Saturday, August 31, 2013

It's the End of the Model As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

Apparently, only Mann-made global warming panic is the main problem we face climate-wise. Behold:

It’s official. The scare is over. The World Federation of Scientists, at its annual seminars on planetary emergencies, has been advised by its own climate monitoring panel that global warming is no longer a planetary emergency.



Wow!

And this:

On behalf of the climate monitoring panel, Professor Essex also spoke up for scientists who have been bullied, threatened or even dismissed for having dared to question the Party Line on climate. He said: “Our greatest concern at present is that the intellectual climate for scientific investigation of these matters has become so hostile and politicized that the necessary research and debate cannot freely take place.

“Political constraints take the form of declaring the underlying science to be settled when it clearly is not; defunding or denigrating research that is perceived to threaten the case for renewable energy; or the use of odious pejoratives like “denialist” to describe dissent from officially-sanctioned views on climate science.”

Another wow!

We'll see if the entire body is strong enough to resist what I am sure is intense pressure to recant the bubbling heresy and embrace the One True Faith.

Now go and emit no more.

Russian Logic

Russia's President Putin says it doesn't make sense for Assad to have used chemical weapons. What should be scary is what does make sense to the Russians.

I'm sorry, but does President Putin believe he is a character witness for Assad?

Russia's President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday it would be "utter nonsense" for the Syrian government to use chemical weapons when it was winning its war with rebels, and urged U.S. President Barack Obama not to attack Syrian forces.

One, I don't believe Assad is winning his war.

Two, I suppose it makes sense in that Russia would have advised taking care of rebels in a different manner altogether.

The Other Statement?

I really don't think that President Obama would have needed Congressional authorization for a quick strike against Syria as punishment for using chemical weapons. Nor do I think sustained support for rebels would rise to needing a declaration of war. So what changed the president's mind about Congressional input?

President Obama announced that Congress would debate Syria when it comes back and would have a vote on authorizing the use of force against Syria.

Does this mean that President Obama wants an excuse to avoid military action after failing to gain any international support (I mean, other than from France)?

Or might it mean that President Obama has shifted from speaking of chemical weapons red lines to an earlier statement that Assad must go? Might the Pentagon have argued for effective military action rather than symbolic action?

The latter, if it involved direct American intervention, would require so much more military effort that Congressional backing would possibly be necessary but definitely wise. Congress is in no mood to let President Obama pull a Libya War again with no Congressional input.

Although don't get carried away with the value of Congressional approval on take-off.

I honestly have no idea what President Obama has in mind. He's no longer in a rush, it seems, unless this is just a ruse to regain tactical surprise sometime tonight. Could Congressional leaders have agreed to this in today's talks?

UPDATE: The president has put forth a draft resolution authorizing the use of force. Oddly, the only thing that President Obama cares about is the chemical weapons issue.

And disappointingly, the president wants to send our forces into battle against Assad's military and goons not as a war where we pursue victory but in order to help Assad survive by convincing Assad to negotiate a settlement with rebels (from the resolution):

Whereas, the conflict in Syria will only be resolved through a negotiated political settlement, and Congress calls on all parties to the fonflict in Syria to participate urgently and constructively in the Geneva process.

That's a riot. The president is unwilling to go to conference committee to work out differences between Senate and House legislation, but for the civilian-gassing Assad, talk is the only solution. With the invitation delivered by cruise missiles. Sadly, Assad seems to be seeking victory through the chemistry process.

So there you go. An authorization to mis-use force. This will work out just swell.

UPDATE: Isn't the legalistic focus on the Chemical Weapons Convention (ratified by 188 states, the resolution says) undermined by the fact that Syria has not signed or ratified the convention, and therefore can't possibly be in violation of a treaty it has not agreed to?

Leading From the Behind

At this point I'd like to remind everyone that Hagel and Kerry lead our foreign policy team for President Obama. President Obama selected them, of course.

As our president unilaterally dithers over how to ineffectively strike Syria (cosmetic surgical strikes?) for actually crossing the chemical weapons Red Line that President Obama never thought Assad would actually cross, let us ponder, as Ms. Minerva gently hints, that our foreign policy has gone from "leading from behind" over Libya to "leading from the behind" over Syria.

Who in the State Department was responsible for that edit, I wonder?

Oh, and while Mad Minerva also highlights an Iowahawk comment about why the Obama administration hasn't brought out our "exit strategy" before going into battle, a have no questions.

Please, the president has announced our exit before our cruise missiles even enter Syrian air space.

Given that I heap scorn on the concept "exit strategy" as nothing more than a declaration of when we will admit defeat and run away, I have no fears that the president doesn't have an exit strategy. He's pre-exited as a default mode.

I Just Don't Care

One argument against attacking Assad's forces in retaliation for Assad's chemical weapons use is that it would be really awful if it turns out that Assad didn't order the use of chemical weapons. Why is that so?

If the latest alleged chemical weapons attack that killed hundreds of civilians wasn't Assad's responsibility, we shouldn't stop Assad?

So 100,000+ (and climbing) casualties by less objectionable means doesn't justify using force?

Decades of Assad regime support for terrorists doesn't justify using force?

Funneling jihadis into Iraq prior to the Iraq War to create a jihadi foreign legion for the defense of the Saddam regime (Saddam's Fedayeen) doesn't justify using force?

Hosting jihadis and Saddam's boys so they could funnel terrorists into free Iraq to kill our troops, Coalition forces, and Iraqis doesn't justify using force?

Being an awful dictatorship doesn't justify using force?

That awful, terror-supporting dictatorship having chemical weapons doesn't justify using force?

Being Iran's loyal little attack dog who enable Hamas and Hezbollah terrorism doesn't justify using force?

Isn't the duration of the war that is turning parts of Syria into jihadi fiefdoms and enabling al Qaeda in Iraq to regenerate and threaten our hard-won victory in Iraq justify use of force against Assad if it can hasten his end and open the possibility that Syrians can unite against jihadis in their midst?

Come on! Assad has earned being thought of as our "enemy" and not some pragmatic guy we can do business with.

So while I want us to support rebels in Syria to destroy our enemy Assad--and don't think we need to directly retaliate specifically for chemical weapons use (regime change is the best retaliation in my opinion)--I can be on board for effective military force that puts pillars of support for Assad at risk. So hit air force, missile, and artillery units capable of firing chemical weapons. Hit headquarters assets of Baath Party or loyal military units.

But even if I might cringe if President Obama uses ineffective military force as a symbolic wholly pointless shot across the bow that Assad decides is an acceptable price to pay for continuing to use chemical weapons, I won't complain about the strike if we find out that Assad's government didn't order a chemical strike (say it wasn't really a chemical strike, a subordinate did it on their own initiative against top orders, an accidental hit of a chemical arsenal, or even rebel use on their own people to make it seem like Assad did it).

There are plenty of reasons to hurt Assad's regime. And just because the chemical weapons reason might be false doesn't mean all the other reasons don't justify using force against Assad.

Come on! We've failed to treat our friends as friends the last five years. The British even decided to stand aside from Syria. Perhaps some of the British are thinking President Obama can ask the Argentinians for support.

Maybe if we started to treat enemies as enemies--and we could do worse than start with Assad in Syria--we'd get back on the path to being taken seriously in foreign circles.

For the record, here is the administration's case against Assad. It includes the claim that Assad has used chemical weapons "multiple" times on a small scale prior to the latest big attack that killed close to 1,500 people; and the assertion that Assad considers chemical weapons just another weapon in their arsenal apparently no more awful to use on civilians than any other weapon.

A Question for the Left

Why aren't human shields pouring into Syria to protect the Assad regime from President Obama's missiles and bombers?

UPDATE: Oh, for those too young to really remember those brain-dead idiots who wanted to play a part in Saddam's defense plans, this is useful.

The shield idiots thought it was a great idea then. Why not now?

A Bridge Too Far

The idea that it is a mystery as to why Assad would use chemical weapons--a seemingly desperate choice--when the media says he is winning the war is explained most simply by concluding that Assad is not winning his war.

I've been saying it all year that I don't believe Assad' reclaiming of the initiative in western Syria means he is turning the tide of war. Around Homs in the region between the Alawite core near the coast and Damascus, Assad made some gains by giving up outer regions of Syria and using new militias (and a Shia Foreign Legion organized by Iran) in a smaller theater.

