Saturday, April 30, 2016

Half the Distance to the Goal Line?

I've stopped giving out collapse warnings for North Korea.

But whenever it happens--and it could happen suddenly--the tipping point is getting closer.

And in addition to not knowing when North Korea collapses, we have to speculate about whether it will be regime collapse or state collapse.

We Always Fall for the Ceasefire Ploy

What is it with our inability to understand that enemies view "ceasefires" as opportunities to rearm and reposition troops to win a war rather than a chance to negotiate a peace where everyone wins?

The ceasefire in Syria--such as it is--is almost over formally as Assad's forces are ready to roll:

A government encirclement of the Syrian rebel stronghold of Aleppo could be “imminent,” according to military and humanitarian observers, some of whom point to United Nations-sponsored peace talks as having given the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad maneuvering room.

If Syria’s largest city is surrounded by government troops, the strategic situation in Syria could change very rapidly for the worse, not only for Syrians, but also for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan—and for the Obama Administration, which has banked heavily on the crumbling peace talks to end five years of civil war and an expanding presence for ISIS amid the chaos.

The encirclement would also be a major strategic advance for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has drawn his forces in Syria, but has also been helping the Assad regime conduct more focused military operations under a two-month “cessation of hostilities.”

What a shock.

And for our State Department, it probably really is a shock.

On the bright side, despite the infusion of support that Russia provided along with Iran's continuing support (with Hezbollah, Iranian forces, and a Shia foreign legion), I continue to believe that Assad's base of support cannot support the manpower needed to hold and defend a core Syria that extends as far north as the large city of Aleppo.

I know I wondered how much more Assad's ground forces could endure a year and a half ago, but Assad is still far from securing the northwest let alone reconquering  the south and east.

Aleppo is still a bridge too far.

Unless we help by pushing another farcical "ceasefire" after Assad surrounds the city that allows Assad to conserve his forces to hold the gains he might make and starve out the defending fighters and people.

UPDATE: Of course we are:

The United States said on Friday it was in discussions with Russia about trying to renew the cessation of hostilities in Syria following the deadly bombing this week of a hospital in Aleppo.

"Our hope is by refreshing this agreement ... we can build momentum again toward a broadly observed cessation of hostilities," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told a briefing.

And although the answer to the question of when such an agreement might be inked to refresh the "ceasefire" is not known, having been kept in a mayonnaise jar on Funk and Wagnalls' porch since noon yesterday, I can divine the answer as "shortly after Assad's forces manage to isolate Aleppo," which will sanctify the Assad siege with a Western-backed ceasefire.

UPDATE: Well, duh:

Terrified residents fled a new wave of air strikes on rebel-held areas of Syria's divided city of Aleppo on Saturday, as key regime backer Russia rejected calls to rein in its ally....

Russia said that it would not ask Damascus to halt air raids on Aleppo.

"No, we are not going to put pressure on (Damascus) because one must understand that the situation in Aleppo is part of this fight against the terrorist threat," Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said.

On Thursday, Washington appealed to Moscow to keep President Bashar al-Assad's regime in check.

Obviously Russia turned down our request. What part of "impose a ceasefire after Assad takes ground" is unclear?

UPDATE: Seriously, get the clue bat out:

Scrambling to resuscitate a nearly dead truce in Syria, the Obama administration has again been forced to turn to Russia for help, with little hope for the desired U.S. outcome.

Really? This is the state of our diplomacy? Hoping Putin's Russia will help us?

We won't get our desired outcome because Russia won't "help" us--Russia will try to "win" by getting their desired outcome.

Somebody in our State Department should look into that whole concept of "victory."

UPDATE: Have we learned nothing from Ukraine and trusting Russian intentions?

Three deaths were reported Sunday in the fighting in eastern Ukraine despite a recently brokered armistice for Orthodox Easter.

It's like Lucy and the football again and again.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Putting Out the Unwelcome Mat

Gotland Island is important real estate in the Baltic Sea that Sweden is responsible for holding. Sweden is taking a small step toward being able to defend the island.

You will recall Gotland Island.

Sweden is taking a baby step to holding it:

Gotland is the largest (at 3,200 square kilometers) of many Swedish island in the Baltic Sea. It had long been a key military target for any invaders, be they from Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union is gone but Russia has again become a threat once more and parliament authorized a Gotland defense force consisting of a 168 man infantry company and a 70 man tank company. The infantry would be full time soldiers while the tank company would be manned by reservists (part time soldiers.)

During the Cold War, 4,000 reservists on the island could be called up. Why can't that be replicated now?

I honestly assume that American Marines will be called on to retake the island from the Russians because there is no way that token Swedish force could stop a Russian invasion.

Too Little and Too Late

Vice President Biden, who had Iraq in his portfolio and who once said Iraq could be one of the Obama administration's great achievements, visited Iraq. He should have been there the last two years.

Well this is nice:

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden met Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and other top officials in an unannounced visit to Baghdad on Thursday to show support for the government as it seeks to build on wins against Islamic State amid a distracting political crisis.

It is the first visit for Biden, the White House's point person on Iraq, since U.S. forces withdrew in 2011 after nearly nine years of occupation. He is the third and highest-level U.S. official to visit the country this month.

When jihadis first burst into Anbar province in Iraq at the beginning of 2014, I wanted the vice president to camp out in Iraq to show our support (and drag our support in to keep things from getting worse) and get the Iraqis fighting al Qaeda rather than each other, which made Iraq vulnerable to invasion:

So if Vice President Biden is the point man who thought Iraq could be one of the great achievements of this administration (although given that obvious curve on the grading scale, it still might be that), President Obama should point the vice president at Iraq and tell him to get that achievement.

It's a time-honored tradition to send vice presidents to sticky foreign places as a sign of our interest. Nixon was sent to Latin America and Johnson was sent to Vietnam. But a mere drive-by isn't enough.

Vice President Biden should set up his office in our embassy in Baghdad and work the damn problem. Show that Iraq is important to us.

We won't send troops, as our so-called chief diplomat so indelicately stated. But we'll send our second-ranking executive branch official until they start showing real progress.

Message: we care.

With a large local security detail, and troops in high readiness in Kuwait, afloat in CENTCOM region, and in Italy ready to roll, of course.

As a bonus, I noted that such a lengthy trip would have given him a mission to jump ahead of Hillary Clinton in the succession battle. Perhaps a lot of Democrats wish this path had been followed.

I know a lot of Iraqis probably wish we had tried to repair a damaged Iraq in early 2014 before ISIL moved on to stage 2 of conquering northern Iraq, too, in mid-2014.

But still, a meeting by our administration point man for Iraq more than two years later is certainly nice.

UPDATE: Pity we didn't register our determination to overcome internal divisions (and deflect Iranian influence) two years ago:

Hostilities broke out over the weekend between two groups considered critical components of the ground war. Troops from the predominantly Shiite Muslim militias – known as the popular mobilization units or PMUs – reportedly attacked the home of an officer with the Kurdish fighting force known as the peshmerga, according to media reports. The militiamen claimed they were retaliating against an unprovoked peshmerga attack.

Fighting escalated into Sunday as peshmerga troops launched mortars and Shiite militias lit two of the Kurdish unit's tanks on fire. Iraq's ambassador to the U.S. described the incidents as unfortunate and in an area "where longstanding fault lines exist."

An uneasy truce took hold Wednesday, but concern remains.

Heck, Vice President Biden could still do some good for Iraq and our national interests by camping out in Iraq for the rest of the summer rather than hoping a day trip will do the job.

And advance his own political future. If Hillary Clinton loses the FBI primary, with such a high profile mission, Biden could be an alternative to Sanders by the time the Democratic convention rolls around.

UPDATE: Yeah, one meeting didn't do the job:

Baghdad teetered on the edge of political chaos Sunday. The city is in a state of emergency, protesters have occupied parts of the once-secure International Zone (IZ), lawmakers have run away and the military is on high alert.

