Tuesday, June 30, 2015

So Easy, A Cave Man Can Do It

Is America going to cave to Iran and sign a lousy deal just to get to the signing ceremony and Nobel Peace Prize nominations?

"It's really absurd,” the [senior unnamed] official said.

"If we were going to cave, I could be home already and I would be a really happy person ... we would have done that a long time ago," the official said.

"Why would we be spending the hours doing this in the way we are if, you know, we were just (going to say to Iran) 'well whatever you want, you got'."

Yeah, I wouldn't want my name associated with that kind of denial, either.

And our diplomats get paid by the hour, I assume. So what else would they do with their time? I hear Switzerland is lovely this time of year.

And of course, if the deal's outline is as I've long assumed--Iran will pretend not to have a nuclear weapons program; and we will pretend to believe them--this is exactly the kind of denial one would expect from our administration, no?

I remember our first deadline for Iran:

The Obama administration and its European allies are setting a target of early October to determine whether engagement with Iran is making progress or should lead to sanctions, said senior officials briefed on the policy.

They also are developing specific benchmarks to gauge Iranian behavior. Those include whether Tehran is willing to let United Nations monitors make snap inspections of Iranian nuclear facilities that are now off-limits, and whether it will agree to a "freeze for freeze" -- halting uranium enrichment in return for holding off on new economic sanctions -- as a precursor to formal negotiations.

The moves are partly driven by concerns in Israel and among Washington's Arab allies that Tehran could drag out negotiations indefinitely while advancing its nuclear program, the officials said.

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have stressed that U.S. overtures toward Tehran won't be open-ended. The administration is committed to testing Tehran's willingness to cooperate on the nuclear issue and on related efforts to stabilize Afghanistan and Iraq.

The administration officials were still drunk on Hope and Change at that point. Yet when you go from all of those conditions for a deal to our current position that we just want a decent interval of 10 years before Iran gets nuclear weapons--and feel free to build a Persian Empire across the region, you proto-partners, you--it's hard not to call the last 6 years both open-ended overtures and a slow cave.

The question is how much more caving will we do in the last months of the administration?

Remember, we have precedent as well as a president for a pretend deal.

Greece pretended to qualify for membership in the Euro bloc; and the European Union pretended to believe them:

From the beginning, Greece has been in a different category from countries like Italy and Spain. It was a terrible candidate for the common currency, and only ‘met’ the targets by cooking its books. ...

The willingness of European authorities to turn a blind eye to the wholesale chicanery in Athens weakened the common currency and undercut the currency’s credibility among financial market participants from the start.

And more recently, Syria pretended to give up their chemical weapons; and America pretended to believe them:

U.S. intelligence agencies believe there is a strong possibility the Assad regime will use chemical weapons on a large scale as part of a last-ditch effort to protect key Syrian government strongholds if Islamist fighters and other rebels try to overrun them, U.S. officials said. ...

Last year, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad let international inspectors oversee the removal of what President Barack Obama called the regime’s most deadly chemical weapons. The deal averted U.S. airstrikes that would have come in retaliation for an Aug. 21, 2013, sarin-gas attack that killed more than 1,400 people.

Since then, the U.S. officials said, the Assad regime has developed and deployed a new type of chemical bomb filled with chlorine, which Mr. Assad could now decide to use on a larger scale in key areas. U.S. officials also suspect the regime may have squirreled away at least a small reserve of the chemical precursors needed to make nerve agents sarin or VX. Use of those chemicals would raise greater international concerns because they are more deadly than chlorine and were supposed to have been eliminated.

Thank goodness for Kerry's brilliant chemical weapons disarmament plan!

And now we have only the president's judgment standing between us and another faux deal.  God help us all.

What's one more fantasy?

UPDATE: President Obama warms up for the Iran cave by caving to the communist Cuban tyranny.

We could have exacted a real price to benefit the Cuban people who have suffered under this tyranny. We didn't.

Pretext?

The rumor is that Turkey will--as they've long wanted--establish a buffer zone inside Syria on the western side of the border. This is supposed to be to prevent the Kurds from establishing a state, but it avoids the northeast where such a state would theoretically be established.

Interesting:

The reports said up to 18,000 soldiers would be deployed to take over and hold a strip of territory up to 30 kilometers deep and 100 kilometers long that currently is held by ISIS. It stretches from close to the Kurdish-controlled city of Kobani in the east to an area further west held by the pro-Western Free Syrian Army (FSA) and other rebel groups, beginning around the town of Mare [NOTE: "Marea" on the map]. This “Mare Line,” as the press calls it, is to be secured with ground troops, artillery and air cover, the reports said. Yeni Safak reported preparations were due to be finalized by next Friday.



It is being billed as an anti-Kurdish independence move but does not target the main Kurdish area in the northeast. Is this just for domestic non-Kurd consumption so as not to be seen as fighting jihadis true Islamists?

But does that anger their own Kurds or successfully warn them not to hope for too much to their south?

This will hurt ISIL. But Assad won't like Turkey entering Syria, and it paves the way for further Turkish intervention deeper into Syria--potentially to directly fight Assad's forces or to fill a vacuum if Assad retreats to his Alawite core region near the coast.

Of course, Turkey has been proposing something like this for a while and hasn't done it. Are the Turks simply tired of trying to get NATO backing? Or did they get it? Perhaps the apparent faltering of our non-jihadi Syrian rebel training effort is sobering about what is possible--and the Turkish option is possible.

Jordan is reported to be thinking of the same thing in the south:

The Jordanian military is actively implementing plans to create a humanitarian buffer zone in the south of the country, Sam Jones, Roula Khalaf and Erika Solomon report for the Financial Times.

Which is the whole point of the Southern Front rebels--which is what I called them before they started calling themselves that, interestingly enough.

Although I'll keep flogging my suspicion that regardless of whether the buffer zone is Jordan's main effort against ISIL or just guarding their flank, Jordan will lead a mechanized force (backed by our air power and special forces) into western Anbar when an Iraqi offensive against ISIL kicks off from the east side.

Stuff is happening, no doubt.

UPDATE: Turkey denies imminent plans to create that buffer zone:

Turkey has deployed additional troops and equipment along part of its border with Syria as fighting north of the city of Aleppo intensifies, security sources said, but Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said there were no immediate plans for any incursion.

But they have reinforced the border region, which increases their capability to do that.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Russia In Assad's Literal Corner of Syria?

What did Assad's foreign minister tell the Russians to gain their pledge of support?

Russia's support for Assad was recently looking uncertain given that it looked like Assad's fortunes were going down rapidly.

But now Russia is firmly in Assad's corner:

Syria's foreign minister said in Moscow on Monday Russia had promised to send political, economic and military aid to his country, where the army is coming under some of the heaviest pressure since the start of the civil war.

Insurgent groups have made gains against government forces in northwest, central and southern Syria in the past two months but Damascus has voiced confidence that it can hold on to important territory with the help of its allies.

"I got a promise of aid to Syria - politically, economically and militarily," Walid al-Moualem said at a televised news conference after meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin. He did not give details.

Putin said earlier on Monday there was no change in Russia's support for the Syrian leadership.

What territory that Assad can control is important? If the correlation of forces as Russia seemed to see it showed Assad going down trying to hold what he has now--which has long seemed beyond his power--how is the correlation of forces going to change in Assad's favor?

Is Assad planning to withdraw to a core Syria (that includes Damascus) or even a rump Syria that transfers the capital of Syria to the coast and abandons Damascus?

Did Moualem brief Putin and get his blessing as a way to maintain Russia's access to a port at Tartus?

Could Assad have territorial ambitions in Lebanon (acting through Hezbollah rather than open occupation?)?

Yet after such heavy losses, can Assad's ground forces hold even a smaller state?

I know I'm drawing a potential picture with virtually no dots and based on what I think the different parties would and can do.

An Assad secure in his northwestern corner of Syria is good enough for Putin who has alienated Europe to capture Crimea as a base to project naval power into the eastern Mediterranean Sea--which would be less valuable if Russia doesn't have a secure port in the eastern Mediterranean.

Perhaps the question of whether a rump Syria rather than a core Syria is good enough for Iran will be answered, as well.

UPDATE: Syria is prepared to use chemical weapons to keep Assad in power:

U.S. intelligence agencies believe there is a strong possibility the Assad regime will use chemical weapons on a large scale as part of a last-ditch effort to protect key Syrian government strongholds if Islamist fighters and other rebels try to overrun them, U.S. officials said. ...

