Friday, May 31, 2013

Exception to the Rule

During the Iraq War, many observers declared that we weren't defeating the insurgents and terrorists, and then claimed that the iron rule of rebellions is that if the government side isn't winning the war, it's losing the war. Apparently, that doesn't apply to Assad.


Syrian President Bashar al-Assad cannot regain full control of his battered country and his rebel foes are not strong enough to overthrow him, dooming Syria to months or even years of sectarian civil war.

Call it the Not America Corollary to the Iron Rule.

I judge Assad is losing the war. Already he has lost large chunks of territory and relies on massive Iranian subsidies and Russian arms to survive.

His power has received a boost from contracting his perimeter and a surge of militia forces. But those inputs will fade as the rebels gain strength from growing arms shipments to the rebels.

The Moral Superiority of Anguish

So President Obama is morally superior to President Bush 43 because the former is anguished about the orders he gives his subordinates to fight the war on terror?

This is amazing:

One first impression left by President Obama’s much-anticipated speech re-casting U.S. counterterrorism policy is that of the contrast between Bush’s swagger and Obama’s anguish over the difficult trade-offs that perpetual war poses to a free society. It could scarcely be starker. While Bush frequently seemed to take action without considering the underlying questions, Obama appears somewhat unsure of exactly what actions to take.

Bush ordered attacks on terrorists (including drone strikes), renditions, holding terrorists indefinitely, and wiretaps. Bush believed that these things were absolutely right and necessary when he ordered his subordinates to carry them out.

But President Obama is morally superior for waffling on the issue of whether what he also orders his subordinates to do is right or wrong?

And let me add that I find it amusing that the author defends President Obama as accepting constitutional limits on his war powers (in contrast to George W. Bush, apparently) even though President Obama went to war with Libya despite no Congressional authorization by the simple expedient of denying that we were at war. George W. Bush at least got Congress to authorize his actions whether against Afghanistan, Iraq, or jihadis outside of those areas.

I swear, it's like the president's fans think The American President is a documentary about how to act presidential in matters of war, as that fictional president fretted over an order to strike Libya:

Leon, somewhere in Libya right now, a janitor's working the night shift at Libyan Intelligence headquarters. He's going about doing his job... because he has no idea, in about an hour he's going to die in a massive explosion. He's just going about his job, because he has no idea that about an hour ago I gave an order to have him killed. You've just seen me do the least presidential thing I do.

Ah, the anguish! It is exquisite, no? As long as you're anguished, the sky's the limit, I guess. Send the IRS to harass opponents. Spy on journalists. Whatever.

Heck, our president could get another Nobel Peace Prize for water boarding if he fretted enough.

Unlimited Tolerance for Stupidity

I can understand a zero-tolerance policy for guns in school. But getting worked up for a coin-sized toy isn't part of that, is it?

People are stupid.

The word "gun" was heard and then administrator brains shut down as school policies kicked into high gear to grind a 6-year-old down.

In the end, there was no detention. But the lad apparently did have to write a letter of apology to the bus driver.

It scares me that school anti-violence policies only work against those who aren't a threat.

Tip to Mad Minerva.

A Clarion Call for Buckets of Cash

I would like to point out that there has been no global warming for about 15 years now, and counting.

So cause and effect for any recent issues is rather hard to establish, no?

But bonus points for the completely irrelevant nuclear guilt angle!

UPDATE: A late update on the scam the islanders are peddling to get Western guilt cash.

I assume the scam will work.

Give Cease a Chance

It's just not that pleasant to see how the reality-based community handles being commander-in-chief of our armed forces.

President Obama has simply never felt like he is a war president, it is clear.

For the Glory of France

France will openly sell arms to China.

France has already sold weapons to Russia, and despite the European embargo on selling weapons to China's military, France is broke and eager for the China market.

France is facing a jihadi-based problem flowing from the Libya War in supporting their allies in the French sphere of influence in Africa:

Suicide attacks on a French-run mine and a military base in northern Niger have shown how an Islamist threat is spreading across the weak nations of the Sahara, meaning France may be tied down there for years to come. ...

Paris is keen to cut its troop numbers in the region. But, amid persistent bickering and mistrust among regional powers, President Francois Hollande admitted last week that French forces may have be used elsewhere in the Sahel.

France is hard-pressed to maintain a credible full-spectrum military force let alone use it to prop up allies in Africa and fight off jihadi threats.

Which makes China's decision to send 500-600 troops to Mali more understandable than mere attempts to protect African sources of raw materials. Sure, that explains other actions in Africa, but not in France's region, in my opinion.

France already signaled their willingness to bolster China at our expense.

And China has been spreading money around in Europe to soften them up.

France is the weak link in the European embargo. France needs all the help they can get to maintain their prized sphere of influence. And China would love to earn enough chits with Paris helping them hold that sphere to cash them in to get France to be the first to break the arms embargo on China.

Which means we might face French technology as we pivot to the Pacific and face China's growing military might.

We led from behind in Libya, but the French in front couldn't afford to lead for long.

UPDATE: The Western arms embargo is one reason the Chinese are sensitive to being reminded of Tiananmen Square:

China accused the United States of "prejudice" on Saturday after the U.S. State Department renewed a call for Beijing to fully account for its bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in June 1989.

The United States should "immediately rectify its wrongdoings and stop interfering in China's internal affairs so as not to sabotage China-U.S. relations", Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in an English-language statement released via the official Xinhua news agency.

The 1989 massacre was a long time ago, as far as the Chinese are concerned; and they hope the French agree to not bicker over who killed who.

The French already sell dual use material suitable for military use. So France is already in the lead in breaking the embargo.

Fearing Neither Demons Nor Congress

One hundred thousand Christians are killed for their faith each year. Yet so far there hasn't been a general violent response. Will it remain a one-way street of jihadi violence against us if we end the legal basis of our war on terror and try to arrest our way out of this fight? Or will Westerners wage war on their own?

Instapundit notes this story:

A top Vatican official has said around 100,000 Christians are killed every year for reasons linked to their faith and pointed to the Middle East, Africa and Asia as the biggest problem areas.

Monsignor Silvano Maria Tomasi was quoted by Vatican radio on Tuesday as saying that the figures were "shocking" and "incredible".

I find the figures shocking and incredible, too. So much so that I won't accept the number any more than I accepted farcical Lancet estimates of Iraqi dead. But a lot of Christians are killed and a lot more are persecuted. Of that there can be little doubt. So Instapundit's question is very relevant regardless of how many are killed:

Will a new version of the Knights Templar arise?

The Knights Templar were an armed charitable organization with its own economic base that fought to protect Christians in the Holy Land.

Certainly, the military component of the Long War on Islamist terrorism is a limited component of the war that seeks to cure the Islamic world of its societal problems that breed and support such terrorism, but it is a necessary part of that war.

And if our government doesn't fight it, why do we assume private Christians (or Westerners assumed to be part of Christendom) won't wage a war against Islamist terrorists or even all Islam the way individual Moslems and organizations wage war on the West today without much in the way of state support? I've warned about this for years.

As I wrote in 2006:

We face enemies who draw support from traditional states but do not rely on them. Waging war by private groups has been made more lethal by modern technology. Cheap and readily available weapons, modern communications gear (Internet and satellite phones), and WMD--from poison gas to Anthrax to dirty bombs to perhaps nuclear weapons--are no longer state monopolies. Warfare is being privatized by our enemies.

And if our Western governments fail to wage war effectively, will private Western warfare be far behind? Much as vigilantes arise when police and courts cannot provide security, will private groups strike back at whatever target they believe responsible for jihadis?

This is but one component of a trend to privatized warfare (and only 99 cents!), but it is potentially the most bloody if it comes about.

Despite the president's recent speech that set the stage for checking out of the war on terror, we are still waging the fight. Sixty thousand of our troops are still waging the war (from behind) in Afghanistan and our drones are still active despite promises of severe limitations:

A U.S. drone strike killed the number two of the Pakistani Taliban in the North Waziristan region on Wednesday, three security officials said, in what would be a major blow in the fight against militancy.

But at some point, if President Obama gets his way (and if our enemies cooperate) and even repeals the legal basis for the war on terror, we will end our government's participation in the war. As our enemies continue to wage war on us, don't be shocked if Westerners band together in private association to fight the jihadis when our governments can't or won't.

