Saturday, December 24, 2016

Weekend Data Dump

Russian special forces were key to the Assad Aleppo victory, it seems. Hezbollah sent in their special force, too, recall. Also, more on Russian mercenaries in Syria, who seem to be more like seconded troops to technically minimize Russian deaths in the wars.

I know it isn't original to me,  but I've long thought that the intensity of the battles to control Washington, D.C.--and the apparent threat to the mental health of those on the left when they fail in that contest--argues for the federal government being too damned big. And Republicans, rather than simply battling harder to control an ever-more powerful federal government, should use their time in control to pare down the power and scope of federal authority to allow individuals and the states to be more powerful. I'd much rather have divisive battles for control of Iowa and Florida than continued battles of the intensity we've had the last quarter century at the federal level continue, which makes us weaker on the world stage and invites foreign intervention in our affairs--whether Russian hacking or British calls to Ohio voters to urge them to vote Democratic. Lord, I'm old enough to remember when the cry of "don't make a federal case out this!" assumed that the federal government only got involved in the biggest of issues. Since when is bathroom policing (and that's just one example of expansive federal interest these days) a big issue?

Speaking of a Third World Hell Hole. Pity the doddering fool Mugabe isn't demoted to minority leader after all these years in power. He may not be fully evil, but he surely makes a case for being in the Axis of El Vil.

I have to quibble with this article that says that the battle for Mosul is leaving a legacy of environmental damage. No, the jihadis are doing that damage in an effort that has no effect on the course of the battle: "Iraqis have already paid the initial price from burning oil wells and a sulphur factory that IS set alight south of Mosul, Iraq's last jihadist-held city which is the target of a major military operation launched two months ago. [new paragraph] The fires, combined with water pollution and the potentially toxic remains of destroyed buildings, military equipment and munitions, will also present longer-term threats to people in areas around and inside Mosul." That's way different than blaming the government attempt to liberate the city for the damage.

The Chinese quickly agreed to return the Navy drone they seized in the South China Sea where it was mapping the waters of the region in a lawful manner. So it was a shot across the bow. Strategypage has more on the incident and the drone mission.

Remember that Clinton's popular vote margin of 2.8 million over Trump came exclusively from the  4.3 million vote edge in California. California is the near-one-party state where Republicans had no US senators to vote for in a race between two Democrats, no US representatives to vote for in 9 districts, no state legislators to vote for in many districts, and an awareness by Republicans that there was no way their vote could possibly matter in a winner-take-all state election for president. If these eligible but absent voters weren't Republicans, our media would be talking about voter suppression. One reason for the electoral college was to force a nationwide election and not let a candidate rely on a single region. The system worked.

Is Shia (and Persian) Iran winning their battle with the Sunni Arabs on the fronts of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen? In Lebanon, that's been a static division with Hezbollah--admittedly the most powerful single faction--bloodied by war in Syria and long balanced by Israel and other Lebanese factions. In Syria, Iran is winning locally but is far from winning the war given the heavy casualties and time it has taken to achieve what limited gains they've made. In Iraq, Iran's influence is higher but at least America is a player again after our 2012-2014 hiatus, and we plan to stay after ISIL is defeated--so that is reversible given hostility to Iranian domination in Iraq. And in Yemen, the Shias were denied victory and pushed back, although it is stalemated now--indeed, this Strategypage post fits my view more. I just don't see Iran on a victory lap as opposed to being stretched on many fronts that we can exploit if we fight back rather than believe Iran is our soon-to-be bestest buddy.

President Obama is right about the danger in our world of being so politically divided here at home. But like he is in so much else, this grain of truth is accompanied by an absolute failure to draw accurate conclusions. Isn't it bizarre that President Obama said that Republicans--who accepted his two elections without the hysteria that Democrats are displaying since the election to nullify the legitimacy if not the fact of the election of Trump--are uniquely endangering our nation with partisanship?

Let's review the Budapest Memorandum given that there are some even in America who still think Russia was justified in invading Ukraine because former Soviet colonies were eager to join NATO to get protection from post-Soviet Russia. As Strategypage notes, "This expansion of NATO into Eastern Europe annoyed Russia because they could not accept the fact that these new NATO members were seeking protection from future Russian aggression. Russians see themselves as benefactors to their neighbors, while the neighbors see Russia as a cruel bully. Russians have a hard time dealing with how their neighbors really feel." In the end, Russia's invasion is a killer for efforts at nuclear non-proliferation when you consider that Ukraine gave up their sizable nuclear arsenal in exchange for a Russian pledge not to invade them.

Let's also review the American effort to deny Russia a victory in Georgia when Russia invaded Georgia. For a bonus fact for those who believe Bush 43 failed to react, remember that at the end of the war Russia had no more territory than they held before the war--the occupied Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

You know,  I really don't understand why Iran has any success in recruiting a Shia foreign legion of Iraqi Shias to fight for Assad when Assad funneled Sunni jihadis into Iraq both before and after the Iraq War where they slaughtered--and continue to slaughter--Iraqi Shias. Why we can't exploit Iran's intent to fight to the last Arab in our information war efforts is beyond me.

I've long been worried about the survivability of our big carriers in the modern threat environment. While very useful in power projection missions against small states without much anti-ship capability, in a sea control mission against real powers, how is their cost worth the risk? I took heart in the fact that Harpoon cruise missiles throughout the fleet provided a back-up anti-ship capacity apart from the carrier air wing. After we won the Cold War, that missile capacity faded. Thank God the Pentagon is working hard to spread anti-ship missiles throughout the fleet and Air Force again.

