Monday, October 31, 2016

Embracing the Hate

I don't believe this attitude is rare enough in Democratic circles, for my taste:

I don't want the GOP defeated.

I want it immolated.

I want it razed to the foundation, reduced to a moonscape, left unlivable even for cockroaches, much less newts. I want it treated like boot heels treat ants and furnaces treat ice cubes, treated like a middle-school basketball team playing the '71-'72 Lakers.

Defeat is not enough. Let there be humiliation. Let there be pain.

Now granted, I've never heard of the man. So I can't say that he is a thought leader in Democratic circles.

But that attitude from a nobody makes it feel more authentic as something that so many supporters of the Democrats who routinely demonize Republicans as Nazis and killers (because we want to reduce the rate of growth in some ever-expanding government spending program) feel. Of course it is okay to kill dehumanized "cockroaches."

Oh sure, he justifies his hate as a reaction to bizarre theories from the fringes. But surely he knows his side has fringes with crazy theories. Or was 9/11 really an inside job to justify stealing Iraq's oil? Did Bush 43 really have Osama bin Laden on ice ready to release before the 2004 election or did Bush 43 cancel the 2008 election to establish a dictatorship?

And many Republicans are deeply disturbed about having Trump as the party nominee. How many Democrats are disturbed one bit that the corrupt-to-the-core Clinton is the Democrat's nominee?

Fifteen years after the 9/11 terror attacks, too many Democrats still think that when it comes to jihadis, we need to understand "why they hate us?" That is, what did America do to justify murderous hate?

But hating Republicans comes easy--whether it is about "just" half of people voting for Trump who are deemed irredeemable "deplorables" or all Republicans.

"Nuke" the party, the man says.

Yeah, love wins. This is what it has come to after the long trail of demonization and dehumanization. Republicans have been made "the other." The hatred of such an "enemy" comes all too easily after that.

Tip to Instapundit.

Nordic Saviors?

Traditionally neutral Sweden and Finland are growing closer to NATO in the face of Russian aggressiveness. But let's not get carried away by thinking their military contributions significantly exceed the liability of more terrain for NATO to defend.

On the whole, I think it is good that NATO is gaining friends with Sweden and Finland who share NATO's worry about Russian actions.

But what?

Sweden and Finland boast sizable army forces, and their shift toward the alliance could give it a much-needed capacity boost in the Baltic area, where Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and even Poland have limited firepower.

Please define "sizable."

Because Sweden's active army (in 2012, from my Military Balance) stands at less than 7,000 troops built around 10 maneuver battalions. Add in a navy amphibious battalion. In addition to that naval infantry, the Swedish navy has about 2,000 personnel while the air force has 3,000 personnel.

Sweden's army and air force are of good quality in equipment and training, to be sure. But there are darned few of them. Remember, it is big news that Sweden is planning to defend Gotland Island in the Baltic with a single battalion.

Yes, Sweden has 200,000 reservists, but these are not power projection forces and I don't know how confident I should be about their capacity for defending Swedish soil.

The Finns (again, from 2012 data) have an active army of 16,000, with a lot of reserves to flesh out their 11 brigades on mobilization. The active navy has 3,500 and the active air force 2,600 with a core of about 50 F-18C fighter-bombers.

The Finns are oriented toward territorial defense. Although their existence will tie down Russian forces along their border to defend Russian territory, if nothing else.

So other than a bit of air power these two states aren't going to contribute much of significance to NATO nations on the south side of the Baltic Sea.

Yes, their territory would provide some additional bases and depth of defense. This is valuable.

And Russia would have to use troops otherwise available to hit NATO if the Russians want to deal with Finland and/or Sweden.

As I've written, I'd want to see Sweden's military capabilities expanded before granting NATO membership.

But that path seems unlikely in the near future, at least. So increased cooperation will be what we have. This is good, don't get me wrong. But don't pretend that the Nordic cavalry is riding to the rescue of NATO states that have the misfortune of bordering Russia.

How Screwed Up is This?

Arab refugees/migrants in Germany from some parts of the Arab world are disturbed to find that the mosques in the supposedly liberal and tolerant West are run by imams far more Islamist than the people are used to:

Over two months, a dozen Syrians in six places of worship in three cities told Reuters they were uncomfortable with very conservative messages in Arabic-speaking mosques. People have criticized the way the newcomers dress and practice their religion, they said. Some insisted the Koran be interpreted word-for-word.

Jihadis are wrecking their homelands whether with war or with intolerance and they arrive in Germany to find that the same radical jihadi-friendly Islam is shaping Moslems in the West to be more Islamist friendly.

It's funny, Western Europeans worry about their Moslems going overseas to get radicalized, but oveseas Moslems coming to Germany demonstrate that Germany is already doing the job.

The rest of Europe (and parts of America) are no doubt in the same boat.

Celebrate diversity.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Wag the Jihad?

The Taliban are having their fighters film what they do for online propaganda value:

Increasingly, the Taliban — who, when they controlled the government, banned television and jailed people for photography — rely on their front-line fighters not only to gain territory and strike at the Afghan security forces, but also to record the moment and share it.

It appears that they are drawing inspiration from the Islamic State’s propaganda-first strategy. In the past, the Taliban released elaborate videos of suicide bombings long after the fact, their material falling far short of the Islamic State’s slick production values. Recently, though, they have been aiming for close-to-real-time updates and have greatly improved on quality.

Just remember that the Taliban are corrupt as well as brutal and media savvy.

How long before Taliban cameramen figure out that they can fake footage and make their superiors happy without the danger of exposing themselves to actual combat?

Obamacur

The real outrage of Obamacare isn't that its passage relied on the "stupidity of the American voter" not to see what the law--rammed through Congress without proper oversight because the architects were afraid of letting anyone see what was in it--was really about, as one key architect of the law helpfully explained; but that its success relied on the intelligence of the so-called smart people who designed this ramshackle POS spending plan. Heck, for that smart guy architect, nothing is wrong at all.

This We'll Defend

Yeah, our military personnel put their lives on the line to defend a system that put Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on the path to the White House:

Many servicemembers have serious doubts that the next commander in chief will be able to handle the biggest military and veterans issues facing the country, even if their pick for president wins.

And not just those issues, it seems.

But just as one can say I disagree with what you say but defend your right to say it, our military personnel defend the Constitution and not individuals.

Good thing.

We will endure these two deeply flawed people unworthy of being president. I just hope that our military personnel won't have to pay the price in blood to cope with enemies who decide to take advantage of the poor choice we will inevitably make in November.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Weekend Data Dump

If California National Guard soldiers received illegal bonuses a decade ago to go overseas to fight, unless the soldiers knew of the fraud the solution isn't to demand they repay the bonuses, but to go after the state officials who illegally offered the bonuses. Good God, how were the troops supposed to know that the state offer was illegal? After the publicity, the Pentagon is addressing this. Although I heard that some of the soldiers did know or should have known the bonuses were illegal. But the innocent should get some help, it seems.

Perhaps the Air Force has changed its mind about the value of the A-10 or another aircraft like it, but given the past efforts by the Air Force to kill the A-10 I sincerely doubt this effort to plan for the A-10 is real. My guess is that the F-35 will emerge from their careful analysis of what the perfect close air support plane looks like.

When the Russian carrier Admiral Kuznetsov went through the English Channel on the way to take part in the Syria fight, it belched smoke like a steam-driven ironclad. Ah, the pride of the fleet. For the British ships sent to shadow the task force, that made the degree of difficulty close to zero. And here's more on the deployment.

I know crossing red lines is old news by now, but the UN has concluded that Assad's government is responsible for a third chlorine poison gas attack. I know we are all shocked that this is going on notwithstanding the much-celebrated Kerry-Lavrov deal a few years ago that "eliminated" Assad's chemical arsenal.

