Sunday, May 31, 2015

Practice Run

Cuba has promised not to support terrorism. And we are pretending to believe them. This should be good practice for an Iran nuclear deal.

It's reset with Cuba!

State Department officials said they conducted a thorough review to back their recommendation to remove Cuba from the list and received assurances from the Cuban government they wouldn't support terrorist activity in the future. Officials cited Cuban President Raúl Castro’s condemnation of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris earlier this year as an example of the government’s stance against terror operations.

Ah, Cuba pretends not to being a sponsor of terrorism; and we pretend to believe them!

Look, I don't consider being on our terror sponsor list as a proxy for being our enemies list. You can be an enemy that doesn't support terrorism.

But getting off the list sure is looking like a proxy for the good guys list in this case.

But more to the point, this is a good practice run for concluding a nuclear deal with Iran. I've long said the outline of a deal is clear: Iran pretends not to want nuclear weapons; and we pretend to believe them.

Tip to Instapundit.

#GetNuking

I can hardly wait for diplomats to sit around with bottled waters to talk about Iran getting nuclear weapons!

We say we and our European allies want sanctions to "snap back" into place if Iran violates any nuclear deal that lifted sanctions in the first place. Iran does not want that. The Russians and Chinese don't like that.

But we've found a way around that impasse?

As part of the new agreement on sanctions snapback, suspected breaches by Iran would be taken up by a dispute-resolution panel, likely including the six powers and Iran, which would assess the allegations and come up with a non-binding opinion, the officials said.

A "dispute-resolution panel" that includes the major powers? That doesn't sound good.

Let's see:

If Iran was found to be in non-compliance with the terms of the deal, then U.N. sanctions would be restored. ...

It was unclear exactly how the snapback mechanism would function, and the officials did not discuss the precise details. It was also unclear how the proposal would protect the United States and other permanent Council members from a possible Chinese or Russian veto on sanctions restoration.

The sanctions snap back if the Iranians are found in non-compliance by ... who?

A panel that includes Russia, China, and Iran, too? Isn't this just a delegated veto power separate from a Security Council veto?

And what's with the non-binding part of that panel? How do sanctions snap back if the panel doesn't declare Iran in non-compliance with their non-binding opinion?

Are we allowed to reimpose global sanctions unilaterally regardless of the opinion? Or anyone?

This dispute-resolution panel sounds just swell: Wear suits. Drink bottled water. Talk about Iran getting nuclear weapons.


Say, speaking of health insurance, do all of the Obamacare health insurance policies cover radiation sickness? Surely our best and brightest wouldn't have put in free birth control but left this out, right?

Policy Wonks With Anger Management Issues?

I find it hard to believe that there are analysts arguing that a windfall of $100 billion for Iran after lifting sanctions will have no effect on Iran's aggressive foreign policy because every penny has to be committed to an Iranian economic stimulus program.

Will the stupid not die?

Within months of financial sanctions being lifted, Iran will be able to collect debts from overseas banks that may exceed $100 billion, mostly from oil importers whose payments have been blocked, diplomats and analysts said.

But with the budget strained by last year's heavy fall in oil prices, and public expectations of improved socio-economic conditions in the event of a deal, the authorities will face pressure to invest new funds at home.

This is worse even than the farcical administration notion that Iranian support for mayhem won't increase "dramatically" with the lifting of sanctions.

This idea that Iran is committed to nation-building at home rather than abroad is still stupid. Iran's rulers are not domestic policy wonks with unfortunate anger management issues that can distract them.

Repeating the stupid doesn't make it less stupid.

I know that's how our left thinks, but let's not get carried away with mirror-imaging our foes.

And really, the Iranians under the mullahs are our foes.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

So Who Learned an Important Lesson?

The Army is preparing for conventional war again. Which is good. The Army says no enemy will make the mistake of allowing us to build up forces before we strike when ready as we did in two wars against Saddam Hussein (1991 and 2003). The Army might want to share this knowledge with the White House.

I noted the Army's renewed focus on conventional warfare training.

This is an interesting lesson from that article:

"No enemy today would be stupid enough to allow us months and months to build up forces," as was the case in Desert Storm, he said.

He has a point. But we sure seem to be assuming an enemy that stupid as we prepare our perfect plan to defeat ISIL:

We're gearing up for our long-awaited "final offensive" to smash ISIL and seem to expect that ISIL will just sit and patiently wait for the killing blow to fall rather than try to seize the initiative and win victories that might preempt our offensive.

Time is the most precious asset one can give an enemy. We assume our enemies won't grant us this asset. Why do we assume we can afford to give it to our enemies?

Perhaps the Army could prepare a PowerPoint presentation for the White House.

UPDATE: More on the ISIL VBIEDs (Or SVBIEDs--with the S standing for "suicide"):

The jihadists used about 30 explosives-rigged vehicles in the Iraqi city of Ramadi this month, blasting their way through positions government and allied fighters had managed to hold for more than a year. ...

The jihadists used about 30 explosives-rigged vehicles in the Iraqi city of Ramadi this month, blasting their way through positions government and allied fighters had managed to hold for more than a year.

What I find most horrible about this more than the Iraqi rout is that ISIL was left unmolested and allowed to build this phalanx of truck bombs and then move them to the front and use them on the Iraqi defenders despite our absolute aerial supremacy.

Which shows that we have to seize the initiative and make ISIL react to our side rather than granting ISIL the precious commodity of time to carry out their plans against us.

[If this seems oddly familiar, I added this as an update to an earlier post and it seems relevant here, too. Also, I fixed a link.]

UPDATE: Also, by giving ISIL time in their bastions in the Baghdad belts, we give them the opportunity to soften up Baghdad the way they softened up Ramadi and Mosul before that:

The ability of extremists to target heavily secured buildings in the heart of the capital brutally underscored the city's lingering vulnerability. The IS group has been able to carry out regular attacks in and around Baghdad, mainly targeting the security forces and the country's Shiite majority, while battling Iraqi forces on multiple fronts elsewhere in the country.

I don't expect ISIL can take Baghdad. There are too many Shia who would resist in their areas. Although the Shia counter-attack would push even more Sunni Arabs out of the capital in the process of fighting ISIL.

At the least, because we are taking our sweet time setting up the perfect killing blow, we could see an ISIL "thunder run" through parts of Baghdad (as we executed in 2003) that undermines the national government's authority.

How's That Working Out?

North Korea either has nuclear weapons or has nuclear devices they will weaponize at some point. We had an agreement to prevent that.

North Korea's population is starving and literally stunted, but they've got nukes:

The United States and two key Asian allies discussed how to increase pressure on North Korea to halt its nuclear program and will urge China to help bring Pyongyang back to the negotiating table, officials said.

Pity that 1994 Agreed Framework two decades ago didn't work to keep North Korea non-nuclear.

North Korea is a tough problem. It is hard to be too forceful against North Korea because North Korea has the ability to inflict a lot of death and damage on Seoul with conventional firepower within range of South Korea's largest city.

And that is without using chemical weapons that North Korea has.

Further, we're a bit insulated from North Korean nukes with distance and missile defenses. Regional allies who perhaps rein us in a bit on dealing with Pyongyang are on the front line.

Also, as nuts as the North Korean regime is, there aren't dedicated Kimmists around the world ready to rally to North Korea's cause.

Oh sure, there are fanboys from wealthy families on college campuses (and faculty lounges, by now), but they aren't foot soldier types. They're trust fund communists.

So I do think that containment is the best policy until they collapse. As long as they are contained, their conventional military options will deteriorate.

Another problem is whether North Korea proliferates nuclear weapons or technology to produce them. Iran comes to mind:

An exiled Iranian opposition group said on Thursday a delegation of North Korean experts in nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles visited a military site near Tehran in April amid talks between world powers and Iran over its nuclear program.

That's a real problem (and it could be far worse, really) apart from the danger of a fairly pointless North Korean nuclear arsenal designed to deter an invasion we have no plans to initiate. Seriously, "nation-building" doesn't begin to describe what must be done to that corpse with a UN seat.

