Sunday, July 31, 2016

Trying to Cull One from the Herd

The Chinese think Australia is the weak link in the chain of nations that want to resist Chinese expansion into the South China Sea? Really?

Quick on the heels of bribing Cambodia into doing China's bidding in ASEAN (to mute any mention of China losing the case on their activities in the South China Sea), a Chinese newspaper calls on the government to target any Australian freedom of navigation mission in the South China Sea (a.k.a. the Chinese city of Sansha!):

China must take revenge and let it know it’s wrong. Australia’s power means nothing compared to the security of China. If Australia steps into the South China Sea waters, it will be an ideal target for China to warn and strike.

The paper's editorial called Australia a "paper cat" not even rising to the level of a "paper tiger."

Australia is made of sterner stuff, if Peking thinks they will bow to China. Have the Chinese heard of Gallipoli?

But Australia is far smaller than China. Australia needs friends. Especially America. Which is why building a military that complements the American military and can work with the American military is important.

Japan, India, Indonesia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, and the Philippines are also important to cultivate as friends in need.

And the power imbalance between Australia and China explains why Australia's defense plans to keep enemies away from the continent focus on submarines and land-based air power rather than surface warships that are more easily targeted and sunk by a larger, well-equipped foe.

Unsafe Haven

Libyan militias are still battling ISIL gunmen in Sirte, Libya:

Libyan forces made a fresh push on Friday to capture ground from Islamic State militants besieged in the center of their former North African stronghold of Sirte.

Nearly three months into a campaign to recapture the city, brigades mainly composed of fighters from nearby Misrata are waging sporadic street battles in residential areas where militants use snipers, mines and concealed explosives to defend their positions.

The brigades advanced rapidly on Sirte after launching a counter-attack against Islamic State in early May, but their progress has slowed as they close in on the city center.

Sirte is the headquarters of the Libya province of the caliphate and was once being prepped as a fall-back position for ISIL leadership should the main Islamic State go down.

By the time the Iraq province of the caliphate collapses after the liberation of Mosul, Libya won't be a good place to run to.

Which is good if it encourages ISIL forces looking to escape Iraq to go to Syria and fight Russians, Iranians, and Assad's loyalists, I suppose, in a grimly useful way of looking at things.

UPDATE: We helped out:

Today, at the request of the Libyan Government of National Accord, the U.S. military conducted precision airstrikes against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant targets in Sirte, Libya, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said in a news release.

Good. The Libya War isn't over, either, you know.

Looking Away Does Require Flexibility

So Democrats are arguing that a President Trump would roll over for Russia's ambitions?

Would Trump look the other way while Russia bombs civilians?

As evidence mounts that Russia is deliberately targeting civilians in Syria with cluster bombs and other anti-personnel weapons, what has long been a nagging question about Washington’s policy has now taken on real urgency: Why is there no comment from the U.S. government is to confirm or refute the allegations of war crimes?

Yeah. Providing Russia with that kind of "flexibility" would suck.

There are surely many arguments against a Trump Presidency. Insisting Hillary Clinton and the Democrats would be better on national security is not one of the arguments that can be made.

Enjoy Your Soy and Leave Me the Ef Alone

What is it with the leftist urge to order people around (for their own good, of course!)?

These people make me sick (tip to Instapundit):

Meat consumption in the United States — and across much of the Western world — has reached a level that is unsustainable, both for our planet and for our health. We owe it to ourselves to make a change. Our politicians owe it to us to enable that change.

We shouldn't like meat as much as we do. Eating less meat will save the planet, she says. And our government must help us save ourselves and save the planet. Thanks a bunch Ms. Wellesley, you proto-fascist.

And here is where we get the bloody giveaway about pining for the firm "guiding" hand of government to force enable us make that change!

Last month, the world’s most populous country, China, took an important step in addressing the population’s increasingly unhealthy meat-eating habits, introducing national dietary guidelines that recommend a daily meat intake half that of current consumption levels.

Ah yes, the appeal of "reasonably enlightened" autocrats who will help us enable the change to less meat in our diet. Indeed, we deserve that help!

It always starts with "educating" us about "better" choices and always seems to end with forcing us to make the choices our leftist brethren think are better:

It's a familiar script. Our leftist betters identify something that people stupidly do. Then they attempt to educate us about that bad thing. When that doesn't reduce that bad thing enough, they agitate for laws that raise the cost of doing that bad thing. And then when that doesn't do the trick, they seek to ban that bad thing.

Funny enough, none of the things they like to do ever count as bad things.

Oh, and then they try to require us to do the "good" thing with the ultimate option of having government prevent us from making bad choices and making us make good choices.

So thanks to this research associate for attempting to educate us about the evils of too-high meat consumption. Your concerns are duly noted.

Now back off from your fantasies of autocrats forcing us to savor the joys of kale versus the planet-killing burgers we seem to like.

We are free people and we will choose. Not you and not our government.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Good News and Bad News

The failed coup in NATO member Turkey and the ongoing successful purge of any source of resistance to Erdogan leaves us with good news and bad news about Turkey.

First the bad news:

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will have talks with Vladimir Putin in Russia next month amid a rapid warming in relations following the failed military coup in Turkey.

Russia “isn’t just our close and friendly neighbor, but also a strategic partner,” Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek, who announced the Aug. 9 visit, said at talks in Moscow with his Russian counterpart Arkady Dvorkovich on Tuesday.

Wonderful, so the special relationship our president tried to forge with Islamist-leaning Erdogan has resulted in a reset with Russia.

Still, there is good news given this pending reset:

"The Turkish military is now a broken force and it will take years for it to heal," said Aaron Stein, resident fellow at the Washington-based Atlantic Council, whose research focuses on Turkey and regional security.

So at least the Turkish military can't be much of an asset for Russia in future years if Erdogan decides to go full rogue:

Erdogan’s pivot to Russia is the latest indicator of the ruins of U.S. foreign policy. In President Obama’s original strategy of bringing peace to the Middle East and marginalizing terror by reaching out to democratic Islamists, Turkey’s Erdogan was supposed to play a major role. Indeed, Obama was widely reported to have spent more time on the phone with him than with any world leader.

I'm confused. Is this the "restoring our relations with the world" part of the Obama presidency or the "hope and change" schtick?

And Assad sleeps better at night now, knowing that even the remote threat of Turkey intervening directly in the Syrian Civil War is far more remote.

UPDATE: Strategytalk addressed Turkey and the coup. Listen here.

Reach Out and Kill Someone

As Islamist terrorism strikes Western cities again and again, let's remember how President Obama came into office pledging to end this threat.

Lest we forget:

When President Obama entered office, he dreamed that his hope-and-change messaging and his references to his familial Islamic roots would win over the Muslim world. The soon-to-be Nobel Peace Prize laureate would make the U.S. liked in the Middle East. Then, terrorism would decrease.

What is really amazing is that President Obama and his panty-flinging fanboys (and girls) actually believed that a nice outreach speech, dining on dog cuisine in Indonesia as a lad, and the middle name "Hussein" would work to disarm jihadi anger, when in fact any little thing sets those whackjob murderers off.

In reality, there is only one way to make good jihadis--kill them.

UPDATE: I will say that this is a hopeful sign that we can help Moslems reject the jihadi vision for their religion:

Muslims in France and Italy flocked to Mass on Sunday, a gesture of interfaith solidarity following a drumbeat of jihadi attacks that threatens to deepen religious divisions across Europe.

Moslems aren't the enemy in the war on terror. They are the objective in the civil war within Islam for how Moslems will define their religion.

The Two-Step Shuffle

The Air Force has a two-step plan to replace the A-10 with a world-class ground support plane!

The U.S. Air Force is contemplating pursuing a low-end, light attack “OA-X” aircraft to augment the A-10 Warthog in a close-air support (CAS) role, while simultaneously aiming for a more robust replacement, dubbed “A-X2,” down the [road.]

Ah, the Air Force now has a plan to bridge the awkward gap between spending real money on A-X2 and sending the last A-10 to the scrap yard:

But really, think of this Air Force plan for replacing the A-10 with another dedicated ground support plane as an interim solution.