Protesters led by Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr have crowded the streets in front of the country’s now-empty Parliament and gathered in what is known as the Zone’s “Celebration Square.” By Sunday evening, the protesters temporarily ended their demonstration and started to withdraw from the area.

And as long as I'm complaining about what we didn't do before, I knew we'd regret letting that three-time insurrectionist, walking piece of garbage, and Iranian hand puppet Moqtada al-Sadr live.

UPDATE: The Green Zone didn't cause our problems. Corrupt Iraqi elites would have protected themselves regardless of whether we created this zone.

Corruption is causing the problems. And I was calling for this post-war battle for rule of law before our Surge offensive and the Awakening went into high gear--indeed, before the post-Samarra violence escalation in Iraq prompted our Surge.

And I'm sure I could go back longer depending on what term I was using back then.

But the author is certainly correct that rule of law is vital to achieve. Without our presence after 2011, rule of law dissolved to dangerous levels and we haven't managed to raise the level since we returned in 2014.

Leaving Iraq--again--after we defeat ISIL in Iraq would be criminally stupid.

UPDATE: And chaos in the Green Zone is a corollary to my complaints that taking our time to win grants our enemies time to defeat us.

The corollary is that taking our time to win grants our side the chance to eff things up to deny our side a win:

The Obama Administration has been touting its military progress against Islamic State, to the extent of counting the ISIS dead and predicting victory by next year. Well, maybe not. The latest political turmoil in Baghdad is throwing that timeline into doubt and again highlights the risks of President Obama’s policy of gradual escalation.

A sense of urgency is in order. Victory is never inevitable.

The AFRICOM Queen

With a new commander of United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) nominated, where combating ISIL as a major and growing issue, perhaps the Modularized Auxiliary Cruiser could get a hearing.

Africa is a growing problem because of ISIL. So our new commander for our activities in Africa has a lot to do:

President Barack Obama has nominated Marine Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser for promotion to four-star rank to replace retiring Army Gen. David Rodriguez as head of U.S. Africa Command in the ongoing effort to halt the spread of ISIS on the continent, the Pentagon said Thursday. ...

As head of Africa Command, Waldhauser will be challenged in "building partner capacity, enabling regional forces and combating the metastasis of ISIL and other violent extremists," Carter said. "I am confident that Lt. Gen. Waldhauser will bring the same caliber of strong and steady leadership to AFRICOM that Gen. David Rodriguez has brought to the command for the past three years."

Military Review just published my essay on the potential use of auxiliary cruisers as power projection platforms (see page 50).

Thanks to the editorial staff for the opportunity to enter and for editing help during the publication process. Sometimes I forget that naval concepts familiar to me aren't necessarily background knowledge for Army audiences who have enough in their own lane to master.

I look forward to hearing ideas from those with far more experience than I have who can either focus the idea along productive lines or expose the ways such a concept could not possibly work.

But at least the problem of projecting power across the vast and varied continent of Africa could be discussed and solved some way, regardless of whether I leave any fingerprints on the solution.

Death or Glory?

One big difference between Putin's Russia and the Soviet Union no matter how tragic Putin believes the demise of the USSR was is that the Russian people are no longer up to suffering 30 million casualties to win a war.

Russians aren't eager to endure heavy casualties in Putin's adventures. Or even many at all, it seems, at least abroad (even in the "near abroad"):

Russia learned the hard way in Ukraine that even among their most ardent nationalists there were few men willing to fight. Back in Russia the eager fighters are few in number and many are still needed in Ukraine (to keep the Ukrainian “rebels” in Donbas going) and the Caucasus (to keep pressure on Islamic terrorists down there). Russia is also increasing pro-war propaganda. But it has already found in Ukraine and Caucasus that this sort of encouragement has little impact the closer you get to the combat zone and none at all when you start shipping bodies back to families. So Russia is keeping troop levels (and friendly casualties) low in Syria and cash inducements as high as they need to be.

Yes. That is the vulnerability of Russia as I noted early in the Ukraine Crisis:

I'm not sure what could impress Putin with the need to halt his aggression against Ukraine and deter further aggression other than more dead Russian soldiers.

Not only is Russia's civilian population not eager to endure casualties for Putin's wars, but Putin needs decisive low-casualty wins over his weaker enemies to burnish his reputation.

The lightning takeover of Crimea provided that.

The slow slog in Donbas is not providing that.

Syria has so far provided that but the war isn't over. The danger of having to decide between enduring Russian casualties to save Assad or retreating is still high for Putin. Which is why Putin is counting on Lavrov to work Kerry by stroking his ego in order to get a grand deal that saves Assad while getting America to join Russia in paying the price for saving Assad.

And even though Putin is organizing his own army that should be personally loyal to Putin rather than to the state, does this erase the need to endure few casualties for either prestige or public support purposes?

Or does it just make it easier for Putin to roll the dice and see whether the outcome is breaking NATO or becoming leader of the Grand Duchy of Moscow?

Putin could easily believe that possession of lots of nuclear weapons makes the odds of the former greater and the latter lower, making it a good gamble to restore Russia (and ensure his place in history) before demographic decline in Russia, Chinese military modernization, and a rethink in NATO about maintaining significant military power make such an achievement impossible.

One of the great achievements of Bush 41 was managing Russia's loss of empire--twice, in 1989 and 1991--without a nuclear disaster being the result.

Yet don't think that the empire is gone--it's just smaller.

If Putin breaks Russia again by over-stressing its limited capacity, will we be that fortunate a third time?

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Encouraging Disorder

Without ammunition, you can't fight to win.

We have a problem:

American military leaders are going public about how their complaints about smart bomb and missile shortages are being ignored. In 2015 over 25,000 smart bombs and missiles were used by American (mostly) and allied (NATO and local Arabs) warplanes operating over Iraq and Syria. Nearly all weapons were supplied by American firms and American politicians and military leaders can’t agree on how to get the money to replace bombs being taken from the war reserve stocks (large quantities of munitions and spares stockpiled to keep the troops supplied during the initial month or so of a war).

I know the Air Force mentioned the ammo shortage before. But I had wrongly assumed that war reserve stocks were safe. So I guess I didn't mention it.

If you think wars end because ammo runs short, you are wrong. Horribly wrong.

Ammo shortages just mean the war can't be won quickly. So it drags on longer, with more casualties the result.

In World War I, ammo was running out for the big guns as the short-war assumptions were destroyed by 1915.

So shooting slowed down, and ammo production was rushed (and I'm assuming it wasn't always up to standards in the rush). But by then everyone was dug in on the Western front (and Italian front) and so attrition raged.

And it gets worse (back to Strategypage):

In Europe the attitude seemed to be that the Americans would be able to supply smart bombs in a crises. For a long time that was the case, but with the Americans now running down their own war reserves and deadlocked over what to do about that (which is currently “not much”) American allies are getting anxious.

This is another problem with our ammo shortage. Allies need access to our war reserve stocks to fight. So allies need us to defend themselves even if we don't put boots on the ground. That need for our disappearing ammo is bad when you consider we call nations allies because we believe their survival is important to us.

Who cares, you say? Just make our allies buy their own damned ammunition! If we fail to maintain adequate war reserve stocks, allies will figure out that they need to build up their war reserve stocks. Perhaps they will now. That's great, right?

Wrong.

And then it gets worse.

This is really a case of putting allies on a leash rather than allied "free riding." If allies need our ammo to fight a war, they can only fight a war we approve of, eh?

And so if allies build their own war reserve stocks, allies will be able to wage war for their own objectives regardless of whether we approve or think it is wise.

As I've said, the problem with "leading from behind" is that allies capable of taking the lead may decide they don't care to follow the directions of the backseat driver.

For want of a war reserve stock, the global system we built (and benefit from) will fall.