I had hoped the collapse would come before nuclear weapons, so we're getting darned close here, but as long as North Korea collapses, that's better than a preemptive strike on North Korea's nuclear facilities.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Pain Dominance is the Issue

The idea that it is a waste of time to provide Ukraine with lethal arms and the capacity to fight Russia because Russia has "escalation dominance" to win at any level of war Ukraine can manage is nonsense. The Russian people will not pay any price and bear any burden to win that war.

This is a Russian point of vulnerability:

Much as they may support Putin’s Ukraine policies, Russians don’t want to repeat the experience of suffering mass losses­ over a conflict in another country. Last year, one state-run poll found that two-thirds of Russians opposed sending troops into Ukraine, while barely more than a quarter of the population supported the idea.

Russia is unwilling to admit their losses of 200-250 killed in Ukraine so far.

As I've written before, Russia can be stopped if a lot more body bags carrying dead Russian soldiers head back to Russia.

Putin himself is willing to suffer more dead Russians to continue his subliminal war:

A Washington-based think tank on international affairs has released a scathing report on Russia's "direct military intervention" in eastern Ukraine, concluding that President Vladimir Putin has led his country into war and lied about it.

The report by the Atlantic Council also charges that Putin is using the decrease in hostilities that has followed a February cease-fire deal to reinforce Russian-backed rebels with troops and weaponry in order "to prepare for the next stage of fighting." ...

The results are what the authors call "irrefutable evidence" that the conflict in eastern Ukraine is "a Kremlin-manufactured war -- fueled by Russian-made military equipment, fought by Russian soldiers, and supported by Mr. Putin."

Russia will continue this war until he gets what he wants--or until the Russian people tire of the casualties. Make more Russian casualties and publicize the dead so the Russians know who is dying.

Who has pain dominance? Russians trying to conquer Ukrainian territory or Ukrainians defending Ukraine's territory and freedom?

Oh, and to add to Putin's pain, allow those Russian soldiers abandoned by their government in Ukraine's custody to relocate to the West (after thorough background checks, of course). And publicize it ahead of time and with leaflet drops of "safe passage" documents to encourage Russians in the next hand puppet offensive to surrender.

The Great Skedaddle?

So where does Assad's army finally hold the line?

Syrian army defenders folded quickly at their last city in Idlib province:

The Syrian army has pulled back from the northwestern city of Ariha after a coalition of insurgent groups seized the last city in Idlib province in northwestern Syria near the Turkish border that was still held by the government.

Assad is running out of buffer zone for his Alawite home turf:

The loss of Ariha would leave the insurgents in control of most of Idlib a region that borders Turkey and neighbors President Assad's heartland in Latakia province on the Mediterranean coast.

And those jihadi rebels appear to be exploiting their success:

A Syrian insurgent alliance which has captured the last government-held town in the northwestern Idlib province made further advances on Friday, a monitoring group and fighters said.

I've long thought that Assad didn't have the horses to hold so much territory. But I have my doubts that a military that has suffered so many casualties trying to hold so much of Syria the last three years has the fortitude--when Syria is just a zombie state--to pull back and try to hold a smaller perimeter--perhaps not even including Damascus.

Pity we didn't start arming and supporting non-jihadi rebels 3-1/2 years ago so there would be an alternative to jihadis sweeping through Assad's lines.

But back then, the administration didn't think it was wise to "militarize" the struggle against Assad.

Seriously.

I don't know. But it sure feels like the Syrian government defeats are coming more frequently and with less evidence of a will to fight by Assad's troops.

Is a major breakdown in Assad's security forces building? It sure feels that way.

I'd expect the Syrians still foolishly trying to fight for Aleppo to be looking nervously over their shoulders wondering about their supply lines now. If there is a first crack, I think a run south while they can by the Aleppo region forces is as good a place to look as any.

God help the Syrians if the Turks don't commit a multi-corps ground force to cope with a jihadi breakthrough and Assad collapse.

UPDATE: Syria has launched bombing raids at Aleppo:

Syrian army airstrikes killed at least 70 people, most of them civilians, and wounded scores in attacks Saturday in the northern province of Aleppo that struck civilian areas, including a packed market in a town held by the Islamic State group, activists said.

The deaths occurred in two separate incidents when helicopters dropped explosives-filled barrels.

Is this bombing an effort to hold in the region, knock back the enemy prior to retreating, or just revenge as part of one of the first two options?

UPDATE: Jihadis are on the offensive but the United States accuses Assad of supporting ISIL's attacks on other rebels.

Assad my count on America rescuing him by getting us to attack ISIL more and by rescuing Iran who can then support Assad more, but how long can Assad's forces bleed at the astounding rate they are dying?

"For every 100 soldiers lost by the regime, there are not 100 more coming in," the diplomat said.

That's a problem if Assad wants to hold the line somewhere.

UPDATE: ISIL's offensives in the northwest conveniently relieve rebel pressure on both Aleppo and Idlib province:

The Islamic State's attack against northern Aleppo also serves the interests of the Syrian government in two ways. First, it has forced Syrian rebels to delay an impending offensive against loyalist forces in the province. Over the past few months, the Aleppo front has been relatively quiet, and rebels in the region have been gearing up for an assault on government-held positions in and around the city. ...

Second, the Islamic State's push into Aleppo has prompted Jaish al-Fatah, the rebel group responsible for repeated victories against government forces in Idlib province, to reallocate a considerable number of its fighters to the Aleppo front to reinforce their beleaguered allies.

If Assad is cooperating with ISIL for this relief, it is a dangerous game given ISIL's advances elsewhere. Assad may be trying to draw to an inside straight to get American air power support against ISIL and a general deal that sees Assad as the lesser of two evils.

Full Spectrum Returning

During the Iraq War, unjustified worries about the Army "breaking" from the strain of war were often conflated with the real problem of the Army becoming "unbalanced." The Army didn't break and now it is restoring balance.

The Army got imbalanced by the needed focus on fighting counter-insurgency wars in Iraq (and later in Afghanistan after the Iraq War was momentarily won). Tank and artillery units lost their skills at conventional warfare as they were focused on fighting insurgents and terrorists. Infantry lost their big war skills, too, but the change was most dramatic with the big-ticket units.

The Army is still regaining balance:

For more than a decade, troops here have been schooled in counterinsurgency.

"Mission-specific" training, they call it: going house to house, busting down doors, rooting out terror cells, recognizing crude explosives.

Now, after a pair of mission-specific wars, an Army in transition aims to get back to the future.

The training needed to fight full-scale, more conventional battles has suffered, Army leaders contend. So Fort Riley is putting soldiers such as Staff Sgt.Gilbert Monroe back into big tanks and simulating wars on a scale grander than Iraq or Afghanistan.

While we don't want to lose institutional knowledge about counterinsurgency, unless our troops regain their edge in conventional fighting, we could find ourselves eating our words about Iraqi troops' lack of a will to fight should we come up short in the first battle of a conventional war.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Once Again, You Go to War with the Army You Have

Iraqi soldiers will fight if supported and well led. It is unfair, as Secretary of Defense Carter did, to make them the post-Ramadi official fall guy for the failure of our measures to have more of an impact:

"What apparently happened is the Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight," Carter said. "They were not outnumbered; in fact, they vastly outnumbered the opposing force. That says to me, and I think to most of us, that we have an issue with the will of the Iraqis to fight ISIL and defend themselves."

Iraqi soldiers will never be Prussians on the Tigris and Euphrates. I freely admit that. But during the long Iran-Iraq War they did prove they could fight and die in large numbers against jihadi foes.

And the notion that a decade of our training proves it was a waste neglects that training has to be continuous and effective. An army is not something you equip and train, and then set on a shelf until you need it. It deteriorates once you leave it alone.

When we left in 2011, the Iraqi army was a decent counter-insurgency army. That's what we designed it for and it got the job done. With the caveat that it was not yet a full spectrum army, it might have been the best army, man-for-man, that they've ever had.

But when we walked away and left it up to the State Department to maintain our gains, several things happened.

One, training faltered. We weren't there to keep the Iraqi army on track and to make it an adequate full spectrum force capable of finishing off al Qaeda and capable of deterring an Iranian conventional invasion.

