Friday, November 30, 2012

This Is Just Embarrassing

We should be embarrassed about this demonstration of NATO military agility:

NATO allies are expected to take several weeks to deploy Patriot surface-to-air missiles to defend Turkey from a spillover of Syria's civil war, a NATO spokeswoman said on Friday.

Turkey formally asked for the Patriot missiles earlier this month after weeks of talks with NATO allies about how to shore up security on its 900-km (560-mile) border.

We invaded Afghanistan halfway around the world a month after 9/11.

After weeks of talks it will take several more weeks to deploy a few batteries of anti-aircraft missiles. Within alliance territory.

Actually, the Russians should be embarrassed to talk up the threat of NATO to Mother Russia.

UPDATE: Putin will rely on nuclear weapons and has abandoned for now the nearly pointless efforts to reform the conventional military:

Noting how difficult it was to keep the strategic forces in good shape, Putin appears to have decided that shaping up the rest of the military would be put on hold for a while so that reform plans could be revised.

Yeah, it is tough to argue the NATO panzers are going to roll east with anything less than a year's preparation time. And even then it wouldn't be more than a battalion.

Area Denial and Anti-Access

Taiwan has realized that ships can't land troops on Taiwan if they can't reach the shore:

Taiwan is planning to make a new generation of "smart" mines that can be deployed in shallow water to boost its defences against a potential invasion by China, Taiwanese media said on Thursday.

I do believe I mentioned this rather recently. Mines are an under appreciated weapon.

The first article also notes one place to place mine fields:

Taiwan's west coast features a large number of estuaries, adding to the island's vulnerability, as an attacker does not have to invade across the beaches but can also move upriver and disembark further inland.

Yes, like right near the capital up the Tamshui River.

I hope Taiwan doesn't over-complicate this. Even basic mines will slow down or halt Chinese landing attempts. Iraq gave us fits in 1991 with pretty basic mines off the coast of Kuwait, although we could have pushed through them if we'd been willing to suffer the necessary casualties. So I don't mean to say China would have the same problem.

Nonetheless, more important than getting perfect mines one day is getting a lot, having the capability of laying a lot of them very quickly, and having the situational awareness that doesn't make the decision to lay the mines when Chinese mechanized forces are landing close to the city center of Taipei while paratroopers land at the airport.

Unclear On the Concept

It's almost as if Iran belongs to the NPT to shield their drive for nuclear weapons rather than belonging to it to demonstrate that they only want nuclear energy rather than weapons.

This is kind of funny, if you can overlook the very serious basis of the problem:

Any attack on Iran's nuclear facilities may lead to it withdrawing from the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), a pact aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear arms, a senior Iranian official said on Friday.

If American and/or Israel (with whatever help Britain and France offer) attack Iran's nuclear infrastructure to keep them from getting nuclear weapons, why should anyone care if Iran is in or out of the NPT, which, if you will remember, is designed to prevent the spread of nuclear arms to nations who join it to acquire nuclear energy technology?

Yet some in the West will treat the prospect of Iran withdrawing from a treaty it does not follow as some type of defeat for non-proliferation efforts.

Good grief, If Iran isn't abiding by the NPT, I don't know why we don't expel them from the treaty?

Time Composite Person of the Year

To heck with Sandra Fluke potentially getting the nod as Time magazine's Person of the Year.

Let's go right to the source of the problem she represents and name Julia as the Time Person of the Year.

Peace In Our Time

At what point will China's leaders assert that they have no more core interests in Asia?

As China's military power grows and as the military grows more influential in China, the question of China's core interests is important. Don't say we weren't warned:

China's future is likely to be determined not by its hugely successful economy, which has turned the country into a global player in just one generation, but by its murky politics and the PLA's growing sway.

In this light, China's neighbors and the U.S. military would be wise to brace for a less restrained China championing ever-expanding "core interests."

Ever-expanding, indeed. What won't become a core interest of China when they feel they have the power to claim it?

And while we comfort ourselves that the Chinese Communist Party is too cautious to risk war that might wreck their economic growth, what if the military gets to order the PLA to war?

Oh sure, you might say, "peace in our time" and word plays about having no more territorial ambitions in Europe are just cheap Nazi comparisons. I'd say no they aren't. The Nazis simply did what other rising powers who felt they didn't have enough stature to reflect their power. The Nazis just did it in the most brutal fashion in our living memory.

But if you insist that China would never risk war for that stature and influence, and that they simply want their rightful place in the sun as a major power after decades of being held down by other powers, fine, use that analogy.

Remember, a call for caution doesn't require an assertion that China has passed us by in power. We remain far stronger than China in both economic and military power. But it should be of great concern to us if China can mass more power than we have in the western Pacific for even a few months.

Recall that Japan's GDP was a mere tenth of our GDP when they struck us on December 7, 1941. If a potential foe believes they can beat us--rightly or wrongly--they'll start a war under the right circumstances or in a crisis that may not even involve us.

We might find ourselves at war even if the Chinese insist that they only want a time-limited, scope-limited, kinetic action against some small party against whom the Chinese have a grievance of historic nature.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Your Lying Eyes

If it doesn't mean anything that China put disputed lands and waters on their passports to show the extent of Chinese territory, then why did they do it?

This doesn't pass the laugh test:

China said Wednesday that other countries should not read too much into the placement of a new map on its passports that show Beijing staking its claim on the entire South China Sea, Taiwan and the regions of contention between India and China.

"The aim of China's new electronic passports is to strengthen its technological abilities and make it convenient for Chinese citizens to enter or leave the country," China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a daily news briefing, Reuters reported.

What technological issues are involved in map printing? Are Chinese citizens who enter parts of India really still in China?

Don't read too much into this? Will China next year put France on their passports to further strengthen their technological abilities? Russia's Far East? Vietnam's mainland? North Korea? It's all a big nothingburger?

Of course it is something. Something big. Something this big:

Police in the southern Chinese island province of Hainan will board and search ships which enter into what China considers its territorial waters in the disputed South China Sea, state media said on Thursday, a move likely to add to tensions.

The South China Sea is Asia's biggest potential military trouble spot with several Asian countries claiming sovereignty.

New rules, which come into effect on January 1, will allow Hainan police to board and seize control of foreign ships which "illegally enter" Chinese waters and order them to change course or stop sailing, the official China Daily reported.

Now that is strengthening technological abilities--technological abilities to board ships in international waters.

Heck, let's put our former treaty ports in China on our passports. You know, to strengthen our technological abilities. Nothing wrong with that, right? The Chinese would be silly to read too much into that.

Or let's stamp China's map without Tibet onto the passports of any Chinese citizen traveling to America. To make it more convenient to enter or leave their country, of course.

China says this map design is no big deal. But I'll believe my lying eyes rather than their soothing words when I see them showing a rather expansive China on their official documents.

Building Dreadnoughts in 1940

Why are we worried about a dreadnought race with China as if this was 1940?

This article contrasts the baby step of the Chinese landing a plane on their first Soviet-build carrier hull while one of our carriers is delayed on a mission to CENTCOM:

China has showcased its first aircraft carrier landings while maintenance woes have reduced the United States to a single carrier in the Gulf, pointing to the beginnings of a subtle shift in the balance of naval power.

With South China Sea tensions growing, the threat of Middle East conflict still very real and counterterrorism and counter piracy operations also demanding resources, demands on Western navies - and the U.S. in particular - seem ever-growing.

Even as it emerged that problems with the USS Nimitz would leave Washington unable to maintain its standard two-carrier Gulf force for the first time since 2010, its navy found itself sending new forces to a volatilce eastern Mediterranean.

I'll ignore the possibility that the delay is based on equipping Nimitz for a possible attack on Iran in the spring under the guise of maintenance issues.

By the time China can build and learn to operate several carriers, it may be obvious that the age of the super carrier as the dominant sea control ship has passed.

Instead of trying to adapt to operate in the future networked environment, why don't we try to adapt our Navy to operate in that environment? We will have smaller carriers by then, after all. With precision weapons they can fill the ground support role in wars such as Iraq or Afghanistan despite holding fewer aircraft while being less of a loss, hull for hull, compared to the super carriers of today.

