Friday, July 31, 2015

The Side Deals Aren't Secret But We Still Can't See Them

The side deals for the main Iran nuclear deal aren't secret, according to State Department spinner Marie Harf:

Harf ... insisted that the agreement between the International Atomic Energy Agency and Iran, which the Obama administration doesn’t have a copy of, wasn’t a “secret” agreement.

It's just that we can't see them:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, reiterated his demand Thursday that the Obama administration turn over documents related to agreements between the IAEA and Iran that he described as "side agreements." Secretary of State John Kerry has said there are none, and Amano's agency [the IAEA] speaks of a normal procedure in keeping confidential the technical nuts and bolts of monitoring agreements between the IAEA and individual countries.[emphasis added]

So Kerry doesn't have a copy to turn over and the IAEA just won't turn them over.

How convenient.

Harf also said that the more people learn about the deal, the more they learn to stop worrying and love the chances that Iran won' get a nuclear bomb:

State Department senior advisor Marie Harf said the administration is confident that polls will swing in their favor on the Iran deal because “when the questions are asked, the more information you give people about the deal, the more they like it.”

Is the fact that key verification deals aren't two of the things that can be learned part of Harf's public education effort?

And is this part of the public education effort?

Iran will not allow American or Canadian inspectors working for the U.N. nuclear watchdog to visit its nuclear facilities, an official said in remarks broadcast by state TV on Thursday.

Or will President Obama qualify our citizens for that duty by opening up a hostage holding area an embassy in Tehran?

How can the Iranians not think that God is on their side?

Cutting Off Anbar

Could a rapid advance be imminent in the Iraqi offensive in Anbar?

This is interesting:

US-led coalition air strikes destroyed early Friday two key bridges used by the Islamic State group on the Syrian side of the Iraqi border, a monitoring group said. ...

"Using these bridges, it would take IS only a few minutes to reach the Iraqi border from Albu Kamal," Abdel Rahman said.

"The strikes do not cut off IS's route to Iraq, but they make IS movements there more difficult, because it will take them longer and they will be in view (of the coalition) for a longer period of time," he added.

So ISIL will require more time to reinforce their forces in Anbar province from Syria.

In a slow-motion Iraqi offensive on Ramadi, it probably doesn't really affect ISIL's ability to reinforce Ramadi and other positions in Anbar. The attack is going too slowly to require fast ISIL response.

But if there is a war of movement all of a sudden--say out of Jordan, as I mention in this post--then that limitation helps us a great deal.

Mind you, I freely admit I am looking for dots to connect in a picture I already have in mind. And there are lots of dots.

But it would not shock me at all to wake up and find out that Jordan struck Anbar from the west with a US-supported mechanized drive. I just can't believe our big plan is a slow, grinding war of attrition from the east.

Remember, Taiwan is Close to China's Coast

China is converting some old frigates for their coast guard. How many more are getting this treatment? And how much space is opened up inside with all the weapons, related gear, and ammunition removed?

China won't waste their older warships:

Work appears to be underway to modify a number of Type 053H2G 'Jiangwei I'-class frigates for transfer from the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) to the China Coast Guard. ...

The ship undergoing modification has had the YJ-83 anti-ship missile launchers, HQ-61 surface-to-air missile (SAM) launcher and the twin 100 mm gun turret removed, as well as the two aft twin 37 mm gun mountings. The two forward twin 37 mm mountings are currently still in place.

Right now, two are seen under conversion. How many more older warships have been and will be converted?

And how many light infantry could China cram into those hulls for a short period?

I only ask because converted old warships play a major role in my scenario for China to invade Taiwan:

Obsolete warships, either converted into troop ships or just emptied of most ammunition and crammed with troops, will make a high speed dash for the ports.

Grabbing ports for commercial ships to bring in heavy equipment is the key. And old warships loaded with light infantry sailing into ports in the first minutes or hours of war could seize the ports from the unready Taiwanese.

When China's "domestic" coast guard gets bigger, that's a threat to Taiwan when you consider how close Taiwan is to China and when you remember that China claims Taiwan is part of China.

Je Suis Cecil?

Tragedy. Statistics.

Zimbabwe's government is outraged??!! (from the "tragedy" link) Cecil's death is probably the best propaganda opportunity that thug regime will get this decade.

People are funny.

Although I thought the logic of all this means that killing lions just makes more of them.

Or should this whole thing be #BringBackOurCecil?

UPDATE: Actually, given the Left's reaction to terrorism, shouldn't their reaction to Cecil' death be to ask if lions should ponder "why do they hate us?"

UPDATE: Luckily, rumors of the death of Cecil's "brother" were false:

Zimbabwe wildlife authorities on Sunday dismissed rumours that a second lion, known as Jericho, had been slain after the killing last month of Cecil the lion by an American trophy hunter caused a global outcry.

Good thing, because the dreaded anti-dentite backlash could have erupted again:

But as I noted, people are funny.

Unclear on the Concept

John Kerry does know that his job requires him to do things that advance American interests, doesn't he?

Because two pieces of recent news seem to indicate he does not understand that basic job description of our chief diplomat.

On the Iran deal:

The Iran nuclear deal is not intended to push Tehran's regime to reform but to prevent it building a bomb, Secretary of State John Kerry told skeptical US lawmakers Tuesday.

This deal will not prevent Iran from going nuclear. At best--if Iran does not cheat or use routes outside of the deal--this deal prevents Iran from going nuclear over the next decade. After that all bets are off.

The only way to justify this deal is that it buys time for a non-nuclear nutball Iran to become a non-nutball Iran, whose status as a nuclear power isn't as threatening.

I think that hope is far-fetched, but that's the only way to justify this deal. And Kerry said it isn't the reason for the deal.

And then there is this:

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday the upcoming release of Jonathan Pollard, a former U.S. Navy intelligence officer convicted of spying for Israel, was not tied to the nuclear agreement with Iran.

Again, then what's the point? I find it terrible that we'd trade a convicted spy to get Israel to stay quiet over the bad nuclear deal. But from a purely diplomatic strategy standpoint, it makes sense. Yet Kerry says that isn't why we are doing that.

Assuming that the Obama administration actually believes that both the Iran deal and the Pollard release improve American security, these two motivations would make sense from their point of view.

But they deny those motives.

The State Department really needs an America Desk.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Let's Make a Deal

France is reaching out to Iran now that we've cleared the deck with a deal that bestows respectability on the mullah-run regime:

France sought to revive its relations with Iran on Wednesday, extending an invitation to President Hassan Rouhani to visit Paris in November, a gesture that follows this month's historic nuclear deal.

The offer came in a letter delivered to Rouhani by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who is in Tehran on a short trip aimed at kickstarting ties between the countries after years of strain.

Iran owes France, after all. France expects commercial deals as the payment.

But the Iranians are playing hard ball already, with a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately attitude (from the first link):

Around the time of his arrival at Mehrabad Airport in Tehran a small group of protesters carried placards criticising Fabius for his role in a tainted blood scandal that killed hundreds of Iranians in the 1980s.

Fabius was prime minister at that time when the French National Blood Transfusion Centre exported blood products contaminated with the AIDS virus.

Yeah, approving the deal is ancient history.

I, Hillarybot


I'm thinking maybe ... the heat ... is ... beyond ... her optimal ... operating ... parameters.

Every time I listen to Hillary Clinton speak, I recall this writer who said he plays a game where he pretends Hillary is a robot trying to become more human.

Heck, even MSNBC people get the joke. (Sorry no link. I accidentally put wrong link there and now I can't find it.)

Which is a bit of a surprise, since much of the press has long operated on the Three Laws of Robotics Clintonbotics:

1. A reporter may not injure a Clinton or, through inaction, allow a Clinton to come to harm.
2. A reporter must obey orders given it by a Clinton except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A reporter must protect its own reputation as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Apparently, the Hillary Human Project isn't progressing as fast as the programmers like, since her supporters are trying to close the gap she must traverse.

UPDATE: Sorry the video died. This one is kind of funny--although it isn't about her halting speaking patterns, including a comment from someone who doesn't grok satire.

