Monday, September 30, 2013

It's the Regime, Stupid

Talking to Iran about their nuclear program is unlikely to give us a satisfactory outcome.

First of all, a deal with Iran on their nukes that is successful in depriving Iran of nuclear weapons is likely to be a bigger version of the Syria deal. That is, an agreement on nuclear weapons leaves Iran free to carry out a hostile foreign policy at odds with our interests:

The groundbreaking dialogue between Iran and the U.S. has raised speculation of further advances to ease their 34-year diplomatic estrangement. But the two countries have overlapping interests across the Middle East and beyond that are sharply at odds.

So if we are less able to battle Iran (and threaten harsher actions if Iran goes too far), Iran will have more abilities to push their agendas in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Gaza, and the Persian Gulf.

Further, President Obama has made it less likely that we could get a real deal on Iran's nuclear weapons. Remember, we flipped Libya and got them to give up their nuclear and chemical weapons programs after Khadaffi got scared of following Saddam into the prison, trial, and dirt nap route.

But then in 2011, President Obama led a war against Khadaffi that allowed rebels to shoot Khadaffi. Without WMD as leverage and without Russia or China shielding them at the UN, Khadaffi could only hope that the NATO alliance would fracture at the duration and cost of the war. (I think Khadaffi erred in not lunging at Benghazi early in NATO's intervention to get into the city regardless of the cost marching up the road. Only human shields could save Khadaffi at that point.)

So Iran can't trust us to abide by an agreement that Iran is willing to complete (as unlikely as that is already) based on our recent history.

I fear that President Obama is willing to agree to a deal that Iran pretends to end their nuclear weapons programs (which they deny having, in any case). He'll pretend it is a real agreement and with any luck it won't be shown to be a sham until after he has left office in 2017.

Meanwhile, if an agreement is signed, Iran will continue to work on their nuclear weapons program. Perhaps they really will suspend their drive to get nuclear materials while they get their long-range ballistic missile program caught up with the nuclear work. After all, having a nuclear device without the ability to launch it is the worst of both worlds--bomb bait that proves Iran lied without the ability to threaten nuclear use to stop the attacks.

In the end, it's the regime we should be worried about. Iran under the mullahs is a threat regardless of whether they have nukes, or not. And a non-nutball regime with nukes would be less of a threat, in the worst case. I know, the nuclear program is popular in Iran. But in a non-nutball Iran, the people might think that spending on other things is worth more than having nukes regardless of the cost.

My preference to solving the Iran problem has always been regime change first. A bombing campaign has always been my fall back position to buy time to actually seriously attempt to change the regime.

I remain disappointed that the 2009 Green Revolution was abandoned by President Obama in a futile attempt to extend and open hand to Iran's mullahs. And I remain disappointed that after a decade, our intelligence services haven't been able to figure out how to spark a revolt in Iran. (Unless the Green Revolution was that event, of course.)

France Shows the Way

During the run up to the Iraq War, those on the left pined for a foreign policy nuanced enough to embrace working with even the worst chemical weapons-using dictator. Why can't we be more like France, which opposed fighting Saddam (in 2003--but not in 1991 when they sent troops). Now I want a policy that follows France's lead.

After winning the conventional phase of the Mali War of 2013, the French have vowed to keep enough troops in Mali to cement their win and keep jihadis from returning:

France has declared al Qaeda defeated in northern Mali, but also says it will keep troops there for as long as necessary to ensure that the Islamic terror groups do not return and resume using the mountains near the Algerian border as bases. Meanwhile France still has 3,200 troops in northern Mali, down from the peak of 4,500.

And this despite Tuareg-southern Black Malian divisions and sporadic clashes that complicate the new mission:

Malian troops clashed with Tuareg rebels in the northern desert town of Kidal for a second day on Monday, residents said, after the separatists ended a ceasefire with the new government last week.

If only we had the same nuance in our thinking to defend what we won in Iraq.

Scarce Labor Increases Wages?!

If restricting illegal immigration raises wages to attract farm workers, where's the potential for gratitude from the poor for community organizers and left wing politicians who demand the government set higher minimum wages?

I mean, nobody is going to be grateful to and donate money to Adam Smith!

Tip to Instapundit.

Size Matters

While I have little reason to trust Seymour Hersh who spouts on lots of conspiracy theories that lefties just eat up, in the case of the New York Times, Hersh is just noting the obvious.

Mad Minerva quotes Hersch on the the failure of the Times to do anything but carry water for the Obama administration:

"... the New York Times still has investigative journalists but they do much more of carrying water for the president than I ever thought they would … it's like you don't dare be an outsider any more."

Even aside from the ideological component that means the Times wants to carry President Obama's water, the massive growth in the federal government's power would lead even many hostile news outfits to conclude that it is too dangerous (to personal or corporate profits) to be an outsider.

Isn't this a reason alone to reduce the size and scope of the federal government? Isn't it a problem that even a watchdog rather than lap dog free press has reason to fear crossing the federal government?

And really, shouldn't President Obama want a smaller federal government? After all, if America is ungovernable, maybe shrinking the federal government will reduce it to a scope he can handle.

I'm sure President Obama would be just great to run a Swedisth-style government in a country the size of Sweden, but for a country the size of America, he's in over his head.

Burial at Sea

I'm just not worried about Iran's mini-sub threat.

Iran boasts that they are mass producing small subs. Will they be able to cut off oil exports through the Persian Gulf with them?

In an interview with the semi-official Fars News Agency this week, Admiral Khordad Hakimi, commander of the Iranian Army’s 4th Naval Zone in the Caspian Sea, said that Iran is mass producing light submarines and has begun constructing medium submarines.

Although Iran is well known for grossly exaggerating its military advances, these statements seem on the mark.

The Islamic Republic of Iran first became interested in acquiring submarines after it had numerous surface vessels sunk by the U.S. Navy during the Tanker War in the late 1980s. Realizing the futility in taking on the USN directly, Iran embraced an asymmetric strategy. Submarines are one component of this, as are its mine-laying capabilities, anti-ship cruise missiles and fast-attack speedboats and other small craft, which it could use in swarming tactics.

I'm not aware of mini subs being used effectively anywhere. The Italians used something like that to get swimmers into position to attack British warships in Egypt during World War II, but mini subs just don't have a track record of effectively fighting.

We can destroy them in port. And as mini subs, I don't believe they even have reloads for the torpedoes (or mines, I assume) in the tubes. So the boats will have to return to ports under surveillance by our forces fairly soon.

And since the shipping lanes are pretty small, we could use active sonar to scour the lanes as we move through them. Helicopters with dipping sonar sweeping ahead would be immune to anything the subs can do.

Yes, as part of a complete threat of some aircraft, land-based anti-ship missiles, and massed small boats, they could be a threat.

Remember that the Iranians are going this way because a more traditional navy able to sail out into the Arabian Sea to do battle if necessary is seen as futile given our ability to defeat the Iranians in the Gulf in 1987-1988 (and Iran had a lot of small boats, then, remember, that we also defeated).

So if we refuse to cooperate with the new Iranian approach to sea battle and instead keep our big ships out of the Persian Gulf in the initial part of a conflict---keeping them out of range of the swarms--while letting aircraft, armed drones, and small craft hammer the enemy in port, ashore, and in the Gulf, we'll deny Iran the targets they need to make their new approach pay off.

And those subs will just be coffins for the crews.

In twenty years, Iran might be building bigger ships because the current approach doesn't work unless we cooperate in matching our tactics to their capabilities.

Oh, and just as Iran is reacting to capabilities in the Persian Gulf region, we need to worry that Iran will react to increases in oil export capacity that bypasses the Strait of Hormuz.


During the Iraq War, I noted that one of our means of success was mapping the "human terrain" of the Sunni Arab insurgencies so that we could break them apart. So guess what the NSA has been doing?

Having war plans in a file just in case is pretty common. No matter how unlikely, somebody probably looked at the issue.

As the Iraq War was being won using the knowledge of human terrain--who is related to who (by whatever blood, social, religious, or ideological ties) in a region--I speculated that in an age of Islamist insurgencies and terrorism, mapping the human terrain of potential war zones would be useful in case we found ourselves in a fight in one of them:

Instead of drawing up nice plans of governing structures and new roads, why don't we spend our pre-war preparation time building up similar databases of leaders and groups in the target nation? This might be a good task for the CIA and other intelligence agencies to focus on, building on those country studies.

Such detailed knowledge of the society and political elites of a potential enemy would be useful for a lot more than just suppressing an insurgency. We could use it to target sanctions, foster a revolt or revolution, or sow dissent and suspicion among the ruling elites.

