Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The IEDs of Eid

Remember in 2001 when so many proto anti-war types here told us that Islamic belief required us to suspend our Afghanistan campaign during Ramadan to show sensitivity to the religion?

In truth, Islamic holy days are just an opportunity for Islamis jihadis to kill even more--even more Moslems:

Bombings in and around Baghdad have killed at least 15 people, just a day after a wave of attacks during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha resulted in Iraq's highest death toll this month.

The latest violence on Sunday targeted Shia Muslims, much like the shootings and bombings a day earlier, with the spate of attacks shattering a relative calm despite announcements by authorities that they would boost security during the four-day Eid break which began on Friday.

Our world would be safer if Islamists rather than American liberals felt the need to put "COEXIST" bumper stickers on their cars.

A Less Than Optimal Bump in the Road

Why would somebody in the administration have refused to allow American military forces to intervene in Benghazi? It appears they were willing to accept a bump in the road rather than face a less than optimal outcome if we intervened.

I speculated that the administration might have figured they wanted no more losses and that it could live with losing those on the ground already. That's why we didn't even commit air power:

Then we might have had the information higher ups needed to commit ground forces. We failed here, assuming the worst and cutting our losses--we had our magical "exit strategy" and followed it rather than trying to win--or even trying to find out if we could win. Instead, the decision was made to go to Las Vegas to raise funds for the one battle our president is fully committed to winning--the White House.

This was a small-scale example of the whole "exit strategy" fetish where we establish what we are willing to lose before a war and then retreat when we hit that level of loss.

Ledeen says that is exactly why the administration halted rescue operations by the military:

The big reason is fear of failure, a big public failure. It was easier to live with tragedy and even a perception of indecisiveness-verging-on-cowardice than with an AC130 gunship going down in flames.

The really ugly part is that since non-military reinforcements who did make it in rescued many on the ground, the administration was apparently willing to lose a lot more than four of our men in the incident.

How Irish/Hungarians Wage War?

On the fiftieth anniversary of the Sino-Indian War, this author writes that the Chinese way of war is a surprise attack using local superiority of forces at a time when others are distracted.

I don't know if that is a particularly Chinese way of waging war in general. But it certainly can describe 1962.

And exploiting these concepts is exactly why I wrote years ago that if I was in charge of China that I'd invade Taiwan on the eve of the 2008 Peking Olympics.

I don't see how the 1962 "template" applies to the wars in Korea against America and United Nations forces and most recently, China's short war with Vietnam. But the author does mention several seizures of islands in the South China Sea as following the template.

Funny enough, I recently mentioned that if China goes to war with Japan over the Senkakus, if I was in charge of other countries I'd use the confusion of war to fortify my own claims while China was busy.

Concentrating force against enemy weakness in a surprise assault before the enemy can react and during a time when others will be distracted is hardly a Chinese thing.

That's just a war thing. That's why I assumed those characteristics for war and crisis involving China.

Unless this is a Chinese/Irish/Hungarian thing.

Let's Hope China Doesn't Have Grenadiers

China's military leadership is considerably more belligerent about territorial disputes--and getting more vocal:

China's government has demanded talks with Japan in their latest dust-up over a set of tiny islands, but a high-ranking Chinese military officer has suggested drastically more belligerent responses.

Dispatch hundreds of fishing boats to fight a maritime guerrilla war, says Maj. Gen. Luo Yuan. Turn the uninhabited outcroppings into a bombing range. Rip up World War II peace agreements and seize back the territory, now controlled by Japan but long claimed by China.

"A nation without a martial spirit is a nation without hope," Luo declared at an academic forum this month in the southern city of Shenzhen while officials in Beijing continued to urge negotiations.

This is a problem. One, it means we don't know who gets to order the Chinese military into action with enough certainty for my comfort, anyway. Soothing word's from Communist Party civilian leadership may mask dangerous actions by military leadership.

Two, those belligerent generals may believe falsely that their status as a rising power means they've already passed us by in power. And so can afford to take military action against us.

We can comfort ourselves that nobody would go to war over specks of land off of the Asian continent. I'm not confident that I can appreciate what Chinese decision-makers--whoever they are--believe is rational.

Wars really can start over issues that nobody believes is worth the bones of a Pomeranian grenadier.

Defend What We Won in Europe

Keeping our military in Europe is no favor to Europeans. It is in our interest to defend what we won in Europe through two world wars and a Cold War.

This author wonders why American troops are still in Europe:

Washington has sharply reduced the number of American combat forces in Europe since the end of the Cold War, but a large U.S. military footprint remains. The Soviet “Evil Empire” has collapsed, Eastern Europe has switched sides, and America’s European allies now possess a collective GDP and population larger than the U.S. Why are American military personnel still stationed on the continent?

He loses credibility by complaining that past efforts to get Georgia to join were folly since Georgia is a liability and started a war with Russia in 2008. In fact, Georgia has long committed many troops to fighting at our side in Afghanistan; and anyone who believes Georgia started the war is a fool. Georgia may or may not have fired the first shot, but Russia was cocked and ready to attack.

Who on Earth believes the ramshackle Russian armed forces could react that fast to a Georgian attack and invade on such short notice?

Bueller? Anyone?

Well, the Europeans who "investigated" the war, that's who. If we want our interests in Europe to be defended, don't count on Europeans.

I answered the question of why to keep a robust US Army in Europe almost a decade ago. I stand by my assessment, and extend it to our military in general.

Pity those Europe-based assets weren't used in Benghazi. But that's a command problem and not a presence problem.

About That Inordinate Fear of Communism

When you read this, try to remember that during the Cold War American liberals thought communists--whether Soviet, Chinese Communist, or domestic--were just high-minded, social justice advocates who made poor wardrobe choices.

We no longer have an inordinate fear of communism because we defeated their evil intent rather than just learning to coexist with them and converge our system with their evil system.

How many Americans never came home because they fell into the hands of communist jailers during the Cold War?

I'm Starting to Think We Do Need a New Cabinet Position

President Obama wants a Department of Business (tip to Mad Minerva) in the federal government to promote business. Sadly, there is no Department of Explaining "Stuff" to inform the president that we already have one of those:

Specifically, and all of a sudden, Mr. Obama wants a new Cabinet-level post that will be known as the Secretary of Business. "I've said I want to consolidate a whole bunch of government agencies," he said Monday, in a performance that captured his Presidency in miniature. "We should have one Secretary of Business, instead of nine different departments that are dealing with things like getting loans to SBA [the Small Business Administration] or helping companies with exports. There should be a one-stop shop."

Mr. Obama then blamed Republicans for opposing this inspiration that no one had ever heard of until he disclosed it to the hosts of MSNBC's "Morning Joe." ...

Maybe Republicans would have opposed the Secretary of Business if they'd learned about it somewhere besides cable news, but who knows? The reasons could include turf, but also the fact that the government already has an agency with a "focus on expanding the American economy and job creation" and that "invests in America's long-term growth and competitiveness"

It's called the Department of Commerce, with its very own Secretary, and the quotes in the preceding paragraph are how the White House describes its mission in its 2013 budget. Mr. Obama wants to expand Commerce spending by 5% to some $8 billion annually. Extra credit goes to anyone who can name the acting Commerce Secretary.

Perhaps if we had a Secretary of Explaining "Stuff" our president wouldn't have made such a foolish statement.

In my heart, I guess I figure the president is thinking that a single governmental entity to lobby would be more convenient for big businesses who'd rather make money by rigging the rules than by innovating and providing better products and services to customers.

I think our federal government is too damn big when our president, after four years of holding cabinet meetings, still doesn't know who all those people sitting at the big table with deputies and aides crowded behind them in chairs next to the walls actually are.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Shelves are Empty

Somebody apparently hit a Sudanese arms factory recently with an air strike--either Israel or America (from Djibouti). Was the attack timed to keep the Iranians from picking up ammunition and taking it on to Syria?

This is interesting:

The arrival of the Iranian Navy’s helicopter carrier Kharg and its destroyer Admiral Shahid Naqdi on Sudan’s Red Sea coast late Monday raised questions over strengthening relations between Khartoum and Tehran.

“They’re saying it’s pure coincidence, that [the visit] has been planned for weeks, and has nothing to do with the factory explosion last week,” says one Westerner in Sudan, who asked not to be identified. “Maybe so, but it’s pretty clumsy timing and really raises the heat on both Khartoum and the Iranians over these alleged arms deals and links to Gaza and Hezbollah.”