UPDATE: Remember, the system we built but are now reluctant to defend because it seems so natural benefits America:

The economic, political and security strategy that the United States has pursued for more than seven decades, under Democratic and Republican administrations alike, is today widely questioned by large segments of the American public and is under attack by leading political candidates in both parties. Many Americans no longer seem to value the liberal international order that the United States created after World War II and sustained throughout the Cold War and beyond. Or perhaps they take it for granted and have lost sight of the essential role the United States plays in supporting the international environment from which they benefit greatly. The unprecedented prosperity made possible by free and open markets and thriving international trade; the spread of democracy; and the avoidance of major conflict among great powers: All these remarkable accomplishments have depended on sustained U.S. engagement around the world. Yet politicians in both parties dangle before the public the vision of an America freed from the burdens of leadership.

The system didn't happen by itself. We built it. And it will be dismantled by those who would rather we not benefit from it if we don't maintain it.

Read it all, as the expression goes. You don't have to agree with every particular to appreciate the benefit of the current system.

Reputation Matters

I think ISIL's reputation for ferocity is needlessly inducing caution on the Iraq front.

Strategypage highlights an evidence-conclusion mismatch in Iraq that I've been noting for a while.

The conclusion:

While the Americans have doubts about Iraqi forces taking Mosul by the end of 2016 all agree that it’s not a matter of if but when. Retaking Mosul is a top priority for Iraq and all those concerned are cooperating to help make that happen sooner rather than later.

The evidence:

ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) forces are not demonstrating any ability to stop the advance. Although ISIL keeps bringing more fighters into Mosul it does not help a lot because losses and desertions remain high and morale quite low. This can be seen by the increasing use of mass executions of ISIL fighters (often poorly trained new recruits) who flee a battle or otherwise refuse to fight.

Nobody has ever accused the Iraqis of being the Prussians of the Tigris-Euphrates Valley. But they are certainly adequate, have the advantage of numbers (although the disadvantage of needing to use a lot of those troops to guard people and places), overwhelming fire support, and growing regret (again) among Sunni Arabs for thinking jihadis might solve their problems with the Shia-dominated government.

And as I've noted before, why do we assume that the evidence of ISIL morale and skill problems doesn't mean that the advance could turn into a rout of ISIL if we could finally get the offensive moving north?

And here's more on ISIL's deterioration:

The flow of foreign fighters into Iraq and Syria has dropped from roughly 2,000 a month down to 200 within the past year, according to the Pentagon, which says the waning numbers are further proof of the Islamic State's declining stature.

When the nutballs can't recruit, their main advantage--suicidal fanaticism--is gone.

And really, you never believed the nonsense peddled by the Left that killing jihadis just creates more jihadis, did you?

But back to the point at hand. How can we assume that Mosul won't fall this year when we aren't even through April?

This is what ISIL is reduced to on the Iraq front (back to the Strategypage link):

What ISIL lacks in resolute battlefield warriors it somewhat makes up with its continuing use of mines, roadside bombs and booby-traps left behind it areas it is forced out of.

My worry is that ISIL takes this type of coping mechanism to its logical extreme by using the Dihydrogen Monoxide Bomb on the Iraqi government. Why not, when ISIL is already using chemical weapons?

Now that would delay the liberation of Mosul past this year, for sure.

And as I've mentioned before, when you give an enemy time, they have an odd habit of using it to their advantage.

So no, really, take your time.

[As an aside, I begin to wonder if there is reluctance by the administration to escalate the intensity of the war during an election year here. Could this explain the odd reluctance to try to win sooner rather than later?

Or are we legitimately trying to delay victory in Iraq until we can combat growing Iranian influence in Iraq that blossomed after we left Iraq in 2011?]

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Military Capability and Not Spending Should Be the Goal

Our NATO allies don't spend nearly as much as America does.

As a percent of their GDP, few NATO members reach the 2% threshold goal that NATO says is the minimum.

Yet the numbers are a bit misleading, given their focus on the input rather than the output.

For one thing, we have a national interest in keeping Europe's immense economic, scientific, and human resources from being controlled by a hostile entity regardless of whether Europe adequately defends itself from such an entity from external sources.

So failure of Europe to spend doesn't relieve America of the need to spend.

As for European spending itself, for most countries the spending over-states the military capability created because many of Europe's legions of troops are civil servants in drab uniforms.

So under spending the goal misses how bad these countries really are, defense-wise.

As for Greece exceeding the threshold? Don't get excited. Greece spends with an eye to a possible war with their technically NATO ally Turkey.

Estonia? They are so tiny that while they are to be commended for exceeding the threshold, it doesn't mean much compared to their Russian neighbor's capabilities.

And America's spending obscures as much as clarifies what we get.

Britain suffers from a lot of America's spending needs in regard to power projection and nuclear weapons, but on a lower scale.

Kudos to Poland. A bit. But being a neighbor and serial victim of Russian conquests in the past makes me think that Poland should be able to devote at least as much effort as Greece does to warding off Turkey, don't you think?

Given the reality of spending and scale, only some European countries should be encouraged to build militaries that are capable of joining us in war with their own section of front.

Britain, France, Germany (because of their large economies), and Poland (because of their location) are prime candidates for this tier of capabilities. Italy should be on this list, but I don't know if they could make the effort--even if they want to--given their financial fragility.

But smaller countries shouldn't be encouraged to waste their efforts for this status. They should be encouraged to integrate their militaries with America's military in order to get more bang for the buck in local spending.

Why should these countries spend on a logistics and administrative tail that supports a tiny tooth that will never wage war alone, when these small states could essentially be tribal auxiliaries attached to American units?

And forget the notion of trying that amongst European states. That's a waste when you consider that without America, a bunch of weak European nations that integrate weak militaries will still have a weak continental military.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Let's Thank Goodness We Didn't Make Syria Worse

President Obama is concerned about violence in Syria:

U.S. President Barack Obama said during a visit to Germany on Sunday that he was "deeply concerned" about a surge in violence in Syria, where government forces have stepped up bombing of rebel-held areas around the strategic city of Aleppo.

Speaking after talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a 17th century palace near the northern city of Hanover, Obama spoke of a "tragic humanitarian crisis" in Syria and said he continued to believe in a political solution to the fighting there.

I think we can all be relieved that we didn't "militarize" the conflict 300,000 dead ago when Assad was on his heels and when Putin wouldn't have dared intervene on Assad's side.

But what the heck, what's a little more militarization at this point?

President Barack Obama said Monday the US would send up to 250 more special forces and other military personnel to Syria to help rebels fight the Islamic State group.

Not that I'm complaining. But my main concern in Syria is pinning down ISIL in Syria so they can't help the Iraq front as we help Iraqis defeat ISIL there.

I'm not in favor of defeating ISIL too early in Syria when it would just help Assad.

But if this pins ISIL in Syria and helps the non-jihadi rebels gain strength with the ultimate view of defeating Assad after destroying ISIL? I'm fine with that.

I Suppose You Wonder Why I've Gathered You All Here Today

Arab countries don't seem to be assuming that Iran will become a responsible (non-nuclear) regional power any time soon.

The United Arab Emirates is setting up shop in Eritrea on the Red Sea:

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) appears to be constructing a new port next to Assab International Airport in Eritrea, which could become its first permanent military base in a foreign country.

Satellite imagery shows rapid progress has been made since work began sometime after September 2015.

It's getting crowded in the Horn of Africa.

Gulf Arab states have an incentive to bolster defenses in the Red Sea, which is an alternate oil export route should Iran shut down the Strait of Hormuz.

And, of course, it could be a useful staging area should Saudi Arabia's Plan E force (which also holds the northern end of the Red Sea) be needed in the Horn of Africa region or points east.

UPDATE: Related:

Yemeni and Emirati soldiers seized Yemen's seaport of Mukalla from al Qaeda fighters on Sunday, depriving the group of the seaport that enabled it to amass a fortune amid the country's civil war.

Around 2,000 Yemeni and Emirati troops advanced into Mukalla, local officials and residents said, taking control of its maritime port and airport and setting up checkpoints throughout the southern coastal city.

Intervention by Gulf Arab states in Yemen, which sits at the southern end of the Red Sea, to block Iranian influence or hostile jihadi control makes much more sense seen through the lens of oil exports, eh?