Enemies don't sing much in the steel rain. Used effectively by our rocket launchers against Saddam's artillery during the Persian Gulf War, we have abandoned the weapon while Russia has shown how brutally effective it can be against Ukrainian targets. We need to bring them back. Dispersed soft targets like infantry, artillery, air defenses, and supply columns are vulnerable to destruction by this type of weapon. Precision unitary warheads are great, but sometimes quantity of small booms has a quality all its own--especially when you don't have the luxury of time during high-tempo conventional mechanized combat to keep identifying individual targets for precision strikes as we've had in counter-insurgency and counter-terrorist campaigns since 2001.

I know I remain a dinosaur in defending the Iraq War. Here's a defense in 2013 before things went belly up in 2014 and we initiated Iraq War 2.0 to belatedly defend what we had won.

Rule of law in Venezuela is dead, and Maduro is stabbing the corpse, unwilling to chance his ability to rig the vote counting in a recall election.

You'd think that in the modern West, we'd assume a ten-year old boy is incapable of giving consent to anal sex. But no, not in Austria. What the Hell, people. On American college campuses, a man just about has to get affirmative consent for each in and out stroke with a willing partner, but in Austria, the question of consent of a little boy to anal rape by a man with a "sexual emergency" was a mystery to the judge.

Are we really going to say this isn't corruption?! Ah, rule of law. It was nice while it lasted.

Sixty years ago, Hungary unsuccessfully revolted against Soviet control. Which makes it amazing that Hungary's ruler would suck up to Putin.

Is Iraq War 2.0 against ISIL--being run by a president who (wrongly) said that the Iraq War "distracted" America from waging the "real" war in Afghanistan--distracting our president from the real Middle East problem we face: Iran? Well, only if you assume we'd try to defeat Iran if ISIL didn't exist. In regard to Iran, this administration is self-distracting.

Clearly, these student "activists" don't have very difficult college majors to have time to build a human wall of Asshole Americans and make white students pay the price for it.  Tip to Instapundit.

Spain decided to be a NATO ally and deny the Russian naval squadron heading to Syria to bomb civilians access to Spanish territory for refueling. Good for them.

Assad's forces have clawed some high ground away from the opposition in rebel-held Aleppo. And rebels, including jihadis, are counter-attacking.

No, it would not be shocking if Russia is responsible for a string of assassinations of rebel leaders in the Donbas region of Ukraine.

A tour of Colombia and Venezuela, who are on opposite trajectories.

China seems like it is willing to make a play for the Philippines in light of Dutere's odd statements challenging alliance with America by pulling back their armed vessels from Scarborough Shoal which will allow Filipino fishermen to return. Note that this play does not involve ending China's illegal claim to the land and waters. So I doubt much will come from this unless Duterte uses the Chinese withdrawal to insert a Philippines military outpost to the shoal. UPDATE: China says nothing has changed about the basic situation.

You know, I truly am embarrassed that the Republican Party nominated Trump. The horrible behavior of Clinton's supporters in and out of the media to demonize Trump supporters may push me to vote for Trump, but I could never say I am proud of that. My question is why aren't Clinton supporters embarrassed by their candidate who is easily the most corrupt candidate in the modern era who I have ever seen. Sanders is a fool but I never thought he was corrupt. President Obama in retrospect had slightly more relevant experience than Trump, but while our president is too left wing to be successful, I never suspected him of corruption. Yet here we are with Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee and none of the people who proclaim "I'm with her" seem one bit red-faced about that enthusiasm. UPDATE: While I still don't think our president is corrupt, his truthfulness is another matter as Hillary's private email is not just one more thing that he learned about by hearing it on the news. Silly me, I even spun out a scenario that could explain how President Obama might not actually have known of Clinton's private email until he saw it on the news. But he knew about it. And another issue.

Given America's overwhelming conventional military power and geographic isolation that protects our core national territory from invasion by any conceivable stronger power, a nuclear-free world as the UN General Assembly will vote for is in our interests. Sadly, we have enemies likely to cheat and in a world of zero American nuclear weapons a hostile state with even 50 MIRVd missiles has a lot of leverage unless missile defenses get a lot denser.

Very Nice. Keep Going

The first of the up-gunned Strykers (with a 30mm cannon) for our Army's Europe-based 2nd cavalry regiment has been built. That still isn't enough firepower.

I noted this development recently and said that while it is good, it isn't enough, with Abrams tanks an option to attach to the cavalry regiment to real protected firepower.

And rather than building an air-droppable assault gun for our parachute regiment in Europe, why not add a company or battalion of Abrams to that brigade?

I would like to address one notion in the article about Strykers and by implication our mechanized infantry:

“Dragoon” is an appropriate term for Stryker forces. More mobile and better protected than foot troops, they’re still nowhere near as tough as M1 tank or the M2 Bradley troop carrier. Like the original dragoons in the black powder and musket days, Stryker units are a hybrid that ride to the battle but then dismount to fight on foot in battle. [emphasis added]

That point about the hybrid nature of Stryker infantry is just not true. Nobody fights mounted these days in the Army.

While the early Bradley fighting vehicles copied the Russian BMP infantry fighting vehicle to allow the infantry to shoot out of ports on the Bradley while on the move, that didn't work out in practice. So later Bradley builds did away with the gun ports.

While the Bradley has the firepower (machine gun, 25mm cannon, and anti-tank missile) in its turret to fight while moving with the tanks to support them, the infantry in the back of a Bradley has to dismount as much as infantry in the back of a Stryker in order to fight. So there is no "hybrid" involved anywhere in the infantry community. You dismount to fight whether you are in a Stryker, Bradley, Humvee, JLTV, MRAP, or helicopter.

If you are riding in the back of an open bed unarmored transport you can shoot, but that's not a smart way to fight if you can avoid it.

It's just that the Stryker with a 30mm gun can now fight without dismounting the infantry the way the Bradley can now.

Anyway, the up-gunned Strykers are a good start. Keep going.

Unclear on the Concept

ISIL was thwarted in their effort to hit Ramadi. Which highlights the absolute failure of their "diversionary" or "spoiling" attacks in response to Iraq's Mosul offensive.

Good:

Iraqi officials said Saturday that the security forces foiled an attack by jihadists of the Islamic State group on the city of Ramadi, capital of the western province of Anbar.

The reported thwarted attack led to 11 arrests and comes after a string of diversionary attacks by the jihadists since the start two weeks ago of a massive offensive against IS bastion Mosul.

When faced with an enemy attack (or when attacking an enemy, for that matter), it can be helpful to make attacks away from the main effort to either divert enemy troops from the main front (a diversionary attack) or to screw up enemy preparations for action on the main front (a spoiling attack).

ISIL's attacks have achieved neither. The Iraqi Mosul offensive is rolling along on a broad front as Iraqi units maintain a solid front line to deny ISIL opportunities to strike at gaps between Iraqi units as they push forward.

The ISIL attacks away from the Mosul front have simply engaged Iraqi security forces completely unconnected to the Mosul offensive and so have not affected the Mosul offensive by either diverting Iraqi forces from the main effort or spoiling Iraqi plans to push toward Mosul.

Well, and the attacks have upped the body count of Iraq War 2.0. Which in some ways is a jihadi objective all by itself.

UPDATE: Only a man-made flood of Biblical proportions or a pro-Iran Sadrist coup in Baghdad could derail the steamroller approaching Mosul at this point.

UPDATE: I wouldn't call Iraq's post-caliphate situation "grim." But there are challenges. And if we remain in Iraq after Iraq War 2.0 to provide a safety net to assure factions in Iraq that they do not have to resort for force in order to safeguard their faction's fortunes and very lives, Iraq has a chance to prosper.

Our presence can also alert us to problems long before they get to the point where a large fraction of the Iraqi army becomes combat ineffective because of politics and unable to fight terrorism.

And if we stay long enough, we can get Iraq moving forward on rule of law and real democracy.

That's how you responsibly end a war and not just skedaddle to await Iraq War 3.0.

And I can't emphasize this enough: let's not get ahead of ourselves. Focus on defeating ISIL on the roads to and in Mosul, and killing as many of them as we can in the pursuit phase.

Friday, October 28, 2016

What Do You Mean "We," Kemo Jihadi?

ISIL jihadis will fight to the death to hold Mosul. That's the story. Well, perhaps not all of them, eh?

