Wednesday, July 31, 2013

In For Quite the Pound

Iran is deeply involved in propping up Assad. Apparently, worries about "owning" Syria by intervening are a feature and not a bug. Nor are the Iranians worried about "tainting" Assad by supporting him so heavily.

The monetary side of the backing is impressive:

"An agreement was signed (on Monday) in Tehran... by the Iranian and Syrian central banks, granting Syria a credit line worth $3.6 billion," it reported.

The deal stipulates that Syria will pay back the cost of the oil loan "through Iranian investments of various kinds in Syria", said SANA.

I wonder what kind of assets is Syria selling to Iran?

That financial backing is crucial for a poor state to pay for war amidst the loss of income from losing control of most of the country.

With Syria's ground forces crippled by losses, desertions, and morale problems, Iran has made the biggest contribution on the battlefield by organizing a Shia Foreign Legion to provide shock troops to lead advances against rebels. This force is more than just Hezbollah:

The Iranian mercenaries have made all the difference for the government forces. Iran has been recruiting Shia gunmen in Iraq, Lebanon and elsewhere for the last few months and providing transportation to Syria, weapons when they arrive and regular pay. The Iranians also encourage Shia men from around the world to come join the fight against Sunni radicalism (which often results in terror attacks on Shia civilians). More than 10,000 of these Iranian mercenaries have given the Assad forces armed fanatics to match the Islamic radicals among the rebels who have often been a key element on the battlefield.

Rebel victory is no longer imminent, says Strategypage. Fair enough. By shrinking his realm and expanding his ground forces with an influx of militias and these foreign legions, Assad has been able to counter-attack and make gains within a smaller campaign area.

While Assad has stabilized his Core Syria from the coast and down past Damascus, his counter-offensive has not knocked out the rebels. And our efforts to train, organize, and arm rebels is finally starting to kick in. The rebels can even hope that NATO will intervene, led by American forces, to hit Assad's forces. Nailing down Greek support for our use of naval facilities in Crete--on top of British efforts to ready Cyprus for a crisis--can't hurt our efforts there.

So while the rebels have been knocked back, they aren't knocked out. What has been the attrition for Assad's forces over the summer, especially in the new militias? Assad's air power is wearing out, leaving the war to ground forces.

The rebels will adapt as Assad's offensive peters out. Assad might even be tempted to expand his realm in the belief that he is on a roll, over-extending his ground forces in a premature effort to start the reconquest of all of Syria.

If not for Iranian and Russian backing, rebels might really be hammering a desperate Assad by now. Perhaps they even would have won by now. But Iran is trying to win, untainted by notions of "owning" Syria, "tainting" the government, or even the "futility" of a military solution. You have to at least admire a side that simplistically believes in winning a war.

As Western and Arab support for the rebels gears up, the momentum of the war may shift back to the rebels in the fall if the government's forces are tired and stretched enough from their current counter-offensives.

UPDATE: Rebels struck back:

Rebels sent a wave of rockets slamming into regime strongholds in the central city of Homs on Thursday, triggering a succession of massive explosions in a weapons depot that killed at least 40 people and wounded dozens, an opposition group and residents said.

The attack — one of the most potent against pro-government districts in the area — overshadowed a rare trip by President Bashar Assad to a former opposition bastion outside the capital, Damascus, during which he defiantly vowed in front of troops to defeat the rebels fighting to topple him.

Assad seized the initiative to make some gains over the rebels. But Assad did no knock the rebels out. The rebels will adapt and the fight will go on. Can Assad expand his ground forces while enduring heavy casualties? Is a Shia Foreign Legion an adequate substitute?

It Takes a Village to Blow a Bubble

How to get President Obama out of his bubble?

Please, the bubble is much larger than the president. He could walk for days on end and never reach the perimeter of that bubble.

Tip to Instapundit.

From the "That's Effing Great" File

Could al Qaeda attack Guantanamo Bay?

While capturing jihadis is necessary for the intelligence that can be gained by questioning them, deep down I feel it is safer to just kill them all when we get the chance. Obviously, once we capture them we can't just shoot them. But killng them on the battlefield seems the safest way to deal with them.

Unless we planted GPS trackers in their large intestines, this isn't good:

In an operation carried out with military-like precision, Taliban fighters disguised as police and armed with bombs broke 250 prisoners out of a Pakistan jail on Tuesday with the help of what appeared to be insider informants.

The attack in the city of Dera Ismail Khan showed the ability of the al Qaeda-linked Pakistani Taliban to strike at the heart of Pakistan's heavily guarded prison system and walk away with dozens of senior Taliban fighters and commanders.

After the Iraq failure to repel an al Qaeda rescue mission on a couple prisons that allowed the escape of hundreds of jihadis, this puts a different spin on the notion that our enemies are "on the run."

You know, the propaganda value of even a failed al Qaeda assault on Guantanamo Bay would be enormous. Could al Qaeda land and crash land several smallish planes into the base and unload assault teams armed with suicide vests? Some of the planes could be used 9/11-like to crash into our barracks.

Is Venezuela safe enough for jihadis to organize such an attack? Could some captives even be flown over the wire to land in Cuban territory to make it an official escape?

Is this something our military and security people even think about?

UPDATE: It's something al Qaeda thinks about, apparently. Said Zawahri of the jihadis in Guantanamo Bay:

“We pledge to God that we will spare no effort to free all our prisoners, on top of whom are Omar Abdel Rahman, Aafia Siddiqui, Khaled Sheikh Mohammed and every oppressed Muslim everywhere ...,” he added, referring to prominent Islamist militants held by the United States.

The reporter assumes Zawahri meant kidnapping Westerners to exchange for the jihadis. That's unlikely to work. Is it really unthinkable that Gitmo could be a target for a prison raid? Do you really think passing messages to coordinate such an attack is beneath some of those disgusting attorneys working for the jihadis?

UPDATE: I hope we work hard to track down the attackers and help the Iraqis and Pakistanis kill or capture them. I'm thinking that the veterans of those attacks would make great recruits for the Gitmo Gambit. Heck, as long as I'm speculating, assaults on Iraqi and Pakistani prisons would make could practice runs, wouldn't they?

No Good Time Goes Unpunished

Oh my God.

I was on vacation and didn't run for three weeks. On Monday I ran again. And again today.

Before I went on vacation, I ran 2.4 miles for the first time this year. I figured that if I could run more than usual, when I returned and ran 2 miles it would be all okay.

But my goodness, I'm in agony running 2 miles. And I'm doing it about a minute and a half longer than pre-vacation time. How could I have deteriorated so much in just three weeks? Is it any wonder that after a winter off I can't even think about 2 miles for 5 or 6 weeks of easing in?

Never get out of the effing boat. I really must resolve to keep running through the winter. One of these years the agony of starting over is just going to seem like too much effort to get through.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Why This is a Long War

So far, as long as there are limits on how long the government holds phone call meta-data and limits on doing more than traffic analysis on limited data for cause, I can't get overly upset about the NSA revelations. There is a "however" in this acceptance.

However, I've long complained that we need to win the long war or face increasingly limited civil liberties as we ratchet up domestic security to protect us from a foreign problem. It is natural for Americans to feel as if we are being targeted by our government while our enemies get outreaches.

The military campaigns we've waged in Afghanistan and Iraq--and the drone campaign more broadly--are a narrow aspect of the Long War against Islamo-fascist ideology.

As much as the Arab Spring makes some want to retreat to the false security of friendly despots, haven't we learned that friendly despots stoked Islamism as much as the jihadis? The despots wanted tame Islamism, to be sure, but the despots were part of the problem we face with nutballery coming out of the Islamic world.

And Lord knows, there is nutball insanity in that corner of the world:

Turkish officials detained a bird after villagers accused it of spying for Israel's intelligence agency, the Mossad, but then freed the winged creature after X-rays cleared it of suspicion.

Are you effing kidding me? Sadly, no.

And this is in Turkey, which is supposed to be one of the least nutball-friendly Moslem states. But perhaps they earn their status by actually x-raying the bird rather than killing it on the spot.

So we need to work on the Arab Spring to bend it to sanity. It may take decades or generations, but the alternative is endless war or at least endless surveillance-state tactics against all Americans--with more chances for abuse even if none have taken place already.

And if it is an endless war, even if we beat it down with military operations, the next round of jihad decades in the future might have access to means of mass killing presently too difficult for them to gain access to.

The only way to really win this war is to reform Islam.

Destroying the Country In Order to Save It?

At first I was amazed that the Washington Post was editorializing that we need to help Iraq despite not keeping troops there to defend our battlefield win. But then I read the editorial.