But Assad did not break the rebels and even in crucial Damascus the rebels continue to make gains:

The media is focused on the battle for Homs, and consequently the Syrian government appears strong with current momentum moving in its favor. The government’s imminent victory at Homs is indeed significant for efforts to consolidate its primary line of communication from the coastal region through Homs to Damascus; however, reports of government strength are misleading as indicators of the overall campaign for Syria. Such reports overlook critical opposition victories across other fronts. The Syrian government has had to consolidate resources and reinforcements in Homs province, and have diverted attention from important opposition activities, particularly in Damascus. At a time when the opposition is reeling from the loss of Homs and struggling to counter the impacts of greater Hezbollah and Iranian support, it has nonetheless made significant gains in Damascus, proving that the Syrian government lacks the capacity to conclusively defeat its insurgency.

If Assad can't hold Damascus, the whole point of his campaign in pointless and he might as well abandon the capital and points south to focus on a core Alawite mini-state that his small base of support can defend against the majority of Sunnis who might conclude they've suffered enough already and be content with the capital and the rest of Syria outside the coastal and inland belt.

As I've also noted, another explanation for Assad's use of chemical weapons is that our taboos about using chemical weapons are uniquely Western and not part of Assad's thinking at all.

Another is that after repeated (apparently) crossings of our Red Line without an American response, Assad could reasonably interpret that he had a Green Light to use the weapon.

Assad isn't winning his war. We shouldn't act on the assumption that he is and that it is too late for us to defeat Assad.

UPDATE: Two things I meant to add.

One, I do not believe Assad's air power has been a decisive edge for Assad. Yes, it helps. But using our military power to erase Assad's ground attack capability would not eliminate a decisive edge for Assad. As long as Assad has artillery, he can slaughter Syrians. Halting Iranian transport flights into Syria would be far more effective if we want to think of air assets. Providing anti-tank weapons, mines, and light artillery (mortars, rockets, recoilless rifles) would be even more effective.

Two, in defense of my complaint that too many people are saying (as I've said all along) that while it might have been a good idea to support the rebels a couple years ago, it is too late now, I'd like to point to Al Qaeda in Iraq. They were crushed as a fighting force by the end of 2011 when we left. Without our continuing help and fueled by chaos in Syria, al Qaeda in Iraq is doing a good job of not looking like a receding tide of war at all.

Of course, I wanted to make sure we pounded al Qaeda into elimination because of the previous example of a rebel force being resurrected from near dead--our intervention in Afghanistan in 2001 that raised up the smashed but still fighting Northern Alliance to destroy the Taliban regime in Kabul.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Herding Cats

I think President Obama can order a strike on Syria without Congressional approval. But he is no war president who will lead us to victory. And nobody can keep Congress on board even if they agree to start a war.

It may be wise to seek Congressional cooperation before the attack, perhaps with consultations with majority and minority leaders in each house before striking rather than a big war vote.

But I do not think that Congressional approval guarantees Congressional support. Recall that a bipartisan Congressional majority voted for war against Saddam's Iraq, and that didn't stop Congressional Democrats from recanting their support for war and didn't stop too many Republicans from going wobbly, too (coughHagelcough).

Only the steadfast pursuit of victory by President Bush helped us defeat our enemies in Iraq.

So who can blame President Obama for not thinking Congressional approval is important? Representative Pelosi supports a strike? That and a buck will get you a small coffee when the going gets rough, eh?

I'd rather seek the overthrow of Assad as the proper response to 100,000+ dead (and several hundred dead from chemical warfare).

Let's not think that Congressional approval is the gold standard for a good outcome.

And while I'm willing to slam Congress, don't think that I believe our president is the man for this job. There is no way that President Obama will be steadfast in pursuit of victory if we don't get that victory in two or three days.

No wonder our military isn't eager to start a war even when President Obama says it won't be a war.

President Obama Really Is the Anti-Bush!

We didn't have a "real" coalition in Iraq because France didn't participate. President Obama basically has France for his coalition to attack Syria:

The United States found itself Friday with France as its only major partner in a potential strike against Syria, after a stunning rejection of military force in Parliament forced Britain, America's staunchest ally, to pull out of any operation.

The collapse of British support for a mission to punish Syria for allegedly using chemical weapons puts pressure on President Barack Obama as resistance grows at home — and comes with the irony that France was the most vocal critic of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

As I've said before, I really just don't get this whole nuance thing. At all.

UPDATE: Even Turkey thinks we aren't planning to use effective military force and so want nothing to do with the President's 2-3 day lesson in good manners:

The Obama administration signaled Friday that any action against Syria would be brief and measured. Turkey, however, having declared it would join any international coalition against Assad, with or without U.N. backing, has made it equally clear it wants a more robust intervention. On Wednesday, according to Turkish media, Ahmet Davutoglu, the country’s Foreign Minister, counseled his US counterpart John Kerry that any action should be forceful enough to bring Assad’s regime to the negotiating table.

Even that is silly. We should be trying to defeat Assad. We can launch a 2-day symbolic action to restore President Obama's ability to believe he has heft in international affairs. But the real retaliation should be helping non-jihadi rebels defeat Assad and be strong enough to defeat the jihadi rebels in the next round of fighting.

Amazing. One hundred thousand plus dead later and our government still thinks Assad is someone we can do business with.

UPDATE: Related thoughts (tip to Instapundit):

President Bush may not have been greatly loved on the world stage, but he was respected by America’s allies, and feared by his enemies. In marked contrast, Obama hasn’t generated a lot of respect abroad, and he certainly isn’t feared.

Of course, as a practical matter, since our president is still saying he hasn't made up his mind yet (and whatever is on his mind will be brief and small), who can blame our potential allies for refusing to follow from the front?

Yeah, That Hurts

Yes, Assad is getting payback for supporting jihadi terrorists.

The leaders of the Sunni Arab jihadis waging war on Assad's government know Syria very well because they were once welcome guests:

One reason Islamic terrorists have been so successful at setting up operations in Syria was because a lot of those terrorists, or at least their leaders, had been in Syria before (as terrorists) and had come to know the country, and its terrorist resources, well. This was no accident. ...

After 2003, many of the terrorists hosted by the Assads were Sunni groups trying to overthrow the elected Shia government of Iraq.

I mentioned a week ago that I'd wondered (I won't go so far as to say predicted) if this would bite Assad in the end.

If we play our cards right, it will rather than just being a difficult period in his long rule.

The Respect for the International Law Oozes from Iranians

With all the talk about how in response to Syrian use of chemical weapons on their people that it would be illegal to attack Assad's forces without a UN Security Council Resolution (that has to get past Russia's veto), let's examine Iran's attitude toward force.

Let's watch the Iranian worship of international law:

Iranian lawmakers and commanders issued stark warnings to the United States and its allies on Tuesday, saying any military strike on Syria would lead to a retaliatory attack on Israel fanned by “the flames of outrage.”

So let's see, if American attacks Assad's forces for using chemical weapons (Iran funny enough has experience of being gassed by a Baathist government), Iran will retaliate against a wholly uninvolved state.

No direct attack on Iran.

No UN Security Council resolution.

We'll ignore the part about how "flames of outrage" over Assad being punished for poison gas use is kind of damning of those outraged.

Of course, doesn't this give a green light to someone striking Iran for whatever reason that they choose in response?

Cowboy

I want our troops to successfully and safely carry out any mission given to them regarding Syria. But I would have to be a far better man than I am not to enjoy this bit of reporting on President Obama's decision-making:

President Obama is prepared to move ahead with a limited military strike on Syria, administration officials said on Thursday, even with a rejection of such action by Britain’s Parliament, an increasingly restive Congress, and lacking an endorsement from the United Nations Security Council.

Wow. President Obama said he'd repair the damage George W. Bush did to our alliances and respect in the international community. And in a struggle to gain support for an attack on a Baathist minority dictatorship who has used chemical weapons against civilians, Bush did better than Obama thinks he can do on the UN, Congress, and Britain?

Nobody can complain about a "the coalition of the bribed, the coerced, the bought, and the extorted," as John Kerry once insultingly called allies willing to stand with us over Iraq, because our president can't even do that much.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Ahem. Where's the Plan for Syria?

I'm sorry, but for Syria, just where is that awesome "plan" that we need before going to war, as was said over and over about Iraq by our then-loyal opposition?