Let's do more of that by picking a number of ships we need to police the seas we want to contest and building what we can afford while reaching that number, rather than hoping that somehow money will rain from the heavens to allow us to build the expensive ships we want in the number we say we need.

Yes, I know, defenders of the big decks will point to all the great things our carriers have done in the wars we've fought since the end of World War II up to today. All true accomplishments. All valuable accomplishments. But this is conflating the usefulness of super carriers in power projection missions with their vulnerability in sea control missions.

China is developing carriers just as their age is passing. We should welcome their determination to win the dreadnought arms race as if it was taking place in 1940, on the eve of the age of carriers.

We're entering the age of the network. Build the network.

Becoming Obvious

The rebels in Syria are starting to do obviously better in the fight with Assad's forces.

A little over a week ago, I wrote that the feel of the fighting in Syria was that the rebels were winning and that this seemed like the end of the beginning. Rebel victories could get more obvious more quickly, I wrote.

This seems fairly obvious:

Syrian rebels battled forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad just outside Damascus on Thursday, forcing the closure of the main airport road, and the Dubai-based Emirates airline suspended flights to the Syrian capital.

Residents also reported Internet connections in the capital were down and mobile and land telephone lines working only sporadically in what appeared to be the worst disruption to communications in Syria since an uprising began 20 months ago.

The past two weeks have seen rebels overrunning army bases across Syria, exposing Assad's loss of control in northern and eastern regions despite the devastating air power that he has used to bombard opposition strongholds.

Another sign is that we are edging closer to open intervention, as the rebels prove they can win. It seems the administration senses the change:

The Obama administration, hoping that the conflict in Syria has reached a turning point, is considering deeper intervention to help push President Bashar al-Assad from power, according to government officials involved in the discussions.

Do this, and it becomes the beginning of the end.

Then the question is whether the Russians send in paratroopers and marines to help secure a rump Alawite state, either clinging to the coastal mountains or with some type of inland buffer out to the main highway between Aleppo and Damascus. How badly does Russia want a naval base in the Mediterranean?

And will Iran attempt to bolster such a rump state, maybe with Revolutionary Guards in a more open combat role, in order to keep a land supply line to Lebanon to support Hezbollah?

Even if we are at the beginning of the end, the end is just for the current crisis. New crises will follow, have no doubt.

But one problem at a time. Shattering Assad's regime will be a victory.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Staying For Show Or Staying To Win?

What will our military presence in Afghanistan be after 2014?

Right now, the military would like a slower draw down of our 68,000 troops to help knock down the Taliban some more before the Afghan security forces have to take the lead.

But the post-2014 role is likely to be crucial, especially since Pakistan doesn't have any interest in policing their side of the border to defeat jihadis. That's always been the problem with our war in Afghanistan. Winning in Afghanistan doesn't even win the war with a safe haven in Pakistan for our enemies.

Thus we need to stay. And just putting in a special forces group and calling it a day won't cut it. If we wish to mentor Afghan forces in the field to make sure they are fighting effectively and gathering intelligence to direct counter-terrorism missions, we need advisors with the Afghan security forces. We need helicopters for the special forces and other missions. We need air bases to locate aircraft, helicopters, drones, and special forces. We need infantry to protect the air bases. We need logistics troops to supply the bases and secure supply lines to the bases. And medical personnel, of course. We need headquarters elements to command it all.

This adds up to about 30,000 troops to support special forces, a combat brigade, and an aviation brigade.

Yet that number is going to be hard for the Obama administration to swallow. We can beat these guys, and talk of how we've failed has always seemed like just an excuse to run. The Kagans agrees

We have argued that the current defeatism about Afghanistan is overdrawn and unfounded. But it is more important for Americans to internalize a simple fact: We must either stabilize Afghanistan at this minimum level or abandon the fight against al-Qaeda and its allies in South Asia. Any alternative “light footprint” strategy is a dangerous mirage.

We could get away with thinking about fewer troops for Iraq since so many support functions could be done from Kuwait, thus not counted in the troops allowed to be stationed in Iraq. But Afghanistan is pretty much at the corner of No and Where. The logistics hurdle just to live there is high, let alone allowing us to fight and win there.

And we never did come to an agreement with Iraq on that vital question, you'll recall.

So will the Obama administration base troop numbers for Afghanistan after 2014 on trying to win the war or on the argument that we are turning away from wars and ain't gonna study it no more?

UPDATE: The intention so far is to keep 10,000 in Afghanistan:

The U.S. plans to maintain 10,000 trainers and combat troops in Afghanistan after 2014. Currently there are 66,000 American military personnel in Afghanistan, down from 100,000 in early 2011. After 2014, most of the security will come from over 330,000 Afghan police and soldiers. American forces will be there to take care of emergencies and provide some muscle to control the corruption. ... [The] major threat in Afghanistan will remain the drug gangs and corruption in the government (and most everywhere else as well). The Taliban and other Islamic terror groups will still grab the most headlines, but these fanatics are a sideshow.

As I've said, we can win this fight. But the fight eventually becomes one of fighting for rule of law to keep the bad guys down. That's why I wanted American troops to remain in Iraq after last year.

Sadly, if the intention of the administration isn't even up to the level of staying for show but to avoid blame for not staying--as with Iraq--the administration will have the Iraq excuse to use:

The issue of legal immunity for deployed U.S. troops in Iraq was the ultimate deal breaker that ended talks last year about a continued U.S. troop presence there.

Now the same issue is cropping up in Afghanistan.

As U.S. officials begin negotiations with the Afghan government about what a post-2014 mission for U.S. troops might look like, a key question will be whether the Afghan government will grant broad legal protections for U.S. troops and agree not to arrest them for alleged crimes and try them in the fledgling Afghan judicial system.

Another key question is whether the U.S will maintain the same hard line as it did with Iraq — no immunity, no deal, no troops.

We could have had the deal in Iraq. But we insisted on parliament rather than the executive agreeing to the deal.

We can win. Do we want to bother trying?

That Was Over Fast

Things really are sped up in the modern world. Has China peaked and already gone into the decadence of decline?

The Chinese defense minister dismisses the concerns over China's rising military power:

The United States, Japan and many other Southeast Asian states have frequently expressed worries about China's double-digit defense spending increases and expanding naval reach, saying Beijing's plans lack transparency.

"There is absolutely no need for that," Liang told Reuters, when asked about neighbors' concerns.

"The Chinese military must develop, but there's no 'worry' or 'fear' as the outside world says," he said before a meeting with visiting U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus. "That's not what China is about."

Well, then, never mind. China is rising in power but they won't use it in any way that could cause anyone to worry. We can all look forward to a Red Chinese century of managing the world after they pass America by, just as we surpassed Britain.

Oh, but wait. Before China can enjoy a century of knocking the lesser states about and lording it over the rest of us, they've gone right to sadly humorous mockery:

A 5-year-old sex tape of an 18-year-old woman allegedly hired by developers to sleep with a city official is causing yet another scandal for China's ruling Communists in the city formerly led by fallen politician Bo Xilai.

The 50-something official, Lei Zhengfu, was fired from his position as district party secretary after the video, an apparent extortion attempt, went viral earlier this month and his jowly, pop-eyed mug became the butt of numerous Internet caricatures. But the scandal may still be growing, as a whistleblowing former journalist says he may release similar tapes of more city officials soon.

Dang. That's gonna leave a mark. The Communist party is supposed to be political and not something like this.

Pity the budding superpower that comes of age when everyone has video cameras on their phones and Internet access. China hasn't had the chance to use their growing power to build some fear and respect in order to at least coast on their reputation for a while and earn the grudging acceptance of their dominance. Instead, Lei "The Situation" Zhengfu is caught with Snooki. Who fears that? Who wants to even see that?

It's funny. The Chinese spent a lot of effort building their Great Firewall of China to keep the Western Internet out of China, and the Chinese people found that with just the local material provided by over a billion Chinese and their rulers, they could get along just fine with all the scandal and humor they can digest.

