They can be sunk by relatively cheap missiles guided by relatively cheap surveillance assets.

We like to think of land warfare as casualty intensive and air and naval warfare as cheap in lives. But lose one carrier battle group in the middle of the ocean and we could lose more sailors in one day than we lost in the entire Iraq War on the ground over years.

So, our big deck carriers are very valuable in the power projection mission (or in peacetime disaster response where the disaster isn't shooting at us).

But we have to be careful using them in a sea control mission. Especially since the range of our carrier aircraft has bizarrely gone down over the decades, meaning we have more problems striking enemy assets that can target our carriers.

I wouldn't mothball our existing carriers. But I'd phase them out over decades and use the money saved for other naval platforms. They are platform-centric kings in an increasingly network-centric world. And look to alternatives to providing sea-based air power.

These are the factors to consider in the great carrier debate.

Not Responsible

Leaving Iraq before we helped them contain the enemy of corruption is not responsibly ending that war.

For years before we even defeated the enemies inside Iraq, I called for a post-war presence that would help Iraqis bolster rule of law. Real democracy requires rule of law and not just voting.

If we had remained in Iraq with more influence, maybe we could have stopped this corrupt deal that will lead to more dead people:

Iraqi officials said Saturday that a jailbreak where al-Qaida-linked militants escaped death row had help from inside, further tarnishing state authority and raising new concerns over corruption.

A day after the escape in Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Baghdad, scores of prisoners are still at large.

The Interior Ministry said there had been "clear collusion" between some guards and inmates in the Tasfirat prison. Weapons were brought in during family visits, and wardens left locks inside the facility open.

But President Obama doesn't care. As long as it doesn't go completely wrong before the election, he couldn't give a damn about Iraq.

This was an absolutely predictable phase of the war and we won't help.

I Can't Pretend to Comprehend

I think I'm going to be sick.

Hey, let's play "what's rational?"

NBC Slightly News

Has NBC forgotten it is an arm of Obama for America? (Tip to Instapundit)

Am I crazy or is today’s NBC Nightly News broadcast actually almost fair in Obama vs. Romney terms? … The network isn’t exactly harsh on Obama regarding the highly suspicious intelligence-agency blame-taking on Libya misdirection–but Andrea Mitchell does offer only two alternatives: 1) “a coverup” 2) “trying to avoid acknowledging mistakes this close to an election.”

Well, it might just be an oversight. Sometimes in the rush to fill time, you accidentally commit journalism.

Let's see if there is more coverage of Benghaziquiddick to demonstrate that the media isn't just the stenographer pool for Chicago press releases.

Subwaymission

So a "proud-liberal Moslem" woman defaced posters she feels insults Islam?

Huh. By her actions she has no business calling herself "liberal." Freedom of speech, and all that.

But by her dress, with no head covering and exposed flesh that drives the faithful mad with desire, no Islamist is going to consider her "Moslem" (and just where was her male escort, hmmm?)

But she still has the proud part, at least, since her action justified New York subway mission:

The New York Times reports the MTA will prohibit any advertisements that it “reasonably foresees would imminently incite or provoke violence or other immediate breach of the peace.”

I feel so silly that anyone would consider Islamists "barbarians" as the poster stated.

We can all be so proud of this abandonment of free speech in the face of demands by extremists to submit to their view of what is acceptable speech.

Remember, pointing out that Islamists are violent extremists isn't an attack on most Moslems who would rather not be associated with the more excitable elements of their faith who claim to speak for all Moslems.

In any case, I'm sure that in a couple weeks we'll have definitive statements by the MTA about whether this was a spontaneous action growing out of a normal protest in defense of Islam (and it is just tragic that the protester happened to have a can of spray paint on her) or a deliberately planned attack.

Let's Explore Rational Thinking

Iran's failure to recognize The Onion as a humor site rather than a news site is surely funny. But we should keep this in mind when a crisis with Iran arises and we think we can "signal" Iran with actions or words that will keep the crisis from spinning out of control.

Iranian government hacks believe ordinary Americans side with Ahmadinejad:

Still basking in the glory of his latest appearance at the U.N., Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad now heads back to Tehran with his head held high after winning yet more American hearts and minds. As the Islamic Republic's official news agency, Fars, reports this morning, according to a new Gallup poll released Monday "the overwhelming majority of rural white Americans said they would rather vote for Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad than US President Barack Obama."

But there is a deadly serious side of this if Israel attacks Iran's nuclear programs. We appear to think we can insulate ourselves from Iranian anger based on an Iranian assumption that we'd help our ally Israel, and prevent a regional war. If we think we can signal Iran with statements and movements of our ships--in the middle of a crisis, no less--we're not thinking rationally. We have no idea how Iran will read our signals.

While we are saying and doing things we believe will calm the situation, it is highly likely that Iran will not hear or see those signals in the way we intend. And we will miss early opportunities to use our military power to knock Iran down before the Iranians can do some damage while they can get their shots in.

Remember, Iranian officials believed Americans like Ahmadinejad more than President Obama! They could talk themselves into believing--for some other farcical reason--that we are too weakened by such beliefs to confront Iran in a crisis.

In a hilarious addendum, The Onion article has been amended:

For more on this story: Please visit our Iranian subsidiary organization, Fars.

Face it, we have no idea what they believe is rational.

Well That's an Interesting Little Twist

India is annoyed with Russia that the carrier that Russia has sold to India has been delayed for years. China just officially put their Russian-built carrier into service (but it is not operational), making the issue of getting that carrier into Indian waters more important. Who caused the latest delay?

Russia blames China for the latest delay in getting the engines working after India prohibited the use of asbestos for boiler heat shields:

Earlier this month, Russian media reports, quoting Andrei Dyachkov, President of United Russian Shipbuilding corporation which refitted the carrier, claimed the ship’s boilers had been damaged due to failures in the brick insulation separating them from the ship’s structure. The shipyard used “sub-standard Chinese firebricks,” Dyachkov said.

China denies selling any firebricks for the project.

So was this corruption, incompetence, or sabotage?

And was it Russian, Chinese, or Indian?

From the Department of Explaining Stuff

In only 17 days, the administration has concluded that the death of four State Department personnel in Benghazi, including our ambassador to Libya, was the result of a terrorist attack.

When initial reports of rocket- and mortar-supported assaults on our Benghazi consulate and secret safe house came out, the administration launched a coordinated news show assault to deny there was a terrorist attack. It was just a natural reaction during a protest about a movie they probably never saw; and unfortunately, they just happened to have enough weaponry to outfit an infantry company. Bad luck, that.

Now, with evidence that we suffered four dead in rocket- and mortar-supported attacks on our consulate and secret safe house, we are told that the administration considers the September 11th incident a "deliberate and organized terrorist attack":

The statement by the office of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper acknowledged that it represented a change in the U.S. intelligence assessment of how and why the attack happened. During the attack on two U.S. government compounds in the eastern Libyan city, four U.S. personnel, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, were killed.

In related news from Washington, D. C., the Department of the Interior released a statement indicating that bears do indeed defecate in concentrations of large trees.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Speaking of Sparking a War

We may soon get a lesson in rationality from the Axis of Evil's Asian franchise.