Although seeing that video of Hillary collapsing on 9/11/16 just makes me feel sorry for the very human Hillary. I do hope it was just age and dehydration.

Peace for Our Time, Eh?

I'm so relieved President Obama has restored our relations with the rest of the world:

Canada is one wrong move away from a border war with the United States—if you believe a group of boiling-mad Maine lobstermen. Unfathomable as armed conflict between Canada and the United States seems, if it’s going to happen, it will be in the ocean between Maine and New Brunswick, where two tiny, treeless islands—North Rock and Machias Seal—are the last remaining disputed lands between the two countries.

Perhaps it is time for a presidential outreach speech to Canadians to restore our poor relations, eh?

Actually, I'm sure our president is simply unaware of another opportunity to retreat. If Canada would bring the issue up and hint that they have a secret nuclear weapons program, I'm sure they'll get those islands in short order.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

One More Bang for the Buck?

Iran still has their replica of USS Nimitz that they shot up in exercises not long ago:

Prior to signing the historic nuclear deal between the EU3+3 and Iran earlier this month, Iran’s propaganda piece, a mock-up of a US Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, was moved outside the harbor of Bandar Abbas.

As I've mentioned before, if I was chief nutball of Iran, I'd test a nuke on this replica out at sea and film it.

The Iranians could either use it as propaganda to show they've struck a blow against America or as evidence one of our carriers blew up from a nuclear weapons accident, which is proof we were going to attack them--thus justifying Iranian nukes (while officially denying they tested a nuke).

Between Sitzkrieg and Blitzkrieg

Are we really engaged in a slow, war of attrition to retake Ramadi? I find it hard to believe this is what we've been planning for the last year.

The Iraqi Anbar province offensive is creeping along:

The fighting in Ramadi is currently about cutting the ISIL defenders off from reinforcements and supplies. Then, sometime in August, government forces will move into the city itself. The attack force contains at least 3,000 Iraqi troops that have been reorganized and retrained by American advisors. Thousands of other Iraqi troops are in units the American advisors consider “well led” (by reasonably competent and reliable officers). ...

The battle for Fallujah continues as government forces surround the city and cut off supplies to the ISIL garrison. The problem is that the army, and militias do not always cooperate. There are local Sunni tribal militias and Shia militias from eastern and southern Iraq. ISIL takes advantage of these divisions to break the siege, but given the number of government forces now involved that is more and more difficult. In the last week alone over 200 ISIL men have died fighting the surrounding government forces. While the government forced don’t cooperate, they all seek out and destroy ISIL mines and roadside bombs.

Our military would like to put forward air controllers in the trustworthy Iraqi units pushing on Ramadi.

The offensive is wider than these two cities:

Backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, the thrust into Ramadi is part of a wider offensive by the Iraqi military into Anbar province that began earlier this month. Dozens of people died on both sides during fighting near Fallujah, Haditha and other locations in the province last week.

But I'm not sure what to make of this:

Shortly before U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter made a surprise visit to Baghdad last week, Defense Department spokesman Col. Steve Warren told reporters that Iraqi security forces were "beginning to isolate Ramadi from multiple directions" in order to "place a noose around the city."

"This is classic maneuver warfare," he said.

It's a very slow sort of maneuver warfare. Classic maneuver warfare requires rapid movement to dislocate the enemy--which is why I've wanted core mobile forces to lead the offensives.

This is siege warfare. The Iraqis are moving their lines closer to the target slowly and carefully, while trying to keep the lines of supply to the ISIL defenders cut.

This is classic siege warfare, in fact.

Unless of course we unleash a Jordanian mechanized offensive supported by American air power from the west while ISIL is focused on Ramadi and Fallujah.

In that case, we might say that the current fighting in the eastern part of Anbar is like the battles for Caen before Patton's breakout. And the new Turkish air strikes against ISIL in Syria are designed to keep ISIL from reacting to the coming offensive in the west.

Given that the Turks seem more interested in bombing Kurds than ISIL right now, let's hope our main effort really is directed to Anbar, since I don't know how much the Kurds of Iraq would be willing to cooperate to liberate Mosul at this moment.

The Real Force of Hope

It's kind of funny, but America was exceptional as a force to defend the West before America existed. But what can revive the West's confidence in itself now?

Consider Western Europe--the only part of the West to exist then--in 1492 (from Admiral of the Ocean Sea, pp. 3-5):

At the end of the year 1492 most men in Western Europe felt exceedingly gloomy about the future. Christian civilization appeared to be shrinking in area and dividing into hostile units as its sphere contracted. For over a century there had been no important advance in natural science, and registration in the universities dwindled as the instruction they offered became increasingly jejune and lifeless. Institutions were decaying, well-meaning people were growing cynical or desperate, and many intelligent men, for want of something better to do, were endeavoring to escape the present through studying the pagan past. ...

Throughout Western Europe he general feeling was one of profound disillusion, cynical pessimism and black despair. ...

Yet, even as the chroniclers of Nurenberg were correcting their proofs proofs from Koberger's press [which saw Judgment Day imminent], a Spanish caravel named Nina scudded before a winter gale into Lisbon, with news of a discovery that was to five old Europe another chance. In a few years we find the mental picture completely changed. ... "A new envisagement of the world has begun, and men are no longer sighing after the imaginary golden age that lay in the distant past, but speculating as to the golden age that might possibly lie in the oncoming future."

I'd be tempted to compare this closely to current thinking in Western Europe:

Rome’s problem, like so many other places in Europe, is that it has essentially become a theme park, heavily dependent on tourism but contributing next to nothing to the sum total of human knowledge or prosperity these days. Far too many Europeans are content to snooze the rest of their lives and cultures away; meanwhile, beasts like ISIS are licking their chops. Scenes from the ruins of Christian civilization[.]

But the picture of despair in 1492 is so much worse than today, which is not so much hopelessness about the threats but willful ignorance:

The blood of the likes of Charles Martel no longer runs in the veins of today’s café-dwelling Europeans. They sip coffee and their (excellent) wine and, in Spain, drink their bizarre cerveza/lemonade and rioja/Coca-Cola combinations, oblivious to what’s coming. Perhaps it’s mere ignorance, perhaps it’s a choice. It will end the same way regardless—in blood. When the time comes to choose between picking up a rifle and dying, we’ll find out if the human instinct for self-preservation has successfully been bred out of the men of Europe. I know where I’m putting my money.

I'd bet my money differently:

Europe has a bloody history and talk of how Europeans have lost the ability to fight is short-sighted.

Ours is only the latest generation to imagine that brutal warfare is a relic of the past. In 1851, Edward Creasy wrote, "It is an honorable characteristic of the spirit of this age, that projects of violence and warfare are regarded among civilized states with gradually increasing aversion."

He could write that conclusion since no major European war convulsed the continent since 1815. Yet 36 years without war did not mean that Europeans were permanently pacifists despite that growing aversion in civilized states. The Crimean War of 1853-1856, the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, and the Great War (though they still had the honorable spirit of the age to believe it was the war to end all wars. Only later would it be World War I.) were yet to come. The Russians and Turks went at it yet again in that time, too.

Europe will return from their vacation on Venus, if pushed enough.

And the military balance is tilted in Western Europe's favor (if ill-deployed) compared to the forces that push on their borders from the south and east. It is only the will to resist that pushing that is lacking--not the ability to do so.

Most important, America is no longer a hope for the future, but a fact of life in sustaining the West.

Yet if the Europe of 2015, content to enjoy what was built before them, is not hopeless in its view of the future, is it on the way to hopelessness?

And what could revive Europe's hope for a better future? Could new frontiers in the Solar System provide that spark?

Or must something else akin to new worlds be found right here?

I just don't believe that the West is doomed. As strategic planners would agree, while intent is highly changeable, capabilities are more predictable. Europe could change as it has changed before.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Life in the Bubble

The standard-bearer of the "reality-based" community:

"There is a reason why 99 percent of the world thinks it’s a good deal -- it’s because it’s a good deal," Obama said during a joint press conference with Ethiopian prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn in the capital Addis Ababa.

"The good news is that I’ve not yet heard a factual argument on other side that holds up to scrutiny," he added.