If you think this is ridiculous, consider that China's apparent one-way cyber assault on our corporations is leading some to worry about whether these companies might counter-attack if we do nothing, as a recent report by the private Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property addressed:

Commission co-chair Dennis Blair, the ex-director of national intelligence, said governments should also toughen laws to prevent a "cyber war going on well outside the control of governments, the consequences of which no country wants."

Indeed. But if the government doesn't act, somebody will--whether better or worse than the government can. So I don't think it is far-fetched that private citizens might wage an overseas war on terror.

I'd expect the first such groups to arise in Europe. With our more integrated Moslems here and the distance to the heart of the Islamic world, we won't feel the effects as rapidly. And we've been fighting the war for over a decade, so it will take longer for people to react to the failure of our government to fight.

But European governments have largely checked out of the war already and Europeans are already reacting to the unrest and terror erupting from their less assimilated Moslems that periodically rock European cities. When they see the last Western power capable of fighting refuse to fight, the pool of recruits in Europe is already fairly large.

They might even use the old name.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

It's Back to Being Odd

I thought it was worse than odd that a suspect about to sign a confession for a murder possibly related to the Boston bombers pulled a knife and was shot by the FBI. Now the news is there was no knife. We're back to odd.

Excuse me?

The FBI has confirmed that a friend of slain Boston bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev was unarmed and not waving a samurai sword when he was shot and killed last week by an FBI agent in Orlando, Fla., as earlier reports had indicated.

The FBI says Ibragim Todashev, 27, a Chechen immigrant and aspiring martial arts fighter, was about to sign a confession to a 2011 triple murder when he turned a table on an FBI agent, putting the agent in jeopardy. The agent then fired as many as 7 shots, hitting Mr. Todashev at least once in the head.

I totally missed the samurai sword version. I was still in the knife stage. Now, a week later, there was no knife at all?

I assume the next version involves Todashev seeing some lousy Internet video defaming Chechnya, which sent him into an unexpected rage.

I'm inclined to believe this is confusion rather than conspiracy. But the whole situation of not having a suspected terrorist under more thorough control is so sloppy that it is shocking.

UPDATE: More on the changing stories. Tip to Instapundit.

Wag the Dog?

Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Deputy Minister says that Taiwan's ability to change China is under-appreciated.

One can hope this assessment of China's vulnerability is true:

"Some say that China is trying to influence us [through] trade. In Taiwan, we know it's very clear that business is business and politics is politics. Taiwan is small compared to China but it is democratic and has soft power."

The deputy minister was not referring to the "soft power" of late singer Teresa Teng or its famous dumplings, but what Chinese tourists do after 9pm in Taipei.

According to Lin, many Chinese tourists return to their hotels as 9pm to watch Taiwanese political leaders get scrutinised on local television.

Lin said the Chinese have realised that "it's very nice to have a democratic country".

"Taiwan has a very strong influence on this issue. As long as we don't use military [force], I'm not sure who has bigger influence. We may have a bigger influence than them."

I sincerely hope the story isn't just an urban legend.

Indeed. But when all other options to resist China's growing power are exhausted or ruled out, the only option remaining is the logical course of action, isn't it?

Infantry Fighting Vehicle

I don't understand why lack of knowledge about war and the military is no hindrance to a successful career in war journalism the way lack of knowledge about fabric and colors would kill a fashion journalism career.

I know it's big. I know it has a turret. I know it has tracks. But this is not a tank:

The caption reads:

A Syrian army tank is pictured during a battle against opposition fighters in the city of Qusayr, in Syria's central Homs province, on May 25, 2013

Is it safe to assume this is a picture from Qusayr? And that it was taken on May 25th?

This is an infantry fighting vehicle. It is different from a tank despite superficial similarities. The gun caliber is too small to really take on modern tanks. It could carry an anti-tank missile above the cannon, but the launch rail is empty. This vehicle is mainly designed to carry a squad if infantry which can shoot from ports along the side of the IFV.

I will grant that if you are a dismounted infantry, a tank or IFV are scary enough to earn the name "crunchy" from the point of view of the crews.

An IFV is different from an armored personnel carrier in function in that the latter is simply designed to protect infantry from small arms and shell fire until the infantry dismounts to fight. They often don't have a turret.

Sometimes armored vehicles with turrets are self-propelled artillery.

Any who. Pet peeve of mine.


Now that is a tank.

Funny enough, the caption corrected the location in Syria.

Oh, and unless I am mistaken, the IFV is a BMP-1 while the tank is a T-72. Both Soviet designs. Probably Soviet-built, too.

UPDATE: Thanks to Stones Cry Out for the link.

They Came On in the Same Old Way

The Taliban hoped for better this year with American troops standing aside to let Afghan security forces shoulder the burden of fighting before we leave after next year. It isn't working out as they hoped.

Taliban attacks are up, making their spring offensive an actual event this year. But it isn't working:

While the Taliban have a great PR operation, getting all their violence and manifestos out onto the Internet, this masks the fact that the Taliban are hated by most Afghans and no one inside Afghanistan ever expects the Taliban to be more than a nuisance, another bunch of violent gunmen who can’t be reasoned with and must be killed. This the Afghan security forces are doing in an impressive fashion. So far this month the Afghan troops and police have killed nearly 500 Taliban. This is four times as many dead as the security forces suffered. This kind of loss, to an Afghan foe, is very demoralizing to the average Taliban gunmen. These guys expect to get hammered by the foreign troops, but to take this kind of beating by fellow Afghans dressed like the foreign troops is very discouraging. This is one reason why the security forces have also captured over 600 Taliban so far this month.

Don't despair about the outcome of the war. We tend to see all of our problems up close and in detail while distance and secrecy obscure enemy problems from easy view. What's that Kipling expression? "Only Allah knows how much the enemy is hurt"? Something like that.

Anyway, the Afghan forces--with our support--are defeating the Taliban in the same old way.

The Empty Chair of Understanding

The war on terror really is ending. We've gone from "fight them over there so we don't have to fight them over here" to "pay them over there so we don't have to pay them over here."

Recall that the Moslem Boston bombers and London beheaders received plenty of state aid that didn't make them love their "home" country any more.

Which should make this opinion piece the obviously craptacular bit of nonsense that it is, notwithstanding the ten dollar word "paradigm" used in it.

Behold the summary:

US should replace drone strikes in Pakistan with outreach to tribal areas[.]

And who needs analysis when you have bumper sticker-levels of thinking?

Where one terrorist is killed by a drone, a hundred are created in his place.

Are you effing kidding me?

With all due disrespect to his diplomatic credentials, his educational credentials, and his fancy chair--Ibn Khaldun chair of Islamic studies at American University--that surely swivels and goes up and down at the touch of buttons, the man is a fool or apologist, and it doesn't really matter which one he is. The only thing great about Akbar Ahmed is the idiocy he displayed in this piece.

As I've written many times, only ineffective violence creates more jihadis. There simply aren't more jihadis now. Jihadis were killing us when the Iraq War was just a gleam in NeoCon eyes. Funny enough, the jihadis found an excuse to slaughter us without drone strikes at all. Fancy that.

Indeed, the Iran-Iraq War proved that this simplistic notion of creating more jihadis is wrong. The Iraqis needed about 8 years to do it, but after killing about 400,000 Iranian jihadis, by Allah, the Iranians lost the will to send forth their men and boys to the front. By 1988, instead of fielding an army of 40 million of the faithful and angry, the Iranians found their annual cannon fodder recruiting drive came up empty. War over.

But these guys think our drone strikes create more jihadis than they kill, the authors say, longing for the pre-9/11 days when tribal Moslems received our aid. Hey, before 9/11 didn't tribal Moslems side with Osama bin Laden?

And our drones keep tribal families from sending their children to schools--not the jihadi nuts who'd rather throw acid in the faces of little girls rather than see them learn to read in a school.

But no, we need "outreach" to them as if they are completely oblivious to the fact that we don't like Islamist nutballs killing us.

Hey, I have an idea! Since the tribal Moslems don't like us killing jihadis in their midst, why don't they have an outreach of their own to "understand" us instead of sending forth their sons to kill us? Maybe killing us just creates more drones? Ever think of that?

No? Ah, I get it. It's only a two-way street in the sense that they kill us and we should just go the other way by understanding them. Got it. That's fairly convenient for the jihadis.