South Koreans are edgy about what North Korea might do before South Korea's December elections:

In the last ten days, there have been a half dozen episodes of North Korean fishing boats straying en masse below the inter-Korean water border called the Northern Limit Line. North Korea has long disputed the border.

The area has been the site of deadly skirmishes in 2002 and 2009. The South Korean warship Cheonan was attacked near the westernmost South Korea-controlled island in that area in March 2010. And in November 2010, North Korea opened fire on the South-controlled Yeonpyeong Island.

Earlier this month, Kim Jong Eun himself visited the North Korea-controlled islands from which the North’s army fired artillery on Yeonpyeong.

The North Koreans do seem to be working themselves up to something bigger.

If the North Koreans attack, there will be a big South Korean response against the base that launches the attack. I don't think South Korean leaders can get away with just taking another punch as the North Koreans have grown to expect.

I expect missiles and air power in significant amounts to really pound the North Koreans rather than a tit for tat exchange.

Then we'll see if North Korea's elites have a realistic appraisal of their armed forces and let the crisis subside or if they order escalation along the DMZ.

As we pivot to Asia, never forget that we've been there holding the line for over 60 years.

More Bureaucracy Isn't Cheap

ObamaCare, while not fully implemented, was supposed to start bending the cost curves for health care down. Those costs are not bending down.

It has always been a faith-based initiative on that score, however.

Why Do They Hate Us?

Jihadis always have reasons to hate us and kill us. They always will. Because it isn't about us--it's about them.

It's kind of funny. We fought Saddam over Kuwait. We bombed Iraq periodically for a decade, kept them under sanctions, and helped the Kurds unofficially secede from Iraq. We invaded Afghanistan to overthrow the Taliban regime and shatter al Qaeda. We fought al Qaeda in the Philippines. We invaded Iraq to overthrow Saddam who cultivated the Arab world as his constituency. We waged a counter-insurgency against al Qaeda, Baathists, al Qaeda, and home-grown jihadis in Iraq. We wage a counter-insurgency against jihadis in Afghanistan. We fight jihadis in Somalia. We bombed Khadaffi into defeat. We aid rebels in Syria (a bit). We drop missiles on jihadis in Yemen and Pakistan on a regular basis.

Much of that was even done on the orders of that cowboy George W. Bush.

But none of that caused riots around our embassies in the Moslem world. No, that took a poorly made trailer about a privately made film that insults Islam--which as usual is harming Moslems more than us.

A lot of people--even some conservatives--like to say we wouldn't have problems with the Moslem world's more excitable elements if we weren't over there mucking around.

Hogwash.

The problem is--and always has been--the Islamic world, and not us:

Islamic terrorism often gets explained away as being a reaction to Western imperialism, or colonialism, or simply cultural differences. No one, especially in the Islamic world, wants to admit that the cause of it all is religious fanatics who would rather appear righteous than be righteous.

Do read it all, as the saying goes.

Face it, if we pulled all of our troops out of the Middle East; closed our embassies; stopped sending tourists; stopped buying their oil; stopped sending out troops to save Moslems from invaders, thug rulers, earthquakes, and tsunamis; and didn't even think much about them, our size, power, and cultural influence would still make us a target to be blamed for what goes wrong in the Islamic world.

One day, there'd be riots at Western hotel chains "because" Madonna took her top off.

Riots in the Moslem world, if I'm unclear.

Another Decision is Coming

No decision Assad has made in prosecuting the war against the growing rebellion has worked. But he has a new decision to make soon as his air power loses its capacity to influence events.

Syria's army is too weak to contest all of Syria and the army has lost control of large swathes of territory:

Much of the army strength is tied up in bases that are basically under siege by rebels. The troops can only get out (or get supplies in) via a major military operation. These isolated bases will eventually fall as they run out of food and ammunition. The rebels, ever careful about their own casualties (an important element in maintaining morale), are content to wait the army out. Foreign reporters are able to travel near these besieged bases and see for themselves this aspect of the war. While the rebels can besiege government troops, the government cannot do the same to the rebels. Most of the countryside is under rebel control or a no-man's land. There are not enough loyal (to the government) police and soldiers to assert government control everywhere. Only in the largely Alawite areas along the coast is the countryside pro-government.

Using the air force to compensate for lack of ground power will only work for a while until the air force erodes away and can't fly:

The rebels believe that the only thing keeping the government forces in action is the air force, whose helicopters and bombers provide an edge in terms of reconnaissance and emergency firepower wherever the army is in big trouble. The big problem the air force has is fuel, which it is rapidly running out of. Aircraft consume tons of the stuff each time they fly off on a mission. While Syria stocked reserves of aircraft fuel for emergencies (like a war), these are not being replenished. As the warplanes fly less, the Assad forces will lose more ground and, eventually, everything.

By the time the West gets around to a no-fly zone, the Syrian air force will probably be incapable of flying anyway.

But use of air power buys time before Assad has to make another decision about the war. He's just buying time hoping something will save him. When that's all you can do, that's what you do.

But what will the next decision be? Will it be the use of chemical weapons to terrorize the rebels' civilian supporters? Will it be an attack on Israel, either directly across the Golan line or via Hezbollah and Hamas? Does he surround some bastion of rebel support and really inflict a mass slaughter in a short period of time in an effort to stun the rebels into submission?

Will Assad finally cut his losses and officially abandon portions of Syria to hold a rump Syria of some size--from a small Alawite enclave to possibly a larger realm that includes inland buffer territory and possibly the capital or even parts of northern Lebanon?

Will Russia step in to help defend the new and smaller rump Syria?

Does Assad decide to flee into exile?

Assad doesn't have many options. But he does have decisions to make. I don't know how long Assad can keep his planes in the air to fight the rebellion, but when he can't keep them in the air, he'll have to make the next decision in the war.

This Is Dangerous

Could pressure over multiple fronts lead Japan to feel a siege mentality and do something that sparks an armed conflict over the Senkakus?

Japan is in a dangerous confrontation with China over the Senkaku Islands. Unfortunately, South Korea and Taiwan--who are supposed to be allies of Japan who would need Japanese help in case they are invaded--are piling on Japan, too.

Taiwan also claims the Senkakus and China is saying that defending Chinese rights to those islands is a joint China-Taiwan job:

Chinese mainland and Taiwan share the responsibility of safeguarding fishermen's rights in the Diaoyu Islands (known in Japan as Senkaku Islands and in Taiwan as Diayoutai) in East China Sea, the mainland's spokeswoman on Taiwan affairs said yesterday.

South Korea is stoking tensions, too:

In an interview with The Associated Press on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan said: "We are victims of Japanese colonial rule."

Kim, speaking a few hours before "serious" talks with Japan's foreign minister, also said South Korea would not compromise in its dispute over the tiny Dokdo islands, called Takeshima by Japan, which has further strained ties.

Japan doesn't need this.

I hope we are being very reassuring to the Japanese.

And I hope Russia doesn't pile on by doing something stupid over the Kuril Islands.

Nobody wants war over the islands. But tensions coming from all directions amidsts constant elbowing and signals could spark such a war.