Interesting:

"I saw some Daesh (IS) members and they looked completely different from the last time I saw them," eastern Mosul resident Abu Saif said.

"They had trimmed their beards and changed their clothes," the former businessman said. "They must be scared... they are also probably preparing to escape the city."

Residents and military officials said many IS fighters had relocated within Mosul, moving from the east to their traditional bastions on the western bank of the Tigris river, closer to escape routes to Syria.

We're doing our part to encourage the enemy to run:

Army General Joseph Votel, head of the US military's Central Command, said groups of half a dozen or fewer IS fighters have been seen slipping out of the city as US-backed Iraqi and Kurdish peshmerga forces close in.

Some of them dump weapons and try to look like civilians, making it hard for coalition drones and planes to track them, Votel said, but some presumably are headed toward Raqa, the IS group's Syria stronghold.

We think ISIL may have lost up to 900 fighters so far in the Iraqi offensive.

And whether or not ISIL defenders are trickling out to avoid adding to the body count, it is good to talk about anything that encourages ISIL defenders not to be the last to leave the city before they can't.

And if you've been reading this blog, you know I'm skeptical about whether the jihadi reputation for fighting to the death is true any more in Iraq.

Nearly a year ago I noticed something seemed to be wrong with that love of death and the months since then have not changed my mind about the general state of loving death versus life in ISIL ranks (there are always brown nosers in some number eager to die for the cause to perpetuate the reputation).

So when ISIL propaganda boasts that "we" will fight to the death and inflict heavy casualties on the attackers and civilians doing so, how many jihadis on the ground in Mosul will glance at each other and say that "we" doesn't include their leaders and "important" skilled jihadis already skedaddled to Raqqa and it darned well isn't going to include them?

Lucy Holds the Football Again

I see FBI Director Comey is going to pretend to investigate Hillary Clinton's email system again:

"In connection with an unrelated case, the FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation. I am writing to inform you that the investigative team briefed me on this yesterday, and I agreed that the FBI should take appropriate investigative steps designed to allow investigators to review these emails to determine whether they contain classified information, as well as to assess their importance to our investigation," he added.
Which is important to do before clearing Clinton of any charges of wrongdoing.

I may not like that Wikileaks is using stolen information which likely came from Russia; but I'm upset that our media failed to do what Wikileaks has done--expose a corrupt criminal enterprise seeking to get to the White House.

It's a bigger crime if--contrary to all evidence--what Hillary Clinton did isn't illegal.

Regardless, Clinton will be a crippled president given what our Russian foes know about those emails.

UPDATE: Related: Everything the Clinton family touches becomes corrupted. Everything.

Absolute Clinton power corrupts absolutely everything.

About That Definition of Insanity

I find it rather amusing that the Russian quest for national survival that prioritizes expansion to push back potential invasion threats sows the seeds of national crisis and collapse, the stage Russia is now entering according to Stratfor:

For nearly eight centuries, Russia has been trapped in a loose cycle: It rises from chaos, returns as a regional and sometimes even global power, grows aggressive as the system cracks, and then collapses before rising again. The cycle is less about political choice than it is about geographic constraints. ...

Russia's heartland — which runs from St. Petersburg south through Moscow and into the Volga region — lies on a series of plains, making it vulnerable from all sides. This has forced Russia to seek to expand its borders and influence outward to create a buffer zone between its heartland and rival regional powers. ...

Expanding Russian influence comes at an immense financial, military, political and social cost. ... Thus the dilemma: Russia must expand to survive, but that expansion is unsustainable and has historically led to its collapse.

Which leads me to ask, in what sense does Russian survival require expansion?

Isn't expansion to push back potential invasion threats counter-productive to national survival when you consider the lack of threats in the modern world to Russia's European heartland means that Russia's policy if expanding their influence simply hastens an internal collapse?

Sure, the Mongols swept across Russia's heartland. Will they again?

Sweden once invaded Russia. Will they again?

France once invaded Russia. Will they again?

Germany twice invaded Russia in modern history. Will they again?

To ask the questions is to see how ridiculous the Russian obsession is.

Good grief, America no longer obsesses about the invasion threat from British Canada that once loomed over us.

Can't Russia adjust their foreign policy to account for the fact that attempting to expand their borders just creates a national crisis in a bizarre attempt to push back non-existent threats of invasion?

Is doing the same thing yet again going to give the Russians a different result?

Apologists in the West for Russian expansionist policies who want us to "understand" the Russians (and go along with them) need to explain how Russia's traditional policy of expansion makes any sense at all in the 21st century when Russia is their own worst enemy.

And consider that even if the West goes along with Russia's policy, that won't stop the geography-based cycle that leads to collapse.

I had hopes that Russia would take the opportunity that the collapse of the Soviet Union provided to join the West. Russia did not take that opportunity to end the need for a buffer against threats from the West by becoming part of the West.

And so here we are, with an insane Russian policy that only makes sense in an archaic view of the world.

Or do the Russians think they found a 21st century cyber-based solution to keep the West at bay?

Of course, it isn't really amusing for a power with nuclear weapons to collapse. I was relieved that the collapse of the Soviet Union did not see their rulers choose to use nukes in a futile attempt to stem the tide of that collapse. Will we be as fortunate this time?

#whyrussiacanthavenicethings

When Ambitions Expand and American Willingness to Defend Stability Falters

With the world seeming so fluid as nations adjust to more aggressive regional powers like Russia and Iran and a rising (for now) China combined with uncertainties about the willingness of America to defend allies from these aggressive powers, I would not be shocked if Turkey withdrew from NATO to align with Russia.

What is Turkey up to?

FEARS are mounting that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdo─čan is hell-bent on expanding his country’s territory after giving a string of provocative speeches referencing Turkey’s claim to more land.

The leader’s comments are fuelling speculation that the Middle Eastern nation is intent on land grabbing parts of Iraq, Syria and the Greek islands.

Russia, too, is talking tough and leaning forward. Russia may aim to rebuild influence in the eastern Mediterranean.

Is there room for cooperation between frenemies here?

Really, Russia and Turkey are two rump states that used to control far larger empires. They could find common cause to begin to restore their empires at the expense of American influence, which appears to be faltering in the eastern Mediterranean.

While Russia and Turkey have  gone to war many times over the centuries (8 back to the 16th century by my quick scan through my Dictionary of Wars. Yes, I have a Dictionary of Wars), Russia's shrinkage since 1989-1991 has eliminated land borders between the two. So there is less danger of the two fighting in a major way.

So in theory, both have opportunities to expand their influence and perhaps territory southward at the expense of America's influence in the Middle East.

This is my gaming hat I'm wearing, I admit, and not based on anything concrete. Just a look at theoretical opportunities.

So what if Russia and Turkey allied to advance their positions in the Middle East region?

Could Turkey seize land in Iraq, Syria, Cyprus, and the Aegean Sea after announcing their withdrawal from NATO and the ejection of all NATO personnel from Turkey?

Could Russia quietly ally with Turkey who would pledge to keep the Turkish Straits open to Russian warships regardless of treaty obligations on the straits?

Could Russia pose as the protector of Greece and Syria by warning Turkey not to take more land, when Turkey and Russia have actually worked out the limits of advance ahead of time?

Perhaps Syria and Greece eagerly grant Russia expansive basing rights.

Sure, you might say that Greece might embrace NATO more energetically to face a newly non-NATO Turkey. But what if latent anti-Americanism and the fallout from alienation from the European Union over financial matters actually leads the Greeks to view NATO--which is unlikely to go to war with Turkey over some Greek islands any more than NATO fought Turkey 40 years ago when Turkey took northern Cyprus--as less effective than Russia?

So maybe Greece pulls out of NATO and the EU and rents bases in Crete to Russia after ejecting NATO.

I don't buy the notion that a Russian base in Syria or anywhere in the Mediterranean is useless to Russia without access to the Turkish Straits to get to supply sources in the Black Sea  (Russia--when it was the USSR--based a lot of naval and air power in the eastern Mediterranean Sea with a NATO Turkey blocking that path).