Six years later, Instapundit notes an NSA project:

Since 2010, the National Security Agency has been exploiting its huge collections of data to create sophisticated graphs of some Americans’ social connections that can identify their associates, their locations at certain times, their traveling companions and other personal information, according to newly disclosed documents and interviews with officials.

NSA defends their human terrain analysis as focused on foreign threats despite the domestic component:

“All of N.S.A.’s work has a foreign intelligence purpose,” the spokeswoman added. “Our activities are centered on counterterrorism, counterproliferation and cybersecurity.”

What does "centered on" mean? That doesn't sound like a synonym for "solely" does it?

I remain conflicted on the NSA program. In theory we need to do it. And metadata is legally separate from the actual data of communications content. Although modern computing power makes that data far more useful to good guys and bad guys since that distinction was set by our court system.

Besides, who can blame President Obama for not wanting to make every effort to find terrorists given how Democrats hammered President Bush over and over for failing to "connect the dots" to prevent 9/11?

But the theoretical need for such a program collides with the practical problems of conducting a foreign intelligence program without it expanding--wittingly or unwittingly--into domestic surveillance. Nor does it answer questions of how the data is preserved from abuse by simply aggressive but honest employees or just crooks or rogue employees (rogue as an organization or in part). Well what do you know?

On September 18 USA Today, in a front page story, reported the following: "Newly uncovered IRS documents show the agency flagged political groups based on the content of their literature, raising concerns specifically about 'anti-Obama rhetoric,' inflammatory language and 'emotional' statements made by non-profits seeking tax-exempt status."

That's aside from the article's focus on the failure of the big networks to even cover that story. Remember that there are stories out there about domestic criminal prosecutions made possible by national security surveillance programs that were not revealed as sources of evidence. Is that where we are going? Do we really want to go that way?

And how is the data secured against foreign intelligence agencies who might want their own human terrain analysis of America? In battle, the saying goes, you seize the high ground. That applies to human terrain, too, no?

As I've droned on about for years on occasion, failure to fight this war aggressively to actually win it is a threat to our civil liberties. Every time a terrorist gets through--or almost does--we ratchet up the laws that restrict our freedoms in order to stop the terrorists.

And no, declaring that the tide of war is receding and deciding not to fight the war abroad doesn't count as victory.

As long as our enemies are nutball jihadi fanatics, the war will go on regardless of whether we are tired of fighting. The enemy doesn't care that we've been fighting for more than a decade. And if we don't fight the enemy over there, we'll fight them more over here--including with programs that infringe on our freedoms.

Right now I'm still conflicted about the program because I'm still not sure how to balance the need to find terrorists against any deliberate or accidental abuse of surveillance powers.

But I am sure that the longer these programs go on the higher the odds that our freedoms will be abused routinely will become. It may be our government, individuals, governmental or private groups, criminal gangs, or even foreign countries.

We can see our future from here. I don't doubt that. We surely need to have a thorough review of our surveillance programs and laws to make sure that they do not violate our civil liberties or that they do not have the potential to easily become an assault on our civil liberties.

Now He Doesn't Want to Talk?

I know that Democratic eliminationist rhetoric about Republicans that paints them as terrorists isn't sincere, because if they really believed that Republicans are enemies, Democrats would be on the fifth meeting with them by now. There might even have been an informal encounter in the hall! Hell, Democrats might have surrendered by now...

At this point, I can only assume that President Obama and his Democratic allies will finally agree to negotiate with Republicans over the funding bill if the House Republicans fire chemical weapons at the Mall or if Senate Republicans start enriching Uranium in the Senate Cloak Room.

UPDATE: Hmm. People keep saying that the government shutdown crisis won't end well for Republicans given that the 1995 shutdown was blamed on Republicans. Did that cause Bob Dole to lose in 1996? I think that it is more likely that Bob Dole caused him to lose to Clinton. And Republicans did do fine in Congressional elections, if I recall.

But no doubt, the press hammered Republicans for the lack of a budget and shutdown that year.

One, is it going to be the same reaction in a new media era and after 18 years of mounting debt? In 1996, the horrifying level was $5 trillion. Last year it was $16 trillion. Might that make a difference?

Two, the media isn't going to be a lock for the Democrats despite the established media's efforts to back their party.

And three, what if a shutdown isn't the goal of the Republicans?

If Republicans go to the edge and then allow the budget to pass "for the good of the country," won't Republicans be able to show that Democrats will defend the unpopular Obamacare at all costs? And if the law has as many problems as it seems, won't that tie Democrats to the act in bad ways? In some ways, after all, a delay could be seen as saving Democrats from the consequences of rushing the act--their act--into place, with arbitrary and politically convenient exemptions highlighting Democratic ownership.

Won't Republicans be able to point to eliminationist rhetoric from Democrats painting Republicans as suicide bombers and terrorists as a reason that it is not possible to even negotiate small popular changes with the Democrats? Thus Republicans must control both chambers of Congress?

Won't Republicans be able to argue that it is not even possible to negotiate with President Obama on even fixing the act? Let alone repealing and replacing the act? In this, Republicans will have a tremendous assist from the president who has talked more with Iran's new ruler than with Congressional Republicans about the budget crisis.

I would never say that this is the plan. And I can't say that this is how it could work out (I thought the Supreme Court approval would lead to more acceptance by the public--the opposite of reality, I'll add).

I just don't assume we know how the public will react to the crisis and eventual resolution, and I don't even assume we know how the crisis will play out, anyway.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

This Won't Hurt a Bit

Right now, the campaign to get people to buy Obamacare policies has a "it's all great for you" tone with cuddly cuteness one approach. Have we forgotten that the IRS enforces this new system?

Yeah, it's all bunnies, kittens, and gerbils right now. Adorable!

But as young and healthy people discover that the law's incentives mean that it is more affordable to act to purchase health insurance only when you actually need care, the animal campaigns are likely to change. And it won't be private groups doing the persuading. It will be the IRS.

With apologies to National Lampoon, of course.

Although with our president, perhaps the threat should be to eat this dog ...

UPDATE: I should note that buying health insurance under Obamacare doesn't mean you can break your leg and then sign up for Obamacare online with an app on the way to the ER--you have to wait for the annual open enrollment period.

But a lot will wait until they feel they have reached an age where they are more prone to becoming ill.

And I'd like to caution that even that instant coverage option shouldn't be ruled out when you start getting sympathetic stories about those stuck without insurance in that gap. Indeed, the compassion of forcing young uninsured healthy people to buy insurance will be argued even more strongly.

It Is Puzzling

So what is the strength of the jihadis in the ranks of the Syrian rebels? Should the answer even affect our basic policy?

I'm willing to risk their temporary ascendancy to get rid of Assad. But am I being foolish? Talk of Islamists more than half of the rebels makes it seem a possibility (perish the thought, I know).

I think that when there is a rebellion in a Moslem country, that odds are a lot of the rebels will by Islamists.

I also think that this is a reason to arm the more moderate rebels. One reason that Islamists have gained ground is that they are the most effective fighters because of their fanaticism, which draws recruits who want to back the strong horse even if they personally don't want to die for the cause as their first option.

And as effective fighters (albeit with high casualty rates) they draw more foreign arms and tend to capture arms from Assad's bases. Again, for those who want to fight Assad, joining those with weapons is an attraction, no?

Obviously, wealthy Gulf Islamists funnel arms and money to the Islamists and jihadis, too. Which makes me ask why--if foreign Islamist donors can direct arms to jihadi fighters--can't we direct arms to non-jihadi fighters just as effectively? Puzzling, no?

Had we armed the local more moderate rebels early, we would have interrupted the factors that strengthen the fanatics.

Also, the jihadi types are still a small minority, with foreigners perhaps only in the thousands:

In the beginning, the Arabs tended to work primarily together with the Al-Nusra Front, but the situation changed in early 2013. The group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), initially made up of fighters from Iraq, quickly became a catch-all for foreigners. With 3,000 to 6,000 members, it is still relatively small compared to the Syrian rebel groups -- particularly the Free Syrian Army (FSA), with around 100,000 men -- but ISIS has access to money from wealthy private benefactors in the Gulf states. ISIS also makes use of the rebels' core dilemma -- with a lack of foreign aid, the radicals offer themselves up as fighters.

Stories that may simply be Assad propaganda about jihadi atrocities and the extent of the foreign jihadis are usually not verifiable and the article notes one in particular that sources who should know inside the country say did not happen.

The story says that a lot of the foreign jihadis aren't even fighting--they're in areas abandoned by Assad setting up bases.