Unintended Consequences: Himalaya Version

China likes having Pakistan as a counter-weight and distraction to India. But Pakistan may have made India's army too good for China to beat.

This is kind of funny:

India fears that China might try to carry out a lightning campaign (a few days, or a week), and then offer peace terms (with China keeping all or part of Arunachal Pradesh). Since neither country would be willing to start a full scale nuclear war over Arunachal Pradesh (a rural area with a population of about a million people, spread among 84,000 square kilometers of mountains and valleys), the "grab and parley" strategy has to be taken seriously. In the meantime, China keeps finding ways to annoy India over this issue.

Meanwhile, India seems quite confident that they can handle China if a war breaks out in this mountainous wilderness. Partly that's because India is playing defense here, which always confers an advantage. But India's big advantage is that it has recent (1999) combat experience in mountain warfare. ...

That 1999 war got little publicity, so it's generally unknown outside India how much that experience changed the Indian armed forces.
I'd mentioned that I thought Kargil was the impetus to India's Cold Start thinking that would allow the Indian army to react quickly to a small attack with a portion of India's army rather than requiring a lengthy mobilization that might be too late to address a "grab and parlay" strategy.

India appears confident. But they were pretty confident before that 1962 whomping they endured. So I don't know if India actually did get better enough to be able to dominate China in a small ground war in the mountains.

Anyway, China has reason to be annoyed with another one of their pet Rottweilers (North Korea already gives America and Japan an excuse to build missile defenses that are useful against China); and India should send flowers to the Pakistanis for making them better able to defeat China.

From the Sea

After all the maneuvering to the inland side, Kenyan forces swept ashore in Somalia with an amphibious landing to surprise the jihadis holding out along the coast in their last important redoubt.

Kudos to the Kenyans:

Kenyan troops invaded al-Shabab's last stronghold in Somalia, coming ashore in a predawn assault Friday. Other African Union forces were traveling overland to link up with the Kenyan forces in the port city of Kismayo.

Col. Cyrus Oguna, the Kenyan military's top spokesman, said the surprise attack met minimal resistance but al-Shabab denied that the city had fallen and said fighting was taking place. Oguna said that al-Shabab has incurred "heavy losses" but that Kenyan forces have not yet had any injuries or deaths.

Residents in Kismayo contacted by The Associated Press said that Kenyan troops had taken control of the port but not the whole city.

Jihadis are gathering, in response. But given the importance of the port to financing the jihadis, the Kenyans have achieved a notable success: being able to be on tactical defense in a strategic offensive by seizing ground the jihadis can't afford to lose.

I assume we will contribute firepower to help the Kenyans hold their ground if the jihadis try to assault and drive out the Kenyan troops.

I don't see anything about numbers of troops. Kenya's navy is tiny and they have very few marines (about a company's worth) and only a couple small amphibious craft. Did someone help Kenya lift more troops? Are helicopters ferrying in troops?

Hopefully, the troops on the land side are moving quickly to link up with the amphibious force.

So dig in, Kenyans. If the jihadis try to fight rather than attempt to escape and disperse, this will get hairy.

UPDATE: Huh. The jihadis are abandoning the port without a fight:

Somalia's al Shabaab rebels retreated from the southern port of Kismayu overnight, the group and residents said, abandoning the last major bastion of their five-year revolt to an offensive by African Union and Somali government troops.

They may well try to use terrorism to deny the Kenyans and local Somali allies full control, but even if successful the jihadis have lost a source of revenue.

More on the operation. But nothing on the size of the amphibious operation. Although with a name like Operation Sledge Hammer, I suspect they are trying to cast a giant shadow. Kenya has little amphibious capability. Unless we or another Western navy helped lift in the troops, of course.

At the Intersection of No and Where

Mali continues to beg for help to deal with the Tuareg secession in the north that was hijacked by al Qaeda. But nothing that might work seems to be in the works.

African troops from ECOWAS may deploy to Mali:

Mali was initially opposed but has now agreed to host the 3,000-strong force in the capital, Bamako.

After intense regional diplomatic efforts, the authorities have given the green light for a logistical base on the outskirts of the city, BBC West Africa correspondent Thomas Fessy reports.

Mali's interim President Dioncounda Traore was known to be unhappy about foreign troops being posted in the capital.

But other than deploying to the capital, the West African force is not an offensive force. Which is why the UN is needed to give France the cover to provide logistics help (why the UN is needed, is beyond me):

Citing a letter sent by Mali's interim leaders to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on September 18, [French Foreign Minister] Fabius said Mali had requested a U.N. Security Council resolution under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter to mandate an international force "to help the Malian army to reconquer the occupied areas of northern Mali."

Mali can't reconquer the north. ECOWAS can't even move north without French logistics help. With that help, I doubt ECOWAS can do more than establish a government presence in a major urban center in the north and guard the road linking that city to the south.

Lord knows what Russia and China want in exchange for not using their veto.

I still think the French need to send a Foreign Legion regiment to lead the offensive.

But since al Qaeda is holding some French hostage, the entire French military is apparently being held at bay.

The wild card is an apparent link between the Benghazi consulate assault and the jihadis who control much of northern Mali. Will that motivate American assistance to replace what France would normally be expected to provide in their backyard?

And would that motivate the French, in turn, to do more to keep us out of their former colonial borders?

Let's not forget that the secession and subsequent inability of Mali to deal with the secession and jihadi influx was a stupid attempted coup by members of the military unhappy with the government's determination to fight Tuareg unrest in the north. That worked out swell, huh?

But the rest will work out just swell, I'm sure.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Point of Agreement

At first I thought that President Obama simply made a gaffe a week ago:

"The fact that we haven't been able to change the tone in Washington is disappointing," Obama said, in response to a question about his greatest failure. "The most important lesson I've learned is you can't change Washington from the inside. You can only change it from the outside."

What? Is he tapping out? Is the president begging for retirement?

Good grief. President Obama had a decisive victory in 2008 and a financial crisis too good to waste, for two years had Congressional allies in control of the legislative branch, and all along a press corps so fawning that they'd need to increase their cynicism by a couple orders of magnitude just to approach sycophancy.

But even President Obama, an extreme advocate of using the federal government to change things in his definition of hope, now thinks it is beyond him.

Really, however, President Obama was simply agreeing with me that the federal government is just too damn big.

UPDATE: Seriously, it's too damn big.

Aero-Space Force

The Air Force needs to let the Army pick up ground support and recon as much as possible (in permissive environments where the enemy cannot contest drones and helicopters) and migrate to space where the Army cannot operate.

The X-37B is going back to space:

The X-37B is slated for its third launch in October, the Air Force said, but like its two orbital predecessors, the mission of the unmanned spacecraft remains shrouded in secrecy. The exact timing of the October spaceflight, dubbed Orbital Test Vechicle-3 or OTV-3, is also tentative.

This mini-shuttle isn't an operational asset. But it could lead to a lot more space capabilities.

The Air Force should aim high.

If the Air Force can't stand to abandon a competition with the Army for the airspace over Army units, consider that most science fiction calls a space military force a Space Navy. Now there's a competition the Air Force shouldn't want to lose.

The Air Force needs to become the United States Aero-Space Force.