But alliance with Turkey ends that objection to the usefulness of the bases.

And maybe Russia does manage to flip Egypt back to alliance with Russia, potentially cutting off our easy access to CENTCOM via the Suez Canal.

Maybe Russia backs Egyptian efforts to support General Hiftar in eastern Libya, potentially granting Russia basing rights in the future to bases there.

Iran might be able to strong arm Iraq into conceding Turkish land grabs in northern Iraq as Russia poses as the party restraining Turkish ambitions. Perhaps this is the time for Iran to unleash a Sadrist coup that throws Iraq into chaos that Turkey can exploit. And in the aftermath, Iran's stooges control a smaller Iraq.

And then perhaps Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria team up to crush Kurdish aspirations for autonomy or independence. Iraq at least regains some lost land in their Kurdish region--divided between Iraq and Turkey.

And America is shown to be less useful than Russia, Turkey, and Iran as an ally, with Americans kicked out of Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Iraq, and Iraq's Kurdish regions.

Perhaps we hold the line of our losses in Italy, the Balkans (but Bulgarian voices are making nice noises to Russia these days), and Tunisia, plus western Libya to the west; and hold the line on the Arabian peninsula (minus Yemen) to the south.

Jordan blows with the winds and adjusts their policies away from America.

Lebanon sees Hezbollah grow in power.

And at that point America will have been effectively pushed out of the eastern Mediterranean with only Israel a reliable and strong friend there (assuming the American government reduces the hostility that has been expressed by the current administration). [UPDATE: Is the administration preparing a parting shot at Israel?]

This would be worse than the Cold War when we at least had Iran under the Shah on our side (although the USSR loomed over Iran, then--and is now pushed farther north on either side of the Caspian Sea to rump Russia).

Again, this is a map exercise with recent news as the seeds to grow a dramatic scenario. Odds are that predicting future trends along the lines of past trends is the way to go on any given day.

But when things are in flux, long trend lines can bend and break off into new directions.

Both Russia and the Arab world have been thrown into chaos from developments in 1989 and 2011, respectively. The space that lies between these regions in flux could join the parade of change.

UPDATE: And what is Russia up to? Did they attempt to stage a coup in Montenegro to prevent that country from joining NATO? There is no smoking gun. But the circumstantial evidence is "suggestive."

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Charge of the Fright Brigade

I honestly can't believe that the media is going on so much about the Kirkuk suicide mission that ISIL pulled off as the Iraqi offensive on Mosul began.

Oh please, this is the lesson of the Kirkuk battle?

The attacks ultimately were pushed back, but they demonstrated an advanced level of training and discipline that belies any expectations that driving Islamic State out of northwestern Iraq will be either quick or painless.

The jihadis showed that they are well-equipped enough to force a standoff that lasted more than 24 hours and killed more than 99 civilians and security personnel.

Compared to the attacking force of 50,000--a corps-sized element supported by American and Coalition air and firepower--the ISIL attack on Kirkuk was by a company-sized force of about 100 jihadis.

ISIL pissed into the wind. And in a little over a day after hitting soft civilian targets, was defeated.

The miniscule ISIL counterattack had no impact on the offensive on Mosul.

Obviously, ISIL is going to fight. But don't elevate anything they do that goes beyond sitting there and taking our punishment as some stunning military coup.

Yes, the ride of the ISIL 100 was frightening. And the media was impressed.

But the ISIL attackers died and achieved nothing but increasing the body count of the war. The jihadis get neither glory nor honor for the charge they made.

And good luck with that virgins in Paradise thing, you sick murderous--and now dead--bastards.

Our country has been at war for fifteen years in varying degrees of intensity, yet our reporters as a general rule with rare exceptions still don't have a clue about reporting on war.

Holding the Line Against Chaos

America is supporting the recognized Libyan government against ISIL from drone bases in Tunisia in addition to the Marine aircraft at sea that have supplied air support.

We have a drone base in Tunisia:

The United States has begun using a Tunisian air base to conduct surveillance drone operations inside Libya, the latest expansion of its campaign against Islamic State militants in North Africa, U.S. government sources said on Wednesday.

The unarmed drones have been flying out of Tunisia since late June and are now part of a U.S. air assault in support of Libyan pro-government forces fighting to push Islamic State fighters out of their stronghold in the Libyan city of Sirte, the officials said.

America's Africa Command (AFRICOM) sure is getting involved to a far greater degree than it has in the recent past to directly take on the forces that are disrupting stability in Africa.

China and North Korea in Asia and the Pacific.

Russia, Iran, and jihadis in the Middle East.

Russia and jihadis in Europe.

Jihadis in Africa.

Jihadi terror attacks in North America.

And a looming disintegration of Venezuela in South America.

Thank God for Antarctica.

Punching the Entry Ticket for the Next Syria Problem

We may well formally begin the drive on Raqqa before the Mosul operation is formally declared won. That will be not the beginning of the end but the beginning of all new problems that have been obvious all along.

Interesting:

Defense Secretary Ash Carter, speaking to reporters after meeting allies in Paris, did not disclose the timing of the Raqqa campaign but said preparations were on track.

"Yes, there will be overlap (in the Mosul and Raqqa campaigns) and that's part of our plan and we are prepared for that," Carter said after a gathering of 13 countries in the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State.

Sure, that's possible. But I imagine that telegraphing this overlap is probably an effort to freeze ISIL's Syria-based assets in place rather than sending them to Mosul (and this would be done even as some ISIL assets in Mosul are being evacuated).

Of course, the Iraq front is the easiest part of this. When we eliminate the ISIL province in Iraq, we move on to support the Iraqi government's efforts to stamp out the terrorist ISIL war that will rage, reconcile Iraqi factions to push democracy and rule of law along, and reduce Iranian influence in Iraq.

I'm not too hopeful that this time we will stay to do these things, am I?

But the Syria portion is problematic. Two years ago when I proposed a win-build-win strategy for Iraq and Syria (defeat ISIL first in Iraq--build up non-jihadi resistance to Assad in Syria while we win in Iraq--then defeat ISIL in Syria without that being a huge gift to Assad by essentially replacing the weight of ISIL resistance to Assad), I had certain assumptions that have not unfolded.

We have failed miserably to build up the non-jihadi resistance--and still hold back:

As rebel-held sections of Aleppo crumbled under Russian bombing this month, the Obama administration was secretly weighing plans to rush more firepower to CIA-backed units in ­Syria.

The proposal, which involved weapons that might help those forces defend themselves against Russian aircraft and artillery, made its way onto the agenda of a recent meeting President Obama held with his national security team.

And that’s as far as it got. Neither approved nor rejected, the plan was left in a state of ambiguity that U.S. officials said reflects growing administration skepticism about escalating a covert CIA program that has trained and armed thousands of Syrian fighters over the past three years.

Russia openly and directly intervened on behalf of Assad. And we gave Iran a windfall of cash to afford their efforts to hire and support a Shia foreign legion to fight for Assad.

So victory over ISIL in Syria will just leave Assad stronger to move against the still-too weak non-jihadi and Kurdish rebels who will be exposed to Assad's offensive backed by Iranian cannon fodder, Hezbollah special forces, and Russian special forces, firepower, and logistics.

What will we do then? Will we let Assad destroy the people who have fought with us on the ground in Syria? We've already done that a little bit as our problematic NATO ally Turkey has struck at our Kurdish friends on the ground in Syria. What will we do when it is the full might of Assad and his allies who care not one bit about what we think?

And then we will have crushed the spirit of resistance in Syria for a generation because the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Syrians was for nothing, as Assad consolidates a victory and snuffs out the remnants of any resistance through quiet brutality that never gets reported over here.

Hell, Mrs. Assad will probably get another fawning Vogue article written by an American author about her stylish home life.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Why Iran Will Cheat on the Nuclear Deal

As I've written, at best Iran is prevented from getting a nuclear weapon for close to a decade. But the commitment of America's left to the Iran nuclear deal (the JCPOA) exceeds Iran's commitments, making it unlikely that we will get that decade,

Actually, at best the nuclear deal prevents Iran from developing nukes with resources inside Iran. That's long been a weak spot in dealing with Iran.