Monday, April 25, 2016

Britain Stronger in Europe?

Britain is stronger in Europe? Let's bring out the celebrity endorsers!

The pro-European Union forces in Britain have brought in President Obama to persuade the British to vote to remain in the EU when they choose in the June referendum:

Campaigners to keep Britain in the European Union, boosted by a visit from U.S. President Barack Obama, seem to be winning the air war in the media, but they could yet lose the crucial ground war to bring out the vote.

With opinion polls showing the Remain camp has a slender lead two months before polling day, and many people still undecided, turnout will be decisive in the June 23 referendum.

The pro-side has chosen the slogan, "Britain stronger in Europe."

Many in the past would agree.


Britain stronger in Europe!


Britain stronger in Europe!


Britain stronger in Europe!


Britain stronger in Europe!

Not, I hasten to add for those eager to take offense, that I'm comparing our president in any way to past dictators who wanted to absorb Europe into their continental empires. President Obama has his own reasons for siding with the Remain campaign and threatening Britain if they dare resist absorption, I'm sure, which have nothing to do with conquest obviously.

My point is that Britain has a long history of resisting efforts from the continent to subjugate and dominate Britain.

Why is the European Union to be welcomed just because the Brussels-based proto-empire has substituted a mind-numbing array of expanding cheese and other regulations for infantry, and expensive shoes for combat boots as the means to absorb Britain?

I am horrified that an American president believes that the EU is in our interest. It is not. Europeans can be our friends. Europe as a political entity will not be our friend.

I am just as horrified that the British are leaning toward thinking they benefit from the EU by bending the knee to this alien entity.

June 23, 2016 could yet be Britain's finest hour.

UPDATE: I don't think Britain is stronger in Europe, but apparently Britain is strongly in Europe regardless of what the voters decide in June:

The government will also be faced with a critical technical decision: How to leave. There are no precedents for doing this and contingency planning has been forbidden both in London and Brussels. On this point, as on others, there is no agreement among the Leave campaigners.

The European Union enmeshed Britain in the tentacles of Europe so thoroughly that the legal path for exit is unclear to even supporters of Brexit.

The Brezhnev Doctrine relied on tanks to keep the Soviet empire in line. Brussels relies on regulations so dense that armies of lawyers will have trouble cutting them all.

Paying the One Percenters

Here is an actual example of the 1% trying to screw the world's poor:

Congo, one of the poorest nations on Earth, offered former President Bill Clinton a speaking fee of $650,000–a sum equal to annual per-capita income of 2,813 Congolese. Indeed, the International Monetary Fund ranks the Democratic Republic of the Congo dead last in its global income rankings. What did it expect in return for its investment?

The State Department did turn down that offer because Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, as they did for a proposed speech in North Korea.

As they should have.

But plenty of others ponied up the cash ($48 million while Secretary Clinton held office) without running afoul of State rules.

Ah yes, it's good to be a Clinton.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Putin Pays the Navy a Compliment

Remember the Baltic Sea incident between our ship and a Russian fighter? It's all our fault:

Russia accused the United States on Wednesday of intimidation by sailing a U.S. naval destroyer close to Russia's border in the Baltics and warned that the Russian military would respond with "all necessary measures" to any future incidents.

By all means, give the captain of USS Donald Cook the Navy's highest commendation.

After all, who else could have maneuvered a mere wallowing warship into close encounters with a Russian fast-mover?

Repeatedly.

I mean, that poor ill-trained sap of a Russian pilot was helpless as the destroyer just about did barrel rolls under that flying garbage truck which was unable to evade our aggressive ship handling.

Let's just hope--because by nature I'm a forgiving man--that Putin doesn't have the pilot of the Su-24 shot for his shortcomings as a flyer.

Reaping What They Sowed

Yes, the terms of the debate were debased long before Trump arrived on the stage:

As a proud right-winger, I’m appalled and disgusted by Donald Trump. Nonetheless, I feel a certain schadenfreudean glee at watching leftists reel in horror at his unbridled incivility. They truly don’t seem to realize: he is only the loud and manifest avatar of their own silent and invisible nastiness. In a veiled reference to Trump at a recent lunch on Capitol Hill, President Obama declared he was “dismayed” at the “vulgar and divisive rhetoric” being heard on the campaign trail. “In America, there is no law that says we have to be nice to each other, or courteous, or treat each other with respect,” the president said. “But there are norms. There are customs.”

Are there? When I hear this sort of thing from Obama and his fellow leftists, what I wonder is: Have they not listened to themselves for the past 50 years? Do they really have no idea how vicious, how low, how cruel, and how dishonest their attacks on the Right have been?

Democrats have mastered the art of accusing Republicans of wanting to kill grandma for proposing to lower the right of increase of some obscure spending program by some small fraction. So I don't know what the author means by "silent and invisible." It was only in stealth mode because the media never condemned the left-wing slander and acted like it was all true.

I share the writer's sentiment of being appalled and disgusted by Trump.

And I don't want to hear one goddamned word about civility from the leftists who have spent decades turning policy disagreements into moral tales of Republican cruelty.

And for this, Trump gets support from people long accused of being evil and seeing those bullies getting away with it.

So if "liberal" (in the classical freedom-centric style) democracy is under assault (tip to the Instapundit Borg), the Left should spend some time looking at their finger prints at the crime scenes where they refused to defend the champions of this classical liberal democratic thinking--the West--when it came under assault by thugs who appealed to the leftist biases of people like Roger Cohen.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Well, Crap

So my dad passed away yesterday.

He was 88. He served in the Navy at the very tail end of World War II.

He did a bunch of stuff in addition to raising four children, such as trying his hand at minor league baseball, working for a trucking company, bar tending (shot and a beer neighborhood bar stuff and none of those fancy drinks), and odds and ends.

So there has been a lot to do.

And this had been on top of a lot to do the last 5 months with a lawyer who was great on financial issues, emergency rooms, a nursing home, and finally hospice care. I'm grateful to all the people who helped make my dad's final months as good as possible and lifted a terrible burden from my mother's shoulders.

I debated whether to blog this. But what's the point of blogging if you can't do something like this just for yourself?

I loved my dad and I'll miss him.

As you get older, you stop needing your dad to cope with life or to take care of you. As an adult, that's what you need to do on your own.

But I did get used to him just hanging in there. At some point he just seemed indestructible. Just knowing he was around was a comfort.

And now he isn't around except in memories and photos and expressions that come out of nowhere from my own mouth.

Anyway, let me just share one story that the Interwebs will keep for all times.

When I was a fairly young, my dad taught me to play Poker. He was on the couch and me on the floor with the coffee table between us for the table.

Dad explained the mechanics and went through the hands you were trying to get to win.

He dealt the cards and asked me how many cards I wanted. He explained that you usually want as many as you can get after saving your best cards.

I reviewed the hand I had and went over the goals I had. So I told him I wanted no cards.

Dad asked me if I was sure. People usually want to discard a few if you can, he explained--again.

I said I'd keep my cards. At this point I'm sure that dad figured I was hopeless at the game.

My dad took a few cards after discarding the maximum.

And then we showed our hands. I honestly don't even remember what dad had in his hand, because it just didn't matter.

I had a straight flush.

So at that point dad just laughed.

Perhaps from relief that I wasn't actually an idiot.

And he told me I'd never see that hand again in my life. Ever.

Which was nice to know. I've never gambled, figuring I used up my gambling luck just learning the game.

So thanks, dad. For that and a lot more. I'll miss you. But I won't forget you.

Teach the angels to play Poker, eh?

An Insufficient Honor

So a Democratic president gets demoted on the $20 bill in favor of Harriett Tubman? Okay.

After all, she is a kind of person a conservative can get behind:

Tubman is an admirable choice. Not only was she a courageous chaperone along the Underground Railroad, responsible for escorting more than 300 slaves to freedom; she was also a scout and spy for the Union Army, the first woman in American history to lead a military raid (against Combahee Ferry, in South Carolina, where she helped liberate more than 700 slaves), a Republican, a devout Christian, and a staunch defender of the right to bear arms.