Victory Makes Everything Seem Better

I know it is somewhat fashionable for the right these days to condemn President Obama for thinking of intervening in Syria.

After the Iraq War hysterics, it seems only fitting for some. And for some who won't defend the Iraq War anymore, they say what is the point? The region has been at war seemingly forever. The people we side with don't even want us there and will show little gratitude. And our troops aren't even eager to fight in this eternal battlefield.

But I've been reading Rick Atkinson's The Guns at Last Light, about the invasion of France and the end of World War II in Europe, and even though the softening gauze of history shows that war as a black-and-white "good" war, defeating Hitler shared problems with defeating Assad:

Few voiced enthusiasm for yet another American intervention in northwestern Europe--"that quarrelsome continent," as on GI called it in a letter home. A recent Army survey in Britain found that more than one-third of all troops doubted at times whether the war was worth fighting, a figure that had doubled since July 1943 but would rise no higher. ...

The British displayed forbearance (of all our troops in Britain prior to D-Day) despite surveys revealing that less than half viewed the Americans favorably. ... George Orwell groused in a newspaper column that "Britain is now Occupied Territory."

So let's do what is in our interests in Syria and the region, and not worry about being loved or whether our troops are eager to fight. It is possible that our troops aren't eager to fight and not be allowed to win, after all.

If we effectively use force, in forty years perhaps no Arab nation may be willing to fight at our side at all--let alone fight amongst themselves.

Can I Call 'Em, Or What?

The New York Times opinion page piece about Syria is titled "Bomb Syria, Even if It Is Illegal". Tip to Instapundit.

I vehemently reject the idea that we can't use force without UN authorization. As a sovereign state we retain the authority to decide when to use force in our interests. You'd think that the fact that wars take place from time to time without any UN authorization would kill the idea that war can only take place under UN authority.

But fans of the UN want it to be true, and hope that by saying it enough, states will act as if it is true. Britain and American have a common basis of our law, yet in Britain victims of a home invasion cannot resist the aggressor breaking into their home without risking prosecution for resisting the home invasion. So from time to time we get stories here of how home owners are advised to sit quietly and wait for the intruder to finish and leave. Lie back and think of England, I suppose.

But here, we can defend our homes. And abroad, we can still defend our interests. Unless we foolishly decide we must lie back and think of Turtle Bay.

But I digress (as I can).

Clearly, given the silence of the president's base over bombing Syria in response to the use of chemical weapons in stunning contrast to their yapping under Bush regarding Iran's development of nuclear arms, I was not far from the mark when I predicted--in contrast to Bush's obstacles--President Obama's freedom of action to deal with Iran:

Of course, the bright side of our elections could be that the Obama administration won't face this public relations problem. Heck, he could get the Nobel Peace Prize for preemptively nuking Iran.

The world is funny that way.

Obviously, I should have said he'd get another Nobel Peace Prize. But other than that, I think I was spot on.

Avoiding That Whole War Powers Thing

Using military force as a last result often can't make up for past failures to use means short of direct military intervention to achieve our objectives. But it can be the only hope at that point.

One of the reasons I've been in favor of the supporting the rebels in Syria route all along is that it avoids the problem of not seeking Congressional approval of military action which lessens our national ability to carry on the struggle for any period of time; and it avoids the problem of seeking that approval when you might not get it and then hand Assad a victory in the pages of the Congressional Record.

Instead, we let this war spiral out of control without serious efforts to bend it to outcomes better for us to the point where it seems like our direct intervention is the only way to keep things from getting worse--whether your version of worse is for the Middle East, the war on terror, America's reputation, the president's reputation, or the president's ability to get his domestic agenda moving.

Face it, if we had supported non-jihadi rebels early on, nobody would be having fits over seeking Congressional or UN approval, or anguishing over their past positions on those questions.

UPDATE: Austin Bay discusses Syria and Strategypage discusses stand-off attack options.

VOA discusses assets in the theater:


USS Truman just took responsibility for CENTCOM's carrier missions from USS Nimitz, meaning that until Nimitz leaves for home, we have two carriers to either participate in the attacks or act as a warning to Iran to stay quiet. So this is a good time to do something from that perspective.

And we might want to strike before Russia gets naval assets close to Syria:

Interfax quoted a source in the armed forces' general staff as saying Russia, Syria's most powerful ally, was deploying a missile cruiser from the Black Sea Fleet and a large anti-submarine ship from the Northern Fleet in the "coming days".

And it will take more days to get in position. I don't think they'd fight us--that would be beyond insane. But they could warn Syria of our ship and sub movements and otherwise get in our way to annoy us.

Syria still has some long-range anti-ship missiles that an Israeli raid missed. I don't know how specific the Russians would have to be on telling Assad where our ships are to fire off those missiles and count on them acquiring the targets when they get close. Best to stay well out of range, just in case.

The Strong Horse Beats the Magical Unicorn

Four years after our president proposed a new beginning in relations with the Islamic world, the keepers of the Islamic holy sites have responded by reaching out a hand of cooperation--to Putin.

When President Obama spoke of a new beginning in 2009, was this what he had in mind (tip to Instapundit)?

The Saudis have apparently judged President Obama to be rudderless in his Middle East policies, judging by their recent diplomatic moves toward Russia: They appear to have plied Putin with a deal to collude in the global oil market, while also urging him to distance himself from Syria’s Butcher Assad.

No agreement was reached, but the Russians are reported to be pondering the offer.

The "reset" and "new beginning" buried in the same year.

Our reputation most surely has been restored--to the Carter era. This will work out swell.

The Life of Bad Julia

In President Obama's world, a bad dictator takes his punishment and learns his lesson.

In the real world, dictators who know they have to endure 2 or 3 days of aerial bombardment try to evade the planes and ships until they go away:

President Bashar al-Assad's forces appear to have evacuated most personnel from army and security command headquarters in central Damascus in preparation for a Western military strike, residents and opposition sources said on Wednesday.

That's a totally different lesson, isn't it?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Good Start?

Would it be catty of me to note the fact that in the trial of Major Nidal Hasan for the murder of 13 soldiers at Fort Hood in 2009, that the jihadi major's attorney was just sentenced to death?

Rot in Hell.

From the Book of Armaments

Thank goodness we take the use of military power so seriously. If strikes might start tomorrow, our president wants them over well before Labor Day.

President Obama will strike Syria for 2 days--no more, no less, says the Wall Street Journal:

An American military attack on Syria could begin as early as Thursday and will involve three days of missile strikes, according to "senior U.S. officials" talking to NBC News. The Washington Post has the bombing at "no more than two days," though long-range bombers could "possibly" join the missiles. "Factors weighing into the timing of any action include a desire to get it done before the president leaves for Russia next week," reports CNN, citing a "senior administration official."

And President Obama and Assad are in agreement: only the little people need die. There will be no attempt at regime change, the administration is leaking.

Message: I care. So just take it, Assad, and it will be soon over and you can resume your bloody war for a while in peace.

Luckily, we have a video of the National Security Council meeting where the best and brightest of the Obama administration discuss the two-day kinetic action.



Thankfully, more cautious advice was given and thou shalt not count to three at all. Although given the confusion on 2 or 3, let's wait and see how many days we strike.

Thank goodness we have the Holy Cruise Missile of Raytheon/McDonnell Douglas that Brother Clinton carried in the 1990s. Except for the snuffeth part regarding the naughty in God's sight, this is right out of his play book it seems.

UPDATE: Here's the article that revealed the plan.

International Law Fantasyland

President Obama may not appreciate the gesture, but I'll defend the morality of whatever action he intends against Syria.

International law does not erase the ability of states to use military force to defend their interests.

This is just wrong:

"I think international law is clear on this. International law says that military action must be taken after a decision by the Security Council. That is what international law says," [the Arab League envoy to the UN, Lakhdar Brahimi] told a press conference in Geneva.

There have been two wars undertaken with the approval of the Security Council (both led by us, I'll add): the Korean War and the Persian Gulf War (and arguably the Iraq War since Saddam violated the ceasefire that suspended the Persian Gulf War, making the war with Saddam a two-parter). Who wants to seriously argue that the world even takes Brahimi's legal analysis seriously?