The plan will exist in the awkward period between their plan to retire the A-10 and the actual retirement of the A-10 (with the razing to the ground and salting of the earth stuff that will follow).

Once the A-10 is retired and safely in the rear view mirror, the Air Force will quietly shelve the plan for a replacement for the A-10 and get on with their plans that don't seem to involve helping ground forces defeat the enemies in front of them.

Now the Air Force can start sending the A-10 to Valhalla before a new capable plane is within reach by sending in a cheap interim plane to symbolize Air Force commitment to ground support.

This comment by the Secretary of the Air Force is revealing:

While some Air Force officials have begun thinking about replacing the A-10 Warthog, including a new proposal that would involve buying two aircraft types, the service's top civilian leader on Tuesday questioned the affordability of such an endeavor. ...

"So far I have read about this in the news. I have not actually seen a proposal on any of this that has come forward to me. So it sure is pre-decisional. It hasn't been decided on,” she said. “Where would we get the money? Not at all clear to me.”

In reality, the question of money is moot. The plan is all smoke and mirrors to achieve the disappearance of the A-10 while audiences look on in awe.

Little money will be spent on the super awesome A-X2; the A-10 will be retired and scrapped; the small OA-X force will be quietly sold off; and the multi-role F-35 (with expert pilots and support crews previously dedicated to close air support turned into multi-role air power crews, losing the experience built up over decades) will be touted as the ground support solution.

And the Air Force will proceed as they planned, paying little attention to ground force fire support needs.

Friday, July 29, 2016

This Time, Take Vienna

The Israelis believe that the next war with Hezbollah will be tougher than the last one in 2006. I think it is a window of opportunity to fight better and really tear up Hezbollah's armed forces.

So will the next war with Hezbollah really be tougher for Israel?

Hezbollah is now a regional military power, a cross-border strike force, with thousands of soldiers hardened by four years of fighting on Syrian battlefields on behalf of President Bashar al-Assad. There are 7,000 Hezbollah fighters in Syria, Israeli commanders say.

Hezbollah troops have been schooled by Iranian commanders, funded by Tehran and have learned to use, in combat, some of the most sophisticated armaments available, such as fourth-generation Kornet guided anti-tank missiles. They pilot unmanned aircraft and fight alongside artillery and tanks. They have taken rebel-held villages with Russian air support.

More than 1,000 Hezbollah fighters have died, the Israelis say; they do not describe Hezbollah as “demoralized” but “tested.”

“In 2006, Hezbollah fought a guerrilla war. Today, Hezbollah is like a conventional army,” said Elias Hanna, a retired Lebanese army general who teaches at the American University of Beirut.

The Hezbollah rocket threat is the catalyst for a terrible war:

Ten years ago, Hezbollah fired 4,000 short-range, relatively crude rockets at Israel, about 100 a day, killing some 50 Israeli civilians. Today, the group has 100,000 rockets, including thousands of more accurate mid-range weapons with larger warheads capable of striking anywhere in Israel, including Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, according to Israeli army commanders and military analysts in Israel and Lebanon.

Israel can't stop these rockets with their Iron Dome or other defenses (see here). Eventually the Israelis will run out of ammo and the Hezbollah rockets will keep flying. Defenses within Israel can only buy time for Israel to destroy the Hezbollah rocket arsenal. So yeah, anyone around them will be in a world of hurt:

When Israeli army commanders describe how the next war against Hezbollah could unfold, they often search for words not used in military manuals. The future conflict, they warn, will be “ferocious” and “terrible.”

For both sides, the Israelis fear.

Yet far worse for Hezbollah and the civilians of Lebanon, they promise.

While I keep reading that Israel has greatly improved their ability to hit targets from the air, this continues the basic error of 2006. I think the aerial focus was the problem in the 2006 war and turning the aerial campaign to 11 is the wrong lesson.

I think the Israelis need to send in the ground troops to occupy the rocket launching areas and drive north into Hezbollah's rear areas to really tear up Hezbollah.

And the talk of Hezbollah being tested by their four years of war in Syria is only partially true.

One, the death toll is pretty high for the force involved. A thousand dead in four years with a force of 7,000 committed. Say a rate of 3.6% of the force per year.

We suffered about 4,500 dead out of a force of about 140,000 over 5 years of major fighting. That's a rate of about 0.6% per year.

Despite the talk of our Army breaking during the war, our ground forces really were tested. I wouldn't bet that Hezbollah is tested as much as it is exhausted, even if it isn't demoralized.

As for the experience Hezbollah has gained in Syria?

Yes, those who survive are combat experienced. But the experience is in fighting insurgents and light infantry with plenty of firepower helping them. That doesn't automatically translate into a better ability to fight Israelis who will be the side with the firepower support from tanks, artillery, and air power.

Our "tested" Army is refocusing on conventional combat and our combat veterans are learning that experience fighting insurgent light infantry is way different than fighting conventional enemies:

The military calls this pre-2001 style training “near-peer” (against someone who has similar weapons and abilities) warfare. That means many Army veterans of ten years’ service, including several years in a combat zone, are now, for the first time learning how to deal with a near-peer foe. It’s an unsettling experience, especially in the U.S. Army, which uses some very realistic training methods. The realistic training these troops had used for years for learning how to cope with ambushes, raids and roadside bombs now involves dealing with enemy tanks, guided missiles and aircraft. It’s scary stuff for a veteran of combat in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Once retrained to fight conventional foes, that combat experience in different kinds of fighting will pay off because our troops will not face the shock of combat that non-combat veterans experience.

Hezbollah will face the same problem in a war with Israel.

But if Israel can move fast while Hezbollah has to redeploy from Syria to southern Lebanon, Israel could kill a lot of those forces before they can transition from a force experienced in fighting a relatively poorly equipped enemy to being the relatively poorly equipped force.

Syria will be in no position to intervene to save Hezbollah, which would have been a brake on Israeli action in the past.

Oh, and that regional power comment is just silly. Hezbollah has sent a few thousand light infantry (recently reinforced with tanks, perhaps to reduce casualties) to a neighboring country to function as the shock troops of Assad, where the Iranians funded and trained them and where the Syrian army and now the Russians likely take care of logistics. Regional cannon fodder is more like it.

And yes, Lebanese civilians will suffer terribly because their country will be the battlefield in a war they would rather take a pass on. But that is Hezbollah's choice.

Israel should choose to make the war terrible and ferocious for Hezbollah and drive all the way to Baalbek to inflict a serious defeat on the terror organization that serves as Iran's foreign legion.

Sometimes Things Change

The North Koreans are known for their insults, threats, and actual murderous attacks to punctuate their language with Dead South Koreans Theater. But for decades now--six decades actually--the whackjobs in Pyongyang haven't tried to invade South Korea. That doesn't mean they will never invade--even when the odds are stacked against them.

We have more threats from the north:

North Korea's top diplomat for U.S. affairs told The Associated Press Thursday that Washington "crossed the red line" and effectively declared war by putting leader Kim Jong Un on its list of sanctioned individuals, and said a vicious showdown could erupt if the U.S. and South Korea hold annual war games as planned next month.

The North Koreans do seem peeved:

"The Obama administration went so far to have the impudence to challenge the supreme dignity of the DPRK in order to get rid of its unfavorable position during the political and military showdown with the DPRK," Han said, using the acronym for North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

"The United States has crossed the red line in our showdown," he said. "We regard this thrice-cursed crime as a declaration of war."

After all, our recent sanctions target the Pillsbury Nuke Boy. Now it is personal.

So at what point does ignoring North Korean threats as more of the same miss preparations for war?

It is no good to say that North Korea would be mad to go to war since they would lose. Their calculations may be different than ours.

The North Korean rulers may believe that a good sharp blow struck at Seoul under the shield of claimed nuclear deterrence will "teach us a lesson" and get us to open up the spigots to supplying the northern regime with goodies rather than risk another strike.

Maybe the north sees a 100% chance of collapse unless they roll the dice with war. Maybe the North Koreans believe that if they use enough poison gas they can road march into Seoul with their own ramshackle army over the corpses of South Korean soldiers.

Heck, the North Korean regime, unable to pay for their huge military and worried it could be a threat to the regime, might even see some benefit of sending the army to die in large numbers at our hands to cull their numbers to a more manageable level to feed and control? They're that sick, I think, to make that type of calculation.