Welcome Spain!

Spain enters the fray:

Spanish political satire magazine El Jueves has published a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad on its cover, soon after violent protests rocked the Muslim world over a U.S. film and French caricatures deemed insulting to Islam.

Moslems have a right to be offended by anything they want. They have no right to rampage or expect us to outlaw that offensive (to them) material.

I don't understand why this is triggering a debate over free speech versus censorship in the West.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Friends Don't Let Friends Drive Islamist

I've been writing that I believe we need to work the problem of Moslem extremism and not abandon our friends who would fight that Islamists fanaticism in our frustration over loud and violent Islamist demonstrations. This is the real war on terror.

Kinetics in Iraq and Afghanistan are merely the holding actions that targeted states that supported terrorists and fought jihadi foot soldiers on the battlefields they chose to make a stand. In a perfect world, our kinetic fights don't need to reach this level again (but we might) and we can make do with lower level support for allies and minimal direct force as with drone strikes in Pakistan or our Horn of Africa efforts.

To make sure this isn't an endless war against the symptoms of the problem, we must help Islam eliminate the jihadis and the Islamist ideology that generates the jihadis and their fanboys. We have friends who need our help and who don't want the jihadis to represent them or rule them:

Anti-Americanism is a potent force in the Arab Middle East; polls show that in several countries — though not in Libya — U.S. prestige has fallen during the Obama administration. But in a region where power is up for grabs, it is only one of many competing agendas, and much evidence suggests that its champions are in the minority. That means the appropriate U.S. response is not to write off the region, or to cancel aid programs — as some in Congress propose — but to help moderate forces defeat and marginalize the extremists.

Washing our hands and refusing to deal with the problem by saying the problem is too hard or that we've made no progress just tells the moderates and reformers that we believe the Islamists really do represent Islam.

Work the problem. That's the only way to responsibly end this Long War.

Until the A-Team Returns

Strategypage notes our new Regionally Aligned Brigade program for the Army:

The U.S. Army is experimenting with Regionally Aligned Brigades (RABs). These are regular combat brigades that customize their training to prepare for likely service in a particular part of the world. The first brigade to be so trained (from the 1st Infantry Division in Fort Riley, Kansas) will be prepped for service in Africa. That means the brigade will be getting ready to work for AfriCom (Africa Command). That could include everything from sending teams to train troops, to joint training with African troops to peacekeeping or aiding in some catastrophe. If this experiment succeeds, the army will designate RABs for Southern (SouthCom in South America), Central (CentCom in the Middle East) and Pacific Commands (PacCom). RABs would be assigned to commands in numbers each of the commands feels is adequate.

The article notes this is how the special forces work, and says that the Army and Marines are following suit with their units.

But this is nothing new. Even in the Cold War, as most of the Army trained for NATO missions, 18th Airborne Corps trained for Persian Gulf scenarios while other units focused on Korea scenarios. I assume east coast Marines focused on Iceland and Norway while Okinawa-based Marine gave that scenario little thought.

The linkage between the RAB program and the special forces practice is the key, if I understand the issue correctly. The problem is that traditionally the special forces--with their regional focus--were the lead force in training the militaries of allies.

But with the War of Terror nowhere near over, special forces are in demand for their more kinetic skills rather than their culturally sensitive training skills. So the regular Army needs to step up its game to relieve the special forces of that task. So we are training brigades to fill this role by specializing in a region. That's why AFRICOM got the first one.

I have no doubt that other brigades will be formed to support other regional commands.

And I have little doubt that special forces will reclaim their training role when they are no longer so active in the field, and that the regionally aligned brigade concept will dwindle and perhaps end.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Begone Puny Mortals!

How dare anyone suggest that President Obama doesn't take national security seriously because he so rarely receives oral briefings where he can directly interact with agency representatives!

Mark Thiessen has the nerve to defend his original reporting on the issue in the face of dismissive explanations from "one of the "most sophisticated consumers of intelligence on the planet." Thiessen's rebuttal is pathetic in its simplicity and lack of nuance:

What Kessler and the Obama White House do argue is a matter, not of fact, but of opinion — that it does not matter if Obama attends a daily intelligence meeting because he reads his PDB every day. Kessler compares Obama to former presidents going back to Reagan and Nixon and finds that “many did not have an oral briefing” – and that this means Obama has simply “chosen to receive his information in a different manner than his predecessor.” There are several problems with this.

First, Kessler ignores one giant difference between then and now: Sept. 11, 2001.

Our intelligence agencies have adapted to the preferences of our super genius consumer of intelligence.


He's doing just fine this way.

Isn't it readily apparent?

Face it, our president just doesn't believe we are at war. Not at war with jihadis, anyway.

Rationality Has Little To Do With This

Are you really reassured that China and Japan don't want war over the Senkakus?

Stuff happens that has nothing to do with rationality:

Chinese state media initially fanned the flames of hatred but then tried to tamp them down. The police gave the demonstrators free rein but also directed them to go home once they vented their anger.

This dual approach typifies Beijing's attitude. The Communist Party benefits from keeping anti-Japanese feeling simmering, since it derives its historic legitimacy from (supposedly) driving out the Japanese invaders and restoring China to its proper place in the world. But anger against Japan must also be kept within bounds, lest protesters blame China's leaders for not being more assertive with Tokyo.

The Chinese think they can turn anger on and off in the service of the party and nation. So far it has worked.

What happens when it doesn't work? What happens when the mobs insist that China deal with Japan harshly, and the Communist Party fears that mob more than they fear Japan or America?

Heck, what happens if China decides that a Japanese confrontation with Taiwan (which also claims the islands) means that China must rush to Taiwan's defense? How will Taiwanese react to that?

Don't tell me there isn't a good opportunity for something very bad to go wrong in this:


That's a Reuters photo of Japanese and Taiwanese coast guard ships exchanging blasts of water. Let's hope there is no collision or accidental firing of a weapon.

And for kicks, let's remember why these little specks in the ocean are so important now.

I'll Sleep Better Now

Lamb has stopped pestering me about whether I've cut myself.

She'd been into her microscope and really wanted to see what blood looks like. She had helpfully left a slide and cover on her desk just in case I have an accident.

No worries that her Fuzzy American minions would gang up on me while I sleep, now.

Too Soon For Playing Games

It is interesting that well before the 2007 Iraq surge, in 2005 people in the Army were discussing ways to adapt a counter-insurgency approach to combat the stubborn insurgencies in Iraq. This story argues that this was a missed opportunity, but it is simply an interesting what-if since the surge relied on many things that could not happen until 2007. Let's try to complete the win before we ponder if we could have won earlier.

The article argues that we could have begun the surge earlier, and even that we missed an opportunity in 2003 to work with the Sunni Arab tribes of western Iraq to end the insurgency:

As the insurgency began to develop in 2003, for example, a group of officers in the U.S. military's intelligence cell in Baghdad developed a plan to work with the Sunni tribes in the western province of Anbar that was never carried out. Col. Carol Stewart had met with a group of Anbari sheiks and devised a plan to bring them into the fold. The strife-ridden Ramadi and Fallujah areas would be designated a "tribal security zone." Tribal leaders would be authorized to police their own areas and given vehicles, ammunition, and money to pay their men, who would be dubbed the "Anbar Rangers." ...