I'd guess no link to Gaza since those would just go overland to be smuggled through Sinai. Going to Syria could mean arms for Assad's forces or for Hezbollah.

The planned visit may have assumed a major pick up. Perhaps now they pick up whatever is at hand and continue on their way north.

Oh, and the "helicopter carrier" is a supply vessel (although it carries a few helicopters) and the "destroyer" is a much smaller corvette.

Don't Glorify the Arab Winter

I don't despair that the Arab Spring offers hope that democracy and rule of law can eventually tame the Islamist impulse that motivates some to violence, lulls too many to tolerate that violence, and inspires fear in way too many to stop the Islamist hatred. But there is a freedom problem caused by the Arab Spring that helps Islamists.

The Arab Spring has not caused our problem with jihadis and singing the praises of dictators from the prior Arab Winter who suppressed jihadis as our saviors from jihadis neglects the role dictators had in making their people think Islamism was an alternative to autocracy and in also promoting Islamism as a prop of the dictators. That was no Golden Age of Stability as too many want to believe, in their urge to wash our hands of the region and pretend we don't have a problem to face.

The Arab Spring was not a switch that was flipped to create regional democratic waves. We have to work at it. And there is hope of positive change. But it will take time.

Yet there was a problem in the Arab Spring that has contributed to the Islamist surge in the Arab world:

A major reason for the renewed vigor of Islamic terror organizations in the last year is the success of the Arab Spring revolution. Egyptian, Libyan, Syrian, and Tunisian jails were emptied of political prisoners after the rebels replaced the dictators. The freed prisoners included thousands of Islamic radicals, many of them Islamic terrorists who have gone back to the business of being bad. Most of the imprisoned Islamic terrorists were those who had experience, especially management skills. In the last decade the U.S. and Israel have put thousands of skilled Islamic terrorists out of action (dead or imprisoned). Arab dictatorships were particularly effective at finding and killing to imprisoning Islamic radicals and have been doing this vigorously since the 1990s. All this led to a steady decline in the number of Islamic terrorist attacks over the last decade. But with so many jailed Islamic terrorists freed, the mayhem is on the increase again.

Freedom didn't cause the Islamist surge. Freeing Islamists from prison is a major part of the Islamist surge.

Which is why I don't feel guilty for holding jihadis in prison for the duration of the War on Terror. It isn't our fault if the jihadis keep waging war on us.

Work the problem.

The Weather of Peace

So, now we get information from the president when he gets it:

FOX News analyst Charles Krauthammer slammed Barack Obama tonight for holding a press conference in the Briefing Room where he hasn’t shown up in a while – and certainly not during the Benghazi consulate attacks.

Consider that appearance before the press as President Obama's Outreach to the Weather World. At least there was no apology to Sandy.

The seas will recede any moment.

UPDATE: I may have been hasty in assuming no apology is in the works.

Freeing France

Are we pushing Algeria to support a Mali operation in order to allow a rescue from Algerian territory of the French hostages being held by Mali jihadis?

I have strong doubts that local or regional forces can mount an offensive operation to defeat the jihadis in northern Mali any time in the next half year. If France is preparing to lead the offensive, I suspect they want French citizens being held hostage by Mali jihadis to be rescued first.

Access to Algeria for French special forces would certainly help that goal. Is this where we come in?

The United States joined France in a diplomatic lobbying campaign Monday to win key Algerian support for an emergency military intervention in northern Mali, where al-Qaeda-linked militants are waging a terror campaign that the Obama administration warns could threaten other nations.

It's not like we are asking Algeria to participate in a campaign--just support it. Why we'd need Algeria's help if sub-Saharan states want to defeat the secessionists is beyind me.

The only thing that makes sense to me is that we'd want Algerian territory as a base for French and/or American special forces to mount a rescue operation and eliminate the jihadi threat that keeps France from leading the offensive.

It's Not Like 2 Out of 3 Ain't Bad

Benghazi is bad, but don't rescue the Obama administration by making reckless charges of "treason" that can't be substantiated. This risks going into "truther" or "birther" territory and tainting the real charges of failure.

It certainly looks like our government decided not to use our military to rescue Americans under assault in Begnhazi. Our government needs to answer questions about what it did and why it failed to do more:

Incompetence. Abandonment. Treason.

It has been a sickening few days for those of us who have closely followed the revelations coming out about the Benghazi terror attack that killed not only Ambassador Chris Stevens and diplomat Sean Smith, but also CIA operators (and former SEALs) Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, who died undertaking a rescue mission — unauthorized — to save the rest of the consulate staff.

We’ve learned about the incredible heroism of a CIA force that repeatedly called for help for as it was being attacked. Disturbingly, we learned that this force had been told to “stand down” twice by their chain of command, and that they violated direct orders to conduct this rescue mission. Our consulate staff was left to die.

If non-military personnel hadn't taken it upon themselves to do something useful, Benghazi could have been a blood bath and/or an ongoing hostage situation.

While incompetence and abandonment are charges that can be leveled against this administration over Benghazi with apparently good reason, the notion of treason is too much for me.

Even if we truly were arming jihadis in Syria to fight Assad, Assad is an enemy vulnerable right now and his regime deserves to go down. After all, we armed jihadis in the 1980s to take down the Soviet Union. That wasn't treason.

Now, given that many other groups that aren't jihadists are fighting to overthrow Assad, it would be incredibly stupid to deliberately arm jihadis in Syria. But that can be folded into the incompetence charge. If we really were arming jihadis, somebody in the administration probably thought it was a good idea, making the incompetence charge even more believable.

Remember, Americans who loved our country thought sending arms to Iran to free American hostages was a good idea, too. I'd write them up on only one out of three charges.

Lord knows, I'm sickened by the idea that the Obama administration appears to have abandoned our people in Benghazi rather than attempt to rescue them. Administration official inaction was saved by local initiative with pitifully small local assets that kept the body count down.

But why make a thin case for treason when the other charges of incompetence and abandonment are on far firmer ground? Making two out of three failures stick ain't bad, no?

No Speed Bumps

Israel is preparing the battlefield in southern Lebanon.

If the Israelis hit Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, they'll use ground forced early and won't use cluster munitions:

Israel would use a lot fewer cluster munitions in any future war with Hezbollah than it did in their 2006 conflict, even though it would go into southern Lebanon earlier and harder, a senior Israeli military officer said on Monday.

And deeper, too, unless I miss my guess (quoting a 2010 post of mine):

I assume that any war will be a multi-division push north of the Litani that will take advantage of the fact that Hezbollah, after 2006, wrongly believes it can go toe-to-toe with Israeli troops and so will fight as light infantry rather than as insurgents. For a while, Israel will be able to really pound Hizbollah ground forces as the Israelis take over rocket-launch sites and armories with troops.

Further, I'd guess the Israelis will push rapidly into the Bekaa Valley as far as Baalbek to tear up Hezbollah's rear area to slow down rearmament after the war is over. Air strikes would take place north of that, if necessary, I'd guess.

Going deeper would provide a practical reason for declining to use cluster munitions against Hezbollah:

We no longer really need them. Precision weapons mean a single warhead can take out targets that previously needed the larger impact area for less-accurate warheads.

And the dud rate--essentially creating a thin mine field--made it a problem for our forces advancing into an area that we hit with cluster munitions (mostly our multiple rocket launchers).

If Israeli mechanized forces expect to drive north early, hard, and deep, they won't want their own mine fields slowing them down.

Which leaves the question of a trigger for such a war in doubt. Would Hezbollah take a spear for the team if Iran asks them to fight Israel?

Is Israel's comment an attempt to influence Hezbollah to say "no" to Iran?

Monday, October 29, 2012

And He'll Feast On Your 99% Entrails

Via Instapundit, this Joss Whedon video is hilarious:

The assumption is that this is a real pro-Obama video. But it can't be. It is too over the top. Too funny in the zombie apocalypse it predicts if Romney wins to be a real anti-Romney piece.

And to be honest, if it really is a pro-Obama video, that's even funnier.

But I don't buy it for a second.

Now, if Andrew Sullivan had made the video, I'd believe it was totally serious.

Heads, They Win. Tails, We Lose?

Stephen Walt must be very smart.