Last year, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad let international inspectors oversee the removal of what President Barack Obama called the regime’s most deadly chemical weapons. The deal averted U.S. airstrikes that would have come in retaliation for an Aug. 21, 2013, sarin-gas attack that killed more than 1,400 people.

Since then, the U.S. officials said, the Assad regime has developed and deployed a new type of chemical bomb filled with chlorine, which Mr. Assad could now decide to use on a larger scale in key areas. U.S. officials also suspect the regime may have squirreled away at least a small reserve of the chemical precursors needed to make nerve agents sarin or VX. Use of those chemicals would raise greater international concerns because they are more deadly than chlorine and were supposed to have been eliminated.

Is this a warning to ISIL to stay away from a retreating Assad, as he falls back to a core or rump Syria? And more importantly a way for Assad to reassure his supporters that a retreat can be orderly and successful--we'll do what it takes to survive--rather than a bug out and every clan for itself?

From the "Well, Duh" Files

Anbar Sunni Arabs are reluctant to re-Awaken because they don't trust us. Ya think?

We would really love it if Sunni Arabs would reject ISIL and join us in defeating ISIL. But there is a problem of trust:

“It is a pervasive view throughout Iraq and throughout the region that we are simply disengaged, that we are not prepared to exercise the kind of weight that might actually make a difference,” said Mr. Crocker, now dean of the Bush School of Government at Texas A&M University.

“And in the case of Iraq and Anbar, we are dealing with individuals, groups and tribes that remember a very different U.S. engagement. They know it, they lived it, and now the level of bitterness and mistrust is profound,” he said.

This spreading perception that the U.S. isn’t really interested in defeating Islamic State has undermined local resistance to the militant group in Anbar in recent months. It represents a major obstacle to recruiting local Sunni tribes—one of the U.S. strategies in the war—provincial leaders say.

“If you want to help someone, do it with strength to achieve results, not with drip-drip-drip as if you expect them to die anyway,” said Sabah Karhout, chairman of the Anbar provincial council. “The Americans are playing a very shy role—and if this American support had not been so shy, the Sunni tribes would not have gone over to the side of ISIS.”

Apparently, our resolve isn't inherent after all, when you are sitting in Anbar province.

Which is one reason I've argued that Anbar should take priority over Mosul.

It's funny, really. Anti-war activists kept telling us we were horrible in how we fought the resisting Sunni Arabs during the Iraq War. If their fevered war crime fantasies are accurate, we slaughtered them from the air (from 2004-2001, we averaged under one air strike per day). Yet the Sunni Arabs turned against al Qaeda during the Awakening to side with us in our 2007 Surge offensive.

Then we walked away from Iraq in 2011 and the Sunni Arabs turned--again (after they teamed up the first time in 2004)--to alliance with jihadis to resist the Shia majority that did not carry out our promises to be more inclusive.

Mind you, the Shias had some justification for mistrusting some of the Sunnis, but the Iraqi government stiff-armed all the Sunni Arabs because the Iraqi government needed to appease Iran which did not walk away from Iraq.

And now our tentative effort against ISIL to defeat ISIL--after the Sunni Arabs of Iraq experienced our more forceful efforts in 2003-2006 against them--deters these local Sunni Arab tribes from turning on ISIL in a re-Awakening. Their own experience with what we can do tells them we aren't serious based on what we are doing now.

Yes, we are still struggling to find (or train?) core ground forces that can be the spearheads to exploit our air power and drive ISIL back from their conquests.

And recall Nigeria's recent experience with and without core ground forces:

While Boko Haram took heavy losses over a thousand of the Islamic terrorists fled with weapons and vehicles and have been on the run, and rampage, ever since. Boko Haram leaders went public after the May defeats to proclaim that Boko Haram was still intact and active and seeking revenge for recent losses. While Boko Haram violence is less than it was before the May defeats, the group has made good its promise to keep killing. Now it’s up to the government to respond effectively. That will be difficult because the May victories were made possible largely because of South African mercenaries and more competent troops from neighboring countries (mainly Chad, Cameroon and Niger). The Nigerian military is as inept and unreliable as ever, especially when compared to forces from neighboring countries.

But no, really, we can just take our sweet time about any objective. I'm sure the Sunni Arabs will wait patiently--ready to clobber ISIL--for us to decide to help them effectively.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Close the Crimean Peninsula

If Russia's game in Ukraine is to keep taking small bites until they are full, Ukraine needs to cope with Russia by means other than just slowing down the digestion process.

Russia is preparing for a new offensive in the Donbas region:

Force levels on Russia's side of the border had not changed much in recent months, Breedlove said, but U.S. military officials had observed in Russia a "stocking of important supplies, ammunition, etc, to levels that would support operations".

Inside Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists are battling Ukrainian forces, Breedlove said "we see a force that has been trained, that is led by Russian leadership, ... and is ready to do whatever mission is required of it in the Donbass (region)."

"I don’t think Mr. Putin is done in eastern Ukraine," Breedlove told reporters, and Kiev, despite Moscow's hopes, was still looking to the West for support.

You can understand why Russia likes to pretend they aren't at war with Ukraine. But why should Ukraine cooperate by limiting the war to the Donbas?

I think Russia would have trouble coping with a wider war. Blood and cash aren't limitless for Putin, whose armed forces aren't that good outside of a narrow slice of his military.

I know that Ukraine is in worse shape so doesn't want to expand ground fighting that might cause Ukraine to lose more ground faster. The prospect of even a winning long war that combines regulars, irregulars, and guerrillas to resist a Russian invasion is frightening.

So Ukraine won't expand the ground war even if Russia would have problems coping with a wider front and the resulting casualties. But since Ukraine's Crimea is such a prize for Russia, why not put it at risk if Russia's hand puppets attack in force?

If I was supreme Ukrainian commander, I'd prepare forces to strike Sevastopol naval facilities and ships in port. Ballistic missiles should be readied to strike those targets and planes should be readied and trained to use anti-ship missiles against ships in port.

These assets would be held in reserve to deter a Russian escalation while the main effort is to declare Crimea's ports closed (Ukraine still has legal sovereignty despite Russia's conquest) and plant naval mines outside the ports.

How to do this is the problem. Aerial delivery? Delivery by cruise missile or drone? Small boats at night?

On the bright side, not many would have to be delivered. Hitting a Russian warship would be a bonus. But just by having some mines in place, insurance rates would go up for any ships heading that way; and how many cruise ships would want to risk hitting a mine? So Russia would take more hits to their economy.

I have no idea if Ukraine has naval mines. If not, they should produce them.

And at least such a response demonstrates that Russia risks gains by pushing for more. The war should not be limited to Russia attacking when ready and Ukraine losing ground.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

All is Fine ... But Check Your Ammo

One of Assad's outposts in the far northeast--the provincial capital of Hasaka--is under attack by ISIL:

In Syria's northeast, Kurdish forces and the army fought separate battles with the group around the city overnight. The YPG's Xelil said the Kurds were not fighting with Islamic State on Saturday. ...

Islamic State launched its offensive on government-held areas of Hasaka on Thursday and the United Nations says the violence is estimated to have displaced up to 120,000 people.

"We want to reassure people in the governorate...Hasaka is fine," Governor Mohammad Zaal al-Ali told state TV but also echoed a government call for people to come back and defend their homes alongside the army.

"All of the people of the governorate who want to, pick up arms to defend it," he added. He said the air force had been carrying out frequent bombardments against Islamic State.

With a common enemy, the Assad government and the Kurds are fighting on the same side for now.

But all is well in Hasaka. But if you want--no big deal, or anything--you can mosey on over to the city border with any weapons you might happen to have and see if our troops--who I mentioned are doing fine, right?--need any help. Not that they need it.

Well okay, then.

UPDATE: Syria says they have ejected ISIL from portions of Hasaka--although I was unaware the jihadis had achieve that:

The Syrian army said on Monday it had recaptured a major residential quarter in Hasaka from Islamic State insurgents who stormed the strategically located northeastern city last week and drove out thousands of civilians.

I just wonder how long Syria can hold their isolated outposts away from the core region of northwest Syria, where Assad is having problems holding that territory.