In response to rising bloodshed in Iraq carried out by a resurgent al Qaeda, the editors of the Post think we must threaten to halt arms sales to Iraq to rein in Maliki:

The Obama administration has for too long offered nearly unqualified support to Mr. Maliki. Now it should tell him that continued U.S. military assistance, including the promised delivery of major weapons systems, will depend on whether the government drops legal charges against Sunni leaders and reaches agreement with Kurds on long-outstanding territorial and revenue-sharing disputes. The White House should also insist that Mr. Maliki act to rein in Shiite militia groups.

To get the fully nuanced approach to Iraq, the editors also think we must increase assistance to Iraq to fight al Qaeda:

At the same time, the White House should review whether it can offer Iraq’s armed forces additional support — in intelligence, training or materiel — to meet the growing threat from al-Qaeda. If they are not countered, Iraq’s extremist forces will sooner or later become a U.S. security problem.

At the same time! Apparently, the Iraqis won't mind fighting al Qaeda despite a decision by America to cut off arms sales to them.

Prime Minister Maliki isn't perfect. But he faces thugs within the Sunni Arab community who still think they should run Iraq as well as pro-Iran killers from his own Shia base--all while under pressure from a stronger Iran across the eastern border with a collapsing Syria on the other side. And restive Kurds. Cut him some slack.

And Maliki was chosen by Iraqis under Iraqi law to lead them. So let's not make the mistake of thinking that a different leader facing the same internal and external problems will solve our problems with Iraq. If Iraqis tire of Maliki, they can register their displeasure at the next election.

If we engineer a coup in Iraq--or implicitly encourage one by obviously making it known we'd welcome a coup--we are in no position to own Iraq and defend the results of that coup.

So get over this need to demonize Prime Minister Maliki as if his imperfect responses to Iraq's problems are more to blame for unrest than the actual Iraqi problems.

Personally, I think Maliki will do better when the threats he faces are reduced. So let's help him arm up to face Iran, help him defeat the jihadis, and help Iraqi institutions withstand the pressures of death squads and terrorists to keep running honest elections that leaders and ethnic and religious communities accept as valid expressions of the people.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Europe Can't Make War, But Europeans Can

European governments are scared that their Moslem citizens and residents are prone to going off to join the jihad in Syria. Could Europeans join the war on the other side, too?

This is viewed as a pretty bad development for European security and tranquility:

European countries are paying a lot more attention to the international travel activities of their Moslem citizens. That’s because a growing number of them are being drawn into the uprisings and civil wars that have shaken up the Arab world in the last two years. Some European counter-terror officials are calling it “jihad terrorism” when young (teens to thirties) Moslem men (and a few women) travel to a country suffering unrest and attempt to join one of the violent factions to fight. Often the most attractive options are Islamic radical groups, whose violent and self-righteous image has the most appeal for impressionable young Moslems in the West.

These jihad combat veterans could stoke a war inside Europe to liberate those immigrant suburbs that in the past just settled for torching cars.

European Moslems provide some recruits for a jihad against Syria's Assad that European governments don't want to fight.

Given that Europe on paper at least wants the jihad to be defeated (by someone ...), is it not possible that Christians (even just nominal Christians) might fight against the jihad even though their governments do not fight the jihadis?

And when those combat veterans against the jihad return, will they retire or continue the fight against the jihadi veterans in their homelands?

Just as Europe was a battlefield in the Cold War, Europe could again become a battlefield--but this time a hot one--in the war on terror.

A New Week Post-Distraction!

At last we are past those phony scandals like a Republican "war on women", the 99 percenters, and dogs riding on top of cars, to get to real issues of concern to Americans!

UPDATE: Related thoughts.

UPDATE: Good one (via Instapundit):

I've just gotten to the point where I'm just disgusted with our president. He can say that building a major pipeline will only create 50 permanent jobs, ignoring the thousands of temporary jobs in construction--as all construction jobs are--and worse, his audience applauds the line!

Is our president really that dumb? Is he that dishonest and dismissive of the intelligence of his supporters who he expects to buy that line? Are his supporters really that oblivious?

It's amazing. He tells us that government stimulus spending had a multiplier effect on creating jobs; but the private sector construction industry has a negative multiplier effect several orders of magnitude in size.

How many more days left?

Ghost in the Machine

It's bad enough that the climate change models are so poor at predicting actual climate, but now we find that machine coding that runs the models result in different output from the exact same model running the exact same data.

Fancy that:

New peer reviewed paper finds the same global forecast model produces different results when run on different computers ...

The paper was published 7/26/13 in the Monthly Weather Review which is a publication of the American Meteorological Society. It finds that the same global forecast model (one for geopotential height) run on different computer hardware and operating systems produces different results at the output with no other changes.

The post describes different problems, including different rules on rounding during calculations in various operating systems. If that type of error affects other models, that's a problem for the science isn't it?

My life as a budding programmer is distant and was brief. Lasting from 11th grade to my first semester of college. But I'll never forget a lesson in programming oddities in a program designed to model the game of life.

By the rules, any square with life would live or die depending on the amount of life in the squares around it on a grid. You'd run this through cycles with different initial life to see if the life dies out, grows, or goes into a pattern. It was pretty cool.

For whatever reason, everyone else in the class counted all the life in the 9 squares and (assuming life in the center), simply subtracted 1 from the total to implement the rules. My program was virtually identical in approach except for one small difference.

I wrote the code to count the 8 squares around the target square of life. And then didn't subtract anything, of course. I skipped the center square of life when counting and everyone else counted the center square of life and then subtracted 1 to not count it when implementing the rules. That's a minor difference and should not have made any difference, right?

Except my program did not work. The teacher could not figure out why it did not work. I sure couldn't. It should have worked. The teacher made it a class project to figure out why my approach did not work. The class could not figure out why it did not work. In the end, the teacher could only explain it by blaming the ghost in the machine that interpreted my programming in ways we did not expect. So I changed that line of my program and it worked just fine.

I did not become a computer programmer. But I learned a valuable lesson not to simply trust the output as if it is handed down from God. Sometimes the computer just does stuff we don't understand. If that problem raised its ugly head in my simple high school program run on the almost infinitely simpler computer of the late 1970s, how much more of a problem could it be in the massively complex (and poorly documented, as ClimateGate emails revealed) programs that predict our doom from carbon dioxide output?

But by all means, bankrupt us to combat that predicted global warming (that your models predict is determined by man's puny role) that will cause your predicted harm using policies you predict will solve the predicted problem that your models predict--and all under your guidance without ignorant denialist voters predictably getting in the way.

It's science rounding error, damn it!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Moving Closer to War

China continues to push the Philippines in territorial disputes. The Philippines will move forces closer to potential battle sites. Japan and America won't be far behind.

Manila is serious about building the capacity to resist China's territory grabs:

The Philippines plans to relocate major air force and navy camps to a former U.S. naval base northwest of Manila to gain faster access to waters being contested by China in the South China Sea, according to the country's defense chief and a confidential government report.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said Sunday that as soon as relocation funds are available the government plans to transfer air force and naval forces and their fleets of aircraft and warships to Subic Bay, which has become a busy free port since the 1992 departure of the U.S. Navy.

Japan is stepping in as well to enable the Philippines to resist China:

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged support for Philippine maritime forces on Saturday as both countries confront China in separate territorial disputes.

Following a meeting with President Benigno Aquino III in the Philippine capital, Abe announced that Japan will provide a concessional loan to build 10 coast guard patrol boats for the Philippines.

And Japan is asserting the right of "collective defense" to (I assume) nullify their pacifist constitution's restrictions on using their military self defense forces outside of Japan so Japan could fight alongside the Philippines in defense of Philippines territory.

So the Philippines will have more assets to base closer to Chinese forces by using old American bases and the possibility of Japanese forces fighting with them.

Hey, if the Philippines upgrade those bases to allow their forces to rotate in so some will be able to react faster to the Chinese, that will keep those places warm for our forces to flow in during a crisis, wouldn't it?

Why yes, it would:

Relocating about 250 air force officers and men to Subic, along with "increased rotational presence of foreign visiting forces" would bolster business and trade at the port, the military document said.

Subic's international airport has been underutilized since U.S. courier giant FedEx transferred its lucrative regional hub from Subic to China in 2009, officials said.

The Philippines plans to grant visiting U.S. forces, ships and aircraft temporary access to more of its military camps to allow for a larger number of joint military exercises than are currently staged each year.

A larger U.S. presence could be used for disaster response and serve as a deterrent to what Philippine officials say have been recent aggressive intrusions by China into its territorials waters.

China hopes that its aggressive stance will demoralize neighbors into accepting Chinese conquests. So far, it is just angering neighbors and giving them reasons to view China as a threat and arm up.