Because as Iran continues on its path to nuclear weapons, Professor Walt says that compelling Iran to stop that path either through diplomatic or military means will just inspire Iranians to get back on that path and get nuclear weapons.

Iran's people will learn to resent and hate us he says.

Because if we don't stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons and Iran's nutball rulers use one or three, we'll feel so much better knowing that the majority of Iran's people are really, really sad that their rulers nuked somebody.

Walt argues that wisdom requires us to allow the Iranians room to retreat so they don't resist to the death. The problem is that the room to move actually has to be for them to retreat and not us.

How is letting Iran be a little nuclear weapons capable a retreat for Iran? It's just a slower advance for them. We'd be the side retreating.

I'm thinking you have to be a super genius to argue that stopping Iran from going nuclear is actually bad in the long run.

Hang Together

Naturally, China would prefer to divide ASEAN nations and conquer the South China Sea.

The Chinese won't talk with ASEAN for a common procedure to peacefully settle South China Sea disputes:

"ASEAN thinks it is time to start talks to achieve a code of conduct as soon possible," said Pham, referring to the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations bloc, but added the grouping is meeting stoic resistance from China.

China has resisted proposals for a multilateral code of conduct for the South China Sea, preferring to try to negotiate disputes with each of the far less powerful individual claimants.

One theory is that the Chinese don't want to talk until the change in leadership maneuver is completed. But when that is completed, I think China will show it has no interest in doing anything but exploiting differences to isolate and overpower individual ASEAN states.

So China can hang the ASEAN states separately.

Hopefully, no ASEAN state is tempted to cut a deal at the expense of their neighbors in the mistaken belief that China will provide a softer and more comfortable noose just for them.

The Children of the Corn

To be fair, they also like Justin Bieber, haven't mastered 5th grade math, and in two days think it is perfectly normal to wander around and ask strangers for free candy.

The Fog of--Well, Just the Fog

While supporters of President Obama can point to isolated, often ambiguous, early statements by the administration that held that the Benghazi attacks were deliberate acts of terror, this defense simply serves to damn the administration for the two weeks of blaming an obscure web video for the attack after having knowledge that the attacks were deliberate strikes by jihadis.

What did the administration know about Benghazi?

Two days after the Libya terror attack, representatives of the FBI and National Counterterrorism Center gave Capitol Hill briefings in which they said the evidence supported an Al Qaeda or Al Qaeda-affiliated attack, Fox News has learned.

The description of the attack by those in the Sept. 13 briefings stands in stark contrast to the now controversial briefing on Capitol Hill by CIA Director David Petraeus the following day -- and raises even more questions about why Petraeus described the attack as tied to a demonstration.

The real question is why did the administration shift to a more convenient explanation that just happened to justify political claims about "responsibly ending" wars in CENTCOM, putting al Qaeda on its heels, and pivoting to the "real threat" in the Pacific (as well as enabling a quick fundraising trip to Las Vegas), after having the information they needed to judge events correctly?

The administration can't claim the fog of war on this one. Their heads were simply in the clouds.

UPDATE: The administration could clear up some of the fog of explanations.

Iran Is Doing What, Where?

Strategypage, on October 24th, notes a rather unusual Iranian training exercise:

The army and air force announced plans for a large-scale exercise on the Iraqi border.

Why on Earth would Iran be exercising troops on the border with Iraq? Iraq isn't about to invade Iran. And we aren't in Iraq, so we can't invade. What the heck is the point? Is Iran trying to frighten Iraq? Preparing to invade to retaliate if Israel or America strikes Iran's nuclear facilities? Preparing to retaliate for sanctions?

A good time to review my take on the Iran-Iraq military balance. You can see why I really wanted US troops on the ground after last year.

They've gone at it before, recall.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Real Gift to Iran

It wasn't a gift to Stalin's Soviet Union to defeat Nazi Germany, which hated the Soviet Union. Nor was it a gift to the mullah-run Iran to defeat Saddam's Iraq or the Taliban Afghanistan which hated Iran.

It is popular for many to say that we were foolish to destroy Saddam's regime because he was a counter-weight to Iran and now Iran can attempt to influence Iraq. A smaller chorus says the same about the similar situation in Afghanistan.

It is true that Iran attempts to influence Iraq and Afghanistan after the virulently anti-Shia Iran governments of the Taliban and Saddam were defeated:

Many Iranians consider Iraq and Afghanistan as part of “greater Iran” because both those areas were once part of an Iranian empire (along with most of Pakistan and a large chunk of Central Asia). Since the violently anti-Shia (and anti-Iran) governments were removed from Afghanistan (in 2001) and Iraq (in 2003) Iran has expanded its influence there at the government and ground level. Diplomatic relations were improved and much charity work was undertaken. But the charity came with strings; recipients were restricted to those who were pro-Iran, or willing to be. This made it much easier to recruit spies and terrorists, or just mobilize a large pro-Iran (or anti-American) demonstration. Iran has always preferred the long game and knows that if it keeps at it, eventually Iraq and Afghanistan will become, if not part of Iran, than very cooperative with Iran.

This is true as far as it goes. Of course Iran will try to bend events to their benefit. But this charge of gifting Iran neglects that it was in our interest to defeat both the Saddam and Taliban regimes.

And it neglects that destroying these regimes is only a gift to Iran if we don't resist Iran now and in the future.

Remember, it was no gift to Stalin to destroy Hitler's Germany because we stayed in Europe and defended it with NATO through a long Cold War. All through the post-World War II era, the Soviets attempted to open their "gift" with support for Euro-communist parties and through external military pressure. There is no way the Soviet Union could have attempted this had we not joined with them in destroying Nazism and Fascism in Europe.

Yet the gift blew up in Moscow's face however, in 1989 and worse in 1991. All because we continued to bend events to our benefit. And it worked.

Which is why I've been so upset that we failed to come to an agreement with Iraq last year to keep combat forces in Iraq to resist the Iranians and build up Iraqi ability to resist Iranian influence (and to build domestic rule of law).

Which is why I'm nervous about whether we'll really follow through with our intention of keeping combat forces in Afghanistan after 2014 to help Afghans resist Iranian influence (and Taliban resistance) and help Afghans develop the ability to stand on their own.

The real gift to Iran isn't destroying enemies we both wanted to defeat. The real gift is walking away and letting Iran exploit the mutually beneficial result of destroying two evil regimes that waged war on us.

If we stay and fight for our interests, things could blow up for Iran, too, despite their grand hopes to expand their empire.

Shield of the Pivot

We are pivoting to the western Pacific. It would be good to have allies in place when we execute that maneuver, no?

Allies in the western Pacific add forces to our side and absorb enemy forces on the other side. So it is nice to hear that Romney would sell new F-16s to Taiwan:

US Republican Mitt Romney's campaign adviser Aaron Friedberg said at a China policy debate with Obama's adviser at John Hopkins University in Washington yesterday that Romney supports the US sale of F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan.

Of course, President Bush offered to sell F-16s to Taiwan, too, over a decade ago. By the time Taiwan wanted to buy them, President Obama wasn't selling.

Will Taiwan agree to spend the money for new fighter planes?

Have no doubt that Taiwan needs the planes and that we need Taiwan to have the planes.

UPDATE: Thanks to Mad Minerva for the link.

UPDATE: Thanks to The View from Taiwan for the link. I'd like to say that this was simply a post to remind the Taiwanese to buy when the offer is out there and not to wait until Chinese pressure can get the offer cancelled. Yes, Bush did turn down a Taiwanese request for new F-16s near the end of his presidency. But the reason given for turning down the request was that previous years of Taiwanese political arguments over defense purchases led President Bush to be wary of accepting a request absent indications that Taiwan's government would appropriate the money to buy them.

While President Obama certainly "continued" the failure to sell new F-16s from the Bush era, the excuse of Taiwan not being serious about spending the money didn't seem like the issue. Indeed, the Obama administration was reassured by the Taiwanese that they were serious about wanting to buy new planes. In the end, the Taiwanese considered upgrades to the old F-16s a mere consolation prize.

This isn't a rewrite of history. It wasn't complete, I'll admit. But I don't think I mis-represented anything. This post is a cautionary tale of matching buyer and seller rather than a full history of US arms sales to Taiwan. Get that here, if you'd like.