And it reverses means and ends. The UN is supposed to be a means for decent nations to rally against a threat to world peace. If member states of the UN prevent that action from taking place (coughRussiacough), who can possibly argue that the failure of the international community to rally against a threat to world peace by definition means that perceived threat is in fact no threat?

We can legally and morally fight the Assad regime. You can argue whether it is smart or dumb (for whatever degree of intervention you want to discuss), but it is not immoral or illegal. I said the same for the Iraq War.

I supported the Iraq War fully. Yet I could accept that others would argue against the wisdom of the war. But I did not understand how opponents could claim that the war was immoral to fight against Saddam's regime or the thugs who tried to steal the good thing of getting rid of Saddam Hussein, his evil spawn, and his ruthless minions.

So let's argue whether we are pursuing the proper objective regarding Assad and argue about whether our use of force is effective or worth the cost.

The More the MerrEUr

Of course the European Union central apparatchiki would prefer small European states!

I'm late on this bloody giveaway by EU autocrats pining for their own empire, but just became aware via National Review's The Corner:

In Europe, where the mini-states are concentrated, we can begin to draw a chain of analogies. It starts with those frontier-hugging outliers. It continues with states that are somewhat larger but also have their own peculiar tax and banking laws (Cyprus, Luxembourg, Malta) and then onwards to Switzerland, the grandest rogue jurisdiction on the continent. Nothing stops us from advancing one step further and scrutinizing the particular tax arrangements in Ireland, or Austria, or the Netherlands, or even the City of London. The broader point is that an absence of tax harmonization makes it easy for the states of Europe to undercut one another. It would be ideal to modify the behaviour of the strongest countries, but perhaps more practical to start with the smallest. ...

These mini-states have no usefulness for the European (or global) population. They exist to serve the elites of the states that protect them. In the interest of an ever-closer union and a fuller democracy, they should all be abolished.

Got it? Small states representing their own people (including Switzerland's 8 million! Before moving on to Austria's 8.4 million or The Netherlands' 17 million!) obstruct the larger "democracy," so abolishing them serves the interests of the "European" "majority" who can more easily order about the minorities!

Given that the writer would like to--for efficiency's sake--bring the large states to heel, what "majority" is he talking about? If even the strongest (and most populous) countries aren't in favor of this "harmonization" just who is the majority being denied their wishes?

Clearly, since the only "Europeans" are the evolved, transnational EU elites insulated in Brussels and the other EU castles around Europe, the author is speaking of a majority of this tiny royal family in the making.

But as I've noted before, the EU prefers their states small so they can be pushed around (heck, even I wasn't thinking that they'd be so bold as to simply liquidate abolish the undesirable minorities!):

Why should the Brussels bureaucrats care if they ignore Belgians or Flemish and Walloons? Hell, the more the merrier. If larger states have difficulty moving the central proto-state, how will little specks on the map have any impact at all? Only the nation-states smart enough not to subdivide will retain any influence at all. But they will likely be swamped by population numbers. And who will be smart enough to resist the lure of their own flag!

There could be a Flemish Oblast and a Walloon Oblast to join with scores of other administrative entities.

This is classic divide and conquer.

Consider this incentive to divide a feature of the European Union rather than a bug. The Brussels transnational elites will laugh all the way to their new undemocratic empire while the silly people atomize their once-influential nation-states into little ethnic theme parks.

Let the people have their postage stamps and flags, the EU overlords likely think! The power will lie in Brussels, and who will be large enough to stop them?

The EU royalty doesn't even want to allow the postage stamps, now. How long before there is a European Spring with Twittering youngsters demonstrating for their freedom from Brussels?

Just Another Way to Kill Rebels

You know, while we try to figure out why Assad would use chemical weapons when he had to know it would prompt us to respond with military force, maybe we should wonder if Assad--or much of the non-Western world--shares our revulsion against chemical weapons use.

Assad may be genuinely surprised that we'd attack Assad's regime now--100,000+ casualties later--over several hundred of the most recent dead from just another weapon in Assad's arsenal.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Anti-Bush, Indeed

Whatever you might say negatively about President George W. Bush and the Iraq War, he at least did set the standard that if we even think you have chemical weapons, American will attack you, hunt you and your supporters down, pull you from a spider hole, and hand you over to your former victims who will try and execute you.

Regardless of whether President Obama responds effectively to Assad's use of chemical weapons on his own people, we know that the fear of American resolve dissipated rather thoroughly.

UPDATE: In a related matter, after President Obama came to office insisting that the unilateralist George W. Bush failed to gather a proper international coalition to face Saddam, isn't the lack of UN backing over Syria's use of chemical weapons damning of our president's claim to be uniquely capable of rallying the world? Hasn't the boast of restoring our reputation proven to be hollow?

President Obama managed to trick Russia and China into going along with a "no-fly" zone over Libya that immediately was used to justify an aerial bombardment campaign.

And now the president looks to the Kosovo example to attack another state without even a fraudulent UN resolution as in Libya.

Wasn't gathering the international community for a good cause supposed to be easier now?

Not that I won't want our military to succeed when sent into battle, regardless of whether it is used intelligently. But I hope there is a little less haughtiness out of the White House after they've walked a couple wars in George W. Bush's shoes.

The problem wasn't Bush. It's the sainted international community and the fools who place so much moral weight in its judgments.

Support the Nuance?

What an a-hole.

He's an associate professor of English, so he goes on a bit. But the bottom line is that he is unable to spare 18 cents to show his appreciation for those who are willing to fight so he can associatively professorate in peace. It's easier to believe he doesn't support the troops at all than to accept his reasoning.

It's kind of like how liberals indignantly insist that conservatives don't own the American flag but when they see it act like they are vampires splashed with Holy Water.

New Air Force Strategy

The Air Force strategy soon to be unveiled seems more like prioritizing their purchases. Which is fine, in a sense, but what about deciding what the Air Force will do in the future as its core missions?

The Air Force future should be about more than justifying budget shares of a more constrained defense budget:

U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III will soon release a new service strategy paper designed to pave the way for the next ten years and prepare for continued budget uncertainties, service officials explained.

The paper addresses the central predicament now facing all the services; namely planning programs, advancing a budget and determining developmental priorities with the lingering prospect of a $500 billion budget cut over the next decade.

Top Air Force Acquisition Executive William LaPlante has worked closely with Welsh to develop what the service is calling “Air Force 2023.” He said in an interview with Military​.com that the Air Force chief is focused on what decisions the service can make in the near term to protect future programs and readiness.

The Air Force has set the Long Range Strike Bomber, F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and KC-46 Tanker Aircraft as its top modernization priorities. Service officials are drafting contingency plans to protect these programs in the next major planning cycle, the 2015 to 2019 Program Objective Memorandum (POM) five year budget plan.

I'd rather see Air Force 2023 have a guide of missions the Air Force can perform.

My dispute with the Air Force has been their fight with the Army over its embrace of armed drones for close air support, which has reduced the need for Air Force support.

While the Army's drones and helicopters can't replicate their success in counter-insurgency during high intensity conventional combat, if the Army can use higher performance UAVs that are being developed to supplement smart shells and rockets from Army fires units, why shouldn't the Air Force gradually move away from the battlefield support mission?

Along with nuclear missions, long-range strike and transport, air superiority, and deep strike missions into defended locations, why shouldn't the Air Force truly aim high and seek missions in space? Along with cyber-warfare, space itself would lend itself to Air Force assets that can't be replicated by ground forces directly (and more effectively integrating) controlling air assets to support ground forces directly in combat.

Their shopping list of F-35s, new refueling planes, and a new long-range bomber are certainly in the mix, and as the largest programs will obviously be highlighted.

But I hope this strategy paper addresses the assets needed to control space, which is the new high ground we need to control to preserve our communications, recon, and GPS-enabled precision firepower, while denying the same to an enemy.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Best Retaliation is Defeating Assad

It sure looks like an air war against Syria is coming.

After Democrats supported war with Iraq's Saddam Hussein for a number of reasons besides the intelligence that said he had active chemical weapons programs and stockpiles, we did not find active programs or recently manufactured chemical weapons. Yes, we found the raw materials, facilities, and personnel ready to resume production, but there were no WMD.

That lack of WMD allowed Democrats to recant their support for war and insist that only the presence of chemical weapons justified the war against Iraq under Saddam's control. Which is a problem for President Obama on Syria. Having insisted that only chemical weapons would have kept them in support of the Iraq War, actual use of chemical weapons by Assad in Syria paints Democrats into a corner to support war against Assad.