The Red Team assumed that the only U.S. forces available were the ones that were already on hand, which meant that there was no way to blanket the country. So it proposed the concentration of forces in specific areas to effect a mini-surge. The command, for example, could use the beefed-up security for the upcoming December elections to establish an initial ink spot, perhaps in Baquba or in the Fallujah-Ramadi corridor. As more ink spots were created in 2006, they would be linked in a "Two Rivers campaign" to control the population centers along the Tigris and the Euphrates.

The article argues that our plan to transition to Iraqis fighting could not work out. But the plan itself was basic stuff and is exactly what I argued we were trying to do: to knock down the enemy while building up Iraqi forces to handle the reduced threat. Army Red Team analysts thought the Iraqi army was not good enough nor were we beating down the enemy enough for the Iraqis to handle. Whether we were executing COIN 101 is a valid question, but that was COIN 101.

But saying we "belatedly" adopted measures called for earlier misses that timing is important.

If we didn't work with the Fallujah tribes in 2003, we sure did in early 2004 during the dual Sadrist-Sunni Arab offensives. Remember when we called off the First Battle of Fallujah and empowered a Fallujah Brigade? Remember how that unit of "former" enemies failed to control the city and simply allowed the city to become an al Qaeda sanctuary that we had to take at great effort near the end of 2004?

The earlier work by the Red Team shows why I believed the change in focus was the more important part of the surge rather than the extra 5 brigades. Indeed, I worried that we were risking a faster loss of support at home by trying to win faster with extra troops. That worked out, but it was a risk. The Red Team assumed a three-year effort with existing forces. The 2007 surge broke the back of al Qaeda in Iraq in a single campaign.

It is also why I didn't think the last surge in Afghanistan was critical. Since we cut it short before the surge plan in Afghanistan could be carried out, we may yet regret that surge of forces if because of the extra effort we now lack the determination to win with the troops we have left there--troops sufficient to win in my opinion.

The surge in Iraq worked in 2007. This does not mean it would have worked in 2005 or even 2006.

By 2007, Sunni Arabs were finally willing to actually turn on the jihadis--who didn't do their worst until later in 2006--and work with us rather than just go through the motions as they did in 2004.

By 2007, the Iraqi armed forces had grown in size tremendously and gained valuable experience. Whether Iraq could have handled the missions in 2005 or 2006 is questionable.

Indeed, it took Sunni Arab barbarity to get most of the Shias to more fully side with us. Suspicions of our abandonment of them in 1991 were strong even as they were happy we drove out Saddam in 2003.

The surge worked. It was another phase of the war that we won. We had to win earlier phases to get to that point. "What-ifs" are an interesting parlor game for military history.

But what if a surge in 2005 or 2006 was premature? What if, lacking the cooperation of Sunni Arabs and lacking sufficient Iraqi troops of sufficient quality, we could not beat down the enemies? What if that failure had led to the United States Senate joining with the Democratic House to cut off funding rather than the Senate narrowly defeating that effort and thus ending the war in failure? Congress was very wobbly at the time, recall.

Still, by arguing that we could have won earlier, the article at least admits we won the war. Since we won in Iraq, I'd rather spend more time worrying about whether we can cement this win than in wondering if we could have won a year or two earlier.

Enemy Mine

Iran's ability to mine the Persian Gulf is unlikely to succeed against our ability (with our many allies) to clear mines and destroy Iranian mine laying assets. But let's not forget that mines are a weapon we should use and not just a weapon we should worry about defeating.

Strategypage addresses the Iranian mine threat and the usefulness of mines:

Iran would probably mine the straits if sanctions, or military action, halted all Iranian oil exports. Otherwise, mining the straits would be economic suicide. If Iran tried to shut down the Straits of Hormuz, it's more likely that effort would fail and the straits would remain open for non-Iranian oil. With the loss of their oil exports, Iran would find its remaining military forces being hunted down and destroyed day after day. Not only would Iranian oil exports be halted, but so would imports. Iran depends on imports of food (over 100,000 tons a week) and gasoline to keep its economy operating.

For an Iranian mining attempt to work they would have to get the mines onto the bottom of the straits and then prevent the rest of the world from clearing those mines. That would be difficult, as will Iranian attempts to plant additional mines. Such attempts would not be impossible as Iran has small submarines and speed boats along with sailors willing to carry out suicidal missions to deliver the mines. Even that may not be sufficient as this sort of fanaticism failed against the Americans in the 1980s. While Iran has worked to overcome their shortcomings, most of the solutions appear to be publicity stunts mainly meant to make the Iranian population feel better.

The post also outlines earlier mine campaigns. That, too, should be a lesson.

As China increases its ability to project power to Taiwan in order to invade or, through credible threat of invasion, cow Taiwan into submission, we should not forget that mines would wreak havoc with Chinese attempts to move forces by sea to Taiwan.

Taiwan needs mines as much as high-tech offensive and defensive missiles. And we should make sure we can deploy mines from the air in the Taiwan Strait before our fleet can fight its way closer to Taiwan through Chinese anti-access weapons.

Mines are neither good nor evil. They are tools. Just because we expect to be on the anti-mine side with Iran doesn't mean we shouldn't use them ourselves when the circumstances justify deployment.

Angering Islamists

Just a semi-random link to old posts about enraged Islamists.

July 2005. With extensive quotes of Christopher Hitchens.

October 2005. The cartoons.

February 2006. Four months later, "Death to Denmark!" this time with feeling!

December 2008. Death to India!

May 2010. Are there any Tea Partiers nearby?

This Long War will be over when angry Moslem demonstrations spontaneously break out when jihadis kill people (whether Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Animist, or just Moslems not like the Islamists) or Islamists call for the rage-of-the-day about some insult, which actually give Islam a bad name.

Monday, September 24, 2012

No Strategic Impact

I almost commented on the recent Taliban attack that wrecked 8 of our Marine Harrier jump jets. This commentary changed my mind:

The Taliban attack on an air base in southern Afghanistan on Friday drew coverage for the way the insurgents cloaked themselves in U.S. army uniforms to gain a tactical advantage, but few have taken note of the historical proportions of the damage inflicted.

The loss of life is sad but nothing for the bigger picture. And the ability to penetrate a major base is a tactical failing that must be corrected.

But the "historical proportions" of this attack are pretty small.

The aircraft design is old and being phased out in favor of the F-35 variant with similar take off and landing capabilities.

The loss of 8 aircraft does not--as the article says--deny the nearby Marines fixed wing air support--we continue to have unchallenged air supremacy and no ground unit will lack air support because of this loss.

The fact that this is the same unit that became combat ineffective at Wake Island in December 1941 during the epic but ultimately failed defense of that position against Japanese invasion should teach us the real lesson of the attack on Camp Bastion: In 1941, VMA-211 became combat ineffective and the nation rallied to the war we suddenly found ourselves in. In 2012, the squadron loses 8 aircraft and the press deems it an event of historical proportions that shows how badly we are doing and how little the public cares.

All in all, I'm glad nobody noticed.