My Scare Was Early

I took Lamb and a friend of hers to the carnival this week. As we were driving there, an orange golf ball bounced just ahead of us and continued across the road to Michigan Stadium. No ride could have given me the same scare (or cost as much!).

Speaking of golf balls, there's another golf course on the way to my son's high school that helpfully has a sign that says to watch out for golf balls. Like a driver could dodge them, or something; and if a car is hit it is the driver's fault for not watching out sufficiently. Nice try on liability deflection, though. You have to admire that.

Anyway, the rain held off and there was much fun and minimal queasiness. And no car damage from any source.

Gentlemen of Taiwan: Prepare to Defend Yourselves

There was a time when my blogging about the China-Taiwan dispute was pretty common since it was discussed more in news stories. China's charm offensive has lowered the visibility of China's objective to take control of Taiwan--but has not eliminated the objective. Taiwan should not forget that.

China practiced an invasion of Taiwan:

The PLA Daily article featured an image of an officer giving a briefing with a digitally barely concealed map of Taiwan. In early 2014 an Asian government source told IHS Jane's that with combined military-civil transport, the PLA could move eight to 12 divisions to Taiwan.

China also conducted a series of exercises sending air and naval forces through the Bashi Channel and then to the region east and south of Taiwan. On 10 June PLA Navy spokesman Liang Yang confirmed the naval deployments.

This article goes over 4 basic facts of life for Taiwan that long-time readers of this blog will recognize.


One:

Don’t be taken in by hooplah over cordial cross-strait relations.

China would love to take over Taiwan without firing a shot. Don't forget that. If they can't just peacefully take over, they'll settle for undermining Taiwanese will to resist to make the cost cheaper. And under certain circumstances (political unrest in China), China might make the effort to take Taiwan without worrying about casualties.

Two:

Don’t kid yourself about Big Brother’s coming to the rescue.

Yes. It will take time simply to decide to intervene. It will take time to gather the forces to fight through growing Chinese aero-naval power to reach Taiwan. And potential allies from Japan to India require America to take the lead to add their potential to the scales.

So Taiwan must be able to fight for many weeks without help or resupply without breaking. Russia has Crimea because they took it fast. Russia is struggling in the Donbas as NATO helps Ukraine because Ukraine still stands there.

Three:

Conscript your island as part of the defense.

Finland would have killed for a 100-mile wide anti-tank ditch in 1939. Use it. Make sure you have the artillery and engineering assets to exploit the mountainous terrain to punish the invaders from the water's edge (and the perimeter of the airheads since I assume major airborne operations directed at Taipei would be part of the invasion) to stop them from gaining a bridgehead, pushing them back, or slowing them down if that isn't possible.

I'm not as confident that guerrilla warfare could deter China or work since if I was in charge in Peking, I'd deport Taiwanese to Tibet and Xinjiang to help dilute local ethnic populations and convert the Taiwanese into de facto Han agents since locals will see them as Chinese invaders. Ethnic Han could be sent to Taiwan. The population imbalance would make mass exile of Taiwanese a rounding error in Chinese internal migration statistics. But it wouldn't hurt to try. What would it do? Make China angry?

Four:

Tend to your offshore defense.

Taiwan can no longer beat China in the air or at sea. Taiwan needs subs and small missile craft (supported by rocket, tube, and missile artillery ashore) in the Taiwan Strait in an anti-access/area denial role.

Taiwan still needs their sea control ships, however, to keep sea lines of communication open to the east--as China's exercise shows.

And their air power needs to survive as long as possible to remain a threat to Chinese air transport. Ammo and spare parts, sufficient pilots, rapid runway repair, alternate runways on highways, and hardened aircraft shelters need to be stronger to keep the air force alive even if it can't maintain air superiority over the island.



Taiwan isn't doomed despite the power imbalance if they are ready to fight, fight hard, and fight until allies can help.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Proportionality Nonsense

I can't believe a former high ranking officer can spout nonsense about "proportionality" as a matter of lawful warfare.

This is nonsense:

In the Gaza conflict, Hamas fired 7,000 rockets and mortar shells, killing 6 Israeli civilians.

Israel launched 6,000 air strikes and 50,000 tank and artillery shells, killing 800 Palestinian women and children.

The actions on both sides illustrate the elasticity of the moral concepts underlying the rules for warfare. Hamas launches rockets solely to induce fear and to kill civilians. On the other hand, an Israeli response of 100 to 1 is not proportionate, as it is supposed to be under the just war concept. So what’s going on here? An existential war between enemies who detest each other.

What is Bing West talking about? Mind you, he makes a valid point that our current highly restrictive rules of engagement that accept far fewer civilian casualties than Israel accepted would have to be lifted in a serious conventional war or we'd get hammered. But the issue of proportionality is nonsense that is persistent in its ability to twist the rules of war on their head.

One, intent is a large part of lawful warfare. Hamas intended to kill civilians by launching rockets at civilian targets. That is a war crime no matter how effective they are.

Israel, on the other hand, attempted to kill combatants who surrounded themselves with civilians to deter Israeli attacks or provide a propaganda win when Israel attacks the lawful targets anyway--which is legal.

Then West trots out the "proportionality" nonsense. The argument that one should respond to enemy attacks with firepower proportional to what you've endured.

While West is arguing that Israel shouldn't have killed as many civilians--if all those "children" really weren't underage combatants (also a violation of international law)--isn't his complaint logically satisfied if Hamas simply gets better at killing civilians? If Hamas had killed 100 Israeli civilians, making it a rate of one civilian killed for every 70 rockets fired, would that then finally make Hamas just as guilty as Israel which killed one civilian for every 70 rounds/air strikes?

That's what the proportionality nonsense results in.

And it ignores the point of Israel fighting back. Isn't the purpose of war to achieve an objective? Doesn't a fixation on proportionality mean that Hamas gets to establish the rate at which it can comfortably endure Israeli strikes and just keep going as long as they wish?

Note too, that Israel has a military reason to halt the rocket launches sooner rather than later--their Iron Dome anti-rocket defenses will run out of ammunition if the conflict staggers along unresolved. 

The point of Israeli action was to stop the rocket launches and protect their people--before they ran out of Iron Dome ammunition. As long as Hamas keeps launching rockets, the Israelis haven't used enough force, no?

This reading of "proportionality" is a twisting of the actual law on proportionality which basically holds that if an apartment building houses a sniper, you don't drop a tactical nuke on it to kill the sniper. You are supposed to use levels of force proportional to the threat you face in order to minimize collateral damage.

So again, if the point of the war is to stop Hamas from firing rockets at their civilians, if Hamas continues to fire rockets the force is not yet effective and so not disproportionate to the threat.

Mind you, this doesn't mean Israel did not violate rules of war in targeting. Even though Hamas surrounds itself with civilians on purpose--a violation itself of the rules of war--Israel certainly could have violated the rules of war on purpose or by accident in their targeting decisions.

But noting the disparity in civilian casualties and the rounds fired proves no such war crime at all. It just points out how much Hamas was willing to endure in order to have even a small chance of killing a Jew.

[NOTE: I adjusted my math--I was assured there'd be none of that involved here ...]

If You Build Them, We Will Come

China may think they are clever by building new islands to assert control of the South China Sea in defiance of international law. But the Chinese do have to defend them.

Japanese naval infantry will train with American Marines along with their Australian hosts:

Japanese troops are deploying with Marines as they head Down Under for a multinational amphibious training exercise as tensions in the Asia-Pacific region continue to rise.

The move represents the Japanese Self-Defense Force's latest step in boosting its amphibious capabilities. Thirty-one members of the Western Army Infantry Regiment are embedded with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. The troops are deployed aboard the amphibious transport dock Green Bay, where they will head to Australia to participate in Exercise Talisman Sabre.

Japan has interests in defending their islands in the East China Sea--which would likely involve retaking them from China.

And America and Australia have an interest in being able to capture small islands in the South China Sea, which China is actually creating lately.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Hiding in Plain Sight

I know it is common to mock China's capacity to invade Taiwan--often by citing China's small amount of dedicated amphibious warship ships--but no "million-man swim" is needed for China to throw an invasion force across the Taiwan Strait.