This wasn't an anti-Obama post. Most of my posts have nothing to do with President Obama, truth be told. I don't think I can be fairly accused of letting anti-Obama views compromise my writing (well, mostly, I suppose). But it's nice to be read, in any case.

UPDATE: Let me note my disdain for Taiwanese bickering over the planes and our failure to sell them during the Bush administration

Dog Eat Dog World

Until our enemies can't kill us, we need to keep killing them.

More signs that the war on terror isn't over:

Indonesia's anti-terrorist squad arrested 11 suspected Islamic militants it said planned to attack the U.S. embassy, a plaza near Australia's embassy and the offices of Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, a police spokesman said on Saturday.

The Detachment 88 squad seized bomb-making equipment and one bomb ready to be used by a new militant group called Harakah Sunni for the Indonesian Society (HASMI), said National Police spokesman Suhardi Alius in a statement.

Good grief, if the fact that our president once dined on dog cuisine as a child living in Indonesia can't shield us from jihadi anger, what can?

The Spartans At Least Had 300

Why haven't we heard details about the apparent epic defensive effort by the two former SEALs who died defending the Benghazi annex after helping rescue employees at the consulate? I was initially willing to give our government the benefit of the doubt that events moved too fast to allow us to respond effectively. I believe now that we had options that don't rely on 20/20 hindsight.

I've been pondering the limits on our response to the attacks on our consulate in Benghazi and the nearby annex. It seems as if the consulate could not have been saved by anything within range while the annex could have been saved had we sent in aircraft to provide air support or even just the psychological effect of being there.

It is heart breaking that the two defenders of the annex, former SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty who were in Libya as security contractors separate from the consulate, ran to the sound of the guns at the consulate--though they were unarmed--and picked up dropped weapons on the way (tip to Instapundit).

They didn't know what was going on and didn't have real-time information about what was happening, but they followed their instincts and ran to the sounds of the guns.

It is a good thing that they acted that way, or the American body count could have been much higher--or we'd be discussing Day 47 of America Held Hostage. The two Americans allowed the escape of 20 of our people in the consulate and then they set up a defense perimeter and held off an attack by 100-200 jihadis at the annex.

And they killed 60 of the attackers in their stand.

Our president said he is sharing information about what happened as he finds out. Why have I read this on a blog rather than on the news? Who would be disturbed to hear that our people performed acts of heroism with little hope of help?

Or is this account inaccurate? Certainly, our 20 people did escape the attackers. Those two men at least did that.

But I can't doubt that it could be true. These were former SEALs. Certainly, they held for many hours. I'll await further reporting about the jihadi body count. And if true, wonder why this is the first I've read of this epic defense. Somebody in the press corps might want to directly ask our president and government just what happened there.

Would acknowledging the effort by Woods and Doherty to rescue consulate personnel and defend the annex make our failure to send help seem even worse than it already seems?

Sure, the consulate was a goner. It took too little time to kill the ambassador and Sean Smith. But the annex held with Woods and Doherty there. After that kind of defense that they conducted, it seems to me that it would have been more likely that even an aerial demonstration could have persuaded jihadis moving on the annex that going up against effective American defenders--but with air support, too--would be folly. The jihadis believed they faced more defenders, it is alleged. I think this is about right:

“The fighting at the CIA annex [in Benghazi] went on for more than four hours – enough time for any planes based in Sigonella Air base, just 480 miles away, to arrive. Fox News has also learned that two separate Tier One Special operations forces were told to wait, among them Delta Force operators.”

This doesn't mean that the ground units would have gone in. But if the aircraft had gone in, communicated with and assisted the annex defenders, a clearer picture of the ground situation would have been created. And we would likely have allowed the defenders of the annex to hold longer, buying time for decisions to be made at higher levels of command.

The consulate was beyond saving. But not the annex. And saying this is possible isn't just Monday morning quarterbacking. It is reacting the way Woods and Doherty did--and as any soldier should know--that you can't go far wrong if you march for the sound of the guns.

This doesn't mean charging in foolishly so more can be killed in an ambush. It means moving toward the fight and figuring out what is happening so you can use your forces to affect the fight. This is armed reconnaissance.

We had four decision points in this crisis: the pre-attack decisions to defend our diplomatic outposts (or evacuate them if we couldn't defend them) and prepare forces to respond to threats to those outposts that exceed local defense capabilities; the decision to send forces to defend the consulate; the decision to send forces to defend the annex; and the decision to respond to the attacks.

On the first decision, we failed at preparing the defenses of our outposts. It appears that our nearby forces could have responded at least to the annex attack, had the orders been given. And some forces were moved closer when the attacks began. So count this as a failure and a partial success.

On the second, I don't think we could have saved the situation. It was over too fast. The failure at the first decision point essentially decided this decision point. When the enemy attacks forward-deployed assets, those assets have to be able to absorb the first blow on their own.

On the third, the heroic efforts of Woods and Doherty bought time to make a decision to intervene. We might have lost anyway. But the decision wasn't simply to drop ground troops into an uncertain situation where they, too, might have been lost. We had the time to dispatch air recon and air support assets. The former to find out what is happening from the air and be communicating with the annex defenders to clarify the situation. The latter to buy time by either buzzing defenders or shooting at the attackers guided by the defenders--or just firing around the perimeter of the annex to keep enemy forces at bay.

Then we might have had the information higher ups needed to commit ground forces. We failed here, assuming the worst and cutting our losses--we had our magical "exit strategy" and followed it rather than trying to win--or even trying to find out if we could win. Instead, the decision was made to go to Las Vegas to raise funds for the one battle our president is fully committed to winning--the White House.

The fourth decision point has passed, too, in failure. There is no lack of information that led to this failure of command. No lack of clarity. Just a lack of leadership to fight the war we are in.

The limits of action at Benghazi are found in our leadership. The failure of our government to strike back more than six weeks later with all of our national power available is just an insult to two unarmed civilian security contractors who ran to the sound of the guns when they did not have to risk their lives.

If we let down such fine men as Woods and Doherty--and Ambassador Christopher Stevens and State Department diplomat Sean Smith who stood at a forward outpost knowing they relied on the reputation of our country to defend their outpost-- our president has shown that he can't even handle a 3:00 p.m. phone call.

UPDATE: Oh, there were other trigger pullers at the annex. At least a few others, I believe. But the post I cite really just discusses those who died--Woods and Doherty. The others have my deepest gratitude, as well. And I'm glad they survived.

Also, I posted this at about 10:30 a.m., but accidentally had an earlier post date. I wrote the draft last night, posted it for the morning, and then decided I wanted to review it again before hittting "post." But forgot to change the time stamp.

UPDATE: Thanks to Instapundit for the link.

UPDATE: Thanks to commenter rjacobse at Protein Wisdom for the mention; and thanks to Transterrestrial Musings for the link. Yeah, as "civilians," the two former SEALs can't get a Medal of Honor. Medal of Freedom seems like the least we could do to honor their sacrifice for our country.

UPDATE: Yes, why didn't we help with armed forces nearby? Who ordered them not to assist? Remember, some non-military forces did get sent to help the consulate and annex. Other military forces were moved closer to the area in case they were ordered in. Aircraft have the speed to have gotten there quickly. Who ordered our troops to stand down?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Spinning Nukes

I find it amazing that every leftist seems to defend the desire of nutball regimes to get nukes because they are understandably worried about an American invasion. Yet Israel would be wise to abandon their nukes in exchange for a promise that the Middle East will remain without nukes?

When someone cheats to quietly go nuclear, will the world rally to stop them the way the world is rallying to stop Iran and North Korea? Or the way Pakistan was stopped?

But let me address the author's basic argument rather than just mock what I hope is self evident idiocy

The author bases his suggestion on the notion that Israel originally wanted nukes because they worried their conventional capabilities would fall below the hostile Arab world's conventional capabilities, and so needed nukes. Israeli conventional military capabilities are far superior to the Arab world's, as it turns out. Ergo, ipso facto, and lah dee dah, nukes are irrelevant to Israel's security.

So, he asks, why not negotiate the useless things away since apparently the nutballs of the region are worried that after decades of Israel possessing nuclear weapons without using them that the Israelis will nuke Arab states (or the Persian one)?

Let me point out that Israel's military superiority is a bit fragile. Over the short term, Israeli military capabilities are dominant. But the Israelis can't afford to stay mobilized for a lengthy period of time. Should hostile Arab states figure out how to launch and maintain an effective war of attrition at levels high enough to compel Israel to remain mobilized to a significant degree, Israel's conventional superiority won't hold. Nor will Israel's economy survive that level of military effort for long.