So are the jihadis that big a part of the rebellion as Assad and many in the West claim?

I have been puzzled by the reports of massive jihadi presence in Syria. One, if there are so many jihadis (with many jihadis coming from Iraq, it is said), why are there so few suicide bombings and car bombs? There were lots of those in Iraq and the foreign jihadis generally numbered only in the hundreds (funneled in through Syria, they obviously had a short shelf life).

Is the rise of the foreign jihadis in Syria just an excuse to avoid intervention by people who simply oppose most any intervention?

Consider that opponents of fighting in Iraq often pointed to the low numbers of foreign jihadis to deny that the war on terror had a front in Iraq. Indeed, some denied that Al Qaeda in Iraq was even al Qaeda at all!

And those eager to get out of Afghanistan often point to the fact that relatively few al Qaeda core are inside Afghanistan, as opposed to Taliban jihadis seen as local jihadis of no threat to us even if they win.

So the presence of no, few, or lots of foreign jihadis supports the policy of not fighting for our interests, it seems.

I remain puzzled by the foreign jihadi problem in Syria. But whether it is real or not, I don't see why arming and helping the non-Islamist rebels in Syria to overthrow Assad isn't the obvious policy whether we want to defeat rising Islamists or prevent Islamists from rising.

What piece of information is missing to solve this puzzle?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Wait. What?

Disarming Syria of chemical weapons will be easier because much of their arsenal consists of precursor chemicals that are the building blocks to make weaponized chemical compounds:

Syria's stockpile of chemical agents is largely "unweaponized" and could be eradicated more quickly than initially thought, the Washington Post reported Thursday citing a confidential US and Russian assessment. ...

The Post reported that in private briefings to weapons experts, analysts had estimated Syria possesses more than 1,000 metric tons of chemical weapons, including 300 metric tons of sulfur mustard.

However, the remainder of the stockpile was made up of chemical precursors to nerve agents that were "unweaponized" and in "liquid bulk" form and therefore easier to destroy.

Well, that's good news. The chemical threat isn't imminent for a lot of their stockpile, although it could be brought on line for use with a bit of time.

Hey, remember what we found in Iraq after the 2003 invasion? This 2004 Duelfer report for the CIA (the Iraq Survey Group) assessed that at the time of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Iraq had a limited breakout capability to produce chemical weapons:

ISG judges that the longstanding intent of the Regime was to restart WMD production once UN sanctions were lifted. Based on an investigation of facilities, materials, and production outputs, ISG also judges that Iraq had a break-out capability to produce large quantities of sulfur mustard CW agent, but not nerve agents.

• Iraq declared to the UN an experimental sulfur mustard production route from locally available chemicals—sulfur, chlorine, and ethylene, all of which Iraq had access to at the time of OIF (see Figure 2).

• Iraq retained the necessary basic chemicals to produce sulfur mustard on a large-scale, but probably did not have key precursors for nerve agent production. With the importation of key phosphorus-based precursors, Iraq could have produced limited quantities of nerve agent as well.

• Mustard production could have started within days if the necessary precursor chemicals were co-located in a suitable production facility; otherwise production could have started within weeks. Nerve agent production would have taken much longer, because of the complexity of the process, according to Dr. Mahmud Faraj Bilal, a senior Iraqi scientist and CBW expert, and the lack of advanced phosphorus precursors in country. Bilal believed a covert offensive CW program was unlikely because the program would require 400-500 witting personnel.

So Syria with chemical weapons precursors rather than chemical-filled shells is just an easier job of getting rid of Assad's chemical weapons capabilities. Mission accomplished sooner! Yay President Obama!

Saddam with chemical weapons precursors is a failure to justify a war based on "lies" about Iraq's chemical weapons capabilities. Boo President Bush!

Got it.

Syria is way different than Iraq. Can't even compare the two Baathist minority regimes. Or their chemical arsenals.

UPDATE: Here's the Post article.

There Will Be an Outcome in Syria

The idea that intervening in Syria can only make matters worse is just wrong. Things can go bad whether we try to shape events, or not. But getting a good result by letting others shape events is less likely.

The West won't intervene simply to avoid being blamed for a bad result rather than because we think good results are more likely if we stay out:

It’s the lack of rebel unity more than anything else that scares away the West which seems to believe that it is more prudent to let the rebellion run its course and then deal with the winner. If the fighting results in the country being partitioned and some areas becoming terrorist sanctuaries (that host groups attacking the West) then that will be dealt with. Meanwhile getting the Assad chemical weapons stockpiles neutralized is seen as more important.

I keep saying that it is better to try to defeat Assad and then deal with the threat of jihadis by helping the more acceptable rebels defeat the jihadis. The fact that influencing the outcome of this fight doesn't solve the problem once and for all shouldn't deter us.

Failing to intervene (and again, I don't mean by ground troops or even air power--just arm, train, and advise the more acceptable rebels to help them grow and win) will also require us to deal with the aftermath of the the war.

What are the possible outcomes, broadly speaking?

1) Assad could win.

2) The more acceptable rebels could win.

3) The jihadi rebels could win.

4) Syria could fragment with Assad (or maybe a post-Assad Alawite force) and various rebel factions holding their own ground.

5) Assad could be overthrown with rebels winning but holding their own ground in a fragmented Syria.

Face it, only outcome 2 is in our interests. So if anything else happens, we'll want to change the result or suffer from it.

And failure to intervene makes it less likely that outcome 2 is achieved, no?

Consider, too, that mass starvation among the Sunni majority in a longer war is likely a means for Assad to achieve outcome 1.

I think preventing outcome 1 is our highest priority. Assad has been our enemy and the blood of a lot of American troops is on his hands because Assad hosted Iraqi Baathists and jihadis who fought us in Iraq. Crushing an enemy would be a good lesson for all thug rulers to learn. Then we can work on getting outcome 2.

And remember, Turkey, Jordan, and Israel are right there, and will want to cope with whatever outcome there is. So there is a sort of safety net that will require them to act if they don't want to be acted upon by the Syria outcome.

Even the addition of chemical weapons doesn't change my priority since a victorious Assad will no doubt attempt to get revenge against the west for helping the rebels (remember the classic warning: if you strike a king, kill him). And that could include slipping chemical weapons to terrorists while holding out the Russian-defended excuse that some chemicals were stolen during the rebellion.

Don't pretend that refusing to act has no effect on the outcome.

The Eleventh Commandment?

Yes, ObamaCare is the law. Why does that mean it shouldn't be amended or repealed?

I know that Tweet is old. But it surely reflects the thinking that it is illegitimate to even think about repealing ObamaCare. But why? After all, we've had other laws. Are all of them written in stone?

At the risk of belaboring the obvious, some laws are bad. They can and should be repealed or amended. Some can be so bad that a war must be fought to end them.

And even good laws can be amended or repealed if one side has the votes (and a president willing to sign a bill, unless Congress has super majorities to override a veto, of course). Indeed, one Congress can't bind a future Congress. Laws are not remotely ever considered untouchable.

The ACA isn't sacred (although the left may be confused on this, considering how much they burn Bush). Let me know when that law gets chiseled into stone tablets. Until then, don't bother me with such Twitter nonsense from our White House.

Tone Deaf

Iran has a new good tone on their nuclear weapons program--if they had one, which the Iranians deny--Secretary Kerry says.

We are so stupid:

"Needless to say, one meeting and a change in tone, that was welcome, does not answer those questions," Kerry told reporters. "All of us were pleased that the foreign minister came today and that he did put some possibilities on the table." ...

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said there had been a "big improvement in the tone and spirit" from Iran compared with the previous government under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said the meeting had taken place in a "completely different tone, atmosphere and spirit" than what the group was used to and that a "window of opportunity has opened" for a peaceful resolution of the situation.

So ... the message that all agreed to report is a good tone from Iran.

Are we really this stupid?

The present state of play is that, if centrifuge production continues at current levels, by mid-2014 the regime will have a one-week “breakout” capacity, that is, it could take 20 percent enriched uranium and convert it to bomb-grade in seven days. What Rouhani is gambling is that Washington and Paris are unprepared to go to war. Instead, they will accept limited concessions, only delaying the Islamic Republic’s breakout date, in exchange for significant economic relief.

When the other side has good tone, you'd better break left and pop flares.

Because you're going down.

And Then There Were Four

Finally, a 4th lie worthy of joining the original three.

Laugh! It's funny, really:

The U.S. and its European allies said Thursday they were pleased by a new tone and a significant shift in attitude from Iran in talks aimed at resolving the impasse over the country's disputed nuclear activities. Iran said it was eager to dispel suspicions that it is trying to develop a nuclear weapon and to get punishing international sanctions lifted as fast as possible.