Let's see, Iran will get a lot of money to foment unrest in the Middle East, including their client Assad in Syria.

Iran will be free to buy conventional weapons in a relatively short time.

In a little longer, they'll be freed from restrictions on ballistic missile technology (in case they want to fling cheap and clean nuclear-generated electricity to far lands).

We've crippled enforcement of the deal with bad provisions and nonpublic side deals that give Iran too much control over the process.

Iran--if they abide by the deal--will have a free path to nuclear weapons in a decade.

Iran will learn a lot about the nuclear process during that decade.

Iran could cheat on the deal, and since Iran gets so much up front, the ability of the West to punish violations will be non-existent.

Russia and China will shield Iran from Western efforts to rein them in.

If Iran has another path to nuclear weapons outside the terms of the deal, Iran can go nuclear without technically violating the deal.

The deal will prompt a conventional arms race in the region as we sell weapons to settle our Arab allies and as Iran builds up their own arsenal.

The deal will encourage Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Egypt to consider their own nuclear weapons.

The deal leaves the nutball Iranian regime in charge of Iran and crushes the hopes of dissidents that they might gain help from an America that just blessed nutballs with nukes.

And that sets aside the damage to our system of checks and balances by effectively bypassing Congressional treaty powers and granting the UN Security Council that job.

Oh, and Kerry will get a wholly undeserved Nobel Peace Prize for the deal. And you think he's insufferably arrogant now?

As any parent of any teenager would tell President Obama, if 99% of the world was jumping off a cliff, would you do it, too? If he can't see that there are good arguments against his deal, well, Matthew Henry had something to say about that.

UPDATE: But no, Captain Oblivious thinks we have a true, reset partner in Tehran. Thank God the Tea Party isn't in charge of Iran! Otherwise that might be eliminationist rhetoric!

I'm So Prescient, I Scare Even Myself

I don't know how long I've been repeating my basic position on the final nuclear deal with Iran. I've said it so often you probably wish I'd just get on with it. You get my point. But now John Kerry verifies my charge.

Yes, I keep saying that the basic deal can be described in far fewer pages than the actual deal (and whatever secret side deals there are): Iran pretends not to have nuclear weapons programs; and we pretend to believe them.

Behold the pretending:

Asked by Senator Rand Paul (R., Ky.) to respond to a recent statement by Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, that the agreement would not stop Iran’s nuclear program, Kerry advanced a defense of the Iranian dictator notable for its astoundingly tortured logic:

KERRY: And do you know why he’s saying that? Because he doesn’t believe the Americans stopped them, he believes he stopped them because he issued a fatwa, and he has declared the policy of their country is not to do it. So he is, as a matter of sovereignty and pride, making a true statement. He doesn’t believe the Americans stopped them. He said they didn’t want to get one in the first place.

In other words, Iran already stopped its nuclear program; hence the nuclear deal stops nothing.

This is close to "they had a nuclear weapons program before they didn't have the nuclear program" territory.

Remember, this administration defends the deal by saying it is the only way to stop Iran from going nuclear in the next decade. That's the point of the deal.

So Iran pretends not to have a deal; and Kerry leads the administration in pretending to believe them.

Which is aided by a vague, non-public side deal that is supposed to--but never will--clear up past Iranian nuclear weapons work.

Have a super sparkly day. If you can pretend.

UPDATE: Pretending about Iran's nuclear future depended on a practice run for the past:

Tehran based its entire negotiating position on the claim that the nuclear program was entirely peaceful: The regime didn’t want a bomb, would never want a bomb, and thus never worked on a bomb. ...

As late as June, State Department spokesman John Kirby explained that “access is very, very critical. It’s always been critical from day one; it remains critical.”

The reason access is critical is because without establishing what nuclear work the Iranians have done in the past, especially the PMDs, it’s impossible to know whether or not Iran is abiding by the agreement. In other words, without resolving the PMD issue, any inspection and verification regime is virtually meaningless.

And yet the White House is now saying that Iran’s past work doesn’t matter. What’s important, said Kirby in a press conference today, and echoing Kerry, is not what Iran did or might have done in the past, but rather what their nuclear program is going to look like in the future.

Besides, as Kerry has claimed, in an attempt to cover all the bases, the administration has “absolute knowledge” of what the Iranians did previously.
Iran pretends they never had nuclear weapons programs; and we pretend it doesn't matter if Iran admits past nuclear work.

Which of course will undermine any future efforts to punish Iran for cheating on this deal. Iran can insist that any violations are merely technical in nature or a difference of opinion on terms. And since the deal goes along with Iran's position that they don't have a nuclear weapons program, anyway, what's the big deal if Iran violates the deal to get cheap and clean nuclear energy more quickly?

Getting What They Wanted--Good and Hard

When pro-Russian Crimeans begged for Putin's Russia to take over, just what the heck did they expect?

Because the Russian commissars are coming to run Crimea:

And it is not just the Crimean elite that is about to get a hard lesson about what it means to be a subject of the Russian Federation.

The daily Noviye Izvestia reported that the Russian armed forces plan to draft 2,500 Crimean men in the autumn, a fivefold increase over the spring draft.

Leonid Grach, the former head of Crimea's legislature, noted that anti-Moscow sentiments are rising on the peninsula and the Kremlin could face a rebellion if it is not careful.

Perhaps. And if so, it would likely be suppressed as ruthlessly as it would anyplace else.

If Crimeans are experiencing buyer's remorse, it's coming a bit late.

Especially now that the commissars are coming.

Yeah, New Russia is the same as the Old Russia--and their Soviet interlude.

I was amazed at the eagerness of so many Crimeans to break into the prison:

And let's wrap our heads around the idiocy of Crimeans begging to go into Putin's Russia. Did nobody point out that when the opportunity presented itself between 1989 and 1992 that everybody who could manage it escaped from the then-Soviet Union's loving grip?

But they thought they were special.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Value and Possibilities That Negotiations Bring

Why would North Korea want a nuclear deal like Iran just got? North Korea already has nuclear devices!

I nearly spewed my coffee across the screen when I read this:

Sydney Seiler, U.S. special envoy for now-defunct six-party talks on ending the North's nuclear program, said the United states left the door open to talks with the North when it is willing to end its diplomatic isolation.

"The Iran deal demonstrates the value and possibilities that negotiation bring," Seiler told reporters in the South Korean capital, Seoul.

"It demonstrates again our willingness, when we have a willing counterpart, and it demonstrates our flexibility when the DPRK makes a decision that it wants to take a different path," he said, referring to North Korea by the initials of its formal name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

How much more flexibility does North Korea need from us? We already let them cheat on the 1994 deal that let them go nuclear. Are we now supposed to sell Kim Jong-Un long range ballistic missiles to make his cheating fully worthwhile?

Why on Earth would nuclear North Korea need a deal like Iran's which allows Iran to go nuclear, too?

It is far more accurate to say that Iran got a deal like North Korea got.

Ah yes, the value and possibilities nuclear weapons that negotiation bring when we have a counterpart willing to pretend they don't have nuclear weapons programs, if we are willing to demonstrate our flexibility by pretending to believe them!

UPDATE: North Korea has rejected negotiations, insisting their nuclear status must be recognized. The author explains that any hope that the Iran deal would push North Korea back to the table are dashed:

Clearly, the differences between North Korea and Iran are vast.

North Korea has already gone down the negotiations road and come out on the other end with a small but potentially threatening nuclear arsenal.

Huh? Vast differences? Whatever the vast differences between the countries of Iran and North Korea, the deals seem eerily similar.

The only difference is time. North Korea got their deal in 1994, which allowed us to pretend we solved the problem and which shielded North Korea while they went nuclear; and Iran just got their deal this year.

Ready to Fight?

In the future, we will go to war with the Army we have and not the Army we wish he had at that time because right now we are creating the Army we wish to have in that future.

I'm on board the new Army chief's focus on readiness:

The Army is forced to cut its size because limited funds make it impossible to balance force size with modernization needs and combat readiness, Gen. Mark A. Milley said Tuesday as the Senate considered his nomination to be the next Army chief of staff. ...