The deal says nothing about Iran buying nukes from North Korea.

As for the actual deal, I think a recent Washington Post review slamming a book on how bad the nuclear deal is demonstrates why Iran can and so will cheat:

But the point isn't really about Solomon's reporting, or his sources, why, for instance, he spoke with this official and not another. Rather, as the conclusion to Sciolino's review makes plain, the main issue is to defend the nuclear deal—and not just against ideological opponents, columnists, and pundits. No, the much more dangerous threat to President Obama's signature foreign policy initiative and its supporters comes from those who have no ideological axe to grind at all—the wide array of experts and journalists who are simply relaying facts. They have to be silenced because there is too much at stake: money, prestige, and from the most paranoid corners of the pro-JCPOA community, world peace.

With America's Left so committed to defending the deal in Manichean terms--either the deal or war--the terrible enforcement terms of the deal will never be tested.

And you don't still believe in all that sanctions "snap back" nonsense, do you? How cute.

That is, no indications of cheating by Iran will ever be clear enough, or bad enough if true, or supported by a smoking gun, or worth the consequences (which backers see as war) to crack down on Iran for breaking terms of the deal.

Heck, the "deal" isn't even legally binding on Iran, truth be told. It was a gentlemen's agreement and we're short at least one gentleman on this.

Besides, these people believe, in a decade Iran will be a responsible regional partner because of the Smart Diplomacy that gave us the deal!

With Western liberals running interference for Iran in the belief that the Iran deal is all that stands between the demise of world peace (as if that exists!), Iran doesn't have to hide their cheating--just deny wrongdoing and cloak their cheating enough to create sufficient doubt for Western liberals to justify inaction.

Have a super sparkly day.

Hillary Nearly Closes the Deal

Hillary Clinton has just about persuaded me to vote for Trump.

As I've said, I can't stand Trump. But Hillary Clinton is too corrupt to contemplate as our president. So I will vote against her. I've said that if the polling shows the race close in Michigan, I will vote for Trump. If not, I will vote for Johnson.

I just think that Trump is more easily contained than Hillary because the courts, Congress (regardless of who controls it), the media, and the permanent federal bureaucracy will resist Trump far more uniformly and enthusiastically than they'd resist Clinton.

And lately I've started to worry that failure to stop Hillary just means that America's Lannisters will use that victory to groom Princess Chelsea for the job one day.

But Team Hillary's actions to carry the dead weight of their corrupt and awful candidate over the finish line by demonizing people who support Trump is getting close to bad enough to get me to vote for Trump regardless of the polls just to extend a big middle finger to Clinton and her backers. (tip to Instapundit)


Yes, the effort by Clinton to virtually deport 40% of Americans who back Trump (who have good reasons to reject the leadership of both parties who have failed to respond to--or even validate--their problems) by declaring them a "basket of deplorables" unworthy of being Americans (while simultaneously trying to import a better--from the point of view of Clinton--citizenry with open borders) is outrageous. And dangerous.

It's funny. Trump lacks the ability or characteristics to convince me to vote for him.

But Hillary's campaign and the illegal and immoral acts of her supporters could do the job.

Mind you, I still can't stand Trump and won't be a fan even if I vote for him. He is a clown. And unworthy of being president. His only saving grace is that he is not Hillary Clinton and is the only candidate who is not Hillary Clinton who could possibly stop her from being carried into the Oval Office with her pen and phone. I seriously wouldn't trust Clinton to run the post office of a medium sized city.

Yet Clinton is highly likely to win this election as things stand. If Wikileaks showed that Hillary and Putin exchanged sexting messages, her supporters would say it is understandable as long as Putin supports safe (for the mother, of course) and legal late term abortions.

And people say Trump's core supporters are loyal to a fault!

Oh, I think America will endure whoever wins, although either will make (different) things worse in the short run. We've endured invasion, civil war, a Depression, a Cold War, 9/11, and disco.

Hell, Carrot Top was only a momentary stain on our society, as I hope the Kardashian sisters will prove to be rather than signs of the Apocalypse.

So these two awful politicians shall pass. I'm just worried that my children will start their adult lives and careers while the impact of either horrible candidate lingers on.

UPDATE: Democratic dirty tricks weigh heavily on my judgment that Trump couldn't possibly be worse than a corrupt Clinton presidency.

Do You Wish to Share Your Location?

Could Chinese-made consumer electronics be a threat to our aircraft carriers?

The military doesn't trust Chinese-made electronic devices:

The [Department of Defense J-2] report warned that use of Lenovo products could facilitate cyber intelligence-gathering against both classified and unclassified—but still sensitive—U.S. military networks.

One official said Lenovo equipment in the past was detected “beaconing”—covertly communicating with remote users in the course of cyber intelligence-gathering.

“There is no way that that company or any Chinese company should be doing business in the United States after all the recent hacking incidents,” the official said.

Back in 2006 I speculated that the Chinese plans to sink our carriers with land-based ballistic missiles might shorten their kill chain (the process that starts with finding and ends with hitting a target) by putting a homing beacon on our carriers:

What if Chinese agents placed a signalling device on the keel of an American aircraft carrier while in port? Or a homing device in the galley's coffee machine before it is installed? Or buried in the storage bins of some bulk product? What if the Chinese maneuvering ballistic missiles were designed to home in on the signal of such a device and the Chinese had a means to turn on the device when needed?

We have few carriers at sea at any time, so the list of ships to be tagged is pretty small.

And given the Internet of things problems we are having with Internet-connected appliances being used for botnets, the coffee machine reference is no longer hyperbolic.

And since then, I've apparently (I say this because when I started this post I had forgotten earlier posts on the subject) noted developments that indicate that what was once considered fanciful could in fact work.

American efforts to break the Chinese kill chain to sink or disable our carriers (and I think my post compares well to a CRS look at the issue) would be less relevant if the Chinese manage to put a bunch of Chinese-made devices capable of "beaconing" on our carriers or even their surface escorts.

Of course, staying out of range of the DF-21 is the best solution.

UPDATE: Interesting:

Chinese hackers attempted to gain information about an American aircraft carrier by sending fake emails to foreign government officials scheduled to tour the ship. Visitors to the USS Ronald Reagan were targeted with malware in an attempt to access their computers, according to the Financial Times.

It didn't work. And would have not provided tactical intelligence as much as strategic intelligence about the effect of the visits on those who visited the carrier.

But what if the Chinese targeted the carrier crew? Could malware be used to turn on the location feature of a crew member's smart phone while at sea?

I assume the answer is a resounding no, since obviously there would be no cell towers in the middle of the ocean, and who would have satellite-linked smart phones?

But every year it seems like opportunities for this type of tracking improve.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

France is In to Play

France is committed to stabilizing west Africa's Sahel region:

France appeared on Wednesday to accept that it would need to keep thousands of troops in Africa's Sahel region for an indefinite period given the ongoing instability and preponderance of Islamist militants.

The region, a politically fragile area whose remote desert spaces spanning from Mauritania in the west to Sudan in the east host a medley of jihadist groups, is seen as vulnerable to further attacks after strikes on soft targets in Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast earlier this year.

That's good. This has traditionally been a French sphere because of former colonies in the region that France still has relations with.

And I assume that America and Germany wouldn't be committing forces to stabilizing the region without the French being committed to the same mission.

Winter is Coming

The Russians are up to something:

At the Kremlin’s Ministry of Emergency Situations, the Cold War is back.

The country recently held its biggest civil defense drills since the collapse of the U.S.S.R., with what officials said were 40 million people rehearsing a response to chemical and nuclear threats.

Videos of emergency workers deployed in hazmat suits or checking the ventilation in bomb shelters were prominently aired on television when the four days of drills were held across the country. Students tried on gas masks and placed dummies on stretchers in school auditoriums.

It should go without saying that America has no interest in nuking Russia. Unless the Russians are getting worried about Chinese intentions but are too afraid to openly discuss that motivation, the Russians are whipping up Russian fear of the West out of nothing. But why?