Strategypage notes China's military-compatible civilian shipping:

In May 2015 China was seen using a 20,000 ton civilian RO/RO (Roll On/Roll Off) ferry for transporting troops and vehicles during an amphibious training exercise. This was no surprise because since 2000 China has offered subsidies to shipping companies to make a few modifications to ferries and other RO/RO ships and agree to make them available to the military for amphibious training and during wartime. For decades China has used a system where it keeps track of hundreds of commercial ferries and barges that can be mobilized by the military and used for amphibious operations against Taiwan. It is believed that there is sufficient lift for about a dozen divisions plus non-specialized ships (mostly civilian) for moving support units.

A dozen divisions is quite a bit. Add in three parachute divisions and an airmobile "urban light cavalry" division, and Taiwan will have serious problems if the Chinese manage to get ashore.

And remember that's initial lift of troops. Those ships can go back to China to load more for the second wave.

I recently noted new Chinese regulations on building civilian ships so they can more easily be adapted to military use.

The dedicated amphibious warfare ships are good for capturing small islands in the strait and the South China Sea (or East China Sea).

But the civilian ships would be vital to assault Taiwan.

Put aside your dismissal of China's ability to invade Taiwan. They might fail. But they have the capability to try.

UPDATE: And they are building up their visible formal assets, too.

My Nuance Deficiency Continues

It is not pointless to kill jihadis as many opponents of fighting jihadis claim. As I've long argued, only the ineffective use of military force creates new jihadis.

Our left-leaning brethren often claimed that jihadis flocked to Iraq because we were there--but not to Afghanistan which was the "good" war. Jihadis were favorable to the 9/11 attacks and not inclined to agree with that "good" label, but no matter.

At some point as the Iraq War wound down (temporarily) and our fight in Afghanistan was escalated, the anti-war people turned against the only war that they had to protest and transformed Afghanistan into a "bad" war as well.

So now we're skedaddling from Afghanistan. Yet as we withdraw Western troops--supposedly the magnet for jihadis--foreign jihadis are now flocking to Afghanistan:

Afghanistan is under attack from "an unprecedented convergence" of Taliban insurgents, more than 7,000 foreign fighters, and other violent groups including the Islamic State, Afghanistan's ambassador to the United Nations said.

Huh. That's not supposed to happen. We leave. They see no reason to arrive. Right? That's the nuanced way to analyze jihad.

The fact is, the jihadis are flocking to Afghanistan--as they are now flocking to Syria and Iraq--because they think they can achieve victory. Our failure to provide critical military power to defend Afghanistan increases that conviction that the jihadis can win.

Remember, jihadis are nutballs--not oblivious to reality. Here's one reason Sunni jihadis never did declare a caliphate in Yemen:

" ... Second: Fear of failure, in the event that the world conspires against us. If this were to happen, people may start to despair and believe that jihad is fruitless."

While it is true that ultimately Islamic society has to reject Islamist influence that breeds jihadis, it is also true that defeating them on the battlefield discourages them (and puts many in the grave).

And declaring a caliphate creates something that the jihadis must defend or risk making people despair and think jihad is hopeless--if we resolve to use our military power kill them in large numbers and defeat them, breaking their jihad and image of victory.

We did that once in Iraq and must now do it again.

Make the jihadis the weak horse, and their ideology and recruiting will falter. Let them advance and survive, and they appear to be the strong horse and their ideology and recruiting thrive.

But I freely admit I'm deficient in nuance.

A Nation of Law-Like Stuff

Wow. I guess I'll have to wait to read full legal analysis, but the Obamacare ruling that abandoned the plain meaning of the word "state" and ignored the common federal practice of pressuring states to comply with federal policies by conditioning federal money on doing what the federal government wants--as Gruber boasted about!--is discouraging from a rule-of-law point of view.

But now laws can be read with the divined intent (as defined at that moment) without regard to the text of the statutes.

On the bright side, statutes can be much shorter now. Why waste time crafting language that can stand up to judicial scrutiny when you can just pas a law that broadly says what Congress wants and let the executive handle the details?

Perhaps, as in the earlier Roberts decision on the Obamacare "tax" issue which upheld the requirement to purchase health insurance but which at least put a limit on federal powers to compel economic activity, there is something good in this.

And even if upholding the law lifts the burden on Republican governors whose citizens will lose subsidies, I can't support the ruling on that political basis contrary to my rule-of-law concerns.

It's probably time to stop thinking that the Supreme Court can save us from ourselves by striking down federal powers as unconstitutional.

Although there is another avenue for challenge. ...

A nation of laws, indeed. But initial reports are by definition incomplete. So I hope for the best despite the initial shock.

UPDATE: And I'd like to note that this is the logical collateral damage of the flawed process of passing the law without going through the normal committee process to find and fix drafting flaws. I was outraged at the time over that loss of Congressional process and authority even before we passed it to find out what is in it.

And now the court has ratified the reduction of Congress to a rubber stamp body fit only to issue guidelines to the executive and fund the resulting executive quasi-law without comment.

UPDATE: Yes, Congress has been damaged. And the court. Now the Supreme Court is the committee of last resort designed to correct drafting errors, inconsistencies, and now-inconvenient intent.

Our government branches are working as a seamless elite rather than checking and balancing. Which highlights what I've long said--it is foolish for conservatives to try to reform the behemoth that our federal government has become. The only way to combat the growing power of the federal level of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches is to shrink the size of the institutions and shrink the scope of their power.

We'd face the problem at the state level, but at least that is localized and, being both smaller and closer to voters, easier to address.

Although in the short run, perhaps we could fight the trend of the court "going native" in Washington, D.C., by relocating the Supreme Court to Kansas.

And yeah, I think we can now call this law SCOTUScare.

UPDATE: You know, the way people stand around outside the Supreme Court building waiting for decisions, the court should just make the leap and release white or black smoke to indicate their decisions.

UPDATE: I suppose one upside for Republicans is political. If Republican politicians are secretly relieved that the law is upheld because they don't have to cope with losing federal subsidies (as the law intended contrary to Roberts' misreading), then Democrats perhaps are secretly distressed that they now have to defend the act next year in the face of the real problems of implementing the complicated act and vast legal and bureaucratic apparatus designed to carry it out.

Some Democrats surely would have quietly welcomed the act being struck down before the act could reveal more of what is in it. Imagine the fun of railing against evil Republicans for dismantling a law that the supporters would be free to describe in glowing terms about what it would have done if allowed to operate!

Now Democrats have to defend every part of the still unpopular act that is only now being put into full effect.

In some ways, I don't know why Congressional Republicans would try to fix obvious problems narrowly without leveraging legislative "fixes" to chip away at the act. Doesn't fixing problems that even Democrats agree exist play into Democrats' hands by improving an  awful act and removing reasons to dislike it? Hey, "It's. the. law." Remember? The act is here to stay, they say. So let them enjoy it. All of it.

Perhaps we had to uphold the law in order to find out what is in it, away from the fog of SCOTUS rulings.

Living in His Own Private Idahova

What world does Putin live in?

Russian President Vladimir Putin's annual keynote speech at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum, which he delivered Friday, was highly anticipated as it may be his most important economic message of the year. Yet anyone who expected Putin to reveal some kind of plan for dealing with Russia's economic crisis must be sorely disappointed. Crisis? What crisis?

Given Russia's economic performance, much of Putin's speech was first-class, straight-faced stand-up comedy.

What isn't comedy Gold is Putin's effort to justify Stalin's power as a solution to Russia's problems.

Clearly, Putin wants to live in a world where Russians (and anyone within reach of his military, really) must believe whatever he says--or else.

One of Putin's top security advisors certainly seems comfortable in this alternate reality world:

"They don't care what will happen in Ukraine, they just need to exert pressure on Russia, so that is what the United States is doing," he said.

"They would want very much that Russia would not exist. As a country," he said.

Seriously, WTF? With this kind of thinking, no amount of "reset" could ease their paranoia.

Oh, and check this out. Russia is playing with Texas secessionists. Comedy Gold.

At this point, I'd be more comforted by the explanation that Putin is lying since it means he thinks rationally than by thinking he really believes what he (and his deputies) is selling.

But that's not a problem unique to Russia's leader.

And we might be worse off:

You know, I actually believe my own bullshit.

So the Russians have that going for them.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Money For Nothing and the Nukes are Free

Iran's top nutball is in no mood for pretending to abandon his nuclear programs:

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Tuesday ruled out freezing sensitive nuclear work in the country for a long time and said sanctions imposed on it should be lifted as soon it reaches a final deal with major powers, state TV reported.