“Readiness is our number one priority,” Milley said. “No one should ever go into harm’s way who is not ready.” He described the risk of a smaller force as taking more time to mobilize and in possibly higher rates of casualties but not of the U.S. losing a war.

If you don't train your troops and don't maintain your equipment and have sufficient ammunition, you have a shell of an army that looks good to outsiders but is actually just people who dress alike.

If you downgrade readiness to keep more troops in uniform, the major problem is that leaders will wrongly believe they have a military tool to use. But when committed it will suffer heavy casualties and perhaps not achieve its objective.

If you downgrade readiness to provide more advanced weapons to those troops, the shiny high-tech stuff will just be so much wrecked junk on a battlefield if an enemy with effective troops oppose us. Again, new weapons can give leaders the wrong impression that we have an effective army.

China is experiencing the problem of having a sizable military with lots of new and shiny equipment that may not be able to fight effectively against anything but a clearly inferior enemy.

While we don't have the problem with corruption that China has in their military, I do worry that a zero-tolerance environment that punishes mistakes by ending careers will cripple our military leadership by making our Army (and other services) so cautious about avoiding mistakes that we will be unable to readily defeat anything but a clearly inferior enemy. So troop readiness is only one aspect of making sure our Army is ready to fight.

Not that numbers and new equipment are unimportant. But they enhance well-trained and led troops rather than replace the need for them. Yes, this is an old topic for me.

But I strongly disagree with General Milley that committing a smaller force does not risk losing a war, as I reflected in that 1997 paper on lessons that Iraq's invasion of Iran in 1980 could teach us:

America needs an army with enough soldiers to overcome setbacks and still emerge victorious. The Army needs the equipment, numbers and training to overwhelm an enemy force with such speed and decisiveness that we will win the war and not just the battle. Saddam Hussein's Iraq, which has given America so much grief this decade, can teach the United States to avoid paying a high cost in its nest war if we heed the lessons of the First Gulf War. His five-division invasion force was too small and too poorly trained and equipped to smash Iran; and by the end of the war, nearly eight years later, Iraq needed an army of nearly a million troops to hold the line.

I suppose you could say that Iraq won that war on points and that Saddam merely suffered higher casualty rates to achieve it.

But the repercussions of that war led directly to Saddam being pulled from a spider hole by American troops in 2003 and later tried and executed by the Iraqi government.

We can lose a war. Victory is not our birthright. Let's build our Army so it is capable of smashing a resolute and effective enemy.

Protesting Reality

Taiwan gets slapped with the reality stick:

Taiwan said Friday it had filed a protest with China over a military exercise it slammed for portraying the island as a target, despite improved ties between the two former bitter rivals.

Chinese state channel CCTV broadcast a video clip earlier this month showing fully armed soldiers of the People's Liberation Army running towards a red building with a silhouette similar to that of Taiwan's Presidential Office.

It's kind of cute that the Taiwanese believe that there is a thaw in cross-strait relations rather than China simply not openly talking about what they plan to do.

Yeah, China believes they own Taiwan; is building and training a military capable of invading Taiwan; and will invade if they think they need to.

The Taiwanese cannot rely on us to save them because China does not have to defeat America to conquer Taiwan. China just needs to delay American (and Japanese) intervention long enough to conquer Taiwan:

The goal behind developing anti-access capabilities and promoting active defense is not to wage a major power war with the United States, but to present the U.S. with unacceptable risk if it interferes with what China considers a core interest. This strategy incorporates both Sun Tzu’s concept of deception and of winning without fighting. Because of the ambiguity of China’s active defense concept any U.S. president would be unsure of what China’s threshold is for a first strike should the U.S. commit to a show of force near Chinese territory. The U.S. president would also know that China had the capability to inflict significant damage on any U.S. asset near the Chinese mainland. Moreover, China bases this strategy on the judgment that the United States understands that China places a greater value on Taiwan, or other maritime claims, than the U.S. does, and thus Washington will either hesitate or decline to engage in a show of force. In either case, it would present China with a window of opportunity to create facts on the ground that the United States or other powers would find difficult to reverse.

Which is what I've been saying for a long time, as my now decade-old invasion scenario assumed:

So the plan will be a direct and fast assault on Taiwan to win before any outside power can save Taiwan from conquest. The Chinese will have four main missions for their military in an invasion: One, landing nine army divisions and one Marine division on Taiwanese territory plus dropping three parachute divisions and one air landing division. Two, securing the sea and air lines of supply and reinforcement from China to Taiwan. Three, keeping American forces away from Taiwan long enough to finish the conquest. This will also include non-military measures. Fourth, the Chinese must defeat the Taiwanese army and conquer the island.

At the time, the scenario was derided as impossible. The "million man swim." I don't think that it was impossible a decade ago if China was willing to take the casualties. A decade later it is more possible. And in another decade it will be even more possible.

Heck, it isn't even necessary for China to completely defeat Taiwan--just getting ashore and resisting Taiwanese efforts to drive the invaders into the sea would set up Taiwan for a later killing blow:

China doesn't even have to conquer the island in the initial invasion. If the Chinese simply get ashore and Taiwan can't drive them back into the sea, a ceasefire could leave Taiwan divided and vulnerable to a new war in a few years time after China consolidates their territorial gain.

I think Taiwan is living on borrowed time and needs a sense of urgency in their preparations to defend their island democracy.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

I Miss the Obvious

I've been contemptuous of the notion that President Obama signing a nuclear deal with Iran is akin to "Nixon going to China." I missed the obvious factor that gives some weight to the analogy.

Nixon got China to side with us to oppose the Soviet Union, whose power seemed too great for us to contain without China's assistance.

And Nixon used his reputation as a firm anti-communist to reassure the nation that a deal with communist China that strengthened China was needed to oppose the far more powerful and dangerous communist USSR.

While the current deal certainly strengthens Iran, the deal with Iran breaks down on both key points of this historic initiative. We don't have a common enemy that we can't deal with without Iran; and President Obama doesn't have a reputation of opposing enemies that gives us a reason to trust his initiative.

The analogy also breaks down because Nixon didn't try to transform China--just exploit their differences with Moscow to defeat the Soviets--while Obama seeks to transform Iran. (Voluntary regime change?)

But while President Obama can do nothing about his reputation to make the analogy appropriate, I neglected the obvious common enemy that President Obama shares with Iran--they both hate and oppose Israel.

And let's not forget the Europeans, who are clearly thinking the same way:

Inspired by Europe's role in a nuclear deal with Iran, the European Union wants to form a broader, U.N.-backed coalition to revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

See? The Europeans must figure they can add Iran and America under this administration to put pressure on Israel. What? The Europeans can't wait until Iran gets nukes to cripple Israel?

This certainly explains why so many of the people celebrating the Iran deal so quickly express delight that Israel hates the deal (I've personally witnessed this, I'll add).

Too Little and Too Late

Assad is publicly admitting that he lacks the manpower to fight for all of Syria. It is probably too late to contract his realm and hold it, given his heavy casualties.

In January 2012, Assad had too few loyal troops to contain the resistance. I figured Assad had to contract to hold a core Syria and then rebuild his army to retake the abandoned zones.

Assad seemed doomed. Yes, Assad's forces regained the initiative for a while with substantial Russian, Iranian, and Hezbollah help; plus a faux chemical weapons deal with us that lifted the threat of American air strikes against Assad and real support for rebels. But even then I figured the odds were against Assad winning.

And now Assad is again clearly losing. He can't ignore the manpower issue that formed the basis of my early conviction that he has a poor hand:

In a remarkably frank assessment of the strains afflicting the Syrian military after more than four years of conflict, Assad said the type of war confronting Syria meant the army could not fight everywhere for risk of losing vital ground.

"Sometimes, in some circumstances, we are forced to give up areas to move those forces to the areas that we want to hold onto," Assad said in a televised speech. "We must define the important regions that the armed forces hold onto so it doesn't allow the collapse of the rest of the areas." ...

Assad said the idea behind giving up territory was to allow for later counter-attacks. "From a military point of view, holding to this area, or that patch, would lead to the recovery of the other areas."

Right now he controls a quarter of the territory and half the population. But who is still willing to defend it after the brutal level of casualties Assad's allies have suffered so far?