Two, leadership deteriorated. Without our presence to balance Iran, Maliki felt he had no choice but to rely on loyal officers without regard to their competence.

Three sectarianism's fissures were reopened. Without us, Maliki's sectarian impulses (which were under control before we left--remember he did take on the pro-Iran militias in Basra in spring 2008) were unchecked.

Just as bad, Sunni Arabs lacked our presence as a safety net and so assumed the worst and were more willing to operate outside of politics to defend their perceived interests. Siding with ISIL in 2014 sure looks like a big error now to many of them, but that doesn't alter the current problem.

Four, we weren't there with special forces, our intelligence network, and air power to spearhead an Iraqi effort to finish off the mostly defeated al Qaeda in Iraq. We didn't learn the lesson of our own Afghanistan campaign of 2001 where we provided support to the mostly defeated Northern Alliance holding on in their corner of Afghanistan to lead them into Kabul with our special forces/CIA effort using air power and cash.

And don't forget the problem of ISIL rising in Syria. Perhaps we could not have altered that event by arming non-jihadi rebels back when they dominated the rebellion. But we didn't try. Syria became a staging area for the ISIL invasion of Iraq.

Our army broke and ran at Kasserine Pass. It broke and surrendered east of St. Vith. With poor training and leadership, and lack of sufficient weapons and outside support, troops will break and run.

Rather than complaining that Iraq's army isn't up to our standards (and most NATO states should be grateful that their armies don't face the tests the Iraqis have), let's provide the Iraqi army the advisors, fire support, training, and weapons that they need to be effective enough to defeat ISIL.

Remember, Iraq's army has been fighting for Ramadi for a year and a half--until ISIL provided better fire support than we provide our allies when ISIL hit the Iraqis with the equivalent of a carpet bombing:

"Over the course of 96 hours in Ramadi, and what we've been able to collect ... (ISIL used) about 30 suicide VBIDs in Ramadi and the environs. ... Ten of them, I've been told, had the explosive capacity of an Oklahoma City type attack. So just to put that in perspective."

One VBID (actually, that should be VBIED) attack leveled an entire block of Ramadi.

As a wise man once said, you go to war with the army you have and not the army you wished you had. It is within our power to make the army we have more effective.

Work the problem, people.

UPDATE: More on the ISIL VBIEDs (Or SVIEDs--with the S standing for "suicide"):

The jihadists used about 30 explosives-rigged vehicles in the Iraqi city of Ramadi this month, blasting their way through positions government and allied fighters had managed to hold for more than a year. ...

The jihadists used about 30 explosives-rigged vehicles in the Iraqi city of Ramadi this month, blasting their way through positions government and allied fighters had managed to hold for more than a year.

What I find most horrible about this more than the Iraqi rout is that ISIL was left unmolested and allowed to build this phalanx of truck bombs and then move them to the front and use them on the Iraqi defenders despite our absolute aerial supremacy.

Which shows that we have to seize the initiative and make ISIL react to our side rather than granting ISIL the precious commodity of time to carry out their plans against us.

Jesus Was a Carpenter. Obama is No Carpenter

Michael O'Hanlon rejects the critics' unduly harsh criticisms and rejects using the president's own lofty goals (How's that for balance? O'Hanlon rejects the president's too-high goals and the too-high goals of the president's critics!), but judges the president's foreign policy as perfectly adequate.



Oh, please:

"Obama the Carpenter: The President's National Security Legacy" ...

Gauged by more reasonable and normal standards, however, Mr. Obama has in fact done acceptably well. ...

I do not mean to overstate. Obama's presidency will not go down as a hugely positive watershed period in American foreign policy.

This should be enlightening. Let's explore the president's feats of acceptavosity.

First off:

Most of today's problems were not Obama's creations. Others were mishandled, but generally in ways that could have been far worse. He also managed to avoid a second great recession.

Every president inherits the world from their predecessor. So that's just a silly excuse.

Or is the next president who inherits the president's three-year plan to defeat ISIL off the hook for what happens with that?

If President Obama inherited a financial problem (from Bush and Congressional Democrats), he also inherited the initial response to the crisis that Bush initiated while still president.

And the fact that O'Hanlon had to lead with an economic issue rather than foreign policy foreshadows the strength of the foreign policy judgment.

Let's skip the big picture and go to the top four issues that O'Hanlon judges President Obama to have achieved acceptaquasity.

One:

The so-called pivot or rebalance to the Asia-Pacific, a centerpiece of President Obama's first-term foreign policy in particular, has been generally very sound.

Talk about inheriting a policy. We've been shifting our Navy to the Pacific since shortly after the Cold War saw the Western European region decline as a threat.

So congratulations on not interrupting that existing trend. Really. Bravo. Leg tingles? Commence!

Besides, turning this quiet pivot into speaking loudly and carrying a pivoted stick was actually more about pivoting away from the Middle East.

Acceptable? Okay. I'll generously grant that.

Two, he judges the Ukraine strategy as "reasonable:"

[The] failure to deter the conflict is hard to lay at Obama’s doorstep. Obama's approach to handling the Ukraine crisis—make Putin pay an economic price for what he has done, while signaling that the United States and its allies can increase the economic costs further if need be—strikes a good balance between indifference and risky escalation over a less-than-crucial national security matter.

Obama has resisted arming Ukraine to date, recognizing that Russia enjoys escalation dominance in the region. Thus, any American move could simply elicit a greater and stronger Russian counterplay.

It is true that Putin is responsible for the invasion and not President Obama. Putin might have done it if Reagan was president. Perhaps.

But the reasonableness of the response that rules out weapons to Ukraine on the farcical notion that Russia has escalation dominance ignores that Putin cannot afford endless escalation and endlessly higher costs.

If O'Hanlon's theory in defense of not providing weapons is right, as the most powerful military force on the planet, America has escalation dominance wherever we choose to exercise it.

So why do we face resistance?

And hey, guess what?

Russia's army is massing troops and hundreds of pieces of weaponry including mobile rocket launchers, tanks and artillery at a makeshift base near the border with Ukraine, a Reuters reporter saw this week.

Many of the vehicles have number plates and identifying marks removed while many of the servicemen had taken insignia off their fatigues.

Feel the adequacy as Russia prepares to renew their subliminal offensive!

Acceptable? I think not. At best the approach will win if Russia's weaknesses trip them up regardless of what we do. At worse, we just haven't lost yet. Although a resounding success would reverse my judgment.

But since at best we seem to have forgotten the Russian conquest of Crimea, Putin has changed an international border by invading a sovereign state and no definition of adequacy contemplates that rollback. And I'm not sure how we get Russia out of the Donbas, either, or just get them to stop advancing, with this "adequate" response.

Three:

On Iran, President Obama has sought to use various “smart sanctions” and patient diplomacy to induce Tehran to agree to a deal on its nuclear programs. As of Spring 2015, he appears to have a good chance of success.

So President Obama has cleverly negotiated a deal that will pave the way for Iran to go nuclear and gain relief from sanctions? If that's what the President intends, surely on that narrow measure the president has good chance of "success" here. Mission accomplished!

But we should not want this deal, which is merely an exercise in Iran pretending not to want nuclear weapons in exchange for America pretending to believe them.

Acceptable? Potentially catastrophic is more like it.

And there is a very broad four, judged as not fully acceptable:

In regard to the rest of the Middle East beyond Iran, unfortunately, Obama’s disciplined approach has often failed him, and his critics have a stronger case.

O'Hanlon tries to excuse the president's many failures across the Middle East, but ultimately this is the one area that the president's critics have a point on? Fine.

And that "disciplined" comment is amazing. Although it is true that the president is remarkably determined to abandon allies and reward enemies. That's a discipline of sorts, I suppose.

Yes, the one bright spot in this area has been that President Obama has decided to intervene in Iraq after allowing it to nearly collapse. But I don't think we have committed to using sufficient US power and I don't think we have a sense of urgency about getting the fight going. This stinks of a delaying action until the president can hand off the ISIL problem to the next president.

Acceptable? See number 3.

For amusement, O'Hanlon lumped a lot into this "single" failing fourth category to give President Obama barely passing marks in 3 out of 4 areas!

God help us, but President Obama did build this foreign policy record.