Things are changing up north in ways that should cause the North Korean elites to lose sleep at night.

And thinking that nations make rational decisions--or that we understand what others define as rational--is a potentially deadly error:

In a sane world, it would be utter folly for ISIS to try to repeat a 9/11-like terrorist attack. It makes little sense for Russia to annex the Baltic states in the manner of Crimea. It would be stupid for China to prompt a sea or air fight with Japan or Taiwan. Nonetheless, all these powers may convince themselves the perceived benefits outweigh the costs. ...

We should be careful this anniversary year. War starts when weak but aggressive nations are deluded into believing that they are powerful — and wrongly conclude that the truly strong and rational are somehow weak.

I just worry that we could be drifting to war with North Korea by inattention even as we focus (if that word means anything with so much to do) on the western Pacific, the Middle East, Afghanistan, and eastern Europe (with a nervous glance at Venezuela teetering on the edge of collapse).

And for bonus fun, could China's efforts to harness nationalism in support of Chinese Communist Party rule forever and without check backfire and lead the Chinese people to demand China intervene to save North Korea from the hated Japanese, South Koreans, and Americans in a war that North Korea starts?

UPDATE: We aren't buckling to North Korean threats:

U.S. Army Secretary Eric Fanning said Saturday that annual military drills between the United States and South Korea would go ahead next month, despite North Korea's warning of a "vicious" showdown if the war games proceed.


But by all means be ready in case this time North Korea makes good on its rhetoric. Because sometimes things change.

Magical Thinking

Proper thinking Californians spent decades coasting on the efforts of their predecessors who built energy and water infrastructure, demonizing efforts to build more for a growing population in an effort to signal their virtue in rejecting such awful "anti-green" projects. Through it all, in an exercise in magical thinking, Californians expected the water and energy to flow freely. Somehow.

And now they've run out of other people's infrastructure for both.

Despite unsustainable borrowing.

Behold the reality stick about to strike. How splendid.

UPDATE: Faith in central planning has to take a hit when the planners are dumb as rocks.

Yeah, who would have guessed that thinking like that would lead to San Francisco being a city where only the fantastically wealthy or desperately poor can live, with middle class people priced out.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Urban Birds

I don't know why, but it always cracks me up when I see how animals adapt to urban environments.

Although for me, nothing beats birds using wires as feet warmers in the winter or squirrels using wires as bridges to cross roads.

What Were Our Assumptions in 2003?

In an otherwise interesting post on logistics, Strategypage has an aside about our military's assumption about the projected pace of the 2003 invasion. I'm rather stunned at the pessimism.


In 2003, most divisions marched, and often fought, nearly over 600 kilometers in 23 days. That's a remarkable campaign by any standard compared to other operations in the past century. ...

The original plan called for it taking about 125 days to advance on Baghdad and take it. Good military planning always starts with the worst case, and 125 days of fighting was as bad as anyone thought it could get. The coalition force was well trained, professional and well led, and prepared to take advantage of enemy mistakes and weaknesses. Thus the ability to quickly turn the 125 day plan into a 23 day one.

How "original" are we talking? The post-1991 plan sitting in a file gathering dust? Because I find it hard to believe that we seriously considered that it could take 125 days to reach Baghdad.

From my figurative basement clad in my figurative pajamas, I assumed we could achieve a rapid advance:

Overall, the antidote to Iraqi defenses is speed. We may not be able to afford a leisurely 37-day bombardment before we send the troops into Iraq. It all depends on whether the Iraqis actually do just sit and take it or manage some surprises as I've suggested. If they really do fight dumb, we can afford a little more time to soften them up. Still, it would be better to get it over fast. A lot of things can happen if enough time passes. A lot of those things can be bad for us. Push north, bypassing resistance and pummeling those bypassed with artillery and air power. Drive on Baghdad and try to bounce it before the Iraqis get set to defend it. I know the 2001 QDR says we no longer need to fight and win two nearly simultaneous major theater wars, but do the North Koreans agree? Let's not give them the time to mull that one over.

To paraphrase Napoleon, if we're going to take Baghdad, take Baghdad.

That was July 2002. I wasn't specific, but the thrust was clear: drive fast on Baghdad and try to take it on the run rather than settle in for a siege and deliberate assault.

The next month I was more specific:

One week of air strikes. Then a ground invasion that takes us a week to get to Baghdad. Then Lord knows. Could be easy or hard at that point. I don’t doubt we will be victorious, however. Just the time and cost is a question.

My views on how the campaign would unfold changed as the months before the invasion actually kicked off. Some of the assumptions are interesting to read now.

But I was consistent in thinking that we would drive fast to Baghdad, which we did in about a week before we paused to resupply and reform after the rapid drive north while repelling ferocious but ill-led Fedayeen attacks on our flank.

And we did bounce the capital when the Thunder Run showed the defenders to be fanatical but unable to stop us (and I continue to wonder why a movie hasn't been made about the battles at Larry, Curly, and Moe).

Of course, since the Russians leaked our plans to Saddam, perhaps this explains why Saddam thought he could survive our invasion (although Saddam expected--as I did!--that we'd have a major advance out of Jordan).

Perhaps Saddam thought he could have four months to shape the news coverage while secure in fortress Baghdad that we'd approach cautiously. With four months to conduct irregular warfare in the south with his Fedayeen and Baath Party operatives he could bleed us; and by conducting dead baby parades he could bleed international support for the invasion before it could penetrate Baghdad and end his regime.

Anyway, even though the "original" plan may have figured a war could go to four months to reach Baghdad, I sincerely doubt that by the time the offensive kicked off that we really believed the advance would take that long.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Tethered Wolf

First we had "lone wolf" terrorists operating on their own without foreign Islamist direction. Then we had "known wolf" terrorists committing terror despite being on the radar screen of government security organizations. Now we have the "tethered wolf:"

The Islamic State group said that two of its "soldiers" stormed a church in northern France and slit an elderly priest's throat on Tuesday, the latest attack in a country shaken to its core by repeated terror strikes.

In a revelation likely to fuel further questions about security failings in France, investigators revealed one of the attackers had been charged with terror links and was wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet after being released on bail.

What's the point of having a state of emergency if suspected terrorists are free to behead elderly French priests?

Jes suis screwed.

So Many Have Died, But This One Lives?

How this three-time insurrectionist is still alive to foment unrest for a fourth try is beyond me:

Powerful Shi'ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr instructed his followers on Sunday to target U.S. troops deploying to Iraq as part of the military campaign against Islamic State. ...

Sadr, who rose to prominence when his Mahdi Army battled U.S. troops after the 2003 invasion, posted the comments on his official website after a follower asked for his response to the announcement.

Iran's Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guards Corps) has their arm so far up Sadr's butt that they can brush Sadr's teeth from the inside.

I've long said we will regret letting this breathing piece of garbage walk free and we may yet see that SOB wreck Iraq.

In case Sadr is unclear, one of his lackeys upped the ante:

A few days later, an official spokesman for Sadr’s militia, Alaa Abboud, echoed the threat.

“We are thirsty for Americans’ blood,” Abboud told a prominent Iraqi television news channel.

But we say we aren't concerned about rhetoric.

We damned well should be considering Sadr's record of fighting us and his close ties to Iran.

We will regret letting this man live. He is dangerous.

'Til the Tuesday After the First Monday in November

The Democratic National Committee put down the Sanders revolt and forced Bernie to bend the knee.

But the supporters of Bernie Sanders who fell in love with that cranky socialist are a little shell-shocked from the abuse they received from Hillary during the process, and many aren't in the mood to fall in line and become cogs in the Hillary! machine.

Remember, Hillary wants you. But only some of the time:

She wants you. If she can keep you in line.

Hush, hush. Keep it down now. Voices carry.

It's as If Freedom and Liberty are Important

 Perhaps there is a reason for this?

Republicans own the words "freedom" and "liberty," and their ability to take control over those and other terms reveals how successful the GOP is at "framing" political issues, the New York Times reported this weekend.

"[T]he right has been more successful than the left at framing issues related to abortion, health care, labor unions and the concept of government itself, among other issues, with carefully contrived catchphrases," the Times' Julie Bosman reported this weekend, citing University of California, Berkeley, professor George Lakoff.

