Tuesday, May 31, 2016

If You Dim the Lights and Squint

Apparently, our government is looking at Iran's thug regime through beer hope goggles and seeing a fine reset nation.

Behold the determination of the Obama administration to see success in turning Iran into our friend through the nuclear deal (tip to the Instapundit Borg):

The Obama administration has not designated a single Iranian as a human rights abuser since finalizing last summer’s comprehensive nuclear agreement, despite rising abuse in the Islamic Republic, including state-sanctioned killings and the imprisonment of opposition figures.

Now we see that "bridging" the gap between America and thug enemies consists entirely of America averting our gaze from thug actions.

How very hopey and changey.

Then What Exactly Was She Doing?

If, as her defenders claim, Hillary Clinton had no sensitive information on her private server emails during her tenure as secretary of state of the United States of America, just what was she doing in that job other than racking up frequent flyer miles?

Did President Obama simply cut Secretary Clinton out of the loop and keep her out of his way with busy-work?

UPDATE: Really, the only way it is possible for the president himself to be unaware of Hillary's private email system as he claims would be if he really had no direct contact with her, where he would see the non government email address.

And that would only be possible if he really didn't need her because he bypassed the State Department in favor of his own national security staff.

Which wouldn't be shocking when you consider how bitterly Obama and Clinton fought the 2008 primary contest. I always had the feeling that President Obama simply figured it was safer to have Hillary in his tent pissing out as Secretary of State than the reverse out in the world on her own.

As for what she was doing? Well, breaking the law. Remember, the private server is the smoking gun.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Here's One of Those Systems in a Box

In The AFRICOM Queen (see page 50), I suggest using weapons and equipment systems in shipping containers mounted on container ships to create power projection modularized auxiliary cruisers. Here's an example:

Ash Carter gazed out at the 20-foot boat on Narragansett Bay, then ducked into a shipping container outfitted with big screens and a rack of computers. Outlining a course track with a few mouseclicks, the defense secretary sent the unmanned surveillance craft on its way, tootling its anti-collision horn to ward off any conventional vessel that might have strayed too close to the Naval Undersea Warfare Center’s pier.

Perhaps a modularized auxiliary cruiser acts as a mother ship for larger unmanned surface vessels operating around the African littorals.

Perhaps the modularized auxiliary cruiser, as part of a port security-themed expedition, trains locals on using such unmanned surveillance craft systems and drops them off on land at various African ports during their cruise in numerous places for added protection if intelligence indicates threats at higher levels.

Remember, many of our military missions in Africa are at a lower end of the conflict spectrum, focusing on training and supporting local forces to resist less-than-conventional threats:

After a series of terrorist attacks on hotels and other tourist sites that raised concerns all across Africa, the United States has increased training exercises with militaries here, focusing on how to defend civilian targets on a continent that has become a significant battleground in the war against militant Islam.

Small American forces, whether on training missions or in direct support of African forces using small units of special forces, Army or Marine units, drone surveillance and fire support, or other fire support, could be force multipliers in helping Africans defend civilian targets and go after the jihadis who would make Africa a battleground.

A modularized auxiliary cruiser could support many of these missions in the absence of a Navy commitment to provide traditional grey hulls to African waters.

A Dangerous Friend

We are restoring relations with Vietnam despite their human rights record in order to make common cause against a common threat--China. Vietnam will eventually pay the price for daring to befriend America.

Oh, China would lean on Vietnam regardless of what Vietnam does in regard to relations with America.

What I'm talking about is the American Left punishing Vietnam.

Think about it. Our Left seems to love looking at our allies and complaining they are not pure--even if they are better than the alternative.

And our Left idealizes American's enemies despite their human rights records--excusing that record as necessary to resist our hostility or even denying that record.

So when America actually befriends an enemy and that enemy befriends us, the Left here will eventually no longer be able to admire a state with a less than perfect record--because being a friend of America is damning and indicative that the country is not "authentically" nationalistic.

As a control group experiment, the Left's continued admiration for outreach to Cuba and Iran demonstrates clearly that neither state is actually a friend of America.

In Memory of Those Who Died to Defend Us


For the military, every day is a day to remember those who have died to defend us.



Sunday, May 29, 2016

Less Bridging, More Crushing

We did not get the Hiroshima speech I wanted. But at least there was no presidential apology in the speech (although the errors in the casual supporting statements--the EU brought peace to Europe? Really?--alone justify a fisking).

How do you know they are an evil regime? Build a bridge out of them?



I would like to correct this error in logic (in a speech prior to the main event), however, that indicates problems with this president drawing historical lessons from the atomic bombings:

Prior to his Hiroshima visit on Friday, Obama met with Japanese and US troops at Iwakuni air station and said the visit was a reaffirmation of "the great alliance" between Japan and the United States.

"This is an opportunity to honor the memory of all who were lost in WWII," he told the troops. "It's a testament to how even the most painful divides can be bridged. How two nations can become not just partners but the best of friends."

We did not "bridge" the differences between democratic and free America on the one hand and militaristic, authoritarian, aggressive, and cruel Japan on the other.

No, we crushed that Japanese regime, leaving no doubt in anyone's minds that the defeat was complete and total by stripping them of their conquests; ripped out the evil elements of the government and society; and redesigned Japan as a country worthy of being our partner and best friend.

There was no "responsibly ending" that war.

There was victory.

And then real friendship with a free, prosperous, and democratic Japan that is worthy of being a member of "the West."

So no, modern Japan is not the proof of the wisdom of reaching out to enemies like Iran, the Taliban, and Cuba and pretending these thugs can be our friends if only we can bridge our differences.

But no, we have a president wise in the ways of history in search of his own Holy Grail.

Time to Unleash the Killing Blow?

It really does seem like we are getting ready to liberate Raqqa, ISIL's capital in Syria. Are there enough Arab forces to do the job? And does that signal the beginning of the Mosul offensive?

In any event, Stratfor writes that the Raqqa effort is real:

But just how close [the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)] is able to get to the heart of the city will be determined by one thing: its ethnic composition. Raqqa is a city with an Arab majority. Because the SDF and its backers want to not only retake the city but also to hold and govern it, they will need a sizable Arab force if they hope to achieve their objectives with local support. However, the SDF is currently dominated by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which have been effective against the Islamic State in territory they are familiar with in the north and northeast but are less inclined to spearhead operations farther south toward Raqqa. Moreover, the deeper the Kurds push into overwhelmingly Arab territory, the more they risk cementing local populations' suspicions of the rebels and support for the Islamic State.

Still, Arab fighters have been joining the SDF's ranks in droves. In fact, training these Syrian Arab Coalition fighters is one of the core purposes of the 250 U.S. special operations forces deployed to Syria in April, and Votel was likely checking up on their progress during his visit to the country. (The general subsequently traveled to Turkey to reassure Turkish officials of U.S. support for the SDF.)

Once the Syrian Arab Coalition grows to the ideal size and strength, and final preparations are complete, the SDF will shift its offensive to a direct attack on Raqqa. Because the Islamic State will not give up the city without a fight, the ensuing battle will likely be expensive and lengthy, easily lasting weeks if not months.

I've noted that the Kurds are unlikely to want to die to liberate Arab territory. Which is understandable. But we seem to be doing a better job of training Arab forces there than we have in the past programs to train Syrian rebels.

Note too the claim is that Arabs living under ISIL don't want to be liberated by Kurds. Which seems just odd to me. ISIL may be sons of bitches but they are our fellow Sunni Arab sons of bitches?

Nothing is simple in this region.

The SDF will have plenty of our air power to help, of course.

With ISIL then fully engaged in holding their capital and Iraqi forces cleaning out ISIL in Anbar's cities; if I was Lord of CENTCOM, I'd launch the offensive to liberate Mosul while jihadis are dug in fighting for their lives in Syria and on the run in Anbar.

Oh, and in what is surely a bit of coincidence, the Iraqi Kurdish front in the north near Mosul seems more active:

Servicemen from the U.S.-led coalition were seen near the front line of a new offensive in northern Iraq launched on Sunday by Kurdish peshmerga forces that aims to retake a handful of villages from Islamic State east of their Mosul stronghold.