If China keeps pushing like they are the only ones who matter, one day someone will push back hard.

UPDATE: Strategypage has more, including this bit to help you sleep well tonight:

All this is disturbingly similar to the situation in the late 19th century when Germany, recently united (in 1870) for the first time and turning into the premier economic power in Europe (only the U.S. was larger) began demanding territory that belonged to others and insisting it was also owed greater respect and deference because Germans had been wronged by their neighbors for thousands of years. The Chinese complaint is that Europeans (and their lackey Japan) took advantage of a temporarily weakened China and now China is back on its feet and wants payback. The German demands led to nearly a century of war and conflict that left over 100 million dead. The Germans wanted “a place in the sun” and got desolation and despair instead. China believes its situation is different, but their neighbors don’t agree.

Götterdämmerung. Let's hope China's economy doesn't tank so badly that war seems like the better chance of preserving Chinese Communist Party rule.

UPDATE: We're bolstering our first line of defense:

Washington will raise its military assistance to the Philippines by about two-thirds, Manila's foreign ministry said on Wednesday, helping its oldest security ally in Asia defend vast maritime borders against what it sees as Chinese assertiveness.

Albert Del Rosario said Washington had increased its military assistance package from $30 million next fiscal year to about $50 million, the highest level since U.S. troops returned to the Philippines in 2000.

This isn't huge. But remember that China doesn't want any violence to rise above the threshold of "incident" to war-like actions. So while the Philippines alone can't hope to match China in a war, in small-scale military incidents, the Philippines can afford to be as good as the Chinese. Then the Chinese have to decide whether it is worth the risk of war with Japan and America, trade disruption, and possible domestic unrest to overpower the Philippines in a big operation.

Adjustments Must Be Made

Egypt's army seems to be retaining its options as a force somewhat above the fray as para-military police forces crack down on Moslem Brotherhood protesters. If Egypt is to resume a real path to democracy, Egypt must limit those who run for office to those who actually want democracy (and rule of law).

The Moslem Brotherhood isn't taking the coup adjustment passively:

Thousands of Brotherhood supporters were hunkered down in a vigil at a Cairo mosque on Sunday, vowing to stand their ground despite the imminent threat of a move to disperse them.

Saturday's bloodshed, following huge rival rallies, plunged the Arab world's most populous country deeper into turmoil following two turbulent years of transition to democracy with the fall of veteran autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

Egypt's Health Ministry said 65 people had died. The Brotherhood said another 61 were on life support after what it described as a ferocious dawn assault by men in helmets and black police fatigues. The ambulance service put the death toll at 72.

The new government isn't inclined to give the protesters space to demonstrate. We want Egypt to pull "back from the brink" of all-out civil strife, but inclusion that allows the anti-democratic Moslem Brotherhood into the government isn't resuming the path to democracy.

As I argued when Mubarak was on the way out, we have to support Egyptians in restricting those who run to those who would stand for honest reelection, too:

One of the problems is that the protesters want opportunity and freedom from Mubarak and the old order; but that getting democracy is only one path in the negative common objective of removing Mubarak and the old order. Yes, some protesters--the members of the Twittering Class that we identify with--want something called "democracy." Others don't want that. Those anti-democratic protesters simply want Mubarak out and we have no obligation to include these people in the new order that is being created before our eyes in the mistaken notion that freedom requires all opposition forces to replace the existing government. Indeed, we have an obligation to keep those proto-thugs out of the new government[.]

Even those who want "democracy"--without having lived in one--need our help in understanding what that means. Those who don't even aspire to democracy except as a means of gaining permanent power--most prominently the Moslem Brotherhood--must be kept out of the political process. Or are neo-Nazis allowed to run for office in Germany?

There are a lot of people in our own government who pretend that Iran has a functioning democracy despite the screening the mullahs use to keep anybody but a mullah-friendly candidate from getting on the ballot. If Westerners (and even our government, on occasion) can say nice things about that system, we should be able to accept a system in Egypt that screens those who would use elections to gain power without respecting the electoral system as anything other than a show to justify authoritarian rule.

If Egypt doesn't do that, the choices will be voting that lets the Moslem Brotherhood regain power or accepting some type of military-backed authoritarian government. Neither of those options seems very good, does it?

Tactical Fail

You can have a really great stealth tech or camouflage scheme, but if you employ your defensive capacity poorly, it just doesn't matter.

In what world is this great leaf mimicry of any use on a metal flagpole mount?

Remember, well-trained troops are the real weapon--not the things the troops use.

Luckily, I'm not a Predator, eh?

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Free at Last?

After years of droning on that rule of law is an important component of democracy despite common belief that honest voting is the only measure of democracy, this is heartening to hear from the streets of Bulgaria:

Although Bulgaria joined NATO in 2004 and the E.U. in 2007, many Bulgarians feel that their country has failed to break with its communist past. In addition to expressing discontent with what many perceive to be a dysfunctional coalition government – which took office after a snap election in May – the protests have also focused on alleged government corruption and stagnation in the political system.

The protesters themselves – who are, in general, young, well-educated and economically independent – are clear about what they want to achieve. “First of all, people want the resignation of the government,” says Lilia Apostolova, a 42-year-old managing director for a leading business media group in Bulgaria. “Then they want to change the political system and they want the rule of law.”

They want rule of law! After more than two decades of voting that has given them corrupt governments, there are Bulgarians who want the rest of the ingredients for democracy. Under communism, Bulgarians had neither honest voting nor rule of law. Perhaps they will finally get both.

Remember this when you dismiss the Arab Spring as a failure. This will take time. People want democracy. But those who have lived without it don't really know what democracy is. And too many who live in a democracy fail to appreciate rule of law as a crucial part of making our democracy work.

Bulgarians have had the advantage of not having a violent and aggressive ideology waiting in the wings to claim democracy failed since voting alone didn't resolve their governance problem.

Cake! Tall Cake!

Lamb and I made a double-layer strawberry frosting white cake. It is the first time I've ever baked a double-layered cake (EasyBake oven excepted).

Decorating the cake is Lamb's favorite part. While she liked the cake, it seems my main job is to set the oven temperature and eat the cake. Why I'm not 200 pounds, I have no idea.

The cake is good. And I've barely started on the cookies we last made that are in the freezer. I was planning ice cream cookies but now I have delicious cake to work through.

Yeah, fatherhood is rough. I should be happy she isn't into welding, I suppose.

The Water's the Least of the Problems

Whoa, south of the border things have quietly gotten very war-like:

The government believes about a thousand people a month are dying from cartel related violence. This puts Mexico ahead of the recently increased terrorist violence in Iraq and where Syria was earlier this year. Some 70,000 have died in the cartel war since 2007, compared to over 100,000 in two years of Syrian violence and 120,000 Iraqi dead in a decade of religious violence. Since the 1970s there have been similar internal conflicts in Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon and Turkey. It’s a bit of Middle East style civil violence in North America. This is not the first time. Leftist and drug gang violence in Colombia have left over 220,000 dead in the last 60 years. That’s for a country with only about 40 percent as many people as Mexico. This war in Colombia in finally winding down, but is shows you how long and bloody such conflicts can be.

Many decades ago, I recall Mexicans dismissing American complaints about the drugs heading north, saying that it was a demand problem. And if American dollars flowed into Mexico to feed an American problem, what was it to Mexicans?

The lack of national media attention in America to the Middle East-levels of violence is our response, I suppose. But it is a problem for us. Drug cartel violence won't stay restricted to Mexican territory. Already, Mexican drug gangs seek inroads into our cities to extend their network and cut out middle men who eat into cartel profits.

President Obama is pulling our ground forces out of CENTCOM since the tide of war is receding (he says). We might need those troops closer to home, after all.

Past Trends Never Continue Forever

China's impressive string of economic growth is coming to an end.

Projecting past growth rates that had the advantage of starting from a very low level was ridiculous but commonly done to predict the demise of American economic dominance.

Stratfor addresses the end of China's economic miracle.

This doesn't mean that China is in decline, of course. Nor does it mean China will collapse. But it does mean that there was no real miracle. Mortal rules of economics apply even to the Middle Kingdom between Heaven and Earth.

Stratfor believes that China's relative decline will not result in a more aggressive China trying to compensate for the failure of rapid economic growth to lead to dominance without a fight:

The major shift in the international order will be the decline of China's role in the region. China's ability to project military power in Asia has been substantially overestimated. Its geography limits its ability to project power in Eurasia, an endeavor that would require logistics far beyond China's capacity. Its naval capacity is still limited compared with the United States. The idea that it will compensate for internal economic problems by genuine (as opposed to rhetorical) military action is therefore unlikely. China has a genuine internal security problem that will suck the military, which remains a domestic security force, into actions of little value. In our view, the most important shift will be the re-emergence of Japan as the dominant economic and political power in East Asia in a slow process neither will really want.