Perhaps this is just to scare the West into being more cooperative on Ukraine, Syria, and sanctions.

Perhaps it is just to rally the Russian people around Putin as the economy falters under the weight of--in descending order of effect--corruption, low oil prices, and Western sanctions over Ukraine.

But perhaps it is to prepare the Russian people for war with America or the danger of war arising from some small war that Russia hopes to isolate from American involvement.

I don't think that such a war would be expansive as this worst case scenario that I drew up, in case Russian rhetoric is telegraphing a dangerous decision for war made in secret.

But it could mean--in ascending order of danger of a war erupting with America over the action--a major effort to slaughter people in Syria to kill Assad's way to victory. We've tolerated several hundred thousand dead without effectively responding. (Why would a few more tens of thousands by Russia change that attitude?)

Or it could mean a major effort to defeat Ukraine's military and seize control of the entire Donbas region to convince Ukraine to give up the fight and concede control of their lost territories in Crimea and the east to Russia. (Heck, getting a peace deal that confirms Russia's conquests thus far seems to be our policy, anyway. What's a little more ground lost to Russia?)

Or it could mean a Russian effort to seize Narva, Estonia, with Russian "volunteers" and hold it with a couple of brigades of "volunteer" soldiers that look remarkably like Russian army units, daring NATO to take the city back.And if NATO does not meet the challenge, breaking NATO's credibility.

That would likely be a bridge too far for Putin's ambitions, that NATO could not let slide. But does Putin know that? Does he have anybody but yes-men around him eager to tell him that the West will bend to his iron will no matter what the provocation?

I know I've used this term a lot recently, but yes, my pucker factor is at elevated levels.

And yet our National Inquirer Election rolls on even as rumors of war overseas barely breach our level of awareness except when some photogenic dead or wounded child victim of war captures our attention for the amount of time it takes to post it on Facebook.

UPDATE: Putin has a weak hand to play:

Russia is an enormously weak country that Putin is working desperately to make appear far more powerful than it is. He is doing extremely well at creating that illusion. There is a saying that perception is reality. That saying is rubbish. If it were true, reality would never have caught up with the perceptions surrounding the subprime crisis. Germany would have won the Battle of Britain, and – for that matter – the Soviet Union would still exist. Perception can buy time and time can, sometimes, change reality. But sometimes all that perception puts off is the inevitable, and in my view that is the case with Russia.

And chest beating does bolster Putin at home. Do read it all.

If you've read this blog you surely know that I agree with that point. America alone is far more powerful than Russia, and adding even our relatively weak NATO allies adds to the imbalance.

But Russia does have superiority over weaker neighbors. And nukes to deter counter-attacks after Russia exploits the time they have to beat on a weaker neighbor before America can deploy significant combat power to roll back the Russian gains.

And all that talk of Russia standing up to the West could push Putin to war with a superior West if his supporters believe that the West is a threat and believe that Putin has rebuilt Russia enough to defeat that threat.

After painting such a threat and picture of a revived Russia, how could Putin refuse to defeat that threat without losing the backing of the people?

Like Japan in 1941 (or Iraq in 1980, for that matter or Argentina in 1982), Russia could start a war believing they have no choice, while telling themselves that early gains can be locked in before their enemy can work up the nerve and resources to fight back.

And while the reality of our power superiority would in the end lead us to victory over the perception that Russia is shaping, we'd have to fight a war to make reality defeat perception. That is hardly ideal.

(And yes, this is the exact same update to the previous post.)

UPDATE: The dangers of playing with fear.  (And yes, this is the exact same update to the previous post.)

So How Does Putin Feel?

I don't think sanctions are the critical element of Russia's financial problems, given that Venezuela has managed to screw up their country with socialism and low oil prices but without sanctions. But if Russia believes American-led sanctions are the real problem, Putin could do something really stupid.

Russia views sanctions as being key in their financial difficulties. And Putin is acting defiant about sanctions, when his future may depend on how Russia weathers this crisis:

Sanctions won’t make the Russian President behave in a more democratic way. He has crossed so many red lines by now that he cannot go back—at this point, Russia either becomes more authoritarian and dangerous, or Putin steps down. But what sanctions might do is lead to a change of direction for the whole of Russia down the road…

But Venezuela, which is not under sanctions, demonstrates how a screwed up socialist economy coupled with low oil prices that no longer mask the shortcomings of a screwed up economy can in fact screw up your finances.

I don't really believe our sanctions are decisive compared to the effects of Russia's corrupt crony capitalism that lower oil prices are shaking. Sure, sanctions add to the pain that would be there anyway. But they aren't decisive.

But Putin might believe our sanctions are decisive.

And if he does, he could see sanctions that he views as decisive as warfare by other means, which means he could respond with methods of warfare of his choosing.

Which means we could see Putin go down a different road to hold on to power by initiating a war despite his weak hand in the belief that America is unable to respond effectively. Perhaps Putin thinks our president is too weak. Perhaps Putin believes that an election campaign that is part of a transfer of power creates an opportunity that nullifies our ability to respond before he achieves his objectives.

Does peace really rely on Putin's grasp of reality and restraint?

UPDATE: Putin has a weak hand to play:

Russia is an enormously weak country that Putin is working desperately to make appear far more powerful than it is. He is doing extremely well at creating that illusion. There is a saying that perception is reality. That saying is rubbish. If it were true, reality would never have caught up with the perceptions surrounding the subprime crisis. Germany would have won the Battle of Britain, and – for that matter – the Soviet Union would still exist. Perception can buy time and time can, sometimes, change reality. But sometimes all that perception puts off is the inevitable, and in my view that is the case with Russia.

And chest beating does bolster Putin at home. Do read it all.

If you've read this blog you surely know that I agree with that point. America alone is far more powerful than Russia, and adding even our relatively weak NATO allies adds to the imbalance.

But Russia does have superiority over weaker neighbors. And nukes to deter counter-attacks after Russia exploits the time they have to beat on a weaker neighbor before America can deploy significant combat power to roll back the Russian gains.

And all that talk of Russia standing up to the West could push Putin to war with a superior West if his supporters believe that the West is a threat and believe that Putin has rebuilt Russia enough to defeat that threat.

After painting such a threat and picture of a revived Russia, how could Putin refuse to defeat that threat without losing the backing of the people?

Like Japan in 1941 (or Iraq in 1980, for that matter or Argentina in 1982), Russia could start a war believing they have no choice, while telling themselves that early gains can be locked in before their enemy can work up the nerve and resources to fight back.

And while the reality of our power superiority would in the end lead us to victory over the perception that Russia is shaping, we'd have to fight a war to make reality defeat perception. That is hardly ideal.

UPDATE: The dangers of playing with fear.

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Building Blocks of a Modularized Auxiliary Cruiser

A South African company has developed a drone optimized for use in Africa, the Viper 1000C. The drone isn't of interest to as much as the command system.

The Viper 1000C is controlled by crew in a truck trailer:

The manufacturer also offers a control trailer suited to operating the 1000C in remote areas. The 6x2.56x2 meter (19.5x8.3x6.5 feet) trailer contains radio and satellite communications gear, local weather monitoring equipment plus pilot and payload operator stations. There is also a generator, water and fuel tanks plus kitchen, bunks, a toilet and a shower.

Putting the control equipment in a trailer is what is of interest to me, given my interest in a modularized auxiliary cruiser using military components housed in standard shipping containers (20ft or 40ft long x 8ft wide x 8ft 6in high) mounted on leased container ships.

While I originally looked at the concept as a Navy asset, I eventually viewed the concept as an option for AFRICOM (United States Africa Command) to project land and air power around the continent of Africa's coastal regions. (And see here for the Military Review article.)

And then I noted that it would have use in South America by SOUTHCOM (United States Southern Command)--which could use it for both naval and land-focused missions.

A lot of stuff can be put in shipping containers. And a container ship has room for a lot of shipping containers, even if you don't stack them.

UPDATE: Holy cow, you can put just about anything in a shipping container! Tip to Instapundit.