Really, is our strategy to defeat ISIL in Syria first to Assad's benefit and send the ISIL forces fleeing to Iraq where they would reinforce the Iraqi front?

We claim we are far from H-Hour for the Mosul offensive, by why put our firebases in the field so far ahead of the end of the year?

And if we are near, we would want to pretend to be far, wouldn't we?

Come on, ISIL doesn't have that many troops. And they seem to be having morale problems.

We really can carry out offensives on multiple fronts against these chuckleheads.

And taking our time about defeating ISIL could have consequences, don't forget.

[As a side note, I ran across a post of mine from August 2012 predicting that a war against jihadis in eastern Syria would be our next theater in the war on terror. And here we are. I forgot about that post.]

Feel the Burn

 Behold Venezuela where the eggs are all broken and yet the omelette tastes awful.

Funny enough, Venezuela generated super wealthy connected to the regime even as they destroyed the country:

Step by step, Venezuela has been shutting down.

This country has long been accustomed to painful shortages, even of basic foods. But Venezuela keeps drifting further into uncharted territory.

Funny enough, the New York Times can't fathom that socialism is what is shutting down Venezuela:

The growing economic crisis — fueled by low prices for oil, the country’s main export; a drought that has crippled Venezuela’s ability to generate hydroelectric power; and a long decline in manufacturing and agricultural production — has turned into an intensely political one for President Nicol├ís Maduro. This month, he declared a state of emergency, his second this year, and ordered military exercises, citing foreign threats.

What bad luck!

Well, not really bad luck. Foreign threats.

That dastardly President Obama, who has always had it in for poor Venezuela, has probably been plotting against this Pearl of Socialism since day one of his presidency, eh? Our president has always wanted to discredit socialism. And now he has done it.

Okay, not really. Or does our Left want to stand on that particular hill of American plots under Obama and defend that position to the death?

No? Can't blame this on American policy?

The problems cited are real, but socialism has eroded all of those issues--looting the oil industry and hydroelectric sectors that ended needed maintenance and investments while regulating the productive sectors to death--making them fragile enough to collapse at the first real problem that a healthy government system would have coped with.

This is what socialism does. No matter how many times Sean Penn claimed he was seeing a glorious future being built in Venezuela.

In the end it impoverishes you and then shoots and imprisons you for daring to mention your poverty.

The shooting and imprisoning will no doubt start in earnest pretty soon.

UPDATE: Socialism wrecks societies, making new elites who run the socialist system:

Well, this is old news: George Orwell explained the phenomenon in his Animal Farm many decades ago. But people keep falling for it: Like Ponzi schemes, socialism is an evergreen form of fraud, egged on by suckers eager to believe the lies hucksters tell them.

That's the most frustrating part. Socialists couldn't pour water out of a boot if the instructions were written on the heel, yet people keep falling for the siren song of building stuff together, hoping that this time it will work just swell.

Well This is Good

The F-35 is getting some good reviews in the hands of users. As the only game in town, that's good news.

This is a relief:

Now, with the F-35 ready for service the growing number of pilots who have flown it and techs who maintain and upgrade it are reporting that the new fighter is better than they expected. This is because a lot of the new tech that was causing the problems (and indignant headlines) eventually matured and provided new opportunities that even the designers did not anticipate. Actually, the unexpected was expected because the F-35 is highly automated (as are ships, airliners and so much else) and the pilots can not only spend more time on the mission and less on the many details of operating a complex machine. ...

The F-35A matches the F-16 in terms of maneuverability, outperforms it in terms of stealthiness, payload, range, supportability, survivability and overall operational effectiveness. Not surprisingly the F-35 costs more than twice as much.

It's a relief that the problems are being solved. But I'm old enough to remember when the M-1 was too fragile for maintaining in combat conditions--until it dominated in two maneuver campaigns against Iraq--and old enough to remember that the Stinger anti-aircraft missile was too complicated for American soldiers to operate--until Afghan rebels started dropping Soviet helicopters with it.

But what is really a relief is the report that the plane is as maneuverable than the F-16. I was led to believe that this was not the case--and done on purpose:

Rather than entering a turning fight at the merge, the F-35 barrels through and takes an over-the-shoulder defensive shot. As a Northrop Grumman video puts it, "maneuvering is irrelevant".

As I worried in that post, fully aware of my limitations:

I'm nowhere near close enough of an expert on airplanes to really judge this claim, but 40 years ago, we thought dogfighting was obsolete with air-to-air missiles in our arsenal until cheap enemy fighters over the skies of North Vietnam disabused us of that notion. Forty years is a long time, of course, and times change. Perhaps no enemy can get close to us again to shoot us down with old-fashioned cannons or shorter-range missiles.

If the F-35 is as maneuverable as the F-16, that's pretty good, I say, if maneuvering is not irrelevant.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

When Fake But Accurate Goes Huge

At some level I find this complaint that Trump has killed the interview rather humorous:

In dismissing logic and consistency for pure emotion, Trump has created a powerful reality-distortion field in both politics and journalism. The field doesn’t actually permit Trump to “get away with” lying in interviews: If you query his supporters, most will concede their man’s many fibs. In their minds, though, the “truth” matters less than what’s in Trump’s heart. It’s not that truth and fact don’t matter to them—it’s that truth and facts don’t matter enough to affect whether you want to vote for him. In an environment in which political success is almost totally detached from information, the “truth-finding” interview is becoming one of the first casualties.

Ah yes, truth matters less than what is in the heart. Savor that.

The "fake but accurate" crowd on the Left set the rules that dismissed truth as secondary to the mission, and now they are upset that Trump is winning the game using those rules.

And the reprehensible Katie Couric's entry for this year's Dan Rather Award is part of that partisan hackery masquerading as journalism that the Left has championed and celebrated when it worked for them.

So congratulations to those on the Left for getting in Trump what you wished--good and hard. I spare a moment in my stream of despair to laugh at those on the Left who wrote the rules.

The problem is that I dislike the crooks and communists who hate Trump--to the point of rioting over their fear that he will promote violence--more than I dislike Trump, who is clearly a clown (excuse me, a "Clown-American") but at least not a crook or communist.

Which might be "meta," or something. I don't know. Consult a philosophy major on that.

God help us all. I guess I'll just have to lie back and think of 2020.

The Central Issue in the Middle East

I find it amusing that members of the Global Left still insist that the Palestinian issue is the central issue of the Middle East whose solving would have a domino effect on all the other problems, when nobody in the Middle East seems to act as if they think it is the most important issue.

Sunni jihadis are more interested in holding territory in Iraq, Syria, and Libya; while destabilizing Yemen, Mali, Somalia, and Egypt.

Hamas seems to provide far more support to jihadis in the Sinai who fight Egypt.

Nor has Hamas tried to build a functioning state on territory they hold, preferring to spend their efforts on enriching their leaders through corruption and killing or kidnapping the odd Jew here and there.

Even Hezbollah has committed to fighting for Assad.

Saudi Arabia is more interested in leading a coalition to fight Iran in Syria and Yemen; and even wants Israeli help to hold off Iran.

The Turks worry more about Assad, the Kurds, the Russians, Iran, and the Greeks than they've ever spent on worrying about the Palestinians.

Just who is focusing on the Palestinians? Except for the Global Left that insists everything else is secondary.

Even President Obama, who came into office with this kind of thinking, as put a reset with Iran at the top of his list and has all but abandoned the Palestinian peace process in favor of dealing with all the other problems without thinking the Palestinian issue would somehow cut the Gordian Knot to solve all.

Speaking of delusions, Assad actually claimed that his hostility to Israel--as if oppression paled in comparison to the chance to kill Jews--made him immune to the forces of the Arab Spring that have since engulfed his regime.

Even Iran--which basks in the glory of hating Jews--seems to spend more of their efforts trying to make Syria and Iraq their colonies and destabilizing Yemen and Gulf Arab states.

Although to be fair, the Iranians probably see their chance against Israel resting on getting nuclear weapons.