Is this statement preparing Syrians for further territorial contraction as recent events seemed to telegraph?

So what about the fight for Palmyra? Holding that ground shields Damascus.

Is that part of the smaller realm Assad intends to focus limited troops on? Perhaps his statement is just to prepare to abandon outposts in the north, east, and south?

Or is it a temporary objective to shield a withdrawal from Damascus and points south to a core Alawite realm?

Three and a half years ago, a decision to contract his realm might have allowed Assad to rebuild and retake Syria.

But now I think Assad has suffered too many casualties to hold without significant outside help (Gosh, where would Iran get the cash for that? And would Russia commit troops for at least a symbolic presence? Would Kerry rescue Assad with another stupid diplomatic deal?) and perhaps plentiful use of chemical weapons to terrorize enemies into a ceasefire.

UPDATE: If Assad is planning to contract his defense perimeter, what is he doing fighting for distant Hasakah?

Syrian troops and Kurdish fighters ousted the Islamic State group from Hasakeh on Tuesday, more than a month after the jihadists attacked the northeastern city, a monitoring group said.

It makes no sense to fight for a city that must lie well outside any core Syria.

This only makes sense if Assad cut a deal to help the Kurds take the city--denying it to ISIL--and allow Syrian troops to gain refuge in Kurdish territory and be flown out to reinforce the core region. The Kurds do seem to control more of the city after pushing ISIL out than they did before ISIL attacked.

UPDATE: When Assad says he needs to conserve troops for more vital ground, this is it:

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks the conflict using contacts on the ground, said Syrian warplanes had carried out more than 160 air strikes on the plain and in the nearby Idlib countryside to try to disrupt the insurgents' progress towards key Assad territory.

The insurgents, who have entered at the northern tip of the plain, can use their anti-tank missiles to target Syrian army tank positions, giving them some advantages over flat ground, a diplomat tracking Syria said.

Most of Idlib province was captured earlier this year in a major advance by the insurgent grouping "Army of Conquest" against government forces.

But I've yet to see a decision to give up isolated outposts to make the focus real.

As an aside, that's a lot of air strikes in one day for Assad's air force.

UPDATE: Backed by 270 air strikes over 4 days, Syrian forces regained some ground:

The Syrian army and allied militia have regained control over several northwestern villages from insurgents on a plain crucial for defending costal areas that Damascus holds, a group monitoring the war said on Saturday.

The allied militia is not identified. Hezbollah is usually identified as such. And Syrian militias are not accurately termed "allied." So I assume this must refer to Iran's Shia foreign legion that they organized and pay to help Assad.

Doctor Strangelove

As we find out more about what the initially unreported two side deals between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran that include important aspects of enforcing the nuclear deal with Iran (and find out if there are more such deals that the administration initially denied existed), let's not forget that the IAEA is not automatically on our side.

Yes, under Mohamed ElBaradei, the IAEA was used to shield Iran from the West, as one paper noted in September 2009 when the man was leaving his post:

He will not be universally missed. Long chided for being soft on Iran, he goes into this year’s conference amid a diplomatic storm over whether he has deliberately hidden evidence of Iran’s work on a nuclear bomb.

France and Israel have led the charge against Dr ElBaradei, saying that his latest report on Iran’s nuclear programme omitted evidence that the agency had been given about an alleged covert weaponisation plan.

Yes, ElBaradei learned to stop worrying and love the Iranian bomb. And here we are.

The effectiveness of the IAEA depends too much on the quality of whoever leads the agency. And so even if the IAEA can be trusted now, will Russia and China help engineer the next head of the IAEA to be someone who will run interference for Iran again?

The question answers itself:

The Tobruk government has a major disagreement with the UN because the UN refuses to lift the arms embargo against all of Libya (including the UN recognized Tobruk government forces) until the Tobruk government works out a peace deal with the rival Tripoli government. ... As a result of this intransigence many Libyans blame the UN for the continued presence (and growth) of ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant). China and Russia are also being blamed for supporting this intransigence, apparently because it causes more problems for the Western nations that are most hurt by the continuing chaos in Libya and flood of illegal migrants. This is right out of the Russian Cold War playbook and is discussed freely and proudly on the streets of Moscow. That Chinese also recognize the usefulness of this tactic.[emphasis added]

We can totally trust the Chinese and Russians not to try to cause us harm, right?

How can the administration possibly believe they signed a good deal? Or that no deal isn't a better option at this point?

UPDATE: How? Because Kerry is delusional about threats to America. Spongespine Spandexpants won't even see it coming.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Seeking Nuance Lessons?

I'm seriously confused by my Blogger statistics that show that hits from France have surpassed hits from America over the last month.

Deploy Like We're Purple

We don't have a carrier in CENTCOM these days. This is supposed to be a major crisis for airpower projection, but I don't know why since we have plenty of airfields available on land.

Just as an Army infantry battalion on land in Djibouti may be substituting for a lack of a Marine Expeditionary Unit at sea in CENTCOM, why can't Air Force planes on land substitute for lack of a carrier?

Indeed, why couldn't we base a carrier air wing on land in CENTCOM if a carrier is unavailable?

As an aside, we used to routinely have half of our fleet underway. Now it is a third according to the first link.

UPDATE: I look again less than a week later and 5th Fleet does have a carrier. In case you are looking at this post later. The point remains valid, of course.

UPDATE: Oh, and I guess our carrier will leave the region in October and won't be replaced. So the point remains.

As an aside, was the carrier missing from the list of ships deployed because it was reserved for protecting the president while he was in Kenya?

That would explain the missing amphibious warfare ship that is there again. Interesting.

UPDATE: More on the two-month gap. One, I don't like putting carriers in the constricted Gulf. Two, couldn't we deploy elements of a carrier air wing on land during the gap, as I asked above?

Just Lie Back and Think of Legacy

Please excuse the Ukrainians if they believe America is trying to make Russian-held areas of the Donbas the new Sudetenland, whose surrender by Kiev will result in peace for our time in Europe.

Ukrainians may wonder what brings an American official all the way to Kiev to lobby on domestic Ukrainian legislation:

It's rare that official representatives of the U.S. visit foreign parliaments to persuade lawmakers to vote a certain way on some piece of legislation. Yet last week, Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland traveled to Kiev and did just that, as the Ukrainian parliament prepared to vote on amendments to the country's constitution.

Some Ukrainians worry we are trying to grease the skids to allow Russia to gain more Ukrainian territory:

Mustafa Nayyem, a member of Poroshenko's parliamentary faction, explained that the "special law" might enable a future legislature to grant the rebellious, pro-Russian regions in eastern Ukraine powers amounting to legal secession. "I am convinced such a norm doesn't reflect the will of the Ukrainian people, which has already lost thousands of soldiers and continues to fight a bloody war to bring those regions back under Ukrainian jurisdiction," Nayyem wrote.

Nuland's job was to persuade Nayyem and like-minded legislators to change their minds.

On the bright side, it is nice to see the Obama administration working with a legislative body on foreign affairs.

UPDATE: More on Ukraine's fear of being screwed by the Obama administration.

There is no proof of that, of course. But our recent dealings with friends and foes don't paint a comforting picture when you are so close to Russia.

I Keep Seeing Dots

In the duel between focusing on ISIL in Anbar province or Mosul, I've been an Anbar-first proponent. It sure looks like the focus is going to Anbar despite a head fake to Mosul.

Yet the offensive seems to be going very slowly.

But are there more indications that this front will heat up soon to retake ground and defeat ISIL there?

One indication relies on our past insistence that American-trained Iraqi units be used for the Mosul front. But the Anbar front includes American-trained troops:

Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren told reporters traveling with Carter that the roughly 3,000 coalition-trained soldiers joined the Ramadi operation in recent days.

The story says that American-trained troops are involved.

So would we split the trained Iraqi troops between two objectives--perhaps guaranteeing insufficient forces for both fronts--rather than switch objectives to one that the Iraqis (and I) consider more important? Do we agree that Anbar is more important now?

Or do we think we have enough trained troops in the pipeline for a Mosul offensive to allow for some to be allocated to Anbar despite our suspiciously loud complaints that we are falling short of recruiting and training?