So Iran wants cash but won't give us anything to get it?

I've long thought the outline of a nuclear deal with Iran is obvious: they will pretend not to have nuclear ambitions; and we will pretend to believe them.

Indeed, I thought we were half way there.

One caveat is that I wondered if Iran's contempt for us would prevent them from lowering themselves to even pretending to cave to our demands, on the assumption that they can rub our noses in our diplomatic defeat and get nukes.

So this statement by Khamenei gives me some hope--as long as we don't accept the nose-rubbing.

Is the appeal of a Nobel Peace Prize-winning faux deal simply irresistible?



The deal's so fine, there's no telling where the money went. We really are in dire straits, aren't we?

UPDATE: Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

"This is something that's been going on throughout the negotiations," Kerry said of the Iranian leader's remarks. "It is not new. We are not going to be guided by or conditioned by or affected or deterred by some Tweet that is for public consumption or domestic political consumption. What matters to us is what is agreed upon within the four corners of a document and that is what is yet to be determined."

If Iran's negotiators are willing to pretend in writing not to have nuclear programs, Kerry and the Obama administration won't be worried by anything in the real world that contradicts that paper pretend world of nuclear containment.

Have a super sparkly day.

UPDATE: Say, here's some stuff within the four corners of a document:

The State Department released its annual report on terrorism on Friday, and surprise, surprise, Iran—with whom diplomats in other parts of Foggy Bottom are negotiating feverishly to secure a final nuclear deal—is prominently mentioned[.]

Ah, our proto-partners! Does this even matter to Kerry?

UPDATE: If you like your one-year nuclear breakout time period, you can keep your one-year period?

In a recent interview with NPR, [President Obama] said that the current breakout time is “about two to three months by our intelligence estimates.” By contrast, he claimed, the pending deal would shrink Iran’s nuclear program, so that if Iran later “decided to break the deal, kick out all the inspectors, break the seals and go for a bomb, we’d have over a year to respond.”

Unfortunately, that claim is false, as can be demonstrated with basic science and math. By my calculations, Iran’s actual breakout time under the deal would be approximately three months — not over a year.

Yeah. Always check the definitions section in nuclear deals.

Goodlife

It must be easy for jihadi nutballs to believe God is on their side when they get the willing cooperation of idiot Westerners.

Westerners successfully use our laws to help jihadis, in what is called "lawfare":

Islamic terrorists have found powerful allies among leftist activists and journalists in the United States and Europe. These groups first appeared in the 1930s providing support for the Soviet Union. ...

Islamic terrorists have seen lawfare put restrictions on interrogations at Guantanamo and make government officials reluctant to take chances in fighting or stopping, Islamic terrorism. Despite record low civilian casualties Islamic terrorists have plenty of allies willing to pursue false claims of deliberate attacks on civilians and even journalists. Playing the legal system, as well as the media, leftist activists have provided Islamic terrorism valuable allies in America, the very country Islamic radicals are trying to destroy.

The really sad thing is that these anti-West Western activists count on the West actually winning the war on Islamist terrorism so they can live the Western-style good life they enjoy while also enjoying the feel-good buzz of self-righteously sticking it to the evil American-led "war on Islam."

Goodlife, indeed.

Self-Inflicted Wounds

The Air Force is having problems with stressed-out drone pilots. This is a self-inflicted wound.

This is bad news for the pilots, their families, our Air Force, and the troops who are supported by the UAV crews (Tip to Instapundit):

After a decade of waging long-distance war through their video screens, America’s drone operators are burning out, and the Air Force is being forced to cut back on the flights even as military and intelligence officials are demanding more of them over intensifying combat zones in Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

The Air Force plans to trim the flights by the armed surveillance drones to 60 a day by October from a recent peak of 65 as it deals with the first serious exodus of the crew members who helped usher in the era of war by remote control.

Air Force officials said that this year they would lose more drone pilots, who are worn down by the unique stresses of their work, than they can train.

Unfortunately, the Air Force has needlessly limited who they will train as drone pilots by denying non-commissioned officers the chance to fly, as the Army does:

The Air Force wants Congress to throw more money at officer pilots who are miserable to convince them to stay in the Air Force and keep flying drones.

Come on guys, you act like the Air Force is a finishing school for proper officers and gentlemen rather than an organization designed to fly and fight.

If one goal conflicts with the other, choose the latter! Fly and fight, damn it.

And this is all based on the Air Force ideology that all pilots must be officers. In an era when pilots of any rank may soon be replaced by robotic aircraft, this attitude just adds to the need to make the F-35 the last warplane designed to have a human pilot.

[UPDATE: Here's a pre-publication update--this post was scheduled--from Strategypage that explains a lot.]

So the Air Force is destroying the pilot corps in order to save the pilot corps.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Let's Ponder How We Hurt Them

Is Russia's Kaliningrad enclave a trump card or a point of vulnerability that NATO can exploit?


This article notes that Russia is beefing up their forces in their isolated Kaliningrad enclave on the Baltic Sea:

Russia is pouring troops and weapons -- including missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads -- into its western exclave of Kaliningrad at such a rate that the region is now one of Europe's most militarized places.

A NATO official, writing to RFE/RL on condition of anonymity, said that Moscow is stationing "thousands of troops, including mechanized and naval infantry brigades, military aircraft, modern long-range air defense units and hundreds of armored vehicles in the territory."

Okay, I guess the term of art is "exclave," but you get the drift.

Yes, this is a potential threat to NATO. But it is also potentially the largest self-sustaining POW prison for Russian troops if it should come to war.

Thousands of troops and hundreds of armored vehicles aren't a lot to hold the place let alone launch an assault out of the enclave.

If Russia invades the Baltic states, I figure NATO should fight a delaying action back into Lithuania while our first offensive is to pinch out the Kaliningrad enclave.

Then, at worse, we have bargaining chips to get the Russians out of Estonia and Latvia.

Although I suspect Russia would rather have Estonia as a buffer for St. Petersburg than have the exposed Kaliningrad back.

The real problem is the presence of Russian theater nuclear weapons. Would Russia just lose them or would they be tempted to use them rather than accept that?

Russia has plenty of theater nukes (thanks New START!). But still, that is a worrisome complication.

It is good that we will deploy heavy armor forward (just the equipment but not the troops). It's just a brigade's worth scattered from the Baltic to the Black Sea, but it is a start to a more robust presence (REFORPOL, anyone?).

Now we just need actual war plans. It's time we focused on how we hurt them rather than wondering how we cope with Putin's inclinations to hurt us.

If Putin faces something worse than Donbas and not as easy as Crimea, we could deter further aggression.

Insensitivity on Display

President Obama used the "N-word" in an interview.

I'm not particularly horrified in the context. And that's his African-American privilege, I suppose.

Not that I use the word--and in case you think I'm using Hillary Clinton-level parsing of tense to hide past usage, I never have.

But what bothers me is that the president didn't have the sensitivity to consider the feelings of his fragile snowflake citizenry who might be traumatized.

Why didn't it occur to him to issue a trigger warning before proceeding with his word choice?

UPDATE: My bad. Newspeak has been revised. It is now "content warning" rather than trigger warning since the word "trigger" is content that could ... well ... "trigger" bad reactions.

How do the social justice worrier-types even go about their daily lives without walking on egg shells all the freaking time?

As you may have figured out, this post actually had nothing to do with our president.

Flag Wars

I have no love for the Confederate battle flag. Yes, I can appreciate the bravery of their soldiers; but it is the flag of insurrection. And while I assume that the vast majority of those who like the flag do not have racist views, racists have embraced that flag. So there is no need for it to be part of the official symbols of a state government. But ...

I would like to note that Democrats created the flag and fought under it; Democrats put it back up over state capitol buildings as bipartisan civil rights legislation advanced; and Republicans in South Carolina took the first steps to remove those flags from state grounds in anything but a historical context.

But Democrats get to pretend they are the racial healers in all this.

UPDATE: But don't worry, you can still buy communist stuff.

UPDATE: Now it is getting ridiculous:

"We have removed apps from the App Store that use the Confederate flag in offensive or mean-spirited ways, which is in violation of our guidelines," a spokesperson said to BuzzFeed News. The company denied issuing a blanket ban however, stating that the flag can be shown for "educational or historical uses."