I'm guessing the Spanish Inquisition would have come to nought if they'd had Facebook, Blogger, and Twitter. The Thin Red Line and the Royal Navy wouldn't have held the British Empire if some socialite tart had chatted up Admiral Nelson for all the world to see.

I hope China enjoyed their reign. 2009 was a very good year for them, all in all.

Really, political entities that have tried to pass us by haven't fared so well. The Soviet Union? Kaput. The Japanese? Really, that was supposed to happen. The European Union? Stop laughing! And now, China shoots itself in the foot. Being number two in the world to our number one is starting to look like being assigned to be a Red Shirt security team member.

Oh well. Next!

Branded

Jill Kelley will be stripped of her honorary consul title by South Korea:

The Florida socialite who sparked an investigation that brought down CIA head David Petraeus will be relieved of her ceremonial position as honorary consul for South Korea because she allegedly tried to "peddle influence" and profit off business deals there, a top South Korean official said today.

According to South Korea's semi-official Yonhap News Agency, South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Kyou-hyun said, "It is not suitable to the status of honorary consul that [she] sought to be involved in commercial projects and peddle influence."

I hope a lot of countries doe the same. If CENTCOM hasn't cashiered her yet, I hope they do it like this:



Wherever you go, for the rest of your life
You must prove, you're a socialite

Branded.

UPDATE: Thanks to Stones Cry Out for the link.

Order of Operations

Is Israel lining up Iran for a late spring strike to set back Tehran's nuclear program? After Hamas was struck and with Hezbollah the next logical target for suppression, Iran would be the end of line if my pure speculation is close to the mark.

Is Iran running calculations to figure out the yield of bombs they want to build? Maybe. I mean, at some point surely they will do that. Is this leak accurate right now?

Iranian scientists have run computer simulations for a nuclear weapon that would produce more than triple the explosive force of the World War II bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, according to a diagram obtained by The Associated Press.

The diagram was leaked by officials from a country critical of Iran's atomic program to bolster their arguments that Iran's nuclear program must be halted before it produces a weapon. The officials provided the diagram only on condition that they and their country not be named.

This is the same thing that the IAEA reported last year, apparently. If Israel strikes, they want sullen acceptance if not enthusiasm. Spreading the word is a way to get that.

Iran would like to retaliate, including unleashing Hamas and Hezbollah, as a way to deter Israel. Israel took down Hamas' rocket arsenal. Iran is trying to rearm Hamas to restore their role:

Iran is "finding ways to resupply Hamas" with long range rockets and other weapons even after the intense fighting between Hamas and Israel that ended in a cease-fire last week, a senior U.S. official told CNN.

Israel's punitive expedition was always only going to be temporary in its effect. If Israel is looking at Iran, Israel just needs to buy half a year during which Hamas' ability to fire long-range rockets is degraded rather than the four years since the last fight with Hamas. How fast could Iran rearm Hamas with the longer-range rockets?

With Hezbollah apparently eager to put their chin out, Israel could yet get their sequence of knocking Hamas down, then knocking Hezbollah down, and then hitting Iran while Iran's last regional ally, Syria, is still in its death throes, leaving Iran without allies to throw at Israel.

"Crawl, walk, run," as the expression goes. Whether we take part in the last phase--including missile defense--will determine how fast the "run" part is and whether Iran crosses the nuclear finish line any time soon.

I will say that I think President Obama is determined enough to focus on domestic policies that he'd view an attack on Iran that keeps them from going nuclear the next two years as preferable to a full-blown crisis with a nuclear Iran that demands all his attention.

UPDATE: The graph is fairly basic stuff, apparently--and not itself any evidence of a nuclear program. Honestly, it sounds more like something that somebody wanting to prevent an attack on Iran would release if the story is accurate about how ridiculous it is to say this is some type of major evidence.

I'll at least say that it wasn't clear to me it was obviously a smoking gun.

On the other hand, this bolsters a spring timetable:

The United States set a March deadline on Thursday for Iran to start cooperating in substance with a U.N. nuclear agency investigation, warning Tehran the issue may otherwise be referred to the U.N. Security Council.

Of course, that too could be a way to hold Israel off it it is meant to look like progress just as Israel is getting ready to attack.

I freely admit this is a lot of speculation in various directions. I don't know what I don't know.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Memo to Taiwan

Taiwan needs to take note of the path to UN recognition that the Palestinians have blazed:

France said on Tuesday it would vote in favor of Palestinian non-member status at the United Nations, an important boost in Palestinian efforts to secure greater international recognition.

So, instead of being a nicely behaving, advanced, democracy, Taiwan needs to become a dictatorial cesspool of poverty, spewing hate by organizing "Death to the Hans" rallies, and occasionally firing off missiles at mainland cities.

At that point, France will lead the way for all nations to secure greater international recognition.

Of course, the major flaw in this strategy is that Taiwan doesn't face Israel, which is an advanced democracy that just wants to be left alone. Taiwan faces China.

So Shall It Be Written?

President Morsi's attempt to insulate his decisions from even the judiciary that Egypt has is sparking protests in a replay of the original Arab Spring protests that brought down Mubarak. But will the security forces be as reluctant to fight protesters in defense of Morsi as they were for Mubarak? And will the generals be as reluctant to test their troops in such a conflict?

It is certainly a bit of comfort that many Egyptians aren't taking the attempt by Morsi to become a new pharaoh lightly:

More than 100,000 people flocked to Cairo's central Tahrir square on Tuesday, chanting against Egypt's Islamist president in a powerful show of strength by the opposition demanding Mohammed Morsi revoke edicts granting himself near autocratic powers.

Waving Egypt's red, white and black flags, crowds of protesters marched across Cairo to stream into the iconic plaza, as opposition to the decrees issued last week turned into a broader expression of anger against the rule of Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood.

Remember that the last time, the army would not shoot at protesters or clear them from the square. The brass worried the lower ranks had more sympathy for the protesters than loyalty to the autocrats.

But will the lower ranks feel more loyalty to an Islamist government and less sympathy for the protesters now?

It is in our interest to restrain the security forces. If our military-to-military relations mean anything, this is the time to use them. Then we need to pressure Morsi to respect rule of law. He's the president now, let's see if we can make sure the next election is clean and Morsi isn't just a president-for-life with sham elections ratifying his rule.

We may end up wanting the return of Classic Egypt. But the formula isn't in our control, anyway.

Best of luck to the protesters.

Taking the Bait

Don't make the mistake of mirror-imaging our enemies. I figured The Onion was fishing for North Korea with this story. They got China, instead:

The online version of China’s Communist Party newspaper has hailed a report by The Onion naming North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un as the “Sexiest Man Alive” — not realizing it is satire.

The People’s Daily on Tuesday ran a 55-page photo spread on its website in a tribute to the round-faced leader, under the headline “North Korea’s top leader named The Onion’s Sexiest Man Alive for 2012.”

Whenever you hear about how China wouldn't do this or that because it wouldn't be in their interest, remember the caveat that they wouldn't do this or that if Westerners were making the decision.

The Chinese party paper staff's inability to see this man-of-the-year story as a spoof is as clear an illustration that they have different frames of reference for making decisions as any think tank report.

Heck, it may even have made it through layers of fact checkers.

It is difficult for those of us in the West to really say what the Chinese would or would not do. I won't say I'm even remotely immune to this tendency. But I am aware that it is a potential pitfall. People really can believe the craziest stuff.

UPDATE: The Onion stuffed and mounted their trophy on the wall:

UPDATE: For more coverage on The Onion's Sexiest Man Alive 2012, Kim Jong-Un, please visit our friends at the People's Daily in China, a proud Communist subsidiary of The Onion, Inc. Exemplary reportage, comrades.

Of course, what is really shocking are the fawning stories that aren't parodies.

The Third Choice Beckons

Syria's rebels are gaining in strength as Assad's ground forces erode. The ability to take control of remote areas of the country and to seize bases--even if the rebels can't hold them--shows that Assad's ground forces are losing this war. The day is rapidly approaching when Assad's troops will realize they can't win and that the alternative to dying in a futile struggle is to run away and hope to protect their own family.

I've noted that the Assad regime is losing ground and that this is likely to accelerate. News certainly seems to show that government losses are accelerating.