Another indication is Israel's donation of helicopter gunships to Jordan to fight ISIL:

Israel has given its surplus Bell AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters to Jordan to bolster its neighbour's defence against the Islamic State, the Reuters news agency reported on 23 July.

Approximately 16 AH-1E/F Cobras that were retired from the Israeli Air Force in 2013 were refurbished and handed over to Jordan in 2014 in a deal that was approved by the United States.

I've long hoped for a Jordanian mechanized offensive into western Anbar province to complement an Iraqi offensive from the east. Helicopters would be very useful for that. Although they'd be useful for a lot of things that don't involve a western Anbar front, I admit.

Another piece of information is that Turkey will bomb ISIL and allow us to use the Incirlik air base (and others) to bomb ISIL:

In a major tactical shift, Turkish warplanes struck Islamic State group targets across the border in Syria on Friday, a day after IS militants fired at a Turkish military outpost. A Syrian rights group said the airstrikes killed nine IS fighters.

Turkey, which straddles Europe and Asia and borders the Middle East, had long been reluctant to join the U.S.-led coalition against the extremist group.

In a related, long-awaited development, Turkey said it has agreed to allow U.S.-led coalition forces to base manned and unmanned aircraft at its air bases for operations targeting the IS group.

Turkey has long wanted to focus on defeating Assad, and so didn't want to harm ISIL which has been an effective enemy of Assad.

So did we really convince Turkey to shift their objectives? Or did we convince Turkey that we want to focus on ISIL in Iraq and need Turkish help to keep the Syrian branch from reinforcing the Iraq branch when the hammer falls in Anbar?

That way, Turkish help against ISIL doesn't require Turkey to abandon their focus on Assad. Indeed, Turkish help to keep Syrian ISIL forces from moving to Iraq would actually fit with Turkey's focus on defeating Assad.

By this point, Turkey may believe that Assad is weakened enough to risk helping us in Iraq:

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad issued a decree announcing a general amnesty for military deserters who violated the country's compulsory military conscription law, state television said on Saturday.

Assad must be desperate for manpower if he is willing to risk angering those who answered the call to serve--or the families of those who died in that service.

After all, lack of success against ISIL keeps Iraq's Kurds important to us--which isn't in Turkey's interest to continue, as this action against Turkish Kurd secessionists hiding in northern Iraq reflects:

Fighter jets hit PKK targets in several locations in northern Iraq, including warehouses, "logistic points", living quarters and storage buildings, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu's office said.

Heck, perhaps the price of admission by Turkey is NATO support for Turkey to establish a buffer zone inside Syria to help anti-Assad forces.

So more dots. The problem is that I'm interpreting what I see to fit what I'd do were I God of CENTCOM. So I could be connecting dots that have no relation to each other.

But it is a lovely picture I've painted, you must admit.

UPDATE: The Turks claim their air strikes are for the purpose of establishing a safe zone:

"We have always defended safe zones and no-fly zones in Syria. People who have been displaced can be placed in those safe zones," he said.

Turkey has long sought a "no-fly zone" or "safe zone" in northern Syria but met resistance from Washington, which says direct military pressure on Islamic State, not a "safe zone", is the best way to end the region's fighting and refugee crisis.

Ankara struck a deal with Washington this week allowing coalition forces to use Turkish bases for bombing raids against Islamic State, greatly shortening distances to targets and potentially making the aerial campaign more effective.

It was not immediately known whether the agreement would entail the creation of a safe or buffer zone.

Well, some dots are connected, anyway.

UPDATE: Iraqi counter-terrorism forces, a small but competent part of Iraq's military, has made progress toward retaking Ramadi:

Iraqi security forces entered the University of Anbar in the western city of Ramadi on Sunday and clashed with Islamic State militants inside the compound, the joint operations command said in a statement.

The jihadis used the campus as a base.

But as the article notes, the progress has been slow so far.

UPDATE: Yes, the safe zone under the umbrella of a no-fly zone is on:

Turkey and the United States are working on plans to provide air cover for Syrian rebels and jointly sweep Islamic State fighters from a strip of land along the Turkish border, bolstering the NATO member's security and providing a safe haven for civilians.

And NATO is holding a rare meeting to decide on how to support NATO member Turkey:

For just the fifth time in its 66-year history, NATO ambassadors will meet in emergency session Tuesday to gauge the threat the Islamic State extremist group poses to Turkey, and the debated actions Turkish authorities are taking in response.

So some dots were definitely connected.

A Lovely Parting Gift

A prisoner will be released because of the Iran nuclear deal. Sadly, it won't be an American held by Iran.

No, we will release an Israeli spy to make up for harming Israeli security:

The Obama administration is preparing to release Jonathan Pollard, a U.S. Navy intelligence officer convicted of spying for Israel, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, citing U.S. officials. ...

The Journal said some U.S. officials hope the move will smooth relations with Israel following the Iran nuclear deal, which Israel opposes.

Which is sickly cruel of the Obama administration, considering Pollard might simply die with a lot of other Jews if Iran gets nukes.

I don't think we should release Pollard.

And Israel should refuse the deal lest they signal acceptance of the nuclear deal.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Secretary of State Kerry Accidentally Tells the Truth

Secretary of State Kerry got frustrated that 435 House members and 100 Senators are questioning his ability to negotiate:

Kerry earlier warned that Iran will not come back to the negotiating table to pursue a new deal, voicing frustration that: "We've got 535 secretaries of state."

Well, that would be 536 if you include Kerry. So yeah, 535 is right.

A Fatal Assumption and Fatal Implication

A war strategy against China that emphasizes one aspect of our war strategy against Japan in World War II has a couple fatal flaws.

This author rightly notes that China's anti-access/area denial strategy of making it costly for our Navy to operate close to China is a difficult challenge. But the idea he puts forward that we can avoid that challenge by standing off outside of the range of that capability and interdict Chinese energy imports to defeat China is dangerously wrong.

Mind you, the author assumes we have to penetrate the Chinese A2/AD screen to attack China's energy infrastructure on land and to wear down their blue water navy and aerial power projection assets. So right off the bat he really isn't lifting the burden of dealing with China's anti-access screen and operating close to China.

Yet his major emphasis is the distant blockade of energy imports that relieves us of the burden of operating within the A2/AD screen.

The fatal assumption of this strategy is that it assumes--as the war against Japan from 1941-1945 was--that we would wage total war against China. Is our response to a Chinese seizure of East China Sea islands a total naval energy blockade?

Doesn't a strategy that assumes that total war response to even a small conflict scare our allies as much as China?

And doesn't a strategy that puts the major emphasis on a a distant blockade condemn allies on the wrong side of that perimeter close to China to dealing with Chinese attacks without much American military support?

Doesn't that scare our allies, too?

Further, even if we completely cut off China's oil imports--which we can't because of overland pipelines from Russia and Kazakhstan that provide 13% of China's oil imports, China still produces oil. I suspect China will give their military priority on oil use and ramp up coal use for civilian needs.

Also, if Russia escorts their tankers which provide part of their exports to China (about half), will we really interfere with those ships? Could Russia expand those deliveries by sea?

China's stored oil will also buy time for China to adapt and cope by substituting energy, restricting energy use to critical sectors, and finding other energy import sources. They appear to have enough to completely replace just under three months of imports from government and civilian stored oil.

See here for lots of information on China's energy sector.

It is certainly a real problem to operate close to China. And a distant blockade is certainly a major approach to winning a general war with China.

But as long as our allies close to China can't move farther from China, we kind of have to work that problem.

Oh, and one more thing. In that long war with Japan, we easily outproduced Japan in shipbuilding.  Today China has a large shipbuilding industry and they may well be able to replace any losses we inflict on them better than we can replace losses.

There is no silver bullet to make a war with China easy.

Reaction Force?

In Army testimony before Congress recently, it was a bit of a surprise to me that we had an infantry battalion in Djibouti. We've long had special forces assets there, but no regular forces.

I suppose President Obama's visit to nearby Kenya would alone explain the unit's presence. Perhaps it is there to compensate for no Marine amphibious ready group in CENTCOM these days.