I certainly welcome China's relative decline. And I do think that China's military power is not as strong as is commonly believed. But China does have military options for short wars that China did not have 30--or even 10--years ago. China could project power to achieve a quick military victory over unprepared or distant powers and count on diplomacy, nuclear deterrence, and foreign fear of further casualties to cement that quick victory. It didn't work out for Japan (absent the nuclear aspect, of course), but China might think differently--or believe the nuclear angle makes all the difference.

I think Stratfor is right and that it doesn't make sense for China to seek war to get regional dominance that past economic growth promised to achieve without war. I just don't know if China's leaders think the way Stratfor thinks.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Ultimate Loop Hole

Iraq recognizes that corruption makes holding jihadis in prison a dicey option. So Iraq's plan to cope with that fact of life is to simply execute jihadis when caught.

Sadly for this excellent plan, al Qaeda had a more direct method of dealing with their death row comrades. This will be a problem for Iraq:

Iraq's parliament speaker warned Thursday that the escape this week of hundreds of inmates during al-Qaida-claimed raids on prisons outside Baghdad will make the country's rapidly deteriorating security even worse.

The warning came just hours after militants carried out a bold ambush on truckers north of the capital, killing 14 people.

The Sunday night attack on the notorious Abu Ghraib prison and another lock-up in Taji, both on the outskirts of Baghdad, underscored the extent of the challenges facing Iraqi authorities as they struggle to keep the country safe. More than 550 people have been killed in violent attacks so far this month.

Obviously, the jihadis will kill anyone working with the government. The escaped jihadis will also make it more difficult for Sunni Arabs to work with the government since these escaped jihadis will seek to intimidate Sunni Arabs in order to establish a safe haven amongst Sunni Arabs.

My understanding is that we've returned intelligence assets to Iraq to combat the resurgent al Qaeda in Iraq. But we have a lot of lost ground to make up after abandoning Iraq at the end of 2011. As Benghazi showed, the State Department army is no replacement for a robust American military presence that provides both concrete assistance to local forces and a sense of security that American power is present and interested in the outcome.

On jihadi prisoners, Iraq clearly needs to speed up the process of executions if this is how al Qaeda reacts to convictions of their people.

Deja Vu All Over Again

Hey! We've beaten the jihadis in Afghanistan!


Major-General Joseph Osterman, the deputy operations chief of Afghanistan's NATO-led force, said small numbers of al Qaeda fighters remained entrenched in the rugged eastern mountain province of Nuristan, where the forested terrain and plunging valleys provided natural havens.

"They are less than 100, I would say, and they are in fact just trying to survive at this point," Osterman told Reuters in an interview late on Thursday. "I think what you find is that it's not necessarily that they have got a springboard in there."

That's comforting.

Except for the fact that when we left Iraq in 2011, we'd broken the back of al Qaeda in Iraq and counted on the Iraqis alone to complete their defeat.

How's that working out? Oh. Not so well, as it turns out.

And if you don't want to pay attention to Iraq, remember that the Taliban themselves defeated the non-jihadis in Afghanistan in the late 1990s to control the Afghanistan central government. But the remnants holed up in northeast Afghanistan under the banner of the Northern Alliance. They were just trying to survive at that point and were in no position to use their territory as a springboard to take over the country.

Until 9/11 when we intervened and used that small non-Taliban force to smash the Taliban.

We really do have to kill them all. It's too dangerous to let any jihadis live anywhere under any circumstances.

First Line of Defense

Our carriers are important assets in fighting a war against Iran. But even Iran poses too many threats to justify putting our carriers close to Iran in the Persian Gulf.

Our small combatant force in the Persian Gulf is up to eight Cyclone class coastal patrol craft:

Coastal Patrol (PC) ships USS Tempest (PC 2), USS Squall (PC 7) and USS Thunderbolt (PC 12) arrived pierside in Bahrain July 3, as part of a realignment that will see a total of eight PCs permanently stationed in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR).

USS Hurricane (PC 3) and USS Monsoon (PC 4) will complete the Navy's plan to station 10 PCs in Bahrain by spring of 2014.

"Having additional PCs here in Bahrain will give us incredible flexibility in the 5th Fleet area of operations since they are uniquely capable of operating in this dynamic environment," said Vice Adm. John W. Miller, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet, Combined Maritime Forces. "They will allow for continued maritime security operations and theater security cooperation in the 5th Fleet."

PCs provide the U.S. Navy with a fast, reliable platform that can respond to emergent requirements in a shallow water environment.

This is good. They join USS Ponce as an asset appropriate for the Gulf while allowing our carriers to remain a safe distance away to send aircraft in support of the smaller (and more expendable) assets.

The Real War Against Al Qaeda?

Fighting in Syria has been accelerating after seriously getting going a year and a half ago following a year of relatively low level violence amidst growing protests. Our military warns that intervention is an act of war. But one way or the other, we can't avoid joining the war at some point.

Already, the UN estimates that over 100,000 Syrians have died in the fighting (all sides, including troops and rebel fighters in addition to civilians). While Assad is hanging on after reclaiming the initiative a few months ago, the rebellion doesn't look like it is in danger of defeat.

The rebels are already twice as numerous as the insurgents and terrorists were in Iraq:

[Many] (over twenty percent) of the 50,000 rebel gunmen are Islamic radicals[.]

Al Qaeda is a major player in the jihadi contingent.

Given that opponents of the Iraq War charged that our invasion of Iraq caused al Qaeda to go to Iraq, this Syria development should be a reminder that al Qaeda goes where it can and not where we are. It is perhaps a comforting believe in a large part of the population that defeating jihadis is simply a matter of staying away from regions the jihadis claim should be there territory, but it just isn't so, is it?

This time, our failure to pounce on Assad's difficulties to support rebels has given the jihadis time to move into Syria. In a bit of cosmic justice, I imagine the networks of Islamists that existed to funnel jihadis through Syria into Iraq has had a role in getting a lot of jihadis into Syria to fight Assad. But that doesn't mean the jihadis are less of a problem for us.

At some point, whether after Assad wins the war and regains control of Syria (low odds, and it would take a lot of time to build up the army needed to reassert control), overthrow of Assad (less unlikely, but with continued Iranian and Russian support, Assad seems able to hang on to some part of Syria), or fragmentation--either formal or informal--we will have to deal with the jihadis who survive the war.

Failure to fight these jihadis could threaten Iraq if jihadis turn around to reinforce their brethren already surging violence against Iraqis--they are strong enough to stage a jail assault that freed 500 jihadis.

Failure to fight these jihadis could threaten Turkey if jihadis infect the Kurds who are coming to terms with the Turkish government.

Failure to fight these jihadis could threaten Lebanon if the jihadis chase Hezbollah to continue the fight inside Lebanon.

Failure to fight these jihadis could threaten Israel if the jihadis use their position in Syria to strike Israel or move into Gaza or southern Lebanon and spark a war with Israel by being holier than other jihadis.

Failure to fight these jihadis could threaten Jordan if the jihadis infiltrate that state and exploit ethnic divisions and poverty.

Faioure to fight these jihadis could threaten us if the jihadis organize even a portion of Syria into a sanctuary where they can set their sights on American targets.

We didn't intervene a couple years ago when our power might have been decisive before jihadis entered the fight. Now the fight in Syria is part of the war on terror whether we like it or not. We need to organize forces to fight the jihadis inside Syria. Ideally, we strengthen the non-jihadi elements in Syria to fight the jihadis to keep the problem from being immediately exported abroad.

The tide of war is not receding.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Dangers of the Little Blue State Pill

Well, the commercials do say to seek medical attention if the election lasts longer than 4 hours.

New Yorkers are apparently not doomed idiots:

New York mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner's support among Democrats has tanked after revelations this week that the former congressman continued to engage in sexually explicit relationships with women on the Internet after his 2011 resignation, a new poll has found.

I understand New Yorkers have a higher tolerance for the "ick factor." But I'm glad to see there are apparently limits to what is shrugged off before (unfounded, I'm sure)news that Weiner was Manti Teo’s online girlfriend surfaced.

What About the Pre-Option Decision?

I've said it before and I'll repeat it--if we help the rebels defeat Assad, we don't "own" the post-war Syria. But we should decide that telling Assad he must go (as our president did) is the objective we should pursue as we debate options.