First, another base was captured:

Syrian rebels said on Sunday they had captured a helicopter base east of Damascus after an overnight assault, their latest gain in a costly battle to unseat President Bashar al-Assad that is drawing nearer to his seat of power.

The Marj al-Sultan base, 15 km (10 miles) from the capital, is the second military facility on the outskirts of the city reported to have fallen to Assad's opponents this month.

Activists said rebels had destroyed two helicopters and taken 15 prisoners.

This was a small base, it seems, but it was a base. Attempts to downplay the loss are just wrong:

They also have devastating air superiority although they have failed to prevent rebels increasing their presence on the edge of the capital and in neighborhoods on the periphery.

A Western diplomat following the fighting said Assad still had the upper hand. "The army will allow positions to fall here and there, but it can still easily muster the strength to drive back the rebels where it sees a danger," the diplomat said.

Upper hand? Rebels are increasing their presence around Damascus despite that air superiority. Just what is the evidence of an upper hand?

Devastating air superiority? I don't think so. Syria's sortie rate is poor and what attacks they make are mostly against civilian targets rather than against armed rebels.

And where is the evidence that Assad can muster the ground power to drive back rebels? Assad is heavily committed to fighting in Damascus (which is now futile) and Aleppo (which has always been folly), and those two large cities are not being secured by the Assad forces. Outside those cities, Assad is losing ground in the east and even in the west where resupply convoys are vulnerable to attack.

Sure, air power is making up somewhat for lack of ground forces, but it hasn't been enough to defeat the rebels. And air power will become less effective over time as planes and pilots wear out. Plus, the rebels are adapting:

Using truck-mounted, DShK heavy machine guns, more commonly referred to as dushkas, FSA fighters say that they’ve managed to establish anti-air defenses capable of challenging jets.

Dushkas are one of the more difficult weapons for FSA fighters to acquire and in almost all cases must be captured from the regime forces or brought over by defectors. The anti-air defense network has grown slowly over the last several months, but many now say it’s reached a point where it can effectively challenge airplanes and helicopters.

These won't really challenge aircraft. The rebels over-state their effectiveness. But they will tend to push pilots to fly higher to avoid even the small chance of being shot down. And flying higher means that dumb bombs will be even more ineffective in attacking armed units rather than just bombing civilian neighborhoods. And they will be a threat to helicopters. Especially if the rebels can find patterns in helicopter flight paths to set up flak traps to ambush the helicopters. Insurgents in Iraq managed to do this on a few occasions against our craft.

Despite any claims that Assad can easily muster troops to take back what the rebels capture, Assad is losing control of the border area with Turkey even in the west where Assad has most of his army. He is reduced to simply bombing the rebels:

Syrian warplanes bombed a rebel headquarters near the Turkish border on Monday, missing their target but sending hundreds of Syrians fleeing across the frontier.

The attack on the Free Syrian Army base in Atima, 2 km (1 mile) from the border, came a day before Turkish and NATO officials were due to start assessing where to station surface-to-air missiles close to the 900 km (560 mile) border. ...

Rebels fired anti-aircraft guns at the jets but they were flying too high to be hit, activists said. "I think the reason for the raid may have something to do with increased weapons movements (from Turkey)," Ahmed said.

Note that the planes flew high, which no doubt contributed greatly to missing their target.

Assad has too few troops to defeat the rebels or even hold what he has, so he is losing ground. And his air power isn't even strong enough to punish the rebels on the ground let alone replace ground troops in trying to hold Syria in the face of the rebellion.

Give the rebels enough time, even with their supply shortages, and they'll cause the Syrian army to collapse. Remember, their troops don't have the luxury of even 15-month tours of duty. They must fight or die. Eventually they'll figure they have a third choice--run.

UPDATE: More on the fighting and air strikes. Note this, in particular:

A government jet dropped barrel bombs - cylinders packed with explosives and petrol - at the Abu Hilal olive oil press, 2 km (1.2 miles) west of Idlib city, activist Tareq Abdelhaq said.

If that activist is accurate, that is interesting. Strategypage has written of helicopters being used to drop such improvised bombs. Syria has war reserve stocks, so they don't need barrel bombs for lack of manufactured bombs but because of lack of pilots to fly planes to drop bombs. If a jet is being used, it must be an Il-76 transport rolling them out the ramp.

Remember, "precision" is not a word to associate with these things. They are just useful for dropping on large targets with civilians all around liable to be killed regardless of where it lands and explodes.

This doesn't win this war. It just makes sure it is fought to the death.

Actually Human, After All

During the long war on terror--even before 9/11--it was common for those on the left to say it was futile to fight terrorists because fighting back only creates more terrorists. I liked to say that only fighting ineffectively creates more terrorists. I liked to point to the First Gulf War between Iran and Iraq to show that Islamists can become discouraged with enough defeat.  Strategypage has two items that show that terrorists, as vile creatures as they are, are still human who can be defeated rather than killing machines immune to morale.

In Somalia, fighting back against the jihadis is not just creating more jihadis:

Al Shabaab gangs still control most of the interior in central Somalia. Government troops, local militias and AU (African Union) peacekeepers are going after the towns and major villages one at a time. Local militia take control once al Shabaab is driven from a place. Peacekeepers remain available to assist militias that are again attacked by the Islamic terrorists. That does not happen often because most al Shabaab men are demoralized and tend to just desert after a major defeat.

While I'm fine with killing jihadis if they aren't vulnerable to loss of morale, many jihadis are not of that caliber.

And in Afghanistan, more subtle defeats take place if you look at the decreasing effectiveness of Taliban IED attacks:

As a result, the same number of bombs were used this year as last (1,200-1,400 a month), but more of them were detected (by civilians as well as Afghan and foreign troops) and destroyed or disabled. In some cases the tribesmen hired to make and place the bombs scammed the Taliban by building a shoddy bomb and placing it with the intention of never setting it off. Taliban commanders tended to look the other way at this, as it kept civilian deaths down and morale up among the few tribesmen who still supported the Taliban. This kept the Taliban brass content, although still concerned about how ineffective their forces had become.

Low level Afghans rip off the Taliban without fear of being on the wrong side of the war; field commanders figure the price of effective bombs (dead civilians) makes it better to just go along; and top commanders are content to see the numbers coming in showing the war is being waged even though they have to wonder why the bombs aren't very effective. That's a result of being defeated and not really caring about the bigger picture.

We can beat these guys. But we do have to fight them to make that happen.

Monday, November 26, 2012

You Didn't Build That

I remain optimistic about America. I'm hoping we're too big to crush the spirit of innovation and progress everywhere under the creeping web of rules that spread out from Washington, D.C. Here's a sign of hope that I'm right:

Outright recession or sub-standard growth, stubbornly high unemployment and fiscal crises have been the topics du jour when it comes to the world's biggest economy.

But now an unlikely champion for U.S. growth under the Obama administration has emerged -- a former adviser to a Republican Party presidential candidate and Harvard history professor, Niall Ferguson, who says America could actually be heading toward a new economic "golden age."

And it has nothing to do with Washington and everything to do with energy.

Energy--fracking in particular:

"This is an absolutely huge phenomenon with massive implications for the U.S. economy, and I think most people are still a little bit slow to appreciate just how big this is," he said in Hong Kong this week.

"Conceivably it does mean a new golden age."

We might be innovative enough to afford even President Obama. For a while, anyway. The urge to spend always exceeds what taxes bring in.

I just don't know how long we can keep drawing to an inside straight with current policies dragging us down.

UPDATE: Oh, I should clarify that while I think this adminsitration is more prone to spending and regulatory solutions, I do not imply that this is new, other than the sheer scale of it now. Both parties have contributed to the growth in federal spending and control. So when I say "Washington, D.C.," I mean both parties.

Good Question

If Hezbollah thinks they can do better than Hamas in a fight with Israel, they are sadly mistaken. Israel won't deal with Hezbollah the same way Israel fought Hamas.

Hezbollah is feeling pretty confident after seeing Hamas not get completely pounded in the late conflict with Israel:

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah warned Israel on Sunday that thousands of rockets would rain down on Tel Aviv and cities across the Jewish state if it attacked Lebanon.

