Friday, April 28, 2017

Clean-Up in the Uijongbu Corridor

I should add another disturbing factor that could be significant in North Korea's calculations for war or peace.

As I've noted, I think North Korea would likely lose a war with South Korea and her allies quite badly. North Korean success would rely on massive use of chemical weapons, a ROK army collapse, and a failure of America to strike back against North Korea with either a massive conventional campaign or nukes.

Yet North Korea might choose war even if they believe they have but a 5% chance of victory--and so regime survival--if they believe a choice for peace has a 100% chance of regime collapse and defeat.

There is another disturbing factor. North Korea is so broke that North Korea can't afford to even feed their very large army let alone equip and train if for combat.

The North Koreans tried a strategy I called Kooks, Spooks, and Nukes to spend scarce resources on nuclear weapons to deter foreign enemies and the spies and secret police to control internal enemies from the people and armed forces.

The problem is that the North Korean elites are outnumbered and the army, even if incapable of defeating South Korea's army, is capable of defeating the loyal forces of the elites if the army decides it has more in common with the people who are also being starved of resources than they have in common with the elites who live well by spending on people and programs the elites really value--the nukes and spooks.

But the North Korean government can hardly afford to demobilize the army to save the money. Could North Korea really afford to abandon what is a large slave labor force that has young men with military training? Better to have a foe inside the tent peeing out than outside the tent peeing in, as the expression goes.

But what if the North Korean regime assumes that the destruction of their army in a futile war is the objective? What if Kim Jong-Un decides that America and our allies would do him a favor by destroying his army while hoping that the survivors and their relatives blame America?

The surviving army would have more resources per person available in theory.

Mind you, the surviving North Korean army might turn on Kim anyway. Or America and our allies might not be content to survive the war. We might exploit the destruction of North Korea's army and move north. So I'm not saying this would be a good idea.

But Kim Jong-Un might think it is a good idea. Or he might just think it is part of the least bad idea available to win.

Have a super sparkly day.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Where is the Gasoline?

It seems clear that despite military moves that President Trump wants to put pressure on North Korea to get a diplomatic solution rather than go to war. Does North Korea appreciate that limit on our potential actions?

Because this makes me worry:

An acute shortage of gasoline in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang that has sparked price hikes and hoarding is raising fears of potentially crippling pain at the pumps if things don’t get better soon - and driving rumors that China is to blame.

Could China have squeezed the petroleum supply? Sure, China might be behind this. And it would hurt North Korea if China cut them off:

"If China cuts off oil supply, North Korea would not survive on its own for three months and everything in North Korea would be paralysed," said Cho Bong-hyun, who heads research on North Korea's economy at IBK Bank in Seoul.

But North Korea might also be diverting every drop of imported fuel to their war reserve stock.

Perhaps North Korea believes that after more than 60 years of predicting an American invasion of North Korea, America's plans finally came together this year.

Perhaps North Korea doesn't think there is any point to diplomacy because they will never agree to give up nukes, and so a super-mighty pre-emptive strike would do the trick.

So perhaps North Korea believes a military campaign against South Korea that doesn't require a lot of fuel--like bombarding Seoul--could be sustained with what they already have stockpiled and what they are diverting now (if they are) for several months without collapsing the civilian economy; and that China, even if it cuts off oil when North Korea starts a war, wouldn't dare let North Korea fall.

And so in time (within 3 months) would start up the oil supplies, and a whole lot more to keep North Korea afloat and fighting.

Always remember, our rational isn't their rational.

UPDATE: In case it isn't clear:

"There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea," Trump said in an interview at the Oval Office.

"We'd love to solve things diplomatically but it's very difficult," he said, describing North Korea as his biggest global challenge.

If North Korea knows they will never give up nukes, they could be jumping right to the major conflict part of that statement as the logical conclusion of Trump's position.

Not that there is much we can do about that other than accepting a nuclear North Korea.

And while in isolation it would probably be possible to deter a nuclear North Korea (possibly with the addition of nuclear South Korea and Japan, which would alarm China), with the threat of North Korea proliferating nukes to mullah-run Iran, that's not an option.