Austin Bay discusses the options General Dempsey laid out for intervention in Syria. I think option one should be a no-brainer and should have been from the beginning of the revolt:

Option One -- Train, Advise and Assist the Opposition -- has U.S. advisers training Syrian rebels in tasks such as tactical planning and employing weapons. Advisers might provide intelligence and logistics help. Deploying several thousand advisers might cost $500 million a year, with a secure rear area (think Turkey and Jordan). The risks include terror attacks on advisers. We might "inadvertently" train rebels who commit war crimes.

Yes, assisting rebels to oust Assad is essentially declaring war on Assad. So what? How many dead Americans are there because Assad supported terrorists in Iraq? Didn't that count as war? We owe Assad some payback, no?

So yes, intervening a little might lead us to intervene more. But if we are at war, we should decide that the objective is worth going to war. Perhaps we might need to go to option two if our decision to use option one is too late to be decisive alone in a timely manner.. And in collapse, we might have to go to option five to prevent chemical weapons from leaking out of Assad's control to terrorists.

And we could hold back if the price isn't worth it. So soon after Iraq, it would be easy to refuse to escalate. If Assad survives this revolt in charge of a rump Syria, I'll count that a decent victory. Heck, a year and a half ago, I'd have figured going to option one that merely raised the cost of an Assad victory to regain control of all of Syria would have been a small victory. Just scaring Assad by making him know we will exploit any problems he gets might make him more cautious in the future.

Keep in mind that option one would have been less likely to lead to more intervention if it had been taken a year and a half ago. And delaying option one makes it more likely that we would have to intervene with option four or more.

Remember that we spent a decade with option three and four regarding Iraq following the 1991 Persian Gulf War ceasefire, plus repeated efforts to find somebody in Iraq to overthrow Saddam in a coup. And let's not forget the post-war Shia uprising that we did not support. So in 2003, our only option to destroy Saddam's regime was a conventional invasion--an option not even on Dempsey's list.

We've given Assad time and he has used it to adapt. Assad may not be able to reassert control over all of Syria given his bad position, but he can kill Syrian civilians for a long time.

Why do opponents of doing anything about Assad assert that we would "own"--be responsible for everything that happens--in Syria after we intervene?

Do we "own" Libya? No. Libyans own Libya. They own Libya even though we provided the rebels with arms, intelligence, supplies, and an air force.

The stupid and dishonorable actions we've taken there since the war have nothing to do with "owning" Libya. So yes, overthrowing Assad doesn't end our interests in Syria. But let's do that and work on the next step after, ok? Let's harm an enemy. Let's settle on that before we choose options.

Good News and Bad News

If China has truly imposed a single commander for their multiple civilian armed naval vessels, the good news is that it is less likely that a war might be sparked by an unauthorized decision to shoot taken at a less than national level.

This is probably good news:

The restructured State Oceanic Administration (SOA) in China went into formal operation on Monday.

A new "State Oceanic Administration" name board has been set up at the entrance gate. ...

The SOA, which is administered by the Ministry of Land and Resources, integrates functions of China Marine Surveillance, the coast guard forces of the Public Security Ministry, the fisheries law enforcement command of the Agriculture Ministry and the maritime anti-smuggling police of the General Administration of Customs.

For reasons I went into here, a unified command is a good idea.

The bad news is that if there is an armed incident, it is more likely to have been a decision from the top rather than the misguided initiative of an agency lower down the chain.

Hey, speaking of decisions from the top (from the Chinese People's Daily article):

According to a rule recently approved by the State Council, the SOA will increase its duties concerning law enforcement and the protection of maritime rights.

A unified command ordered to be more aggressive at sea. That's the bad news, of course.

UPDATE: I guess the Chinese won't be satisfied until they provoke Japan into building nuclear missiles:

China says ships from its newly formed coast guard confronted Japanese patrol vessels Friday near the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

The State Oceanic Administration, which oversees the service, says four of its ships “sternly declared” China’s sovereignty over the Japan-administered islets, which China claims and calls the Diaoyu and demanded that the Japan Coast Guard ships leave the area.

How this ends well for China, I do not know.

UPDATE: Like I said, it is good news only if you view accidental war as a greater threat than Chinese decisions to risk war:

So in reality, the advent of the China Coast Guard furnishes little cause for cheer among Asian sea powers. In all likelihood, as my friend Arthur Ding of Taiwan's National Chengchi University observes, the new agency will step up enforcement actions. If so, it will generate new frictions rather than smooth them out. It will prosecute Beijing's territorial claims more efficiently and effectively than the previous, motley crew of maritime enforcement services ever could. But hey, at least we'll know whom to hold responsible!

Sci-fi master Robert Heinlein had a thumb rule for life: never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity, but don't rule out malice. Creating the China Coast Guard helps rule out bureaucratic stupidity as an explanation for Chinese behavior at sea. Which leaves … hmm.

Keep our powder dry.

UPDATE: And I should clarify that the new coast guard still leaves one of the former five paramilitary navies--Maritime Safety Administration--independent.

Cheapening History

Despite my unhappiness with the election of Barack Obama as the most left-wing and ill-prepared candidate to win the office, I at least welcomed the opportunity that his election provided to show that American would elect an African American to our highest office. Getting past that marker would be a good thing for race relations and even our reputation abroad, I thought. Silly me.

Via Instapundit, perception of race relations has gone down since President Obama took office:

Public attitudes about race relations have plummeted since the historic election of President Barack Obama, according to a new poll from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal.

Only 52 percent of whites and 38 percent of blacks have a favorable opinion of race relations in the country, according to the poll, which has tracked race relations since 1994 and was conducted in mid-July by Hart Research Associations and Public Opinion Strategies.

That’s a sharp drop from the beginning of Obama’s first term, when 79 percent of whites and 63 percent of blacks held a favorable view of American race relations.

Sadly, too many supporters of the president have made opposition to the policies of President Obama a continuing litmus test for racism. Oppose his policies--as if they would be supported if Bill Clinton attempted to enact them--and you are guilty of racist motivations.

There are still racists in America. But to believe we have not made tremendous progress in the last half century is just partisan hackery.

Like much else in our political world, the stakes involved in winning battles for control of the growing federal government have made the historic significance of electing an African American a mere weapon to defend left-wing policies. Our federal government is just too damn big. And the need to control it has cheapened the achievement of electing Barack Obama as an historical event. That's a damn shame.

It's Finlandization in Action--1939 Version.

China has spent decades demonizing the Japanese (when convenient for China) as an aggressor state still guilty for Shanghai atrocities over 75 years ago; and in recent years has used their growing military power to try to intimidate Japan into passive acceptance of China's objectives. Japan might have done that under this dual pressure. But Japan has not surrendered.

So we have an intimidation fail in progress:

Japan is likely to start considering acquiring the ability to launch pre-emptive military strikes in an update of its basic defense policies, the latest step away from the constraints of its pacifist constitution.

The expected proposal, which will almost certainly sound alarm bells in China, is part of a review of Japan's defense policies undertaken by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government, an interim report on which could come as early as Friday.

Why not? China will accuse Japan of being an aggressive state bent on reviving Japanese hegemony regardless of what Japan does. Why not build a military capable of taking the initiative in a fight?

Despite China's rapid rise in military power, there are serious questions about how effective the Chinese military would be in high-tech conflict. Japan has a history of successfully waging conventional warfare (even if losing the last big one, they fought hard and well).

I keep hearing how the Chinese are experts at long-term thinking. So I can only assume this outcome is exactly what the deep thinkers in Peking had in mind with all this.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Real War

Ever since we rescued a beaten but not defeated Northern Alliance in Afghanistan to defeat the Taliban, I've liked to remind people that "winning" a war is not the same as "victory"--it is a verb that describes the process of reaching the noun.

We defeated al Qaeda on the battlefield of Iraq. But we did not achieve victory over them. There was a remnant al Qaeda in Iraq after we left. That's one reason I wanted to remain in Iraq--to help Iraq achieve victory over al Qaeda.

Hey, how's that fight going without us?

As many 500 prisoners were freed, including hardcore militants, a victory for al Qaeda-linked groups On Tuesday, al Qaeda's affiliate in Iraq claimed responsibility for violent attacks on the high-security prisons of Abu Ghraib and Taji, which, according to Iraqi officials, resulted in up to 500 prisoners escaping — including convicted al Qaeda militants.

The deadly raids involved a blitzkrieg of coordinated attacks utilizing rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, and suicide bombers. Iraqi officials put the death toll at 56, which included security forces, prisoners, and militants, while al Qaeda claimed that 120 government forces were killed.

Al Qaeda in Iraq didn't get the memo that the tide of war is receding. Al Qaeda is just relieved that it really means the tide of our power is receding.