If Democrats want to demote one of their own, who am I to stand in the way?

Still, my preference is to keep Jackson on the 20.

I'd rather add a 200 or 250 bill to cover inflation and compete with the Euro big bill.

And stifle the impulse to control that is evident in efforts to get rid of even the inflation-shriveled 100 to push us away from paper currency and to easier to control and monitor cards.

Tubman would have liked that, I imagine.

Really, going on the 20 is an insufficient honor.

Of Course You Realize, This Means a Rotten Tomatometer Score

The PLA is upset with an American cartoon movie's propaganda attack on China.

Paranoid much?

China’s Communist Party has long preached resistance to Western values, such as democracy and freedom of speech.

Now, according to a Chinese military newspaper, these values are infiltrating China via an unlikely Trojan horse: the Disney animated movie “Zootopia.”

The People’s Liberation Army Daily recently branded the cartoon — a computer-animated buddy-cop film set in a city populated by animals — an instrument of American propaganda. The film has earned more than $230 million in China, ranking it among Disney’s top-grossing films in the world’s second-largest market.

Of course, when you want to control thoughts, any deviation is a threat. So I guess it isn't so much paranoia as it is a ridiculously low threat perception threshold.

And really, I imagine that the biggest outrage in PLA circles is that the Chinese failed to shape the movie in production long before it made to the big screens in the Middle Kingdom and weakened party resolve among the Chinese people.

Of course, the Chinese Communist Party has their sights set higher than merely controlling what the Chinese see.

As I said, they have a low threat threshold. Sadly for the Chinese autocrats, they haven't managed to popularize the term "Sinophobic"--yet--in our leftist Newspeak dictionary.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Doesn't Play Well With Others

So how's that presidential legacy project of turning Iran into a responsible regional (and non-nuclear) power* able to share the Gulf region with the Arab states?

Huh:

In some of his harshest rhetoric yet aimed at Saudi Arabia, Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday described the Sunni kingdom as a “corrupt, sycophantic, hollow regime,” and declared, “to hell with it.”

Apparently, Khamenei is upset that Saudi Arabia got Arab organizations to declare the Iran-sponsored terror organization Hezbollah a terror organization.

Oh, and the supreme nutball had more:

Khamenei used the address to attack the “hegemonic” U.S. too, declaring that “a covert soft war” had been declared on Iran by “the U.S. and Zionists and their followers.”

I love the smell of legacy in the morning.
_____

*"I mean, the truth is, Iran has all these potential assets going for it where, if it was a responsible international player, if it did not engage in aggressive rhetoric against its neighbors, if it didn’t express anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish sentiment, if it maintained a military that was sufficient to protect itself, but was not engaging in a whole bunch of proxy wars around the region, by virtue of its size, its resources and its people it would be an extremely successful regional power."[emphasis added]

Close Enough for Jihadi Work

The long struggle between Christian Europe and Islam is over because Europe is no longer really Christian. But that's okay for the jihadis, because being secular is just one more way of thinking on the list of impermissible "not Islamist" ways of life that must be made to submit. It is close enough for government work, as the saying goes.

This is interesting if not particularly relevant to the issue of Europe being targeted by jihadis:

This seems to be a rather minor phase of conflict in an ongoing war. But this chapter is different in a fundamental way. All prior conflicts have been between Christians and Muslims. This one is not. Since World War II, Europe has redefined itself. It was once Christian. It is now officially secular, and this is therefore a conflict between Muslim religiosity and European secularism. And that makes the dynamics of the conflict different.

Sadly, as far as I can see, the change in dynamic seems to be that the Europeans (and those here who think like Europeans) are basically ashamed of their society and shrink from defending it against Islamist murderers and censors who are more willing than ever to kill and intimidate their European opponent into submission. COEXIST, they say. As if it is everyone's fault for this, ah, unpleasantness.

Just what have we done to make them hate us, eh?

So, yeah, back to that interesting article:

Secularism is a young religion in a way, and has not yet learned to carry political power gracefully. This places it on the intellectual defensive against Islam in a way that Christianity wasn’t. Christianity understood Islam in a way that secularism can’t. Christians and Muslims were enemies over the centuries. Secularism is both respectful of Islam and outraged at its values. In fighting a complex enemy, it is best to have elegantly consistent beliefs.

This is the relevant part. Do read it all.

If we had that confidence in our society--if the secularists had that confidence and the willingness to defend it against all threats and not just against the supposed threat of middle aged white men--I believe the war on terror would be nothing to sweat:

Honestly, if we were a unified society proud of our achievements and what we represent, I really wouldn't worry about a bunch of pathetic cave dwellers who fantasize about destroying the West. We'd butcher them before lunch and be on with our lives.

But the sad fact is, many in the West would kneel before their beheaders and feel privileged to be killed by the jihadis.

France seemed to go to war against the jihad after the November 2015 Paris Slaughter, but nuance has reasserted itself.

Jes suis nuance.

Que sera, sera, eh?

In one way, anyway, the old leftist bumper-sticker condemnation of fighting that held "it takes two sides to make war" has a point. If only one side fights, that's not war--that's conquest.

Conquerors always appreciate that kind of cooperation. Not that it does the conquered any good, of course.

When you submit, you submit. Just lie back and think of secularism. For all the good it will do you.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Farthest Day

Our advisors with the Iraqi army will be pushed down to brigade level. And we will commit helicopter gunships as well as artillery to supplement air support for the drive on Mosul--whenever that happens.

We are adding support capabilities to the Iraq War 2.0:

The advisers — who up until now had been assisting Iraqi military divisions, which have about 10,000 troops — will extend that assistance to units of about 2,000 soldiers who are more directly involved in day-to-day combat, Defense Department officials said on Monday.

American and Iraqi commanders want the advisers, who the officials say will not be on the actual front lines, to move closer to the fighting so they can provide timely, tactical guidance to the Iraqis as they prepare for the long-awaited assault on Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, which was seized by the Islamic State in 2014.

Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter, who made the announcement in a speech to dozens of American troops at the airport in Baghdad, said the Pentagon would also deploy several Apache attack helicopters and long-range artillery to aid in the fight. The Apaches, known for their withering — and accurate — fire, can quickly provide powerful air support to ground forces. He said that the Pentagon would also increase its logistical support for the Iraqi military.

And logistical help, of course, which will be needed for the large effort needed to advance to, take, and secure the large city of Mosul and its surrounding areas.

This isn't as good as having advisors down to the battalion level to assist in fighting the battles and calling in fire support, but I assume our (and allied) special forces units operating in the shadows will be providing that assistance while not being technically attached to Iraqi battalions or companies.

And after a year and a half of operating in Iraq our drone operators have gotten good at loitering and observing the enemy, and somewhat replicating that frontline capability, I'll guess.

Still, we continue to say that the conditions will be established to take Mosul by the end of this year:

Mr. Obama said in an interview with CBS News that aired on Monday that it was his expectation “that by the end of the year, we will have created the conditions whereby Mosul will eventually fall.”

It took us 30 months from Pearl Harbor (The Day of Infamy) to land at Normandy on D-Day (the Longest Day) in the biggest amphibious operation ever. From the fall of Mosul, it will then be 30 months from that even to the the first opportunity to actually commence the liberation of Mosul.

Which will happen eventually.

But no, really, take your time. What could go wrong?

History should call this Operation Overlong.

Syria War Still Up For Grabs

Russia's intervention restored Assad's fortunes--a bit. Assad still has major problems to overcome before he can sleep easily at night.

Yes, Russia's visible air intervention has stemmed rebel (including terrorist rebel) momentum.

But Assad is still in deep trouble.