We're "pleased!!!" Pleased!! Hahahahahahaha!!! Stop!! Seriously, stop!! I'm dying here!!

Or will.

We're just too stupid to live, aren't we?

Awaiting the War for Mud Island

A mud island was thrust up off of Pakistan because of an earthquake a couple hundred miles away.

This island won't last more than a matter of weeks, but it is kind of interesting (getting past the casualties from the actual earthquake ...):

News organizations have reported that the Pakistani island suddenly appeared near the port of Gwadar after the quake. The island is about 60 to 70 feet (18 to 21 meters) high, up to 300 feet (91 meters) wide, and up to 120 feet (37 meters) long, reports the AFP.

Media reports have located the new island at just a few paces to up to two kilometers off the coast of Pakistan. It is about 250 miles (400 kilometers) from the epicenter of the earthquake.

Al Shabaab immediately attacked the island; Hamas demanded all Jews leave; Al Gore claimed global warming would submerge the island; our State Department declined to take a position on whether Argentina owned it, or not; and China declared it a core interest that has long been part of historic China.

Tip to Real Clear World.


All along I've feared the WMD deal over Syria would be toothless by requiring a Security Council resolution that won't get by Russia in case Syria does not abide by the deal to disarm rapidly.

Well what do you know?

The compromise draft resolution, seen by Reuters, makes the measure legally binding but provides for no means of automatic enforcement with sanctions or military force. Originally, the United States, Britain and France had wanted the resolution to state explicitly that it was under Chapter 7.

The only reference to enforcement in the draft is a threat that if Syria fails to comply with the resolution, the council would impose punitive measures under Chapter 7, which would require a second resolution that Russia could veto.

A U.S. State Department official hailed the deal as a "breakthrough."

It's like the Germans proudly proclaiming a "breakthrough" during Operation Bagration.

Well, that's hyperbole, of course. But the notion that this is a diplomatic breakthrough on our part is nonsense.

Are we really proclaiming that the "legally binding" nature of the resolution is important when only a couple weeks ago the administration's fanboys were boasting that our unilateral threat of ("unbelievably small") strikes compelled Assad to blink? Really? The deal that a so-called scared Assad regime agreed to now requires a toothless "legally binding" but not "reality binding" resolution to be effective?

Russia got what they wanted--no automatic enforcement under Chapter VII.

What really scares me is the thought that our foreign policy people actually think they are doing great.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Excuse Me, I Speak Jive

CNN somehow managed to mis-translate Iranian President Rouhani's comments on Israel as a moderate statement worthy of judging him a man to do business with.

It must be a dog-whistle thing (tip to Instapundit):

According to CNN's translation of Mr. Rouhani's remarks, the Iranian President insisted that "whatever criminality they [the Nazis] committed against the Jews, we condemn." ...

So what did Mr. Rouhani really say? After offering a vague indictment of "the crime committed by the Nazis both against the Jews and the non-Jews," he insisted that "I am not a history scholar," and that "the aspects that you talk about, clarification of these aspects is a duty of the historians and researchers."

Fake but--oh, just fake.

Sure, the Nazis committed crimes against lots of people, in other words. But who knows if the Jews were really targeted as is said?

Of course, this is in a quieter mood. In more heated moments I'm sure Rouhani could lament that the Nazis didn't kill more Jews.

Who translated this?

It highlights a problem we had in the Iraq War when English-speaking American reporters found that they could report more easily by speaking to English-speaking Iraqis. These tended to be Arab Sunnis and could be counted on to spout anti-US or pro-insurgent views.

A related problem was hiring translators--who again tended to be Sunni Iraqis because Shias didn't have the same educational opportunities--who could do similar things with mis-translations going either way, aiding enemy information operations.

Is it any wonder I don't trust these people?

UPDATE: Krauthammer does a better job translating:

As Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator between 2003 and 2005, [Rouhani] boasted in a 2004 speech to the Supreme Cultural Revolution Council, “While we were talking with the Europeans in Tehran, we were installing equipment in parts of the [uranium conversion] facility in Isfahan. . . . In fact, by creating a calm environment, we were able to complete the work in Isfahan.”

Such is their contempt for us that they don’t even hide their strategy: Spin the centrifuges while spinning the West.

But we hear what we want to hear. Which is music to Iran's ears.

What Does That Even Mean?

So Andrew Sullivan thinks President Obama was brilliant to make Russia "own" the Syria outcome; while another author says Obama still owns it. What does that even mean?!

Seriously. What does it mean to "own" Syria? Don't Syrians own Syria?

If Russia "owns" it, does it mean that Putin must do anything and pay any price to settle it? I mean, if he "owns" Syria he has responsibility, correct?

Is this just another version of the so-called Pottery Barn rule of "if you break it, you own it?" (and why am I not surprised that Thomas Friedman coined the rule's name?)

Because if so, it was a stupid concept then and it is still stupid now.

And given that it was coined over Iraq--a country President Obama walked away from in 2011 when he did not have to--it should be obvious that the rule is pointless.

Syrians own Syria. Other countries, Russia and America included, have interests in the outcome of the struggle in Syria. Why would we own the country more than Turks, Jordanians, Iraqis, Iranians, Lebanese, Hezbollah, or Russia--let alone Syrians themselves?

We have an interest in the fate of Assad and Syria more generally, and the region around Syria more generally than that. That doesn't mean America (or President Obama personally) "owns" Syria.

And it doesn't mean we can wash our hands of the outcome by just saying Russia "owns" the problem as if that means anything at all in the real world rather than Washington blame games to make sure the buck stops somewhere else. We won't like Putin's solutions to protect his interests.

Let's grow up and work the problems. We may not succeed, but we can't count on anyone else to look after our interests, can we?

Details, Details.

Long ago I figured Iran would be a great route to Afghanistan. It is.

Worried about supplying our troops in landlocked Afghanistan, years ago I noted that one benefit of targeting the mullah regime for overthrow would be that we might have a more secure supply line through a friendly Iran that doesn't require troublesome Pakistan or untrustworthy Russia:

One of the benefits of overthrowing the mullah regime in Iran and replacing it with a government that reflects the pro-American sentiment of the people of Iran will be the land corridor it will open to Afghanistan.

Now, our access to Afghanistan is from the north through the unstable "Stans" and back through an increasingly unfriendly Russia; or through Pakistan which we have to coddle to keep land-locked Afghanistan from being cut off from us.

Open up a supply route through Iran to Afghanistan and suddenly we don't need to be quite so reliant on our Central Asian bases or so careful with a Pakistan that will not crack down on the Taliban who hide and organize inside Pakistan. We won't have to be so shy when it comes to hunting bin Laden there, either.

We did get Osama bin Laden, but Pakistan's reactions show why I was worried.

As to the supply line issue, I was right. But I did not mean doing it this way!

The company that holds the multibillion-dollar Pentagon contract to supply U.S. forces in Afghanistan with food and water brought in supplies to build an Afghan warehouse through Iran, in a possible violation of U.S. sanctions.

Anham FZCO used Iran's Bandar Abbas seaport last year to land equipment and building materials that were then transported across Iran, according to business executives involved in the process and corporate emails reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Completing the warehouse at Bagram military base near Kabul put Anham in position to win the Pentagon supply contract, which it did in June 2012.

I guess Iran was close enough for government work.

To be clear, I meant overthrow the mullah regime, get a friendlier Iran, and then supply our forces in Afghanistan through Iranian territory--in that order.

SOC Carrier

United States Drones operating out of a base in Djibouti had to be dispatched to a dirt strip to allay fears of accidents:

Air Force drones ceased flying this month from Camp Lemonnier, a U.S. installation in Djibouti, after local officials expressed alarm about several drone accidents and mishaps in recent years. The base serves as the combat hub for counterterrorism operations in Yemen and Somalia, playing a critical role in U.S. operations against al-Shabab, the Somali Islamist militia that has asserted responsibility for the Nairobi shopping mall attack, which killed more than 60 people.

The Pentagon has temporarily moved the unmanned aircraft from the U.S. base in Djibouti’s capital to a makeshift airstrip in a more remote part of the country.

It isn't said whether this is temporary or whether we need to find a new base.

Why not outfit a container ship as a special forces aircraft carrier? This would be a perfect application of the Modularized Auxiliary Cruiser concept I described some years ago and recently brought up again.

With some drones, helicopters, and some special forces types housed aboard, it could sail in Djibouti territorial waters or sail farther afield to expand the scope of action (and gain an element of surprise by coming from new directions).