Speaking four days after the ceasefire which ended a week of conflict between Israel and the Islamist Hamas rulers of Gaza, Nasrallah said Hezbollah's response to any attack would dwarf the rocket fire launched from Palestinian territories.

"Israel, which was shaken by a handful of Fajr-5 rockets during eight days - how would it cope with thousands of rockets which would fall on Tel Aviv and other (cities) ... if it attacked Lebanon?" Nasrallah said.

Oh, I have an idea how Israel would cope.

The funny thing is, Hezbollah's boast is exactly the reason Israel will destroy Hezbollah's Lebanon base if they fight.

The New Taste of Freedom

I don't pretend to know which way the Arab Spring will turn, and neither do the experts (tip to Mad Minerva).

But I do know that if something good is going to happen in the Arab world, the despots had to go.

Yet I was not so naive as to think the crowds of Twittering students in the streets of Cairo meant that the future had to be good. I droned on about needing to support rule of law rather than worrying about exactly who governed. With rule of law, new elections freely held would be an opportunity to assess policies and change course (in theory, of course, as many Republicans will admit this November).

Those on the streets of Arab cities wanted something they called "freedom" and "democracy" to have a better future, but without direct knowledge of what those terms meant in practice, I felt that it was up to us to teach them how to elect good men. We had to show them that the terms weren't just magical words that led to Western prosperity. We had to teach them that it meant rule of law that protects minorities and protects future votes that the majority can lose--and then accept that loss in the confidence that they are protected and can live to figuratively fight another day.

Indeed, I went on about fighting for rule of law in Iraq long before we won that fight on the battlefield. Fighting for rule of law was the main reason I wanted our troops to remain in Iraq after last year rather than to deter an Iranian invasion. Our troops would provide a safety net to assure political groups that another faction would not resort to force to settle who will rule Iraq. And our troops would provide security for our civilian assets who would attempt to entrench rule of law in Iraq.

Without rule of law, an election is just a facade of democracy to decide who the next dictator is. Like in Gaza.

And quite possibly, in Egypt, as President Morsi has attempted to insulate his rule from the annoyance of judicial review.

But there is hope that Egypt is not simply changing the form of the autocratic system that mis-rules them:

Thousands of opponents of Egypt's Islamist president clashed with his supporters in cities across the country Friday, burning several offices of the Muslim Brotherhood, in the most violent and widespread protests since Mohammed Morsi came to power, sparked by his move to grant himself sweeping powers.

The violence, which left 100 people injured, reflected the increasingly dangerous polarization in Egypt over what course it will take nearly two years after the fall of autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Critics of Morsi accused him of seizing dictatorial powers with his decrees a day earlier that make him immune to judicial oversight and give him authority to take any steps against "threats to the revolution".

When a dictatorship falls, there is nothing that says that what follows must be better or worse. We have a role in that choice--a supporting role. The people directly involved have the greatest role, of course.

But the fall of a dictatorship is absolutely necessary if something better is to happen. "Stability" just means a boot stomping on a face forever if that is your priority. Change can be good or change can be bad. We could easily find that we prefer Classic Egypt to New Egypt.

Work the problems. Don't expect problems to work out well on their own.

UPDATE: Let me note that while many conservatives slam President Obama over his response to the Arab Spring, I do not. I may have specific complaints, but the notion that it was an option to simply support despots in violently suppressing dissent is ridiculous. Raise your hand if you think we should be on the side of Assad in Syria?

Or, just raise your hands if you think we should have helped the Mubarak regime suppress dissent that boils over into revolt? Would we really back such a response even by a supposed friend (who stoked tame Islamism and anti-Israeli views to hold power)?

This is tough stuff. I won't condemn the administration for losing battles in this broad struggle for the heart of the Arab world. I will condemn him if I think he isn't trying--like in Iraq, for example--to win.

A Zaire By Any Other Name

Strategypage explains the latest bad news in the ongoing bad news that is the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

They thought they could make us forget the disaster that the region is by changing the name from Zaire.

So what will the next name be?

UPDATE: Apparently, we need to care more. This is priceless:

In April, more than 300 Congolese and international civil organizations published a detailed report on the urgency of establishing competent, professional military and law enforcement institutions. This report made specific recommendations and received high-level attention from the policymaking establishment in New York and Washington, but there has been little follow-up.

A "detailed report." Well, then, let's get on with it, eh?

Of freaking course competent, professional military and law enforcement institutions are needed. Good God. But how do you get that from a society without any national cohesion and with rampant corruption and tribalism? Even if the institutions could be built, they couldn't survive for long in that environment.

I don't care how detailed the report is, you can't get there from here. The only hope of having competent and professional military and law enforcement institutions is to impose them from the outside. Who's up for that? Does caring count for anything if you don't support that? After all, the world has been watching this area for a long time without caring to do much to resolve the problems that have caused such a high body count the last several decades.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Any Given Sunday

Mister was pretty happy that I save the TV for him to watch football all afternoon (sorry, future wife of my son ...). He enjoys the games and eagerly follows the players for his fantasy team.

As a rule, Lamb gets time too in order to play with the Wii if she wants. Mister could retire to my room if he really has to see a game.

But today, Lamb was focused on non-electronic entertainment.

We went to the store to get eggs because she really wanted to bake cookies. We bought eggs and jello and some decorating gel, too, while we were there. It was a nice walk to the store despite the cold.

Lamb wanted to buy much of the stuff, but I insisted. I did let her buy some cookie dough with the money she brought to take to her mom's so they could bake cookies, too.

We baked sugar and peanut butter cookies using the Jiffy Mix recipe for sugar cookies and modified by a wild ass guess about how much peanut butter to add to the mix for peanut butter cookies. Mister even liked the sugar cookies we made. With some chocolate frosting, the peanut butter cookies tasted great!

While we did that, I tried making home-made peanut butter cups using the tiny paper cups we also bought. That was easy. I used a chocolate bunny that was not going to be eaten and peanut butter. I melted the chocolate in the microwave, poured a layer in the paper cups, added a lump of peanut butter, topped with more melted chocolate, and put the whole thing in the freezer.

Delicious, too!

Then I helped Lamb cut a stuffed bear form from an old nightgown of hers so she could make a pink stuffed bear. Lamb did all the sewing--both the toy machine that is still working great and by hand to finish it off--and stuffing, plus used fabric markers to decorate the bear. It was Lamb's best one yet, she thought.

By then it was time to take the kids back to their mom's house.

I miss the weekends when they pass. Oh, life in general is good even if I'm not in dad mode. But taking care of my children is the best part of the week, by far.

It Writes Itself

President Obama's kill list is getting a rule book:

The White House "kill list"--a regularly updated chart showing the world's most wanted terrorists used by President Barack Obama during kill or capture debates--may soon be getting a rule book to go with it.

Obviously, the first rule of the Kill List is that nobody talks about the Kill List.

Thank God we got rid of that Constitution-shredding war monger in favor of a kinder and gentler president who reveres civil liberties.

It's the Regime, Stupid

Why does North Korea get away with genocide? It has nothing to do with their nukes.

Much of the world regrets not stopping the Rwanda genocide in the early 1990s and say they'd act differently if another took place. One took place in North Korea--and still takes place in many ways--and nobody did anything about those who did the killing. (Tip to Instapundit) Why?

So what is the reason for the silence surrounding North Korea? It comes down to two things: First, the North Korean state is a much more sophisticated genocidaire than the Hutu militias armed with machetes were, and second, this mass killer has nuclear arms. So in 1994, while millions of North Koreans were starving to death throughout the rural areas and within the prisons of North Korea, the only action the U.S. was found to have taken was to sign an agreement with a genocidal despot called the Agreed Framework, which promised North Korea oil and other forms of developmental assistance in exchange for the dismantlement of nuclear plants producing weapons-grade plutonium.

Nuclear arms are the reason North Korea is immune? Don't be silly. One, North Korea does not have nuclear arms today, let alone in 1994. At best, the North Koreans have a nuclear device that can be detonated in laboratory conditions with large science crews babying the device through he detonation sequence--not a warhead capable of being fired by your basic military crew.