Ah, professors. So many degrees. So little sense.

The Left is doing its best to recast words like "free" for Newspeak, no doubt. I guess they are getting all sad-faced for not succeeding yet.

That's okay. Democrats own the words "do what you're told" and "shut up."

So there you go.

When I read junk like this, I can almost understand why Maoists sent intellectuals to the farms to do labor during the Chinese Cultural Revolution.

Tip to Instapundit.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

You Go to November With the Candidate You Have

I've never had to vote against a presidential candidate as opposed to voting for a candidate--even if I lacked a lot of enthusiasm for Dole. This year I get to experience this kind of choice.

I'm not alone, it seems:

In a campaign between two candidates neither of whom a quarter of Americans say they like, it seems apparent this race will come down to whom they dislike less and whom they trust to be president — despite their personal distaste. But while many Americans will basically have to vote for someone they dislike, there are degrees of dislike. And voting for someone you strongly dislike is a much tougher haul.

Which brings us to this: Nearly half of registered voters strongly dislike Hillary Clinton, and nearly half of registered voters strongly dislike Donald Trump. As we noted for Clinton, it's 47 percent. For Trump, it's 49 percent. A virtual tie. That suggests getting majority support — or close to it — as most presidential elections have required will be a struggle for both major-party candidates this year.

Yes, I strongly dislike Donald Trump. I've made no secret of that fact even before this campaign season. I despise him and have zero respect for him.

But I don't fear Trump. He's a clown. Even on that metric, will he do more damage to the dignity of the office than the current president who let a woman famous for eating cereal out of her own bathtub (while in it) interview him in his reelection campaign? I think not. Bounce the rubble, Donald.

As I said, I don't fear Trump. Sure, liberals call him a fascist--just like they've called every other Republican of any stature over the years. Cry "wolf!" for this long and you lose credibility.

And have no doubt that the press, the permanent bureaucracy, and the other branches of government will constrain Trump if he goes off the rails.

But Hillary? She's the head of a criminal family. I truly fear Hillary Clinton's ability to finish off rule of law in this country by entrenching corruption in our government. Selling the Lincoln bedroom? Chump change. The Lincoln Monument will be up for sale and everything else in D.C., too.

Shoot, even the left-winger Bernie fans are with the Trump fans on Hillary! and her schemes.

A healthy nation would have rejected Trump, it is true. But a nation willing to elect the corrupt Hillary Clinton whose record (a long tradition of existence) should disqualify her for even the most entry level national security job let alone the presidency of the United States is no sign of health.

So I will vote against Hillary Clinton by voting for Donald Trump.

Although Trump doesn't make it easy.

Yet Hillary! has such a long history of avoiding the truth that even Trump has yet to make it impossible.

Besides, Hillary! is dangerously entangled with the Russians, too.

I did not get the candidate I wished to have (any of them). I just have the candidates we have. I do have a choice. And I've made it.

Any other vote or non-vote (and while I respect the sincerity of Republicans who say that they cannot in good conscience vote for either, my feeling is that not voting for Trump is as close to voting for Hillary as you can get without actually pulling the lever)  just hands the reins of power to a woman who makes Circei Lannister seem like a good alternative.

Tell me you doubt Hillary Clinton is willing to burn everything down around her to save her own skin and her family slush fund foundation?

And no, it doesn't matter what the definition of "is" is.

[Oh, and here's bonus video of Bernie Sanders losing the nominating battle with Hillary.]

UPDATE: And yes, as an abstract issue, it is good that a woman has earned the nomination of a major party. If little girls draw inspiration and confidence from that, that's a good thing.

The same is true of Barack Obama's nomination. But like Obama, I am truly sorry that Clinton has made history. We could have used much better than Obama and we could use much better than Clinton for setting history.

The first Clown American is obviously fitting, of course.

UPDATE: I can hope that the final act of the Clinton Crime Family saga is yet to be written:

For now, the Clintons again have avoided the final wages of the classical sequence of overweening greed (koros) leading to arrogance and disdain (hubris) descending into a sort of recklessness (ate) and ultimately earning divine retribution (nemesis). But the tragedian Sophocles reminds us that for such people there is never self-reflection or enough money — and thus nemesis is still on the Clinton horizon.

Hillary could yet win. Her supporters who don't care about her corruption may prove to be enough to send her to the White House.

Which would demonstrate that absolute power corrupts (supporters of the corrupt) absolutely.

I Miss Armored Cavalry

In the past, recon units in peacetime tend to lighten up in armor and firepower, on the theory that scout vehicles should be "agile" and able to scoot in, have a look, and get out. Force-on-force combat tends to undermine that theory and lead to recon units adding firepower and armor until they look suspiciously like line combat units because it turns out that recon units usually have to fight to get close enough to have a look and survive that mission.

There is an effort in the Army to provide more firepower to our scout units:

Scouts need a specialized vehicle with enough firepower to destroy enemy recon formations, a point that [LTG] McMaster continues to emphasize.

"To overmatch that enemy in those encounter actions, you need some firepower," McMaster told the audience after watching the devastating effects of 30mm ammunition on rusted-out tanks down range.

"We are facing threats, enemies and adversaries who have watched us very closely in recent years and have adapted their capabilities and developed new capabilities that have resulted in our forces in the future potentially losing our ability to overmatch the enemy in close combat."

Personally, I'd have scout units equipped with tanks and cavalry fighting vehicles as the core. This light stuff is fine for battling insurgents when we also have uncontested air space to fly recon drones. It won't cut it when we are up against enemy heavy formations in the Suwalki Gap or further north in the Baltic NATO states.

I really miss our armored cavalry regiments and the squadrons that we had in our divisions. Our current scout formations seem like little more than glorified forward observers.

But hey, up-gunning the scouts is at least a start.

Reality is Dangerous Enough

One author notes the reality of Russian reorganization that some in the West have portrayed as both an increase in Russian troop strength and forward deployment against the Baltic states.

Russia is reorganizing but not increasing their army:

In military reforms initiated in 2008, Russia abandoned the division level in favor of smaller and more rapidly deployable brigades. Now, they are returning to the division structure, which indicates that the Russian leadership assesses the chances for a mid- to large-scale military conflict as more possible. This fact alone should cause concern.

However, that does not mean that Russia is creating additional forces. What is known is that already existing and deployed brigades will be merged to form two new divisions in the Western Military District and one in the Southern Military District. Furthermore, two brigades, currently stationed in the Central Military District, will be put under the control of the newly formed command structure.

It is not true is that that at least one of the divisions will be moved close to the Baltics. One will be stationed in Novocherkassk (Oblast Rostov), close to Mariupol, one in Boguchar (Oblast Voronezh) and Valuyki (Oblast Belgorod), north of Ukraine, and one in Yelnya (Oblast Smolensk), east of Belarus. Neither the Kaliningrad nor the Pskov oblasts, bordering Poland and the Baltics has (so far) seen a permanent build-up of Russian tanks and armored combat vehicles.

Which is what I thought when the reports of new Russian divisions being sent to their western front came out (and in an update, Strategypage confirmed that no new troops were involved).

Links in that post note the locations that seem far from the Baltics and that the Russians at least believe a bigger war is possible, requiring controlling army headquarters.

I note these things because it is good to have reassurance that I don't just repeat convenient news without judging it on its merits and whether it makes sense. It would have been easy to do what the media reports did and at least imply that the Russians are building up forces on the border with the NATO Baltic states. That did not seem to be the case, and that's what I wrote about.

The reality of Russia's actual military moves belies Moscow's propaganda claims that NATO itself is dangerously massing troops in the Baltics. What we have is a trip wire of up to 4,000 troops:

President Barack Obama said the United States would deploy about 1,000 soldiers in Poland under the plan "to enhance our forward presence in central and eastern Europe". Germany will lead the battalion in Lithuania, Britain in Estonia and Canada in Latvia. Other nations such as France will supply troops.

The units in the Baltic states will be multi-national while the American battalion in Poland will be a pure American unit because it represents an existing plan to put an American brigade there if needed:

The official said the United States ended up with the Poland assignment in part because it already had committed to putting the headquarters of the armored combat brigade team here and Poland has the necessary infrastructure.