You know, I want to understand the tribal Moslems enough to kill the jihadis among them. Maybe when the tribal Moslems understand that, we'll make progress in ending the war.

This Is Unacceptable

Breaking news is that the poison ricin was found in a letter to President Obama.

We need to track down this nutball or nutballs who have sent out recent poisoned letters. We have elections and term limits to handle politicians you don't like.

At Dusk We Slept

I remain puzzled at claims we had nothing to send to Benghazi to respond to the September 11, 2012 attacks. We still don't know what might have been sent.

If information about what we could have sent to Benghazi is classified, doesn't that strongly imply that we did have forces available?

Lawmakers apparently learned a lot, but not the public. What fighter aircraft were available to go to Benghazi, either from a U.S. base in Sicily or elsewhere? It’s classified. What other planes? Classified. What about drones, especially armed ones, in addition to the unarmed aircraft the Pentagon has said was sent to the site shortly after the attack began? That’s classified, too.

What about the precise movements and locations of those American emergency response teams? Classified. Navy ships? Classified.

We had lots of ground troops in Europe. We had lots of aircraft in Europe. We couldn't put a platoon in a transport or a couple fighters into the air on a couple hours notice? With more to follow?

Yes, our formerly massive 6th Fleet is now just a shadow of its former self reliant on transiting ships for any presence at all in the Mediterranean Sea, so perhaps publicizing that is the classification issue.

And no, I'm not complaining about the lack of Navy ships there routinely. The USSR is gone. Times change.

Perhaps the only real naval asset available was a cruise missile sub or two somewhere from the eastern Mediterranean to CENTCOM's area of responsibility. Again, classifying that is understandable. And cruise missiles wouldn't have been relevant, anyway.

I think we could have responded to the attacks and made it in time to affect the Annex battle. Indeed, if the administration truly believed that the attacks were a demonstration gotten out of hand, the excuse for sending even unarmed aerial assets in a show of force is more inexcusable. If we'd flown a crop duster hired at Benghazi over the Annex, tossing flares out the window, it is possible the attackers would have assumed it was an armed gunship.

Our enemies were waging war on us that night. We weren't at war at all, it seems. Our enemies prefer it that way.

A We-Did-Something! Zone

While I've judged Syria's air defenses as less than awesome, I also don't believe a Western no-fly zone would have much effect on the Syrian rebellion since air power isn't that significant. Our military finally said as much.

While the military is perfectly capable of over-stating potential enemy capabilities and downplaying what we can do if they want to discourage intervention, this assessment matches what I've been able to see from afar:

“For all the talk of no-fly zones, Syrian aircraft are not that relevant,” says a senior US military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey has noted that only 10 percent of casualties sustained by Syrian opposition forces are being imposed by air power. The other 90 percent come from direct fire or artillery.

And while I'm confident we could beat down Syria's air defenses, it would not be risk-free. For the minimal gain, do we want to risk losing pilots and crew killed or captured?

Again, Assad's air power isn't decisive. If we really want to help the rebels, send them weapons and ammunition to capture or besiege the air bases. The planes have to land somewhere, after all.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Ten Ships

I've wondered about a pivot to the Pacific that increases the percent of our Navy in the Pacific if the total fleet goes down in numbers. Would the pivot even mean anything in those circumstances? Now we have a number for the western Pacific, anyway.

From my Jane's email updates:

The United States' re-balance to the Asia-Pacific region will bring a range of new naval and aviation capabilities to address specific concerns throughout the region, the US Navy's (USN) chief said on 15 May at the IMDEX Asia 2013 exhibition in Singapore. As part of the strategic pivot to the Western Pacific, the USN is shifting its fleet force structure to support deployments of about 60 ships to the region by 2020 - a boost of about 10 ships to the 50-vessel force that the USN has operated in the Asia-Pacific region since the 1990s[.]

Mind you, for the entire Pacific stretching back to our West Coast, my concern over shrinking numbers is still valid. But the pivot will mean 20% more hulls in the western Pacific. Or ten vessels, if you prefer. By 2020.

Not exactly what you'd expect from something that China claims is such a horrible thing for us to do.

UPDATE: It is true, of course, that the pivot is more than numbers since the best of what we've got is earmarked to watch China:

In a recent interview with The Asahi Shimbun, Mark Lippert, former assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs, explained that that was precisely why the United States not only announced the deployment of 60 percent of its entire naval fleet to the Pacific, but also “moving our most capable assets,” including the newest attack submarines and stealth fighter jets.

And the military side is bolstered by a political side of making sure our friends and allies know we are capable of fulfilling guarantees we give:

Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel will reassure allies in a trip to Asia this week that the United States intends to "follow through" on its promised strategic shift to the Pacific region, officials said Tuesday.

In his first trip to the area since he took over as defense secretary in February, Hagel was expected to discuss Washington's "rebalance" towards Asia and recent tensions with North Korea in meetings with his counterparts at a Singapore conference.

And since no good pivot goes unpunished, the Strategic Studies Institute reminds us of a problem with a more robust American presence and political follow through:

[At] this time of U.S. strategic reorientation and military rebalancing toward Asia-Pacific, the most dangerous consideration is that Asia-Pacific nations having disputes with China can misread U.S. strategic intentions and overplay the “U.S. card” to pursue their territorial interests and challenge China.

That's why our senior people are paid the big bucks. We want our military presence large enough to promote stability by keeping our allies safe from aggressive actions by others, but not provoke war by having allies drag us into wars we do not want.

One thing that would help is avoiding a problem we discovered in 1996 when China started a Taiwan Strait crisis by firing missiles over Taiwan. President Clinton dispatched two carriers to the waters around Taiwan as a signal of our support. But we lacked the communications with Taiwanese leaders to know what they were doing and intended to do!

Luckily, back then China couldn't detect our carriers let alone attack them. But what would we have done if Taiwan had attacked Chinese military targets on the mainland? With our carriers nearby, it would have looked like we were directly backing the attacks.

So we need robust and regular communications with our allies so that unexpected things don't just happen that then spin out of control.

Yeah, ten more ships is just the beginning of the issue, eh?

UPDATE: The Jane's email has been bugging me. I noticed that the before and after pivot ship numbers reflected old and projected ship percentage numbers. Before, based on Cold War deployments, half of our fleet was in the Pacific while half was based in the Atlantic; the pivot was shifting our forces up to 60% in the Pacific. So I checked the western Pacific 7th Fleet's web site, which states:

The U.S. 7th Fleet is the largest U.S. numbered fleet, with 60-70 ships, 200-300 aircraft and approximately 40,000 Sailors and Marines operating in the region on a typical day.

In addition to U.S.-based carrier and expeditionary strike groups that conduct rotational deployments to the region, there are 23 ships forward deployed to U.S. facilities in Japan and Guam.

So 7th Fleet already counts 60-70 ships in its count. So I'm not sure what that email meant. So I guess the updates are better than the original post.

China for the Pay

I guess buying allies is okay now?

The way some pundits get a thrill up their leg thinking about the wise policies possible if we could only be China for a day, this has got to make them envious (tip to Instapundit):

China is beefing up its presence in the Caribbean and making it clear that the region is a strategic priority going forward. Over the past few months, Beijing has begun investing hundreds of millions of dollars in infrastructure investment in countries very much in need of that money, still recovering from Hurricane Sandy. ...

China isn’t matching its funding with political demands yet, but it isn’t hard to imagine this influx of money swaying the minds of Caribbean people frustrated with a lack of US engagement. Greasing the struggling economies of the region is a quick way to build up Beijing’s soft power there. This is significant because, in addition to increasing China’s global clout, having friends in the Caribbean is useful in international organizations.

Funny, I remember when buying allies was wrong:

[The] U.S. public should carefully scrutinize any claim by the Bush Administration that they have assembled a “coalition of the willing.” Almost all, by our count, join only through coercion, bullying, bribery, or the implied threat of U.S. action that would directly damage the interests of the country. This “coalition of the coerced” stands in direct conflict with democracy.

Well, to be fair, China wasn't doing the buying ten years ago. Big difference.

When Giants Slap Fight

If it ever comes to a straight-up fight for the South China Sea, two massive militaries will deploy tiny forces to the campaign. China is adding a weapon to this mix.