It seems like we are moving toward a Kosovo/Libya blend of war. We'll gather a core of Western nations around France and Britain to join us in air and missile strikes on Syria:

The US has a group of three destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean, which it has bolstered with a fourth, the USS Mahan. Britain has four warships, the Navy’s flagship HMS Bulwark, a helicopter carrier and two frigates off Albania. France has Rafale and Mirage jets based in the United Arab Emirates which could potentially reach Syria, though the US airbases at Incirlik and Izmir in Turkey and the RAF base at Akrotiri in Cyprus are more likely launch points for any offensive.

And we have a small force of F-16s, Patriot missiles, and a forward divisional headquarters in Jordan, plus lots of stuff in nearby NATO Europe.

If we don't have two cruise missile submarines (with about 150 cruise missiles each) in range, I'll be shocked.

Turkey (which has said it would join a non-UN authorized coalition), Cyprus (with a British air base and a place to house refugees or evacuated people), Jordan (which already hosts US forces), and Gulf Arab states (which already send arms to Sunni rebels) will provide territory and token forces (and will defend their own territory, as appropriate).

No Democrats will mock this coalition or complain about the lack of UN blessing or even bring up the War Powers Act.

My question is whether all this talk of a "no-fly zone" is really about a no-fly zone or is an aerial campaign against Assad's forces and assets. Remember, we tricked the UN into granting us authority to implement a "no-fly zone" that we quickly changed from preventing Libyan planes from flying to becoming the rebel air force which we used to bomb Khaddafi's ground forces.

I suspect we are edging into a Kosovo-style NATO-based coalition with a Libya-style air campaign with few special forces on the ground and no possibility of US ground forces going into Syria. A one-off attack doesn't do anything to alter the war and simply helps President Obama argue he "did something."

And yet, we might strike a king without trying to kill him, in worship of that false god of "proportionality:"

Obama and his aides have taken pains to answer the final question as conclusively as possible. No "boots on the ground. No “no-fly zone.” This is the rare international crisis in which American officials publicly and loudly take options off the proverbial table.

But this is so stupid that if boggles my mind that we might follow that script. If Assad thinks that he was able to ride out that brief retaliation easily enough, Assad will use chemical weapons again and again, figuring the worst we will do is fling some cruise missiles in response.

But if the logic of using military force effectively wins out over politics and we try to defeat Assad, the war will begin with a surge of missiles to hit Syrian air defense assets which will be followed by strike missions, and perhaps we defend the border areas from the air to allow rebels to organize in safe zones within Syria.

But we won't have the advantage of having the entire theater close to the sea where we could easily reach every target (as in Libya). Assad could inflict casualties on us with more and better forces (but we're still way better, have no doubt). Assad might actually fire at our ships if we get too close to shore.

Hell, Assad might fling chemical-tipped missiles at targets (maybe at our forces) in Turkey and Jordan, or even Israel to desperately split the Arab members of our coalition away.

I still find it ridiculous that we are finally moved to action over several hundred dead from chemical weapons after well over 100,000 dead by more usual methods weren't enough.

I find it ridiculous that we haven't been vigorously supporting non-jihadi rebels from the beginning, in the ridiculous notion peddled by Secretary of State Clinton that we might "militarize" the Syrian crisis if we did so!

So we'll belatedly act directly when we could have waged war indirectly.

Remember, the best response should be to open up the arms spigots. Despite press coverage that says Assad regained momentum this summer, I did not see Assad as capable of breaking the rebels with this offensive. Assad has not. And the rebels are still pressuring the Assad government.

General Dempsey even stated this directly:

The Syrian government seems to have made gains in the country’s civil conflict in recent weeks, taking over more urban areas—and now, new reports point to the use of chemical weapons by the government. But the United States' top general says Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s recent “momentum” is unsustainable.

“[Assad] appears to be gaining momentum, but I don't think it'll be sustainable,” Gen. Martin Dempsey told "On the Radar" in a sit-down interview recorded before the most recent reports of a major chemical attack.

Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, described the Syrian war as one that “ebbs and flows” and said that, although Assad may have superior weaponry and has made gains in urban areas, these advantages will not be enough to ultimately defeat the opposing rebels.

Strategypage has the same conclusion, noting--as I did--that Assad may know he is not winning and that is why he resorted to chemical weapons despite the risk of American intervention:

Despite the reinforcements provided by Iran (Shia mercenaries from all over and Hezbollah units from Lebanon) the rebels are still advancing. This may explain the alleged army use of nerve gas recently, as conventional methods and lots of troops had not been able to remove rebels from several Damascus suburbs or halt the terrorist attacks inside the capital.

There is no reason Assad should survive this war. Despite mistakes that brought us to this point, if President Obama has finally decided to do something to make sure Assad does go, our president deserves our support as our forces go into action. We should want to win. That's what I've been saying all along, after all.

Real Enemies

When President Obama identifies Russia and Iran as true foes to his domestic agenda, he will strike hard to reverse his image as a dithering pushover before it impacts his ability to push America on to the European Social Democracy path.

Do our foes and enemies think too little of us (tip to Instapundit)?

Just as Nikita Khrushchev concluded that President Kennedy was weak and incompetent after the Bay of Pigs failure and the botched Vienna summit, and then proceeded to test the American president from Cuba to Berlin, so President Vladimir Putin and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei now believe they are dealing with a dithering and indecisive American leader, and are calibrating their policies accordingly. Khrushchev was wrong about Kennedy, and President Obama's enemies are also underestimating him, but those underestimates can create dangerous crises before they are corrected.

I think President Obama accepts being pushed around abroad as the price for focusing on domestic issues. That's the "flexibility" issue he discussed with Medvedev, promising Putin more of it after the 2012 election.

But I don't think President Obama will simply allow himself to be pushed around forever. He did kill Osama bin Laden, after all. And he did kill Khaddafi while flouting the War Powers Act. And he escalated in Afghanistan for a while, and has been willing to drone strike jihadis. So it isn't all retreat, all the time, is it? These things--including escalation in Afghanistan--allowed him to deflect criticism and focus on domestic issues.

As Afghanistan became unpopular (because of time, more casualties from escalation, and a record of publicly defending the war that is worse than Bush's record on Iraq), the president de-escalated without regard to mission accomplishment. But by then he judged fighting would hinder rather than promote his agenda at home.

So when President Obama retreats, it is a tradeoff rather than cowardice or stupidity.

But at some point, being pushed around too visibly diminishes President Obama at home and diminishes his clout for domestic issues.

So I definitely think that President Obama could act very aggressively abroad to shore up his ability to act domestically. Assad might pay the penalty for nudging up presidential popularity numbers. Or maybe the Iranian mullahs will pay.

But I absolutely wouldn't assume that President Obama will always be a pushover. When Iran, Syria, or Russia become enemies as hated as Republicans, President Obama will take them down a notch or two.

Russians Are Incapable of Being Embarrassed

You have to admire Russian chutzpah.

Russia is eager to go the UN route with Syria, according to their Foreign Ministry's statement:

"Any unilateral military action bypassing the United Nations will ... lead to further escalation (in Syria) and will affect the already explosive situation in the Middle East in the most devastating way."

Moscow said any military action would severely hamper joint U.S.-Russian efforts for an international peace conference to end a civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people.

The same way Russia petitioned the United Nations Security Council for a strongly worded resolution of regret over a border incident in South Ossetia stomped on small, defenseless Georgia in 2008?

Yeah, Russia's peace efforts are going so well that after 100,000 dead with conventional means, Assad decided to get fancy with some poison gas.

Russia sure can pick their friends, eh?

Port Arthur: The Sequel

If China wants to signal their rise to great power status (and quiet domestic unrest) by launching a short and glorious war, Russia would be a safer target than America.

China would like to push America out of the western Pacific. That would allow China a free hand to attempt to dominate neighbors who would no longer have American help to resist China.

But any serious attempt to defeat apparent targets like Japan, Taiwan, or the Philippines risks war with America. Contrary to imagery, we are far more powerful than China. Unless we give up after enduring the first blows, we can muster a lot of force to smash up Chinese naval and air power.

But China could raise their stature much as Japan did more than a century ago--smash up the Russians.