Or maybe it is a new normal deployment appropriate for operations in eastern AFRICOM or in CENTCOM.

UPDATE: It seems appropriate to note that Hillary Clinton is the author of the whole "birther" movement.

UPDATE: Funny stuff:

The "birther" jokes won't go away, partly because the target won't stop telling them.

Obama says he suspects that some of his critics back home, particularly those who don't believe he's American, think he's in Kenya "to look for my birth certificate."

Perhaps President Obama should direct this jab at Hillary Clinton.

Of course, the important thing is that we can all hope that the reaction force isn't needed for a security threat against the president.

UPDATE: And of course, that added infantry battalion highlights a growing but quiet deployment of our forces to help African nations:

"Our efforts on the African continent are all about creative and innovative ways to have small –- very small elements to advise and assist and support the African nations -- doing that," AFRICOM commander General David Rodriguez said last year.

He acknowledged most African countries would not welcome a large US military presence on their soil, and said US forces would instead help build up local armies to face mutual enemies.

The exception to this rule is the Djibouti base, which houses 3,200 US personnel, including units able to launch drone strikes and commando raids against jihadist targets in Yemen and Somalia.

US non-profit group the Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates that in the past four years US forces have conducted between 10 and 14 drone strikes in Somalia and conducted between eight and 11 secret missions. ...

In Niger, 200 US personnel have been assigned to assist the French forces of Operation Barkhane against the jihadist groups roaming the Sahel desert.

Up to 300 special forces and other US experts can be assigned at any one time to central Africa -- based largely out of Uganda -- to help track down Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army rebels.

And we have China's growing influence to contend with. There's a lot to react to across a very large and diverse continent.

Learning from Iraq?

President Obama, despite indications to the contrary, seems to have learned that his decision to walk away from Iraq in 2011 was a mistake. We have left key residual capabilities in Afghanistan despite all indications that we planned to repeat the Iraq War mistake:

While American combat troops are largely (except for several thousand commandos) gone there is still a lot of American air support. Air reconnaissance are running at about 65 percent of the 2014 level and are nearly all in support of Afghan forces. While armed air support missions are down 85percent over 2014 that is changing. For the rest of the year the U.S. appears to be returning to about 65 percent of 2014 levels of armed air support. The Afghans have long asked for this pointing out that it makes a big difference for the effectiveness and morale of the Afghan soldiers and police who, until 2014, could depend on that air support.

I am grateful for this change. Special forces and air support are critical to keep Afghan forces fighting.

In the president's September 10th speech in 2014 announcing our re-engagement in Iraq, he indicated a determination to repeat his Iraq mistake in Afghanistan:

Already President Obama has made me grit my teeth. We will go back into Iraq because we failed to stay to defend our gains; and the president boasts that we will end the war in Afghanistan in two years. Somehow he doesn't see the connection between leaving too soon and risking defeat.

Now if we don't put an artificial end date for this support, our long war in Afghanistan won't have been in vain. Perhaps the difficulties of putting jihadis down again in Iraq after nearly annihilating them will change this, too.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Future Better Be Now

I noted that a recent leaked complaint about the F-35 was misleading, although I do wonder if the inevitable future that guided the design (BVR, or beyond visual range, combat) is here yet.

Strategypage covers the issue rather well here:

Dogfighting isn't quite dead yet and it probably never will be. But more and more, victory goes to the side that can reach out BVR and touch the enemy first with an AMRAAM. The F-35 was optimized for BVR combat because that has been the future of air-to-air warfare for some time now.

I just worry that we base our predictions on the future --which we assume has arrived--of air-to-air combat on very little data because we just haven't faced a major threat to wrest control of the air from us since World War II.

But I'm a ground guy, so I admit my basis of worry is based on the past and not the ability to model the future.

More Quiet Aggression

Russia has quietly expanded their territory at the expense of Georgia:

Late on 10 July, after a year of relative calm, Russian forces resumed their ‘border demarcation’ activities along the South Ossetian administrative boundary, installing large signs reading ‘State border of the Republic of South Ossetia’ about 1.5 kilometres deeper into Georgian territory than previously, just two kilometres from Georgia’s major East-West Highway.Not only did this land grab disrupt the lives of villagers, whose households ended up overnight inside Russian-controlled territory, a kilometre-long section of the BP-operated Baku-Supsa oil pipeline now lies outside of Tbilisi’s reach. With Western attention focused elsewhere, Georgia has again been left on its own to grapple with a major challenge.

More from that source here.

We need to arm and train the victims and potential victims of Russian aggression. If we don't help them while they are willing to resist, eventually they will lose hope that they can resist.

And then they won't.

Here are two portions of a report on Russia's military that summarize Moscow's military capabilities:

Both in terms of troops and weapons, Russian conventional forces dwarf those of its Eastern European and Central Asian neighbors (see Table 1), many of which are relatively weak ex-Soviet republics closely allied with Moscow. ...

Russia's vast nuclear arsenal remains on par with the United States and is the country's only residual great power feature, according to military analysts.

I'd add that Russia's special forces deserve mention. The near bloodless seizure of Crimea was impressive.

But between nukes and Spetsnaz, Russia is limited to beating on weak powers--which conveniently are what border Russia right now, giving Putin options for aggression.

The Failure is Baked into the Deal

The Iran deal is supposed to prevent Iran from going nuclear over the next decade and bring Iran into the community of nations so that presumably in ten years they won't even want nukes to threaten others.

So naturally we have decided to arm Iran's Gulf Arab neighbors (even more) to the teeth because Iran probably isn't going to reform and in order to persuade these Arab states not to go nuclear in response:

“The U.S. is specifically looking at ways to expedite arms transfers to Arab states in the Persian Gulf and is accelerating plans for them to develop an integrated regional ballistic missile defense capability,” the Journal’s Carol Lee and Gordon Lubold reported Monday. The goal, they add, is to prevent the Saudis “from trying to match Tehran’s nuclear capabilities.”

As for the likelihood that the West will punish Iran for any violations?

In practice, the threat of the latter [Iran leaving the deal over a dispute over terms] will inevitably prevent the application of the former [reimposing sanctions over violations]. Iranian violations of the deal, especially if they are technical and incremental, will be tolerated for the sake of preserving the deal. Violations will be treated as differences of interpretation as to what the deal requires, or as arcane disputes over technical issues, or as responses to some Western provocation. Pretexts will be contrived to revise the deal to suit new and more expansive Iranian demands. Editorialists will enjoin “all parties” to reason and restraint.

Yes, that is predictable. Especially with Russia, China, and even France running interference for Iran. It will be the Saddam-era "oil for food" debacle enabled by he same suspects.

Yet this deal will still result in Nobel Peace Prizes being passed out like "Participation" ribbons at a pre-school soccer summer program.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Perhaps the Horse Will Sing

In one sense, the Iran deal could pay off for us, if Iran really doesn't go nuclear during the decade of the deal and if in that time Iran does change for the better. But those are big "ifs."

[A] historian named Herodotus, tells of a thief who was to be executed. As he was taken away he made a bargain with the king: in one year he would teach the king's favorite horse to sing hymns. The other prisoners watched the thief singing to the horse and laughed. "You will not succeed," they told him. "No one can." To which the thief replied, "I have a year, and who knows what might happen in that time. The king might die. The horse might die. I might die. And perhaps the horse will learn to sing.”SOURCE

Sometimes the only thing you can do when faced with a problem is buy time and hope for the best. As I've said before, appeasement can work if you cannot defeat the threat right now, remember that the end game is to eliminate the threat, and use the time you bought to gain the ability to defeat the threat.

President Obama clearly believes that the deal itself just buys time rather than solving the nuclear problem:

President Barack Obama almost came right out and said it: Under the terms of the nuclear deal reached in Vienna, by the time Iran could build a nuclear bomb again the country might be a very different place. ...

Gently, but unmistakably, Obama pointed at what more he believes could happen because of the process he started, off an idea that many Democrats (including his former secretary of state) and Republicans mocked as naïve and pointless.