I'm assuming that we will have equipment for the balance of the brigade placed there. So REFORPOL is beginning.

Russia implicitly agrees that our plans are no threat to Russia given that their troops are not heading to defend St. Petersburg.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Are You Freaking Kidding Me?

Islamists have the job of screening refugees for resettlement in the West. Seriously.

Well, this certainly explains a lot:

There are other reasons why Western nations are increasingly reluctant to accept refugees from Moslem nations, especially Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq. One reason is that the UN has shown itself incapable of screening out refugees likely to be Islamic terrorists or supporters of Islamic terrorism. Then there is the fact that the UN rarely recommends Syrian and Iraqi Christian refugees for resettlement in the West despite the fact that these non-Moslem refugees have the most to fear from Islamic terrorism. The United States also noted that among the first thousand Middle Eastern refugees it accepted only two were Christian and all the rest were Moslem. Further investigation (often by journalists or other non-government groups) found that the UN run refugee camps were dominated by Islamic radicals who not only persecuted non-Moslem refugees but coerced the UN officials to select refugees for resettlement that were approved by the Islamic radical thugs. Refugee camps worldwide, whether they are administered by the UN or not, tend to be terrorized by local criminals and when Moslem refugees are the majority the gangs tend to be run by Islamic terrorists or other Islamic radicals. These groups control the selection of refugees for admission to Western nations despite the fact that the camp administrators assure Western nations that the refugees they recommend are screened to eliminate criminals and Islamic terrorists. In fact the gangs that dominate the camps often sell “approval” to refugees who can pay, even if the payment is supplied by criminal gangs or Islamic terror groups. [emphasis added]

If you don't read Strategypage every day, you really should.


It's kind of funny, really. President Obama has very much wanted to pull American military power out of the Middle East as part of his legacy.

But rather than support Israel as a pillar of stability, we have undermined Israel.

Rather than support the fledgling Iraqi democracy to build it into a pillar of stability, we walked away and watched Iraq disintegrate.

We have tried to turn mullah-run Shia Iran into a responsible regional power to provide stability by green-lighting their eventual nuclear weapons status (and Iran's smuggling efforts show that "eventual" isn't soon enough for them).

The Arabs were expected to go along and shut up, kept quiet with large arms sales (intended to block Iran).

We embraced the "tame" Islamist Erdogan of Turkey to provide stability from the Sunni side.

And we hoped we could deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan and so stabilize that region.

But it isn't working out.

Iran under the mullahs is no friend, seeks nuclear missiles, and foments unrest.

Turkey under Erdogan is no friend and post-coup attempt no bastion of stability.

And non-reset Russia is making trouble in the Middle East, with spillover in Europe.

So instead of being able to pull out of the Middle East and enjoy the peace and stability, we have had to get more involved again as the death toll continues to rise.

We are in Iraq War 2.0.

We are at war in Syria. 

We've scaled back plans to get out of the Afghanistan War.

We support Arab states waging war in Yemen against pro-Iranian Shias. And we continue to strike al Qaeda there.

We continue to strike jihadis in Pakistan.

We are getting more involved in Libya's civil strife (and ISIL presence).

We have sent troops to bolster Jordan (and fight ISIL in Syria).

And this is called "smart diplomacy" which will define a presidential legacy.

Indeed it will.

Warning Shot

I think the notion that WikiLeaks disclosure of DNC emails shows that Putin favors Trump is nonsense.

Putin has much worse information from Hillary's personal server used while she was secretary of state, and this DNC mail leak is just a shot across the bow by Putin to warn Hillary to provide "flexibility" for Russia as president if she wants to avoid even worse information coming out that might keep her from the White House.

Would an old KGB hand like Putin really do something supposedly pro-Trump when it is so obviously traceable to him?

Isn't it more likely that by seeming to attack Hillary that Putin is hoping for a backlash against Trump as the candidate of Putin--as Hillary Clinton's supporters are already claiming?

Which would mean that Putin would rather have Clinton in the White House.

As long as the Clintons pay the protection money in currency Putin demands--flexibility in bending to Moscow's objectives. 

So while talk of Trump being pro-Putin and Trump's failure to appreciate the value of NATO are disturbing, I at least believe Trump can be persuaded by the rest of our government and military to fall more within the lanes of our foreign policy when faced with the reality of Russian actions.

Hillary can be blackmailed by Putin, and I don't think persuasion will affect that kind of control.


So it seems possible, and maybe even likely, that our two main choices in November will be a woman who’s subject to blackmail by the Russians, and a man who generally sympathizes with the Russians. That’s good news for Putin, but probably not such good news for the rest of us.

Maybe, Professor Reynolds writes, the media will support Clinton in denying any damning Putin leaks, making them harmless; or maybe Trump will change his mind when briefed.

Have a super sparkly day.

UPDATE: Bonus what-makes-Democrats-mad territory:

Let’s face it: Democrats don’t distrust Moscow for their militarism, their occupation of Crimea, their threats to NATO or their cooperation with the Iranians and Syrians. The Democrats are finally angry at Vladimir Putin and Russia because they think they’ve done something to help the real enemy, the Republican nominee.

I hope nobody tells the Democrats that the Russians have single-gender bathrooms--the Dems might put the bombers in the air!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Gift of Time

It may seem like I complain a lot about how long it is taking to eject ISIL from Iraq. But my reason is that by taking so long to defeat a clearly inferior enemy trying to hold territory, we grant our enemy the precious gift of time.

Yes, one aspect of granting our enemies time is the carnage in cities as ISIL is able to plan or just inspire terror attacks against Westerners.

But we also ensure that we'll be facing more jihadis long after we crush the caliphate, as information we've gained from ISIL indicates, according to a Defense Department briefing:

We've mentioned recently the significant amount of intelligence about Daesh that has come out of the Mara operation so far -- or the Manbij operations so far. More than 10,000 items, including more than four terabytes of digital information, have been seized and are being examined to exploit the information.

We are learning more about Daesh at all levels from this. On a broad scale, we see Daesh has plans to insert their personnel into every facet of people's lives, as one would expect a totalitarian state to do.

We've learned about how they organize their governance structures to ensure they can completely control all aspects of daily life, from religious practice, to education to tax collection and management of central services.

We also see indoctrination of the young by rewriting text books with the language of hate for those not following the prescribed Daesh way of life written into it. [emphasis added]

That control of daily life for the last two years will indoctrinate a lot of impressionable minds in Iraq.

Yes, many around the world and in Iraq will find their faith in the ultimate victory of the caliphate weaken when the caliphate is shut down.

But some number who have been indoctrinated in Iraq will continue to wage their jihad after ISIL is defeated in Mosul.

Heck, by granting our enemy the precious gift of time, it isn't just longer range problems we are creating. ISIL might even come up with ways to prevent the fall of the caliphate.

Like that shaky dam upriver of Baghdad.

Because we've granted ISIL the precious gift of time.

UPDATE: I'm just happy that something can get the Obama administration to have a little more sense of urgency:

Some U.S. officers in Baghdad believe the Obama administration is rushing plans for a Mosul offensive so it takes place before the November presidential election, a retired general says.

If the offensive to take Mosul back from ISIL starts by November, it will have taken almost as long to launch that offensive as it did to build a military and then launch the D-Day offensive following Pearl Harbor! This is rushing things??!!

I'm with this officer:

Col. Garver said Army Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, the in-country commander, wants to accelerate the timeline to increase pressure on an enemy that has lost territory. The Islamic State retreated from three major towns in Iraq — Tikrit, Ramadi and Fallujah — as well as from territory close to Raqqa, its so-called capital in Syria.

“When you have an opponent on the ropes, you don’t let him off the ropes; you press the attack,” he said. “This prevents the enemy from reconstituting his force and rebuilding combat power. We believe we — the coalition and the Iraqi Security Forces — have the initiative and are gaining momentum. To keep that momentum moving in our favor, we will do what we can to accelerate the campaign.”

We should get on with it. ISIL's Iraq forces haven't shown much desire to die for their caliphate over the entire year and extending back to the liberation of Sinjar and Ramadi at the end of last year. Are we waiting for ISIL to rediscover the will to fight and die?