I've read some Trump supporters vehemently deny that Russia hacked Democratic emails. While I think this is consistent with their practices, I admit it is possible it was not Russia. Unlikely--but possible. Is this a slip of the tongue revealing the truth (via Instapundit)? Maybe. Maybe not. And it could easily be technically not "Russia" because the Russian government commonly uses non-state hacker entities to do their dirty work. And if Brazille's slip of the tongue is real, it makes it shameful that Democrats are whipping up anti-Russian sentiment over a falsehood. But like I have said, I think it likely Russia did it; and I find it bizarre that Democrats are suddenly born again Cold Warriors.

I haven't  written about mass atrocities during the fall of eastern Aleppo because  I haven't heard of any. So while this story isn't a rebuke to anything I've written, it is a good reminder that reports from rebel-held Aleppo were eventually tainted by jihadi power. Assad is evil. He is not responsible for all evil in Syria. Tip to the Instapundit Borg.

It cracks me up that Democrats claiming released Democratic emails unfairly affected the election refuse to say whether the emails released are false. I listened to one Democratic Party official say that they've seen no American government report on the accuracy. Huh? Can't the Democrats who (allegedly?) wrote those emails say whether they are accurate? Mind you, if--as I assume for now--the Russians were behind the theft, I suspect they would have mixed in false and altered emails in with the vast majority of true emails. The problem for Democrats is that if they haul out proof that some individual email is totally made up, they admit they can review all of the emails and say which ones are absolutely accurate.

Oh good grief: President Obama didn't fail America--Americans failed America (and our president?) I don't think that term "fake news" means what they think it means.

I  do not find this type of holiday "fun" one bit amusing given that the potential (and authority) to shoot the target of the "fun" is ever present in the encounter.

It is interesting that the Iraqi forces leading the assault into eastern Mosul heavily use snipers to fight ISIL. It is interesting that when American forces fought heavily in Iraq, you could tell the difference by noting who was firing single shots and who was praying and spraying on full auto. The latter would be the (dead and defeated) enemy. Eventually American troops designated a sizable number of infantry in combat as snipers. (I think 10%?? Going by memory. I probably have an old post on it if I really need to verify that memory.) Now Iraqi forces follow our lead. Mind you, these are the Counter-Terrorism Service forces who are the best. It will be interesting to see if this focus on accurate shooting is evident in other non-militia Iraqi forces that are in the offensive. Also interesting is that ISIL has their own cadre of snipers (some from Chechnya likely trained by Russia).

The quick use of the accusation of "fascism" by America's left continues a tradition begun by Stalinist Communists who termed any opposition to them as "fascist." But really, people can disagree with you without being motivated by fascism--or any other "Ism" in that basket of deplorable views so popular with Democrats these days. I know this is difficult for many on the left to to appreciate. Which is odd given their supposed embrace of nuance. Sorry, but this is personal for me, having been called a "fascist" in my town. My crime? Wearing an American Army uniform on the University of Michigan campus. Why "liberal minded" is considered a synonym for "open minded" has long been a mystery to me.

Stratfor notes South China Sea developments, noting Vietnamese efforts to fortify their claims in the face of China's subliminal long march at sea.

Russia's foreign ministry version of Marie Harf (with an oddly similar name: Maria Zakharova) is outraged at the Netherlands for accepting American heavy armor in their country and for deciding to return items from Crimea loaned to one of their museums to Ukraine rather than to Russia. Apparently, these actions are destroying Russian-Dutch relations rather than being a casualty of Russian aggression (and then there's that 198 dead Dutch citizens on that Malaysian airliner that Russia's hand puppets in the Donbas shot down). The Dutch foreign minister said her comments are "hard to understand." That's an understatement, eh?

International attention for Somalia is fading, as peacekeepers start heading for the exits and as anti-piracy patrols disappear. So expect Somalia to grow into a jihadi and pirate haven in a couple years.

And no, that post-election incident where a Trump-supporter ripped off the hijab of a young college woman in downtown Ann Arbor didn't happen. Why the name of the alleged criminal who falsely reported a crime isn't published is beyond me. Can we say that America is a pretty damned good place when those who seek hate have to rely on fake hate crimes so much?

America put Putin's chef under sanctions. Unlike Russia, we don't overlook the cook when searching for danger.

So does a new Iraqi assault on ISIL-held western Mosul from the southwest--complete with helicopter assault on a stadium in the western bank of the Tigris River--take place today to get that Christmas Eve element of surprise?

I'm all for keeping the Russians from interfering in our elections and domestic politics, but to argue that Russia effectively interfered in our election to get Trump elected seems completely wrong given that the Russians couldn't even manage to deny Hillary Clinton a record--for a losing candidate--popular vote advantage. You'd think an election hack would think of that small thing.

If China is fully on board this global warming theory, why is China even building a polar icebreaker? Sure, it could be used at the South Pole, but this is how the article assesses this news: "It is fair to assess that China’s interest in the fast-thawing Arctic Ocean is bound to increase in the future." Haven't we been told that the sea ice will all disappear? So why bother with an icebreaker? Maybe the Chinese are on board this prediction of a new ice age. I can't speak to the science of the article, but it does fit with my bias for natural factors overwhelming human factors. And if correct, scientists from the 1970s can feel vindicated, I guess. I wonder if our government will subsidize SUV purchases?

To be fair, that's what spies for Russia do.

A "supervolcano" in Italy is looking erupty, it seems. Via Instapundit.

Contrary to the image some on the left seem to have, Nazis weren't Christian extremists. Hitler tried to warp Christmas into a pagan and Aryan celebration in place of a Christian celebration. Again, from Instapundit.