But if you want to highlight something with strategic impact, how about discussing the loss of our intelligence capabilities in eastern Libya as a result of the consulate attack?

UPDATE: Strategypage has more.

Nutsy-Soviet Pact

I'm not sure whose reputation will be more sullied by this meeting:

A report today in an official outlet of the Iranian regime claims that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, will meet with members of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Ahmadinejad is currently in New York City for the United Nations General Assembly, where these reported meetings will take place.

They deserve each other.

UPDATE: OWS has refused a meeting, I hear.

Bending the Cost Curve Down

Ah, so that's how ObamaCare will bend the health cost curve down!

“Obama is not a foreign born socialist giving away free health care. That would be Jesus.”

Apparently, miracles performed by the son of God are required for much of the president's agenda.

Is She Anything?

She really didn't build that.

Iraq Matters--But Not to Our President

The Obama administration seems to have goals for Iraq no greater than not going obviously bad before the election.

Vice President Biden has called Iraq possibly one of the great achievements of the Obama administration. Amidst the deeply moving lamentations of the Obama administration that they "inherited" our current economic problems from Bush and Bush alone (there are no Democrats in Congress with their fingerprints on past policies, apparently; which is actually more credible given Senate Majority Leader Reid's budget passivity the last few years), let's remember that victory was an inheritance that Bush did leave--over Congressional Democrat objections--to President Obama.

While that inheritance may prove to be large enough to get to final victory despite President Obama, President Obama has squandered much of that inheritance and put our efforts at risk:

Without American forces to train and assist Iraqi commandos, the insurgent group Al Qaeda in Iraq is still active in Iraq and is increasingly involved in Syria. With no American aircraft to patrol Iraqi airspace, Iraq has become a corridor for Iranian flights of military supplies to Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria, American officials say. It is also a potential avenue for an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear installations, something the White House is laboring to avoid.

Ryan C. Crocker, the former ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan, offered his own perspective on the last tortured negotiations in the country where American troops fought for more than eight years. “I don’t think either government handled it as well as it could have been handled,” he said. “The U.S. side came to it late. You have got to leave a lot of latitude for difficulties, foreseen and unforeseen. On the Iraqi side, they should have said, ‘If you want this don’t try to determine our own procedures.’ ”

Ah, "smart" diplomacy.

Good God, They Really Suck

In a good article on the drooling idiocy of our modern press corps, Jonah Goldberg has a great question about the so-called "dog whistle" campaign of Mitt Romney to persuade voters to side with him in the election.

Essentially, why would the Romney campaign bother to send coded messages to white racists to vote for Romney when those racist voters already have the best motive (for racists) of all to vote against Barack Obama?

I'm thinking that if that is Romney's strategy, he really isn't qualified to be president.

UPDATE: More on the suckitude of the press corps. Or, as the president might say, press corpse.

The Ottawa Outreach?

Canada isn't feeling the love:

Did you smile or cheer when U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke announced Quantitative Easing III (and the markets went up)?

He just declared war on your job, and the whole Canadian economy.

Of course, so did the European Central Bank, the central bank of the Peoples' Republic of China and others.

All of them are engaged in the same practice. They're printing money. Gobs of it, in programs that have no end point.

Some are doing it to apply stimulus to revive their economies. Some are doing it to play extend-and-pretend games to hold their banks together.

For a country like Canada, with an economy in reasonably good shape, a government that's not out of control, banks that are healthy and dependent on exports, it's a declaration of war.

Face it, we've alienated Canada. Our smart, nuanced diplomacy has pushed the most polite country you could ever have on your border to despair of working with us (tip to Instapundit):

While managing a bilateral relationship is never easy, especially one as complex and multi-faceted as that between Canada and the U.S., sources close to the Canadian government stress that America totally did not break up with Canada, Canada broke up with it first. They point to the Obama administration’s politically motivated decision to block approval of the Keystone XL pipeline extension as an important irritant in the relationship, adding that America has been avoiding Canada in the halls for weeks.

Sure, the Cairo Outreach hasn't done us any good with the Moslem world. To say the least.

But still, our president's fans tell us he gives great speeches. I suggest it is time for President Obama to orchestrate an Outreach to the Canadian world to our north. He must go to the Great White North to give a speech in Ottawa (not Toronto, if anyone in the White House is reading) to show he understands our strangely alien neighbor whose citizens cling to Tim's and hockey sticks.

We must begin now to heal the great rift between our people before Canadians start blaming us for the NHL lock out and begin triple-triple-fueled riots at baseball stadiums.

Lord knows I don't need more problems at Customs on the US-Canadian border. If it makes Canadians feel better, our president seems to be at war with us, too.

UPDATE: Actually, baseball riots aren't a worry. Given the difficulties we're having with our pro football, will Canadians decide that the performance of the replacement referees is a sign from God that American football is a sin and that we should all be playing by Canadian rules? Three downs? Ten meter lines? I've watched it and had no idea how they scored. It's just not right.

Good grief, people. This could get seriously bad. I want that Ottawa Outreach, now!

There Will Be No Neutral Country in the Region

If Iran is a rational actor who can be deterred once they have nuclear weapons, the Iranians would not irrationally make threats to attack American forces in Arab countries if Israel attacks Iran.

Iran is making threats to widen a war between themselves and Israel:

A senior commander in Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard warned that Iran will target U.S. bases in the region in the event of war with Israel, raising the prospect of a broader conflict that would force other countries to get involved, Iranian state television reported Sunday.

This is irrational on several levels.

One, it multiplies Iran's enemies by making regional neutrals (even if hostile to Iran and willing to help a little covertly) into overt enemies by attacking them.

Two, it draws America into the war and we are the only power with the ability to really pound Iran into the dirt.

And three, as the above link also shows, by raising a threat to energy exports from the region, it gives nations even far away and normally deferential to Iran a motivation to join us in a mission to keep the Strait of Hormuz open.

I'm sorry, this whole rational actor thing is puzzling me. How rational are the Iranians? And you really want to count on that when the Iranians have nuclear missiles?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

No Plan Survives Contact With the Election

We abandoned the surge plan that our military made for winning in Afghanistan. now we must adjust. We can win in Afghanistan. And we need to win. With the way Islamists are getting all jittery around our embassies, if they have a place in Afghanistan to got to for jihad prep schools, they'll go there.

There was no offensive in Regional Command East this year:

The Taliban (and related groups, such as the even-more-fanatical Haqqani network), are far from defeated. They remain secure in their Pakistan sanctuaries, which a decade’s worth of American efforts have done nothing to dislodge. The Taliban even maintain many sanctuaries within Afghanistan itself, particularly in eastern Afghanistan, where the coalition has never had enough troops to do the kind of “clear, hold, and build” operations that have been conducted in the south.

I've noted this lack of American effort in the east after wondering about it all year and reading reports that we intended to do so:

From last winter to this summer, I've asked whether we were going to complete our phased offensive plan by shifting to the offensive in Regional Command East after our initial main effort in Regional Command South in 2010 and 2011. I worried that we weren't going through with it and were giving up the campaign to simply ease out of the war. ...