If we don't have sufficient planning under our belt by now, why don't we?

Holding the Line

Afghan security forces are holding in the south:

Afghan security forces backed by U.S. air strikes have beaten back Taliban attacks on a vulnerable southern district, government officials said on Wednesday, after a relative lull in fighting over the month of Ramadan.

In recent days, Taliban forces launched attacks on the Sangin district center, an outpost in Helmand province repeatedly threatened by militants over the past year.

The situation seems to be stabilizing and tilting toward the good guys:

U.S. and Afghan forces are accelerating plans to decapitate the Taliban insurgency, expanding a new offensive strategy that appears to be stumping the group’s efforts to make dramatic gains on the battlefield.

After 15 years of war and several failed attempts to reach a negotiated peace deal, the dynamics of the conflict changed in the spring, when President Obama for the first time ordered a U.S. airstrike to kill the Taliban leader in Pakistan. Over the past four months, Afghan special forces have also killed more than three dozen senior and mid-level Taliban commanders in targeted airstrikes or raids, according to an Afghan security document obtained by The Washington Post.

The operations are part of a broader effort by Afghan forces, backed by increasing U.S airstrikes, to treat the Taliban more as a foreign enemy than as a domestic insurgent group worthy of some military restraint, according to Afghan officials and analysts. As a result, they say, there are signs the Taliban is under strain this summer while Afghan security forces, at least the elite ones, are finally becoming a battle-ready force. [emphasis added]

I'm not sure if characterizing the change as now treating the Taliban as a foreign enemy is terribly accurate. This depiction, although coming from Afghan sources, seems like a cover for a change in American fire support policy that has rejected fantasy and recognized reality.

That is, we have been fighting the war based on the nonsense that American forces should only fight al Qaeda and ISIL--international jihadis--while trying to talk peace with the Taliban--local jihadis who don't pose a threat to America or the West.

I'm sure the Afghans appreciate the distinction, eh?

Kabul was plunged into mourning Sunday after its deadliest attack for 15 years killed 80 people and left hundreds maimed, reigniting concern that the Islamic State group was seeking to expand its foothold in Afghanistan.

The death toll wouldn't have been easier to accept if the terrorists had been Taliban rather than the "international" jihadis of ISIL.

This distinction between the two types of jihadis was nonsense. Remember that the "local" Taliban hosted the international al Qaeda prior to the 9/11 attacks. And that distinction meant that Afghan forces were under heavy pressure from the "local" jihadis while we reserved our power for fighting the international jihadis. Just how would we fight the international jihadis if our allies fell to the local jihadis, I asked.

And either type is willing to kill Afghans who are conveniently nearby.

The spin of the article seems more intended to cover the mistake rather than inform readers.

This news indicates that our efforts to transition Afghan forces from a vulnerable checkpoint army constantly on the defensive to one that has reserves capable of reacting to enemy attacks and going on offense seems to be working.

UPDATE: This article describes our enabling of Afghan forces to go on the offensive:

In an acknowledgment of the deteriorating security situation, President Barack Obama last month gave a green light to a more assertive role for U.S. troops, though still short of direct combat. With that boost, Afghans are shifting back on the offensive.

The upcoming anti-IS operation announced by Ghani, dubbed Shafaq — or "Dawn" in Pashto — will see the head of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, Gen. John Nicholson, implementing an aggressive new strategy. U.S. airstrikes on Afghanistan are likely to become more frequent, as the strategy shifts from using airpower only to defend U.S. and NATO positions to striking in support of Afghan offensives.

But then they go and ruin the ride:

According to the Western diplomat, the aim of the Afghan forces' more aggressive stance is to convince the Taliban they cannot win but should instead join a reconciliation process, beginning with direct contact with the Afghan government, possibly as early as fall.

It's always a great comfort to an enemy to know that we aren't trying to kill and defeat them. For the Taliban, why not fight hard when your choices are victory or joining a reconciliation process?


Backed by U.S. special forces troops and airstrikes that authorities say have killed hundreds of Islamic State fighters in recent weeks, the Afghan army has launched an offensive against the movement, which is now believed to be confined to three or four districts in eastern Afghanistan.

Mostly I like that our side is taking the initiative rather than just sitting in checkpoints taking casualties. It's much better for morale to be taking the fight to the enemy rather than just getting hit again and again.

Divide Libya

Libya might be better off split into three--or more if the Libyans choose--parts, in a loose confederation. The author is probably right.

I've said the same for Somalia. And for Libya. And Somalia.

And even Syria if we can't overthrow Assad. If the alternative is Assad controlling Syria, I'd rather have Assad just control a rump territory of his supporters in the northwest.

The split of Czechoslovakia didn't bother me.

And I couldn't care less if Belgium fractures.

I've supported British withdrawal from the European Union but hoped Scotland would remain within Great Britain.

I was pleased that eastern European countries escaped the Soviet Union; and the break up of the Soviet Union was a victory for peace and stability.

But I have opposed division of Iraq. That country I've argued should be united.

Am I inconsistent? No, I don't think so.

If people want to divide up, I'm generally in favor of letting them decide freely to do so.

But if division is contrary to American interests, I oppose it. Conversely, if I think union is in our interests, I support it.

Mali's Tuaregs can make a case for independence of the north. But could it escape jihadi dominance if it goes its own way? The answer to that question will guide my opinion on separation.

And if it is not a critical region, like the split of Czechoslovakia or the potential division of Belgium, why should I really care?

In the absence of compelling reason to support either division or union, I figure it is up to the people themselves.

And for those in East Africa, just how important is their nation?

The fact that so many East Africans struggle to celebrate their countries’ Independence Days ought to clue us in that, in this region, non-national identities—ethnicity, clan, tribe, religion—matter much, much more.

As I've written before, I think a united Iraq is in America's interests.

A divided Iraq would leave a rump Shia state vulnerable to Iranian dominance through a violent minority without Sunni Arabs and Kurds to oppose Iran.

A divided Iraq would leave an impoverished Sunni Arab western Iraq vulnerable to Islamist dominance--which has happened twice since 2003 (al Qaeda and the successor ISIL).

A divided Iraq would put a target on the Kurds of Iraq who would be seen as a threat to Iran and Turkey.

I like having a united Iraq to block Iran.

And these are the issues after the massive bloodshed to align groups with new borders. Other minorities will be on their own, of course, since the Sunni Kurds, Sunni Arabs, and Shia Arabs are just the three biggest groups in Iraq.

So I'd rather have Iraq remain united.

Yet I've also written that after the fighting is over and passions cool, if the Iraqis decide to go their own ways, who am I to object? I'd still oppose it for the reasons given but the Iraqis do have the choice.

Anyway, that's how I stand on dividing states.

Although an interesting variation might be a nominally unified state with regional armies--like our state National Guards?--to reflect the reality on the ground:

The United Nations envoy to Libya said Wednesday that its reconstituted army could be decentralized, an idea aimed at easing the political gridlock surrounding an internationally-backed unity government.

In an interview in Cairo, Martin Kobler confirmed reports that the formation of military councils representing Libya's western, eastern and southern regions is being discussed.

What of a navy/coast guard? The south obviously wouldn't need that.

So would a navy and/or coast guard and perhaps an air force and even a small special forces capability be a national force with basic ground forces being regionalized?

Perhaps ground force training is centralized at the national level as well as procurement?

Interesting notion.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Forever War

I saw a Prius with an old "end this war" bumper sticker where the red "this" was added above a crossed out "less". You remember that call for retreat during the Iraq War, which we fortunately ignored until we won that war (well, until we almost lost it after we left in 2011 and began Iraq War 2.0 to salvage our victory).

But the red "this" as well as the red cross-through line had faded to near-white, so the bumper sticker just read "endless war".

Which was rather prophetic--if you add in the weathering--considering the president's war record.

I'm not saying the war won't end. It just won't end during the Obama administration.

Conflict of Interest

I don't buy this author's defense of the 2006 Israeli campaign against Hezbollah in Lebanon (the Second Lebanon War). He ran that pooch-screwing operation, after all.

Amir Peretz, the Israeli defense minister in 2006, writes:

The Second Lebanon War ended with a feeling of disappointment in Israel, but as time passed and the dust settled the achievements become more obvious and significant.