This would all be funny if President Obama was in charge of somebody else's country.

Oh, and do stick around for the touching conversation between President Obama Al Bundy and Secretary of State Kerry Kelly.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Grant Me That This is Funny

Sometimes it really does seem like the world is out to get Russia.

Life's a bitch:

Action on the Ukrainian front now includes Russian soldiers digging trenches to reduce the smuggling of weapons back into Russia, the Ukrainian Border Guards Service said.

Over 60 miles of trenches, four meters (13 feet) wide and two meters (six feet) deep, have been dug in Ukraine's Rostov region, adjacent to the restive Donetsk and Luhansk regions, to prevent arms and munitions from being carried into Russia. Over 60 smuggling attempts have been stopped, leading to the detention of 130 people and the confiscation of land mines, firearms, artillery shells and grenades, the Moscow newspaper Rossiskaya Gazeta said.

What? The people love Putin! Who in Russia would need firearms and explosives?

That's not how the whole subliminal war is supposed to work?

A top NATO commander warned on Wednesday that "continual attacks" against Ukraine were hampering Kiev's efforts to modernise its army enough to one day join the Western military bloc.

Yet now weapons are flowing back to Russia? Let's hope all the people who wanted out of Moscow's loving bear hug got out after 1991, eh?

It's always so tragic when bad things happen to good people.

Cry Havoc! And Let Slip the Dogs of Warm!*

President Obama pivoted to Asia (and more importantly, away from the Middle East and Europe) only to find that the Middle East and Asia burst into flames--and also that Asia isn't a cakewalk like he expected. It's time for a safer pivot--to global warming climate change.

Are you effing kidding me? This is what our president told new Coast Guard graduates?

This brings me to the challenge I want to focus on today -- one where our Coast Guardsmen are already on the front lines, and that, perhaps more than any other, will shape your entire careers -- and that's the urgent need to combat and adapt to climate change.

As Mark Steyn responds:

"Globally, we could see a rise in climate change refugees": What - from zero to three? At the beginning of this week, Ramadi fell, and so far, from just one Iraqi city, 100,000 refugees have been sent fleeing westward to Baghdad. The implosion of the Middle East has driven millions of refugees everywhere from Jordan (where they're destabilizing the least worst Arab nation) to the shores of Italy and Greece.

And Obama hasn't let this vast refugee tide cut short a single golf game. Why should he take a mythical herd of sparkly unicorns fleeing climate change any more seriously? "I guarantee you the Coast Guard will" never "have to respond" to the President's climate-change refugee crisis. Not this century.

Dealing with car bomb footprints is too easy--and so George W. Bush, really. It's time for the real challenge of carbon footprints!

Yet I can understand the president's desire to pivot away from immediate problems. Since he's so awful at coping with them.

Oh, and China shows no interest in playing well with others in the South China Sea region. So the president has a vital interest in pivoting to something--anything--that seems safer for Holy Legacy.

So why not pivot to "climate change" where rising temperatures, he says, will require our response well beyond even the president's 3-year plan to defeat that junior varsity ISIL threat that safely puts that more localized problem from Hell beyond His term of office?

After all, if the fall of Ramadi is a mere "setback" that doesn't need to interfere with finishing the perfect plan to--in the fullness of time--defeat ISIL--why not pivot to a problem that has been on a 17-year pause, or hiatus, or whatever the term of art is for something that has not been happening in that span of time?

Perhaps it's hiding in deep seas. Or it's just vewy, vewy quiet.

Of course, given that President Bush 41 ushered in the era of victory over Moscow in the Cold War and President Bush 43 left victory in Iraq and a planet that did not get warmer to President Obama, I guess we can look forward to global warming resuming--with a murderous vengeance--any day now, and racking up new victories over the planet.

So maybe the Coast Guard really should update their mass evacuation plans.

Or perhaps contemplate the huge anchor that they have to drag around for 20 more months.

Really, we can move on to the smart part of our diplomacy any time now.

*All Glory to Steyn for that title, which I still kick myself for not coining. So I'm stealing it (with attribution).

But I'll always have The Charge of the Heat Brigade and The Prattle Hymn of the Republic all to myself, right?

UPDATE: Mission accomplished!

Good news: the surface temperatures of the North Atlantic are going to suppress global warming for the next couple of decades…after enhancing them for the past 3+ decades. The bad news: there will likely be an accelerated rise in sea level from Cape Hatteras to Boston during that time.

Even if this counter-action of man-made CO2--and I've never denied that this contributes to the warming side of the ledger--just lasts a couple decades, it demonstrates that natural forces overpower man's inputs. What other factors overwhelm mankind's contributions and why do we think marginal but hugely expensive changes in our outputs will be decisive?

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Radio Silence

We have 3,000 American troops in Iraq (and thousands of contractors, too), yet we cannot send American forward observers to direct American and allied air power (and Iraqi artillery, too) against ISIL forces. That is a handicap that is killing our efforts to bolster the Iraqis, notwithstanding the uneven quality of Iraqi ground forces.

Right now, using drones and aircraft for recon, we can direct air attacks against ISIL targets. This is useful for pre-planned attacks  but does not work when Iraqi forces are in direct combat and need close air support.

I always keep in mind our advisory and training efforts in the El Salvador civil war (largely in the 1980s) that limited our advisors to 55 total and forbade them from direct combat against the communist insurgents.

We trained Salvadoran personnel outside of the country to cope with those limitsand we could triple our advisors with various counting mechanisms that got around the limits designed to keep us from escalating via advisors as we did in the Vietnam War so recently lost.

So at least we aren't under Congressional limits that restrictive.

One thing that was kind of amusing at the time was the parlor game the press participated in when they played "gotcha" by publishing photos of an American advisor in the field with a Salvadoran infantry unit while he was carrying a rifle. Aha! An American in combat! For shame!

Actually, that was pretty irrelevant to the effectiveness of our advisors. The single most important weapon the American advisors carried when they went outside the wire with Salvadoran infantry was a radio to call in air strikes by the Salvadoran air force--especially from AC-47 gunships.

That precise air support--back before precision got really precise in our GPS era--was our key battlefield contribution.

Yet today in Iraq we can't make full use of our far better modern air power to be a force multiplier for Iraq forces--which will do wonders for Iraqi morale.

If we're not going to fully support the Iraqis in combat, we're practicing Intervention Theater (Operation Inherent Resolve? Really?) designed to look like we are doing what we can to win--so don't blame us for failure!--and not truly trying to win.

Let's try to win. Let's put radio-equipped forward observers with  Iraqi forces--which will do wonders for Iraqi willingness to stand and fight.

And for God's sake, regain the initiative from ISIL and start driving them back.

And Now the Israelis Forget Recon 101

I was depressed enough at the thought of our ultra light RSTA battalions in our new brigades that replaced our old divisional armored cavalry squadrons. Now the Israelis forget the value of heavy recon units.

This is not good:

An Israel Defense Forces (IDF) reconnaissance company supporting a Merkava Mk 4 tank brigade has adopted unarmoured Humvees as its preferred mode of transport in combat zones.

The 401st Armored Brigade's reconnaissance company made the transition in recent months after using Humvees armed with FN MAG machine guns to move wounded soldiers to safety during Operation 'Protective Edge' in the Gaza Strip in mid-2014. ...

According to company commander Major Yoav Amir, training exercises conducted in recent days have focused on moving deep into southern Lebanon ahead of the brigade's armoured units.

The company's mission, Maj Amir said, will be to transmit real-time intelligence to forces advancing and ensure that viable routes are in place for the armoured vehicles following behind.

Good luck with that.

I was extremely worried that we discarded our armored cavalry for Humvee-mounted recon and fire-support vehicles. Fine for counter-insurgency, such units are completely inadequate for high-intensity warfare.

I'm hesitant to advise the Israelis on armored warfare. They were once the best practitioners in the world.

But the last time they carried out a major mechanized offensive was 1982, in Lebanon.

It has been even longer (1973) since the Israelis fought major battles against heavy forces.

We have more experience since 1991 and 2003, but when we reorganized our Army during the Iraq War we forgot about the value of heavy recon units--despite the amazing advance of heavy 3rd Infantry Division's 3-7 armored cavalry squadron leading the division in the 2003 invasion.