He used a word from his campaign posters, a word that captured the idealism that got him elected in 2008 and the evoked the bitterness about his failed promises: “Our differences are real and the difficult history between our nations cannot be ignored. But it is possible to change,” he said, hitting the end of the sentence.

“This deal demonstrates that American diplomacy can bring about real and meaningful change,” he said, “change that makes our country and the world more secure.”

In some ways, the president's thinking about the diplomatic deal mirrors my thinking on the use of military force. I don't think wrecking Iran's nuclear infrastructure would stop Iran from going nuclear, but if it buys time it is good enough until we can support regime change. A non-nutball government with nukes is unpleasant but not highly threatening and a non-nutball government could decide the costs (money and diplomatic) aren't worth it.

Which is why I was extremely disappointed that President Obama refused to support Iran's Green Movement in 2009. A better government is the real solution to the Iran nuclear problem.

This nuclear deal is hope and change--[sarcasm]which worked so well at home[/sarcasm]--applied to foreign policy. The president hopes the deal--somehow--will lead to regime change. He has not remembered that Iran under the mullahs is a threat. And he doesn't seem committed to eventually defeating the threat when we can.

The president's diplomacy isn't bringing about real and meaningful change in Iran--his diplomacy seeks to buy time during which he hopes real and meaningful change will take place, somehow.

It's all based on a hope that President Obama has identified the right side of history and all we have to do is wait for the inevitable victory without having to do anything to achieve it.

Our president truly believes the horse will sing.

The problem is that the deal is also a ceasefire, much like the Syria WMD deal ended the threat of American strikes against Assad's forces. So Iran knows we won't strike Iran during the ten years. Iran has had their nuclear program legitimized by America and the United Nations, so how could we justify attacking it? Remember, we are held hostage to a deal and constrained, too.

So unless the president's bet on hope and change pays off, Iran simply has assurances of a decade of progress in mastering nuclear technology and total freedom to pursue nuclear weapons after that period.

And that assumes Iran doesn't cheat. Or if they don't cheat on the specific terms of the deal, the bet assumes that Iran doesn't have a nuclear option completely outside of the four corners of the deal.

Without this deal, we'd still be free to attack Iran's nuclear facilities with cyber or below-war threshold force and be free to choke off funding for nuclear programs and the regime.

And be free to really hammer them, which would limit Iran's actions to avoid that option.

We'd also be free to support anti-regime elements in a population that has better opinions of us than many of our allies.

The basic problem is that appeasement should only be used when we have no other choice. Only then is it a defensible approach to a problem. It truly should be the last option considered. We had other options, including doing nothing.

And now we have to worry that the horse will get nuclear weapons--and become the strong horse in the minds of young proto-jihadis, singing a song of power that we won't like one bit.

UPDATE: Victor Hanson has more on appeasement.

And from an unlikely source, a good argument against the nonsense that President Obama is like President Reagan in making deals with the Evil Empire, the Soviet Union:

Reagan’s insight was that it was possible to strike deals with Moscow on nuclear arms while simultaneously waging an uncompromising Cold War. Obama’s ideology, which he has applied to Cuba and Burma as well as Iran, is that the United States should seek not to defeat its adversaries, but to coax them into more cooperative behavior.

Yes. Reagan never forgot that the USSR was our enemy and that defeating them was the objective. Negotiations aimed at defeating the enemy were fine.

That's not what President Obama is doing. He is retreating before enemies and hoping for their gratitude and realization that they want to be good and not evil.

A Higher Authority

The Iran nuclear deal passed Kerry's "global test" so Congressional input is kind of pointless:

The United Nations Security Council on Monday endorsed a deal to curb Iran's nuclear program in return for sanctions relief, but it will be able to re-impose U.N. penalties during the next decade if Tehran breaches the historic agreement.

Which is designed to nullify Congressional input. Which despite comments that the deal tests Senate Democratic loyalty to the president, will see Democratic senators backing the deal with a choreographed precision that would make North Korean human pixels envious.

I'll be interested to see if Russia and China really back a "snapback" sanctions provision in the UNSC decision that apparently nullifies their Security Council veto. Or will they veto such a move--if we ever dare take that step--and declare that they are not bound by an illegal provision?

UPDATE: Despite carefully worded administration denials that there were secret side deals, there are secret side deals.

Still Fighting Saddam's Thugs

Saddam's evil regime continues to plague the Middle East.

Every once in a while you see a news article that highlights the fact that Saddam's thugs are a major part of ISIL's leadership, but it is rare to read about these "secular" thugs. Strategypage writes about it:

The growing number of ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) men who have been interrogated because they were captured, or deserted has provided a better picture of how ISIL is organized. Not surprisingly, given the number of ISIL leaders who once worked for Saddam Hussein, ISIL military organization is very similar to Saddam’s “Republic of Fear” of the 1990s. This includes having something every successful dictatorship has created; a "regime maintenance" force. For ISIL this is the Shield of Islam, a brigade of carefully selected (especially for loyalty), well-armed, well trained and well led men. The Shield of Islam protects ISIL leadership from unruly or dissenting ISIL members as well as hostile action by anyone else.

These people are still trying to rebuild their Sunni Arab dictatorship in Iraq. And if ISIL could defeat Iraq, the 4,000-man Shield of Islam would be the tool to enforce their rule once back in the palace. Saddam had his Republican Guards for this--and later the Special Republican Guard, when the Republican Guard was expanded in the late 1980s to be the army's mobile force.

And it is a little bit of karma in action that these Baathists are using Syrian territory to support that effort, using the jihadi pipeline that Syria set up to funnel terrorist jihadi recruits from the Moslem world into Iraq where they fought against us alongside Saddam's resistance. This effort has nearly wrecked the Assad regime that was a partner in this effort.

And remember this when you hear nonsensical charges that our overthrow of Saddam "created" ISIL. Saddam's evil continues to plague us.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The China Analogy Syndrome

Of course Fareed Zakaria attempts to compare the Iran deal with Nixon "going to China:"

But let’s recall what China looked like at the time Henry Kissinger went on his secret trip to Beijing in July 1971. Mao Zedong was, without question, the most radical anti-American leader in the world, supporting violent guerrilla groups across Asia and beyond. And while it didn’t chant “Death to America,” Beijing was the principal supporter of the North Vietnamese, sending them troops, supplies and funds to fight and kill American soldiers every day. China was also in the midst of the Cultural Revolution, one of the most barbaric periods of its modern history.

Initially, the opening to China changed none of this.

The comparison is ludicrous, as I've mentioned.

But even on Zakaria's terms, China's change to oppose the USSR required us to concede defeat in South Vietnam against China-supported North Vietnam--before focusing on the Soviet Union as a common enemy.

Pray tell, what do we have to lose in this revived diplomacy? Do we surrender to Iranian dominance in Iraq and Syria? Does the Persian Gulf become more than a geographic term?

China did not change with Nixon's effort. China used us to help protect them from the USSR as much as we used them to resist Moscow. China was a communist dictatorship that aligned with us against a common enemy, the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union is gone.

And today China is still a communist dictatorship--and siding with Russia to contain us--that has their much greater military power aimed at us, again.

And President Obama ordered a "pivot" to contain China.

Wow. Feel the reset.

And what's with this claim by Zakaria?

History suggests that as countries get more integrated into the world and the global economy, they have fewer incentives to be spoilers and more to maintain stability.

I'd be real curious to know what his examples from history are. Because China and Russia are more integrated into the world and global economy than ever before, and they seem to be willing to be spoilers who seek to make gains against the forces of stability.

If he's talking about Germany, Japan, and Italy, there was that little thing called "America defeating them and keeping troops on their soil until this day." Being integrated into the world economy was a byproduct of their defeat and not a cause of their ceasing to be spoilers to stability.

So if China's example is to be followed, at some point in the future Iran will still be a nutball mullah-run theocracy that hates us and has a much more powerful military to fight us.

But will we have defeated a bigger threat in the meantime which required Iranian help to cope with? I doubt that very much. So we get nothing but pleasant time with our heads stuck in the sand.

Feel the legacy!

Don't listen to Zakaria. His advice can only lead to disaster. As I've said more than once, the man couldn't find his own buttocks with both hands and a GPS signal.