In historical perspective the Second Lebanon War created a deterrence against Hezbollah, but also gave an unequivocal message to other terrorist organizations, especially Hamas.

Seriously? The war taught a lesson to Hamas in Gaza?

Israel has gone to war with Hamas three times since the 2006 war with Hezbollah! Just what lesson did Hamas learn? That fighting Israel is no big deal to survive and that friendly civilian casualties are a feature rather than a bug to support your own regime?

As for Hezbollah, as I noted here, how shellacked were they from the 2006 war given that they intervened in the Syrian Civil War and have been fighting and dying in large numbers for Assad for years now?

Israel did not pound Hezbollah into passivity. Israel is lucky that Hezbollah is otherwise distracted with the Syrian Civil War and doesn't want a second front.

In the end, the author hides his sad war record by reducing the 2006 war to nothing but a symbol of all wars:

At the end of the day, there are no good wars. The Israeli leadership’s task is to create new political opportunities, as Israel tries with moderate Arab countries in the Middle East. When it comes to extremist enemies like Hezbollah, Israel should maintain its redlines, but also work together with the international community in order to prevent the next war and provide this troubled region with the possibility of a brighter future.

That's nonsense. At the end of the day, there are victories and defeats in war. The Israeli military leadership's task is to win them when they must be fought, and Peretz failed to provide a meaningful victory, winning on points only.

Sheer Israeli power advantages bulldozed their way to a nominal victory over Hezbollah that failed to build deterrence against future wars because Hezbollah gained the satisfaction of enduring the bombardment and holding off the half-hearted ground assault that Israel belatedly mounted.

Hamas has gone three more rounds with Israel since 2006. And Hezbollah is ready for another round but is otherwise occupied in Syria--with no credit to the 2006 war--preventing them from joining the party.

The man has a lot of nerve defending his war policy. He screwed the pooch and now he's putting lipstick on the dog to seem like something better.

Knitting the Pieces Together

I've never been in the camp that says President Obama is failing Ukraine by refusing to sell big ticket weapons systems to Kiev. Ukraine has most of the pieces they need to fight Russia. Ukraine needs the ability to improve and mesh what they have.

Artillery has been a big factor in the Russia-Ukraine Donbas War. So this American help will have an impact:

The U.S. Army delivered AN-TPQ-36 Firefinder radar systems to the Ukrainian military, the service's Security Assistance Command said Wednesday. ...

The delivery was part of the Fiscal 2016 Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, part of a larger package that includes communication and medical equipment, night vision devices, personal protection equipment and military training, a program that totals more than $200 million.

Ukraine has lots of heavy army equipment that, if repaired and upgraded, can meet the Russians in the field. Ukraine doesn't need our tanks and planes when Ukraine has a lot in storage and when incorporating our gear in place of the Soviet-origin equipment would take too long to make a difference in the war going on now.

And Ukraine has lots of small arms.

Although I'd certainly make an exception by supplying infantry anti-tank weapons.

As long as we are encouraging our eastern NATO allies who have experience with Russian equipment to work with Ukraine to upgrade Ukraine's existing tanks, armored vehicles, and artillery, our "non-lethal" help can help pull all the pieces together and make Ukraine's military far more lethal.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Blacklisting the Varsity Team

We strike a blow against the jihadis!

The United States on Wednesday blacklisted three members of al Qaeda living in Iran, saying they had helped the Islamist militant group on the battlefield, with finance and logistics, and in mediating with Iranian authorities.

Iran has held several al Qaeda high-ranking members and lower-level militants since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, though U.S. officials say the precise conditions of their confinement are unclear.

Wait. What? There are any al Qaeda members who aren't blacklisted? Shouldn't they all be on the "kill list" as legitimate targets during war?

What is on our State Department's mind? Do they think there are "moderate" al Qaeda members who we can deal with?

And two, Iran is detaining al Qaeda members? If they are truly detained, why isn't the Global Left protesting this apparently open-ended detention as vigorously as they condemn America's Guantanamo Bay?

This Will Be Interesting to Observe

Russia doesn't need to use their aircraft carrier to support Assad. They'd be better off sending the air element to a land base if they really need it. But it is good practice--and a good opportunity to see if they have a clue about sustained carrier operations.

This has to fall more in the area of practice rather than warfare:

Russia's state-run TASS news agency recently announced that Russia's sole aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, will deploy to the Mediterranean from October 2016 to January 2017 to fly sorties against the enemies of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. ...

This deployment will mark only the fifth deployment of the Kuznetsov since it's launch in 1985. All previous deployments only lasted a few months were also in the Mediterranean.

We require constant practice to retain proficiency in carrier operations. With only 5 non-fighting deployments in three decades by the Russian ship, this could be an ugly sight.

Although the refueling issue is minor. Remember that only our carriers are nuclear powered. The surface escorts do need refueling, just as Kuznetsov needs. I dare say our escorts need more frequent refuelings.

NATO electronic eavesdropping planes should orbit the ship 24/7 while it is at sea in the Mediterranean and vacuum up every electronic emission the ship makes.

With fighter escort, of course.

Affording the B-21

If the new Air Force long-range bomber, being called the B-21, is really just a scaled-back version of the B-2, costs per unit could be kept down enough to buy replacements for the aging B-52 and B-1 still in the force structure.

Promised costs of new weapons usually go up--sometimes a lot. This is nothing new and even our early-history wooden frigates cost more than promised (70% more than originally calculated). That's a couple centuries ago.

So designing an affordable B-21 would be an achievement:

Aviation Week last week quoted a USAF program executive (paywalled):

‘[The B-21] leverages three decades of small-scale but persistent bomber work since delivery of the Northrop B-2 Spirit in the 1980s and ’90s, particularly advances in flying wing designs. The B-21 uses mostly mature, existing technologies…’

In short, I think it’s possible that the USAF has reached the point with bombers where it’s being driven to the ‘80% solution’. The B-21 might well be a B-2 ‘mini-me’. Modern computerised design and production techniques will certainly make production of a B-2-like aircraft less costly than it was 20 years ago. If that’s the case, it’s smart—silver bullets have simply gotten too expensive. The USAF might have realised that it has to choose between quantity and ‘quality’ (aka sophistication)—and has chosen the 80% solution this time. The B-21 might be to the B-2 what the Virginia class submarine is to the exquisite but prohibitively expensive Seawolf class—good enough to get the job done and affordable enough to buy.

This could also be an example of using past research for a failed program--in the case of the B-2 "failed" means too expensive to build a lot rather than the poor quality of the plane itself.

As I wrote not too long ago about our procurement system that seems to encourage cost overruns:

I don't know if [recent cancellations of needed but too expensive systems] is hope as much as it is gaming the system.

Seawolf is grossly too expensive to build? Cancel it. Then when we build the new Virginia class subs that use lots of technology developed for Seawolf, the Virginia class sub looks downright frugal by comparison.

Spend ungodly amounts of money on Crusader? Well, the one "bright spot" in Army procurement is the new Paladin PIM self-propelled howitzer that uses the Bradley chassis along with--as I've read elsewhere--technology from the Cancelled Crusader project. Voila! Fast, cheap, and effective!

I'm sure that the 3 DDG-1000 destroyers we will build will live on in future Navy ships as technology developed for this ship is made available for future ships but which will not be cursed by having the development costs of that technology put on their bottom lines.

I just wish the Air Force could at least manage to get in on this. Or will F-35 technology find its way into advanced armed drone aircraft?

Anyway. I'm no procurement expert. But we're either getting good at making weapons lemonade out of technology lemons; or our procurement bureaucracy and their industry partners have gotten good out of making program lemonade out of procurement system lemons.

I think the Air Force may be managing this type of exploitation of past research already spent to buy a "more affordable" "new" plane. Good.

I wish our accounting system separated out the Research and development from the actual production costs, but this is better than nothing.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

These People Make Me Sick

Better that a thousand little children in the Third World should go blind than a single upper middle class Western lefty experience the trauma of their designer child ingesting a morsel of GMO grain:

As The Washington Post reports, 107 Nobel laureates have signed a letter blasting Greenpeace for opposing the deployment of a GMO rice which would help fix a dreaded condition, vitamin A deficiency.