If it was nuclear weapons that made North Korea immune to international criticism--let alone action--explain Israel to me? Shouldn't the international community tremble with the thought of condemning Israel--for the Nth time--for some trumped up BS charge? Israel is commonly said to have up to 500 nuclear warheads. I suspect that the number is fewer than 100, but why would Israel object to seeming to be on par with France, Britain, and China--and exceeding the arsenals of Pakistan and India?

But no, regardless of how many nukes Israel has, Israel receives no immunity from repeated condemnation and isolation because nobody believes Israel will actually use those nukes except as a retaliatory nuclear strike.

Still don't believe me? Hamas just rained rockets on Israeli civilians without worrying that Israel would use just a single nuke to teach the attackers to just leave them alone. Heck, Hamas didn't worry that Israel would carpet bomb and shell Gaza City with conventional explosives the way North Korea could level Seoul, South Korea.

So why is North Korea tolerated? It isn't just their ability to turn Seoul into a "sea of fire" as Pyongyang has repeatedly threatened. Yes, Seoul is within range of North Korean artillery just across the DMZ. But while this is reason for South Korea to be cautious, and even Japan and America as their allies, why would the rest of the world care that much to be cautious?

Heck, North Korea can't do much more than bombard Seoul. Their conventional military has eroded so much that it would take a near-act of God for an invasion of South Korea to succeed, at this point. In contrast, Israel could defeat any combination of neighbors in a conventional war. Yet Israel is isolated and North Korea is cautiously courted.

It can't even be that individuals are afraid that the criminal regime of North Korea will kill them if they condemn North Korea. Israel is certainly not shy about reaching out and killing actual individual enemies abroad. Yet Israel gets the condemnation and North Korea gets the periodic outreaches to see if they've changed their mind about being a psychotic regime.

I suspect it is much more basic. Israel is a Western state that is pro-American and North Korea is a despotism that is anti-American.

The former is to be condemned, abused, and fought.

The latter is a reflection of "authentic" Third World identity and is to be sustained and applauded.

Even killing their own people is not enough to decisively change the view of North Korea by much of the world's elites. Oh, they'll admit it isn't quite right. But they'll never then take action against the regime.

Nukes just make terrible regimes more terrible. It doesn't explain why the world tolerates them and quietly cheers when they defy a superpower, even if that "defiance" includes genocide.

You can see why the world's opinion of America means so little to me. If they liked us, I'd worry about what we were doing wrong.

Is It Really a Lie If It Is Too Farcical to Pretend to Believe?

So let me get this straight about the Obama administration's latest excuse for misleading us about Benghazi. They're saying they didn't want to let on to our enemies that we were on to the al Qaeda involvement in the attack (tip to Instapundit)?

It now looks as though the White House's excuse for the pre-election Libya cover-up is itself a cover up. Last week we were told by the Administration (and the compliant media) that during her now-infamous round robin of five Sunday news shows, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice was only telling us what she was told by the intelligence community. We were also told that references to al-Qaeda were edited out of the talking points in order to avoid tipping off the attackers that we were on to them.

Despite the fact that al Qaeda had a hand in many of the embassy attacks that day, going so far as to raise the black flag of al Qaeda (or something darned close) over our Cairo embassy and raising the chant of "Obama, Obama, we are all Osama (bin Laden)", indicating the enemy wasn't trying to hide their involvement in the embassy attacks.

Despite the fact that there was no demonstration at Benghazi that we could pretend simply got out of hand, so there is no way that telling the American people that a demonstration against a video got out of hand would be believed by the jihadis who launched a military style assault on our facilities.

Despite the fact that 2-1/2 months later, we still haven't retaliated against al Qaeda for killing our four people and trying to kill a couple dozen more, meaning there was no reason to keep the enemy from knowing we knew they were in on it.

But the administration isn't hiding anything. Got it.

The Stroll of the Light Brigade

The Mali Caliphate sits there and nobody seems in a hurry to do anything about it. The international community is preparing the most telegraphed whiff in the history of warfare.

People keep saying we invaded Iraq with too few troops to win and never committed enough troops to win the counter-insurgency that raged after. Winning the conventional and counter-insurgency campaigns should have taken away that argument, but the belief persists.

As our Nuanced Americans tell us we need to learn the lessons of Iraq, the big-brained international community fetishists plan a new offensive to retake northern Mali from the Tuaregs and jihadis of al Qaeda who set up shop in that France-sized region:

ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) formally approved the plan to send a force of 3,200 African peacekeepers, along with at least several hundred Malian soldiers, into northern Mali and destroy Islamic radical and Tuareg tribal militias that have controlled the area since last April.

Add in 2,300 Algerians and South Africans.

With six months to prepare for the counter-attack north, I hoped that the Tuaregs could be persuaded to switch side. Apparently that isn't happening. Not now anyway (from the first Strategypage link):

MNLA and Ansari Dine have offered to work with the Mali government to destroy al Qaeda control of the north in return for autonomy for the Tuareg tribes that predominate up there and the continued use of Sharia (Islamic) law. The southerners are willing to discuss the former but are hostile to the latter. Meanwhile MNLA and Ansari Dine are finding that they lack the firepower to defeat al Qaeda.

I didn't think Mali could contribute much, and Strategypage says that even the paltry amount I assumed was way too much. So fewer than 6,000 troops drawn from all around the continent of Africa are supposed to be the spearhead that dislodges the jihadis and somehow persuades the Tuaregs to rise up against the jihadis? I don't think so.

As I've long said, this mission screams for France. Three thousand Foreign legion troopers, and you're talking a potent spearhead with 6,000 other troops to support them. You can talk about how good rock soup is when you keep adding ingredients that don't matter. Until you add in the French, it just isn't going to do any good.

And people still think we invaded Iraq with too few troops to win. Sheesh.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

LOST in a Dream World

We need to join the Law of the Seat Treaty (LOST) to resolve South China Sea ownership and navigation issues? Since we don't own any of the islands in the region, why aren't all those LOST treaty members in the region who own those islands enjoying the benefits of that treaty to resolve their disputes?

I just don't get how Secretary of Defense Panetta can argue that we need the Law of the Sea Treaty to defend freedom of navigation in the western Pacific:

I mean I go to the Asia-Pacific region. They are having territorial disputes over these rocks out there -- (Laughter.) -- and, you know, I mean obviously it's about the resources that are offshore of those rocks, but they're having these disputes over these areas.

And, you know, one of the arguments I make is wait a minute, you know, we have to maintain freedom of the seas, we have to maintain, you know, navigation rights.

And some of these countries look at me and say, you know, what are you talking about? You haven't even approved the Law of the Sea Treaty. How can you tell us what the hell to do here?

And they're right. They're right. I mean, you know, we are the only industrialized country that has not approved that treaty. The only industrialized country that has not approved that treaty.

In order for us to have credibility to be able to argue about freedom of navigation, maritime rights, that's essential.

I laughed, too, to be fair.

The only reason those resources are under dispute is because the Law of the Sea allows an extended 200 nautical miles economic zone around tiny rocks barely habitable, providing great incentive to control them without providing a means to peacefully resolve those disputes.

The reason freedom of the seas is at risk is because China is interpreting the Law of the Sea Treaty's economic zone provisions as meaning that they can keep foreign warships out of those economic zones.

So the treaty is causing us problems of ownership and freedom of navigation, yet joining the treaty resolves the problems? Somehow, our ratification magically gets the Chinese to rethink their views on South China Sea ownership? Really?

Do you think I'm drunk and not paying attention?

Because I am paying attention, I assure you. And I couldn't get drunk enough to fail to notice the problems associated with the treaty.

This treaty is flawed and should not be approved. It will not allow us the luxury of abandoning the one sure means of defending freedom of navigation--a Navy second to none and leadership who won't be pushed around when it comes to upholding traditional navigation rights. That's credibility that can't be misinterpreted.

Kill LOST. It is not in our nation's interests. And by tying us to a flawed treaty, it will make our sea problems worse rather than better.