And let me point out that Egypt shows that any peace treaty is one musical chairs change of president from being at risk of being nullified.

Oh, the article is in Foreign Affairs. Little original thinking appears in the pages of this prestige journal, as I've sadly related. It is little more than the publishing house of center-left elite conventional wisdom.

Were I in charge of Israel, I'd keep my nukes rather than relying on learned BS that claims nukes are counter-productive.

God, some people with lots of education are just credentialed idiots.

Motive, Opportunity, and Means, Too

The Sudan armaments factory that had a big explosion may or may not have been an Israeli attack. It is quite possible it was a simple accident. But if it was an air attack, could we have done the deed?

I only ask because in this article about our base in Djibouti where we fight jihadis in the Horn region and in Yemen across the Red Sea, we have a squadron of F-15E Strike Eagles based there now. They've been there a year, now.

Our aircraft could have flown up the Red Sea as easily as Israeli aircraft flying south.

Our embassy in Sudan was attacked in September. Maybe this is a quiet retaliation?

Hmm. We did close our embassy after the blast.

It could very well have been an accident in the armaments plant. But if it was an air raid, I guess we can't assume it was Israeli. Although if we did it, I'd expect someone would leak it to make sure the president got some credit.

I freely admit I'm drawing quite the picture with very few dots to connect. The simplest explanation is an accident. Then an Israeli attack. And only after that an American attack. But it is at least possible we did it.

UPDATE: Thanks to Pseudo-Polymath for the link. Pure speculation not even up to the rigorous confirmation standards of RUMORINT, but still ...

The Most Amazing Thing About Benghazi

Mark Steyn thinks that Benghazi is just one example of why the Obama administration deserves to be sent packing:

"We're going to have that person arrested and prosecuted that did the video," said Hillary Clinton. No, not the person who made the video saying that voting for Barack Obama is like losing your virginity to a really cool guy. I'll get to that in a moment. But Secretary Clinton was talking about the fellow who made the supposedly Islamophobic video that supposedly set off the sacking of the Benghazi consulate. And, indeed, she did "have that person arrested." By happy coincidence, his bail hearing has been set for three days after the election, by which time he will have served his purpose. These two videos – the Islamophobic one and the Obamosexual one – bookend the remarkable but wholly deserved collapse of the president's re-election campaign.

Unless you think that it was quite the coincidence that someone associated with the video was picked up on unrelated probation (or was it parole?) violations, our response to the attack really was directed at free speech. Amazing.

What is really amazing is that the Benghazi 9/11 attack was a crisis begging for the Obama administration not to waste it. I expected a counter-strike by our military within days.

Really, we didn't need to have the degree of knowledge to know who to pick up in the dead of night (I mean other than the video maker). We had the excuse to go after any group of affiliated jihadis in an area that under normal circumstance we'd catch grief for attacking. Retaliation--if done within the window of opportunity--is a generally accepted action.

We wasted that crisis to help our war effort. And most amazingly of all, the Obama administration wasted an opportunity to look like it gave a damn about winning the war with the jihadis that we are clearly still fighting.

So that young lady in the infamous "first time" video likens voting for Obama to losing her virginity with a decent guy?

Perhaps the president is a decent guy. But with the clumsiness of the whole Benghazi incident, the most amazing thing about our president is that it seems like it is his first time, too.

After all, it isn't the size of the American military that matters. It's what you do with it.

The First Time

Lena Dunham arrives at the White House for her "first time."

Enjoy the Bugles, my Arctic Hush Puppy. What can he say? He's a guy.

He Was Led to Understand There'd Be No Math

President Obama said in the third debate that numbers of ships in the fleet don't matter.

So what exactly is the point of the president's much hyped pivot to Asia and the Pacific that is shifting unnecessary ships to the Pacific?

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Victory Gesture?

Is reinstating Sunni Arab officers from the Saddam era a sign of strength or weakness of the Iraqi government?

This is interesting:

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has called for officers from Iraq's mostly-Sunni north and west who served under now-executed dictator Saddam Hussein to be reinstated as long as they have no Iraqi blood on their hands.

His call is seen as a pragmatic bid to damp violence in areas which remain among Iraq's least stable, but also a strategy to boost the popularity of Maliki, who is from the country's Shiite majority, ahead of provincial and national polls in 2013 and 2014.

Nine years after the invasion, many higher ranking officers would be too old to serve, I'd guess. But younger officers less likely to have been committed Baathists loyal to Saddam could be a resource. The only two officers cited were former majors in the Iraqi army under Saddam. When I spoke of de-Baathification after the invasion, that was my personal cut off for retention: at that rank or below, allow them the opportunity to stay (where needed) unless they are proven to have blood on their hands; above that rank, fire them unless they can be proven not to have blood on their hands--then consider retaining them, if needed.

I had no doubt that de-Baathification was necessary lest the Baathists try to undermine a green army trying to beat down well-armed and well-financed insurgents and terrorists. I don't buy the idea that the Sunni Arabs resisted Shia- and Kurdish-led rule because we "disbanded" the already self-disbanded Iraqi army.

But after 9 years of building a new Iraqi army, the armed forces are more solid and battle hardened. The former Saddam officers won't be tigers amongst the kittens. My guess is that the Iraqi military is now strong enough to absorb these officers as long as they aren't supporting the insurgents. And they'd help lock in more Sunni Arabs to oppose the strengthening al Qaeda in Iraq, rather than looking away from hope or fear.

But there is a risk if the move is more desperation, and if screening isn't done in order to achieve political objectives and the restored officers come in determined to reverse what they see as their world turned upside down--Shias at the top of Iraq's political order--this could cause problems for stability.

I'd sure be calmer if we had 25,000 troops in Iraq to establish limits on what Iraqi political factions will do to hold power.

Act Like You've Been There Before

In sports, it can be annoying when some rookie scores and goes into a Dances With the Stars celebration routine. As the expression goes, act like you've been there before.

The president's sneering commentary boasting of his purported deep knowledge of defense matters isn't fooling anyone.

If President Obama knows anything about the Navy, it was from a sheet of bullet points that he memorized hours before the debate.

Swing and a miss.

Capturing the Essence of the EU

As the EU self destructs over monetary policy and spending, it's nice that the EU apparatchiki can still look for opportunities to get ahead:

A corruption scandal at the top of the European Union flared up again Wednesday into a verbal war of words.

Eight days after EU Health Commissioner John Dalli suddenly resigned from the EU's executive office over influence peddling accusations relating to tobacco legislation, heated charges flew between him and EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

Gosh, I hope they update Citzalia! But I still need to improve my bribery saving roll.

Just Wondering

Hey, don't Americans have to prove we're not anti-Mormon bigots by electing Mitt Romney?

I mean, plenty of Democrats have strongly implied--when it wasn't flat-out asserted--that Americans had to elect Barack Obama and now have to relect President Obama to prove we aren't at heart racists.

I mean, a lot of Democrats don't seem to have the purest of motives in opposing Mitt Romney. If Romney's policies are so obviously bad, why even bring up Romney's religion and ridicule it?

Isn't this a fun game when everyone can play?

The Limits of Action

Sometimes our military options are just too limited to be effective. The limits may be the result of previous decisions, but at the time of crisis the limits are no less real. I'm not sure we could have affected events on the ground in Benghazi on September 11, 2012.

I can be upset with the Obama administration on pre-9/11 decisions regarding Benghazi, the administration's failure to level with us about what happened in order to bolster a political claim that al Qaeda is defeated, the administration's efforts to blame a video for the regional unrest around our embassies, the administration's failure to retaliate against jihadis for the Benghazi attack, and the general impression that the Obama administration doesn't give fighting the war a high priority, but I can't blame the administration for failing to rescue the consulate or the safe house while they were under attack.

Unless we were prepared to quickly drop in a battalion of paratroopers or Marines, any force we could get on the ground fast would have been under threat of being overwhelmed without changing the outcome.

We simply couldn't have gotten any forces to the consulate in time.

And we couldn't have gotten a significant force to the safe house before that fight was over.

The only thing we could have done is try to scare the jihadi attackers that forces were on the way to buy time to get a significant force there. Had we buzzed the area around the safe house with high speed fighter passes, while dropping flares (both to protect against SAM fire and to spook the jihadis)--which have sometimes been effective in Afghanistan in scaring off insurgents--we might have bought time.