I don't want to hear one Goddamn word about how the right is "anti-science."

Tip to Instapundit.

The Russians Cheat at Everything

The Olympics are a time for nations to shed power politics and engage in the wholesome competition of sports to showcase the brotherhood of Man. Well, there's always an exception.

Our friends the "reset" Russians:

A new report reveals that Russia has been systematically concealing positive drug tests since 2011, confirming what The New York Times once called "one of the most elaborate – and successful – doping ploys in sports history."

Now, with less than three weeks until the start of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, officials must decide whether to let Russian athletes participate.

Let's see if Putin employs the "Hillary Defense" by arguing he was unaware his team was violating laws and so the team can't be sanctioned.

But no problem, Putin can be totally trusted on Syria, Ukraine, Baltic security, or START provisions.

UPDATE: Lovely little base you have there. It would be a shame if anything bad happened to it:

Russian warplanes reportedly bombed a secret military base in Syria used by elite American and British forces last month.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that the Russian strike on the CIA-linked site was part of a campaign by Russia to pressure the White House to agree to closer cooperation in the Syrian skies, U.S. military and intelligence officials said.

I don't think we should cooperate with the Russians.

Our "reset" friends, the Russians, can't be trusted.

UPDATE: Oddly, Blogger stats show quite a surge of hits from Russia the last week or so. I assume these are spamming efforts.

UPDATE: Russian elites increasingly aggressive, militaristic, and anti-American. Reset!

Will the Russians Dominate the Black Sea?

A couple authors are worried about the Black Sea region coming under Russian dominance.

This author calls the Black Sea our exposed flank.

And this one says Russia is trying to turn the sea into a "Russian lake:"

By invading Ukraine and annexing Crimea, Russian President Vladimir Putin has transformed the security situation in the Black Sea.

Upon capturing those territories, Moscow lost no time in seizing Ukrainian energy facilities in the Black Sea and accelerating its ongoing military modernization there. As a result, Moscow has built a combined arms force of land, sea, air, and electronic forces that NATO leaders admit is fully capable of denying access to NATO forces seeking to enter the Black Sea during a conflict. It has also deployed nuclear-capable weapons to the Black Sea area and is apparently building a similar network of anti-access area denial (A2/AD) capabilities against NATO in both the eastern Mediterranean around Syria and in the Caucasus.

I don't think that the war on Ukraine enabled these efforts, which could have gone on without that territory. The Donbas under Russian control is irrelevant to controlling the Black Sea and Russia already had bases in Crimea to do this.

And Armenia will help with air defenses in the region. Amazingly, Russia doesn't have to wage war to get some territory to embrace Russia.

NATO also has friends or member states on the eastern, southern and western shores of the Black Sea.

The Russian war against Ukraine creates a NATO-friendly buffer on the north shore and shields Romania from Russian ground forces. Which makes it vitally important that we increase Ukraine's ability to fight Russia and hold their ground in the face of Russian aggression.

But both authors are right that we have to pay attention to what the Russians are doing and deal with it.

If we play our cards right, the Black Sea could become a turkey shoot that crushes Russian naval power there in case of war.

By all means, don't ignore what Russia can do to hurt us in the Black Sea region. But let's focus a little more on how we hurt Putin's hostile regime.

I know those articles are several weeks old, but I meant to comment despite the time gap.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

We've Endured Worse. We'll Endure This

The prophets of disaster are out in force. Stop that.

Are we on the verge of political violence like 1968 or even the Civil War? Really, we'll be fine:

It is worth considering the possibility that we do not live in especially consequential times, politically speaking, and that much of the drama of our current politics is just that: drama, a performance we stage for ourselves as an entertainment.

In an age of micro-aggression sensitivity and First World problems, should we really believe that our problems are actually macro-scale? Haven't we had enough of the logic that a small decrease in the rate of increase of some obscure government program will literally kill old people?

I just don't buy the doom angle. Whether from the right or left. Do read it all.

Although I don't like the trends of late, it is true, I do figure we'll muddle through.

We have geographic advantages that can help us endure the worst of leaders, whether elected or not.

I surely don't like President Obama and think we would have been better off with his opponents, but is he the worst president ever? I don't know. Probably not. I haven't complained about everything he has done.

And if he is the worst? We'll deal.

And we'll have to deal with Trump or Hillary! for four years (maximum, let's hope).

But we will deal. We may be hurt. Perhaps badly. Perhaps to our regret over our past choices. But we'll deal.

Perhaps this is why despite my utter contempt for Trump, I don't think the republic dies if he wins. I really do think the clown will do less damage than Hillary Clinton and that criminal enterprise masquerading as a family.

I certainly don't expect either to grow in office and become someone I respect or like.

Not the least because our mainstream media will take their investigative journalism skills out of the blind trust they put it in during the Obama tenure in order to be court stenographers for the Glory of Hope and Change.

Although even if Hillary wins, we'll deal. Eventually. Just without the help of traditional media.

We're America. We can deal with problems. Even those self inflicted.

Forward Defense

Australia's planned navy is heavily weighted to submarines:

[The] Australian plan is still a big bet on big submarines. So why such a commitment?

When the dozen-submarines idea was first suggested years ago, I had that question for a few Australian colleagues. But as I have followed the debate on naval power in The Strategist, the Web publication of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, I have noticed discussions of the serious question of the survivability of any surface ship in high-intensity modern warfare. As Andrew Krepinevich of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Analysis wrote in a long report last year, the Chinese “precision-strike regime” is potentially very lethal. As Sydney Freedberg of Breaking Defense then termed it, parts of the western Pacific could become a “no-man’s sea”. If that’s so, those long-range submarines might be the only really survivable part of the allied fleet, at least at the beginning of the war. If the brewing disputes with China get nasty, the submarines—including their commandos and cruise missiles—might be one of the few parts of the Australian Defence Force to take the fight forward. And if the Australians have settled on that as military strategy, the rest of us might wonder whether they know something we don’t.

This really isn't anything new. A small force of surface ships can be overwhelmed by a larger navy supported by air power. Going under water is safer under those circumstances whether you are speaking of the near future or 100 years ago.

As I wrote 7 years ago, for Australia, subs and air power have to be the core of keeping enemies at bay.

Where the Wars Are

Strategypage has their always interesting update on wars around the world.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Imagine That

So we're proceeding along the glorious nuclear deal path to Iran being a responsible regional partner.

Wait. What?

A year after Iran's nuclear deal with the West, hardliners are gaining authority in a backlash against pragmatic President Hasan Rouhani that his allies say could leave him sidelined or push him out of power in an election next year.

Even aside from my view that "moderates" in Iran are simply those willing not to shout "Death to America!" in public forums, can anyone really be surprised that once the need to showcase "moderates" was over that the nutball mullahs would pocket all the advantages they got from that horrible nuclear deal and then reassert full control over the system the nutball mullahs set up to perpetuate nutball mullah governance?

Have a super sparkly day.

UPDATE: Oh good grief, we had to pass the nuclear deal to find out was in it--and we're still finding out what's in the deal:

A confidential document from the Iran nuclear deal, which was recently leaked to the Associated Press, allows Iran to expand its uranium enrichment program after the first 10 years of the deal, even though the overall agreement lasts 15 years. ...

This document clears up some of that uncertainty: In 2027, 11 years after the deal was made, Iran can replace the old centrifuges with new ones that are five times as efficient, effectively boosting Iran’s uranium enrichment capacity. The AP says that means Iran could have enough enriched uranium to make a nuclear bomb in six months.

Do remember that even without this revelation, the deal says that the enforcement mechanism--the UN Security Council--loses the authority to enforce nuclear issues in 10 years:

Page 5 says that 10 years after "adoption day" the UN Security Council terminates consideration of the Iran nuclear issue. So from that point on, Russia and China--because of their veto--can block any new consideration by the Security Council of Iran's nuclear status.

I'm still waiting for the release of the document that says Iran will verifiably end their nuclear weapons program in exchange for American decommissioned Minuteman III nuclear missiles.

UPDATE: Strategypage discusses Iranian smuggling efforts. Iran sure is busy trying to get things for weapons it says it doesn't want.