Assad continues to fight despite the public downgrading of Russia's expeditionary force because Russia left a lot of stuff for Assad to use:

Despite the withdrawal of most Russian air support government forces continue to advance. In part this is because Russia has sent enormous quantities of military supplies to Syria since late 2015. This includes lots of spare parts for Syrian Air Force aircraft along with hundreds of Russian technical personnel to get aging and worn out Syrian warplanes (almost all of them Russian built) back into service. There were apparently some deliveries of new or used Russian warplanes. It is also believed that Russia has “loaned” the Syrian Air Force some military pilots and helped train additional Syrian pilots. The Syrian Army has received a lot of new Russian weapons and equipment. Syrian artillery support is noticeably more plentiful and accurate than it was a year ago.

Assad has restored his firepower edge with this aid. But then we have the enormous casualties that Assad's forces have endured in the war so far, which dwarf the casualties we endured in Iraq that so many charged were "breaking" our Army.

A report on what Iran is doing to put boots on the ground for Assad should make it clear that Assad's Syrian ground forces are pretty shaky:

As the five-year conflict in Syria grinds on, BBC Persian has found evidence that Iran is sending thousands of Afghan men to fight alongside Syrian government forces.

The men, who are mainly ethnic Hazaras, are recruited from impoverished and vulnerable migrant communities in Iran, and sent to join a multi-national Shia Muslim militia - in effect a "Foreign Legion" - that Iran has mobilised to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Used as shock troops, these men are ordered to do jobs that Syrian men are unwilling to do--advance through the last 100 yards toward enemy fighters and drive them from those positions.

That initial Strategypage link also notes that Iran is increasing its own role in addition to providing a Shia foreign legion:

Iran has increased its manpower in in Syria since Russia began withdrawing forces in mid-March. There are now close to 4,000 Iranian troops in Syria.

This now includes regular Iranian army forces in addition to the Revolutionary Guards (Pasdaran) that have been there.

Strategypage also notes that Russian special forces (Spetsnaz) are still active in Syria, helping to call in that firepower on enemy forces.

And those enemy forces may have been battered by the temporary Russian surge and the escalation of Iran's involvement, but the rebels still hold most of Syria's territory. Fighting continues around Aleppo, in the south, and around Damascus and Palmyra.

And in the east, an Assad outpost could go from Rorke's Drift to Dien Bien Phu at any time:

The Islamic State group has tightened the noose on a regime-held enclave in eastern Syria, overrunning part of the city of Deir Ezzor and advancing on its vital airbase, a monitor said Wednesday.

"IS seized the Al-Sinaa neighbourhood of Deir Ezzor on Tuesday evening and fighting is continuing on the edge of the airport," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

An estimated 200,000 civilians are believed to remain in government-held districts of Deir Ezzor, where they have been living under siege by IS since March 2014.

Russia's intervention didn't win the war for Assad. Assad's forces may have gotten a morale boost from that high-profile intervention, but as that intervention has receded, the Syrian troops find that they are still fighting the same old war with no end in sight to secure their northwestern bastion let alone reclaim the entire country.

And in the east, an ISIL success that overruns Deir Ezzor could well shake the morale of Assad supporters who will not be happy that Assad could not protect his backers.

I continue to believe that Assad's best hope of success is to get John Kerry to join Russia's Lavrov in some sort of "peace" deal (Nobel Peace Prizes all around!) that continues to bring America into the war on Assad's side against all of Assad's enemies (and not just against ISIL and al Qaeda types), which could start to deprive the non-jihadi rebels of outside support that sustains them.

UPDATE: Naturally, this confuses our administration:

"We've been concerned about reports of Russia moving materiel into Syria," Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser to President Barack Obama, said at a news briefing in Riyadh, where Obama was at a summit with Gulf Arab leaders.

"We think it would be negative for Russia to move additional military equipment or personnel into Syria. We believe that our efforts are best focused on supporting the diplomatic process," Rhodes added.

The notion that Putin is trying to help Assad win the war seems alien to our brain trust.

The outcome of the war is up for grabs but only ISIL and the Russians (and their Iranian and Assad allies) are trying to win.

UPDATE: Confidence among Assad's supporters is higher based on the Russian intervention, and core Syria from the capital up to the coast is more secure. The ceasefire, uneven as it is, helps maintain the illusion of success. This is natural. And Russia (and Iran--and the American anti-ISIL alliance, too) did enable Assad to make gains.

But I think that a renewed conflict and casualties could shake the morale of Assad's supporters by showing that the light at the end of the tunnel is no such thing.

And since Assad wants Aleppo in his shrunken realm, the war will go on even if his enemies--who are also growing tired--aren't eager to renew the war to full throttle. I still think that city is a bridge too far to hold even if Assad can take it.

Can supporters endure endless war and even more death and destruction for Assad's sake?

Or will these supporters finally make a break for the exits?

Sea Net Will Hear All

A global sensor net at sea is being built:

The increasing availability of inexpensive USVs and UUVs (unmanned surface and underwater vessels) has made the future uncomfortable for submarine crews. Searching for submarines (ASW, anti-submarine warfare) is evolving into a a job carried out by relentless robots. ... This sort of thing is really scary for submarine crews because these small UUVs are silent, making them nearly impossible to detect and even more difficult to destroy.

Since 2009 the U.S. Navy has been developing and testing a series of robotic mini-submarines, which the navy now calls AUVs (Autonomous Undersea Vehicle) because they operate largely on their own. These AUVs are silent, very small, and able to operate on their own for up to a year. The first models were two meters (six feet) long and weighed 59 kg (130 pounds) and built to operate completely on its own collecting valuable information about underwater “weather”. What this AUV does is automatically move slowly (30-70 kilometers a day) underwater, collecting data on salinity and temperature and transmitting back via a satellite link every hour or so as the AUV briefly reaches the surface.

When we've learned enough about how salty the sea is, I assume these long-endurance robots will actually look for submarines 24/7.

Well, we could build such a net with these USVs and UUVs. Or somebody could.

But the surface ship crews shouldn't gloat too much. If these USVs and UUVz can listen for near-silent submarines, how much easier will it be to listen for surface ships churning along?

One day, getting lost in the expanse of the oceans may become a lot more difficult.

And where you can remain unheard may be spaces on the oceans that are too remote to draw the attention of the robots.

But perhaps that's where anti-robot robots come in. Although an enemy will know something is going on by the mere absence of data that results from the destruction of the robots.

How far into this world do we have to go before the notion of large capital ships becomes obsolete?

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Interim Close Air Support Plan

As the Air Force pushes to retire the best close support aircraft in our inventory--the A-10--as soon as possible, the Air Force is looking at a replacement.

The Air Force swears on a stack of Curtis LeMay biographies that they truly are 100% behind the close air support mission that the Army needs:

The US Air Force (USAF) has begun developing requirements for a new close-air support (CAS) combat aircraft to replace the Fairchild-Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II, a senior service official said on 7 April.

See? The Air Force will spend money to do this mission! They care. They really do.

Which is odd since the Air Force used to claim the F-35 would do the CAS job at least as good as the A-10.

And it is odd that the Air Force would push to retire the A-10 early before this so-called replacement aircraft is even designed.

For that matter, it seems odd that the Air Force would retire the effective and cheap-to-operate A-10 when the Air Force claims it needs money for maintaining the F-35 as it enters the force. If the A-10 can already do the mission more cheaply, why replace A-10s with F-35s for that mission?

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.

That's the only real requirement of the plan.

The Air Force is great at what they do. I just wish they'd choose to do things more directly helpful to the ground forces.

Que Sera, Sera

ISIL (aka ISIS, Daesh, or Islamic State) in Libya is strengthening its hold. Why does France refuse to step up and take the lead in this section of the front in the war on jihadi terrorism before the terrorists strike France again?

This is not good:

ISIS now possesses a contiguous zone of control that includes a more than 200 km stretch of Libya’s coast, which ISIS confirmed as part of its Caliphate in August 2015. ISIS maintains between 5,000 and 6,500 fighters in Libya, according to the Pentagon’s latest count. The group is now both defending its stronghold in Sirte and pushing outward, imposing its rule on the population as it grows by establishing governance structures and enforcing shari’a law. U.S. leaders including Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter have acknowledged that ISIS’s Libya affiliate is chief among the organization’s increasingly dangerous “metastases” abroad.