I don't think drone attacks would have been effective even if we had armed drones nearby. It takes time to identify targets. And cruise missiles aren't the appropriate weapon to defend a safe house in a city full of people who aren't hostile to us.

I haven't brought up defending our people before since I didn't think we had options. But this issue is getting more play now. In good conscience, I can't jump on this to hammer the president. So I thought I'd comment.

There is much to condemn or question in this incident about how the administration handled the situation. I won't make more than a mild complaint that we didn't do what we could with our military, as limited as that was. I can't know whether that limited use of force would have worked. But I can wonder why we didn't at least try.

UPDATE: I may have been hasty in assuming our options were quite as limited. If an annex defender had a laser designator, as it is said, then firepower could have been used. And even if options for use were limited, if we could have used it even once, it might have prompted enough caution by the attackers to buy the time we needed to deliver significant force to the scene or even scare the attackers away from the annex.

The consulate was a goner. Nothing we could have done there, I think. But the annex is another question, I think.

Although the pause after the consulate was overrun might have been key in keeping help from going to the annex that wasn't attacked until hours later.

UPDATE: More on refusals to send help. The CIA denies the CIA was responsible for denying help.

One of the reasons I want a robust American ground presence in Europe is that it is a convenient staging area for American forces to react to crises in an entire arc of crisis from the West African Gulf to Central Asia.

But we have to be willing to send forces. And we have to keep forces ready to be sent.

Once the night of 11 SEP 2012 arrived, there was little we could do to save the consulate. That was over too fact to intervene. But the annex is another story. Air power could have arrived quickly either to scare the jihadis with low level, high speed jet passes or to attack jihadis around the annex. If the few defenders really had laser designators to call in air strikes, it could have made a difference. It is even possible that orbiting gunships could have made sense of the area around the annex to deliver accurate firepower without ground communication.

There may have been good reasons not to intervene. Sending insufficient ground forces might have been unwise. But I don't see the downside of committing air power. It may have been too risky to fire, but maybe not. And maybe lesser actions could have saved the day or bought time to clarify options and move sufficient ground power closer.

Were our actions limited that day by capabilities or lack of information? Or was our willingness to fight to save the annex defenders limited?

UPDATE: When asked, President Obama refused to say that we did not deny help to our people in Benghazi.

UPDATE: RUMORINT (rumor intelligence) says the head of AFRICOM was relieved while attempting to respond to the attacks after being ordered not to take action. While only a rumor, it would at least partially answer the question of whether our limits on action for capabilities- or command-based. Tip to Instapundit.

UPDATE: If the "reports" cited in this article are right, we had drones and AC-130 gunships available with the ability to designate targets by the annex defenders. And we did not use those air assets. Tip to Instapundit.

In light of the AFRICOM command change, Instapundit also wonders if this unusual recall of a carrier battlegroup commander is related to Benghazi. But the article says the battle group didn't enter the CENTCOM area after crossing the Pacific until mid-October, making a connection to Benghazi implausible, I'd say.

All these updates should teach me not to give the president the benefit of the doubt when it comes to defending his resolve to wage war. That's been my basic complaint, all along, after all.

Let Us Be Clear

I've written before that while we have no real stake in who controls small islands off the coast of Asia, we have an interest in making sure the issue isn't settled by force against our allies. And we have an interest in whoever controls them accepting traditional rules of the sea in keeping the nearby waters international waters where we can sail freely. China compels us to oppose them more than we'd need to by insisting that these waters are Chinese waters where they can deny us the ability to sail our warships.

The Washington carrier battle group recently sailed the region to reassure friends of our presence and capabilities. I noted that the defense of free passage was also a goal.

The captain of that battle group couldn't have been clearer:

The captain of a US supercarrier said Thursday the US Navy's presence in Asia would help safeguard "freedom of navigation", amid China's claims to sovereignty over vast waters in the region.

The commander of the USS George Washington, which is on a port call to the Philippine capital, said the United States was not taking sides in territorial disputes but stood firmly for keeping sea lanes open.

"One of the reasons we deploy throughout the region is so we can carry forth the banner of freedom of navigation. It is very important to us given the trade that travels throughout the region on the seas," Captain Gregory Fenton said.

We've long defended right of passage. China is the one that is loudly demanding that the status quo be changed. They've decided to be belligerent on the issue. If we let them get away with this, we'll be pushed out of the region and our friends and allies will be exposed to Chinese pressure to conform to other Chinese demands.

Then we won't have friends and allies in the region.

UPDATE: One of the problems with a rising power, such as China, is that they mistake "rising" for "risen." A Chinese vice foreign minister has warned Japan about the Senkaku Islands dispute:

"We are watching very closely what action Japan might take regarding the Diaoyu islands and their adjacent waters," Zhang Zhijun said at an unusual late night news briefing. "The action that Japan might take will shape China's countermeasures." ...

"If Japan continues down its current wrong path and takes more erroneous actions and creates incidents regarding the Diaoyu Islands and challenges China, China will definitely take strong measures to respond to that," Zhang said.

"There is no lack of countermeasures China might take in response," he added.

"We have the confidence and the ability to uphold the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity. No amount of foreign threats or pressure will shake the resolve of the Chinese government and people."

I don't think China is strong enough to defeat Japan in a limited air-sea battle for the Senkakus--at least with any reasonable certainty in a limited amount of time before direct American intervention becomes too risky.

I certainly don't think China is capable of defeating us if we withstand their first salvo and gather our forces from scattered locations to the western Pacific.

I don't even think China would want to risk a war with Japan and/or America that could see claimants to South China Sea islands garrison their claims while China is busy with the big powers.

China's power is rising. But their pride in rising may lead them to miscalculate that they've reached the top spot.

Be Careful What You Wish

I've long read that it is a Chinese warning that says to be careful about what you wish for, because it might come true. An Indian author believes a weaker America would be good for India. Is he serious?

I find this amazingly narrow strategic thinking:

Historian Arnold Toynbee likened America to a ''large, friendly dog in a very small room. Every time it wags its tail, it knocks over something.'' More recent chroniclers have not been as charitable. They ascribe to the United States less innocence, and credit it with a more predatory outlook in its pursuit of global domination and maintaining that primacy.

In either case, the suggestion that US actions have been damaging to the world either from guileless clumsiness or from wilful depredation finds greater acceptance today than America's own conviction that it has been a force for good.

The bottom line is that the author welcomes declining American power as an opportunity for India to fill the vacuum where we leave.


Granted, the idea that we aren't a force for good has found greater acceptance even in our own White House. That doesn't mean it is true. And even if true, isn't an Indian analyst's job to determine if American weakness would be better or worse for India?

I wonder how this author will feel when Chinese carrier battle groups are sailing in the Bay of Bengal with land-based anti-ship ballistic missiles over-watching their movements?

I wonder how this author will feel if Chinese forces launch a snatch-and-grab mission into Arunachal Pradesh and dare India to take back what China has captured?

I wonder how this author will feel if Pakistan turns fully to China as an ally in the absence of America to look for help?

Ah, opportunities! Don't they sound grand?

Wishes are wonderful things, eh? May India not have to suffer getting this author's wish about not having to endure our guileless clumsiness or willful depredation should China fill that "welcome" vacuum of American decline before India can expand their power to compensate.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Repairing Our Reputation Abroad

President Obama says he is repairing our alliances abroad after they were trashed by President Bush.

But President Bush managed to get Britain to join us in a war against Iraq. While President Obama can't get Britain to let us use our bases in Britain against Iran--a country we've supposedly rallied the world to oppose (tip to Instapundit):

Britain has rebuffed US pleas to use military bases in the UK to support the build-up of forces in the Gulf, citing secret legal advice which states that any pre-emptive strike on Iran could be in breach of international law.

The Guardian has been told that US diplomats have also lobbied for the use of British bases in Cyprus, and for permission to fly from US bases on Ascension Island in the Atlantic and Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, both of which are British territories.

If ever I doubted that I lack the nuance gene, this is a clincher.

UPDATE: Thanks to Stones Cry Out for the link.

Don't Despair--Fight

Don't take counsel of your fears on Afghanistan. We can win that fight.