The Israeli army originally had light recon units, on the theory that light but fast vehicles are more nimble.

But combat experience taught the Israelis that they needed tanks in their recon units because they often had to fight enemy forces for ground to gather intelligence on what was in front of them.

Now after many decades of not having to fight a mechanized campaign, the Israelis forgot their old lessons. Or they think the old lessons don't matter as technology has ... what? Made light vehicles impervious to fire? 

Those new recon companies seem very fast when nobody is shooting. They will be immobile scraps of metal--with dead crews--when they go up against Hezbollah's light infantry.

This is a whole lot of bad news for what it says about the state of knowledge on armored warfare.

But combat, should the Israelis drive to Baalbek to tear up Hezbollah, will remind the Israelis--and hopefully our Army--that ground recon units need to be heavy to survive against conventional foes on a battlefield.

I'd give good money to see the return of armored cavalry units to the Army.

Monday, May 25, 2015

The American-ish Century

The victory of the West in the Cold War was not the "end of history" but the restarting of history.

Talk about blowback! Maybe instead of obsessing over whether we should have left Saddam Hussein in power as a bastion of (regrettably) brutal "stability," we should be wondering if we should have backed Mikhail Gorbachev in remaining ruler of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact!

We will remain the most powerful nation--if not the dominant one, yet with more deployable power--with no sure end in sight, I think.

The Beginning of Wisdom

Is Assad going to retreat to a core Syria? Or is even that too much to hold now?

In January 2012, I wrote that Assad had to contract his realm to a core Syria in the west because he was losing ground trying to hold everything, and then rebuild his army to reconquer the entire country.

This article says Assad is planning to do just that. I think:

"The division of Syria is inevitable. The regime wants to control the coast, the two central cities of Hama and Homs and the capital Damascus," one Syrian political figure close to the regime said.

"The red lines for the authorities are the Damascus-Beirut highway and the Damascus-Homs highway, as well as the coast, with cities like Latakia and Tartus," he added, speaking on condition of anonymity. ...

"Iran urged Syrian authorities to face facts and change strategy by protecting only strategic zones," opposition figure Haytham Manna said. ...

Those are approximately 175,000 men from the army, pro-regime Syrian militias and foreign fighters including from Hezbollah and elsewhere.

The Observatory says 68,000 regime forces are among the 220,000 people killed since the conflict began.

The article says that Assad controls 50-60% of the population now.

I'm not sure if those population numbers include provincial capitals in the east. While in 2012 I thought that Assad would need to hold strategic outposts in the east, it is too late for that now.

Then I thought Assad could contract to prepare to counter-attack. Now Assad is contracting from exhaustion, so no relief columns will be heading east to rescue any strategic outposts.

Already, Aleppo is seen as outside Assad's core Syria. I did say it was a bridge too far for Assad.

Can 175,000 army, militia, Hezbollah, and Shia foreign legion troops hold perhaps 13 million people? Not if you assume Assad needs troops at 2% of the population to have a chance of pacifying and/or protecting the population. That rule of thumb implies Assad needs 260,000 troops. Or needs to control fewer than 9 million people.

At this point, I think Damascus is too much for Assad's casualty-wracked forces to hold. That has always seemed problematic to me. Yet holding Damascus means whatever Assad controls is still "Syria" with all the international recognition that provides. If he can't hold Damascus, he'd need to legally transfer his capital to the coast to argue he still gets the UN seat.

Would Russia send troops to bolster Assad's morale? That would be dramatic and would suit Putin's image of action. With the bonus of sticking it to America. Here's a real red line of Russian soldiers, eh? Hell, he'd probably be first off the transport plane (shirtless, of course) for the photo op.

Also note that Iran doesn't need all of Syria. They need access to Hezbollah in Lebanon in order to have a front against Israel. And Hezbollah needs that supply route, too. A core Syria does that.

As long as they have the money to bolster Assad (which is why Iran is counting on a faux nuclear deal with America, which would lift sanctions), that's fine as far as Iran is concerned.

Still, Syria claims they will counter-attack at Palmyra, which is well outside any core or rump Syria.

As I've said, you'd think that the idea that Iran is willing to fight Israel to the last Arab should be an obvious information warfare topic to alienate Arab Shias from Persian Shia Iran. If we thought of Iran as an enemy rather than a proto-partner, of course.

Assad is fighting for survival in western Syria where he can still function as an outpost of Iran; and will let America deal with ISIL which controls half of Syria's formal territory now. Let's not forget that both are our enemies.

UPDATE: Interesting:

Turkey has agreed to provide support, including air support, for non-ISIL Syrian rebels. That’s a dwindling group as ISIL continues fighting with rebels who refuse to come under ISIL command. Turkey has not signed a final deal but wanted everyone to know where the discussions were going. Meanwhile Russia and Iran are calling for a peaceful, political settlement of the Syrian civil war. Considering the ISIL attitude towards the rest of the world, that is not likely. Russia and Iran are both having financial problems (because of low oil prices) at home and support for the Assads is very unpopular. So far Russia and Iran are not willing to take the political hit for abandoning the Assads, but that aid is not as generous as it used to be.

If Russia and Iran won't be as generous, Assad must shrink to a core or rump Syria.

But Turkey is not going to let Assad survive unmolested as the big fish in a smaller pond.

Honor and Remembrance 2015



UPDATE: Let me add Lamb's contribution from some years ago:


Sunday, May 24, 2015

Collateral Damage

Assad wants his outnumbered supporters to believe they have no choice but to back him to stop the vicious jihadis. But highlighting ISIL brutality without demonstrating the ability to defeat ISIL will lead his troops to react more like Iraqi troops who recently broke and run from Ramadi against a smaller ISIL attacking force.

Assad should reconsider the wisdom of this type of information warfare designed in part to make the West believe siding with Assad is the lesser of two evils:

Islamic State fighters have executed at least 400 people in Palmyra since capturing the ancient Syrian city four days ago, Syrian state media said on Sunday.

And that's on top of the security force casualties in the losing battle:

[The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights] says at least 300 soldiers were killed in the days of fighting before the city was captured.

"A bigger number of troops have disappeared and it is not clear where they are," Rami Abdulrahman from the Observatory told Reuters.

And this is problematic, too:

Assad, quoted by state news agency SANA late Friday, saluted the "heroism" of some 150 soldiers and their families who were able to escape a hospital building in the town of Jisr al-Shughur in northwestern Syria.

"You represent with your heroism the soldiers of the Syrian army," Assad told their commanding officer, Colonel Mahmud Sabha.

"You resisted because you refused failure or capitulation," Assad said.

"Your life and those of the soldiers of the army and the national defence forces (pro-regime militia) are the most important thing for us and what we try always to protect."

Assad can praise the bravery of his troops and assure them that their safety is always on his mind, but if the context is repeated defeats at the hands of rebels--and a rising government body count--who keep advancing, the words will be very hollow.

At some point, dying for a losing cause so Assad can enjoy a few more months in his palace won't seem like the best way to protect your family from jihadis--deserting with as much ammo as you can carry in order to escort your family to a border and escape jihadi advances will seem like the wiser course of action.

Emphasizing the brutality of the jihadis without demonstrating the ability to kill and defeat the jihadis will just convince Assad's army and national defense force militias that the time to escape while you can is the safest thing to do.

UPDATE: More on the fall of the hospital and the escape of some of the defenders and their families:

Assaf said the besieged soldiers all felt that "being killed outside the hospital would be better than being inside when it exploded."

Earlier this month, President Bashar al-Assad had pledged not to abandon the soldiers, who have been hailed in regime-controlled areas as heroes following their escape.

While dozens escaped, others were killed in the fierce fighting around the hospital complex as army units backed up their trapped comrades.

There was no rescue.

When the Truth is Outrageous

Russia is upset that Ukraine dares to say they are at war with Russia. Simple truth is an enemy of Putin's Russia these days.

Seriously?

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko sparked fresh Kremlin fury on Wednesday by warning that his crisis-torn country was fighting a "real war" against Russian aggressors that could escalate at any time.

