Saturday, February 04, 2017

Weekend Data Dump

The lamentation of their women continues. But this is serious: "EPA employees are upset that the new president will take a different approach than the Obama administration." We've gotten to the point when federal employees believe that a newly elected president with Congressional allies shouldn't have the ability to change policies? That's disturbing. When President Obama took office, I wrote that I thought the image of our military accepting a new president as a matter of course even though many opposed him would be a good example for Iraq in how civilian control of the military works. Maybe some of our civilian employees need that lesson a little more urgently. Tip to Instapundit.

China is responding in kind to recent Trump administration signals that if will not stand by and let China take over international waters in the South China Sea.

U.S.-Canada defense relations are deep and. based on the defense of North America, unlikely to be affected by Trump administration efforts to get European NATO members to spend more on defense. And Canada will be the core of one of the battalion-based units--not brigades as the author says--going to provide a trip-wire deterrent to Poland and Baltic NATO members. America has also sent a brigade separate from the deterrent force to Poland.

Colombia says that drug gangs are moving into former communist areas to keep the drug production going. This is bad. While a drug-supported Marxist insurgency is bad, Mexico shows that a pure drug gang insurgency isn't noticeably better.

North Korea is pushing their nuclear weapons program. A plutonium reactor, now. Are we lucky enough to get a North Korean collapse before they go nuclear and get suddenly and suspiciously wealthy (because they sold nukes to suddenly wealthy Iran)?

Democrats are eager to learn how to talk to people in fly-over country, having seen that contempt and hatred in an effort to bully them into submission didn't work. Some practical advice.

Say, why don't a lot of Americans trust the media? And given that the media didn't clue in Democrats with a "Houston, we have a problem" signal over Hillary's weaknesses, why do Democrat trust their so-called "friendly" media allies as much as they do?

India and the United Arab Emirates are forging closer security ties. Is this going to result in more ties to Iran or more resistance to Iran? This argues for the latter.

China was crucial in helping Pakistan go nuclear. So why do some Americans hope China will restrain North Korea?

Libyan faction leader Hiftar (or Haftar) has driven jihadis from a stronghold they had in Benghazi. Why we aren't supportive of Hiftar is beyond me. Russia is certainly supportive of him, flying 70 Libyan casualties to Russia for treatment.

The Germans and French agree that sanctions relief for Russia depends on progress on eastern Ukraine. I guess that means that Brexit isn't turning the EU into a Russian puppet. Of course, perhaps I should wait to see the definition of "progress" before commending the Germans and French. After all, progress on eastern Ukraine seems to concede Russian control of their first conquest in Crimea.

This attitude is pretty much the problem America has in Syria: "Jihadists crush Syria rebel group, in a blow to diplomacy[.]" That's been our problem. The Obama administration tried to get Syrian rebels to fight and die not to defeat Assad, but to pressure Assad into going to the negotiating table. If our Syria policy the last 5 years made any sense at all, the headline would read "Jihadists crush Syria rebel group, in a blow to efforts to defeat Assad." And here we are 400,000 dead and collateral damage spreading outward later. Perhaps a little rebel unity will help stop jihadis and eventually beat Assad.

Venezuela continues to gear up for a major explosion. The death of autocratic socialism there won't be pretty as Maduro clings to power no matter how many opponents he has to starve into submission. I've written that socialism can ef up an oil-wet dream, and now we see that Venezuela is so broke that they can't afford to maintain their tankers to export oil to earn money.

We are giving aircraft to help Kenya fight jihadis in Somalia. Good.

Yes, there is a historical reason for Russia's longstanding desire for buffer zones in the west. But that doesn't mean we have to accept the subjugation of free people and nations that don't want to be Russia's buffer zone! Does anybody really believe an invasion of Russia from NATO Europe is even remotely possible? Understand Russia's motives, yes. Accept? Never.

China's relaxation of their one-child policy hasn't given China's rulers the results they want because they are suffering from "affluent mother" syndrome (it's a long post, so look for the "Fixing the Baby Shortage" section) as other modernized and modernizing countries experience. Which is why I was skeptical of this effort and in the last data dump wondered how much of the increase was from people no longer hiding their "excess" child.

I haven't worried too much about Duterte's loud public outreach to China (note that I was not claiming Obama "lost" the Philippines). But quietly we have been losing Thailand whose government has reached out to China to maintain the government in power. Thailand was long an American ally, which allowed America to base B-52s there during the Vietnam War. They remained our ally even in our low ebb following that war. This is an internal issue, but I hope Trump can arrest this troubling trend.