If we had listened to a lot of writers during the Iraq War, we wouldn't have won that campaign. We were constantly told that we couldn't beat an insurgency and that Iraqi forces couldn't take over the fight. Both premises proved wrong. Remember that when you read we should just get out of Afghanistan right now rather than sacrifice more in a futile fight.

It is easy to find pessimism, both on the left and on the right. The head of NATO doesn't see doom. Nor does this analysis. Our enemies have more to worry about than we do.

We have challenges in getting Afghans ready for 2015. And our enemy wants to win. So I'm not complacent about the campaign. But I won't say we are doomed even if that means losing a chance to slam our president. I may have worries over how he leads us at war, but whether or not the president is reducing our chances of victory, victory is very possible.

Focus on winning the campaign. We aren't in Afghanistan as a favor to the Afghans, remember. We are there to protect our homeland from another attack by jihadis who can train and rest in the sanctuary that Afghanistan used to be.

Work the problems--don't become defeatist because our enemy gets in the way. That's what enemies do.

Win in Afghanistan. Stay to cement that win. If not, we'll be back a third time, I dare say.

Economy 101

President Obama said he deserved an "Incomplete" when asked about what grade he should get on the economy.

Near the end of the term, he pulled an all-nighter and submitted this cut-and-paste job of a next-term paper grandiosely titled "A Plan for Jobs and Middle Class Security," and he expects to get a passing grade?

Yet academia loves him.

This is CNN

Surely, I thought, the context of Ted Turner's remarks that he's glad American military personnel have a higher suicide rate the last several years would explain why it appeared that he was gleeful at the thought of dead American troops.

Indeed, the context did provide the explanation: Ted Turner is a vile son of a bitch:

TURNER: It’s time to put war and conflict behind us and move on, and start acting like civilized, educated human beings.

MORGAN: You made the point to me in the break there, more American servicemen have –

TURNER: — are dying now from suicide over there than are dying in combat.

MORGAN: That’s shocking, isn’t it?

TURNER: Well, what — no, I think it’s — I think it’s good, because it’s so clear that we’re programmed and we’re born to love and help each other, not to kill each other, to destroy each other. That’s an aberration. That’s left over from hundreds of years ago. It’s time for to us start acting enlightened.

Turner clearly isn't programmed to love and help American soldiers.

Remember when it was shocking that American reporters might be "neutral" in a war involving American troops? Ted Turner would need to become a tiny fraction of his current vileness to approach the relatively hyper-Patriotic stance of Jennings and Wallace back in 1989.

Good grief, we're at war because our enemies aren't interested in putting war and conflict behind us. They keep trying to kill us. Chat them up with your stupid kumbaya theories, will you, Ted?

You wonder why I have so little respect for the modern institution of our news services?

Tip to Instapundit.

March or Die

Without 3,000 French troops as the core of a counter-attack force in Mali, I have no idea how anybody expects to scrape together 7,000 to 10,000 troops to retake the major urban centers of northern Mali.

The French are concerned but don't want to commit troops to ejecting jihadis from northern Mali where they hijacked the Tuareg rebellion there:

As many as 7,000 to 10,000 soldiers may be needed to take back and hold the north, United Nations officials have said, and the barriers to compiling such a force are evident. Nigeria, with the largest army in West Africa, is tied up with a fight against its own Islamist radicals. Algeria, often considered to have easily the most efficient force in the region, has been reluctant to get involved, though it may be coming around, officials said.

France, plagued by kidnappings of its citizens (about half a dozen are being held) and fearful of a radical enclave so close to the Mediterranean, has been the most vocal about kicking out the Islamists. On Monday, its special representative to the region, Jean Felix-Paganon, said that France had resumed its military aid to Mali, and a defense expert briefed by the French government said it would send intelligence drones to West Africa by the end of the year to help intervention efforts.

But France, like the United States, has ruled out sending its own troops into the fray.

Please. Where do the 7,000 minimum come from if France stands aside?

ECOWAS, the regional body of west African nations, keeps promising 3,300 troops. But by being drawn from a variety of nations, this force is hardly capable of spearheading the assault.

Mali's army had 7,000 troops before the coup attempt that decimated the Mali armed forces and made them unable to hold the north in the first place. I have no idea how many effectives there are now. But even assuming foreign trainers whip the army into a semblance of shape, contenders in the suspended civil war won't want to send their best forces north when the real action for control of the government is in the south. How many third rate troops could be sent north barely capable of garrisoning towns and bases? A thousand or two?

Who else contributes to get to the minimum of 7,000? Only France will do the job. That's been my position from the start. Before the start, too, for that matter.

Put in a French Foreign Legion regimental combat team with 3,000 trained and cohesive troops (backed by air power) to lead the ECOWAS second-stringers and the Mali bench warmers, and you have a shot. Toss in a couple hundred US and French special forces guys to round it out, and you're talking a real force. Especially if the Tuaregs can be persuaded to abandon the jihadis in exchange for increased autonomy in the north.

France is moving assets. I suspect that France doesn't want to say they will provide the troops to provide a real offensive force until they manage to rescue French hostages held by the Mali jihadis as an insurance policy that France doesn't take the lead in this operation.

We could help move the French troops quickly once the hostages are safe, to exploit the opportunity quickly.

The plan is already being written:

An African plan for military intervention in Mali to help government troops reclaim territory from Islamist militants will be ready within weeks, the head of the African Union (AU) said on Wednesday.

But if the Foreign Legion doesn't march as part of the plan, hopes of crushing the Mali jihadi sanctuary will die.

You've Got Crap

I don't know what the AOL Defense Board of Contributors is or why this author has any business contributing to any board addressing defense, but this article is just a big wet kiss for President Obama with no actual demonstration of defense knowledge displayed.

Let's set the stage. The author doesn't think the Benghazi debacle is anything but a "he said, she said dispute." President Obama is trying to keep our economy strong by reducing non-stimulus spending. ("His main focus is ensuring that we have a strong economy to maintain American strength, so he is trying to keep non-stimulus spending down. ") He's rebalancing to Asia. And he wants to avoid oil to avoid the need to intervene in the Middle East.

Oh. My. God. Given our poor economic growth, high unemployment, and high deficit, is all our spending but defense considered stimulus spending? Because I don't see much trying to keep spending down and I sure don't see any results.

And Benghazi is a political issue rather than a defeat in the war against al Qaeda and an indication that our president isn't waging war effectively and isn't capable of taking a 3:00 a.m. call?

As for the pivot to Asia, it is a tiny shift and it has been going on for much of the last two decades because of the dwindling threat in Europe and the rise of China. Von Clausewitz isn't about to be replaced at West Point with an iPod full of the president's defense speeches. Besides, as far as I'm concerned, the pivot is more of a propaganda effort to justify walking away from the Middle East.

On Middle East oil dependency, isn't the idea that we should reduce our dependency on their oil? If so, why not frack and drill here and use energy we already have access to rather than seek expensive and unproven boutique energy sources that make wealthy liberals feel good about themselves without actually affecting our energy imports?

That's how she started a piece purporting to slam Romney's defense plans. Now on to the actual issue.

She complains that Romney wants to spend 4% of our GDP on defense; that he wants to avoid cutting our ground forces by 100,000; and that he wants more ships for the Navy.

Four percent of GDP is low, historically, for the post-World War II era. I doubt that Romney plans to spend that immediately--he's too good a businessman not to understand that throwing money at the Pentagon all at once isn't a solution. I'm assuming that 4% is a goal he wants to build up to. Since we spend money to avoid spending blood, 4% of GDP is not much at all. Not when you consider all we need to do.

On to troop strength. Let's see. Democrats spent the early part of the Iraq War complaining that we had too few troops and slamming Rumsfeld for saying the obvious that you go to war with the military you have and not the military you wish you had.

I know, President Obama has informed the Army and Marine Corps that they won't have to fight any big or long land fights, but what if he's wrong? A hundred thousand more ground troops may not be necessary, but cutting our ground forces back to levels not much higher than pre-9/11 levels might not be the most prudent thing to do. The idea that something between Obama's and Romney's plan might be wise is hardly a foolish notion.

The pre-9/11 Army force structure needed tens of thousands of troops more than we had just to fill out our units. We still need over 60,000 mobilized reservists to fight the reduced scale fighting we are in right now. Yet we'll cut 100,000 more? Maybe the high-tech Navy and Air Force can replace people with technology, to some extent. But the Army and Marines are more people-intensive.