The Personal Struggle for Self-Improvement in Action

The Nairobi mall slaughter is how the jihad works:

Al-Shabab's mall-terror team reportedly freed Muslim Kenyans, and then murdered non-Muslims. The terrorists asked their victims to name Muhammad's mother, Aminah. Shrug, and they kill you. Again, domination, not co-existence.

It's one war. Jihadis want to sort them out and then kill the non-Moslems. We need to kill all the jihadis and let God sort them out.

Then we can say that the war has receded.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Policy is Settled

If the rightness of actions we are supposed to take to combat global warming is not affected by the absence of a global warming crisis, is it accurate to say that science should guide our policies?

I find this insight into the thinking of a global warming proponent fascinating given the pause in global warming that global warmers can no longer deny but which they desperately want to prove irrelevant:

But if the scientific case for their belief has disintegrated, the problem this leaves us with is the reason why I subtitled that book four years ago: “Is the obsession with climate change turning out to be the most costly scientific blunder in history?” The political leaders of the Western world, from President Obama to our own in the EU, are still as firmly locked into the alarmist paradigm as ever, quite impervious to all the evidence. As the EU’s “climate commissioner”, Connie Hedegaard, recently put it: “Let’s say that scientists several decades from now said, 'We were wrong, it’s not about climate’, would it not in any case have been good to do many of the things you have to do to combat climate change?”

In other words, even if those scientists eventually have to admit that their scare was all nonsense, it is still right that we should pile up green taxes, make a suicidally mad shambles of our energy policy and continue to pour hundreds of billions of pounds and euros into subsidising useless windmills (while China and India continue to build hundreds of coal-fired power stations chucking out more CO2 than we can hope to save).

Well, if the newly unsettled science shouldn't actually guide our policies, at least we can insist that our settled policy choices guide our science, eh?

If It Leads it Bleeds

Let's not forget that however many problems we may have with the rebels, whether the overall progress in defeating Assad or the problem of strengthening the non-jihadi rebels, that Assad's army is reeling from the length and intensity of the war.

This article notes that Hezbollah and the Shia Foreign Legion that Iran has organized is a key element to spearhead Assad's efforts to defeat the rebels. This is surely important. And I've noted this role before.

But don't neglect the description of the state of Assad's ground forces:

Thousands of Iran-supported Shiite fighters are playing a crucial support role for the embattled Syrian regime, helping claw back rebel-held territory, defend regime strongholds, and ease the burden on the exhausted Syrian Army.

"Thousands" aren't enough to carry the burden without the far more numerous army, secret police, and loyalist militias. But as long as the Syrian forces are at least minimally capable, the thousands can spearhead offensive efforts and stiffen defenders.

The need to stiffen the Syrian forces is clear:

Crucially, the presence of Shiite militias – especially Hezbollah with its proven combat record against Israel – has served as a morale boost to Syria's weary regular forces. According to diplomatic sources in Beirut and Damascus, some units within the 4th Armored Division, an elite unit in the Syrian Army, have come close to mutiny due to the high casualty rate among their ranks. The deployment of Hezbollah’s battle-hardened fighters has eased some of the pressure on regular forces.

“In the first nine months of the revolution, the Syrian army was losing dozens every week,” says Ali, the Hezbollah fighter. “After that, the special forces, our people, stepped in and trained them and that has reduced the casualties.”

I've noted that the regular army is bleeding out in the fight. And while the other assets may be reducing regular army casualties, those other assets are taking heavy casualties, too. If the regulars are shaky now, the other assets--even the jihadis if they suffer enough casualties (remember, the Iranians broke in the Iran-Iraq War despite their supposed higher acceptance of losses due to their fanaticism).

And this is an interesting note from the article:

Hezbollah is a task force that can be deployed at will. It’s a new, capable force backed by air power and artillery,” says a European ambassador in Beirut. “Although Hezbollah is a small force, it allows the regime to concentrate forces in one area which it can’t do with regular forces. The way they are supporting the regime is strategic even though it is a small force.”

If true, this implies that Assad's forces are strategically immobile, too busy or perhaps not confident enough to be moved from their locations. If Hezbollah is the mobile strike force, Assad's Syrian forces must be tied to wherever they are. Which means that success in one area can't be exploited by moving victorious forces elsewhere. I thought I'd read months ago of Syrian redeployments to the Aleppo front, but since the government has not been able to push back rebels there, perhaps that redeployment was minimal.

So yeah, new forces able to absorb casualties are taking some of the strain off the regular army, but eventually those new forces taking the lead will endure enough casualties to make them just as shaky as the army is now (and if Hezbollah gets shaky, they'll return to Lebanon rather than break their ground forces and make them too shaky to resist a direct Israeli strike or to fight a new civil war in Lebanon if non-Hezbollah forces decide to deal with Hezbollah while Syria is busy). Assad hopes the Kerry-Lavrov deal will be the new force that saves the Assad regime before that happens.

Will we be foolish enough to cooperate? Is the Obama administration Assad's last reserve?

Don't You Know There's a War On?

Given that we have moved forces around the globe to respond to jihadi attacks on embassies, the fact that al Qaeda attacked our embassy in Kenya in 1998 (and the one in Tanzania), and the fact that we have a major special forces hub nearby in Djibouti, I don't doubt that we could have participated in the Nairobi Westgate shopping mall rescue operation.

An eye witness said that she was rescued by American forces in the Westgate mall:

An American woman who was trapped inside the Nairobi mall as terrorists ran amok claims she was eventually rescued by an 'American security team'.

That is according to Bendita Malakia, the Harvard-trained lawyer who was caught up in the siege and hid along with 15 others in a store inside the mall for five hours before the armed men arrived to lead them to safety.

Thirty-year-old Malakia, who is from Elizabeth City, North Carolina, recounted the frantic scene tonight in an interview with NBC News as her rescuers bluntly told her, 'If you guys want to get out, we understand it's dangerous, but this is probably your best shot. If you don't get out now you may not get out.'

Rushing to the exit, accompanied by the armed security men who she believed were from the United States, two grenades thrown from only 30-feet away detonated near to them, but thankfully for Malakia she escaped and returned home to her parents on Monday.

And we already admit to helping with planning and logistics, apparently:

Kenyan officials have acknowledged that Israeli and American security personnel have taken part in planning the operation to retake the complex and provided logistical support according to the UK's Independent newspaper.

Given that we are better prepared to react to jihadi attacks in the region, it is not a great leap to assume we participated in the battle, as a Defense Department official testified last month:

“Putting tailored response forces in closer proximity to the area of a most anticipated need [and] dedicating airlift to those assets,” he replied, adding that he believes significant progress had been made in getting the balance right.

“I want to underscore that we are more ready than ever to respond to a crisis or attack if one occurs without warning,” he added.

Remember that we have a pretty major special operations base relatively close by, in Djibouti.

Remember, too, that Secretary Kerry quickly said we'd help; as did President Obama, who also did not hesitate to call it a terrorist attack.

Perhaps we are remembering that we are still at war.

Link Rot

Instapundit notes a paper on "link rot" which describes the ending of links in Supreme Court opinions, articles (and even blogs!).

Yes, it is annoying. Early on in thie blog (especially in the early GeoCities version), I'd often just link to an article and if it later died, the context was lost.

I reacted eventually by trying to quote from anything I linked to if if wasn't my own post, so if the link died you'd at least have the gist of the piece (and the link could give you source and date to look for the original if you really needed it).

Sometimes I still just link to an article if the hyper-link address describes the article sufficiently to get the point of the link (e.g., sarah_michelle_gellar_or_zooey_deschanel_why_choose?.com).

There are groups trying to save links (including saving links at the time of citation to guard against link evolution--which I exploited here), and I'd be remiss if I didn't note one group that saves an old GeoCities link to my Iran-Iraq War (First Gulf War) summary.

Sadly, this in need of donations to continue.

Trust But Terrify?

South Korea appears to want the F-35, after all.

Does South Korea's cancellation of their apparent decision to buy F-15SEs mean Seoul doesn't trust America to protect South Korea against North Korea's nuclear threat?

Given the practical need to have American forces involved in an anti-nuclear strike on North Korea, I didn't think that getting a fully stealth F-35 was as important as having more frontal stealth F-15SEs for the same money. If South Korea wanted some full stealth capability, supplementing the more numerous partially stealthed planes is certainly reasonable, I thought.