Yet fools continue to believe that "solving" the Palestinian issue is the key to the Middle East.

Actually, the central issue of the Middle East that pulls in a lot of the problems is the lack of rule of law in Middle Eastern states (even aside from whether there is democracy, too). But what the Hell, that's probably the Israelis' fault, too.

One Last Concert

Another part of my life continues to appear in the rear view mirror on the way to disappearing.

Lamb had her last middle school concert. So after many years of going to these concerts for both Lamb and her older brother, Mister, I will no longer make the trip to the school for this event.


It is bittersweet.

And a lovely, concert, of course.

Friday, May 27, 2016

The Borg Absorbs More Powers

Seriously, what's next? A federal Department of Zoning?

Because this is insane:

Last week 16 Republican Senators green-lighted one of President Obama’s most radical attempts to transform America, the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) regulation. AFFH enables a de facto federal takeover of many functions of local government, and amounts to a massive scheme to re-engineer the composition of America’s neighborhoods by race, ethnicity, and class.

You wonder why so many Republican voters are mad at the party and open to the appeal of Trump?

Don't dismiss the notion of this kind of new federal department. We do have a federal Department of Education for what is a state and local responsibility.

And the feds have entered bathroom usage debates with more energy than they have focused on defeating jihadi enemies abroad.

We won't end divisiveness in our national politics until we again understand instinctively the admonition to "not make a federal issue out of this (whatever it is) relatively trivial problem."

Oh, and you can be sure that no neighborhoods that vote for Democrats--certainly not the wealthy districts--will ever face the long arm of the federal government to re-engineer their neighborhoods.

They are already enlightened, don't you know?

Where the Tweets Have No Name

This number seems awfully high, but even if off by an order of magnitude represents a horrific prison system:

At least 60,000 people have died in Syrian government prisons over the past five years from torture or due to dire humanitarian conditions, including a lack of food, a monitor said Saturday.

The head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group, Rami Abdel Rahman, said he compiled the toll from regime sources.

But given the high casualties overall in the war, perhaps not.

Yet where is the global outrage?

What's that? Nothing?

Keep this story about Assad's murder camps in mind when the global Left releases its latest Twitter blast about America's Guantanamo Bay detention facility where we hold actual terrorists--whose comrades in the wild still try to kill us--whose biggest threat is gaining weight because of too much rice pilaf in their culturally sensitive diets.

Yeah, Gitmo is the prison that the compassionate class cares passionately about closing.

Yeah, We Did It. And We'd Do It Again

Is President Obama's visit to Hiroshima a mistake?

Professor Richard Samuels of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a Japan expert, told the New York Times on May 10th that "In Japan, I don't think there has been much real evolution, at least among the right wing and the amnesiacs who deny Japan's destructive war in Asia and insist they were the victims…For them, Obama's visit will be a chance to reiterate that they were right."

Hard for me to say if this visit encourages those in Japan who want to spread the notion that Japan was a victim in World War II.

What I will say is that I'd pay good money to hear presidential remarks like this at ground zero:

As I stand here in Hiroshima, at ground zero, I join all people in their sorrow for the great loss of innocent life here. The suffering breaks our hearts, even 70 years later.

But this loss of life and suffering at this place on that day in 1945 was at the end of a greater loss of life across the entire Asia and Pacific region that an evil imperial Japanese power inflicted on even more innocent lives for many years.

As I stand here, I remind those who would unleash evil on the world that America stands ready to use all elements of our national power to destroy that evil and end the death and destruction that such evil leaves in its wake when nobody stands up to evil aggressors.

And as I stand here, more than 70 years after the nuclear bombing that ended World War II for good, without further loss of life in brutal land combat, aerial bombardment, and wasting blockade, we can also share the joy of the new friendship between the people of America and Japan that developed since those dark days when we were bitter enemies, begun by the surprise Japanese attack on America at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

We built this friendship and prosperity despite the bitterness of that fight because Americans do not define "evil" in terms of entire nations and people.

America defeated the evil of the imperial Japanese regime that waged brutal wars of conquest and subjugation, and freed the people of Japan as much as we freed the people conquered by Japan.

We did not subject the people of Japan to new rulers who would use them for evil purposes. We set the Japanese free to achieve prosperity and freedom beyond imagination on the day we bombed Hiroshima.

So yes, America has shown that you can have no greater enemy than America. And we have shown that you can have no greater friend than America.

Japan's militarists believed America was weak and could not recover from a devastating blow against our military power on December 7, 1941, to oppose them.

Thankfully for many Asians who toiled under imperial Japan's rule, these militarist leaders of Japan were wrong. And thankfully for the Japanese today, the militarists were wrong, even though the people of Hiroshima, and then Nagasaki, paid the price for that aggression and gamble that America would not fight to defeat evil.

May future leaders of America continue this stance that has contributed to the Long Peace since 1945, which has brought unprecedented freedom and prosperity to the people of the world.

Thank you.

That would be a worthwhile message to deliver at Hiroshima.

UPDATE: Related:

To interpret the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as unnecessary acts, you must ignore the recent historiography on Japan’s end game, the American casualties that would have certainly resulted and the Chinese who were living through an unprecedented terror at Japanese hands. The dead would have been much higher without Hiroshima. Thus, I would argue that it was not only moral but imperative that the war be ended with the urgency that it was.

Don't think the Japanese hope of bloodying us into negotiations wouldn't have worked. We needed troops from Europe to invade Japan.

So morale of those American troops selected to go to the Pacific wasn't great, given that they'd won "their war" and now had to go fight Japan. How effective would they have been, really?

Those troops also had families in democratic America. Families who voted.

I'd also like to add that before their use and the horrifying nature of their destructive power was shown, atomic bombs were viewed as weapons and not as the world destroyers we see them as now.

Perhaps we should be grateful that they were used when they were small--and by America--before arsenals in America and the Soviet Union reached into the tens of thousands of warheads. What would have happened if these weapons had still been viewed as weapons in that environment?

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Logically

I assume it won't be long before some 18-year-old walks into a bar, self-identifies as 21 years old, and gets served alcohol because their self-perception trumps any type of objective observation by an outsider.

Heck, maybe I should self-identify as 72 years of age to start collecting maximum Social Security right now.

When Her

Hillary Clinton is racing to the finish line of the Democratic nominating process under the power of super delegates lashed to her campaign. Should Clinton's super delegates be unchained?

Clinton should release her superdelegates to cast their votes on the convention floor for Sanders or herself in the same proportion as cast by voters in their state caucus or primary, and she should do it now.

Doing so will pose no real risk of costing her the Democratic nomination — she is that strong — but will demonstrate that she is listening to Sanders' supporters while potentially easing the path to a unified and uncontested convention.

That according the Democratic strategist Joe Trippi.

That's not going to happen. The Dignified Rant has obtained secret party video showing the Clinton campaign warming up the super delegates for the final dash to victory at the convention.



Nominating speed!

Nation Building is Hard But Not Impossible

Let's discuss winning the war and losing the peace:

Every Friday, just yards from a statue of Bill Clinton with arm aloft in a cheery wave, hundreds of young bearded men make a show of kneeling to pray on the sidewalk outside an improvised mosque in a former furniture store.

The mosque is one of scores built here with Saudi government money and blamed for spreading Wahhabism — the conservative ideology dominant in Saudi Arabia — in the 17 years since an American-led intervention wrested tiny Kosovo from Serbian oppression.

Since then — much of that time under the watch of American officials — Saudi money and influence have transformed this once-tolerant Muslim society at the hem of Europe into a font of Islamic extremism and a pipeline for jihadists.

We stayed after the 1999 victory over Serbian forces, although our total strength is quite low now.

But we apparently just stayed in our "basestar" at Camp Bondsteel for force protection rather than try to make Kosovo something worth fighting to create.

The Saudis, on the other hand, set about on nation building despite the apparently inhospitable human terrain of moderate, pro-American Moslems grateful for American assistance in throwing off Serbian rule and cruelty.

We have belatedly reacted, but rolling back Islamism is harder than preventing it from being planted.