Russian military power is thin in the Far East. Russia has few people there, too. So Russia is vulnerable there to Chinese power.

Sure, Russia has lots of nukes. But they are useful only for national survival issues. If Russia uses them in something less dire than that situation, Russia may guarantee nation failure by prompting Chinese use of nukes in return.

And China and Russia (when they were Soviets) did slug it out on a small scale before without it going to nuclear war.

Remember, too, that despite images of Russian-Chinese friendship, Russia is scared of China, with Russian policy really a form of appeasement while Russia desperately tries to reverse the power imbalance; and China has dormant territorial grievances of relatively recent origin that could easily be revived as China's absolute and relative power increases.

So the forces pushing China and Russia apart are stronger than the forces pulling them together in the short run:

The idea that Beijing might march on Vladivostok is obviously far fetched, but it is not terribly hard imagine well-placed hawks musing about the legitimacy of Russia’s borders if the two powers should find themselves at odds, just as Mao and Zhou did in the 1960s. (In a more recent example of such irredentist escalation, scholars at a state-backed Chinese think tank questioned Japan’s claim to Okinawa.) Indeed, far beyond Manchuria, possible sparks already abound: from Central Asia, where booming trade with China threatens to erode Moscow’s traditional sphere of influence, to the South China Sea, where Russia has worked closely with Vietnam to develop and safeguard energy resources claimed by Beijing. “In the parts of the world that matter to them most,” Jeffrey Mankoff has noted, “Russia and China are more rivals than allies.”

It would be very risky for China to march on Vladivostok. There is the risk of nuclear war, even if logic says the risk is remote for such a limited loss to Russia.

There is also the risk that China's impressive looking military is still weakened by historic forces of corruption. Failure in a major land conflict with Russia would undermine China's power as much as victory would increase it.

Could China hit Russia's fleet and air bases in the Far East and combine that with a quick, overwhelming hit on some Russian border post that provides the image of land dominance, too?

Sure, Russia may very well have sold naval and air weapons to China in order to point China's power at America.

But given China's recent navy trip all around Japan following joint exercises with Russia in Russian waters, that air-naval power could just as easily reach the Russians now.

Given how Russia promotes anti-American propaganda and given how Russia is still at war (technically) with Japan on the issue of Russian conquest of Japanese territory near the end of World War II, who would step in to help Russia?

If the Chinese could actually inflict a quick defeat on Russia, ended the fighting before it could escalate, could they use the leverage of that victory to get the Russians to make a small adjustment on the common border that would at least set the precedent for more later (to undue that 1858 unequal treaty)? Or what if there was no territory change, but the Chinese get the Russians to concede Chinese economic interests in the Far East as a step back to establishing claims to the land much the way Russia eased their way into the territory?

And perhaps the Chinese could demand that Russia end their arms sales to Vietnam.

An outcome like that would set Russia back, isolate Vietnam (forcing us to make a choice there to abandon Vietnam to China or increase support), and cause other nations in China's shadow to wonder if they are safe (new Domino Theory, anyone?).

When we think of China's rising power, we naturally think of how it might be directed at us. But from China's point of view, there are safer targets than America. So if we think about whether China might use their growing military power, don't fixate on America and our allies.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Proportionality is Pointless

As the debate over our potential response to Assad's use of chemical weapons proceeds, can we finally kill the strategically stupid notion of "proportional response?"

If preventing the use of chemical weapons is an important national security objective and Assad crossed a "red line" our president set for using them, the idea that we should respond "proportionally" is strategically bankrupt. I heard it brought up for the first time regarding Syria today.

By making only a proportional response, we allow Assad to decide how much punishment he can take. This will not stop Assad from using chemical weapons--it will just allow him to use chemical weapons in doses designed to provoke no more of an American response than Assad can endure.

If we use force in response to Assad's chemical weapons use and our purpose is to stop Assad from using chemical weapons (rather than attacking to make President Obama look better without regard to any other objective related to Syria), we should hit Assad's regime very hard.

Destroy whatever artillery unit that fired the chemical weapons (and if we're not sure, select several within range of the chemical strike site) and hit some very high level government, military, or Ba'ath Party headquarters to make leaders feel the pain.

And let the Syrians know that this is what we do when they cross our red line.

Oh, and do what we should have been doing all along: support the rebels so they can win rather than trying to "level the playing field" for negotiations that can only serve the purpose of saving Assad to fight (and slaughter) another day.

Let's not speak of proportional military action. Let's speak of effective military action.

UPDATE: Thanks to Mad Minerva for the link.

Adding Insult to Injury

Iran's little friend gassed hundreds of Syrians. So we are debating what minimum retaliation we have to do to salvage our reputation after warning Assad not to cross that "red line." Perhaps the Iranians will give lessons.

Did the Iranians warn us against intervention in Syria using this language on purpose to be insulting?

The semi-official Fars news agency, which has close ties to Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard, quotes Gen. Masoud Jazayeri as warning that "trespassing over the red line in Syria will have severe consequences for the White House."

We'll see if Iran is better at watching red lines than we are.

It's Back to Pretending to Be Canadian

Remember when Europeans swooned at the prospect of a President Obama; and his minions in America said he'd restore our reputation abroad?

Yeah, a lot on the left here were relieved that they'd no longer be embarrassed to be an American abroad.

That seems kind of naive now, doesn't it?

The Kosovo Precedent

In 1999, unable to get UN approval because of Russia's Security Council veto and without a Congressional declaration of war, President Clinton went to war using NATO authorization to do so. President Obama's administration is looking at that precedent regarding Syria. Let's hope this is limited to legal strategy and not war strategy.

As a legal mechanism, this is perhaps a bit disturbing:

“It’s a step too far to say we’re drawing up legal justifications for an action, given that the president hasn’t made a decision,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the deliberations. “But Kosovo, of course, is a precedent of something that is perhaps similar.”

Going to war without Congressional support or even UN backing requires very low casualties to carry out. Otherwise, support will erode at home and abroad before we can win.

But let's hope that strategic geniuses in the White House don't think Kosovo is an operational precedent.

Kosovo was fought against a Christian Serbian government in no danger of using WMD and in support of a minority secession movement that allowed the government of Serbia to accept defeat without losing their core territory.

And it required nearly three months of bombing and the eventual growing threat of ground invasion to complement the aerial assault.

Syria will be fought against a minority Alawite government against a national revolt that seeks to gain control of the entire state--or at least to drive the minority rulers into their own corner of Syria. So Assad cannot accept defeat without giving up at least the majority of Syria--and maybe exile if the Alawite core cannot hold.

And unless the Turks are pining for glory in their old Ottoman Empire stomping grounds, there is no army prepared to intervene to compel Assad's acceptance of defeat.

So if the Obama administration wants a legal template for going to war without Congress or the UN, Kosovo is a precedent.

But they'd best not confuse a legal strategy for an operational template.

I'd rather just open up the spigots of arms and intelligence for the rebels. The best retaliation for Assad's chemical weapons use is doing harm to Assad, isn't it? And overthrowing him will do the most harm.

But arming rebels isn't as dramatic as a 7:00 p.m. White House address to the nation announcing the start of bombing operations over Syria to show the president cares.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

You Can Only Dream About a War of Choice

Remember how the left complained that the Iraq War was a "war of choice?" There will be no choice over Syria.

Yeah, the public debate in the media went on for months in fall 2002 and Congress even debated and voted to go to war with Saddam's Iraq.

Now, defense chiefs will do the debating in Jordan about war in Syria:

The meeting, planned two months ago, is the third that the top military officers have held on Syria this year, but it has gained new urgency since a nerve gas attack reported to have killed hundreds near Damascus this week.

A Jordanian defense source said the defense chiefs of the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Canada and Italy were expected to attend, along with those of Turkey, which has already seen the conflict spill over its border, and Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which are both supporting Syrian anti-government rebels.

And then our president will simply announce we are at war--just like Libya--unlike the declaration of war that Constitution-shredder Bush had for 2003. President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron seem determined to strike in response to chemical weapons use:

The prime minister and US president said time was running out for Assad to allow UN weapons inspectors into the areas where the attack took place. Government sources said the two leaders agreed that all options should be kept open, both to end the suffering of the Syrian people and to make clear that the west could not stand by as chemical weapons were used on innocent civilians.

Funny enough, the Americans and British will lead this effort and it involves UN inspectors and WMD questions.