California secession would harm California and funny enough would end America's political division by removing the largest and most reliable portion of the Democratic Party's liberal voters, money, and members of Congress. Republicans would have a lock on the presidency whether by electoral college or popular vote at least in the short term. Not that I'm saying good riddance to California. I don't want to lose California even if I am content to let them live in a left-wing dystopia as a state free to enact their own state-level liberal policies (and if they work out, cool, that's good to know, too--but I'd rather they take the risk on demonstrating that!). It would be far more difficult for America to project power into the Pacific if we lost California.

I dispute the notion that Republicans in Congress have abandoned conservative principles to work with Trump. It is early yet and their job isn't to act as the opposition party, but to find areas to work together on. There will be splits, I'm sure, as time goes on depending on what Trump tries to do. That's normal.

Will France pivot to Russia? It is possible. France sort of did that by pulling out of NATO which tilted the playing field to the USSR; before World War I the French allied with Russia to balance Germany; and in the middle ages France came to terms with the Ottoman Empire to distract European foes. So this would be classic French balancing. But who would France be balancing? Certainly not their German partner in the European Union. Would France really want to balance NATO given that France re-entered NATO? I'm not saying it can't happen--heck, even during the Cold War Germany reached out to the USSR to try to lessen tensions, and the last German chancellor was a Putin fanboy who now works for the Russians. But I don't see the motivation for a real pivot by France.

World defense spending trends. And I'll say it again, we spend much more because we have to send our military far away to fight potential and actual enemies, we have a large nuclear force, we have a continuous force generation portion of our military, and we maintain capabilities and supplies to bolster our allies' capabilities in addition to our own. Add in the cost of being a defense technology leader in so many areas and you have a very large defense budget.

Why I'm not a betting man. I do get predictions wrong--predicting the future being the hardest of predictions. And no, I won't stretch Russia's ongoing subliminal aggression to say my prediction was accurate.

Great moments in fake news. Spoiler alert: It's not just for Trump voters, as alleged.

Congress may be more able to repeal Obama rules than thought if the Obama administration didn't file reports on rules promulgated as required. Good. I was an administrative process guy--that obscure shadow land of quasi-legislative executive power--in my former life with the Michigan State Legislature--and was fully on the side of the legislative branch having the power to make sure the executive complies with legislative intent in promulgating rules to carry out the statutes. That power died in Michigan to my (private) horror. So it would be nice to see that balance clawed back at the national level, at least. Tip to Instapundit.

Note to Fox News, I mute my TV whenever that clueless contributor Marie Harf, whose job in the Obama administration was obscuring what the State Department was doing to reporters no matter how obviously lame her efforts became, is on the air.

Dang. And I was really jonesing for a Cheesy Catiquo Combo.

The American military wants a drone that can remain aloft a week. While that is nice, it doesn't help with combat drones that will expend missiles long before fuel is low. I assume that this would be really helpful for a temporary replacement for lost communications satellites or to boost bandwidth capacity for surge operations. That's what I assume, anyway.

Victor Davis Hanson discusses fake news. The Left has a lot of nerve peddling this charge, all things considered.

Turkey could turn to China as an alternative to NATO. It is perhaps not likely but it is possible. I've mentioned this given the long-term problems of using Russia as an alternative security partner because of a long history of conflict between the two. While American support for Kurds in Syria is a point of tension as is the farcical Turkish belief that America had a role in the (purported?) coup, as the author mentions; not mentioned is the longer-term refusal of America to back Turkey's efforts for a safe haven inside Syria and for regime change in Syria. Still, Chinese help to balance Russia would not be so easy given Chinese-Russian relations. Although weapons sales would be forthcoming from Peking, no doubt.

I'd focus on killing jihadis and smashing up jihadi organizations and sanctuaries, but that's just me. Did we really have a RadioOps information war in World War II to persuade potential Nazis to turn away from Hitler? Or did we pound the Nazis into the ground and delegitimize their ideology with our victory and their defeat? WebOps, indeed. Sounds like it is more funding-magnet jargon than a real part of the war. Be the strong horse and they'll slink away into the shadows.

People outraged over the Trump suspension of travel from 7 countries for a short period in order to review border control procedures say nobody from those countries has attacked us here. Set aside that the Iranians have taken Americans hostage in Iran and killed hundreds of Americans in Lebanon and Iraq. Iran committed an act of war on American soil back in 2011. Fortunately the plot was stopped. We did nothing in response, of course. I mean, nothing other than shoveling cash at them and paving their path to nuclear weapons. Iran is on the list because of Iran--not because of American bigotry.