UPDATE: Explain to me again why ratifying LOST rather than maintaining our naval and air power is going to help defend freedom of navigation issues off the coast of China?

China has carried out its first successful landing of a fighter jet on its first aircraft carrier, state media said on Sunday, a symbolically significant development as Asian neighbors fret about the world's most populous country's military ambitions. ...

China is embroiled in disputes with the Philippines and Vietnam over South China Sea islands believed to be surrounded by waters rich in natural gas. It has a similar dispute with Japan over islands in the East China Sea.

It has also warned the United States, with President Barack Obama's "pivot" to Asia, not to get involved.

Or was that warning not to get involved truncated in the story before we got to the "until you ratify LOST" part that might justify accepting the treaty?

I Will Fisk No More, Forever

I give up.

I've been sitting on a Thomas Friedman article that was so stupid that I had to comment. But after the bowel-churning agony of reading a Fareed Zakaria analysis of the Palestinian issue that had to be tackled, I find that I cannot stand to even glance at the mass of contradictions, silly comparisons, and attempts to "Lexus and olive garden" the problem Friedman discusses with some trite descriptions. I can't do it.

Let others with stronger stomachs deal with his idiocy. I've deleted the Friedman article from my computer screen and banish it to be forgotten. No Mas.

Preparing to Fight the Last Israeli War?

I wonder what lesson Hezbollah is learning from the recently concluded Gaza Punitive Raid? And I wonder what Israel wants Hezbollah to learn?

Despite mobilizing 40,000 reservists for a ground war in Gaza, Israel limited itself to air and naval bombardment, agreeing to a ceasefire with Hamas.

Does Hezbollah in southern Lebanon believe this would be the template for Israel if Hezbollah starts lobbing rockets at Israeli civilians?

If so, Hezbollah will no doubt feel less restraint in starting a war despite the loss of their patron Syria while Assad is engaged in losing a revolt.

But Israel cannot wage an air-only fight with Hezbollah. Why? Because Israel's Iron Dome ammunition was insufficient to carry on the fight with Hamas much longer, let alone sufficient to handle Hezbollah's far larger rocket arsenal:

One factor Israel may have considered in agreeing to the recent cease fire with Hamas was a possible shortage of Tamir missiles (used by the Iron Dome system to shoot down rockets). The problem was that Israel was not sure how many long (over 20 kilometers) range rockets (that could reach larger urban areas) Hamas had left. ... Thus it is possible Israel was facing the possibility of running out of Tamir missiles before Hamas ran out of long range rockets. That would mean dozens, or more, dead Israelis. At that point, Israel would have to send in ground troops to shut down Hamas rocket launches. That would also mean more dead Israelis. So, to be on the safe side….

Hamas decided it was not worth the risk to repeat the effective Israeli ground invasion of the 2008-2009 Gaza Winter War.

Hezbollah, after surviving the 2006 war that featured reliance on air power and very ineffective Israeli ground operations, may think that Israel would be even less willing to engage in ground operations with Hezbollah than with Hamas.

So the risk of war may be greater, now.

On the other hand, Israel got a good rehearsal for a ground war against Hezbollah by mobilizing 40,000 reservists.

And if Hezbollah believes they won't face a multi-division thrust into Lebanon to destroy their base of power, the shock to Hezbollah will be greater.

Further, Egypt is on the line to keep Hamas quiet, at the risk of annoying America that has given Morsi some slack to acquire autocratic powers because Morsi reined in Hamas. One can argue that Morsi sicked Hamas in the first place, but in the end he has openly declared he is holding the leash now, with all the responsibilities that come with owning a rabid dog that bites.

So Israel may be setting the stage for a deep Israeli ground war that goes all the way to Baalbek:

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.

Air mobile and paratrooper assaults would be part of such an offensive.

And if Israel is thinking of the late spring to face off against Iran over their nuclear program, neutralizing Hamas and Hezbollah before that confrontation would be a good idea. Remember, Israel doesn't need to crush Hamas and Hezbollah--who are mere symptoms of the real problem--if they plan to inflict a defeat on Iran, which has armed Hamas and Hezbollah.

Rather than preparing to fight the last Israeli War, Israel may be preparing to fight the next two wars.

But maybe that's just how I think.

Houston, We Have a Problem

I shudder to think of the search terms that will lead to this post.

That a journalist could think this is an insightful statement is astounding:

If Iron Dome is so successful, what's the purpose of killing so many in retaliation, especially "human shield" casualties?

A commenter responding to Anthony De Rosa's (Reuters) Tweet put it well:

If you had an AMAZING jock strap, reducing pain by 90%, can I still keep kicking you in the balls without you retaliating?

I'm sure De Rosa thinks that is a terrible comparison, since unlike Israel, De Rosa doesn't deserve a life of constantly being kicked in the balls.

I'm guessing that if De Rosa did face that life, and if the ball kicker (with a 10% effectiveness rate) was holding babies and kittens in front of him while he repeatedly kicked De Rosa in the balls, that De Rosa would at least be tempted to strike back.

And no, saying Israel could just as easily leave the area of the ball kicker like De Rosa could is no logical extension of the analogy. Well, maybe it is to De Rosa since taht is exactly what Hamas wants: they don't really care where Jews go as long as it isn't near them.

The basic problem is that De Rosa believes Israel deserves to be kicked in the balls, all the time. Many in the West share that belief.

Notice how even the Hamas use of human shields (no kittens, as far as I can tell, however) is not something that Hamas should be condemned for using?

The real basic problem is that too many in the West believe that the West itself deserves to be kicked in the balls every day for our sins of being successful while our Islamist foes are not, in the belief that our success is the cause of their failures.

So I'll ask again, why do we hate us?

Bigger, Longer, and Uncut

Mark Steyn at his best makes you laugh even though what he writes will later make you cry in despair and pound you desk in anger and frustration. Steyn is at his best, here. I'll give you just the first line:

Let us turn from the post-Thanksgiving scenes of inflamed mobs clubbing each other to the ground for a discounted television set to the comparatively placid boulevards of the Middle East.

We count on our leaders to handle Black Every Day over there where hate-filled jihadists actively plot to kill us 24/7 in ever more gruesome ways and with bigger body counts, but our leaders seem to have forgotten we are at war despite more than a decade of fighting the jihadis.

Which makes sense, since our president doesn't seem to really believe we are at war with anything but Republicans with dog-whistle hate terminology.

To paraphrase The New York Times, Big Screw Ups Require Big Government.

He Really Does Try, God Bless Him

Fareed Zakaria takes a stab at blaming Israel for the lack of peace with the Palestinians. I have mentioned that Zakaria couldn't find his own buttocks with both hands and a GPS signal, right? I have? Good. But I never tire of pointing it out since Zakaria never tires of demonstrating it.

Zakaria cites the statistics that proves Israel is the dominant military power in the region. True enough, but there's more to it than that simple recitation of statistics.

He then says that because Israel is so dominant militarily, that peace will only come when Israel decides to take risks to make peace:

These are the realities of the Middle East today. Israel’s astonishing economic growth, its technological prowess, its military preparedness and its tight relationship with the United States have set it a league apart from its Arab adversaries. Peace between the Palestinians and Israelis will come only when Israel decides that it wants to make peace.

And here I thought evacuating the Gaza Strip was "taking a risk for peace," as Zakaria urges Israel to do.

The short Gaza fight came close to demonstrating why air power--the apex of technological arms--alone is insufficient: Israel was short of Iron Dome air defense missiles.

Yes, the technology of Iron Dome is amazing. Yet if Hamas had kept firing the rockets that Palestinians put together in their garages and the World War II-descended longer-ranged rockets that Iran supplied, that amazing technology just wouldn't have mattered.

The same applies to the Israeli military as a whole. The reality is that Israel relies on reservists for their military superiority. Israel is fine without the reservists as long as a war is restricted to an air campaign--or cyber-war, I suppose.

When Israel mobilizes their ground power, their astonishing economic growth comes to a grinding halt as people who do all the things that make their economy "astonishing" to Zakaria put on a uniform.

Israel is then on the clock. They must win a short and decisive ground campaign--and then demobilize. If they can't do that, their military can't remain in the field for long.