The Russians are probably more mad about Ukraine's cancellation of military cooperation deals that amazingly have not been terminated already.

So maybe if Ukraine stops going along with the fiction that they are not at war with Russia, Russia will have more difficulty denying it to their own people.

As Russia prepares for a new offensive in the Donbas, Russia is already having difficulty hiding the 1,000 casualties they've endured so far (with 200-250 dead, depending on the KIA/WIA ratio).

I know the Ukrainians are justifiably angry, but they should not show off the Russians they capture which could probably violate international norms on treating prisoners.

The idea of a trial should be out of the question unless actual war crimes really were involved.

Instead, the Ukrainians should announce a policy of resettling surrendering Russian soldiers who have done nothing more than what soldiers do in war in Ukraine and even support their move to the West.

That would encourage reluctant "volunteers" to escape their forced service inside Ukraine.

Now that would embarrass Putin's Russia where many Russians don't even think Ukraine is a real nation in the international system:

New survey evidence indicates that this is not so much a product of a surge in Russian nationalism, which has actually remained rather stable since the pre-crisis period. Instead, it has much more to do with a stunningly widespread Russian view that Ukraine as it has existed since 1991 is simply not legitimate as a state within its present borders and with its present government.

Pity Ukraine is--on Stalin's insistence--a founding member of the United Nations. Inconvenient, eh?

Interestingly enough, Putin sent out his hand puppet to break the news officially that the Ukraine adventure is going to cost Russia even more:

The Russian prime minister (Dmitry Medvedev) recently gave a public speech before the Russian parliament, details of which were distributed nationwide by the state controlled media. Medvedev admitted that the military operations in Ukraine had cost Russia over $100 billion so far and would probably cost more before it is all over.

Strategypage writes that speeches like this test the waters. Does Putin want to see if the prospect of much more sacrifice to keep fighting in Ukraine is acceptable to the people and the elites? If so, we can expect the subliminal war to continue, with Russia making land grabs and then calling for ceasefires to consolidate their gains until Russia gets all that it wants.

If not, does Putin negotiate a real end to the fighting? Or does Putin decide to escalate and take all that he wants in one campaign to get the outrage over and encourage Europe to go back to business as usual?

More of the truth needs to come out and be advertised given Putin's fear of the truth. That could change the terms of the debate about the price of seizing Ukrainian territory.

UPDATE: Related:

President Vladimir Putin on Thursday declared all deaths of Russian soldiers during special operations to be classified as a state secret, a move that comes as Moscow stands accused of sending soldiers to fight in eastern Ukraine. ...

Asked to explain the rationale behind Putin's move, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov had no immediate comment.

Russian opposition activists released a report saying at least 220 serving Russian soldiers were killed in fighting in two hot spots in east Ukraine last summer and earlier this year.

Putin is exploring the deep philosophical question if a Russian soldier falls in Ukraine and nobody sees him, does anybody in Russia make a noise?

UPDATE: Related discussion of the lack of truth in Russia.

Of Barns, Horses, and Door-Closing Timing

Is there nothing besides a minor reduction in the rate of increase of one of his pet programs that President Obama will consider a real problem that requires a sense of urgency to combat?

This pretty much defines the president's Iraq policy:

The Pentagon said on Sunday that Islamic State militants had gained the advantage in fighting in Ramadi and that if the western Iraqi city fell, the U.S.-led coalition would support Iraqi forces “to take it back later.”

We could have devoted force to help Iraq hold Ramadi. But instead we ignored the simpler problem. Now we will have to commit even more force to carry out the harder task of helping Iraqi forces take ground from a fanatical enemy.

Which pretty much describes the choice in 2011 of staying in Iraq to defend our gains or leaving and then coming back in last year to try to regain what has been lost while we ignored the mounting problems in Iraq.

Oh, and we don't return to the status quo ante. Even if we win these battles with the Shia militias that are flowing to the Ramadi region, Iraq will be worse off:

"It's a miscalculation from the commander in-chief (Abadi)," Iraqi analyst Ihsan al-Shammari said. "He wanted to give the US a place and the tribesmen a bigger contribution."

Yes, Prime Minister Abadi wanted American help in Anbar to unite Sunni Arabs with his Shia-led government against ISIL jihadis.

Indeed, we wanted Iraq's government to reach out to the Sunni Arabs after blaming Maliki for poisoning relations.

Now we risk Iran-inspired Shia militia slaughtering some Sunni Arabs in the flush of battle, which could wreck chances of reconciliation even if Anbar Arab hatred of ISIL outweighs fear of Shia militias long enough to eject ISIL from Anbar.

But we wouldn't focus on the more important Anbar front. No, we're still focused on Mosul. Sometime in the future. When all is ready.

It will be splendid, I'm sure.

Drama? No Obama.

Could we fast forward to the "smart" part of our diplomacy?

UPDATE: On the bright side, Iraqi forces are moving west:

Shi'ite militias, Iraqi security forces and pro-government Sunni tribal fighters launched a counter-offensive on Saturday against the insurgents, who have pushed east towards a key military base after overrunning Ramadi.

"Today we regained control over Husaiba and are laying plans to make more advances to push back Daesh fighters further,” said local tribal leader Amir al-Fahdawi[.]

Husaiba is 6 miles east of Ramadi.

We'll see if they push into relative vacuum on the approaches to Ramadi or actually retake Ramadi.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Russian Army's Wish List

Russia has unveiled an entire line of new tanks and armored vehicles to replace their Cold War-era arsenal. Good luck with affording that.

Russia has a lot of new armor on parade:

Paraded uncovered for the first time on 9 May in Moscow, Russia's new range of armoured vehicles represent not only the biggest change in the country's armoured vehicle families since the 1970s but also a new design ethos.

While the vehicles' designs partly involve radical rather than revolutionary innovation, the scale and ambition of the change they embody is nothing short of a revolution. Together, the Armata, Kurganets, Boomerang, and Koalitsiya and other vehicles on show will replace nearly all Russia's existing vehicle families as, remarkably, Russia is attempting to replace all its main armoured fighting vehicle (AFV) families at the same time.

Hey, Russia has a new rifle, too:

Russian efforts to upgrade their Cold War era military equipment have fallen short because the country cannot afford all the new tech that has to be developed or to buy enough of the new gear to replace all the older stuff. Naturally the only way this all works out is via compromises. So the new infantry rifle, the AK-12, despite all its impressive new features, will be restricted to the elite (commandos and paratrooper) forces. Meanwhile the Cold War era AK-74, which uses the same ammo as the AK-12, has been upgraded again.

The Russian armored vehicles sound impressive. But if Russia can't afford a new basic infantry rifle, in what alternate procurement world will Russia be able to replace their old armored vehicles in anything but a small part of even their best units?

Putin is aggressive and dangerous, but so far his military might is weighted to the ends--he can nuke us or he can send in special forces and small regular forces capable of taking on weak enemies with poor quality troops (poor in training or weapons) as they did in Georgia, Ukraine's Crimea, and now the Dombas region of Ukraine.

The middle range of fighting a medium or large-scale conventional operation against a sizable or capable force is still beyond the Russian military's capabilities. Having all these new weapons would help Putin gain a full spectrum of military options, but I don't see that happening any time soon.

All the more reason we should help Ukraine and others to stop Putin while his means are still weak.

UPDATE: More on Putin's overly ambitious defense spending plans:

Russia cannot afford military expenditures at such scale in the long-run. “The modern Russian economy just does not generate enough resources to finance the current 2011-2020 rearmament program.

Don't even speak to me about how Russia can escalate the military conflict in Ukraine at will.

UPDATE: Russia's air force has great needs, too:

The Russian Air Force has fallen on hard times and is having great difficulty rebuilding. ...

Another major expense you don’t hear much about is the cost of upgrading many of the 150 airfields the air force uses. Most of these were built during the Cold War and few got refurbished after the Cold War ended in 1991.

And oh yeah, Russia's population is going down even with ethnic Russian refugees from former Soviet states fleeing to Russia since the collapse of the USSR.

Of course, capturing land and people can reverse that trend, I suppose.