My contempt for the idiocy of our administration in pretending we are not at war--while spying on us and unleashing drones on foreigners like we are at war--knows few bounds.

Hey, since the administration also says the war in Afghanistan is over, is the war against al Qaeda in Iraq the real war on terror now?

The War inside the Wire

Remember that the Gitmo hunger strike is another terror campaign inside our prison. It is an information campaign assisted by oddly sympathetic attorneys designed to make us look bad.

It is common to have committed enemies organize prisoners for a new fight and to terrorize prisoners who'd rather not continue the war. The North Koreans led revolts inside their prisons, if I recall, during the Korean War/

Al Qaeda jihadis are pressuring other inmates to join the hunger strike and many cooperate with us out of sight of the leaders to choose their flavor of "forced" feeding. To eat is to commit suicide when the jihadis see them cooperate with us.

I read that at Strategypage but can't find the article now.

Why we allow the leaders to remain in group settings with other Guantanamo Bay inmates who would rather enjoy rice pilaf and the nice weather is beyond me. Identify the hard core guys and pull them out so they can't intimidate the rest.

And then let the leaders who really want to be on a hunger strike die--but offer them food every four hours on video to document their responsibility.

Then dump them at sea, of course. If it was good enough for Osama, it's good enough for those scum.

Is It Truly Too Simplistic to Harm Our Enemies?

It continues to amaze me that we refuse to take the shot to take out Assad who has the blood of lots of American soldiers on his hands. The League of Women Voters Aleppo Chapter isn't going to lead the revolt. Get over it.

Strategypage has it right about our Syria dithering:

The West could end the Syrian War quickly by providing air support and much more weapons and other aid on the ground. That doesn’t happen because Western politicians fear later media accusations (true or not, makes no difference) that this support aided Islamic radicals and their goal of attacking the West and turning the world into an Islamic religious dictatorship. Arab public opinion (which tends not to get much attention from the Western media) sees this reluctance as a Western plot to get more Arabs killed.

What tends to be missed in all this is the fact that all revolutions are messy and there are always fanatic factions ready to keep killing after victory is won. Headline hunting politicians treat the fanatics as something to run away from when, in reality, you are going to have to deal with them eventually, so you might as well get on with it and take care of the mess now. History will view timid and media shy Western leaders as short sighted and the cause of much more misery in the long run.

We should have thanked our lucky stars for such a break a year and a half ago when the revolt took off. We should have sent arms just on the chance we could crush Assad. Just giving him a good scare would be useful even if he won, no?

But no, we dither and more Syrians die, jihadis gain ground, and Assad believes he can win. Is it any wonder that much of the Arab street thinks we want Arabs to die? How's that for repairing our relations with the Arab Moslem world.

User Error--Again

Technology may allow college teachers to recognize when their students are struggling to learn material:

Facial Analysis Software Spots Struggling Students

One, in college only a small percentage of my learning took place in the classroom. Which is fortunate since my attendance was usually pretty spotty as an undergraduate. Digesting and analyzing lots of material took place away from the class which really only pointed students in the general direction.

That said, I find this software solution pretty damning of our higher education system.

Once, we had a pretty good system to spot struggling students. We called them "grades." Teachers would present students with questions that would demonstrate mastery of a course.

Flunk a test or bomb your homework assignments? You're struggling--and failing. Get "C"s? Struggling for sure. Getting higher grades than that? You aren't struggling. It may or may not be hard, but you are succeeding in learning what they are teaching.

The grades indicated how you were doing.

Is grade inflation so rampant these days that grades in course work no longer suffice to indicate whether you are struggling? And if so, is the real solution to this problem a software gadget?

Won't the wealthy students simply start taking facial control classes to spoof the software so their faces don't betray what their grades don't reflect? Or take injections like Botox or tailored drugs that dull the facial reactions that indicate "struggling" or stimulate reactions that indicate mastery and engagement? Heck, will you be able to buy facial masks that just emit "I own this material" signals?

And if the students are getting "A"s despite being shown to be struggling based on facial expressions, what do the teachers do? Flunk or reduce the grade of the student anyway? I'd love to listen to the office visit where the teaching assistant tells the student that notwithstanding their "A" work, the TA thinks the student needs to buckle down and study harder to master the subject.

People are screwing up the testing process and technology won't rescue us from that teaching failure.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

This Will Work Out Swell

So we spent 11 years after the 1991 ceasefire futilely trying to get Saddam to behave. Then we debated invading Iraq for a year before we liberated Iraqis. This is known on the left as a "rush to war."

Now that the left runs the White House, they are unwilling to repeat Iraq (120,000 dead in Iraq, victory over a minority dictator and an al Qaeda invasion, ensured no WMD in the hands of a brutal regime, and established a fragile democracy)  in Syria.

So we've dithered for a year and a half about intervening against Assad.

Already we have 100,000 dead Syrians, WMD use, a minority dictatorship in place, and an al Qaeda invasion of Syria.


But wait! There's more! Strategypage notes that the ongoing war in Syria threatens to drag in Iraq to make it a regional Shia-Sunni war--with the Saudis joining in too, for those who want to explore worst case scenarios.

So we could lose Iraq, too, in an inept effort to avoid "repeating" Iraq. But we didn't intervene in any way to avoid "militarizing" the conflict in Syria, as Secretary of State Clinton so idiotically put it.

Isn't smart diplomacy grand?

Nobody Wants Kim Jong Un On Their Team

North Korea already has the ultimate deterrent to foreign invasion:

Chinese and South Korean diplomats, who meet regularly to discuss North Korea and compare notes, have come to agree on one thing; both nations are being manipulated by North Korea because the North Koreans take advantage of the fact that neither of its neighbors wants the current North Korean government to collapse. ... So, the logic goes, North Korea plays fast and loose with both China and South Korea, secure in the knowledge that the neighbors will keep sending enough aid to prevent complete collapse in the north. In effect, North Korea is like the huge American banks and insurance companies that are considered too big to fail (and cause the economy to collapse).

Nukes are just for spite.

Can I call it, or what?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Dudes. Seriously?

Only the French could make al Qaeda's objectives seem reasonable.

I kid you not:

The Socialist Party office in the southern city of Carcassonne was hit buy an explosive device in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

The explosion caused windows to be blown out and part of the ceiling to collapse. Windows at a school across the road were also blown in by the force of the blast.

No one has so far claimed responsibility for the attack but graffiti left at the scene suggests so called wine militants may have been behind it.

"Wine militants."

No word on what the cheese death squads were doing at the time.

UPDATE: Thanks to Mad Minerva for the link.

The British are Coming! Call the Police

Ah, the British military is getting leaner and meaner. That describes a poodle and not a bull dog.

The British will pretend that having a smaller military is irrelevant, despite admitted shortcomings:

In the future, the British military is intended to be leaner, more able to concentrate on specialization, and more reliant on reserves.

Crucially, planners have decided that the military will no longer be able to mount the sort of long-term operations conducted in Iraq and Afghanistan. Going it alone in the form of the task force that liberated the Falklands in 1982 will also no longer be an option.

Yes, they'll specialize on weak enemies. Oops. The French drew that European mission (Mali). What else is there? Weak naval opponents? Good luck with that.

It had better be a weak naval opponent since the British are relying on the French to provide a carrier while Britain lacks one. The British say that they can't go it alone in a Falklands II, but the French will provide the carrier.

Wait. What?

Never mind.

The British army will be limited to sustaining a large brigade in combat for years at a time. So they could, with the 2% rule, pacify any country of 400,000 people or fewer with their own resources. If Luxembourg becomes difficult, Britain will need help.

The British try to tell themselves this won't matter since they and the French will pool resources. So combined, they'll be a middling power unable to project much power beyond 500 miles and reliant on American military and logistics support.

What could possibly go wrong?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

It's Never About the Fruit

Since the Arab Spring, the Chinese have worried that their own people might find inspiration for a Han Spring that might tackle their own lack of freedom. That fear has died down as time has passed. Should the Chinese still worry?

This doesn't seem that momentous, does it?

Deng Zhengjia, in his 50s, died on Wednesday in Chenzhou City, Hunan.

He was hit with a weight from a set of scales after a row erupted with the officials, known as "chengguan", Xinhua reported, citing Mr Deng's niece.

The six are being held on suspicion of intentionally harming others, added the news agency.

The chengguan, or Urban Management Law Enforcement force, support the police in tackling low-level crime in cities and have become unpopular with the Chinese public after a series of high-profile violent incidents.

"They are now synonymous for many Chinese citizens with physical violence, illegal detention and theft," said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), in a report last year.