But my reasoning is either wrong or simply isn't Seoul's reasoning:

[South Korea's] DAPA [Defense Acquisition Program Administration] yields to pressure from the air force to pursue a 5th generation acquisition “in response to the latest trend of aerospace technology development centered around the fifth generation fighter jets and to provocations from North Korea.” A new tender process is to start, apparently with a new, presumably higher budget.

The government says that process should take about a year. This puts Lockheed Martin in a strong position, if the money is there and stealth ends up being the defining “5th gen” requirement.

The Europeans think they have another shot at the contract:

European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co. plans to improve its bid to sell 60 Eurofighter Typhoons to South Korea, and top Boeing (BA) Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT) when a competition for the combat jets is reopened.

And this article names North Korea's nuclear forces as the reasoning:

The South Korean government yesterday called off a tender for 60 fighter jets after rejecting Boeing’s bid for the 8.3 trillion-won ($7.7 billion) contract over concerns the F-15SE wasn’t advanced enough to counter North Korea’s nuclear threat. The Eurofighter Typhoon and Lockheed’s F-35 entries were rejected earlier on cost grounds.

I don't think Typhoon meets the requirements for full stealth if that is the highest priority. Nor is the F-15SE a contender if that is the priority.

But that is somewhat disturbing. Does Seoul trust us to strike North Korea's nuclear arsenal if North Korea gears up to implement their threats to turn Seoul into a "sea of fire"? Is the F-15SE sale an early casualty of the Syria WMD deal and our earlier pledges to inflict an "unbelievably small" strike on Syria? Does South Korea believe they must have the assets for the entire mission rather than simply being able to participate in a mission we'd lead?

South Korea may have little choice but to rely on us as their main ally. But they seem to want their own ability to scare and deter North Korean threats in case we fail to stand up against North Korea, and instead decide to suddenly strike our own "peace in our time" WMD deal with North Korea.

UPDATE: Remember, allies not sure we'll be there for them when the spit hits the fan is the flip side of enemies not worrying about us too much.

UPDATE: Being the ally of a country with thousands of nuclear warheads and a country that will have lots of F-35s isn't enough of a deterrent these days, it seems:

But with North Korea's possible nuclear weapons a constant concern after three nuclear tests, the latest in February, supporters of the decision to re-issue the tender say the very presence of stealth jets can deter the North.

"Possession of stealth fighters can only apply pressure to North Korea," said Lee Han-ho, a former air force chief of staff between 2003 and 2005.

That's pretty damning of our reputation as a friend of South Korea and a foe of North Korea.

UPDATE: More on the fighter decision. The article brings up the idea of a mixed buy--but with more F-35s and the rest F-15SEs to provide numbers under budget,

A Glimmer of Hope

Wow. Apparently, President Obama also thinks Thomas Friedman is a worthless analyst!

I say this because recently Mr. Friedman tried to argue that the sun was in the president's eyes (dreamy though they are, to be sure!) during the Syrian crisis. Friedman actually argued that the problems of the Middle East today are unprecedented since that Golden Age of 1978-2010:

Obama is dealing with an Arab world that no modern president has had to confront. Until 2010, the Arab Middle East had been relatively stable for 35 years. The combination of the cold war, the rise of oil-funded dictators who built strong security states and the peace between Egypt and Israel imposed order.

I described the relative stability and order prior to the Obama era that Freidman went on about at length.

But more to the point, President Obama appears to totally reject that since he thinks we live in the Golden Age:

Together we’ve also worked to end a decade of war. Five years ago nearly 180,000 Americans were serving in harms way, and the war in Iraq was the dominant issue in our relationship with the rest of the world. Today, all of our troops have left Iraq. Next year, an international coalition will end its war in Afghanistan, having achieved its mission of dismantling the core of Al Qaida that attacked us on 9/11.

Mission accomplished! The soothing balms of hope and change have made the Middle East a better place.

Sure, the tide of war receded into Syria, Egypt, Boston, and Kenya. But we are retreating from the world after burying Osama bin Laden at sea, so what more can we expect of our president? Let the freaking good times roll!

What a double fail. Both The Dignified Rant and President Obama judge Friedman a fool without a clue about the difficulties of the Middle East.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Charlie Brown Goes to the UN ...

... and tries to meet Lucy:

Senior administration officials came to pool hold around 2:45pm to say that the White House had offered to have "an encounter" on the sidelines of UNGA with Iranian President Rouhani, but the Iranians informed the US today that it is "too complicated for Iranians to do at this point."

Iran says that the nuclear issue must be resolved by talking. President Obama offers to talk to Rouhani about nukes. And Iran doesn't even consider it worthwhile to talk to our president when finally asked in a high-level forum.

This seems so familiar.

Which, while fairly humiliating, is probably the best outcome since talking to Iran serves only to buy time for Iran to go nuclear, weaken sanctions, and make military threats less credible.

The most stupid diplomacy extant.

Pretty soon nobody will think it worthwhile to talk to us. Why bother when they can just push us around and get what they want?

They Were Expansible

I know our Navy likes big, new, sleek, sophisticated ships. I don't blame them. I do, too. But we need numbers. And the logic of the math says we will lose numbers. While we aren't as far along on this as the Europeans, we simply can't have both the numbers we want and the size, sleekness, and sophistication that we'd like. There is a way out, I think, if we use Modularized Auxiliary Cruisers to supplement our Navy.

The Europeans are losing their navies and risk being fleets that can't absorb losses and continue to sail and fight:

Several trends are evident among the major NATO navies. First, they are getting smaller. All of the navies analyzed here have fewer ships today than in the year 2000—in some cases, significantly fewer. And while ship counts do not tell the entire story of a nation’s naval might (especially in the age of networked operations), they remain a useful proxy for naval capability, especially with respect to blue-water operations far from home waters. The primary reason these navies are getting smaller is a decline in general defense spending, including shipbuilding.

Second, the ships that are being built are increasingly capable and sophisticated—and therefore expensive—which serves only to drive down fleet size in an era of fiscal restraint.

And the Europeans have the luxury of being able to build small combatants since many of their patrol areas are close by or in relatively sheltered waters like the Baltic or Mediterranean Sea. We don't have the option of building many small warships (and the few Cyclone-class patrol craft we have are being permanently stationed in the Persian Gulf region) because we need size just to safely sail to our distant patrol areas and have time on station.

One result is that our fleet is top-heavy. In World War II we had relatively few capital ships like heavy cruisers, battleships, and aircraft carriers, with lots of smaller destroyers, destroyer escorts, light cruisers, submarines, and light carriers to supplement the heavies. Today our fleet is composed of Aegis destroyers the size of World War II heavy cruisers, capable nuclear subs, super carriers, and flat-deck amphibious warships that put other nations' carriers to shame.

So in theory we have the option to go to a high-low mix of ships. But our attempt to build Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) as the low part of the mix isn't really working since the ships are expensive and the mission modules that are to be built to plug into these hulls to make them more capable for specific missions are more expensive than we thought.

But the mission module seems like a decent way to get numbers of reasonably capable ship, in theory. Indeed, the Marines and Special Operations Command are doing this with C-130 transport planes (or KC-130 tankers) and gunship-in-a-box modules that turn a transport plane into an effective gunship for ground support:

U.S. SOCOM (Special Operations Command) has equipped and deployed 14 MC-130W "Dragon Spear" gunships in the last three years. The first MC-130W arrived in Afghanistan in late 2010 and a month later it had fired one of its weapons (a Hellfire missile) for the first time (killing five Taliban). Getting 14 new gunships into action so quickly was only possible because SOCOM adopted an idea developed by the U.S. Marine Corps; the "instant gunship." Called "Harvest Hawk," the marine instant gunship system works using weapons and sensors that can be quickly rolled into a C-130 transport and hooked up. This takes a few hours, and turns the C-130 into a gunship (similar in capabilities existing AC-130 gunships). The sensor package consists of day/night vidcams with magnification capability. The weapons currently consist of ten Griffin missiles and four Hellfires. A 30mm autocannon is optional.

Can't we do this with ships? We already have a lot of good large ships. We can't really rely on smaller vessels for numbers because of the need for sea-keeping and endurance (and life span since we like our ships to last many decades and smaller ships take a bigger beating at sea). But why can't we supplement our sophisticated ships with large but cheaper vessels? In the past, I've proposed Modularized Auxiliary Cruisers to provide numbers when we need them. We'd use container ships enrolled in a Navy program like the Civil Reserve Air Fleet which can provide civilian aircraft adapted to be of military use in emergencies. As large ships, they'd have the seakeeping qualities and endurance to make them useful to us in a global role.

We'd turn these large civilian ships into auxiliary cruisers by using weapon and system modules built inside shipping containers that could be set on the decks of the container ships.