So we appear to be on a different sort of offensive than the one I anticipated. Casualties in Afghanistan are neither high enough to make it clear we are leading an offensive nor low enough to make it seem like we are avoiding combat.

Rather than taking the lead to knock back the Taliban, we are pushing the Afghans forward while we are still there. We're the training wheels, it seems, to give the Afghans confidence that when they take the lead after 2014 they can stand with our logistics help, intelligence help, and advice.

But our surge forces are out. And we've begun transitioning to Afghans. I still think we could go on offense in Regional Command East with the 68,000 US forces we have in Afghanistan. I believed that before the last surge was ordered.

The problem isn't the lack of troops. It's the lack of willingness by our president to wage the war he escalated.

As a candidate, Obama said he'd virtually invade Pakistan to defeat al Qaeda. Who knew he meant he'd do it with apology videos?

I'm not saying we won't win with our election-influenced strategy. Much is going well. But it is different from what our military planned. They'd hoped the last surge would last at least to the end of this year and hopefully to the end of next summer.

But we have the surge we had and not the surge the military wished to have.

Or, There's This Way

I mentioned the ways we could help Japan in a confrontation with China without directly fighting China. Or we could do this:

The Ground Self-Defense Force and the U.S. Marine Corps on Saturday held a joint drill on Guam aimed at bolstering their ability to defend remote islands.

The Japanese are quick to point out that these could be any remote islands and nothing aimed at China in particular.

I've noted that this is a very useful mission that doesn't require many ground forces.

UPDATE: I'm never reassured by analysts who say a war makes no sense and that neither China nor Japan wants a war over any small islands. How many European statesmen wanted a world war in 1914 over Austri-Hungary's dispute with Serbia?

And with China's economy arguably teetering, will China's rulers believe a splendid little war with Japan (or Taiwan or the Philippines) is just the thing the Communist Party needs to distract their subjects?

Or worse, will Peking be able to resist popular anger if one of their maritime agencies gets ahead of Chinese policy and begins a confrontation with Japan?

In what world do you live in where everything that happens makes sense to you?

Bloodsuckers

I'd sooner expect an honest debate among vampires about the desirability of drinking blood.

Tip to Instapundit.

UPDATE: Even North Korea is catching on that production of wealth must precede redistribution:

North Korea plans to allow farmers to keep more of their produce in an attempt to boost agricultural output, a source with close ties to Pyongyang and Beijing said, in a move that could boost supplies, help cap rising food prices and ease malnutrition.

No more, "you didn't grow that" in the people's paradise.

Nobody tell MSNBC.

We're Really Not Very Far From This Reality

I laughed when I read this satirical piece:

More than a week after President Barack Obama's cold-blooded killing of a local couple, members of the American news media admitted Tuesday that they were still trying to find the best angle for covering the gruesome crime.

"I know there's a story in there somewhere," said Newsweek editor Jon Meacham, referring to Obama's home invasion and execution-style slaying of Jeff and Sue Finowicz on Apr. 8. "Right now though, it's probably best to just sit back and wait for more information to come in. After all, the only thing we know for sure is that our president senselessly murdered two unsuspecting Americans without emotion or hesitation."

Added Meacham, "It's not so cut and dried."

And then I didn't.

I don't remember where I got wind of this.

Don't Say We Weren't Warned

China is attempting to throw their weight around a little farther from their borders than usual:

China's ambassador to Canada warned in remarks published on Saturday against allowing domestic politics to drive the Canadian government's decision on whether to approve Chinese state-owned oil company CNOOC Ltd's proposed $15.1 billion takeover of Canadian oil producer Nexen Inc.

Canada better look out. Who knows whether Nexen will be China's next "core interest."

Now It's Personal

President Obama invested a lot in his view that our problems in the Moslem world were pre-Obama issues. His background and outreach would cure what ails the relationship. September 11, 2012 blew that away for all to see. It was an attack on him and it could derail his narrative by exposing weakness. President Obama will act, now, to avoid political fallout in November.

Ajami writes (tip to Instapundit):

[The] anti-American protests that broke upon 20 nations this past week must be reckoned a grand personal failure for Barack Obama, and a case of hubris undone.

No American president before this one had proclaimed such intimacy with a world that stretches from Morocco to Indonesia. From the start of his administration, Mr. Obama put forth his own biography as a bridge to those aggrieved nations. He would be a "different president," he promised, and the years he lived among Muslims would acquit him—and thus America itself. He was the un-Bush.

And the problem is more than just America's. It's a problem for the president's reelection campaign (again, via Instapundit):

The repercussions of declaring that the Benghazi attack was a planned terrorist assault on the United States would be extensive. For starters, it would raise questions about the Obama administration’s precautions in a volatile region and its preparedness for anti-US strikes in an area known to harbor Al Qaeda and other Islamist extremist elements.

More broadly, it could call into question President Obama’s Middle East policy in the wake of the Arab awakening. Some Republican critics are already tarring the policy as too weak and dismissive of the threats that the region’s tumult presents.

Likely links between al Qaeda present in Mali with those who carried out the Benghazi attacks on the consulate and "secure" safe house provide President Obama with an opportunity to do more than beg for forgiveness in Pakistan (of all places). We can tag along with France, which has promised logistics support, and take a more active role than we likely wanted on September 10, 2012:

[French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian] said the initiative for military intervention would come from African states, saying "clearly, that is being developed."

The French defense minister noted that logistical support means indirect support, sending material, but not men.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has been considering sending 3,300 regional troops to help restore order in northern Mali.

It isn't even clear if ECOWAS is more concerned about the Tuareg rebellion (and al Qaeda presence) than about the coup in Mali that allowed the north to secede.

I still don't think that ECOWAS has the power to retake the north. And the Mali government sure doesn't. Unless the Tuaregs have been persuaded to turn on the jihadis in exchange for more autonomy within Mali, that is. Then, France might get away with logistics support only.

But any counter-attack is nonetheless an opportunity for US forces to strike jihadi targets in Mali in order to insulate the president from charges of weakness and to strike back against Islamists nutballs who failed to appreciate President Obama's unique biography and ability to heal the rift between the Islamic and Western worlds.

We don't even care if the ECOWAS/French/Mali counter-attack works. We have no interest in committing our forces to maintain the existing borders of Mali or Mali unity. But it is a chance to strike back to gain a bit of revenge on those who killed Americans.

Now, it's personal. Now, it's a war.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Revolution (Forward)

This seems significant:

"The leadership of the FSA has entered the liberated areas (of Syria) after the success of the plan that the FSA has worked on with other battalions and units in order to safeguard the free areas," Colonel Riad al-Asaad said in a video statement.

A rebel source close to Asaad said that the colonel arrived in Syria two days ago. "The plan is that all the leadership of the FSA will be based in Syria soon, either in Idlib province or Aleppo province," the source told Reuters, adding that the move would be completed within two weeks.

If the rebels can hold ground to defend their commanders, Assad has real problems above and beyond the problems he has with his slow treadmill to defeat. Already, as I've read, Assad has lost much of the east of Syria. But I doubt leadership is that far away. I have to assume that this move is around Aleppo.