Yet rather than step up and lead an assault on ISIL in Libya, which places Europe (including France) within easy reach of jihadis, France has rediscovered the bored affectation of nuance that allows them to sneer at the very notion of doing something about the barbarians threatening their walls.

Still, at least the British--perhaps stung by our president blaming them in particular for failing to stabilize Libya after the 2011 war--will do the job:

The Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond's visit to Tripoli is intended to provide visible international backing for the fledgling Government of National Accord.

He also arrived with further practical assistance; £10m-worth of aid, in part intended to combat people smuggling and terrorism.

Well, all support short of actual support.

That backing stops well short of backing European ground forces (led by Italy, in the noted proposal) that would do anything as cautious as just training Libyans, let alone leading a fight against ISIL.

Whoever will die, will die, I suppose. The future's not ours, you see, if we don't fight for it.

Nobody's Pants are Big Enough to Protect Hillary

I don't even understand why the basic existence of Hillary Clinton's private email system isn't widely viewed as the crime, apart from whether anything was found out by our enemies or whether the Clinton Foundation benefited from Hillary Clinton's tenure as secretary of state.

Honest to God, the existence of the server shows that Hillary Clinton learned the lesson that you can't always count on loyal minions to retrieve information from the wrong hands in order to suppress it by stuffing it down their pants and smuggling it to safe Clintonian hands.

Hence the private server and private email account.

And the loyal minion doesn't seem to have suffered. That's a lesson the Clintons want remembered, too.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Best and Brightest

If Idiocracy showed a future where the stupid outbred the smart, don't assume that the educated will lead to a better future of rational thought.

Behold the stupid:



Egad.

Although the one young man was rather an oppressor, wasn't he, for insisting that he'd have to be persuaded that the interviewer's reasons for stating his self-identification were valid. Don't you think?

Bono recently hoped to combat jihadi fanaticism with humor.

In that spirit, I give you Monty Python:



We went from humor to policy in 35 years.

Symbolic of a struggle against reality, indeed.

UPDATE: To be clear, an individual with genuine identification issues can and should be afforded human sympathy. That must be awful.

But putting public policy through contortions to deny an external reality is just idiocy--if not idiocracy.

Quitzkrieg

Quitting time comes early for the German military these days.

Yeah, tell me again about how NATO could easily repel a Russian invasion:

The German military, once the most feared fighting force in Europe, is being forced to lay down its weapons by restrictive new overtime limits.

German soldiers taking part in a four-week Nato exercise in Norway earlier this year had to leave after just 12 days because they had gone over their overtime limits, it has emerged.

As a reservist, I trained harder, it seems. Since I remember one 4-day exercise during which I counted myself lucky to get one stretch of 5 continuous hours of sleep.

The German military isn't happy with the rules.

No doubt. People still tremble when they speak of the German military--but now it is because they are laughing.

Heck, the British report that "If Chancellor Merkel sends the German army to Britain, I shall have the police arrest them."

And remember, Russia bizarrely claims NATO is a major threat to invade Holy Mother Russia.

A Nation or a Continent?

As China has prospered economically, have the bonds of central control frayed too much to hold the periphery?

This is interesting:

The problem for Xi is that the remedy for China's ailing economy - the attempted imposition of decisive rule by a single individual - is one that produces factions in the first place. And any resultant groups that form could be more dangerous to him that any that existed before his presidency. If Xi fails to control the development of factional rifts in the Communist Party, the prospects for maintaining a coherent central government could be near impossible. And, like China's experience following the Qing, if control were to falter, the restoration of effective central government could take years, if not decades.

Do read it all.

Does the faltering of the central government just mean a weakening of the central government's authority?

Or are Xi's worries deeper than that?

China's economic growth has been substantial, despite real questions about how good the official statistics really are. Could rising incomes be insufficient to deliver a modern, secure, state run from Peking; yet enough to give the periphery options to exit the Chinese state that once were impractical?

I've long wondered whether China is a continent masquerading as a state.

Could all our debates about which path China might follow be in error by not including "all of the above?"

Really, centralization and regionalism has long been a feature of Chinese history. Yet until the 19th century when the world reached China, China as the Middle Kingdom dwarfed neighbors and so was fairly immune to existential consequences of rounds of regionalism that weakened China. No neighbor was strong enough to really exploit the fleeting weakness of such a large and dominant entity as China.

Who on the periphery could decisively exploit a period of Chinese weakness and survive a rebound of Chinese central authority when the empire strikes back?

Now, a round of Chinese weakness invites foreign exploitation as happened in the 19th century when foreigners like the West, Russia, and Japan could take advantage of Chinese weakness. China still hasn't recovered from that demotion from their status in a region that was once a world all by itself.

Of course, rising Chinese military power might give China's rulers a hope that they can avoid that traditional swing between strong central control and strong regional resistance. I also wonder if the communist rulers of China would provoke a "foreign" war for what we could see as a "domestic" problem of maintaining Chinese Communist Party control of all (or even just most) of China.

And unlike the pre-globalized world, when China falters the rest of the world doesn't have the luxury of remaining ignorant of either the titanic events or remaining immune to the consequences of that upheaval.

Answering the question of whether China is a nation or a continent could be rough on a lot of the planet.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Matches and the Powder Keg

Summer is approaching. So where do things just blow sky high and push out news of a Shark Summer on our east coast?

The Yemen cage match fight continues.

As I've long noted, I don't closely follow this war because Yemen always seems to be at war with itself, on the verge of war, or recovering from war. I assume at some point the Saudi intervention will lead to some deal--eventually--between the major Sunni and Shia factions that will settle down the war to a low roar that will allow America to go back to business-as-usual of sending in aid to the area and drones to kill jihadi terrorists the way we did when the country was the model theater in the president's war strategy.

The Taliban have renewed their fight for Kunduz in the north of Afghanistan, in their new "spring offensive" recently announced.

If Afghanistan collapses, it will be not because the Taliban are better fighters or more motivated than pro-government forces; but because corruption is still rampant in Afghanistan. Corruption favors disorder and when the government is defending disorder and the Taliban is pursuing disorder, you can see how the battlefield is tilted toward the Taliban in this crucial area.

That living piece of breathing garbage, serial pro-Iran revolt leader Moqtada al-Sadr, is stirring up Iraq again.

Hamas in Gaza continues to focus rebuilding aid on rebuilding Gaza's military capabilities, including this newly discovered tunnel into Israel.

Both Egypt and Israel consider Hamas hostile, and limit the nature of goods allowed into Gaza in an effort to avoid strengthening Hamas or other terrorist factions there. But note how the article describes the two countries' policies:

The tunnels toward Egypt are generally used for smuggling into and out of the Gaza Strip, which is under an Israeli blockade. Egypt's border with Gaza has also remained largely closed.

Ah. Israel "blockades" Gaza while Egypt's border with Gaza is "largely closed." The former is rabidly condemned by the Left while the latter is quietly ignored. But both countries do generally the same thing for the same reasons--Hamas is a terrorist threat. And I bet more goods useful to Gaza's people enter through Israel.

And the Russian-style "ceasefire" in Syria is fraying as rebels decide pro-Assad forces have made enough gains in military campaigns during the ceasefire.

Oh, and ISIL in Libya continues to strengthen their positions.

It could be one or more of these or other places.

I remain grateful we responsibly ended wars in the region.

UPDATE: Related:

Years ago, looking out at the Pacific surf from a beach in Chile, a friend -- alert to the ways of tsunamis -- gave me some advice about what to do if suddenly the water all went away. "Run. Run for your life. Because it's all coming back."

That advice has come to mind all too often since President Obama made his 2012 reelection campaign proclamations about the receding tide of war. Not that the tide of war has receded anywhere except perhaps in the fantasies of Obama and his followers. But after more than seven years of U.S. policy predicated on such propaganda, it's getting ever harder to read the daily headlines without the sense that there's a deluge coming our way.