So here we are, 17 years later in Kosovo, with radical Moslems having gained ground to build the caliphate. Because Saudi Arabia stayed for the long haul for nation building even though the job was tough.

Do read it all.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Fruits of Pivot

I may have doubts about the reality of our pivot to Asia and the wisdom of thinking we can pivot away from the Middle East and Europe to achieve this. But Vietnam's opening to us proves it is working well enough to reassure opponents of China. So kudos to President Obama on this issue.

President Obama will allow weapons sales to Vietnam:

The United States announced an end to its embargo on sales of lethal arms to Vietnam on Monday, an historic step that draws a line under the two countries' old enmity and underscores their shared concerns about Beijing's growing military clout.

The move came during President Barack Obama's first visit to Hanoi, which his welcoming hosts described as the arrival of a warm spring and a new chapter in relations between two countries that were at war four decades ago.

I can decry the motivation for reset with Cuba when we lack a common enemy to justify cozying up to a thug regime, but despite Vietnam's human rights record and conquest of the south, we do need a counter-weight to China. Vietnam holds the western shore of the South China Sea and sits nicely close to China's power projection bastion of Hainan Island.

And Vietnam's pursuit of relations with America is validation of my warning a number of years about convincing allies to join us in resisting China:

China would rather its neighbors not react to China's rising power by aligning with America, and is using that "soft power" charm that they supposedly have oozing from their pores:

China is warning Asian countries that holding military exercises with the United States is bad for their health. South Korea and Vietnam, both of which have recently conducted naval activities with their American counterparts, have been warned that the United States is far away, suffering from financial difficulties and is not a reliable partner while China is right next door.

China wants those countries to believe that. But China is not destined to surpass us in power. Which means that China won't grow so powerful that countries can't arm up to balance China's power.

But for all those neighbors to be willing to stand up to China's power, they have to be confident that we have the power and determination to use it against China and to be confident that other potential partners won't stop absorbing some of China's power by making deals with China to ally with Peking. If these countries don't have confidence that we will help them, they'll cut a deal with China to protect themselves and turn away from us.

So we have to be careful about maintaining our power in the Pacific and maintaining our reputation for supporting allies and fighting until we win. If any nation, like Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Australia, or Vietnam think that they can't count on us for effective military support, they'll withdraw from the potential balancing coalition against China. And once one country defects, the power potential arrayed against China will drop enough to perhaps push another country to defect and align with China rather than with us.

Given my caution and given our success in getting allies to side with us close to six years later, under President Obama's pivot policy we clearly have persuaded Asian allies that we are reliable enough to risk angering China by siding with us.

Hey, I call them as I see them. This is a foreign policy success.

Although I hope our president doesn't really believe that Vietnamese may welcome closer relations with America to fight climate change.

Let's Not Pretend Land Attack is the Mission

Zumwalt is afloat and ready to join the fleet. But let's not pretend that bombarding shore targets is its mission.

Zumwalt is the first hull delivered in the $22 billion, three-ship class. The second and third ships — Michael Moonsor (DDG-1001) and Lyndon B. Johnson (DDG-1002) – are currently under construction at BIW.

The ships are built around a first-ever electric drive system in which the main engines power an electrical grid instead a direct link to the ship’s props allowing more margin to add additional systems to the ships.The ships’ main weapons are twin 155mm BAE Systems Advanced Gun Systems (AGS) designed to fire a specialized rocket assisted guided round to attack land targets – Lockheed Martin’s Long Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP).

They are so expensive because the ship class was truncated, so the development costs had to be counted for only three hulls. (Which will be "free" technology for the next class, by accounting rules!)

But good God, no enemy believes we will send such expensive ships (stealthy does not mean invisible) close enough to shore to use guns. Even long-range guns won't match land attack cruise missiles or standoff weapons on aircraft.

Why pretend to our public when our enemy surely knows this concept is nonsense.

But the ship class is good even at three.

One, the guns will be useful for integrating into the tactical cloud.

And two, the electric drive system provides a good platform to experiment with lasers, electric armor, weaponized AESA radars, and rail guns for the next generation of ships to replace all of our main surface combatants, the Arleigh Burke class guided missile destroyers.

Our legacy destroyers lack the electric power for all those things. Although some are upgraded a bit to begin the shift to these electricity-guzzling systems.

So welcome to the fleet Zumwalt class ships. I expect a lot of good experiments more than I expect one more ship on station in the Pacific at any one time.

I Really Hate Microsoft

It is now a daily ritual where Microsoft decides I don't need my computer and makes it unusable for a couple hours.

I don't know if my next computer will be a PC despite decades of being a customer.

I'm writing this from my phone.

And I have a new category that goes beyond mere annoyance.

Defining "Blockade"

Israel is not blockading Gaza. Assad does blockade civilians, however.

After four years under siege, 10,000 Syrians are getting some aid:

Aid from the Red Cross and Syrian Red Crescent entered the besieged Damascus suburb of Harasta for the first time in four years on Wednesday, a spokesman said.

It is one of several areas around Damascus "sealed off" by Assad's forces.

That would be a blockade.

Israel does not blockade Gaza. Israel tries to quarantine militarily useful items to Gaza to deprive Hamas which rules the territory from preparing for a new war.

You'd think that Israel's restrictions take place in a vacuum.

You will recall that Hamas (or other terrorist groups) in Gaza continually seeks to kill Israelis with rockets, mortars, or tunnel-mounted ground attacks.

You can question what Israel allows or disallows in their effort to forestall more effective attacks, but if Israel actually blockaded goods and energy, there would be few Gazans--who rank 110 out of 224 entities for life expectancy at birth (two below Saudi Arabia's rank, and about a year less than those who live in the West Bank, ranked 92)--alive today.

And if Palestinians weren't relentless in trying to kill Israelis, it would be a peaceful border.

And even if Israel did literally blockade Gaza, Egypt shares the border with Gaza. So if civilians in Gaza were desperate for aid--which they are not, apparently--Egypt would share the blame.

Just so we know what "blockade" actually means.

UPDATE: And again, so we know why Israel "blockades" Gaza under Hamas control:

The corruption in the West Bank and Gaza is bad, but also different. Fatah leadership are traditional crooks, stealing money (most of it contributed by foreign aid donors) for themselves and their key supporters. Hamas does less of that and more diversion of aid money to build military capabilities. This means stealing a lot of foreign aid to finance the importation or local manufacture of rockets as well as rebuilding the 32 tunnels destroyed by Israel during the 2014 war.

Hamas is waging war on Israel yet Israel isn't supposed to resist? Even with non-military means?

It's almost as if the anti-Israel movement thinks Jews should just sit and take it in atonement for being Jews, or something.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Subject Expertise?

I don't trust Congressional Democrats to know what is and is not a lie, these days.

Really?

While Republicans led by Representative Jason Chaffetz wanted to use the session to explore the topic of how the Obama administration misled the American people about the Iran deal, committee Democrats preferred to use their time talking about whether the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq was based on lies.

Ben Rhodes led the campaign of lying over the Iran deal.

And there were no Bush administration lies about whether to invade Iraq.

Although if Democrats want to discuss lying and Iraq, I'm fine with that. At this point, insistence that Bush lied is the real lie.

Fight Them On the Ballot

Brexit will reduce your home value in Britain? Yes, and also your facial acne will increase and your beer will be served cold.

Really?

British house prices could fall by up to 18 percent if the country leaves the European Union, the Treasury says — a claim dismissed as scaremongering by campaigners for a U.K. exit from the bloc.

So the fans of the Brussels-based proto-empire of the European Union are promising that house prices will never drop if they are in charge? Really?

The pro EU crowd is moments away from this threat to the side that wants Britain to exit the EU (Brexit):

WE WILL KILL THIS DOG
IF YOU VOTE BREXIT

Vote Brexit on sight, vote Brexit first, Brexit to kill the EU, keep Brexiting.

Because given the history of "voting" about the EU, this could be Britain's only chance to avoid being strangled by the Brussels bureaucracy built on ever-expanding cheese regulations.

How can the British fail to take this opportunity to get out while they can before a Brezhnev Doctrine in Brussels makes it the EU Empire's policy that nobody gets to leave--ever?