Zakaria thinks that because Israel can win any short conventional war, they can take a risk for peace. The problem is, their enemies won't fight a short conventional war with Israel. And Israel doesn't escalate every armed provocation to the level of a short, conventional campaign.

How does Zakaria's confidence in Israeli conventional power affect Hamas thinking? Despite Israel's overwhelming military power, Hamas struck Israel's cities, confident that Israel would not use their military to crush Gaza and arrest every Hamas leader they could grab to put them on trial and hang them by the neck after a fair trial.

If the Palestinians weren't so eager to continue to kill Jews, the reality of Israel's astonishing economic growth, technological prowess, military preparedness, and relationship with America might make Hamas think perhaps provoking Israel by trying to kill Jews isn't the best idea.

But rather than try to build a real state in the land they hold (which Israel took a risk to evacuate), Hamas and the other (God help us) more radical factions continue to rejoice in the ability to take shots at Jewish civilians. Oh, and if any Arab citizens of Israel are in the way where the rockets land? Oh well.

Or does Zakaria's deep plan assume Hamas be allowed to build a conventional military that Israel can destroy and therefore make Hamas less interested in killing Jews?

Good God, he's an effing idiot. I actually weep when I contemplate the possibility that the Obama administration looks to Zakaria for insights on foreign policy.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The First Market

You can shop online for your cyber-war needs:

China and especially Russia are taking a lot of low key diplomatic heat over the continued existence of online markets for Internet mercenaries within their borders. These two countries will rarely prosecute whoever is providing hosting services (the actual PCs, or “servers” that the stores and message boards run on) to hackers selling goods (programs for hacking) or services (botnets, hacking attacks, and so on).

Give this trend time and space and eventually private entities and even wealthy individuals will be able to wage war in the real world from their figurative basement:

We speak of online private cyber-warfare (as I did here in regard to what I called cyber-booters), but real warfare requires more than hacking. Where will such refined skills be found?

With so many private security outfits around, how long before they need to drum up business when contracts start to peter out or too many competitors eat at the profit margin?

And so perhaps a need to match potential warmakers with potential war fighters will be met with an online service. Call it warBay. Need a bridge blown up somewhere? Sign on to warBay and choose from local insurgents out to make a profit, renegade pilots from a poor Third World air force willing to drop a bomb for cash, or ex-SAS members who formed a company without current government contracts in need of some money. Or assassinate a leader. Or just kill a bunch of people who are of the designated race or religion. Or hire some special ops types to intercept another group you read on an Internet board are planning to hit your side's headquarters (church or whatever). Freelancers and idiots could hire themselves out like the Shoe Bomber or like Timothy McVeigh to ply their particular skill for money.

Whatever your war needs, there are people out there who can provide the service. More bang for the buck, to turn a phrase. And warBay will be there.

There might be something to this private warfare thing, eh?

Like They Don't Have Enough Problems Already

The Iraqi government and the Kurdish regional government continue to throw elbows at their border. I worry more about this development than I do of Iran dominating the Iraqi government.

We're trying to dampen the crisis, but without our troops up there to be a physical buffer and reassurance to both parties, can we cope yet again?

Talks to defuse a standoff between Iraqi troops and forces from the country's autonomous Kurdish region made little progress on Thursday with both sides further reinforcing positions on their disputed internal border. ...

Washington intervened to end a similar standoff in August and is now again in contact with Iraqi and Kurdish officials to ease tension mounting over the formation of a new command center for Iraqi forces to operate in the disputed areas.

The Kurds need to be patient. They are landlocked. Do they really want to count on the Turks to provide their access to the outside world? Or Iran? If the Kurds are to have an independent state, they need good enough relations with Turkey, Iran, and Iraq so that at least two out of three are interested in competing for Kurdish foreign trade.

In time, the rest of Iraq may be doing well enough to think the Kurds can separate and there will be no ill will. Czechoslovakia broke up peacefully, after all.

Until then, the Kurds of Iraq need to be part of a unified Iraq that gets along well enough with the central government. I hope we have the capacity and interest to buy time for things to work out.

As for the central government. Really? Syriam Iran, al Qaeda, and corruption aren't sufficiently difficult to cope with already?

Never Mind

Because we use the Electoral College, counting every vote really doesn't matter since few states need to count every vote to know who wins their state. But eventually the votes were counted and now we know that Mitt Romney did get more votes than John McCain.

For the record, since I noted the reverse based on early counts.

A Duck!

The need to bash America will lead the climate change movement to conclude that we are in a period of global cooling and that America is failing to do our part to institute big, expensive government solutions to what the global coolers will say is a dire problem.

As I've mentioned long ago, I feel free to comment on global warming--or whatever the current term of art is--because so many people and countries like to bash America about our failure to sign on to big, expensive government solutions to what the global warmers say is a dire problem. So it is kind of a foreign affairs issue. That, and the warmists really annoy me.

Recall we've had flat global temperatures for the last 15 years, or so, despite Holy scriptures models that say our temperature should have gone up in that time. That's inconvenient.

But maybe we really are heading for a new ice age and it can be argued that mankind is actually holding off the frozen Hell that is coming.

And then we have the fact that fits the new narrative of science that will develop that America is at fault for the problem:

Over the past six years, the United States has reduced its carbon emissions more than any other nation in the world.

Efforts to curb so-called man-made climate change had little or nothing to do with it. Government mandated “green” energy didn’t cause the reductions. Neither did environmentalist pressure. And the U.S. did not go along with the Kyoto Protocol to radically cut CO2 emissions. Instead, the drop came about through market forces and technological advances, according to a report from the International Energy Agency.

You can see the dilemma. America is evil for failing to sign Kyoto or do anything the smart science says we must do. Yet we are achieving what the smart science guys (and gals) say we should achieve. Will results or process matter more?

Oh what will the warmists decide? That America is good for achieving something or that America is evil for failing to sign international agreements to do something big that costs gobs of money?

America looks evil! But she does have a wart. So, logically, she's a witch! America is evil!

Yes indeed, America was turning the planet into a raging inferno. Well, we got better. Thankfully, there will always be people wise in the ways of science.

Breaking His Army

In 20 months of revolt--the first 10 of which were fairly low key, giving an indication of the scale of fighting now--an estimated 40,000 Syrians have died. Assad is breaking his army. When it breaks, the regime and possibly the state itself will collapse.

In over 8 years of war in Iraq, perhaps 120,000 Iraqi civilians died (the Iraqi government says far fewer than that died) along with at least 10,000 Iraqi security personnel and about 4,500 US casualties plus over 300 Coalition personnel. About 1,500 contractors were killed. A thousand Awakening militiamen have died on the government side, too.

Perhaps 25,000 insurgents and terrorists were killed on top of an estimated 9,000 of Saddam's forces in the initial invasion.

It is unclear how many Iraqi civilian casualties are actually insurgents.

The casualties in Syria are fairly astounding by comparison:

More than 40,000 people have been killed in 20 months of conflict between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces and those fighting for his overthrow, a violence monitoring group said on Friday.

Rami Abdelrahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said about half the fatalities were civilians and the other half split about evenly between rebels and government soldiers.

So 20,000 civilians have died so far in Syria. Ten thousand rebels have been killed and the same number of government forces have been killed. And the pace accelerated. As late as march of this year, the total casualties stood at 10,000. Thirty thousand more have died in the last 8 months.

Toss in desertions from the Syrian ground forces, too.

The picture is of a Syrian army that is shrinking from casualties in an ineffective fight that is not inflicting enough casualties on the rebels to degrade the rebels.

There simply aren't enough troops to police the amount of people Syria has. Rebels are beginning to control areas of Syria as the Syrian ground forces find they have too few men to hold what they have.

Russia can protest the deployment of NATO Patriot missiles to the Turkish border, but the missiles aren't that important. Unless Russia is willing to commit a few paratrooper divisions to the fight and convince Assad to abandon most of the country east of Damascus to the rebels, the force-to-population ratio is too low to win.

And the Syrian army is in for the duration with no rotations home except for death or major injury.

This army will break. Will we be able to move fast enough to cope when it shatters?