I wrote about this here (and still regret that the United States Naval Institute declined to publish it back in 2007):

The system modules for Modularized Auxiliary Cruisers would have to be self-contained because they would not be installed on a ship designed to incorporate the modules, as the LCS is envisioned. This limits capabilities to what the modules contain, but auxiliary cruisers have never been intended to replace warships. Modularized Auxiliary Cruisers would be plugged into our naval network to fight within a task force or for missions not needing the capabilities of a conventional warship.

Armored standard (20' l x 8.0' w x 8.5' h) general purpose shipping containers would be the building blocks for system modules. Other sizes are available as well, including 40' x 8.0' x 8.5' containers, "hicube" containers measuring 40' x 8.0' x 9.5', and 40' x 8.0' x 4.25' half-height containers. Because Containerized Modules would not be stacked to create a Modularized Auxiliary Cruiser, weapons, sensors, or other equipment could extend above the container roof.

We would build Containerized Modules using shipping containers that include missiles (surface-to-air and surface-to-surface) as well as modules with gun turrets for smaller weapons, up to 57mm. Other modules could support helicopters for anti-submarine (ASW), mine counter measures (MCM), or anti-ship missiles, as well as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USV) and Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUV). Still others would contain power supplies and the command and communications systems to plug a ship into the Navy network. ...

The hulls that could be adapted for Modularized Auxiliary Cruisers are the world’s container ships. Of the nearly 48,000 ships in the world trading fleet, 3,524 are container ships. The American share is even smaller, with only 86 in private hands (and only 74 U.S.-flagged). Still, this is a potential pool far larger than the foreign warships that could contribute to a thousand-ship Navy.

Containerized Modules would be the building blocks for Mission Packages installed on a container ship’s deck to create a Modularized Auxiliary Cruiser tailored for the specific mission. One or more Mission Packages would be fixed to the deck of a container ship and connected to each other for power and communications.

Indeed, given the increased mission of Navy missile defense since I wrote that piece, this role could also be put on Modularized Auxiliary Cruisers, freeing our scarce Aegis destroyers from these static defense missions for offensive missions and forward presence.

The possibility of leveraging allied ships into a virtual "thousand-ship Navy" that we would lead is even less likely given the European declines noted at the beginning. We'll be lucky to achieve a "300-ship Navy" using allied help at the rate we are all going.

Further, if we can adapt the modules for our LCS to fit in standard shipping containers for these modularized auxiliary cruisers, we could reduce the per-unit cost of these modules by producing more of them, making the LCS ships cheaper.

Even the Army could make use of such vessels, lessening the burden on the Navy to respond to Army calls for naval support.

The ability to expand our ship numbers in peacetime or wartime for missions that require more numbers than our high quality, multi-mission can provide (and which will get worse as funding fails to keep up with Navy shipbuilding wishes) can be accomplished by using Modularized Auxiliary Cruisers. Not every mission requires a sleek warship and some missions would be better accomplished with a lower profile warship, anyway. And Modularized Auxiliary Cruisers would supplement the high quality ships in many situations.

UPDATE: Published version of this idea (see page 50, "The AFRICOM Queen").

Proof of God

Is it any wonder that the Iranians believe they are on a mission from God (as Strategypage would put it) when we fall for their charm offensive and decide that more talk--when all Iran wants is time to go nuclear--is the solution to Iran's objective of getting nuclear weapons?

And you know what the worst part is? The Obama administration won't be content to muck up our Iran policy. Oh, no. They'll cut some deal on a third issue that gives Iran an advantage yet we'll claim our threats of attack and greater sanctions compelled Iran to cut that deal.

Much more of this, and I'll be convinced God is on Iran's side.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Uncle Shabaab Wants You!

One of the more puzzling things about the Nairobi mall assault by al Shabaab that has killed 69 innocents so far is the claim by one analyst I heard that this is great for their recruiting efforts.

The terror attack is great for recruiting since al Shabaab have been on the run since Kenyans, African Union peacekeepers, and Ethiopians have knocked the group around in Somalia and denied al Shabaab their little Islamist kingdom.

Hey, wait a minute.

I thought Guantanamo Bay was the greatest recruiting tool ever.

Or was it the Iraq War? Yeah, I definitely remember that.

No, drone strikes on jihadis in Pakistan--or any fighting back against jihadis, since that just "creates more jihadis." Remember that? That was hauled out for Afghanistan, if I remember correctly.

Wait, wait. It was global warming once. Didn't Osama bin Laden once claim that?

Whatever. The key is that rather than what we do being a recruiting tool, what really gets the young Islamists to sign on the dotted line for the great jihad is the sight of actual jihadis striking a blow for Allah and the Ummah by slaughtering innocent men, women, and children.

Got it.


My daughter, Lamb, cracks me up.

She loves it when the sprinklers go off at my place so she can run through them. Even when she knew she shouldn't really get her school stuff soaked, she once said it was an accident.

So now, if we come home from school right when the sprinklers go off, she will yell "Accident!" and charge into the water, laughing with glee. Like today.

She knows enough not to get soaked now, but just getting a sprinkling of water as she dashes through fills her with joy, it seems.

What a good age. For her and me. :-)

Big War Strykers

I was skeptical of the Stryker wheeled armored vehicle when it came out. While I accepted we needed units between leg-mobile infantry and heavy mechanized forces, the Strykers lacked the protection and firepower to put them up against conventional foes. The Army wants to fix the problem of facing mechanized enemies rather than insurgents.

I will say that the Army has proven the Stryker to be an effective weapon in counter-insurgencies despite my worries. Of course, they did that by addressing my main worry about lack of protection against simple anti-tank rockets by deploying Strykers with anti-rocket metal screens--thus admitting my major worry.

Firepower was another worry I had in relation to using these brigades against heavier opponents. I noted that 105mm-gun versions of the Styrker. I also suggested variants carrying anti-tank missiles, noting that we could even tailor the Stryker brigades away from the infantry-heavy brigades that have proven very effective in counter-insurgency to anti-tank capable brigades:

If we are trying to halt an armored assault with the Stryker Brigade, the high infantry component makes less sense. Why not add more of the 105mm-armed Strykers (Mobile gun System, or MGS) at the expense of the infantry carriers? Put TOWs on them too and now we're talking. Build the brigades with three battalion task forces each containing two 105mm companies and one infantry company. Or perhaps two smaller companies of each to allow each battalion to fight with two balanced task forces. Add the other recon and targeting, artillery, and support stuff already there, and we have a unit that can be airlifted fast yet better suited to stopping armor. I'd still rather have heavy armor but if we have to be there tomorrow, the heavy stuff just won't be there (unless we park it there well before the conflict).

Given enough time, we could even add tank companies to the brigades for some heft.

The Army is looking at our Stryker brigade combat teams post-Iraq and Afghanistan, and worrying about their ability to slug it out with heavier enemies. So the Army wants to add 30mm auto-cannons to the Strykers which just have heavy machine guns or grenade launchers now:

Stryker Brigade Combat Teams first saw combat in Iraq in late 2003. The highly-mobile infantry force is equipped with potent variants such as the 105mm Mobile Gun System and anti-tank guided missile.

But most Stryker vehicles are infantry carriers armed with .50 caliber machine guns or MK19 automatic grenade launchers.

This has to change, argues MCOE Command Sgt. Major James Carabello.

"The Stryker needs to get up-gunned; a World War II weapon system on a Stryker? It needs a bigger gun," Carabello said. "It needs something that is a better platform than a MK 19 or a .50 caliber machine gun."

The need is now greater, officials maintain, since the Army is cutting the number of MGS Strykers from 27 to 10 per SBCT.

Currently, Training and Doctrine Command is working with Stryker program officials on a plan that could mean mounting a 30mm cannon on to the remote weapons stations on Stryker infantry carriers.

This capability is especially important since the Army is reducing the planned complement of MGS in each brigade from 27 to 10.

How many 30mm systems should be put in place is still in question. Should all get them or just one per company? I lean to all of them, even headquarters vehicles (so enemies can't easily tell which ones are headquarters vehicles).

I'd still consider reducing the infantry component in some of the Stryker brigades if one mission is to support light infantry like paratroopers. Attaching a combined arms Stryker battalion of an MGS company and two 30mm-armed Stryker infantry carriers (or better, reverse the ratio) as their maneuver element (or a team of 2 MGS platoons and a single infantry carrier platoon) would add some mobile, protected punch to light infantry units at the leading edge of an intervention.