As for wondering what Romney would do with a bigger Navy, is she serious? We'll do what we've been doing but with more margin of error. We'll be able to react to events without having to pull assets from other missions as much because we have too few ships. Already, the 6th Fleet is a paper fleet riding on its Cold War reputation that relies more on ships transiting between the East Coast and CENTCOM than actual assets committed to the Mediterranean Sea.

Then she focuses her immense defense knowledge on geography.

She complains that Russia doesn't have warm water ports and that China can't land planes on their single carrier.

Let's see, the Soviet Union also lacked warm water ports, yet under Reagan we built toward a 600-ship Navy just to oppose them. No, I don't expect to fight Russia's aging fleet, but if the issue she wants to bring up is ports, I'm game. This was just a stupid comment on her part.

But let's talk about China. China probably can't land a plane on their carrier. They need time to learn how to use the carrier they just launched. But China's main naval threat is to Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and states bordering the South China Sea. If China wants to challenge our fleet they have these things called "air bases" located on land real close to those potential theaters. It's almost like China is one big unsinkable aircraft carrier for the purposes of projecting air power several hundred miles out to sea. And China is working on anti-ship ballistic missiles to reach even farther out. Those won't be mounted on a carrier at all.

Gosh, she's good at geography and its impact on strategy and force structure.

Oh, and in the end she says that Romney will cut our defense spending. And as a bonus, she actually calls Romney a "chicken-hawk." (Hey, President Obama killed Osama bin Laden, right? And is a veteran of the 101st Community Organizing Division, right?)

I don't need to even take seriously the comment that completely undercut her point about Romney spending too much on defense, or the empty calorie feeding frenzy of a childish name-calling, do I?

Lawrence Korb and Ted Carpenter better watch out! There's a strong contender for defense idiot out there! And her name is Rachel Kleinfeld. I wouldn't trust her to give advice on a game of Battleship let alone on American defense spending levels.

It's just the sheer rock-pounding stupidity of some authors that really just gets to me sometimes. My God, do they actually think they have a clue?

UPDATE: A fast update. I mistakenly assumed that the author's claim that Romney wants to break the bank by expanding our spending up to 4% of GDP was factual. But then I thought I'd best check that.

We already spend above 4%. Romney must be talking about a floor he doesn't want to fall below, based on projections of spending under the president's planning. Which makes the author's claims his defense spending will break the bank (before she claims Romney will cut spending) all the more bizzare.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Are You Kidding Me?

What are we doing in Syria?

Could it possibly be true that we didn't try to arm rebels in Syria because publicly we were afraid of "militarizing" the conflict and because we couldn't be sure arms would only go to non-jihadis, yet privately (tip to Instapundit) we ship arms to jihadis in Syria fighting Assad?

One of the places in Libya most awash with such weapons in the most dangerous of hands is Benghazi. It now appears that Stevens was there — on a particularly risky day, with no security to speak of and despite now copiously documented concerns about his own safety and that of his subordinates — for another priority mission: sending arms recovered from the former regime’s stocks to the “opposition” in Syria. As in Libya, the insurgents are known to include al Qaeda and other Shariah-supremacist groups, including none other than Abdelhakim Belhadj.

Fox News has chronicled how the Al Entisar, a Libyan-flagged vessel carrying 400 tons of cargo, docked on Sept. 6 in the Turkish port of Iskenderun. It reportedly supplied both humanitarian assistance and arms — including deadly SA-7 man-portable surface-to-air missiles — apparently destined for Islamists, again including al Qaeda elements, in Syria.

Are we that freaking stupid?

This should be looked into. If we are trying to arm non-jihadi resistance and some weapons are leaking to the jihadis, that's a price of doing business in this type of operation. I won't complain about that.

It's also a bit more understandable--if not optimal--if Saudi and Qataris arms smuggling operations are arming jihadis and we are trying--but failing--to get them to stop focusing efforts on jihadis.

But if we're directly shipping arms to the jihadis, what on Earth are we thinking?


Assad will lose control of Aleppo. And possibly break his army in the process.

From the beginning when Assad committed forces to securing the largest city of Aleppo, near the Turkish border, I wrote that it was a mistake. Even if successfully captured, Assad doesn't have enough troops to control such a large city.

Worse, even if Assad can commit sufficient forces to defeat the rebels and then pacify the city, insufficient loyalist troops means that supply lines to the city will lack the loyalist troops to be secure. Syrian rebels are already causing supply problems for Assad's forces trying to hold cities:

For two weeks they have surrounded and attacked Wadi al-Deif, east of the town of Maarat al-Numan. They say the ferocity of counter-attacks by government forces shows how important holding the base is to the president's military strategy. ...

His overstretched army has lost swathes of territory and relies on air power to keep rebels at bay.

If Wadi al-Daif fell to rebels, who already control northern border crossings to Turkey, Assad would be dependent on a single land route - from the Mediterranean port of Latakia - to supply his forces fighting to win back Aleppo, Syria's biggest city. ...

Maarat al-Numan has already fallen to Assad's opponents, effectively cutting the Aleppo highway. But without control of the nearby military base, their hold over the road is tenuous. ...

The army has resorted to supplying Wadi al-Deif by air, dropping bread and other food supplies from helicopters.

But its efforts to send military reinforcements have been repulsed by the besieging rebels. The last attempt on Sunday ended when four tanks were destroyed and the remnants of an army column had to pull back. "We have noticed that the best strategy is to hit its supply line. We have been harming the regime a lot by hitting the reinforcements it is sending."

Hmood said that if rebels could take the base and secure the highway, they could intensify efforts to cut Assad's second main supply line to the north - the road from Latakia to Aleppo that passes through the town of Jisr al-Shughour.

Assad is fighting for a prestige objective that will be a major loss if he loses the battle, but which actually harms him if he wins the battle.

Assad would have been better off evacuating the people who support him from Aleppo and wrecking the city in a scorched earth retreat south to hold a Core Syria. But by now, Assad's forces have shrunk below what I assumed Assad could deploy. At best, Assad can hold the Alawite coastal areas plus an inland buffer zone out to the main north-south highway between Aleppo and Damascus--specifically from Idlib down to Homs.

Endless War is OK Now?

When did endless war become OK with liberals?

President Obama may say that we've decimated al Qaeda and that they are on their heels, but he sure plans to be killing them for a long time:

Over the past two years, the Obama administration has been secretly developing a new blueprint for pursuing terrorists, a next-generation targeting list called the “disposition matrix.”

The matrix contains the names of terrorism suspects arrayed against an accounting of the resources being marshaled to track them down, including sealed indictments and clandestine operations. U.S. officials said the database is designed to go beyond existing kill lists, mapping plans for the “disposition” of suspects beyond the reach of American drones.

Although the matrix is a work in progress, the effort to create it reflects a reality setting in among the nation’s counterterrorism ranks: The United States’ conventional wars are winding down, but the government expects to continue adding names to kill or capture lists for years.

Among senior Obama administration officials, there is a broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade. Given the way al-Qaeda continues to metastasize, some officials said no clear end is in sight.

“We can’t possibly kill everyone who wants to harm us,” a senior administration official said. “It’s a necessary part of what we do. . . . We’re not going to wind up in 10 years in a world of everybody holding hands and saying, ‘We love America.’ ”

From outreach to reach out and kill someone.

Not that I'm complaining. I'm on record as thinking the only good jihadi is a dead jihadi. But what about our left that used to drone on (until January 2009) about "no endless wars?"

I wasn't upset about the concept of "endless" war, preferring to think of it as fighting "until we win"--and that we can hardly be blamed for not being able to predict how long that will take.

But again, I'm supposedly the knuckle-dragger in this debate.

Now we have a matrix of terrorists to kill or capture. Because they won't love us. And there is no end in sight. Huh. And our left is fine with this? Again, huh.

While I'm at it, remember when our left was deeply concerned about the mere potential for the federal government to see what books we borrow from the library?

And now the death matrix is nothing to comment on, it seems.

Not that I'm trying to keep track of what is permissible and what is not. Depending on who is sworn in this coming January as president, the standards will change again, I'm sure.


I think Romnesia is more accurately described as failing to remember President Obama's record out of fear that the record will make Romney look like a better alternative.

Here's a recap of the Apologypalooza that the president's supporters say didn't happen.