Make That Six

All hail the Nobel Peace Prize-winning president who has responsibly ended our wars and through his outreach to the Islamic world, has built a foundation for peace where a past warmongering president (who probably just liked bombing brown people) just made things worse:

In an election flush with conspiracy theories, here's one that's real: Both major party nominees, as well as the journalists who cover the election and moderate the debates, are actively conspiring to avoid talking about the fact that the United States is waging war in at least five countries simultaneously: Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, and Somalia.

The author asks, "Why won't anyone admit that America is fighting 5 wars?"

Ahem:

With US air strikes beginning in Syria, President Obama is fighting wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia (a half war), and now Syria.

Which puts him in the lead over that warmonger Bush who only managed the first three.

UPDATE: Really, who can be surprised at this record given that President Obama bombed the Moon early in his first term?

That was two years ago. Since then we added Libya back into the mix.

But considering the premise of the article, how could the author leave out Afghanistan?! Is that war which we have been waging since 2001--and which President Obama escalated dramatically in 2009 and 2010 to win the "real" war of "necessity"--forgotten already? When our people are still fighting and dying in that war?

Is the Afghanistan campaign really covered by the "at least" caveat that I assume is reserved for some quiet intervention that we might not know about?

So make it 6 wars at once, padding President Obama's lead by two in two years.

Oh, and the Obama presidency isn't over, giving potential foes to add to the record:

We do not know what other plans our opponents have to take advantage of Obama’s shortcomings as the clock slowly runs down on his time in the White House. Putin clearly hoped that his interference could muddy the waters of the American presidential race; the Russians believe that Trump is if anything less capable than Obama, and that a Trump presidency would give Russia four more years to work at dismantling American power and the European Union. As Putin now contemplates the likely frustration of those hopes, he is likely to think harder about how he can use the time remaining on Obama’s watch to further weaken the United States and erode its alliance system.

Personally, I think Putin will be just fine with a Clinton presidency--which I think has been the point of Russia's cyber-espionage and email leaks, rather than representing a ham-handed effort to elect Trump. But the real point is that enemies may think they have a limited amount of time to get in on the action and make some gains while America is fighting in so many locations.

Which makes it easy to understand how President Obama will become the first American president to lead a nation at war for two full terms, which means as far as he is concerned, he had endless war.


I never get tired of that picture. Leftists campaigned against endless war in 2008, and that is what they got. Unexpectedly.

The Short-Selling of America Continues

Our NATO ally Turkey bombs our Kurdish allies on the ground in Syria; and our ally Oman looks the other way as Iran supplies their allies in Yemen who fight our Saudi ally and shoot at our ships. "Leading from behind" is no sort of leadership, after all.

Feel the smart diplomacy:

Turkish jets pounded a U.S.-backed group of Kurdish-led militia fighters in northern Syria with more than 20 air strikes overnight, highlighting the conflicting agendas of the two NATO allies in an increasingly complex battlefield.

The jets targeted positions of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in three villages northeast of the city of Aleppo which the SDF had captured from Islamic State, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said late on Wednesday.

And behold the nuance in action:

Iran has stepped up weapons transfers to the Houthis, the militia fighting the Saudi-backed government in Yemen, U.S., Western and Iranian officials tell Reuters, a development that threatens to prolong and intensify the 19-month-old war.

The increased pace of transfers in recent months, which officials said include missiles and small arms, could exacerbate a security headache for the United States, which last week struck Houthi targets with cruise missiles in retaliation for failed missile attacks on a U.S. Navy destroyer.

Much of the recent smuggling activity has been through Oman, which neighbors Yemen, including via overland routes that take advantage of porous borders between the two countries, the officials said.

These are both logical results of our policies that allow Russia and Iran to violently pursue their interests while sowing death and destruction in their wake.

Allies of ours who once would have followed us in resisting Russia and Iran now see that we won't lead them. No, we'd be happy to see them resist Russia and Iran while we do little more than sell them the weapons to do so.

But instead of being led from behind, our once-allies decide not to stick out their necks for our benefit where potent enemies could harm them while we are safely urging them on from behind.

Not that Turkey and Oman have turned against us. But they do see the need to cut deals with enemies as a little bit of insurance in case we can't be counted on to be an ally when the chips are down.

It's a funny thing. Allies threatened by foes with troops, ships, and planes value simple hardware-based signs of our alliance rather than nuanced "smart diplomacy" that downgrades simplistic things like troops, ships, and planes in favor of attempts to turn enemies into friends through concessions, and which dismisses the worries of our allies over the hostile intentions of the new friends we're trying to make.

Wars start this way. Just as Japan in 1941 saw all of our economic and military power yet discounted that power through the belief that our poor quality men and leadership nullified our physical strength, enemies now can tell themselves that our power is meaningless because we won't dare risk our comfortable lives to resist foes with the faith and confidence to take action against us.

Sure, after Japan hit us on December 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor based on that belief, we mobilized and drove back the Japanese, crushing their military and nuking two of their cities (while also sending combined forces across the Atlantic to smash German and Italian forces that had overrun important chunks of Western Europe).

But we had to send our military to fight and die to demonstrate that our people and leaders did not have values close to zero that virtually nullified our physical advantages.

So keep that in mind when you hear people say we remain the most powerful nation on earth (true on paper) and that no nation would be foolish enough to take us on (false in the real world).

UPDATE: More on Turkey's ambitions along their southern border that seems to be moving further south. Note that rather than being a mini-world war, I look at Syria as (broadly) more like another Spanish Civil War.

And I'll say again, when we decline to lead to achieve objectives we can live with, allies who would normally follow our lead become free to lead on their own--for their own objectives.

Oh, and I had noted Turkey's apparent intentions a little while ago. I do worry that Turkey and Russia could come to an agreement to expand both of their influence in the region at our expense.

UPDATE: Related.  Although I don't blame Duterte's antics (and I don't assume this will amount to anything in practice) on President Obama--other than the creation of a "safety in numbers" environment of once-loyal allies hedging their bets where Duterte feels more free to slap America around verbally.

UPDATE: And Russia continues to adjust their border at Georgia's expense:

Marked in places with barbed wire laid at night, in others by the sudden appearance of green signs declaring the start of a “state border” and elsewhere by the arrival of bulldozers, the reach of Russia keeps inching forward into Georgia with ever more ingenious markings of a frontier that only Russia and three other states recognize as real.

Yeah. The 1980s called. They want their Soviet Russian border back.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Paging General Jack (D) Ripper

Democrats have clearly all gotten the memo to ignore answering anything substantive about the damning information found in the Wikileaks releases by attacking the now-evil Russians as the source of the information and questioning the patriotism of anybody who isn't outraged about that origin alone.

Which is kind of funny coming from the party that only four short years ago mocked Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney for saying the Russians are our number one geopolitical foe.



Since then the Russians have invaded Ukraine (which is ongoing), intervened in Syria on behalf of a monster with their signature "we have to destroy the city of Aleppo in order to save it for Assad" approach, threatened NATO allies and friendly non-NATO friends with nuclear weapons, cheated on nuclear weapons limitations, buzzed our ships and planes in a dangerous fashion, harassed and physically attacked our diplomats, and waged cyber-war on our presidential election process.

And now Russia is a threat, notwithstanding its conventional military and economic weakness compared to America and the West.

Yeah, our president isn't equipped to lecture anybody on foreign policy. The second decade of the 21st century called, Democrats. It wants our 1980s foreign policy back.

That ill-informed mockery that the Left embraced at least fit well with the late Cold War Democratic tendency to see the evil Soviet Union as morally equivalent to free America. Republicans say the Russians are our enemies? Oh no, our flaws are so much more worse, the Democrats said. America is unworthy of opposing them, they argued.

But now, in response to Russian hacking of Democratic emails, these Democrats are suddenly hard-line Code Warriors ready to go toe to toe with the Russkies in cyber-space to protect their precious bodily emails.

To be fair to the Democrats, it has to be unfamiliar territory to have Russians trying to undermine Democrats rather than undermining Republicans, as the Soviet Russians regularly did during the Cold War with their propaganda efforts that our Left ate up like organic kale.