I know that China doesn't have control of North Korea. But China might be the only one that can do the job at an acceptable price, as tough (and costly) as it may be for China to pull off.

UPDATE: More on the petroleum issue. And yes, the military (and transportation--which would supply the military) is a major user of gasoline that has become scarce in Pyongyang.

Risky Business

I'm in favor of close ties to Taiwan so they can defend their island democracy and keep China boxed inside the first island chain. But I would not sell Taiwan F-35s now.


Minister of National Defense Feng Shih-kuan (馮世寬) yesterday told a meeting of the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that the ministry would formally declare its intention to procure Lockheed Martin F-35 jets to US officials in July when Washington is expected to finalize its appointment of Taiwan affairs officials.

What will Taiwan fail to buy in order to purchase F-35B aircraft?

Sure, Taiwan is finally reacting to the threat from the mainland:

Military expenditures are targeted to rise to 3 percent of gross domestic product next year, up from about 2 percent this year, Minister of National Defense Feng Shih-kuan said Thursday while presenting a report outlining Tsai’s first major security review since becoming president. Taiwan plans to develop indigenous ships, airplanes, weapons and unmanned aerial vehicles, he told lawmakers in Taipei.

While the one-year increase planned is impressive (going from 2% of GDP to 3%, putting Europeans to shame for their difficulty getting to 2%), this does not make up for many years of deficient spending.

I'd like to see the baseline spending north of 3% for a long time with any purchase of F-35s done with appropriations above that level.

My main reason for opposing the sale of our advanced F-35 is that I'm not sure that Taiwan could hold off a serious Chinese invasion. And I don't want the Chinese to capture intact Taiwanese F-35s when Taiwan goes down.

Keep defense spending higher for a while to reassure me that Taiwan takes their defense seriously without counting on American forces running the gauntlet to save Taiwan.

Then I'd consider a sale of F-35s.

Let's Wage Afghan War 1.45 Before it Becomes Afghan War 2.0

Yes, focusing on ISIL and al Qaeda in Afghanistan is an overly narrow view of the problem when the Taliban are the big threat to Afghanistan's stability:

To Afghan and other critics of President Donald Trump's apparent indecision over how to win a seemingly intractable war, Friday's assault - the worse of its kind since the Taliban were ousted in 2001 - was evidence he was getting it wrong.

"The biggest threat to the security and stability of this country is the Taliban insurgents, not Daesh forces," said Mirwais Yasini, an influential Afghan member of parliament from Nangarhar province, using an Arabic term for Islamic State.

"You drop your biggest bomb on Daesh, but what about the Taliban who kill dozens of our people every day?"

I agree. And I agreed a year ago when I noted President Obama's decision to avoid winning a seemingly intractable war by focusing on "counter-terrorism" as if that was the whole universe of Afghanistan's security problems was a problem.

This policy confusion didn't originate with the current administration.

Mind you, eventually the article author gets to the origins of "Trump's" indecision three months into his administration:

In the final years of former U.S. President Barack Obama's administration, American troops in Afghanistan were discouraged from directly targeting the Taliban, amid hopes the group could be brought to the negotiating table for peace talks.

"The Obama administration was very much existing in a parallel universe where if you don't call the Taliban terrorists then there's a chance you can reconcile with them," said Ioannis Koskinas, senior fellow with think-tank New America.

Narrowing the scope of the Afghanistan campaign (no "mission accomplished" moment--just a "honey, I shrunk the mission" slight of hand) justified for the Obama administration a dramatic reduction in the American effort in Afghanistan. Only the enemy rise Phoenix-like in Iraq after we pulled out interrupted a similar trajectory in Afghanistan.

America defined away the majority of our enemies in Afghanistan and they didn't go along. It would be nice to help Afghans defeat the threats while Afghans are capable of fighting the threats.

Or was 2014 in Iraq which led to Iraq War 2.0 so much fun that we want to go on that ride again?

UPDATE: Yeah, I'm worried about the current fighting season in Afghanistan.