The Chinese might want to be nice to their street vendors, no?

When You Really Want to Win a War

Remember when the left went into a tizzy because our military spun news (accurately) to try to help win the Iraq War? The enemy bought or frightened journalists (and some just waged war on us) to get good press. We tried to counter that Information War.

But in the modern Internet age, some of those pro-America stories could be read by Americans--and that would be bad (and contrary to strict interpretation of the law). That isn't a problem anymore:

For decades, a so-called anti-propaganda law prevented the U.S. government’s mammoth broadcasting arm from delivering programming to American audiences. But on July 2, that came silently to an end with the implementation of a new reform passed in January. The result: an unleashing of thousands of hours per week of government-funded radio and TV programs for domestic U.S. consumption in a reform initially criticized as a green light for U.S. domestic propaganda efforts.

Of course, you can skip the middle step of spinning the news and just manufacture it. Is this what our president meant when he said he wanted government to be more efficient?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Reach Back for the Squad

The Army wants a Bradley replacement big enough to hold a 9-man squad, which is now considered the minimum squad size needed. The Bradley forced mechanized infantry to split squads into two vehicles and the Army doesn't like that. Do we really need mechanized infantry squads to be that large for mobile warfare?

One method to reduce the squad in the vehicle is to have virtual gunners manning remote weapon stations on the vehicle. See "Reachback for the Squad" in Infantry magazine.

NOTE: I used this post as inspiration for the article and so deleted it. This article published in 2017 replaces the post.

C$I: Pyongyang

It is disturbing enough that our MIA department is inept at finding our MIA:

The Pentagon's effort to account for tens of thousands of Americans missing in action from foreign wars is so inept, mismanaged and wasteful that it risks descending from "dysfunction to total failure," according to an internal study suppressed by military officials.

But let's not overlook the scummery of the North Koreans:

In North Korea, the JPAC was snookered into digging up remains between 1996 and 2000 that the North Koreans apparently had taken out of storage and planted in former American fighting positions, the report said. Washington paid the North Koreans hundreds of thousands of dollars to "support" these excavations.

Some recovered bones had been drilled or cut, suggesting they had been used by the North Koreans to make a lab skeleton. Some of those remains have since been identified, but their compromised condition added time and expense and "cast doubt over all of the evidence recovered" in North Korea, the study said. This practice of "salting" recovery sites was confirmed to the AP by one U.S. participant.

I hope the offices of whatever department in North Korea carried out those scams are on a target list for any war with North Korea. In a better world, we'd level the office next week as a lesson not to do that. Now I have to hope for retribution in the fullness of time.


Friday, July 19, 2013

They Can't Be Minions Forever

I took Lamb to see Despicable Me 2.

I don't know how it worked out this way, but I seem to have the monopoly on taking Lamb to see movies. It worked that way for Mister back in the day, but he really has no interest in movies these days.

The minions were cute, of course. Although the evil minions seemed a cross between Gremlins and the zombies of World War Z scaling the Israel wall.

And the Isaac bartender minion was a great Love Boat tribute. Well played.

Lamb laughed hard and enjoyed the movie. The fart guns were a great hit, of course. As was the naked minion.

They didn't do as good a job at the 3D as the first movie. It really seemed kind of a waste to pay for that version.

But I do understand Gru telling his youngest to never grow up. I don't actually feel that way, since growing up is the way of life and you shouldn't want to stand in the way. Indeed, as a parent it is your job to help them grow up.

But I will so miss going to movies with my daughter and enjoying her innocent laughter and her hand as she holds mine as we walk back to the car.

Lamb's only complaint was the lack of Vector in the villain role. He was an easy villain to hate and she kept expecting him to show up in the movie.

And much like the Penguins in Madagascar, it seems as if the Minions will have their own movie. That will be a hit with Lamb--if it doesn't take too long to reach the theaters, of course.

The Other Sunni Awakening

Has our passivity allowed Assad to make the case that he is the lesser of two evils when measured against the threat of jihadi control of Syria if Assad falls?

I thought that we should be supporting the Syrian rebels from the start. After close to two years of letting the rebellion sink or swim on its own, we still refrain--now because Congress worries more about already armed jihadis getting our arms than worrying about Assad's continued rule--from sending arms because jihadis are now a major part of the rebellion. Now the good scenario is that the jihadis are defeated in the post-Assad fight.

But the worst case scenario is that the impact of jihadis fighting against Assad turns most Syrians not just anti-jihadi for the next fight, but turns most Syrians pro-Assad out of fear of jihadis before there is a next fight. That is, most Syrians--Sunnis included--will decide Assad is the lesser of two evils and that even the prospect of victory over the jihadis in the next fight isn't worth the price people will have to pay.

So we've tried not intervening on the theory that our efforts make things worse. But people forget that a decision not to do anything substantive was a decision. And now we risk the effect of passively siding with Assad by failing to help non-jihadi resistance when it was dominant and before jihadis could join the fight.

Isn't "smart" foreign policy grand?

The Emperor Has No Clues

Sadly, our leaders have discovered that the Vermont chapter of the League of Women Voters isn't leading the revolt against Syria's Assad.

But opponents of hurting Assad continue to defend their nuanced thinking. Holding that a year of debate before invading Iraq in 2003, following 11 years of trying to make a ceasefire after the 1991 war contain Iraq, was a "rush to war," two years of dithering while our president says "Assad must go" is deliberative pondering time.

Funny, those enduring close to 100,000 dead (well, that includes all sides, to be fair) aren't as enamored of our rush to indecision:

Imagine for the moment that you are a Syrian rebel fighter who has been risking his life for two years in the hope that Obama was sincere about helping a moderate opposition prevail not just against Assad but against the jihadists who want to run the country. Now you learn that Washington is having second thoughts. What would you think about America’s behavior?

Let me quote from a message sent by one opposition member: “I am about to quit, as long as there is no light in the end of the tunnel from the U.S. government. At least if I quit, I will feel that I am not part of this silly act we are in.” A second opposition leader wrote simply to a senior U.S. official: “I can’t find the right words to describe this situation other than very sad.”

An angry statement came this week from Gen. Salim Idriss, the head of the moderate Free Syrian Army. After Britain, like the United States, backed away from supplying weapons, he told the Daily Telegraph newspaper: “The West promises and promises. This is a joke now. . . . What are our friends in the West waiting for? For Iran and Hezbollah to kill all the Syrian people?”

Yeah, under this administration it is usually safer to be an enemy than an imperfect friend. Ask Khadaffi who flipped out of fear following the destruction of the Saddam regime in Iraq.

When rebels started fighting Assad, we should have taken this Heaven-sent opportunity to smash Assad who has the blood of many Americans on his hands. But without our aid to secular rebels, jihadis have become the most effective (if not yet most numerous) rebels in Syria. How's that for nuance, eh?

But with Assad shrinking his realm and receiving major support from Russia and Iran (including Hezbollah) who don't fret over Assad's failing, Assad can see hope of surviving in his smaller Syria while rebels dominate the far north, south, and east without sufficient power to drive into the heartland of Rump Syria.

The rebels probably can't take Assad's Rump Syria--at least not for quite some time, at best--as the British say (although Britain's failure to arm rebels might have something to do with that, no?); and Assad can't hope to rule all of Syria, as we say; and in the meantime our 82nd Airborne Division practices seizing loose chemical weapons assets and Cyprus--as I just discovered--prepares to cope with refugees.

We may take so long to decide to fight against Assad that those Syrians fighting against Assad are dead or discouraged. So we'll be compelled to abandon our claim that "Assad must go" or intervene directly to oust Assad with our own troops in order to help refugees, secure chemical arms, and fight the jihadis who famously keep fighting when others (who we'd prefer to deal with) are discouraged.

The best and brightest in our leadership are frightening.

Man Without a Country

I'm starting to think that NSA leaker Snowden's proper fate is to remain in limbo within the Moscow airport terminal for the rest of his life.

If Snowden does not want to return here to face justice, let him remain a man without a country.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Cyprus Prepares for War

Strategypage notes that Cyprus is preparing for war:

The government of Cyprus said that it is developing a new contingency plan in case a major war erupts in the Middle East. The government believes that a new Middle Eastern crisis will lead to a mass evacuation of civilians and many of them will come to Cyprus.

This is more than a month old, but I'm just reading it now.

Since Britain has bases on Cyprus, I assume the British told the Cypriots to be ready for NATO action against Assad in Syria.

As NATO conducts an air defense suppression mission and then moves to ground attack (I'll guess we're heading in that direction after failing to decisively support rebels with arms, advice, and intelligence when Assad was stretched and reeling), we'll want someplace to house refugees perhaps. I don't know how many Westerners are in Syria and Lebanon who can call on Western powers for help, but it is probably substantial.