Yeah, as I've noted before, retreating results in breaking contact with the enemy. If you are dense enough, you can mistake that lack of fighting for "peace."

It is not peace, of course. And when the enemy catches up, the fight resumes.

All Not Quiet on the Eastern Front

The Army is rediscovering Europe:

POLITICO has learned that, following the stunning success of Russia’s quasi-secret incursion into Ukraine, [Lieutenant General H.R.] McMaster is quietly overseeing a high-level government panel intended to figure out how the Army should adapt to this Russian wake-up call. Partly, it is a tacit admission of failure on the part of the Army — and the U.S. government more broadly.

After over a decade of fighting insurgents and terrorists, during which the Army became "unbalanced" (that is, focused on that task at the expense of training to fight conventional enemies), we find we must quickly balance to cope with Russia.

Mind you, I think we had to win the war in Iraq--which we did--and so becoming unbalanced was worth the risk. The alternative was to keep a good portion of the Army focused on conventional war while a smaller portion of the Army struggled in Iraq, risking failure.

Or we might have expanded the active Army by hundreds of thousands of troops to do both--and we'd have had to have mass mobilization of the National Guard's combat units to get troops fast enough until we could train new units.

And given the view of visionaries, would we have trained for the right kind of conventional battle?

After all, Russian heavy armor, as the article notes, has proven to be valuable despite views by some "visionaries" that heavy armor is obsolete. This is apparently a revelation.

Which is odd considering how useful armor proved to be even in fighting insurgencies in Iraq (and that was the pre-MRAP and pre-Abrams deployment era).

I was never one of those visionaries. Nope. [Oops. I screwed up the link on "Nope." I don't know what post I had there so killed the bad link.]

And now Russia has reminded us (because past lessons aren't persistently learned, again and again) that the evolved dinosaurs aren't about to become extinct.

Which should make us wonder if updating heavy armor was really a "waste" of resources:

Among the expenditures flagged as waste: $40 million to upgrade the M1 Abrams tank, even though the Pentagon says the upgrade isn't needed or wanted.

"There are 2,000 of them parked in the desert and it's simply not something that they want to spend money on," Schatz said.

Yeah, we might need every darned one of them--and more--in Europe.

Revive the Merchant Marine

We really should rebuild our Merchant Marine of US-flagged merchant ships. We need them for global operations. They could also be force multipliers if they put the source of potential hulls for Modularized Auxiliary cruisers under US control rather than forcing us to go on the world market which poses more challenges.

Our Merchant Marine is a source of our logistical prowess and is in dire need of revival:

The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps operate from ships supplied at sea by the Military Sealift Command (MSC).

This Command is the crucial logistical lynch pin of the sea services, without which the United States would not have an effective maritime combat force.

But the decline of the U.S. merchant marine and the dwindling pool of mariners is a threat to the viability of supporting the Navy and Marines.

And the problem is getting worse. The demand on Merchant Sealift Command ships is increasing as the Navy moves towards a new concept of operations whereby their ships are operating farther apart both for global coverage and to assure the security of the fleet against 21st century threats.

Add container ships to the merchant marine fleet and we can do even more by having American hulls to create Modularized Auxiliary Cruisers.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Colonel Warren Gets to Enjoy His Job

This Department of Defense briefing on operations in Iraq and Syria had an exchange with a reporter that I hope Colonel Warren enjoyed as much as I did.

First the Question:

That -- does the pressure [on ISIL] that they're taking in Iraq, especially and in Syria, does that not force more cells of fighters into North Africa and Europe?

Ah, the stupid that will not die. Here we get more of the "fighting jihadis just creates more jihadis" nonsense. So the assumption behind the question is that it would be better to let the jihadis be secure in their haven and that they will be more likely to remain there.

Like they did in Afghanistan in 2001, I suppose.

And to Hell with the people that have to live under ISIL rule. Now that's compassion.

Anyway, on April 13th, Colonel Warren got to address that bizarre and stupid notion rather than go back to his office and complain about the stupid:

We're talking about systematically dismantling all of their systems. Whether it's the ability to generate weapons, generate money, build truck bombs, command and control themselves, communicate amongst each other and to hold a controlled territory. Remember, ISIL, it exists to be a so-called caliphate. Right? So as we gobble up more and more territory, they are less and less of a caliphate until eventually they won't be one anymore. Then they'll just be another group of terrorists, which is a different problem set, fair enough.

But it is a significantly reduced problem set that an organization that has safe haven in an area where they can sit and freely plan their external operations around the world. So this idea that somehow by beating them that they're becoming more dangerous is, in my view, ludicrous. I mean, it's stupid. Nobody is really thinking about it.

The problem is, a lot of people outside of the military do indeed really think exactly that, notwithstanding the stupidity.

In reality, as I've often mentioned, fighting ineffectively creates more jihadis. And while I remain frustrated that we are taking too long to defeat ISIL, we do seem to have inflicted serious damage on ISIL in Iraq, we have taken back territory, and I do think ISIL's high water mark was the seizure of Ramadi last summer.

I just wish we'd wrap up producing PowerPoint presentations about the perfect plan to inflict a killing blow on the ground against ISIL and get on with their destruction as a proto-caliphate.

Sadly, because of a strange ideology of belief, we are in a long war to fight Islamist killers.

And the ability of jihadis to fight to the death makes it longer, too.

Anyway, my thanks to Colonel Warren. I enjoyed that. I hope he did, too.

When Lives Don't Matter

President Bill Clinton awkwardly told the truth about how African-American criminals target mostly African Americans (via the Instapundit Borg):

In a fiery comeback to Black Lives Matter hecklers Thursday, Clinton defended his own anti-crime policies as well as his wife Hillary’s 1996 reference to thugs as “super predators” — for which she’s apologized.

“I don’t know how you would characterize the gang leaders who got 13-year-old kids hopped up on crack and sent them out into the street to murder other African-American children,” Clinton said. “Maybe you thought they were good citizens. [Hillary] didn’t.”

Bill ripped the BLM folks for “defending the people who killed the lives you say matter” and challenged them to “tell the truth.”

This type of Leftist similarly views a Western war on Islamist jihadis overseas as anti-Islamic despite the clear fact that Moslems are the overwhelmingly largest victim of Islamist jihadi violence.

And yet opposing the jihadis is considered "Islamophobia" despite the fact that in Belgium, ordinary Moslems who are the first and most numerous victims of these monsters, want help in opposing the haters and killers--who were subsidized by the Saudis:

[When] data was compiled about the origins of ISIL recruits from Europe it was found that Belgium had the highest per-capita number of ISIL volunteers. No surprise that many who returned (nearly half died in Syria and Iraq) were even more determined to bring the war to Belgium. At this point Belgian officials were forced to admit that many Belgian Moslems had complained to the government about all this anti-Western preaching and were ignored because it had long been Belgian policy not to offend the Saudis. [emphasis added]

And as a bonus, hopped-up proto-jihads found that deep knowledge of the Koran was not as valuable in a job search as they assumed--leading to more anger (is there a lesson for our colleges that churn out graduates with useless degrees at high cost?).

Now tell me again that "Black Lives matter" to you when you refuse to protect African lives from thugs inconveniently the same skin color.

And tell me that you oppose "Islamophobia" by opposing the war on terror, which means you refuse to protect Moslem lives from thugs inconveniently the same religion as the haters and killers.

Yet conservatives are lacking compassion? Sure, you say.

Well, if that is so, then end Republican control of the city of Chicago, which a task force said has a police force that has "no regard for the sanctity of life" of minorities.

What? Democratic mayors have run the city for how many decades? More than 8? Huh.

The compassion of the hard Left is odd, is it not? It seems that the only lives that matter to them are the Black criminals and the Islamist jihadis.

Content of character be damned. It's all about the externals. So keep dreaming.