Well, the European Union isn't the first continental entity to believe Britain would be stronger in Europe.

In reality, Britain is stronger in NATO. I admit I'm biased. I think NATO and not the EU is the basis for our security interests.

But considering how long Britain and America have shared this interest, I find it nonsense that the British prime minister claims leaving the EU will harm Britain's security by making Europe less stable:

British Prime Minister David Cameron warned during a speech Monday that Britain would raise the risk of war if it chooses to leave the European Union in a referendum vote scheduled for later this year.

These Euro commissars-in-waiting really believe that the people of Europe are at fault for Europe's history of warfare and it is up to Euro royalty to end their bloodthirsty peasant ways:

The elites are pretending that the public is bloodthirsty and that only erasing democracy in a smothering European bureaucracy can prevent future bloodshed.

Imagine that, the Europeans looked to their past, noticed that the rulers of Europe often rallied their publics into repeated wars against each other and the rest of the world, and concluded that the key failure in this is their own public that failed to stop the leaders! Never mind that it was the leadership that led Europe to fight. I just want to know how putting an elite that has been prone to war back in complete charge will end European wars? Isn't this recreating the Europe of divine right rulers that created the bloody swath that Europeans cut across the globe?

I hope the British vote to exit the EU. June 23, 2016 could yet be Britain's finest hour.

UPDATE: The EU is not in America's interest any more than it is in Britain's interest to join that multi-ethnic empire.

UPDATE: There is a dull alternative to the European Union that doesn't involve impoverishing the country that forged the path to modern prosperity with industrialization. Join the European Economic Area.

The Hope and Change Make It Okey Dokey!

You will recall how the left vilified President Bush for the use of private military contractors (mercenaries). Apparently such contractors are okay now because of the curative powers of hope and change:

Obama has authorized the continuation or re-emergence of two of the most contractor-dependent wars (or “overseas contingency operations” in Pentagon-speak) in U.S. history. As noted previously, there are roughly three contractors (28,626) for every U.S. troops (9,800) in Afghanistan, far above the contractor per uniformed military personnel average of America’s previous wars. In Iraq today, 7,773 contractors support U.S. government operations — and 4,087 U.S. troops. These numbers do not include contractors supporting CIA or other intelligence community activities, either abroad or in the United States.

So when you claim that President Obama responsibly ended our wars, ponder this:

Under Obama, more private military contractors have died in Iraq and Afghanistan than all the U.S. troops deployed to those countries. Between Jan. 1, 2009, and March 31, 2016, 1,540 contractors were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan (176 in Iraq and 1,364 in Afghanistan). During that period, 1,301 U.S. troops were killed in Afghanistan and Iraq (289 in Iraq and 1,012 in Afghanistan). Last year was even more skewed toward contractors than the preceding six years; 58 contractors died in Afghanistan or Iraq, while less than half as many U.S. troops did (27) fighting in either country, including Syria.

But don't call them "mercenaries." Oh no! Now they are hopenaries.

Shameless plug for my collected blog thoughts on private warfare.


Monday, May 23, 2016

The Taliban Forest and Terrorist Trees

It is nearly pointless to go after al Qaeda and ISIL in Afghanistan while largely leaving the Taliban to the Afghan government as if it is a separate war of no interest to us.

Yes, General Petraeus and Michael O'Hanlon are right:

In any counterinsurgency campaign, foreign forces helping another country must strike a balance. They must wean local forces off their dependency on outside help as rapidly as possible. But they also must not rush the job and lose what has been gained along the way—especially when a part of their core mission is to build up the indigenous police and military forces to which they seek to pass the baton. ...

The immediate issue is how we are using American and broader NATO air power. There is a great deal of it—many dozens of combat aircraft at bases from Helmand and Kandahar provinces in the south to the cities of Khost and Jalalabad in the east to the capital region of Kabul and points north. But we continue to handcuff those deploying these jets, helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles. Existing U.S. and NATO policy generally allows them to strike targets on the ground only when hostile forces can be identified as al Qaeda or ISIS loyalists, when they pose an imminent threat to NATO personnel, or, reportedly, when a strategic collapse is imminent.

The rules of engagement mean that the indigenous Afghan and Pakistani Taliban generally get a pass.

Not that we don't think the Taliban are a problem. Otherwise we wouldn't have whacked their top dog:

The United States has killed the leader of the Afghan Taliban in an air strike in a remote border area just inside Pakistan, Afghanistan said on Sunday, in an attack likely to dash any immediate prospect for peace talks.

Yet there seems to be stubborn thinking in our government that counter-terrorism is a job separate from counter-insurgency, so we can wage war with special forces and drones against terrorists who target us without paying attention to a wider war.

This is a mistake because counter-terrorism relies on counter-insurgency if we want more than a strategy of drive-by dronings, even though the special forces may kill disproportionately despite their small size compared to total forces involved:

You could not have planted those 5% and plopped them into Iraq or Afghanistan and gotten those results without the other 95% there fighting; atomizing the enemy; providing information, surveillance, and security; and otherwise fighting toward the same end.

All those things don't get done without the vast network provided by the 95% that provides the environment for the 5% to do their deadly work in.

So kudos to special forces. They are badass, no doubt.

But let's have a little deeper perspective. Don't contribute to the myth that all we need in this modern age are special forces charging into a hostile zone and killing all the bad guys and drones if we want to be more discreet about boots on the ground.

Does anybody really believe that our counter-terrorism in Afghanistan could continue without the continued success of Afghan forces engaged in counter-insurgency?

If the Afghan government fell, counter-terrorism as we practice it as an intelligence driven process from lots of sources would wither and be reliant completely on remote sensing and high-flying drone strikes.

So yes, we need to help the Afghan government in their counter-insurgency fight against the Taliban who are terrorists but who do not pose a direct threat to us, and stop pretending that it is a fight that has nothing to do with our interests or our war against international terrorists.

As General Petraeus and Michael O'Hanlon argue in that first link, it should be a no-brainer to use the air power we have in Afghanistan to support the government forces in their fight against the Taliban (who shielded al Qaeda which carried out the 9/11 attacks, remember) rather than reserve it only for al Qaeda or ISIL targets.

We are at war. Wage war.

Empty Threat and Real Consequences

Why do we bother pretending that we might take Raqqa?

The American military is warning residents of ISIS’s Syrian capital to leave the city—suggesting that an offensive on Raqqa was imminent, two Pentagon officials told the Daily Beast. ...

There is just one problem: There is no imminent ground or air attack, at least by the U.S.-led coalition. Rather the coalition appears to be the midst of a psychological offensive.

“It’s part of our mess-with-them campaign,” a Pentagon official explained to The Daily Beast.

Mind you, if preparations for an Iraqi assault on Mosul telegraph our intentions, threats like this might lull ISIL into thinking that too is just messing with them and that no attack is imminent.

Unless we've really worked the diplomatic phone lines, no Kurdish force in Syria is about to endure the casualties to take Raqqa from ISIL, and the Arab local irregular forces can't do it.

Nor would Turkey be very happy if the Kurds achieved such a victory, earning credit with the West to be cashed later in ways Turkey won't like.

Of course, perhaps the leaflet drop was intended to disrupt ISIL and keep them busy while General Votel, commander of CENTCOM, visited American special forces inside Syria:

On a secret trip to Syria, the new commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East said Saturday he felt a moral obligation to enter a war zone to check on his troops and make his own assessment of progress in organizing local Arab and Kurd fighters for what has been a slow campaign to push the Islamic State out of Syria.

That makes more sense than just playing mind games for the sake of mind games.

But what do we do if the civilians do believe this warning and flee, expecting rescue any minute?

Do we get the repeat of the 1991 Shia uprisings in southern Iraq after we defeated Saddam's army? Uprisings that we just watched fail as Saddam's forces put them down with heavy casualties?

Or will we drop 173rd Airborne Brigade to rescue those civilians as they are being slaughtered?

I don't like this mess-with-them campaign. The wrong people might get messed up.