This would just be the forward headquarters rather than all the leadership, which remains in Turkey. The leaders would still have the option of running back to Turkey in an emergency.

It just doesn't seem like Assad is willing to make a decision to do something dramatic to survive. He needs to retreat to a core Alawite region, defend a core Alawite region plus an inland buffer, or resort to chemical weapons in a desperate bid to wipe out the enemy and terrify civilians into submission--and do it before a foreign intervention can gear up. And Assad had better be prepared to use chemical weapons on that foreign intervention.

Holding the whole country is beyond Assad's capacity. I think holding an arc from the Turkish border (without Aleppo) through Damascus and down to the Israeli and Jordanian borders would have been possible earlier in the year, but is now beyond the capacity of the deteriorating ground forces to carry out.

Assad continues to lose. When does he actually make a decision?

Welcome Germany

The Germans have joined the movie fray. What the heck, Islamist rioters in Sudan who targetted the German embassy already demonstrated that opposing the Iraq War gets you no credit in the Islamist world. We all think alike to them.

Anyway, welcome Germany!

A German satirical magazine has entered the row over an anti-Islam Internet video made in the United States and the publication by a French weekly of caricatures of the prophet Mohammed.

Titanic presented the front page of its October edition showing a photo montage of Bettina Wulff -- wife of former German president Christian Wulff -- being embraced by a Muslim fighter wearing a turban and brandishing a dagger.

The headline says: "West Rises Up: Bettina Wulff Makes Film About Mohammed."

The magazine, which prints 100,000 copies a month, comes out on September 28.

Editor Leo Fischer said in an interview with weekly Der Spiegel: "Now Mohammed is on everybody's lips and we are reacting."

I see no need to go out of my way to insult Islam. That's just collateral damage when the real targets are the jihadis and their Islamist fanboys.

But when the reaction to an insult is an attempt to compromise our freedom of speech, mere politness drops off my radar completely.

Friends in Need

I've virtually begged people to avoid the temptation to abandon our friends and potential friends in the Arab Moslem world just because Islamists are loudly demonstrating for a really stupid reason. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are only the necessary large military components of a Long War to defeat the jihadis in the societies of the Arab Moslem world.

These are some of the friends who need our help and who are ready to fight the jihadis for control of their society:

An Islamist militia was driven out of the city of Benghazi early on Saturday in a surge of protest against the armed groups that control large parts of Libya more than a year after the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi.

A spokesman for Ansar al-Sharia said the group had evacuated its bases in Benghazi "to preserve security in the city".

In a dramatic sign of Libya's fragility, after sweeping through the base the crowd went on to attack a pro-government militia, believing them to be Islamists, triggering an armed response in which at least 11 people were killed and more than 60 wounded.

Clearly they need our help to identify targets. And they clearly deserve our help.

And this isn't some Responsibility to Protect nonsense. This is in our national interests. President Obama likes to say that war is receding and will end in 2014. He is wrong (I know, how shocking). If we are lucky, our large military component aspect of the Long War is receding. But if we fail to fight the war in the hearts and minds of Arab society to help those Moslems willing to reject Islamists and fight them, we just guarantee that in a decade or so we'll be back to the large military component again.

And the next time our jihadi enemies might have chemical weapons or worse.

We can pretend that war is receding. But don't pretend you are part of the "reality-based community" if you do that. War will find us if we don't fight and win the war we are in.

Work the problems.

UPDATE: Don't abandon people who want to reform Islam (tip to Mad Minerva).

Mission Creep

For some, being China for only a day isn't nearly enough.

Lesson Learned?

Never forget that a tank's engine is as important a weapon as the projectile-spewing components. In 2006 as the Israelis flailed ineffectively in southern Lebanon, it was apparent that Israel's ground forces were being mis-used. I noted at the time that the Israelis mounted small frontal assaults on Hezbollah positions and failed to mount operations designed to push deep into enemy territory to disrupt and surround the enemy. Oh, and don't forget that a well-trained soldier is the most important weapons system of all.

RAND has a study out on that war (tip to DID). This struck me in particular:

Ground forces fared little better [than their air force] in their efforts to conduct combined arms operations in 2006 southern Lebanon. Tanks were distributed piecemeal in two-vehicle teams and attached to infantry units whose commanders had, in some cases, no idea how to employ them appropriately. The vehicles often advanced at a dismounted infantryman’s pace to provide security for the foot soldiers. On other occasions, tanks sat stationary for hours during village-defense missions. Former armor officers in particular decried these as inappropriate employments of the Merkava; one noted that the only penetrations of tank armor were in the rear, the vehicles’ most vulnerable spot and one difficult to strike if they maneuvered properly. The arguments have merit. A stationary or slowly moving tank is far easier to engage than one moving at a rapid pace. Vehicles sitting in built-up areas are particularly vulnerable; the considerable concealment permits an enemy—one more familiar with the terrain than the infantry tasked with protecting the tank—opportunity to stalk its prey without detection. The consequences were severe, as noted by retired IDF Brigadier General Gideon Avidor: “Sixty-two percent of our tanks were hit. They were hit from villages that we ‘controlled,’ because we went in and just held a few houses rather than truly controlling the village.” The bold maneuvers of 1967, 1973, and 1982 were little in evidence at either the tactical or operational level of war. Overcaution and static defense of hilltop village positions replaced the sweeping actions that were once the symbol of Israeli ground operations.

This is embarrassing for the heirs to blitzkrieg. From 1967 to 1982, the Israelis showed how armor could be used in wars of movement. In 2006, the Israelis forgot that the tank isn't just a mobile bunker. They forgot that the engine and tracks are a weapons system itself that is wasted if not used.

In addition, the report discusses how conventional training up and down the line was virtually ignored as Israelis trained for low-intensity conflict against Palestinian unrest. The Israelis carried out what some here want us to do--training for counter-insurgency instead of major combat operations because we are so superior in conventional operations that nobody will challenge us in that area--and found that a small nonstate opponent outfought the Israelis.

The ability of our well-trained troops to carry out the surge offensive in Iraq because they were simply excellent soldiers (and Marines) rather than excellent low-intensity troops should demonstrate that so-called reformers have it exactly backwards. We needed officers who knew the COIN doctrine so they could give the proper orders. But the tasks needed for COIN are tasks that any good soldier can do because they are good soldiers.

The Israelis can at least be thankful that they learned this lesson against a small enemy incapable of exploiting Israeli weakness and advancing into Israel itself.

Like I've written, I think the Israelis have learned the lesson of that war. I think a new war in Lebanon will see Israeli forces--armored and airborne--pushing deep into Lebanon to control the ground where rockets can be fired at Israeli cities; and to destroy Hezbollah rear areas to degrade their ability to regenerate their military capabilities.

With Syria out of the Hezbollah support business due to pressing concerns internally, Israel has a real opportunity to quiet the threat from southern Lebanon for a good amount of time.

I hope our military's conviction that we need to restore our unbalanced ground forces (unbalanced out of necessity to win the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns) to full-spectrum capability (peacekeeping to major combat operations) won't be wrecked by budget cuts and so-called deep thinkers who want us to prepare for low-intensity conflict as the primary mission. That just prepares us for full-spectrum defeat.