The decision has, however, forced a number of American Civil War games off of the App Store, even though developers insist the Confederate flag was only used to be historically accurate.

Now it is getting personal. This hits HexWar, which makes game apps I play. This is insane. The games involve Union forces fighting Confederate forces, are the southern troops to fight under a rainbow flag or something?

UPDATE: On the history of the Democratic party on race.

I eagerly await the ginormous task of erasing the name of former Klansman Robert Byrd from buildings all across the state of West Virginia.

You know, for the healing.

Fixated On a Nobel Peace Prize

Are you effing kidding me?

"We're not fixated on Iran specifically accounting for what they did [regarding nuclear weapons programs] at one point in time or another," Kerry said. "We know what they did. We have no doubt. We have absolute knowledge with respect to the certain military activities they were engaged in."

"What we're concerned about is going forward," Kerry said. "It's critical to us to know that going forward, those activities have been stopped, and that we can account for that in a legitimate way."

In a deal we insist will "reset" Iran as a regional partner, we don't think it important that Iran admit to past nuclear weapons programs that they will insist in a deal is not in their planning for the next decade.

We're fooling ourselves if we think we know everything. If we let this slide, we establish the rule that Iran can hide what they can and it is our job to catch them.

We must have Iran's cooperation to understand how nuclear work can be used for weapons programs. If we don't get that, how do we monitor future nuclear work that is allowed? See here for more.

And perhaps most important, if we don't compel Iran to lay out their past nuclear weapons work, we pave the way for Iran to claim they are being unjustly punished by the evil West for a non-existent nuclear weapons program just to keep Moslems down.

This will help Iran weaken Western resolve to maintain pressure on Iran and give Iran a propaganda weapon to rally support in the Moslem world and the global Left.

I wish Kerry was fixated on defending American interests. He seems fixated on getting a lovely signing ceremony in some European castle, with cameras flashing and fancy wax seals and ribbons affixed all around.

Heck, he might even draft parts of the official French-language version himself!

And then the next year, the Nobel Peace Prize nomination.

You can see the shape of the deal coming as I've long feared. Iran will pretend they have no nuclear programs; and we will pretend to believe them.

Have a super sparkly day.

UPDATE: Kerry was forced to recant:

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry telephoned Iran's foreign minister in recent days to tell him that Tehran must answer questions about whether its past atomic research was arms-related if it wants a nuclear deal, officials said.

The telephone calls came after Kerry raised eyebrows among some Western officials by saying the U.S. was "not fixated" on any past Iranian work, about which it already had "absolute knowledge," and was looking to the future instead.

The officials have also voiced concern that Kerry was backing down on a crucial demand in the talks, one Tehran has consistently ignored, and said he was overstating U.S. knowledge about Tehran's past nuclear work in the interest of getting a deal at all costs.

Could we perhaps prevent Kerry from ad libbing with a microphone nearby?

Monday, June 22, 2015

I Leave the Twentieth Century

Well, that's the residue of the last of my pin-feed continuous printer paper.


I bought a large box back in the early 1990s, I believe. And I finally used it up.

It has been a long time since I had a printer that required that paper. So I removed edges and and separated paper individually for a long time.

My old cat used to love these edges in a pile, leaping in like a kid with a pile of leaves.

Now I can use my new paper without guilt.

God, I'm old, aren't I?

Television Operations

The Taliban assaulted Afghanistan's parliament and took over a couple district capitals. These should be fleeting television operations designed to look ominous unless we panic.

If corrupt or disloyal security forces let these attackers through, that is a problem that has to be corrected, but this was a terror attack that is far more difficult to prevent and not a military attack that was designed to hold ground:

A Taliban suicide bomber and six gunmen attacked the Afghan parliament on Monday as lawmakers met to consider a new defense minister, and another district in the volatile north fell to the militants as they intensified a summer offensive.

All the attackers were killed while at least 19 Afghans were wounded. No members of parliament were hurt.

Mind you, if too many of these terror attacks take place, the morale of Afghan security forces can go wobbly, as Iraqi performance at Mosul and Ramadi show. So I don't dismiss this. But this is not a sign of collapse if we work the problem.

In addition, the Taliban rolled into another district capital:

A district in the northern province of Kunduz fell to the Taliban on Monday, the second such loss in two days. Officials said the militants were able to take over when urgently needed reinforcements failed to arrive.

The Taliban captured Dasht-e-Archi district a day after hundreds of militants fought their way to the center of the adjacent district of Chardara.

Afghanistan has nearly 400 district capitals. It is common for a band of enemy to roll into one of these small government centers and hold them until security forces chase them out, as the article says the Afghan security forces are preparing to do.

You can't heavily defend every location, and for most, you have to have a small garrison that can only hold on until reinforcements arrive. Reinforcements did not arrive. And the enemy can rule out our air power intervening. So they can mass--also made more possible by the absence of our air power--and take a small district capital.

The recapture will not get the attention that the loss gets. Mission accomplished.

These aren't major setbacks since these district capitals are more like our county seats of government. How many of our county capitals could stop even a dozen heavily armed men from seizing the building?

The Taliban will hold the places until it looks like a counter-attack is imminent and they are likely to run. Unless they try to fight and hold these targets, this is another television operation designed to make them look stronger.

UPDATE: Afghan forces have regained one district capital:

On the front lines just outside Kunduz city in the north, Afghan army and police drove the Taliban back from Chardara district, which the insurgents had captured two days before, provincial police chief Abdul Saboor Nasrati said.

The fall of a provincial capital would be a much bigger deal--even if temporary.

The Hope and Change is Strong in This One

The buck stops ... somewhere else on the rise of ISIL and Iran in Iraq:

Don't Blame Obama for ISIS

Let's explore the main argument from a Lowy Institute author about denying the president's role in the near-collapse of the Iraqi state--now more than 6 years after he took the oath of office:

What is often overlooked is that US troops left Iraq according to the timetable Bush himself had negotiated with Maliki. In late 2008, Bush had signed a Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi Government that set a deadline for the removal of all US troops by the end of 2011. By keeping a residual military force for three years following his election, Obama honoured Bush's commitment. ...

Although Washington was prepared to leave some 3000 trainers, the various figures in Maliki's ruling coalition (such as Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr) firmly rejected the offer to extend the mandate. Baghdad also refused to grant any US trainers the legal immunity from local prosecution that usually defines Status of Forces agreements in nations where US forces are based.

Let's see, President Obama didn't need to keep troops in Iraq after 2011 because that's what Bush wanted? And President Obama's efforts to keep troops in Iraq after 2011 were thwarted by the Iraqis?

I know I'm woefully deficient in nuance, but if the Bush plan all along was to leave Iraq at the end of 2011, why did the Obama administration negotiate at all to stay?

The fact is, it was always the intent to keep American troops in Iraq to cement our gains--just as we've done in Germany, Japan, Italy, and South Korea. That's why President Obama negotiated with the Iraqis. But he negotiated half-heartedly in a way designed to offer Maliki too little to resist Iranian influence.

Rather than anger Iran but have too few Americans to really matter to cope with that anger, Maliki refused to grant us the protections we needed. President Obama got what he wanted--as the author reminds us--the complete withdrawal from Iraq.

As I've noted before, to believe President Obama tried very hard to stay in Iraq, you have to believe he tried to get something the complete opposite of what he campaigned on; and which he boasted about after we left--our complete withdrawal from Iraq and "responsibly ending" the Iraq War.

In a related argument, the author denies our withdrawal enabled Iran's influence in Iraq:

It is disingenuous to say, as many neoconservatives contend, that Iran's strategic advance in Iraq is simply due to the President's failure to deploy ground troops to fight Sunni jihadists during the past year. The truth is, Tehran's presence in Baghdad was already evident before the US pullout in 2011. General Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Revolutionary Guards Quds Brigade, spearheaded Iran's political and military involvement in Iraq a decade ago. Tehran also helped secure Maliki's presidency in 2006.

Iran's strengthened hand in Iraq has less to do with Obama's withdrawal and more to do with what preceded his presidency. After all, it was the invasion in 2003 and subsequent democratic elections that allowed the majority Shiites, long repressed by Sunni leaders, to gain power for the first time in Arab history.

Let's unpack that.

First, the "neocon" term is just a dog whistle term for the left (and some isolationists on the right) that means Iraq War supporters with a suspiciously Jewish sounding name (dual loyalties anyone?).