The Return of History

I'm not afraid to say that this scared the Hell out of me about how prepared our Army is to fight the Russian army.

Stick with it. The audio gets better.

The bad news is that the Russians have gotten good at armored warfare while we were fighting insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan the last 15 years. The 2003 American blitz to Baghdad is but a memory.

The good news is that the Russians can't afford to field a large army equipped to fight the way the Russians have been fighting with their small force in the Donbas. Objectively speaking, Russia is a weak power only able to overwhelm even weaker neighbors--or a small NATO force that opposes them initially.

So let's hope that Russia's planning, finances, and recruiting don't recover enough to do that any time soon.

But tell me how we went from training to fight and win outnumbered to counting on the Russians having too few units to really defeat us?

This talk reinforced a number of my worries about the Army:

--Heavy armor is vital and not obsolete. I've gone on about that in many ways whether it is about tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, recon vehicles, or the amount of heavy armor units we have as opposed to light infantry that has proliferated since we won the Cold War.

Yes, the pursuit of strategic mobility pulls us to lighten our armor, but sacrificing survivability to get lower weight is a losing game.

--Light armor is worthless in high-intensity combat and Ukrainian troops learned to ride on top of the light stuff rather than die inside the thin-skinned armor. Which is a lesson we learned in Vietnam when our troops rode on top of M-113s rather than burn and die inside. But I guess we forgot that.

--We need to put fewer people in each vehicle to reduce casualties.

--We need cluster munitions for artillery, both for direct attack and as scatterable minefields.

--Heavy armor is useful in defense and infantry need organic capabilities to fight heavy armor.

And it added to my worries:

--We need thermobaric weapons for artillery.

--And much more artillery. Precision rounds aimed at point targets are no replacement for precision targeting combined with massed area fire or massed precision strikes. I was wrong to think that precision eliminated the need for volume of fire. Grant me that I concluded that pre-Ukraine.

--Troops need to disperse and dig in to survive enemy firepower.

--Russian electronic warfare is dangerous.

--We desperately need low altitude air defenses for the frontline units. This could have gone in my first column but I don't think I truly appreciated how unlikely it is that the Army can count on the Air Force to reliably provide fire support or keep the skies cleared of enemies.

We need to learn from Ukraine's fight with Russia. In many ways this is Russia's Spanish Civil War intervention to hammer out the details of how to wage modern armored warfare--against America.

And let's support Ukraine in their fight against Russia's ongoing invasion and provide the weapons--like long-range infantry anti-tank weapons as I've long wanted us to provide--to fill in Ukrainian capability gaps.

Now excuse me while I go change my underwear.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Combined Arts

I've had those prints for years. They came with the matting but no standard frames worked.

A few years ago I was in a store that sold frame mats made from old maps. I thought, that's brilliant!

So I finally did it myself after picking up a couple frames on Tuesday.

Oddly, I couldn't find the maps that I know I set aside for this purpose.

But I found another old map that worked. Notwithstanding Putin's desires, I don't think the USSR is coming back. So I could safely ditch that map.

Now. Where to hang them?

Hezbollah Won't Welcome What Will Hit Them

Hezbollah seems to think that in a new war with Israel that Israel will hunker down behind border fortifications:

Lebanon's Hezbollah sought Thursday to show that Israel is building up defences in anticipation of another conflict, after a string of statements from Israeli officials warning of a potential confrontation. ...

"This tour is to show the defensive measures that the enemy is taking," said Hezbollah spokesman Mohamed Afif, on a hilltop along the so-called Blue Line.

A military commander identified as Haj Imad, dressed in digital camouflage and sunglasses, said the Israeli army was erecting earth berms up to 10 metres (30 feet) high, as well as reinforcing a military position near the Israeli border town of Hanita.

"Because their position is directly by the border and the enemy fears that the resistance will advance on it, they have constructed a cliff and additional earth berms and put up concrete blocks," he said.

"The Israeli enemy is undertaking these fortifications and building these obstacles in fear of an advance" by Hezbollah, he said.

So ... the message of the day is not that Israel will attack Hezbollah but that Israel is worried about Hezbollah attacking Israel? Okaaay.