China is adding very large Ukrainian-made Zubr hovercraft-type amphibious warfare vessels to their navy:

Nearly four-stories-high, the 555-ton LCAC could be a game-changer in amphibious operations within the region. The data sheet speaks for itself. According to various sources, the Zubr has a range of 380 nautical miles (480 km), can remain at sea for five days before replenishment, and can travel at up to 60 knots (55 knots for sustained cruising). Its payload capacity, at approximately 150 tons, is more than twice that of the LCACs in service in the U.S. and Japanese military, meaning that it can carry the equivalent of three main battle tanks (e.g., Type-80); 10 armored vehicles (e.g., BMP-2); 10 armored personnel carriers (e.g., BTR-70); or eight amphibious tanks. Meanwhile, its four compartments can accommodate 140 troops, or over 350 without armor.

These weapons have been in the pipeline for some time.

But we're not standing still with South China Sea capabilities. And we know amphibious warfare.

And the South China Sea isn't the safest place for Chinese naval power to sail, really.

UPDATE: Obviously, it is just the ground fight that would be tiny. The Air-sea component could be huge.

Bleeding from Behind

I've mentioned that Syria bled out their infantry and that their army was becoming unbalanced with the survivors being in the supporting services. I wondered if the new militias would free up the scarce infantry or if the militias would become the new infantry. We can see what is going on in one place in the fight for Syria.

In the battle for Qusayr, the Syrian army is supporting the Hezbollah cannon fodder:

At the moment Hezbollah is heavily engaged in trying to take a border town (Qusair, 10 kilometers from the Lebanese border) from the rebels. This battle has been going on since May 18th, with the Assad forces making progress, but unable to take the entire town. The rebels are bringing up reinforcements and the battle appears likely to drag on. This is not good for the Assads, or Hezbollah. There are secular and Islamic radical rebels defending the town, and that means the Assad soldiers and their Hezbollah allies are facing some fanatic opponents. Thus the first lesson from this battle is that the Assad/Hezbollah alliance cannot blitz (hit hard, demoralize and roll over) the rebels, at least if the defenders have some of these fanatics among them. Most of those involved at the moment appear to be Hezbollah and rebel, with Syrian army infantry largely withdrawn. Syrian army artillery and air power are still present, mostly killing civilians (there are over 20,000 of them still in the town). There have been several thousand casualties so far, including fifty or so Hezbollah men.

Syria clearly can't endure too many casualties in their infantry. Hezbollah is a fresh force unscarred by casualties, and so will charge the guns more readily. We'll see if they can endure the casualties to carry on with this role long enough to take the town.

And if Qusayr is taken, we'll see if the pro-Assad forces can hold the town.

Strategypage also notes that Assad is pushing forces north to gain ground in Aleppo. Which I've long thought was a bridge too far for Assad's stretched ground forces.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Wonderful ...

Do we need to insist our defense contractors detach from the Internet and relearn how to work with legal pads and carbon paper?

Because I'm not sure we should be doing cutting edge research for our forces and China's forces, too:

Designs for many of the nation’s most sensitive advanced weapons systems have been compromised by Chinese hackers, according to a report prepared for the Pentagon and to officials from government and the defense industry.

Among more than two dozen major weapons systems whose designs were breached were programs critical to U.S. missile defenses and combat aircraft and ships, according to a previously undisclosed section of a confidential report prepared for Pentagon leaders by the Defense Science Board.

It's not a wonder that I drink. It's a wonder I don't drink more.

UPDATE: No big deal?

U.S. officials on Tuesday attempted to downplay a new government report that found Chinese hackers gained access to some of the country's major weapons systems, saying the compromised information was of "lower sensitivity."

I hope it was not sensitive.

Of course, in my less lucid moments I hope that revelations like this are designed to increase the credibility of the accuracy of fake leaks that our counter-intelligence people are carrying out. But that's crazy talk, right?

Welcome to My World

I've long lamented that the expression "open minded" is too often confused with being "liberal minded."

Different things entirely, although obviously there is some overlap.

Sigh. Years ago I briefly dated a young lady who, after getting to know me, exclaimed in shock, "You're not close minded, are you?!" She had just assumed, of course. [And I'm paraphrasing. I don't actually remember the precise quote.]

It's not a wonder I drink. It's a wonder I don't drink more.

UPDATE: Actually, there's a funny postscript to that period. Years later, I saw the woman. I smiled broadly and greeted her. She looked at me with no recognition at all.

That's kind of bad for morale, isn't it?

But it turned out she was the twin sister of the woman I'd gone out with. I knew she had a twin but she lived far away. And man, were they physically identical.

Anyway, she told me that her sister (who I knew, of course) had admonished her to be nice to anyone who recognized her. So she asked if we could have lunch, and we did. It was so weird to sit across from and talk to such a familiar stranger. Their personalities were different and different speech patterns were apparent.

Oh, and could add another stereotype. The original twin first asked me out with the subterfuge of organizing a work outing to a local bar where they play music. She and I were the only ones to turn up. I pretended not to notice anything odd about that, and a good time was had by all.

Nice women. I hope they're both doing well.

Anyway. I like my world. But it does pose particular challenges to me.

He Made Us Do It

CIA director Petraeus put more truth in the talking points than the White House was comfortable releasing, so naturally it is his fault that the president's executive branch people had to delete facts and add lies about a video causing a spontaneous demonstration to escalate into an organized military-style assault.

Right. You do see how ridiculous that defense is, don't you?

Tip to Instapundit.

Just Who is Galileo and Who is the Church?

An excellent article on the debate between science and belief.

I've had similar thoughts.

Galileo will win in the end. Hopefully before I'm driven to interpretive dance.

Deeming the War Won

Jihadi hate still burns brightly and we can't turn our backs on jihadis and pretend to walk away from war.

We've been at war with transnational jihadis hopped up on their version of Islam and with their UN-recognized backers for more than a decade, and our president is tired of it. He says all wars end. And they do--when one side wins or when both sides tire of the war. I know we didn't win. Are the jihadis really tired of the war?

The problem is that those who are tired of the war see motivation to fight as a one-way street. When our enemies target and kill us, too many of us worry about a "backlash" against the co-religionists of the attackers, and ask "why do they hate us?" as if we asked for the killing. Yet when we kill our enemies who have attacked us (and kill some innocents by mistake), too many of us argue that we provide our enemies with reasons to hate us.

Despite being at war all this time and doing some serious damage to the jihadi side in the Philippines, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and (yes) Iraq, many of us--contrary to the president's argument that we are tired of war--have managed to not quite internalize being at war. Whether it was 9/11 or a rampaging soldier on individual jihad or the Boston Marathon bombing, many of us seem to worry less about the attacks and more about the dread "backlash" against innocent Moslems who live among us.

That impulse at least has a good motive: avoiding a tendency to blame everyone who is Moslem or Arab for the sins of a few. In many ways, avoiding that backlash is counter-insurgency 101. You don't alienate potential supporters or make neutrals your enemies. Focus on the actual enemies, eh? Indeed, I warned of this in the days following 9/11:

Above all, vigilance must not degenerate into paranoia. We must trust that our Moslem and Arab neighbors share our values. They or their parents or grandparents immigrated to America because they too cherish our freedoms and way of life. Like most Americans, they are here because someone in their family fled poverty, oppression, or both, to build a better life for their children. They are horrified and angry like all Americans. "They" are our friends and neighbors and are part of "us." Some, whether citizens or residents, will be guilty of cooperating with the enemy or even actively fighting us. This is not new. Fascism and communism had their admirers here even in our darkest hours during those fights. Those betrayers were guilty as individuals and not as members of any religion or ethnic group. Let us not descend into the logic of our enemies that the perceived or actual guilt of one condemns all similar innocents. Our enemies will have won the war in a fundamental and lasting way if we become like the terrorists even as we physically destroy our terrorist enemy.

I'll go one further. I don't believe I've ever mention this. In 1990, when I was a soldier in the Army National Guard and fully expected to be sent to Desert Storm (in the end, after being on the mobilization list to go, we were not sent), I wrote a letter to President H. W. Bush asking--as one of his soldiers who would do his duty against an enemy--to guard against that backlash.

My concerns of 1990 weren't because I thought Americans are evil at heart. Yet I knew history, and I knew that around the world, people representing the nationals of an enemy power have been and are targeted for abuse or worse. And I knew in our own history that Japanese suffered in World War II and that Germans were under suspicion in World War I. With a war and a substantial number of Arab Americans in our society, I did worry about a backlash that might stain our history again.