I still think Assad is losing his war, but the risk of letting the conflict drag on will risk loose chemical weapons and will soon see casualties exceed the Iraq War--and nobody who hated the Iraq War wants to see that.

Preparing to Kill the Pooch

As I've long noted, Israel will not screw the pooch in Lebanon if there is another round of fighting against Hezbollah, as Israel did in 2006.

Israelis are training hard on the ground to crush Hezbollah:

The Israeli military experienced this kind of brutal house-to-house warfare during its inconclusive 2006 war with Hezbollah. As it trains in a mock village in its base in this northern Israeli town, it is recreating similar battle scenarios as it prepares for the next confrontation with the Lebanese militant group. Officials say such a conflict could erupt at any time.

In 2006, Israel's ground forces were unprepared to fight and Israeli leaders preferred to rely on air power. That war failed to crush Hezbollah. Hezbollah was hurt badly even with the ineptitude that the Israeli war effort demonstrated, which seems to have kept Hezbollah quiet. But Israel did fail in that war, in my opinion. Hezbollah is a bigger threat to Israeli civilians today with their far larger rocket arsenal.

Hezbollah has sent troops to Syria where they've already suffered 200 KIA plus more wounded.

And Israel is setting up a separate Golan front headquarters. I assume this is to separate any action in Lebanon from the Syrian front so Assad will have less reason to think a unified northern command is preparing a one-two blow that strikes Hezbollah first prior to driving on Damascus by crossing the ceasefire line on the Golan Heights.

It will be a different type of war than the horrible example we saw in 2006. I'd guess the Israelis move fast and deep to really tear up Hezbollah in Lebanon, if the order is given.

Vegas, Baby!

The most transparent administration evah! (Link fixed. Sorry)

So that's why we still haven't heard from those who fought and survived at Benghazi.

You Get What You Pay For

I know that people like to point out that our defense budget dwarfs the budgets of potential enemies. But you have to remember what we need to spend our money on.

We have to spend money on a large nuclear force to help reassure allies that they won't be attacked as well as deter a direct attack on us.

We have a large portion of our military used to train, equip, and sustain our actual combat troops. Many countries with smaller armies have more brigades than we have. But their units won't be as effective and won't be able to fight for long.

And our volunteer military costs a lot in personnel costs. We do have high quality troops for that money spent, but it is a big expense.

We are not stingy in training and equipping our troops, too. That costs a lot of money. But failure to do so costs lots of blood--both ours and civilians in the area--and risks defeat.

And then there is the fact that we are far away from the rest of the world where we'd need to fight. I've noted that our ships and subs need to be larger than other countries who simply leave port and find themselves pretty much at their wartime stations. That's an expense right there. Plus we need logistics vessels and overseas bases to supply and maintain those forces. That's more money.

Strategypage noted some logistical statistics that reflect our need to spend huge effort just to be overseas--before we even start to spend money fighting overseas:

The U.S. Department of Defense is the largest user of logistical (moving supplies) services on the planet. Last year, for example, the Department of Defense used 84,906 flights to move 1.9 million passengers and 598,000 tons of cargo. Aerial refueling required 20,870 sorties by aerial tankers, which transferred 573,000 tons of fuel to 83,169 aircraft and helicopters.

Using sea transport 568,000 cubic meters of cargo was moved. There were also 37,712 pallets of munitions and 46 million barrels of fuel moved by sea. Civilian contractors moved half the air cargo and 67 percent of the sea cargo.

Nobody else has this capability to move people and stuff at this scale and with such skill. And it costs money. Be grateful that our geography insulates us from direct threats from nations that don't spend money on similar logistics capabilities rather than complain that we have to spend money to go long distances to fight our enemies away from our own cities.

And be grateful that we aren't Europe which spends a pretty sum on defense but finds that the first 95% (figuratively speaking, I'm just illustrating) of their spending goes to a civil service organization that happens to wear a uniform. They never really get around to spending money on much of a deployable fighting force.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

But Will They Fight?

This article describes the difficulties Taiwan is facing in recruiting, equipping, training, and operating an all-volunteer military.

An all-volunteer military does require more spending than Taiwan seems prepared to spend.

But I find the active-reserve component to be most interesting.

There are three parts to this.

One, the active military will be small:

Under current plans, by early 2015 the armed forces should be composed of 176,000 volunteers, from the 235,000 volunteers and conscripts at present, for a total active duty force of 215,000 (from 270,000).

That is small. But remember that this force just has to defend Taiwan and not project power around the globe. It leaves room for a lot of brigades fully capable of operating on Taiwan. If well trained and funded, they can react quickly to a Chinese invasion.

Two, even with an all-volunteer military, the Taiwanese are retaining conscription:

It should be stated from the outset that, as it is understood in the U.S. or the U.K, Taiwan’s envisioned AVF system is a misnomer and will remain so as long as the constitution hasn’t been amended. That is because while the policy focus is on recruitment of volunteers, young males of service age will continue to complete a mandatory four months of basic training, which has gone down from 12 months at present and 24 months at its height. According to critics, those four months are insufficient to provide those who undergo training with the necessary skills to be able to take up arms in the defense of their country.

Four months is insufficient to be a soldier in a high quality active army unit. But four months is enough to learn how to operate weapons and learn squad-level tactics.

Clearly, the 4-month troops are intended to be reservists who can be called up for local defense. These guys are fully capable of manning squad-sized road blocks to resist very light Chinese paratroopers or special forces trying to move around the island. And they allow the better trained active duty volunteers to focus on battalion and brigade operations that immediately deploy to fight the invasion force.

And three, the active force is top-heavy:

The Ministry of National Defense’s Department of Integrated Assessment, which consulted with the U.S. on the matter, has fixed Taiwan’s active force size at 215,000, optimally with a 1:2:2 officer/NCO/soldier ratio.

Or a ratio of officers to enlisted of 1:4.

Before the Iraq and Afghan campaigns, the US Army had a 1:12 ratio. And we generally keep more officers to expand the Army. Note that we were able to expand our brigades by close to 50% in only a few years because we had the officers (and senior NCOs) to lead troops. Normally you'd need a lot of time to adequately train the higher ranks and give them experience. We see that problem in Iraq where the Iraqi army has had to start from virtually scratch to train an army.

Clearly, the active component of the Taiwanese military is expected to supply the officers and NCOs for a whole lot of mobilized reservists. To me, a good active force and a large reserve force for local defense duties is a reasonable plan for their ground forces.

Of course, the Taiwanese need to understand that they are fully capable--if they fight--of defeating a Chinese invasion despite China's massive relative size. No force structure or reserve force will be sufficient if the Taiwanese troops believe the war is lost the minute it begins.

Guantanamo Ice Tray

I finally saw Star Trek Into Darkness. (I assume some comedy site's employees high-fived each other, salivating over the chance to do a version titled "Into Dorkness.")  No, I suppose I am not guilty of needing instant gratification for my wants. Or I'm not as big a Star Trek fan as I think I am. I don't own any Star Trek merchandise, I admit.

Anyway. Quite enjoyable action flick. When Kirk exhausted himself futilely punching the villain, I figured out he was Khan. Yes, I avoided reading or talking about the movie, completely.

And as soon as Kirk went for the radiation dose, I figured out Khan's blood would be used to revive Kirk.

As an aside, Kirk's future wife(?) and mother of their future completely annoying grown-up son is stunningly pretty.

I would like to point out that after all the moral posturing in the movie about returning Khan to Earth in order to face justice after he killed so many people on Earth, Khan--and all of his uninvolved followers--were put in cold storage ice trays for indefinite, unconscious detention.

Unless you want to tell me that Khan and all of his followers had will have trials and appeals, and that the statutes (will) include suspended animation punishments for the duration of the franchise.

So much for the Botany Bay episode, of course.

Not that I'm complaining about the Federation's (or was this Earth jurisdiction?) actions. Khan might still be in a Klingon airport if Kirk hadn't violated Klingon territorial integrity and come out with Khan.

One question, however, about that commando raid on Kronos. Isn't it convenient that there were no real world consequences of not just trying to drone Khan's butt with a weapon not traceable to Earth?

Given how, ah--touchy--the Klingons are, you're telling me that the Klingons didn't figure out Earth slaughtered and busted up one of their planet's bases? CSI Kronos? Video cameras? Eye witness accounts of humans? Sheer bloody-minded awfulness that would lead them to blame Earth without any need to have any evidence at all?

And then didn't throw their fleet at the Sol system? As honor requires them to act?

I quibble. I liked the movie.