All "neo-cons" means is "new conservatives." This is from the Cold War when some liberals wised up to the evil of Soviet Communism and became conservative to resist the USSR. That's it. So I have little respect for people who toss around this term in this context.

On Iran's influence, I don't restrict it to the last year--although the last year has accelerated Iran's push for influence.

In fact, based on Shia common religion, Iran has long had influence in Iraq. This was a major reason that Saddam Hussein invaded Iran in 1980 as revolutionary Iran penetrated Shia society in southern Iraq. Bombs were going off even back then. And Saddam feared his largely Shia troops might not fight very hard for him when he did attack Iran. So this is nothing new.

And if Maliki was a tool of Iran as early as 2006, why did the Obama administration engineer Maliki's win in 2010 despite his second place finish?

[UPDATE: I forgot: And why did Maliki take on the Iranian-supported Sadrists in the Charge of the Knights operation in 2008?]

Finally, if the reason for sectarian divisions is the 2003 invasion that overthrew the minority Sunni Arab government of Saddam, why did Saddam fear Iranian influence over his Shias in 1980?

And is the author suggesting that the proper response would have been to support a Sunni Arab dictatorship--a kinder and gentler Saddam?--to keep the Shias and Sunni Kurds down?

Really? Does that mean that defeating Japan and Germany in World War II was a mistake because of the chaos and danger unleashed by creating power vacuums where they once stood?

Was it a mistake to defeat Hitler because it paved the way for a lengthy, costly, and bloody Cold War?

Was it a mistake to defeat Japan because it led to a revolution in China and bloody Maoist rule and a war on the Korean peninsula in the wake of the "stability" we removed from Korea by defeating Japan?

Sure, that seems kind of silly. But if you said yes to both, you could get tenure and insist that George W. Bush is at fault for the current crisis in Iraq[']

Yes, Iran had influence in Iraq. That predates either Bush and Obama. And jihadis predated all three as well.

But long before Iraq went belly up, I was calling for our presence and support to allow the fledgling Iraqi democracy to hunt down Sunni resistance and Iranian influence largely beaten down in 2007 and 2008 during the Surge offensives. It is indisputable that President Obama inherited a relatively quiet and hopeful Iraq.

And yes, President Obama blew these victories by prematurely leaving Iraq. It is surely possible that the Iraqi state would have broken down at some point anyway even if we stayed. But we never tried.

And now we are back in Iraq--long after it was brutally apparent we are needed--with a lot of ground to cover to regain what we lost.

The defense of President Obama on this issue is farcical. The buck stops here and now--as was always obvious.

UPDATE: Iran is still making gains in Iraq by exploiting our refusal to effectively help Iraq now:

American aerial reconnaissance over Iraq regularly notes more Iranian military vehicles entering Iraq. The Americans believe that there have been several hundred Iranian M-60s and T-72 tanks and other armored vehicles operating with the Shia militias inside Iraq. There have also been a lot of Iranian truck mounted rocket launchers. The tanks and rocket launchers are supposed to have Iraqi crews but in fact most of the Iranian rocket launchers and armored vehicles are operated by Iranians as part of their efforts to support pro-Iranian Iraqi Shia militias. The Americans tolerate this as long as the Iraqi government does, especially since the Americans don’t want to send in troops to help the Iraqi army. While the Iraqis appreciate the Iranian help, they make it clear that the majority of Iraqi Shia do not want to become part of Iran and that Western and Arab allies of Iraq will join the fight against any Iranian moves to take control of Iraq. Not everyone believes this will dissuade the Iranians from making an attempt to annex Iraq. [emphasis added]

Iran penetrates Iraq partly because we go along with it.

As an aside, the post reports allegations that Iran has extorted $10 billion dollars from Iraq as partial payment for Iran's intervention in Iraq. That's nice.

A lot of Lebanese aren't happy with Iran-backed Hezbollah. So what the majority of Iraqi Shia want may not matter of pro-Iran Shias are armed well enough.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Appearing Far?

How can it be true that we haven't trained enough Iraqis to reach our goal?

This is odd:

The U.S. will fall way short of meeting its goal of training 24,000 Iraqi forces to fight Islamic State militants by this fall, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Wednesday in Congress where lawmakers are already skeptical of the Obama administration's strategy to address threats in the Mideast.

Carter told the House Armed Services Committee that the U.S. has received only enough recruits to train about 7,000 — in addition to about 2,000 counterterrorism service personnel.

"Our training efforts in Iraq have thus far been slowed by a lack of trainees. We simply haven't received enough recruits," Carter said at a nearly three-hour hearing.

It is my understanding that we were retraining existing Iraqi units. That's why, nine months ago, we assessed their units (finding about half of the existing brigades were trainable--the rest were too far gone in sectarian rabblehood to bother with) before starting training.

I can see that recruits could be needed to fill out understrength units or expand the brigades by using some of the existing units for cadres to add line units to those brigades. But the retraining effort isn't a matter of finding new recruits for a new army. It is a matter of the Iraqi government issuing orders to existing units to go through our (including our allies) training programs.

Consider also that if we really had underutilized training teams, why would we add more troops to Iraq--which our president really doesn't want to do--rather than just use some of our existing troops who are standing around with nothing to do because we can't get recruits?

So this makes no sense. I simply cannot believe that after all this time we haven't been able to get the training program going.

I'm a suspicious sort. So rather than assume this is a reason to condemn the ineptitude of an Obama administration effort, I'll assume that we are basically on track with our training program of existing Iraqi units. It may be narrowly true that we are short of new recruits but that is irrelevant.

I think this is misinformation designed to make it look like we are far when we are actually near.

UPDATE: I will say that if my interpretation is right, President Obama may have taken a political hit to help along the disinformation.

Of course, the simpler explanation is that we really are screwing this up. But I'll continue to hope. I'm an optimist that way.

UPDATE: Related news:

NATO is expected to announce soon a plan to advise the Iraqi government on reforming its security forces which are fighting back after collapsing in the face of an offensive by Islamic State fighters, NATO diplomats said on Tuesday.

Note that this is to reform the organization of the existing security forces and train officers--not recruiting from scratch. Why would our training program be different in focus?

Are You Kidding Me?

China is building islands in the South China Sea to illegally lay claim to that body of international waters. They're about done with the latest round. But there are grounds to hope China is seeking compromise? I don't think so.

Only our foes get this kind of the benefit of the doubt:

The Wall Street Journal reports that the “imminent end to China’s island-building work could signal a willingness to seek compromise with Washington and rival claimants in the South China Sea.” China's President Xi Jinping is scheduled to visit the US in September.

Are they joking over at the Wall Street Journal?

How is completing a project that violates international law and stokes tension a sign of seeking compromise?

This is just the familiar ratchet of aggression: take land; negotiate to keep new land; wait for the furor to die down; then start the process again.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

So, no, this is not a sign of compromise by Peking. It is a sign that China wishes to consolidate their illegal gains with a pointless international agreement.

Or just talks about such an agreement. As long as they have the islands, China doesn't really care about the details of how they consolidate their gains.

They Shall Pass

The problem for Assad isn't that he is losing Aleppo. The problem is that he fought for it in the first place and lost too many troops fighting for an objective that was beyond his capacity to control even if he captured it.

Assad could soon lose his toe-hold in Aleppo:

"There is a decisive final blow coming that will expel the regime from Aleppo and to liberate the city completely," said Abdul Rahim, a member of the Nour al Din al Zinki rebel group that has been a recipient of foreign support. He was speaking to an opposition-affiliated TV station, Halab Today.

The city's fall would be a major blow for Assad, restricting his control mainly to a belt of territory stretching north from Damascus to the Mediterranean coast. This would deepen Syria's de facto partition between the Assad-run west and other areas held by a patchwork of armed groups.

Aiming to hold Aleppo was beyond Assad's military capabilities.

And his army couldn't afford the casualties required to take and hold it.

So now Assad will lose Aleppo and won't have the soldiers and equipment he lost futilely trying to hold the city as he falls back to a core Syria.

As a result, Assad might find that he has too few reliable troops to hold even Damascus.

I anticipate--as I've speculated in the past based on the idea that Assad has too few troops to extend his control that far south--a formal transfer of the capital to the coast so that no matter how little territory Assad controls, he will still have the UN seat and be considered the legal government of Syria.