Yet we had no backlash in 1990-91. And we had no backlash even after the horror of 9/11. By the time we went to war with Iraq in 2003, I was confident that fears of backlash were baseless given our more recent history.

Despite our restraint all this time and all the deaths that jihadis mete out, too many here still only think of the coming "backlash" when our enemies kill us here or abroad. Being super-focused on victory isn't what the "backlash" peddlers have in mind, is it? No, those backlash worries are usually accompanied by the often-asked question after each attack against us, "Why do they hate us?"

They have lots of answers for that question. And it always settles on being something America does--or fails to do. That is, as regrettable as the jihadi rage is, it is certainly understandable that they have murderous rage given what we do.

What rot. The war in Iraq, for example, caused jihadi rage in their view (contra the "good" war in Afghanistan--remember when it was the "good" war?). Yet 9/11 did not require war in Iraq--still in the future--to inspire hatred to kill us. And we are not fighting in Iraq now. Yet that did not stop jihadi rage in Boston this year. Heck, if the Iraq War caused the jihadi rage, why aren't the ranks of jihadi terror groups filled with Iraqis burning for revenge?

Yet despite this monumental ability to understand (and accept) jihadi rage, if even a few of us do something wrong, like the hazing and humiliation at the military prison at Abu Ghraib (there was no torture in that scandal, recall) or an errant air strike (which is complicated because our enemies often surround themselves with civilians and dress like civilians, too), it becomes an excuse for people here to argue that the crimes (or honest mistakes) of a few of us justify the anger of all Moslems against all of us and excuse their murders of us.

Yes, blame has been a one-way street. If we kill, it is our fault and when they kill--it's still our fault. When our enemies kill us, why don't we see that as a reason to hate our enemies? I'm not asking that we hate all Moslems--I've been clear on that. I just want us to work up a good focused hate on those who hate and kill us until we win the war.

When we kill our enemies, why don't we warn against the pending unjustified "backlash" against Westerners (or just non-jihadi Moslems for that matter) by Moslems in response? Why don't we also ponder the answers to the question "why do we hate them?" and list the many answers that revolve around the killings, failings, and crimes of the Moslem world that justify our anger and our war? Is that so hard? Could we try that for just a little while to see what that is like?

Good grief, you'd think that if anything was ready made to be a villain in the left--especially the radical feminists' world--it would be the oppressive patriarchy of the radical Islamic world that the jihadis fight to create! But no, Dick Cheney is the homophobic villain to fleck the spittle. Amazingly, Code Pink hags who'd be shut away in the dark (try out Code Black and Baggy) if jihadis ruled get all angry at holding jihadis at Guantanamo Bay! In what world does this even make sense?

Despite more than a decade of responding with war to jihadi anger that targeted America long before 9/11, too many here just never really thought of our country as a nation at war defending itself. And now we will officially end the war after the "mission accomplished" speech our president just gave.

But just as the war in Iraq did not end when we left and now accelerates despite President Obama's claim he "responsibly ended" that war, the global war on terror will continue even without us. We will be attacked again by jihadis who will gain the opportunity to plot more and bigger attacks on us. Perhaps out of sanctuaries in Pakistan or Afghanistan (where our president also says we are "ending" the war soon).

For the jihadis, war as a one-way street where only they wage war and we get killed is the ideal jihad. You'd think our president--who for a while embraced drone strikes as our one-way war against jihadis--would understand that preference. Instead, we seem intent on giving this ideal form of war to the jihadis in the hope that even jihadis can get tired of slaughtering us if we remain very, very quiet and don't give offense by actually waging war in return too much.

We should be able to see which way this is going. Have a super sparkly day.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Turning Away from War and Exposing Our Rear

If Franklin Roosevelt had announced after the Battle of Midway that core Imperial Japanese Navy had been defeated and so we were on the path to defeat; and we would from now on limit our carrier strikes to cases where Japanese attacks were a continuing and imminent threat--and only if civilian casualties were almost impossible--I would hope that we'd have had the guts to say, "That's just stupid."

But FDR kept at the war until Imperial Japan was absolutely crushed under the weight of Navy- and Army-led offensives, submarine warfare, and aerial bombardment up to and including two atomic strikes; and then took their surrender aboard a battleship anchored in Tokyo Bay.

It was once said that the war on terror would not be won so clearly as to have a formal surrender on the decks of USS Missouri. It was a sign of sophistication to understand that.

Now we won't even pretend to have any type of victory at all. The war is over. We're tired, it's expensive, and we have better things to do.

We were too tired of war to even send a small force to Benghazi on September 11, 2012, despite the tens of thousands of military personnel within range. Yes, our weapons of war will become mere props in security theater (Iowa below).

We want to turn back time and aren't too proud to say we are sorry our 2001 authorization to use force might have hurt the feelings of our enemies.

But our enemies aren't tired. Already that receding tide of war washed up in Boston and London. All wars end, it is true. If our enemies won't surrender, maybe we will.

Maybe we did.

And we're just counting on luck not to face the consequences, or hope only those overseas will endure the attacks that will follow responsibly ending another war.

Oh, and just a note on our continuing fight to crush Japan even after Midway. Today Japan is a prosperous and free nation that is a good friend and ally. But modern definitions of compassion would have led us to end the Pacific War after defeating the immediate threat, and let Imperial Japan survive. It would have been stupid to stop before victory then, you'll have to agree.

Three for Three?

Hey. Just wait one minute. Didn't the president "responsibly end" the Iraq War?

It's almost like you can't just deem a war over:

Unresolved sectarian tensions, inflamed by the raging civil war in neighboring Syria, have combined to send violence in Iraq to its highest level since Obama withdrew the last U.S. troops in December 2011, U.S. officials and Middle East analysts say.

A Sunni Muslim insurgency against the Shi'ite-led Baghdad government has also been reawakened. The insurgents' defeat had been a major outcome of then-President George W. Bush's troop "surge" in 2007.

The deteriorating situation - largely overshadowed by a Syrian civil war that has killed 80,000 people - has prompted what U.S. officials describe as an intense, mostly behind-the-scenes effort to curb the violence and get Iraqis back to political negotiations.

The article says we are working to resolve the problems--and I did read back in March that our CIA has reinforced the Iraqis to help with counter-terrorism operations.

But the article also says that Iraqis don't really look to us for solutions. Which, if true, demonstrates why I wanted to keep troops in Iraq after 2011. My hopes of 25,000 American troops to include three combat brigades is just a sad hope now. I wanted troops there to provide all the factions with the confidence that a powerful force was present to keep factions from going outside the bounds of politics to resolve disputes. Take away that fear of losing the usual Middle East way (death, prison, or refugee status abroad) and habits of democracy (and rule of law) could be cultivated.

Maybe Iraq will endure this storm raging in from Syria and from within. Maybe the Sunni Arabs will pull back from another bout of extreme stupidity and refuse to revolt. Maybe the Shias will be able to ignore the radical pro-Iran elements within their ranks. Maybe the Kurds will find away to resolve disputes with Arabs about the borders of the Kurdish region in light of past Saddam-era ethnic cleansing of Kurdish regions. It is possible that our behind-the-scenes efforts will be enough.

But I sure do worry that we are blowing the sacrifice of 4500 dead Americans and expenditures north of $700 billion (if my memory serves me).

Mind you, smashing Saddam's regime was a worthwhile goal. He was an evil enemy who aspired to (again) have WMD in his arsenal. Good riddance.

But if we don't find value in a democratic Iraq that serves as an ally and sets an example for an alternative to autocracy or mullah rule for Moslems, we could have pulled out our troops about 4,000 casualties ago when we captured Saddam. We would have risked sectarian warfare. But that is what we risk now from our own short-sightedness after winning the counter-insurgency that followed the defeat of Saddam's government, and at least many of our deaths would have been avoided.

Sure, the level of Iraqi deaths would have been far more intense as we see what Syria is going through now. But the international community seems fine with that, now doesn't it?

President Obama responsibly ended the Iraq War. He promises to do the same in Afghanistan. And he announced the end of the war on terror. God help us all.

PRE-POST UPDATE: Strategypage has a lengthy post on Iraq. Well worth the read. Remember, one of the successes of the 2007 surge and Iraq's post-surge Charge of the Knights operation in Basra was the suppression of the Shia death squads that returned the Sunni Arab slaughter of Shias with a Shia-led slaughter of Sunni Arabs. Al Qaeda, Sunni Arabs more generally, and Shia are all returning to their killing ways. We're still far from the dark days of late summer and fall 2006, but that shouldn't be too comforting right now.