The fact is, the Israeli defenses are not inconsistent with an Israeli offensive.

Perhaps it is purely defensive for the purpose of holding the border while Israeli air power goes after Hezbollah's massive numbers of rockets and missiles capable of being fired at Israeli civilians defended by a limited Iron Dome shield.

But I think that would be a big mistake. Is the lesson from the 2006 war that the Israelis need to do the same thing but turn it to eleven?

I think that border defenses allow Israeli ground troops to penetrate the border in select locations while the rest of the border is defended against Hezbollah ground attack.

The Israelis will occupy the Hezbollah rocket launching sites in southern Lebanon (built up despite the UN presence) to end the Hezbollah threat to Israeli civilians.

And then the Israelis will launch a deep drive that doesn't end until the Israeli troops reach Baalbek.

When done tearing up Hezbollah's infrastructure and killing as many Hezbollah troops as they can, the Israelis will withdraw back into Israel behind those fortifications.

The best timing would be when the Syrian civil war is winding down, whether in Assad's victory or defeat while Hezbollah is committed to that war.

UPDATE: That's interesting:

The possibility of pursuing this option might very well be on the table if a new war erupts between Lebanon and Israel next summer, as many in the region expect.

If it does, it would be a doomsday war in which Israel would strive to eliminate Hezbollah once and for all, as it has failed to do since the early 1980s, even if that means de­stroying Lebanon and parts of Syria.

The claim is that the Israelis would really bombard Lebanon this time. But I don't think that turning the bombardment dial to 11 will do more harm to Hezbollah at an acceptable price.

A really big bombardment that kills Lebanese civilians and damages Lebanese civilian infrastructure will just alienate new Arab allies of Israel against Iran; and give Iran more propaganda opportunities.

I have to believe that Israeli boasts that they will bomb even harder than they did in 2006 are just designed to mislead Hezbollah.

UPDATE: Compatible with being related:

A loud explosion hit close to the Damascus International Airport in Syria Thursday, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. ...

Israel's Intelligence Minister Israel Katz appeared to back up claims that Israel was responsible for the explosion in an interview with Army Radio Thursday.

"I can confirm that the incident in Syria is completely compatible with the Israeli policy of operating to prevent the smuggling advanced weaponry from Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon by Iran," Katz said in response to a question on the incident.

Summer isn't far off. Tip to Instapundit.

UPDATE: I truly believe that Israeli hints that they'd turn the bombardment dial to 11 in a new war with Hezbollah is a red herring to make the shock of a deep ground invasion of Lebanon to seriously dig out Hezbollah forces there all the more crippling.

Obviously, I can't know this. This is purely in the realm of "what I'd do" analysis.

And I can't imagine the Israelis would really believe that this time for sure, an aerial campaign will deliver victory.

The Enemy Votes, Too

So how would North Korea strike South Korea? We think that China might take care of the problem and say America will if China won't. But North Korea gets a vote, too.

Rather than comment on that article, let me spout off on my views. But do read the article.

My view is that North Korea has a few basic options.

North Korea has a lot of artillery and chemical weapons which are their major asset. I'm still assuming they don't have functional nuclear weapons as opposed to devices babied by armies of technicians and scientists. They have lots of troops with old equipment, poor training, and nutrition deficiencies that make them small as people. They have no large-scale combat experience since 1953.

The South Koreans have good troops that fought well in the Korean War and in the Vietnam War, and their equipment is modern they certainly have adequate training.

The balance favors South Korea with North Korea having only the advantage of initiating war before South Korea is ready or America and Japan can commit forces to the fight.

As to North Korean options.

One, North Korea could try to limit the risk of a ground war along the DMZ by initiating fighting along the sea border to the west. Send in subs, naval infantry, commandos, and surface ships to sink and kill as many troops and civilians as possible. Meanwhile the North Koreans dare South Korea to expand the war and risk the destruction of Seoul by artillery barrage.