Iran defends their test of missiles as not being banned by the 2015 missile deal. The UN agrees with Iran's position. And Iran was not shy about telling the world from the start that the deal would not stand in the way of their missile program. I believe that Kerry worded the related UN ban to cover nuclear-capable missiles and Iran says the missiles are not designed to carry nuclear warheads. No matter that once the missile works that adapting the missile to carry a nuclear warhead is relative child's play. And this was called Smart Diplomacy. Our National Security Advisor put Iran "on notice" that this activity and Iranian aggression in general is going to get an American response. I don't know if we can make howl over enforcing the nuclear deal strictly, but we sure can squeeze Iran on issues outside of the deal.

The Navy will add over-the-horizon anti-ship missiles to the LCS/frigate. This ship has had teething problems and a major problem of thinking the fragile ship can operate in littorals where shore-based weapons can easily hit them. But I've been optimistic that the Navy will work through the problems. The missiles solves one. Hopefully the notion that the ship is made to fight in littorals will quietly die.

I'm against campaign spending limits. I believe that they infringes on free speech and that any laws that restrict the spending of money will always entrap the little guy while allowing the big money to find ways around the laws. So to all those Democrats who never met a limit on evil money in politics (despite Hillary far outspending Trump and despite Obama being the first to abandon limits by refusing federal matching funds), please enjoy how Trump's lawyers found a clever loophole: "A document from the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) indicates that Donald Trump took steps last week to outmaneuver nonprofit organizations, leaving them unable to officially campaign against him over the next few years of his Presidency." Enjoy your "more government!"

More on Mark Steyn's defense of free speech under attack by Dr. Mann.

That's mighty sporting of the San Francisco Left to give jihadis a better chance of successfully pulling off a terror attack in their city. They probably actually believe there is no reason "they" could possibly hate such proper leftists. In reality, jihadis are more than willing to slaughter Moslems with different beliefs than the jihadis. So the jihadis will have no problem slaughtering "Muslim-friendly" Westerners.

The reassurance of allies continues in Asia.

Pakistan is spending big on roads, which will tie in with China's New Silk Road ambitions. And provide land access to Pakistani ports that China's navy could use, of course, for that "string of pearls."

Romania is experiencing nationwide protests by people rightly upset that the government is scaling back anti-corruption efforts. Corruption--lack of rule of law--kills countries. For the corrupt, of course, it has the advantage of enriching them at the expense of the people until that time. As the anchor of any NATO efforts to contest the Black Sea, this struggle matters. Who will be better at bribing corrupt officials? America or Russia? UPDATE: The battle against corruption will continue because of the protests. We'll see. Prosperity requires rule of law.

I will never again be slightly abashed for making a Nazi allusion to German policies that torque me off.

French soldiers stopped a knife attack at the Louvre in Paris. Sadly, the jihadis now know that standard operating procedure during an attack is to gather tourists into safe rooms without windows. So now jihadis know to have killers among the tourists so that when a single attacker strikes outside, the potential victims will be gathered in a closed space more easy to kill. So the jihadis have that going for them.

Oh great, NATO state Greece carried out military maneuvers on the demilitarized island Kos near NATO state Turkey, which responded with threatening air maneuvers over the Aegean Sea. Given Russian inroads in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, improved relations with Turkey, and renewed activities in the Balkans, plus Greek dissatisfaction with the European Union, I would not be shocked if Russia was stirring the embers. I haven't read anything to indicate that is happening. I'm just saying if would make sense for Putin to sow confusion in NATO ranks.

I always got the impression that Kenya's military was solid, at least. But if jihadis can overrun a Kenyan outpost as they just did in Somalia, the Kenyan army is not solid. And this isn't the first time jihadis have done this to the Kenyans.

No, really China, you go first: ""We urge the U.S. side to take a responsible attitude, stop making wrong remarks on the issue involving the Diaoyu islands' sovereignty, and avoid making the issue more complicated and bringing instability to the regional situation," [Chinese foreign ministry spokesman] Lu said."  SECDEF Mattis had the nerve to say that the Senkaku Islands are Japanese.[emphasis added]

I hope in the Trump administration we find out what happened at Benghazi. I'm not even talking about the BS arrest of a fall guy here in America over the fake video explanation. I'm not even talking about the BS refusal to admit that al Qaeda wasn't on their heels as the administration claimed in the Obama re-election campaign. I'm more interested to know why the American military with all its forces in Europe could not manage to move to the sound of the guns when the news of the jihadi attack on our diplomatic outpost and CIA annex erupted. I suspect that our military was under orders or command influence in general not to do anything to disturb the reelection theme that peace was breaking out under Obama. And so a natural military reaction to help Americans in danger was suppressed when hours mattered. That's what I think. I'd like to know.

Am I linking more in these data dumps because there is more going on to note or am I just getting more expansive in what I think is of note?