Who knew that when the left said Iraq was a war of choice that it really meant we made the choice to go to war?

Mind you, it would be nice to finally do something to topple Assad. But I do want to point out how hope and change seems to have edged out debate and a declaration of war.

UPDATE: Wait. France might join the attack?

"President Obama and President Hollande discussed possible responses by the international community and agreed to continue to consult closely," the White House said in a statement.

Well, then what more do you want? That was the gold standard for the left to judge Iraq, wasn't it?

Feel the nuance.

Don't Get Mad--Get Even

The Chinese are mocking the Indian Navy. I guess the charm offensive phase of their relationship is over. But India has work to do.

The recent explosion on one of India's Russian-built submarines and even the launching of an Indian aircraft carrier has prompted the Chinese to mock India's fleet:

“Paper tiger” was the term used by the Communist Party-run newspaper, the Global Times, to describe the Indian navy, which has been locked in a fierce buildup race with the Chinese navy.

The newspaper challenged India’s claim that the INS Vikrant is “indigenous,” calling it a “brand of 10,000 nations” because the ship is said to have used French blueprints, Russian air wings and U.S.-made engines.

“[The submarine’s explosion] seems to have provided a footnote to India’s real naval prowess,” the Global Times reported Monday in language that clearly gloated about the mishap.

Given that India has operated carriers for decades and that China's first carrier is a converted Soviet carrier, the carrier mockery seems misplaced. And Chinese submarines are either Russian models or lousy Chinese copies of Russian models. But the trends are not favorable to India.

India will have problems matching China's fleet that cannot be quickly resolved and which will dampen Indian plans to double the size of their navy manpower:

Finding more sailors is difficult in India because of some unique problems; mostly having to do with corruption. A major economic problem for India is the lack of education, especially for younger children. Corruption has crippled the existing public education system, with many teaching and administrative jobs in schools considered patronage (to be given to supporters of politicians rather than those qualified to teach). The patronage jobs are often of the “no-show” (except to collect pay) variety. Patronage teaching jobs have long been a major problem in India and the reason India has such a difficult time providing qualified workers for technical jobs (those that at least require basic reading and math skills).

India will still have home-turf advantage by being in the Indian Ocean already. Land-based air power will help immensely in fighting a Chinese fleet that attempts to sail west of Singapore. But India needs a better fleet. And they need allies and capabilities capable of inflicting losses on the Chinese navy as it transits the South China Sea and passes through the choke points between that sea and the Indian Ocean. Military assets on the Andaman Islands and Nicobar Islands would help, too.

On the other hand, Chinese anti-ship ballistic missiles (if they work) could be deployed to reach the Bay of Bengal, making India's fleet vulnerable before a single Chinese ship or sub reaches the Indian Ocean.

Believe in the Fleet

The retention of USS Mahan in the Mediterranean Sea highlights the fact that 6th Fleet is a paper fleet relying on Cold War reputation.

To have some more cruise missiles in case Syria beckons, we are keeping a transiting warship in the Mediterranean Sea for a bit longer:

The USS Mahan had finished its deployment and was due to head back to its home base in Norfolk, Virginia, but the commander of the U.S. Sixth Fleet has decided to keep the ship in the region, the defense official said.

This leaves that fleet with 4 cruise missile-armed warships, the article says. I think the fleet is really just one command-and-control ship plus whatever is sailing through the Mediterranean to and from CENTCOM. So nothing retained this way will really stay that long. But usually they can make port calls and sail about and allow the memories of our past armada to be retained in the minds of locals.

Of course, if we really want cruise missiles, we'd have one or two of our cruise missile subs either in the Mediterranean or in the Red Sea (I assume we'd get overflight permission through Saudi Arabia and Jordan for the latter).

Mind you, I'm not actually complaining about the lack of ships in 6th Fleet. We can't be strong everywhere and this fleet was only strong because of the Soviet threat. I'm fine with having land-based air power, transiting ships, and allies to police the area on a day-to-day basis. But it also means that we can't do anything Navy-wise at a moment's notice.

Also, if the Suez Canal is closed to our warships, we won't have this relatively cost-free ability to maintain the illusion of 6th Fleet.

Casting a Giant Shadow

When it has been said that we'd need 75,000 troops to secure Syrian chemical weapons facilities (factories, storage, and missile sites) in the face of Syrian opposition, the implication that 1,000 paratroopers are training to deal with Syria is ridiculous.

Leading off with reports of Syrian chemical weapons use, this story discusses the 82nd Airborne Division's preparations to assault a chemical weapons storage facility as if this might be used in Syria:

In a suburb east of Damascus, Syria, there is new fighting where an alleged chemical weapons attack happened on Wednesday. Syria's opposition says hundreds of civilians died from exposure to toxic gas. The Assad regime denies those claims. The White House is calling for an investigation by United Nations inspectors that are already inside Syria. ...

Meanwhile, the U.S. military is getting ready to seize chemical weapons, anywhere in the world. CBS News' David Martin went on a training mission with the famous Army unit, the 82nd Airborne. ...

The 82nd Airborne is kept on constant alert, ready to load and launch 1,000 paratroopers and their gear within 18 hours to anywhere in the world. In the exercise CBS News observed, they jumped from 800 feet to seize two dirt air strips in the woods of North Carolina. Frenzel said, "One airfield is challenging by any measure. Two airfields, simultaneously, creates incredible command and control challenges."

One, we wouldn't drop them in Syria before a very thorough campaign to destroy Syria's air force and air defenses.

Two, if seizing two objectives at once is difficult, what would they do in Syria?

Three, this is just a thousand-man paratrooper unit. I assume a ready battalion from the ready brigade of the entire division which is not ready to go on 18 hours notice.

So this unit's preparations are useful not to keep Assad's chemical weapons arsenal from scattering, but to hit a single stockpile of the weapons that might get in the hands of some terrorists after it scatters out of Assad's control.

Which is a useful capability. Don't get me wrong. Although I'd have expected this to be something our Ranger regiment would practice.

But there is no way in Hades that this is a capability that we plan to use in Syria, except as a small part of a larger effort that advances overland from Turkey and Jordan.

Be All That You Can Be

No matter how convicted WikiLeaker Private First Class Bradley Manning arranges his anatomy, I think we can all agree he will always be a dickhead even if he becomes a she.

Time to Get Serious?

Western intelligence agencies do think Assad's forces used chemical weapons to kill many hundreds of civilians. And this use of poison gas threatens our core interests, according to President Obama. The proper response is to arm the rebels to destroy the Assad regime.

I wasn't ready to assume initial reports were right about chemical weapons use, and thought maybe if casualty reports dropped a lot, it might be something other than chemical warfare. But it seems like Assad ordered chemical weapons use:

U.S. and allied intelligence agencies' have made a preliminary assessment that chemical weapons were used by Syrian forces in an attack near Damascus this week, likely with high-level approval from the government of President Bashar al-Assad, according to American and European security sources.

And this makes the situation different:

President Obama’s assertion that “core national interests” are now on the line following what looks increasingly to have been large-scale use of chemical weapons this week against rebel strongholds outside Damascus suggests the US is moving closer to some form of intervention in Syria.

Why this thousand dead is more dead than the previous 100,000 dead is beyond me. But there you go.

So what do we do?

We obviously aren't going to invade. Not to overthrow the regime and not to seize control of all the chemical weapons storage, launch, and production facilities.

Air and missile attacks on chemical weapons depots would simply give Assad the excuse to use the weapons before he loses them. And unless the attack is a lengthy campaign to destroy the entire arsenal and production facilities (and do we know where it all is?), we won't stop chemical weapons "use it or lose it" conditions any time soon.

I say the best response is what we should have been doing for the last 2 years or so: open up the spigot for arms to the non-jihadi rebels and provide the rebels with all the intelligence we can. The best way to counter Assad's use of chemical weapons to save his regime is to make sure his regime is going to lose.

It would be nice if Iranian transport planes started blowing up on the ground, too, in order to cut Iran's lifeline to Syria.

If the administration really thinks it has to do something more, I suggest a cruise missile strike on both the unit that launched the chemical attack and a strike on Baath Party headquarters to see if we can kill some senior people behind the orders. Or any senior leaders, really. Who cares if we finger those who issued the orders. Let them all worry. If we get Assad, bonus!