I assume the Russians have Republican emails, too. And I do want our government to stop the Russians.

But the information is out. And it is damning, if true. The Russian origin isn't a reason to avoid fixing the broken system that created political operatives that these emails reveal.

One can't rule out that the Russians have altered some of the emails--perhaps subtly--to get that forged information warfare bullet circulating among the real email leaks.

After all, how do the Democrats reveal only the real emails they possess to show that altered emails leaked by the Russians are false without exposing that they have other real emails to compare that would verify the majority of leaked emails?

And do Democrats really want to stick to the party line that the Russians took everything but Hillary Clinton's State Department emails housed on her bathroom server that bypassed State Department security systems and procedures?

Still, this is progress. I am a glass half-full kind of man, after all. So welcome Democrats to the American faction that doesn't look at the Russians with weepy-eyed, Reds-tinged admiration.

Maybe Democrats will now condemn that Russian espionage tool Edward Snowden who stole information for the Russians from our NSA. Hope springs eternal.

Light Resistance

I am well aware (although not from personal experience, I hasten to add) that a staff daily report that says troops advancing are facing "light resistance" looks a lot like Hell on Earth to the troops at the pointy end of the stick where the small-scale fighting is taking place. But with that caveat in mind, the Iraqi offensive toward Mosul is facing light resistance.

The offensive is moving forward, on schedule if slowly, according to reports. ISIL is resisting:

Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, commander of the US-led coalition, said Saturday that jihadist resistance was stiff.

"It's pretty significant, we are talking about enemy indirect fire, multiple IEDs (improvised explosive devices), multiple VBIED (vehicle-borne IEDs) each day, even some anti-tank guided missiles," he said in Baghdad.

Sure, it is stiff for the troops encountering the resistance. Any of it would be terrifying on the receiving end.

But indirect fire, IEDs, "multiple" VBIEDs, and "some" anti-tank missile fire is not so much resistance as it is delaying and harassing tactics.

Especially when you consider that we estimate 3,000 to 5,000 ISIL fighters are in Mosul and 1 or 2 thousand are on the outskirts as Iraqi forces are still approaching the city. So even 2,000 ISIL troops are not defending a main line of resistance outside of the city. They are leaving small forces in cities and towns that Iraqi forces appear to surround first--showing the lack of a main line of resistance forward of the city--before clearing them.

And as I noted earlier, the ISIL counter-attack on Kirkuk was insignificant. About 50 enemy ISIL gunmen were killed and the few who weren't killed seem to have fled. This was nothing more than a one-way suicide mission raid that had no effect on the advance. Nor did a suicide attack on the Iraq-Jordan border have an effect.

Heck, even setting fire to a sulfur plant is nothing more than a delaying tactic by ISIL:

Up to 1,000 people have been treated for breathing problems linked to fumes from a sulfur plant set ablaze during fighting with Islamic State in northern Iraq and U.S. officials say U.S. forces at a nearby airfield are wearing protective masks.

A cloud of white smoke blanketed the area around the Mishraq sulfur plant, near Mosul, mingling with black fumes from oil wells that the militants torched to cover their moves.

This kind of terrorist action is more akin to reacting to an industrial accident than a chemical strike, which requires putting down a sufficient density of gas on the ground to kill and wound troops to take them out of the fight.

At worse, civilians are injured--not killed except for the very young or old, or already sick--and so the government military forces are compelled to divert some troops to cope with the civilian casualties.

But it does not strike me that any real delay has been imposed on the slow, tidy advance the Iraqis have planned by this sulfur cloud.

Burning oil is also just an inconvenience and may harm the jihadis more than the Iraqi forces advancing, given the ability of Western sensors to see through the smoke. Recall that during the 2003 invasion, a huge sand storm swept across the area of operations and Saddam's forces believed they could move under its cover--and were smashed up by our air power which was not blinded by the dust.

So far ISIL has done nothing to derail the lumbering offensive approaching Mosul. And short of blowing a major dam (that is already shaky enough to fail on its own) that inundates Baghdad with a surge of water or a pro-Iran coup in Baghdad by pro-Iranian Shia militias, I'm not sure what could do the trick and compel a halt to the offensive to direct the troops to flood relief or protecting the government.

But the light resistance by ISIL combined with Iraqi caution in the advance is giving ISIL time. And when you can't buy victory, you buy time to see if opportunities or errors can be exploited to buy that victory.

UPDATE: The ISIL attack on Kirkuk was by 100 men--a company-sized unit. And it was defeated without affecting the Iraqi advance. So this is a bit hyper-ventilating:

The scale of the operation - the largest of several by Islamic State to divert an advance on their stronghold in Mosul - shows how tough the battle for Mosul may become and points to a continued ability of the militant group to undermine security across the country even if its northern bastion falls.

Strategypage has a nice and thorough post that notes that the advance is faster than ISIL anticipated. And I don't think the Kirkuk suicide raid shows how tough the battle for Mosul will be:

Outside of Mosul there are about thousand ISIL men left trying to delay the advance. That ISIL delaying forces was supposed to be larger but in addition to combat losses this force has suffered a lot of desertions. Evidence of this could be found in the captured tunnels recently built under some towns and villages. The tunnels were built to hold far more men than the advancing troops were encountering and some documents and graffiti left behind indicated that ISIL morale was declining as was the number of ISIL fighters willing to stick around for the final battle. The advancing Kurds and Iraqis report that they have killed over 800 ISIL men so far and while there are still plenty of landmines and roadside bombs there are fewer snipers or ISIL defenders of any sort.

ISIL surely has some portion of their force that is eager to die for Allah, but over the last year the ISIL forces have not shown that virgin-anticipating eagerness for death that is supposed to make the battle for Mosul so hard.

I could be wrong, but I don't see ISIL dying in place in Mosul. This is no Stalingrad 1942. Or Berlin 1945. Or Aachen 1944. Or Manila 1945.

Although given how the press keeps talking about delaying actions as heavy resistance, I suppose the battle for Mosul will be described as tough no matter what.

In Putin's Russia, We Reset You

What information about Hillary Clinton do the Russians have that they aren't leaking?

I haven't mentioned much about leaked Democratic emails that the Russians have no doubt stolen and released.

One, I really do try to avoid domestic politics. But it does draw my interest because the president is the commander in chief of our military, which is in my lane.

Two, it is distasteful to use that information even though it is damning of the Democrats and even though the Russians are doing what the press should be doing. I certainly don't believe that the Democrats were uniquely vulnerable to this kind of theft. If Russia doesn't have Republican emails, it is only because they don't see a need for it now.

And three, the leaks tell me nothing new. Of course Hillary Clinton is corrupt. If you don't understand that you don't want to understand that, and no revelations will make her corruption apparent or disqualify her for office in your mind.

I know Democrats are avoiding talking about the content of those damning emails by highlighting the source of the information and claiming that the Russians are trying to get Trump elected.

I doubt that motive is true. Trump is a wild card.

I figure the Russians would rather have the Devil they know (so to speak). Who is Clinton. She's a known quantity.  The Russians have decades of Clintonology to fall back on to predict her decisions.

And she is really known now because the Russians have so many of her emails.

Really, are you going to claim that the Russians took all those Democratic party emails but never managed to penetrate Hillary Clinton's off the books bathroom server to get her unsecured private emails, which she used instead of official email, that discussed State Department business?

Seriously?

And if the Russians are releasing all of this information now, can you imagine what information they are keeping under wraps to use against Clinton after she wins the election?

With a Clinton victory, the Russians will get a tainted American president weakened domestically by suspicions of her corruption revealed to be true, while retaining enough information to blackmail her into being more "flexible" than President Obama ever could manage voluntarily.

It will be quite the day when the Russians quietly inform the Clinton administration that they kept that "reset" button that Secretary of State Clinton gave to Lavrov in 2009; but that they rewired it to ensure her flexibility.

"Madam President, in Russia, we reset you. And yes, we will "overcharge," as you foolishly labeled that button. But you will pay the price we demand."

UPDATE: Related.