UPDATE: While no Kurdish forces seem willing to fight and die for more than their own territory, we are pinning hopes on organizing enough Syrian Democratic Forces, who are Arab, to take Raqqa:

Some 5,000- 10,000 trained fighters are needed for this, plus lots of air support. The American led air coalition will deliver the air support and teams of American air controllers will be provided to make sure the air strikes are as timely and accurate as possible. Most SDF fighters are busy defending territory they already control (nearly 10 percent of Syria) so mustering a force large enough to go after Raqqa has not been easy.

So who knows? Maybe taking Raqqa isn't out of reach.

The Strategic Cloud Already Confuses Us

The future of naval sea control warfare is arriving. The big-deck carrier cannot survive in that future.

Here comes the tactical cloud at sea:

The Navy is creating an offensive anti-surface network that will tie targeting information from satellites, aircraft, ships, submarines and the weapons themselves to form a lethal “kill web” designed to keep pace with the expanding lethal power of potential adversaries, service officials outlined on Tuesday.

The scheme will use information ranging from sensors in space to the undersea to share information in a so-called tactical cloud that will allow aircraft and ships to access a range of targeting information to launch weapons against surface targets, said Rear Adm. Mark Darrah, at the service’s program executive officer for Strike Weapons and Unmanned Aviation at the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), in a presentation at Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space Exposition 2016.

The All Domain Offensive Surface Warfare Capability is “integrated fires, leveraging all domains, the ability for us to utilize air-launched capabilities, surface launched capabilities and subsurface launched capabilities that are tied together with an all domain [information network],” he said. “We call it the tactical cloud. We’re going to put data up in the cloud and users are going to go grab it and use it as a contributor to a targeting solution.”

I've been calling for this for a while--back when the tactical cloud was called "network-centric warfare" and noting how it undermines the role of aircraft carriers:

As the Navy works on network-centric warfare, the ability to mass effect both offensively and defensively from widely scattered platforms, the importance of individual platforms is decreased even more. This reduces our vulnerability to the loss of individual platforms. Other assets can fill in the hole seamlessly and our Navy's targets will never know that a missile from a different platform destroyed it. It will be an irrelevant detail. ...

When guns have range that rivals effective aircraft range, the carrier risks being supplanted by guns in a revenge of the lanyards that reverses the demotion gun-armed ships experienced when carriers took the place of honor in World War II.

In 1999, the United States Naval Institute purchased an article I submitted that addresses the pending demotion of our large carriers. Sadly, it has never been published. I made several points in the article that the DD (X) article addresses.

I wrote that network-centric warfare signals the beginning of the end for the United States Navy's large aircraft carriers, which will lose their value as an instrument of forward presence. Carriers will become valuable targets that, if struck, will encourage an enemy at the outset of war by apparently demonstrating that American technological prowess can be nullified and beaten. Indeed, our new surge strategy for our carriers addresses this vulnerability of essentially having a solitary carrier out as bait where an enemy can plan a first strike to get a very big CNN moment.

In the long run, given networked and very long range cannons, large aircraft carriers will add little to most offensive missions and will absorb scarce resources and assets simply evading attack rather than striking the enemy and contributing to victory. The concentrated power of the carrier platform's air wing will simply be one element of the massed effect of dispersed attack platforms such as DD (X) achievable in network-centric warfare. An enemy will face massed firepower from all directions launched by U.S. forces wielding a plethora of weapons deployed on surface ships, submarines, and aircraft. This attack capability will be potent whether carriers are part of the network or not. ...

To exploit the network, the capable surface ships we will build must be cut loose and dispersed in accordance with the logic of network-centric warfare. Aircraft carriers will not add a bang commensurate with the billions of bucks they cost. ...

A network does not need a high value asset. Certainly, it is true that network-centric warfare defenses can bring dispersed air defenses together to defend the carrier (if they have sufficiently long range) but why expend that effort? In a developed networked force, the aircraft carrier adds little that numerous smaller platforms cannot provide and only represents a potential loss of great propaganda value.

The emergence of network-centric warfare does not mean the near-term obsolescence of large aircraft carriers. They represent large investments and there is no need to simply retire them any time soon. The useful roles for these aircraft carriers will diminish in time, however, beginning with the forward presence role. As I noted, we've already altered our naval presence from rotating a couple carriers to forward location in favor of being able to surge a large number in a crisis. In a peacetime operating routine, aircraft carriers that sail in another nation's surveillance and strike network will be vulnerable to a bolt from the blue and may actually invite war rather than deter it. Only against enemies incapable of striking them--as was the case in both Afghanistan and Iraq--will carriers retain their power to inflict punishing destruction.

Forgive my extensive quoting of my own post. But so far I see no indication that the Navy is continuing the logic of the "tactical cloud" (or "distributed lethality") to the logical conclusion.

Not that big deck carriers become worthless, mind you. But as I've said many times, in a carrier debate, our strategic cloud leads us to mix up concepts of power projection apples with sea control oranges.

As an aside, I think I may email the Naval Institute to note that my unpublished article they purchased has languished through two terminology changes.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

In Defense of Modularity

In light of my proposal for modularized auxiliary cruisers for use by United States Africa Command as a power projection platform (in "The AFRICOM Queen") it is good to read a defense of modularity notwithstanding the problems with the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) which provided the basis for my idea.

Modularity is good if done right:

Modularity, however, hasn’t been eo ipso the problem. The problem has been the Navy’s particular implementation of modularity [with the LCS].

In contrast, we know it’s possible to get modularity right, because the Royal Danish Navy has been getting it right since the early 1990s. Way back in 1985, Danyard laid down the Flyvefisken (Flying Fish), the first of a class of 14 patrol vessels. ...

At 450 tons full load, a Flyvefisken is much smaller than a Freedom (3900 tons) or an Independence (3100 tons). Her complement is much smaller too: 19 to 29, depending on the role. At not more than 15 tons, the Stanflex modules are also smaller than the particular system designed anew for the LCSs. But a Flyvefisken came with four such slots (one forward, three aft), and a range of modules surprisingly broad[.]

"Eo ipso?" Holy erudition, Batman! That guy spends way more on his words than I do!

I cited a larger Danish ship (Absalon, which is also cited in the article) that used modules to change the capabilities of the ship as an inspiration, but these small Danish vessels will do, too, despite our need for larger ships with the ability to sail long distances. Unlike Europeans, we don't have the option of sailing out of the harbor to reach our patrol zones in 20 minutes.

The author raises another issue--responding to a surprise attack--in support of modularized construction:

Because on December the 8th, when you need a face-punched plan, you’d rather be building new boxes than new whole new ships.

And if you put stockpiled boxes on existing civilian ships to create auxiliary cruisers, you don't need to build new ships--or need to rely on existing ships to reconfigure.

As an aside, let me just say that the author defending modularity as a concept was rejecting a criticism of the LCS logic by Lawrence Korb, who is as valuable in defense discussions as taking an accordion on a hunting trip, as far as I'm concerned.

I Lost My Cover

This isn't quite a First World Problem, but I did just lose my 29-year-old Army cap on a walk downtown to have a couple beers with a friend.

Somewhere it fell out of my pocket. I retraced my steps on the way back but I didn't find it. Someone has a nicely faded old-style camo pattern cap from the 1980s, nicely faded and frayed the way an E-4 likes it to show he isn't a new soldier.

I still have my backup cap. Which looks brand new. So now people will think I'm a new soldier despite my advanced age.

Or that I picked it up in an Army surplus store.

I know it is a minor problem. But still. Somebody picked up that cap today and probably is wearing it.

The Jordan Front Just Ended

As Iraqi forces pressed ISIL in Anbar province from the east, I've long called for Jordan to hit ISIL from the west. Iraq's capture of Rutbah ends the need for that option:

Lying about 240 miles west of Baghdad deep in the desert, Rutbah sits on transit routes to Jordan and Syria. For that reason it has an “outsized strategic value,” Col. Steve Warren, a U.S. military spokesman, said in a briefing with reporters Wednesday. Recapturing it helps the economies of both Iraq and Jordan, while denying the Islamic State a “critical support zone,” he said.

The Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Force (CTF) that spearheaded the offensive said there was "almost no resistance at all."

Other than Fallujah, this really clears most of western Iraq, ending the need to use a Jordanian forces from the west, which I've been looking for as a core mobile force to lead an advance into ISIL territory.

Although by simply pushing the jihadis out rather than trapping them in a hammer and anvil attack from both directions, the ISIL forces apparently live to fight another day.

The continued lack of ISIL resistance in major objectives is remarkable for a terror proto-state that prides itself on fanatical devotion to Allah.

And again, the CTF seems like the only Iraqi force capable of leading offensives.

I am certainly happy that the Iraqis are making gains in Anbar in order to bolster a re-Awakening of Sunni Arab Iraqis and to help seal off Baghdad from jihadi positions near the city. Do that sufficiently well and the bombings in the capital will decline.

Is the Fallujah-based ISIL force, which could be a source for those bombings, really an exception to recent history of Iraqi ISIL's poor morale or are the Iraqi forces being overly cautious to avoid casualties?

I suppose this victory opens up the possibility that a Jordanian mechanized brigade could be brought in to help on the drive north to Mosul.

Ever since ISIL burned a Jordanian pilot alive, Jordan seemed like they wanted to hit back hard. So far Jordan hasn't really done much more than bomb a bit.

Could that change? Will the Jordan Front change to the Jordanian Expeditionary Force?

UPDATE: The Iraqis have set their sights on Fallujah:

Iraqi forces are heading to Fallujah to launch a long-awaited operation to retake the city from the Islamic State jihadist group, the prime minister's spokesman announced on Sunday.

Good. All along I've said Anbar should be the priority before beginning an assault on Mosul.

UPDATE: Here we go:

The Iraqi army, counterterrorism forces, police, tribal fighters and Shiite militias were taking part in the operation, according to the military.

Eissa al-Issawi, the exiled mayor of Fallujah, said Islamic State militants were retreating from the outskirts to the center of the city Sunday as the operation drew nearer.

Once again the CTF is involved. Are there no other Iraqi units capable of leading an offensive?

Of course, the entire CTF isn't necessarily involved. And we could have expanded the CTF since we sent trainers in 2014.

For that matter, there could be regular Iraqi army units capable of mobile warfare that we are holding out of the fight in order to keep them fresh for the Mosul offensive.

I have serious doubts that the liberation of Mosul really has to wait until 2017.

UPDATE: Well I'll be, there was a Jordan front (note on May 19):

In the east [the west part of Iraq] Iraqi and Jordanian forces launched a joint operation to clear ISIL forces from the area where the borders of Iraq, Syria and Jordan meet. Iraq is now back in control of the main border crossings in this area.

It was way less significant and timely than it could have been. But there it is.

How to Ef Up a Wet Dream

Behold Venezuela, the socialist paradise sitting on a sea of oil:

Despite having more oil reserves than Saudi Arabia, and in fact more proven oil reserves than any country in the world (8 times more than the US), oil-rich Venezuela’s economy is imploding and collapsing under the burden of socialism, and economic conditions there have deteriorated so dramatically that they probably now qualify as the “economic apocalypse” that some left-leaning economists were predicting just a few years ago would never happen in Venezuela.

Enjoy the article links that describe the clusterfuck.

Yeah, American leftists loved Venezuela as the latest great socialist hope.

But socialism has destroyed Venezuela (or do you really want to argue that plots by President Obama destroyed the country?).

Because war and natural disasters aren't always enough to wreck a country.

UPDATE: Bernie Sanders: Hey, wait! I was assured there would be no questions about socialism in South America!

Yeah, the reality is different from the mythology.

Tip to the Instapundit Borg.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

We Will Surely File Their Complaint

We flew in international airspace. China protested. I hope we properly file their complaint.

The South China Sea is not the city of Sansha, and this complaint by China should be rejected:

China is demanding that Washington immediately cease close surveillance along the country’s coast, following what the Pentagon described as an "unsafe" encounter between two Chinese fighter jets and a U.S. military plane.

The Pentagon said two Chinese fighter jets intercepted a U.S. reconnaissance plane on a routine patrol Tuesday in international airspace over the South China Sea.

We will file this complaint properly, right?

So Why Waste Our Time and Money All Along?

The Left spent a long time going on about "potty parity" to balance the wait times for using a public bathroom that because of male privilege or something allowed men to cycle through "our" bathrooms more quickly and thus leave women standing in lines longer to get in.

But now the Left says all that agitation was pointless (and possibly evil) because gender is not a simple manner and so anybody should be able to go anywhere they feel like?

It's always something to be suddenly outraged about with these people (tip to Instapundit).

Because ... science!

The really amusing thing about this bathroom crisis is that this is from the same people who go on about "why do they hate us?" after a jihadi mass murder, assuming it is something America has done, without any awareness that this bathroom issue is exactly the kind of thing that jihadis will hate us all the more for doing.

Not that we should care that jihadis hate that we are different (or that we do admirable things like freeing Moslems), which gives them ample reasons to hate us.

But the Left goes on about how we provoke Islamists all the time, you must admit. Why isn't this bathroom issue on the list of things we should not do--like free speech, sadly enough--because it angers Islamists?

I honestly hope that if the Left wins this latest outrage battle that lots of men descend on women's rooms by claiming they think they are women.

Give them what they want--good and hard--eh?

Friday, May 20, 2016

How to Use Time

Time is one of the most valuable commodities in war. With time, you can prepare to win. Without it, you get your ass kicked. While we slowly grind away at ISIL, this pace grants ISIL the precious resource of time.

You think?

American commanders are growing concerned that a recent spate of deadly bombings in Baghdad will cause the Iraqi government to lose focus on an upcoming assault on Mosul, the Islamic State held city which government troops have been encircling for weeks.

That is certainly one way that ISIL could divert the glorious killing blow against ISIL-held Mosul being planned with such precision over the last year and a half.

There are other ways:

I can say that giving an enemy time rarely works out. They may strike Paris. Hit Baghdad repeatedly. Use poison gas. Or exploit a weakness in Iraqi defenses to restore jihadi morale.

Or they might cause chaos in Baghdad. Because our "enemy" is a broad category that includes Sadr and his pro-Iran hand puppets as well as general corruption that undermines the rule of law that must be encouraged inside Iraq.

The Turks might cut a deal with Russia and pull out of the war in frustration at the cost of supporting the slow war to nowhere.

Who knows? Our enemies might collapse a dam to completely unhinge the Iraqi government's war effort, if not their legitimacy.

So, no, really, we should just take our time about getting the big push rolling.

What could go wrong?

UPDATE: And who could go wrong?

Iraqi security forces opened fire on protesters who stormed into Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone on Friday and entered the cabinet building, drawing calls for revolt from a powerful Shi'ite Muslim cleric.

That walking piece of breathing garbage, Moqtada al-Sadr, is the Iranian hand puppet cleric willing to stage another uprising.

We may yet rue the day we let that scumbag live.

Remember, Iran is not fighting ISIL for the same reasons we are. Iran sees the fight as a chance to take over Iraq and put a puppet government in charge in Baghdad.

Behold Russia's Fight Against ISIL

Russia has been helping Assad beat down non-jihadi rebels even as Putin loudly proclaims they are a partner in fighting ISIL. So when did ISIL get an air force?

I only ask because Russia has set up an army base around Palmyra, which is contested ground between Assad's core Syria and ISIL's Syrian province:

Russian ground forces have set up a forward operating base in the central Syrian city of Tadmur, the home of the ancient ruins of Palmyra, and installed an air-defence system to protect the site. ...

A Pantsyr-S1 air-defence system was seen in the footage as well as at least three BTR-82A and three BTR-80 armoured personnel carriers (APCs), suggesting a Russian combat unit has been deployed to the base.
A Pantsyr? Did I miss the unveiling of the ISIL Air Force?

Why is this advanced air defense weapon pushed so far east where it could potentially interfere with the American-led campaign against ISIL?

Granted, the range isn't that great. But it does have passive detection capability that could provide information to Russian interceptors, I suppose.