Ah Yes, I Remember it Well

We won the Iraq War by 2008. We maintained the peace until 2011 with a sizable troop presence. Iraq rapidly fell apart after we left at the end of 2011. While I'm grateful that President Obama has re-engaged in Iraq to reverse our setback, I do wish he'd do a better job of it. But let's revisit the whole idea of keeping American troops in Iraq between our departure in 2011 and our re-entry in 2014.

One of the funniest aspects of the renewed Iraq War debate is the amazing ability of President Obama's supporters to say that we only had a 3-year agreement to keep forces in Iraq under President Bush and so our presence in Iraq was supposed to end in 2011, according to Bush.

I have a question for Obama supporters if that is true: If the 2008 agreement between the Bush administration and Iraq that provided for a three-year presence in Iraq was intended to remove all US troops from Iraq at the end of 2011, why did the Obama administration even negotiate at all with the Iraqis for a new agreement?

As should be obvious to anyone who hasn't put their higher brain functions into a blind trust for the duration of the Obama administration (Hope and Change are much better than thinking!), the Bush deal was intended as an interim deal that was to be replaced by a permanent deal.

President Bush was under pressure to leave this issue to the new President Obama, so getting a 3-year deal was probably the best he could have done.

I can only assume that the assumption in the Bush administration was that success by 2011 would lead President Obama to continue our presence in a quiet Iraq rather than risk being blamed for a resurgence in violence if we left.

Sadly, President Bush under-estimated the priority of politics in the Obama administration's calculations.

Remember, right now the Obama administration wants its blind trust-supporters to parrot the line that President Obama tried very hard to get a status of forces agreement with Iraq even though the president campaigned on his opposite promise to get us out of Iraq as fast as possible; and once we left, boasted of getting our troops out of Iraq and thus keeping his campaign promise.

Got it. Between his promise and his boast, President Obama tried very hard to do the opposite. I'm not that stupid to believe that. Are you?

While I'm at it, one aspect of this "setback" in Iraq is the role of Hillary Clinton's State Department.

Remember that the fallback position for failing to keep American troops in Iraq to bolster the Iraqi government and help keep them on track was a massive State Department paramilitary effort to replicate what our military would have done had we stayed.

Hillary Clinton can be so proud of how she carried out her responsibilities as Secretary of State--she sure did travel a lot.

Of course, perhaps she was just collecting checks from foreign governments for the Clinton Foundation. That would explain her mileage and lack of accomplishments.

But How Would I Be Affected?

Is Israel worried that a bad nuclear deal with Iran could lead to 100,000 dead Israelis in a nuclear strike? President Obama tries to reassure Israelis by reminding them that His own reputation would suffer greatly should such an inconceivable thing happen despite His deal.

This presidential hand-holding must be so comforting to Israelis:

“Look, 20 years from now, I’m still going to be around, God willing. If Iran has a nuclear weapon, it’s my name on this,” he said, referring to the apparently almost-finished nuclear agreement between Iran and a group of world powers led by the United States. “I think it’s fair to say that in addition to our profound national-security interests, I have a personal interest in locking this down.”

I mean, what's radiation sickness compared to the threat to The One's Legacy?

I also take exception to this part:

The president—the self-confident, self-contained, coolly rational president—appears to have his own anxieties about the nuclear talks. Which isn’t a bad thing.

One, his anxieties appear to be completely self-centered.

Two, as for that whole "No Drama Obama" line, I think it is more accurately stated as "Drama? No Obama."

UPDATE: Do Iranians think President Obama's name will be on their nuclear bombs?

According to what is said in Iranian media and on the street most Iranians believe the West can be manipulated into signing a treaty that lifts the sanctions and does not really prevent Iran from getting nukes.

There are legacies. And there are legacies.

Unclear on the Concept: Moscow Version

Somebody has something that belongs to somebody else, and that somebody else is upset.

Putin's Russia says that Ukraine must pay their energy debts to Russia:

Russia would adopt a tough position if Ukraine decided not to pay off debts owed to Moscow by its previous government, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said in an interview broadcast by Russian TV on Saturday.

Huh. Somebody having something that belongs to somebody else is rather awful. It's kind of like theft.

It's kind of like Russia's seizure of Crimea and ongoing home invasion in the Donbas region.

I still don't know why Ukraine doesn't present Russia with their own billing statement for renting the entire Crimea for the past 14 months, including mineral rights and the bases and of course a security deposit for damage to the carpet that will totally need to be steam cleaned when the Russians leave the premises.

Get the right accountants to do the figuring, and Russia will be in debt to Ukraine for generations to come, even taking Ukrainian energy imports into account.

As an aside, I remain totally impressed that when Medvedev speaks, Putin's lips hardly even move!

UPDATE: Ukraine should also watch John F. Kerry as our most Gumby-like Secretary of State ever asks the Russians not what they can do for us, but what we can do for them.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Getting What You Wish?

Remember how opponents of the Iraq War said that fighting there just inspired young Moslem men to join the jihad? That our presence there created jihadis? Remember how some admitted that Saddam was horrible but that we should have toppled him and then left? Yeah, we tried that in Libya.

ISIL is gaining ground in Libya:

Standing guard at his frontline post, Libyan soldier Mohammed Abu Shager can see where Islamic State militants are holed up with their heavy weaponry less than a kilometer away.

The militants have effectively taken over former dictator Muammar Gaddafi's home city of Sirte as they exploit a civil war between two rival governments to expand in North Africa. ...

Libya, which has descended into near anarchy since NATO warplanes helped rebels overthrow Gaddafi in a 2011 civil war, is now the third big stronghold for the Sunni Islamist group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, which declared a Caliphate to rule over all Muslims from territory it holds in Syria and Iraq.

It's all so confusing. Our motives were pure (Responsibility to Protect rather than oil). We led from behind (NATO). We had a UN Security Council resolution (that we twisted from the original purpose) rather than any Congressional authorization. We did not occupy the country and provoke jihadi recruitment. We cackled the dictator Khadaffi was killed. And we left Libya alone so they could sort out their problems without our horrible influence.

Good God, people! Our president didn't have a Texas twang--he had the middle name "Hussein!" We had Hope (Change be upon it) and Change (Hope be upon it)!

Everything was different!

And here it is 2015 and rather than being a kite-flying paradise, there is civil war in Libya, refugees (and terrorists?) flowing to southern Europe, and jihadis have flocked to Libya (and spilled over into Mali with a bit of blowback), where they killed our ambassador (and three others).

That's okay. President Obama has learned more lessons. We shall pivot to fighting climate change on the theory that carbon footprints are more dangerous that car bomb footprints.


And let me just say, damn Mark Steyn to Hades for thinking of this title before me.

If the president's record is any indication, by focusing on degrading and ultimately defeating climate change, climate change will defeat us--despite the fact that we are in year 17 or 18 in the great "pause" in global warming.

Deciding Not to Get There First With the Most

This is an interesting account of Benghazi on September 11, 2012, but I have to take issue with this:

Abu Khattala, a terrorist leader and possibly one of the ring leaders of the attacks, said that he was in fact motivated by the video. Khattala is now in US custody and under indictment for the role he played in the assault.

No. Khattala was not motivated by a video. He was already a terrorist leader and so motivated to kill us whether or not a video existed or he saw it or even heard of it.

At best, a video was an excuse. And they have plenty of grievances to justify slaughtering innocent people, whether Moslem of Infidel. So don't even speak to me of a jihadi being motivated to attack our people at Benghazi by some stupid video.

But do read it. The attack was quickly gathered up and not a long-planned assault, according to this.

His explanation for only 5 mortar rounds being fired at the CIA annex as being because the enemy only brought 5 rounds, indicating that this was hastily organized, is persuasive to me--about the mortar, anyway.

But I've never insisted the attack had to have been pre-planned for it to be a terrorist assault unrelated to a video.

And there was information that the attack on the "consulate" was planned at least 10 days in advance.(tip to Instapundit)

Perhaps just use of a mortar wasn't planned, eh?

Or maybe the attack on the annex, where the mortar was used, was not planned while the attack on the "consulate" where our ambassador died was planned. Hard to say, even now.