So It's Bad That We Don't Feel at War?

I tell you what. I've felt at war every day since 9/11. I've read every casualty notice--as small a gesture as that is. But I'm grateful that our military can defend us without mobilizing the civilian population for total war in the name of identifying with the military. I don't think the so-called civilian-military divide is a problem.

Honestly, I think our country is doing pretty well in supporting our troops abroad without having ration books to remind us in our daily lives that we are at war. Our people certainly think highly of our military. This article is just silly in its solutions to a so-called civilian-military divide.

Let's start with their assessment that our leaders don't serve:

For nearly two generations, no American has been obligated to join up, and few do. Less than 0.5 percent of the population serves in the armed forces, compared with more than 12 percent during World War II. Even fewer of the privileged and powerful shoulder arms. In 1975, 70 percent of members of Congress had some military service; today, just 20 percent do, and only a handful of their children are in uniform.

I'm no math major, but if 20 members of the 538 people in Congress served in uniform, that's 3.7% Now correct me if I'm wrong, but if 0.5% of the population serves in the military, isn't Congress doing okay? Sure, that 0.5% is for those currently serving in uniform versus those who have ever served for the Congressional percentage, so maybe that is where the slacking comes in. With 23.4 million veterans out of a population of 315.9 million people, the veteran population is 7.4%

So okay, members of Congress are half as likely as the average person to have served in the military. You'd have to adjust this somewhat I'm sure, since you don't have to be a citizen to be a veteran but you have to be an American citizen to be in Congress, pulling the Congressional veteran rate down.

Also, 10% of veterans are female while 19% of Congressional delegates are female. Just with having more females in Congress than in the veteran population will reduce the overall service record of Congress compared to the general population.

So the service statistics cited in the article are skewed to make the service problem worse than it is. Is it significant that Congress has at least half the rate of military experience as the general population? I'm not so sure it is that significant. Perhaps if the Congressional experience was a tenth of the general public's experience that would be too low.

As for a separation from the public, if you assume each veteran has two parents, 1.2 siblings, and 2.2 children, then over 126 million Americans have some close relationship with someone who has served in the military. Sure, there will be overlap with family traditions of service; and while parents for older veterans shouldn't be in there, I don't count grandchildren or even close friends.

Excuse me for saying this, but if you don't know someone who has served in the military, maybe your social circle is a little inbred? Hey, maybe our left shouldn't assume soldiers are stupid failures who can't make it in the civilian world and are all potential war criminals one bomb blast away from committing atrocities? Hmm?

I just don't see the civilian-military divide. Just look at the attention our military gets on Memorial Day, on the 4th of July, and on Veterans Day. You want civilian-military divide, go back to pre-World War I when the military was looked down and and had lots of immigrants (an entire corps in Grant's army was German speaking!).

As for the old slam that the enlisted ranks are recruited from the lower socio-economic classes, this is not really true but will not die as a belief in some quarters. The military doesn't want dummies. It might have made for tight military-civilian relations when the military needed lots of cannon fodder, no matter what their brain power, but are you really eager for that "solution?"

There's some drivel about how the military fights that I won't bother with. It's word-count filler, as far as I can tell. I expect more from one of our generals.

The authors note that we've deployed the military 144 times in the 40 years since we ended the draft in 1973, but only 19 times in the 27 years of 1946 to 1973, as if the public cares less about volunteers than draftees--when the wealthy and better educated could legally evade the draft. But the prior period included 11 years of war (Korea and Vietnam) where about 95,000 military personnel died. Compare that to about 7,300 dead in the volunteer era, mostly in Iraq and Afghanistan. So explain to me again how we are more casual with the lives of volunteer soldiers?

We'd also be less likely to send troops to smaller fights when we had major wars to fight like Korea and Vietnam. And the volunteer era includes 24 post-Cold War years when the need to focus on the Soviet threat ended, making it easier to send troops abroad without weakening the central fight.

But let's move on to their actual proposed solutions to this terrible non-problem.

One, a draft:

Let’s start with a draft lottery. Americans neither need nor want a vast conscript force, but a lottery that populated part of the ranks with draftees would reintroduce the notion of service as civic obligation. The lottery could be activated when volunteer recruitments fell short, and weighted to select the best-educated and most highly skilled Americans, providing an incentive for the most privileged among us to pay greater heed to military matters.

What!? We haven't fallen short in recruiting even during war. And if we had a shortfall of a few thousand we'd fill it with a national draft less likely to select an individual than a lottery ticket would have the chance of being a winner? That's stupid. And expensive. And irrelevant.


The Pentagon could also restore the so-called Total Force Doctrine, which shaped the early years of the all-volunteer force but was later dismantled. It called for a large-scale call-up of the Reserves and National Guard at the start of any large, long deployment.

How large do these authors want mobilization to be? Even with just 60,000 fighting in Afghanistan, we have 55,000 reservists mobilized right now! I don't know how to break it to these authors, but we require a large-scale call-up right now!

Surely, their suggestions get better, won't they?

Congress must also take on a larger role in war-making. Its last formal declarations of war were during World War II. It’s high time to revisit the recommendation, made in 2008 by the bipartisan National War Powers Commission, to replace the 1973 War Powers Act, which requires notification of Congress after the president orders military action, with a mandate that the president consult with Congress before resorting to force.

Huh. Before both the Afghanistan War and before the Iraq War, Congress authorized those wars. So their solution doesn't seem to address the problem they claim exists. Or do they think prior authorization only counts if we call in the soon-to-be enemy ambassador, slap him across the face with white gloves, read from a friggin' scroll unfurled before them, and utter the magic words, "we declare war!"?

And just for laughs, for the Libya War there was neither a Congressional authorization nor a post-conflict initiation compliance with the War Powers Act. But we need a new law involving Congress in addition to the Constitution and the War Powers Act?

Let's move on:

Congress should also insist that wars be paid for in real time. Levying special taxes, rather than borrowing, to finance “special appropriations” would compel the body politic to bear the fiscal burden — and encourage citizens to consider war-making a political choice they were involved in, not a fait accompli they must accept.

World War II--that Golden Era of tight military-civilian relations--couldn't have been fought at all under those rules. And what we fight for benefits future generations. That's why we borrow money to build roads and other capital expenditures--why should the generation that builds something have to pay for something that future generations will also use?

Maybe non-defense expenditures could be cut for the duration, eh? Maybe no more federal employee paid conferences for a start. Surely there are other luxury expenditures we can put off until V Whatever Day?

But hey, the authors wrap it up strong!

Other measures to strengthen citizen engagement with the military should include decreased reliance on contractors for noncombat tasks, so that the true size of the force would be more transparent; integrating veteran and civilian hospitals and rehabilitation facilities, which would let civilians see war’s wounded firsthand; and shrinking self-contained residential neighborhoods on domestic military bases, so that more service members could pray, play and educate their children alongside their fellow Americans. Schools, the media and organs of popular culture also have a duty to help promote civic vigilance.

Anti-contractor bias is just silly. Why should hiring people who for the most part don't fight--and who are cheaper in the long run--hurt our public's appreciation for those who fight in uniform? Large numbers of uniformed service personnel are an artifact of the draft era when cheap soldiers could do jobs that in the past would have been done by contractors. We're going back to traditional practices here. Good grief, World War II is not our entire military tradition as much as you might wish it to be.

Integrating civilian and veteran hospitals would reduce the care for veterans who have wounds, injuries, and diseases that are rare in the civilian world. Far more numerous civilians would swamp the veterans, and veteran care would suffer. This shows respect for the military?

As for integrating civilian and military neighborhoods, military neighborhoods oddly enough cluster around military bases--which are mostly in the south. Unless we forcibly relocate the Upper West Side to Augusta, Georgia, for example, this is nonsense on stilts.

But hey, if one suggestion is that our media--including reporters--should finally get a clue about military operations, military history, and the people who join the military, I'm all in for that.

God, I'm exhausted. Arggghhhh!!! This was the biggest load of dross I've read all month. And that says something in a world that includes Tom Friedman.

There, I'm in the proper frame of mind to hate on Chicago as the Red Wings take to the ice in a few minutes. So I'll thank Eikenberry and Kennedy for that kindness.