But by all means, arm-up the Stryker. As we reduce our combat brigades, the Stryker brigades will likely be a larger portion of the force and we can't afford to have it be a COIN-only component.

UPDATE: Then there's the M-8 Armored Gun System as a light tank that can fly with the Strykers.

A Seriously Inconvenient Truth

After telling us that science said that pumping CO2 into the atmosphere would directly lead to higher air temperatures, the lack of increased air temperatures for the last 15 years or so is a problem for the global warming side to explain given that CO2 continues to be pumped into the atmosphere.

Naturally, proponents of taxing and governing as if global warming is real and spectacular want to hide the "pause" in warming (I'm used to a hot summer being called "climate" and a cool summer being "weather," but now a decade and a half is "weather"?) or explain it by saying that somehow the ocean is absorbing the heat that their models hitherto said would light up the atmosphere like a hibachi on full throttle.

Perhaps they are right. But this is such a new--and convenient--theory that I'd really like a little more scientific as opposed to political consensus on this explanation.

Personally, I'm waiting for the models to incorporate epicycles. Surely that will reconcile models and observed reality to finally settle the science.

Now go and emit no more.

Well, I Certainly Hope So

Russia is leveraging a probably phony WMD disarmament deal to save Assad. Russia is upset that the West seems to be (unfairly!) trying to leverage a phony WMD disarmament deal to justify striking Assad.

Good grief, I hope this is true:

Russia accused the West on Sunday of trying to exploit a chemical weapons deal with Syria to push through a U.N. resolution threatening force against President Bashar al-Assad. ...

"They see in the U.S.-Russian deal not a chance to save the planet from significant quantities of chemical weapons in Syria, but as a chance to do what Russia and China will not allow, namely to push through a resolution involving (the threat of) force against the regime and shielding the opposition," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

Russia hopes delays mean that Assad is saved for far longer than summer 2014 when chemical weapons are supposed to be destroyed or neutralized. I say we should make sure that summer 2014 is the absolute maximum that Assad can count on for US-led air and missile strikes to be on hold.

I say strike at regime leadership target for every delay, failure to comply, or missed deadline--and I don't care if Russia or China veto a UN Security Council resolution with such provisions. Just do it. Remember, in the long run-up to the Iraq War, we used enforcement of the no-fly zones over Iraq to begin a slow air defense suppression campaign against Saddam's forces.

Of course, Putin has a backup plan to keep our planes and missiles at bay. Perhaps disappointed that the usual suspects aren't leaping to volunteer as human shields in Syria, Russia seems ready to put their own people on the line:

Russia can send its military personnel to help in the proposed operation to eliminate Syria's chemical arms, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says.

I will not deny that there are advantages to getting Syria to give up their chemical weapons. The 2003 campaign against Saddam and the 2011 campaign against Khadaffi were easier because our enemies didn't have chemical weapons by the time we attacked. Achieving that same condition in Syria could make up for the mess that the whole Syria Crisis of Summer 2013 degenerated into under the Obama administration.

But we should not lessen our efforts to defeat the Assad regime and should not allow the WMD deal to drag on for longer than summer 2014 and serve to protect Assad.

The Odd Case of the EU Supporting Freedom

Russia will not rest until they reconquer Ukraine.

When the Soviet Union was around, the Ukraine may have had its own UN seat, but Moscow never doubted that they owned the place.

Russia doesn't like it when Ukraine acts like they are actually independent of Moscow:

A top Russian official has warned Ukraine against signing a landmark trade and cooperation agreement with the European Union, saying Moscow would retaliate with trade restrictions that could push this ex-Soviet republic toward default.

Russia won't rest until they regain control of Ukraine. Kiev would be wise to pull as far away from Moscow as they can while Russia is militarily weak, or the day will come when Russian helpful advice is backed by armored columns and a fifth column that will invite the Russians in.

I wonder if Ukraine regrets giving up the nukes they inherited when the Soviet Union fell apart?

I may not think much of the EU (you may have to read between the lines in some posts), but the Soviet Union Lite is surely better for Ukrainians than Classic Soviet Union.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Top Ten Readership

This is interesting to me, anyway.

My top ten countries of The Dignified Rant readership based on internal Blogger statistics:

1. United States at 63.3%.

2. Germany at 4.0%.

3. Russia at 3.8%.

4. France at 2.8%.

5. United Kingdom at 2.3%.

6. Canada at 1.8%

7. Australia at 1.3%.

8. Bulgaria at 1.1%

9. The Netherlands at 0.9%

10. Singapore at 0.5%.

The rest of the world adds up to 18.4%

These are rounded so it may not add up to 100.0.

Also, I'm highly confident that much of my Russian and Bulgarian audience is composed of spambots. Although I did get an angry email from a Russian guy once.

Finally, statistics from my Blogger numbers are way higher than Sitemeter stats. I think my real audience is about 2-1/2 times higher than Sitemeter shows. But Sitemeter provides details that Blogger stats just don't match. So both are useful to me.

Anywho. Thanks to those who are reading, wherever you are. I remain disappointed that Canada is ranked so low. I mean really. I pass for Canadian when I visit there!

Evil Umpire

I just heard a US Senator defending President Obama's deal with Russia to have Putin become the Evil Umpire entrusted to remove chemical weapons from Syria. She had the nerve to quote President Reagan's advice about deals with the Soviets that we should "trust but verify" and should do the same about Syria.

With all due respect to the good senator, she is confused. President Reagan never took his eye off the ball of defeating the Soviet Union and did not get distraced by the prospect of removing nuclear, biological, and chemical arms from Soviet control. He knew what the real threat was. The Evil Empire was real.

So don't defend being distracted from the goal of defeating Assad by the prospect of beginning a Putin-planned road trip that might temporarily deprive Assad of chemical weapons, but will surely buy the Assad regime time to survive.

And thank goodness today we have a weakened Russia with nuclear arms rather than a Soviet Union still occupying Eastern Europe with a large military but without nuclear weapons (and we wouldn't have nukes if the no-nukes crowd had their way). Keep our eye on the ball.

The Patron Saint of Evil

Ah, our friends the Russians! So partner-ish!! So reset!!!

Never let it be said that the Russians have a single-minded focus of screwing us over in the Middle East by aiding and arming thug regimes like Syria and Iran.

Oh, no! It's an evil pivot. The Russians would like to prop up North Korea, too:

Russia re-opened a railway link with North Korea on Sunday, holding out the prospect of increased trade for the reclusive nation with its biggest neighbors after years of international sanctions.

Impoverished and squeezed by sanctions for conducting a series of nuclear and missile tests, North Korea has reached out to Moscow and Beijing for help to fill the gap left by the drying up of South Korean and U.S. economic assistance.

That's great. Much more of this and when Putin reminds us of our past alliance against Nazi Germany, we'll regret not reversing the order of our victories and letting Hitler smash the USSR first and then waging a Cold War against Nazi Germany second.

Assuming Anyone Listens to Nancy Pelosi

I'm sure it was a baking reference. Right?

The Coldest War

Russia is moving back north. Do recall that the Russians can see Alaska from there.

Russia is restoring their military presence in the Arctic after leaving in 1993 in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union:

Two decades after abandoning it, Russia has sent 10 warships behind four nuclear-powered ice breakers to the base on the Novosibirsk Islands, a show of force as it resumes a permanent naval presence in the thawing region.

The flotilla was led by Russia's flagship nuclear-powered cruiser, Peter the Great, along the Northern Sea Route, which connects Europe to Asia across Russian waters from the Kara Gate to the Bering Strait. ...

"We will not only reopen the military base but restore the airfield to working order and make it possible for the emergency services, hydrologists and climate specialists to work together to ensure the security and effective work of the Northern Sea Route."

The New Siberia island group is in the Far East, allowing Russia to project power into the polar region.

I think NATO should shift its focus 90 degrees north (directionally--and temperature-wise, too, figuratively) to face Russia across this new point of dispute. Russia may not be able to march west, but they can certainly move north into a relative vacuum if they choose. And unless NATO countries want to abandon their Arctic claims and opportunities to Russia, NATO countries have to pay attention, too.

Canada and America, once the NATO rear area, become the new front line along with Norway and Denmark (because of Greenland).

As NATO military power shrinks (and European NATO naval power is clearly shrinking), an Arctic focus can fit with this trend. Arctic operations don't require massed forces. Operations there require smaller forces, well-equipped and trained to operate in the deadly environment of the region.

NATO could build smaller active power projection forces--some for the arc of crisis from West Africa to Central Asia and some for Arctic operations--while they retain a small core of conventional armored forces backed by reserves just in case Russia becomes a conventional threat one day.