And the Pantsyr can be used to provide point defense to Russia's longer ranged air defense missiles. Let's see if those follow even though there is no reason Russia needs air defenses against any rebel force.

Well, there is one big reason for Russian air defenses in Syria.

No Endless War?

I remember how those on the Left hated Bush 43 for waging "endless" war. They got their most fervent wish for endless hope and change with a Nobel Peace Prize-winning President Obama.

All things considered, this is kind of funny:

President Obama came into office seven years ago pledging to end the wars of his predecessor, George W. Bush. On May 6, with eight months left before he vacates the White House, Mr. Obama passed a somber, little-noticed milestone: He has now been at war longer than Mr. Bush, or any other American president.

If the United States remains in combat in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria until the end of Mr. Obama’s term — a near-certainty given the president’s recent announcement that he will send 250 additional Special Operations forces to Syria — he will leave behind an improbable legacy as the only president in American history to serve two complete terms with the nation at war.

Huh. Maybe it isn't our fault that we are at war as the Left's popular explanation had it during the Bush 43 presidency.

Maybe the endless hatred and depravity of our jihadi enemies has something to do with being at war.

Maybe we really are fighting wars of choice--wars of our enemies' choices.

As I've droned on about many times, talk of "exit strategies" rather than talk of how to achieve victory is nonsense because an exit strategy assumes our enemies allow us to exit the war rather than keep killing us.

So guess what has happened.

As I noted some time ago, the president already took the lead in the number of wars being fought at once. So this new measure is hardly out of nowhere.

But is all this really shocking? President Obama did bomb the moon early in his first term.

Although it is our fault when it takes us as long to liberate Mosul as it took us to build and deploy the military power to launch the D-Day invasion in 1944.

So we should try to win and not just manage the fighting to acceptable levels of collateral damage that we can easily absorb, eh?

Heck, we declined to try to defeat Assad several hundred thousand dead ago to avoid making the situation worse, in the belief that the collateral damage would be acceptable.

Maybe it is just me, but isn't the war fueled by jihadis in Syria--now past the 400,000 dead mark--darn close to posing an existential threat to the state of Syria with boundaries we still have on the maps?

Because one day, because of their endless hate, maybe our jihadi enemies will manage to pose an "existential threat" to our nation.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

This Will Not End Well

The Transportation Security Administration claims long lines are caused by lack of money to cope with volume. But apparently the umbrella organization of the Department of Homeland Security has enough money to branch out into areas that I fail to see are related to homeland security in any way whatsoever (tip to Instapundit):

Good news, my fellow Americans: all terrorist threats and other dangers to our national security have been handled. How else to explain the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) participating in local prostitution stings across the country on the regular and, now, turning their attention toward unlicensed massage therapists?

Thank God the Department of Homeland Security has the resources to divert from protecting our airports to fight the dreaded happy ending in a massage parlor.

WMD in Iraq

We nailed an ISIL leader in Iraq who is involved in chemical weapons development. There are more.

We killed a couple of high value ISIL leaders. Huh:

Abu Sufyan, was "responsible for staging chemical attacks in the Euphrates River Valley."

Pressed on the nature of those attacks, Warren replied that "on the chem side, you know, this is a threat that we're aware of and that we've taken into account."

"We've certainly reported out that, I mean, it's not new that this enemy has used chemical weapons.

It's so odd. A terrorist group with a proto-state can work on chemical weapons.

Assad's forces have used chemical weapons despite an agreement with them to get rid of their chemical weapons.

Yet somehow, Saddam's Iraq which maintained the human and physical infrastructure to produce chemical weapons and had stockpiles of raw materials to restart production was not a WMD threat and declarations that they were amounted to "lies" that eliminated justifications to go to war with Saddam's regime in 2003.

Life is funny.

The Whole New War

Assad is largely backed into the western-most part of Syria, controlling about a third of the population, but he thinks he can win the war he is in.

Although you wouldn't expect Assad to say anything else if he wants to keep his troops fighting and his supporters backing him despite the heavy casualties and growing poverty, Assad does seem confident he can win the war he has:

The Assad government openly declares confidence in final victory. With most of the world united against ISIL and Russian support is still substantial (despite officially “withdrawing from Syria”) the government believes they can deal with the non-ISIL rebels. This includes making some sort of deal with the Kurds. The Assads are also taking advantage of the continuing feuds between various Islamic terrorist groups. ISIL and al Nusra are notorious for their tendency to fight other Islamic terrorist groups that won’t submit to their orders.

Recall that I said more than three years ago that Assad needed a whole new war in order to emerge victorious, holding a core Syria he can clear and defend, and then expanding out as troop numbers come on line, the way we did in Iraq:

Assad would have to similarly hold his core, rebuild his army's numbers, use air power and ground raids into rebel territory to keep the rebels off balance, and then begin expanding areas of control as he gains the numbers to do so.

Assad has a problem in that he can't count on a foreign patron to supply a surge of trained forces as Iraq's government could count on America in 2007. He also has a problem in that his forces rely on a minority of the population rather than the majority (80-90% Shia and Kurd) that the Iraqi government could rely on.

Assad would need to engineer at least a partial awakening by using divide and conquer diplomacy with Sunnis who fear al Qaeda more than they fear a deal with Assad. Perhaps the Kurds could be won over with promises of autonomy.

And perhaps with enough chaos in the abandoned parts of Syria, Assad could even count on Western and regional forces to move in and fight al Qaeda.

Assad has been doing that.

Assad has made strides in clearing and holding the core from the coast down to the capital, with only contested terrain and isolated outposts outside that core, at best.

Assad has used firepower to punish civilians who support the rebels and drive them from Syria to take them out of the equation.

Assad has had an "awakening" of sorts that relies on fear of ISIL and al Qaeda exceeding fear of Assad. The Kurds are now fighting ISIL, if not for Assad, and they will not do much beyond their ethnic territory to take down Assad.

Even America has been partially "flipped" to fight ISIL and al Qaeda, which helps Assad.

And Assad has not rebuilt his ground forces. He has more militia than regulars. And while he got outside support, it was not in the numbers that America provided Iraq's new government. It has been enough to avoid defeat but it has not won the war.

So Assad got his whole new war, which allowed him to survive.

At the cost of 400,000 dead and counting, but oh well.

But the big problem I highlighted remains. Assad doesn't have the manpower to control the entire country.

Iran and Hezbollah provide shock troops to spearhead attacks.

And Russia provides special forces and firepower.

But otherwise, Assad's ground forces are pretty sparse. And they've taken heavy casualties already just trying to hold a core Syria. Taking and holding Aleppo will be a strain, let alone expanding south to the Jordanian and Israeli borders and east to control the Kurds and the borders out to Iraq.

More than three years ago I wondered if Assad's forces could endure the casualties needed to win.

Today, it is clear they could endure to now, but they have not won the war.

And how long will the morale of Hezbollah and Iran accept casualties to sustain the Assad regime, even in just Assad's corner of Syria?

A rebel onslaught on the town of Khan Touman near Aleppo last week delivered one of the biggest battlefield setbacks yet to the coalition of foreign Shi'ite fighters waging war on behalf of Syrian President Bashar al Assad.

Reports put the death toll among the Iranian, Afghani and Lebanese militiamen as high as 80 in the attack spearheaded by the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front. At least 17 of the dead were Iranians, seemingly the highest toll in a battle outside the Islamic Republic’s borders since the Iran-Iraq war.

Hezbollah has lost 1,200 dead, it seems, in their campaign. Which is a high amount for such a small force.

And if the shock troops of Assad's army are unwilling to fight and die, how will the battered majority of Assad's Syrian forces hold up when they don't get the outside support they've relied on?

One security expert close to Damascus described low morale on the government side because hard-won territory had been lost.

So the question of whether Assad's forces can endure the additional casualties needed to win is still unanswered. The war outcome is still in doubt.

And then there is the question of whether John Kerry will save the Assad regime, which is Assad's only hope in the long run, really, even if Assad formally leaves office while leaving the Assad regime in place, thus allowing Kerry to pretend we--and the Syrian people--won something out of all this carnage.