UPDATE: I'm thinking the civilian-federal gap might be a greater problem.

UPDATE: Oh, and I'm grateful to our military that I don't feel the crushing fear of being at war every day. But perhaps we'll get lucky and experience Boston bombings more frequently to increase that good feeling of being at war along with our military.

UPDATE: This got to me during the Iraq War. Many opponents of the war decried that civilians didn't "feel" the war. They did that not to close civilian-military ties but to burden civilians so they'd turn against the troops at war, and so hasten our defeat in the war. Our military is strong enough to insulate us from much of the direct burdens of war in our own neighborhoods. That's a good thing.


New Robins.

I worried I'd drop my iPod Touch on the little buggers as I held the device over the top of the fence and snapped the picture blind. But just one since the mother Robin was perched (I assume) nervously a few feet away.

Funny, when Lamb and I were rebuilding the rock garden, I noticed a Robin that appeared to be trying to draw me away from near the nest. But I didn't see the nest so assumed I was wrong about the behavior.

Then Sunday I heard the young birds chirping away and noticed them on the top of a fence post next door to me!

Perhaps Gun Owners Should Be Forced to use Safari?

This is pretty good:

Technically, that's number of murders rather than a murder rate, but you get the point.

Tip to Instapundit.

All Your Powers are Belong to Us

The Department of Health and Human Services does not have any money appropriated by Congress to carry out certain functions related to ObamaCare implementation. Secretary Sebelius has been soliciting private funds to pay for those functions in the absence of Congressional appropriations. That is simply wrong.

People have noticed the HHS end run around the appropriations process:

A select Joint Committee of Congress report on the scandal released in November 1987 stated that “Congress’s exclusive control of the expenditure of funds cannot legally be evaded through the use of gifts or donations to the executive branch.”

Alexander said yesterday in an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal that “if the money being raised by Ms. Sebelius is being spent to do an end-run around Congress, then the Obama administration had better brush up on its Iran-Contra history.”

This offended me the first time I heard about it. Somebody needs to brush up on separation of powers in the various branches of the government.

I know some defenders of Sebelius are saying that since Congress passed ObamaCare that Congress has an obligation to fund it. Sadly, one Congress cannot lock future Congresses into set actions.

And we don't need to go as far back as Iran-Contra. That logic certainly didn't work when one Congress declared war on Iraq in 2002 and a later Congress in 2007 attempted to de-fund the Iraq War.

Hey, just what would people be saying if Congress had de-funded the war effort to stop a legally declared war and President Bush had solicited private or foreign funds to keep the war going?

If Sebelius wants to appropriate money she should run for Congress. Otherwise, she gets to execute with what she is given by Congress and approved by the president.

Memorial Day 2013

I served in uniform. I did my duty. But Memorial Day always reminds me of how little I did as a reservist who was never sent in harm's way.

I remain deeply grateful that the price of my life going on has been the lives of so many others in our history who paid the ultimate price for doing their duty.

Today, we pay tribute to those patriots who never came back -- who fought for a home to which they never returned, and died for a country whose gratitude they will always have... Scripture teaches us that "greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
--President Obama, today.

Now, of course, my flag is at half-staff. At noon it will be raised to its full height as this picture shows.

UPDATE: From a veteran who lost sailors in Iraq:

Knowing firsthand the hardships of combat gives me all the more reason to admire and stand in awe of those who marched with Washington and gave their lives for the United States of America. Most will never be depicted in bronze, but their sacrifices matter. The legions of American warriors since then who sacrificed their lives have not done so eagerly, nor have they done so blindly. They acted willingly because they believed in a great nation that is worth fighting and dying for.

Memorial Day is a living monument to them, a recognition of freedom's cost. May we never take those sacrifices for granted.

Read it all.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

My Garden Reborn

Lamb helped me redesign my garden on Saturday. We expanded and rebuilt the rock perimeter, put in new red rocks, added a fountain (behind Lamb), and planted a new shrub--in the rock circle below.

Lamb was eager to work and offered good suggestions for design.

Yes, those are Lamb's stuffed animals in the window behind the rock garden.

Trying the Target on for Size

China will send 500 or 600 troops to Mali to help settle the post-bitskrieg situation. Thanks!

China will gain good will from Mali, ill will from jihadis, and the Tuaregs are uncertain depending on what the Chinese do in Mali, I suppose:

"China has offered between 500 and 600 soldiers," one senior diplomat said. "We don't have details yet on what kind of troops they would be providing."

Another UN diplomat confirmed the numbers, saying: "It is a significant move by China."

Both diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity as talks are continuing. At least 155 of the Chinese troops are expected to be engineers, a UN official said.

I guess the jihadis will put Peking on their target list, now. I mean, just being in a Moslem country pisses jihadis off, right?

Disapproval Theater

We rely on sanctions more than ever as an alternative to using military power. But sanctions are unlikely to be a decisive alternative to war even when they raise the cost of doing business for the targeted state or entity.

Sanctions aren't changing policies of states we oppose:

In a world bristling with bad actors, and especially at a time when the country is wary of another war, sanctions have an obvious appeal—and limited impact. Sanctions have failed to dissuade Iran from continuing to enrich uranium. They haven’t dislodged North Korea’s repressive and erratic leaders or forced a rollback of their nuclear and missile programs. For all the international pressure on Syria’s Assad, the regime is getting more ruthless, not less, and the policy debate in Washington has moved on to how much military support to provide the rebels.

That record hasn’t stopped Congress from seeking to pile even more sanctions on the U.S.’s adversaries.

There's nothing wrong with raising the cost of acting contrary to our wishes and interests. And sanctions certainly set us apart from the target nations' actions. So there's value there.

But sanctions are unlikely to achieve our objectives peacefully for the simple reason that any sanctions that hurt a target nation enough to compel them to change their priority policies more to our liking will be sanctions tough enough to seem like an act of war to the target nation's leadership. So sanctions tough enough to work will likely just compel the target nation to escalate to military action as their response.

Japan did not endure our 1941 oil embargo or change their policy toward China--they attacked us at Pearl Harbor to clear the way for a general assault on the resources of Southeast Asia. And any trade sanctions weak enough to allow Japan's leaders to believe that they could cope would not have been enough to compel a change in Japan's China policies.

So sanctions as an alternative to war will not generally work. If tough enough to compel a change in behavior, they will likely be considered an asymmetric act of war by the target nation that will then escalate to military action. And if not tough enough to be seen as an act of war, the sanctions can be endured.

Sanctions can buy time to increasing the cost of an action to a target nation. And express our displeasure. Which makes us feel better about ourselves. And sanctions may even weaken a target state prior to escalation to war.

But as a substitute for war sanctions are not what they are cracked up to be.

Although just in case the sanctions on Iran hurt the mullahs more than it appears, this is a wise precaution:

Just nine months after hosting the biggest multinational mine-warfare exercises “ever” to be held in and around the Persian Gulf, the Navy’s 5th Fleet and its foreign partners outdid themselves with a second, even larger wargame. More than 20 nations participated in September’s International Mine Counter-Measures Exercise 2012, collaborating against fictional ecoterrorists whose capabilities were suspiciously similar to the real-world arsenal of Iran. This month, 41 nations and some private-sector companies participated in IMCMEX 2013, which despite the name expanded beyond minesweeping to practice protecting civilian oil tankers, oil rigs, ports, and even desalinization plants as well.

You never can tell.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Not Paranoid--Just Careful

Humor on the IRS scandal (tip to Instapundit). I'd like to note that I posted this before the scandal broke into the news.

Not that I was targeted. I'm not delusional--well, not the grandeur variety, at least.

I am just aware of their tremendous power to punish even when you "win" an argument with them.

Watching Them Search for Us

To sink our carriers, the Chinese have to find them. So the carrier games begin.

Strategypage writes:

As China sends more long-range maritime patrol aircraft out over the West Pacific (to search for American warships, especially carriers), the U.S. is reviving some Cold War era practices it used against Russian maritime patrol aircraft. Mainly this involves sending land-based P-3 maritime patrol aircraft out to keep track of their Chinese counterparts. This task could be done with carrier aircraft, but this would confirm that an American carrier was less than 500 kilometers away.

Cooperation between land-based air power and sea power has always been important, notwithstanding notions that Air-Sea Battle doctrine is a novel way to approach war at sea.