Indeed, Jane's (from my email updates) says that the loss of Palmyra could prompt such a move:

Capture of Palmyra increases likelihood of sudden Syrian army withdrawal from Damascus to the Alawite coastal homeland ...

The insurgents' ability to target hitherto relatively safe civilian areas, and to penetrate government core areas, makes it increasingly likely that Syrian government forces will withdraw, with or without orders, from their current areas of operation, such as Aleppo and Deraa to defend the Alawite homeland.

Of course, then Iran loses a line of supply west of Damascus to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Iran might have to make do with access through northern Lebanon. Which might mean that Hezbollah will seek to expand areas of control to that part of Lebanon.

Might Assad try to expand his area of control into northern Lebanon, too, as I mentioned here?

Trying to hold Aleppo was a major error by Assad. The only bright spot is that it is too smashed up to be much of an asset to the rebels who will hold it.

UPDATE: Syria isn't ready to pull out of the capital yet:

Syria's army advanced this weekend west of the ancient city of Palmyra, reopening a key supply route for oil and gas to the capital, a newspaper and monitoring group said Monday.

We'll see if Assad can afford to commit troops out there--and if they can win.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Iran Revives an Iraq War Weapon

Pro-Assad forces are using a new weapon in Syria--the "elephant bomb."

Seeking new ways to kill indiscriminately, Assad has imported the Iranian-designed rocket-propelled bomb:

Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have added another improvised, indiscriminate weapon to their arsenal: "elephant rockets," named after the noise they make in flight. According to political activists, at least two dozen civilians were killed Tuesday in a Damascus suburb by the rockets. ...

Elephant rockets are also cheaply improvised weapons made by attaching rocket motors to large bombs. The range of the rockets is limited, but they have a similar double effect as barrel bombs. They can cause large explosions and terrorize populations.

I can't find posts on this, but I know I blogged about them when Iran deployed them against our troops in Iraq. But these have Iran's fingerprints all over them.

In Iraq we called them flying IEDs or IRAMs:

The U.S. military said Friday that militants who launched the Jan. 12 attack on a joint U.S.-Iraqi compound used an unusual weapon called an IRAM, for Improvised Rocket-Assisted Munition. Sometimes called "flying IEDs," IRAMs are a potentially deadlier incarnation of the garden-variety Improvised Explosive Devices in Iraq and Afghanistan — they're short-range projectiles that catapult toward unsuspecting targets.

Two IRAMs flew into the outpost in the city of Amarah in a puzzling reappearance of a weapon that's been used only 14 times since the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, according to the U.S. military. Most of the earlier attacks occurred in eastern Baghdad more than 18 months ago, at the height of violence related to Shiite Muslim militias. The more recent attacks, however, were launched in southern Iraq's Maysan Province, which borders Iran.

As the article notes, the weapons are of Iranian origin. But now we have a new name.

Yet these are our proto-partners whose signature is coveted on a faux nuclear deal to get John Kerry a Nobel Peace Prize.

Not Acting Like it is a Crisis

My problems with global warming theology has been based on three pillars: the world has been warmer without our input before; I don't think it has been proven that our recent contributions are the decisive input in global warming; and even if the global warmers are right on the first two pillars, I deny their state-centric, anti-individual rights solutions are the best response. Funny enough, their solutions fail on the last pillar even as they define it.

This is funny:

A report by the International Energy Agency claims that emissions which will be saved by COP21 / Paris climate pledges currently on the table, will only delay Climageddon by 8 months.

Huh.

Funny that I'm a "denier" even though I accept that the planet is warmer now than a century-and-a-half ago and that I accept that humans contribute to greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere that affect the climate.

What I deny is that this is uniquely--or even mostly--man's fault. The evidence doesn't seem to be there. The output of models is not real world data.

And I deny their solutions are any solution at all. Can the global warmers deny this failure to solve the problem on their terms?

UPDATE: As the defenders of climate change "science" swoon that the top religious leader of a major religion has taken their side, this lengthy critique of the perversion of science is well worth your time.

And who knew that I'm really a "lukewarmer?"

These scientists and their guardians of the flame repeatedly insist that there are only two ways of thinking about climate change—that it’s real, man-made and dangerous (the right way), or that it’s not happening (the wrong way). But this is a false dichotomy. There is a third possibility: that it’s real, partly man-made and not dangerous. This is the “lukewarmer” school, and I am happy to put myself in this category. Lukewarmers do not think dangerous climate change is impossible; but they think it is unlikely.

That's it. I accept the world is warmer than it was in 1850, given that a little ice age has ended since then. If man didn't exist the planet would be warming.

And given that the "pause" in warming has hit 18 years in defiance of the models, I find it odd to deny that the models are not quite right.

And as I've said before, I believe I could be persuaded that global warming is a problem if the science looks solid. Can the Warministas admit anything would shake their faith?

Questions of Data

I doubt my statistics.

I've noted that my Sitemeter statistics don't seem to pull in data on phones and social media usage. My Blogger stats are noticeably higher.

That's why I note my Blogger stats below--adjusted to account for obvious spam attempts that are counted. If I'm adjusting close to accurately. It's hard to say but I can't in good conscience just report the stats as provided.

Also, Blogger just shows totals without the fine details of who is visiting that Sitemeter provides for the limited pool of users it does show.

But after being offline for a number of hours, Sitemeter seems to have gone nuts over the last day, with some users apparently making really large numbers of page views on a single visit lasting zero minutes.

And the summary stats are even larger than the detailed stats that I add up.

I'm just not sure what to make of these statistics. I really have no confidence that I know how many people actually read this blog--or any online site if my experience is any indication.

Sorry. Inside baseball. Mostly I'm noting this for my future reference. Although I do sometimes wonder if I'm wasting my time.

Friday, June 19, 2015

One More Must Die

It is a testament to their goodness as people that so many have expressed forgiveness to the accused murderer, Dylann Roof, for the cold-blooded killing of 9 African Americans as they studied the Bible. But that is not where this must end.

I can't imagine being this forgiving:

"May God have mercy on your soul," said the mother of the youngest victim, 26-year-old Tywanza Sanders, while Roof looked on, expressionless.

But in our system of justice, it is up to our society and government to punish the killer. The families of the victims should not be burdened with insisting on justice.

Healing may be helped by forgiveness. Healing to go on for the living is all the families of the victims can get now for themselves.

But justice is not served by forgiveness. The killer, when convicted, should die for this crime motivated by racial hatred. The killer murdered good people with good families, and should pay the ultimate penalty.

UPDATE: Interesting question:

For many black Americans and others, however, the attack was by definition an act of “terrorism,” a word that connotes acts against the American way of life itself – an attack against the country.

Was the killing a case of terrorism? Or "just" mass murder?

The attack was for a political purpose--to spark a civil war. That's what Iran and Syria were doing in Iraq when we were fighting there--hoping to spark a civil war between Shias and Sunnis. So that's in favor of calling it terrorism.

But where is the group that wants to exploit this and fight the civil war the killer hoped to spark? In Iraq you had al Qaeda, Baathists, and pro-Iran Sadrists eager to take their part.

It's nowhere, it seems, in America. And nobody seems even remotely sympathetic to the murderer. And if some are, they're keeping quiet in recognition that sympathy will generate revulsion. So that argues for the killings being a really horrible crime.

UPDATE: Oh, and while it is an interesting question, I don't think it is terrorism based on what we (think we) know now. I think the organization aspect might explain why more liberal groups are asking the question and assuming the answer is "yes." They assume there is a vast movement of conservative whites (probably the evil Tea Party!!!) eager for the race war. Which is nonsense.

Besides, if that man was really a terrorist, the left would be busy asking "why does he hate" and concluding it is the victims' fault for his understandable rage.

So the murderer is a very evil criminal. Make him pay.

UPDATE: While there are surely racists in America (as there are everywhere), the accused killer apparently despaired of anybody like-minded organizing to carry out his sick vision of racial civil war:

We have no skinheads, no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the internet. Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me.

That's the good news, at least.

I will say that I'm more open to considering this an act of terrorism given his (apparently) stated political goal. If Oklahoma City was domestic terrorism when it lacked an organization to support their political goals, this could be, too.

I guess what holds me back is the transparent effort by the Left to paint this as terrorism of the Right when it is no such thing.