While that  information about the attack being planned in advance may be wrong in full or part, at the time of the administration's explanations for the attack, that was the information the administration had. Yet they went with the video explanation.

Also note how the Annex CIA personnel rapidly reacted on their own to reach the "consulate" (the TMF) and that the State Department quickly dispatched a small but available security force from Tripoli to Benghazi:

Had CIA officers not responded to the TMF would have been more fatalities there.

This is the important part. My main question of that day is why couldn't our military do the same thing?

In all our forces in Europe, we didn't have a single transport plane and a platoon of special forces, infantry, military police, or air base security forces available to head to Benghazi just in case?

Nobody in European Command had the authority or initiative to begin to move forces toward Benghazi?

Really? That's pretty damning for a nation at war.

I suspect that because of our president's declaration that al Qaeda on their heels and on the run, with our wars being "responsibly ended," our military leadership had a peacetime mindset rather than a war perspective that would have made reacting to an enemy attack their first impulse.

Indeed, the lack of advance planning for the attack makes it even more important for us to have reacted fast. A pre-planned assault could have been over before we could fly and drive to the sites.

But for a situation developing, as it did, who knows what we could have done if we'd acted like we were at war that day and moved to the sound of the guns?

I wouldn't assume Morell is telling the full story. But certainly some pieces of it sound true. And my main question remains unanswered.

Russia Today

Sometimes it is the little things that demonstrate what bastards the Russians are lately.

Sure, the Russians rattle nuclear sabres, harass neighbors, and are continuing to invade Ukraine.

Which is bad. And dangerous. And a big picture problem for Europe and anyone within reach of Russia.

But let's not forget the small things.

Like Russia's incursion into Estonia last September when the Russians kidnapped Estonian police officer Eston Kohver and took him into Russia.

The Russians still hold the man. Because they are untrustworthy bastards.

UPDATE: Related: The Russians are still upset with the West about targeting Serbia's Milosevic--whose forces committed mass murder in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s and who was eventually charged with war crimes (he died in prison before a trial could be held).

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Kill Them, Get Them Running, and Keep Them Running

Strategypage explains Nigeria's recent dramatic improvements in fortunes against Boko Haram.

Interesting:

In late 2014 Nigeria began a major offensive against Boko Haram and depended [0n] less corrupt and more effective troops from neighboring Chad, Niger and Cameroon to lead the way. While this seemed to work, it was not enough to weaken Boko Haram sufficiently to allow Nigerian troops to go in and finish (and take credit for) the job. So in December the government decided to act on a suggestion that had been bouncing around (and leaking) for months and hire some foreign mercenaries to train and advise (lead) a task force of elite Nigerian troops to quickly crush the most determined Boko Haram resistance.

This answers some questions I had about the alleged revival of Nigeria's corruption-ridden military.

More from Strategypage on what the mercenary company, STTEP, did:

In a few weeks the STTEP force had expanded by selecting competent Nigerian troops and these few hundred troops, moving quickly in trucks and a few armored vehicles as the 72nd Mobile Force Battalion, with Nigerian aircraft overhead (some with STTEP men aboard acting as spotters) quickly smashed one “troublesome” Boko Haram group after another. ...

This made it easier for the troops from neighboring countries to go after less effective Boko Haram fighters. By late February Boko Haram was weakened sufficiently for the Nigerian troops to go in and carry out the final push against the demoralized and thoroughly unnerved Boko Haram fighters. STTEP was so successful that Nigeria did not extend their contract and in March the STTEP personnel left as the Nigerian Army was advancing into Boko Haram strongholds and freeing hundreds of women and children the Islamic terrorists had captured in the last year.

This is what I've been talking about for Iraq. There just aren't that many ISIL fighters, really.

But ISIL has the advantage that they are on the strategic offensive with the far larger Iraqi forces tied down defending their territory.

We need to put ISIL on the defensive by striking them rather than allowing ISIL to attack Iraq--which gave us the loss of Ramadi.

And to put ISIL on the defensive worrying more about what we do to them rather than figuring out what they can do to us, we need core ground forces to be the mobile spearheads (backed by firepower--artillery and air support) that drive into ISIL territory to allow the adequate and even poor Iraqi troops to exploit victories to fight and kill reeling ISIL forces.

Then the Iraqi garrisons are safer because ISIL is too busy coping with  our offensive to ponder their own mayhem.

We did this in Afghanistan. The French did it in Mali. And now the Nigerians did it in their own territory against fanatical jihadis.

Meanwhile, we're still writing the annexes to our perfect plan that will deliver victory over ISIL in Iraq and Syria some time after President Obama leaves office.

And also, my gathered thoughts on private warfare, which the Nigerian episode reflects.

UPDATE: About that last step:

The army fears that Boko Haram will now revert to guerilla war and attempt to rebuild. The foreign (Chad, Niger, Cameroon) troops will soon return home, in part because Nigerian commanders have been uncooperative and seem to resent the presence of foreign troops. That is unfortunate because there are still too many incompetent and often corrupt Nigerian officers and there is no quick fix for that. The army needs help because they are spread thin in the northeast and cannot protect everything Boko Haram can still raid or attack.

Could our diplomats at least remind the Nigerians about our experience in Iraq?

Keep Boko Haram running and keep killing them--or they'll regenerate and keep killing innocent people and kidnapping girls.

UPDATE: ISIL is following my advice:

Islamic state fighters pressed an advance east of Ramadi on Friday after breaching Iraqi defenses outside the city the insurgents overran last weekend in a major defeat for the Baghdad government.

Wonderful.

We should be slaughtering these jihadis. Instead we keep excusing "setbacks" as irrelevant to our plans.

Hezbollah's Plan B?

While Assad is under pressure and he needs his few friends more than ever to survive, is Hezbollah's operations between the Lebanon border and Damascus more about establishing a buffer zone inside Syria more than propping up Assad's rule in Syria?

Hezbollah's forces are (again) making gains in the Qalamoun Mountains region west of Damascus:

Hezbollah's chief said Saturday his Shiite movement had expelled Syrian opposition fighters from most of Syria's Qalamun region bordering Lebanon but the battle was not over.

Hezbollah's role is huge at this point and Assad doesn't try to hide it:

[For] Syria's increasingly embattled president, Hezbollah's help is more critical than ever.

In the last week, the Iranian-backed guerrilla group has unleashed its powerful arsenal to drive insurgents from wide areas of the Qalamoun mountain range, a short drive from Assad's seat of power in Damascus.

But with Iran'a financing and the crucial role of Hezbollah in spearheading attacks, is this offensive really designed to save Assad?

Or is Iran directing Hezbollah to prepare for the defeat of Assad and a possible retreat by Assad's forces away from Damascus that he may not have the troops to hold at the expense of his Alawite and coastal home base?

Hezbollah is up front about why they are fighting so hard there:

"Our goal in Qalamun is to protect Lebanon, and we've seen the evidence of the threat in Arsal and the other attacks on the border," a Hezbollah military commander said.

What is unclear is whether Hezbollah believes that keeping Assad in power is the key to protecting their position in Lebanon or whether they are simply looking to their own interests. If Assad can benefit from having Hezbollah control this region--great. But if not? Too bad for him?

Assad certainly isn't doing too well. If Assad wants to hold on to Idlib province, he needs to do something different than just losing ground:

Rebels including Al-Qaeda's local affiliate seized the Syrian regime's largest remaining military base in northwestern Idlib province on Tuesday, a monitor said. ...

The loss of Al-Mastumah base leaves only a few positions in regime hands in Idlib, a region that borders Turkey and neighbours the government stronghold of Latakia province on the Mediterranean coast.

This effort to create a buffer zone to protect their home turf inside Lebanon would also be easier for Hezbollah to justify as their casualties cause supporters (and recruits) back in Lebanon to question why they are fighting and dying for Assad by killing other Arabs while Israel remains at peace.

In related news, Turkey shot down one of Assad's fighters a couple days ago when it entered Turkish air space.

If Syria goes belly up, given our failure to support more acceptable rebels, I don't know who other than the Turks could commit enough troops to try to stabilize the place and deny ISIL or jihadis control of Damascus when Assad attempts the Big Contraction to a Alawite-dominated rump Syria.