The King of Slaughter, Too

In the Battle for Qusair, which lies on an important supply rout to Homs from Lebanon, Syrian artillery is battering the rebel defenders. With all the talk of Assad's so-called devastating air power, this artillery is the real threat to the rebels.

The battle rages in Qusair:

Saturday's barrage of rockets, mortar rounds and tank shells began after daybreak, said Qusair activist Hadi Abdullah and the pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is based in Britain. Both said it was the most intense shelling since the regime launched its offensive there a week ago.

They also reported heavy gunfire. The Observatory said at least seven people were killed.

The intense shelling could be heard in Lebanon's border areas and in the Syrian city of Homs, some 25 kilometers (15 miles) away.

A NATO no-fly zone and strikes on Assad's airfields would have no impact on this battle.

One Giant Party-Caused Disaster

Chinese social network sites that help individuals react faster than the government in reacting to natural disasters are unnerving to Chinese Communist Party authorities.

After all, mobilizing people for natural disasters provides practice for mobilizing people for political disasters:

The original Dictator’s Dilemma refers to an authoritarian government’s competing interest in using information communication technology by expanding access to said technology while seeking to control the democratizing influences of this technology. In contrast, the “Dictator’s Disaster Lemma” refers to a repressive regime confronted with effectively networked humanitarian response at the grassroots level, which improves collective action and activism in political contexts as well. But said regime cannot prevent people from helping each other during natural disasters as this could backfire against the regime.

Certainly, the Chinese leadership can be pleased with how their troops can react to peacetime natural disaster. Moving fast and exercising command and control for an unexpected mission is good training for wartime missions, obviously.

The problem for Peking is that effective popular response to natural disasters is good training for policital missions, too. But how does China prevent that help/practice without looking evil?

Taxing Their Judgment?

Soldiers are required to obey only lawful orders from those legally placed above them in their chain of command--and do this under fire, if necessary, even without much of a background in the Uniform Code of Military Justice or international law on warfare.

I think we should be able to expect IRS employees to do the same even if their coffee grows cold while listening to a superior tell them how to treat Tea Party applications.

Dear Gloria

[UPDATE 4: Wow, less than a day after my tremendous act of patience and forgiveness, today--31 JUL 13--some stupid law firm calls me to tell me they are calling about Gloria D. and that they are a collection agency. They want me to call them at 866-599-6068. So the name goes back up. Gloria D. has wrongly given me as a credit reference and if I ever find her ...]

[UPDATE 3: It has been a while since I've gotten any calls or mail for this woman, so in the spirit of generosity and I don't want to hear her name again, I'm getting rid of her name on this post.]

It may be time for a credit intervention for someone intertwined in my life, [Name Redacted]. Dearest [Name Redacted] has invested a great deal of confidence in me to provide creditors with an avenue to communicate with [Name Redacted] when she allegedly fails to pay her debts.

I'm of course touched by [Name Redacted]'s faith in me--despite never having met her--and so this post is an effort to pass along yet another urgent message seeking Ms. [Name Redacted]. (She's not affiliated with me! Sorry, my daughter has been watching The Incredibles a lot lately.)

Anyway, [Name Redacted] neglected to provide me with email, mailing, or phone information in order to carry out my contact role that she clearly intends for me to fulfill. So in desperation I am taking to the Internet in the hopes that [Name Redacted] will get this message so she can finally clear up what I am sure is a terrible misunderstanding with another creditor. The letter did say that they could forward this information to a credit reporting agency, and it pains me to contemplate that.

Dearest [Name Redacted], this week I received a letter from EOS, CCA notifying you (through my address) of a "notice of collection placement." Apparently, AT & T Mobility believes you owe them $190.50. I didn't look closely at the address in the large stack of mail I had that day and only noticed the last name on the envelope. I wasn't wearing glasses.

Although in fairness I have good reason to believe that [Name Redacted] intended for me to open the letter given that I know Ms. [Name Redacted] has told another creditor that I am the person who can reach [Name Redacted]. So how could I not open a letter to [Name Redacted] when she is so obviously counting on me to reach her with important information?

But thank goodness I did open it since I didn't have [Name Redacted]'s address to simply forward the letter to her! So [Name Redacted], if you would send me your current contact information (see email at the left) I could directly send mail and phone inquiries your way (and scrub these online references to your name to protect your good credit name, of course). In good conscience and with a sense of duty imposed on me, I cannot let you down in my efforts to pass along information with whatever means are available.

Anyway, [Name Redacted], please use the client reference number 230649668 and the agency account number 6209138 when you call EOS CCA toll free at 1-877-667-6048. The letter says if you don't dispute this within 30 days of May 17 (the date on the letter), they will assume the debt is valid. Since time is of the essence I obviously couldn't wait for you to contact me first.

Oh, and [Name Redacted]? The notice says you can pay by credit card if you so choose. Perhaps that's just amusing to me.

UPDATE: I wonder if this statute applies? On the bright side for [Name Redacted], if so this is still a misdemeanor.

UPDATE: For those student loans I was named as a reference for by [Name Redacted], there could be problems if they fall under federal law. I bet they would considering I get three pages of hits when searching for that statute while limiting the sites to State of Michigan pages.


Hey, remember when the argument was made that our presence in Iraq was what caused sectarian violence and that if only we'd leave completely, we'd eliminate the cause of that violence?

Our military has been out of Iraq for a year and a half now. Violence in Iraq is picking up:

Gunmen killed at least seven soldiers in central Iraq on Thursday, officials said, in the latest episode of violence to hit the country in a particularly bloody month. ...

The attacks followed a spike in violence that has left nearly 300 dead over the past 10 days. Alarmed by a nationwide deterioration in the security situation, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has ordered a reshuffle in senior military ranks.

Deadly enemies, sectarian differences, al Qaeda and Iranian efforts to destabilize Iraq, corruption in the security forces, and war in Syria combine to increase Iraqi deaths with nary an American in sight.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Planes Have to Land Somewhere

The ultimate air superiority is helping rebel forces standing on Assad's air bases.

Should we attack Assad's air power and air fields? This opinion piece argues we should:

The Syrian air force is capable of aerial bombardment, close air support to ground troops, aerial resupply and delivery of chemical weapons. Assad has used all those capabilities over the past two years to fight the rebels and to kill tens of thousands of civilians. But in the past year, the rebels—armed with heavy weapons and possibly with shoulder-fired Stinger missiles—have become more proficient at shooting down helicopters, reportedly as many as 20 so far.

What is keeping Assad in power is his use of fighter planes. If the U.S. wants to break the military stalemate, force Assad into political concessions or aid in his ouster, eliminating his air power should be the first order of business.

I don't think Assad's air power is that critical for his success. His heavy armor and artillery are far more destructive than air attacks. My impression is that Assad isn't flying that many missions. So I went for statistics.

Even with apparent increased tempo (the source for data changed), Assad is carrying out about 4 strike sorties per day.

Consider that when we got down to 4 strike sorties per day in Afghanistan, it was considered low. At peak, it was more than 30 per day and generally 10 or more per day. Against fewer insurgents. With more effectiveness due to accuracy and intelligence. And we have been very restrictive in our use of air power. Our capacity was much greater so the sortie limits were political.

And this Syrian "increase" is suspect. I have no doubt that Iran and Russia are bolstering Syria's maintenance capabilities, but given the lack of pilots, is the sortie rate really up this year when late last year, 20 strike sorties per day seemed possible for Assad?

Remember, Assad's fortunes have seemed to rise lately even as the sortie rate does not match what was achieved when the rebels were forcing Assad to retreat from areas outside his core area. The keys for Assad have been abandoning outer areas in the north and east and the infusion of 60,000 loyal militias on the ground, thus increasing his force-to-space ratio dramatically.

If we want to help the rebels cope with Assad's air power, get them heavy machine guns to hit helicopters and keep aircraft higher (and so more inaccurate). And give them infantry weapons to cope with armor and supplies to sustain attacks on Assad's bases where the air power sorties from. Heck, send them rockets to allow the rebels to hit the airfields from farther away.

I agree that Syria's air defenses aren't as awesome as many critics of air action say to justify withholding air missions. I think the missions are unnecessary and merely Americanize the fight. The rebels want to fight. Help them fight where it counts--on the ground.

Bleed those new militias and nobody will be left to hold the airfields.