Make it known that any use of chemical weapons will result in an attack on the unit using the chemicals and on some headquarters element of our choice to punish leadership of the military or government.

And stop worrying about not knowing who will take power if Assad loses. This should not paralyze us into inaction. We know who controls the state if Assad doesn't lose--poison gas-using Assad, that's who.

Get rid of Assad and worry about the second step when step one is done.

UPDATE: More of this would be nice:

Four hundred tonnes of arms have been sent into Syria from Turkey to boost insurgent capabilities against Syrian government forces, opposition sources said, after a suspected chemical weapons strike on rebellious suburbs of Damascus.

It arrived in the last day and is one of the biggest shipments to reach rebels.

We shouldn't be talking about a one-time retaliation for a chemical weapons incident. We should be working 24/7 to overthrow Assad as hard as Iran and Russia are working to preserve him.

UPDATE: Remember that focusing on the strategy of wanting to overthrow our enemy Assad eliminates the need to make sure Assad's forces used chemical weapons. It would be embarrassing to retaliate only to find Assad didn't use chemicals. But that shouldn't matter. Assad is responsible for over 100,000 dead just for being a thug dictator. And he has the blood of a lot of American troops on his hands.

If we work to support acceptable rebels so they can defeat Assad we will end Assad's ability to use chemical weapons and we will have the chance to end a war that has strengthened al Qaeda and perhaps gave them the opportunity to use chemical weapons. But Instead we're playing CSI: Damascus.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Are There Any Good Guys There?

In Mali, we seem to have a shortage of good guys.

We helped the French destroy the jihadi-dominated secession of sparsely populated northern Mali which is largely inhabited by Tuaregs who had long resented southern rule by black Africans.

I noted that in many ways the Tuaregs had a good point in wanting secession. Had it not been for their alliance with jihadis to break away from the central government, the Tuaregs could have been the sentimental favorite in the struggle against a corrupt, coup-rattled government.

But then the Tuaregs go and show why even without jihadi allies they are less than admirable:

Some aid groups are agitating for the government to pass laws criminalizing slavery. While the Mali constitution bans slavery (a clause inserted to appease foreign donors) laws making slavery illegal were never passed. So over 200,000 Malians (mostly black Africans) continue in bondage, mostly in the north were their owners tend to be Tuareg or Arab. The slaveholders insist that this is all an ancient tradition that is being misinterpreted by foreigners. But it is slavery and it still exists throughout the Moslem world. The anti-slavery movement, which is backed by a large minority of Malians, may encounter difficulty in the north where the Tuareg majority is still pushing for autonomy. That would probably include more tolerance for slavery.

Slavery. That's just effing great. People think our race relations are bad? When overt racism is apparently so rare here that liberal activists need to manufacture hate (tip to Instapundit on this one) from a racist, white-supremacist, right-wing cabal that won't cooperate and do it on their own?

I'm glad we helped the French smash up the jihadis. That had to be done. But why the sainted international community would pour money into northern Mali to rebuild when that "ancient tradition" endures is beyond me.

The Gray Leap Forward

We worry too much about what we do as influencing Chinese behavior and not enough about how Chinese domestic developments can push Chinese foreign actions.

China is getting old before it gets rich:

Chinese society is on the verge of a structural transformation even more profound than the long and painful project of economic rebalancing, which the Communist Party is anxiously beginning to undertake. China's population is aging more rapidly than it is getting rich, giving rise to a great demographic imbalance with important implications for the Party's efforts to transform the Chinese economy and preserve its own power in the coming decade.

And if it isn't getting rich, the basis for the great peace that gets people to accept the legitimacy of Chinese Communist Party rule is destroyed.

If getting rich doesn't make party rule acceptable, will imposing Maoist discipline work?

Certainly not, the author thinks. The country could "blow up," he says, although it isn't clear what he means by that. State collapse? Party collapse? Nothing good for the party, clearly.

The same author earlier thought that China was in a pre-revolutionary state and that many Chinese rulers believed the French Revolution was dangerous example that might apply to them. I commented on it here and wondered if predicting a single future for a continent-sized country made less sense than seeing many possible futures for a China no longer producing wealth for most people and where most people reject rule of the party.

If Maosim fails, will the Chinese try old-fashioned xenophobic nationalism as the alternative to losing power? And don't tell me that it doesn't make sense for China to risk their economy by risking war.

Heck, in a situation with a faltering economy, angry and alienated population, and worried party elite, going to war might actually be the rational choice if maintaining Communist Party Control is more important than peace or economic growth.

Assad Must Go?

One of our problems credibility-wise is that we are so large that people pay attention to our words and actions. So when President Obama says Assad must go or can't cross certain red lines, it gets noticed when we then do nothing. But we aren't the only ones with empty words. Turkey, for example.

Turkey is complaining that the international community still isn't doing anything about the slaughter in Syria. Their foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, complained:

All red lines have been crossed but still the U.N. Security Council has not even been able to take a decision. This is a responsibility for the sides who still set these red lines and for all of us.

But why is Turkey waiting for the international community when Turkey is right there and has a military fully capable of at least advancing 20-30 miles into Syria to establish a rebel zone even if Turkey doesn't have the logistics to advance deeper without NATO help (or a good contractor with experience in logistics)?

Remember, over two years ago Turkey issued an ultimatum--by the same foreign minister--to Assad to stop killing his people. What happened to that demand? A demand that the foreign minister said was their "final word" on the subject, implying action would follow.

And why isn't Turkish credibility on the line like ours is?

President Obama may not like it, but we are the global leader. So what our president says and does is remembered even when others are forgotten because their power just isn't in our league.

UPDATE: Because we're not sure if 100,000 dead is a real trend yet:

President Barack Obama called the apparent gassing of hundreds of Syrian civilians a "big event of grave concern" but stressed on Friday that he would not rush to embroil Americans in a costly new war.

Not that I think we need to invade. But it wasn't so long ago that our president preened about his moral stature:



Yeah. We cannot stand idly by when innocent men and women face brutality and death at the hands of their own government. After a few weeks. But two years is cool.

Good grief. We don't need to deploy our military. There are rebels fighting Assad. Arm them and help them win--don't try that BS of trying to "level the playing field" to deploy John Kerry for some grand negotiations.

More Baskets

The Marines and Navy will carry out exercises testing the F-35 on our amphibious warfare ships.

A stealth carrier fleet needs planes, of course, and now we are testing them out:

During the 10 days of testing aboard the USS Wasp, the Marines will fly the F-35B carrying air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons to mimic combat conditions.

In standard amphibious warfare configuration, the air component would have just 6 F-35Bs along with V-22s and armed and transport helicopters. As a light carrier the ships could carry 16 F-35Bs and 6 V-22s used as aerial refueling planes to extend the range of the F-35Bs. Or for maximum aircraft strength the ships could hold 20 F-35Bs.

As our fleet (and large carrier force) shrinks, we really need this reserve light aircraft carrier capability.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

East of Gibralter?

The British military is no longer a force capable of waging war.

Do tell:

Britain should have lower expectations of its military power because government spending cuts mean it will not be able to fight every potential war it faces, the new head of its armed forces said. ...

In his first interview since becoming Prime Minister David Cameron's most senior uniformed military adviser, General Nicholas Houghton cautioned that the former imperial power needed to reassess its military might in an uncertain world.

"We have to recalibrate our expectation of the level of capabilities we can field on new operations from a standing start," Houghton, chief of the defense staff, told the Ministry of Defense's in-house magazine, Defense Focus.

Indeed. British power will cause few foes to tremble in fear. Here in America, we have a somewhat useful shorthand to describe the difference between our Marines and Army. The saying is that "the Marines win battles; the Army wins wars." Our Marine Corps is twice the size of Britain's army.

Do the math. Britain's enemies certainly will.

The world is more uncertain. Britain's power is quickly shrinking from global ambitions to being a North Atlantic power that might be able to hold off the Spanish armada if they get some good breaks.

But just as Britain found that a retreat from East of Suez didn't erase the need to operate east of Suez in the 21st century, Britain will find that a lot of uncertainty that will affect Britain exists outside the reach of Britain's more modest military power.

UPDATE: Mind you, British forces will be able to fight a battle. They'll remain excellent fighters. But to wage a war they'll have to be a tribal auxiliary for a power with a war-fighting military.