Two, North Korea could unleash commandos in the south to sow disorder while their army makes a limited grab for territory north of Seoul and digs in south of the DMZ to hold the terrain and dare the South Koreans to kick them out and risk the destruction of Seoul that is now within reach of more of North Korea's artillery.

Three, North Korea could go for broke. They'd use option 1 plus the commando portion of option 2, and they'd add a massive offensive on the west side of the DMZ aimed for Seoul that, given the poor quality of the troops and equipment flung south would rely on an even more massive chemical weapons barrage to break the South Korean army and allow the North Koreans to conduct what is essentially a road march to Seoul and perhaps points south.

If the South Korean army breaks under the chemical barrage, it could be game over for Seoul unless the North Korean conscripts break ranks in the advance to plunder South Koran grocery stores and malls--and I'm partially serious, here. Armies have gotten confused about their priorities in history.

I suspect the South Koreans would reform their lines further south and hold. But with Seoul enemy occupied the war gets much more awful.

And we might have to nuke some North Korean bases as a retaliation for massed chemical weapons use, if we want to maintain deterrence. Without chemical weapons, in the past we relied on the threat of nukes to deter chemical use against our troops and our allies. But precision weapons mean we might unleash them as a substitute for nukes because precision means we can destroy targets that once needed nukes to take out.

Odds are the North Koreans suffer a major defeat trying to invade South Korea and that South Korean forces counter-attack to occupy an arc of territory north of the DMZ to push North Korean artillery out of range of Seoul.

And then the air-ground campaign by America, South Korea, and Japan against North Korea kicks into high gear to hunt leadership and WMD targets.

UPDATE: And yes, I am aware that discussion of Seoul being within range of North Korean artillery (tip to Instapundit) mostly means northern suburbs for the usual artillery and that hitting the heart of Seoul requires missiles, planes, and a limited number of larger caliber pieces.

Still, the damage will be heavy and given how a single errant round by America leads to massive complaints, I assume the damage to Seoul will be blamed on America to an even greater degree.

I also assume that predictions that America and South Korea can knock out North Korean artillery quickly underestimate North Korea's ingenuity. So I think the fewer assets that hit the heart of Seoul will fire far longer than optimistic assumptions.

If I May Be So Bold to Suggest, Sinking a Carrier Isn't Necessary

Even if our big aircraft carriers can't be sunk, a mission-kill is just as good during the time the carrier is out of action. The war might be long over before that ship sets sail again.

Sure, we have counter-measures to have a chance of defeating enemy capacity to strike our carriers.

But really?

But the observation that the enemy has a missile or torpedo that can kill a carrier only begins a conversation about carrier vulnerability. Shooting anything at an aircraft carrier is a costly, difficult operation.

And beyond the monetary cost, launching an open attack against an American carrier strike group, with its own cruisers, destroyers, and submarines, is almost certainly a suicide mission.

So there are two questions that remain for anyone who thinks they even have a shot at taking down one of these enormous steel behemoths.

Can you do it? And even if you can, is it worth it?

I think the notion that something that floats can't be sunk is ludicrous. Some believe that. At least the above defense doesn't go that far. But it fails anyway because even if a carrier truly is unsinkable, that's not the metric to judge carriers by.

In any likely scenario, a mission kill is 99% as good as a sinking. And given the importance of the carrier and the psychological impact of taking one out, you are absofreakinglutely darned right an enemy will make the effort.

Especially if we go out of our way to place them in really stupid positions within easy reach of enemy attack assets. But no worries if the ship can't be sunk, of course.

Also, I would be remiss if I failed to note that carrier defenders and critics too often argue apples and oranges about two separate and distinct missions.

Why spend so much for half of the reason we have carriers by pretending the carrier is vital for all of the missions?

UPDATE: In related news:

China has launched its first aircraft carrier built entirely on its own, in a demonstration of the growing technical sophistication of its defense industries and determination to safeguard its maritime territorial claims and crucial trade routes.

I suspect China is building a carrier fleet just as carriers are becoming less relevant to sea control missions given the rise of networked surveillance and cheap precision weapons.

Big carriers look good in peacetime and are useful for war against non-naval/air powers. But in war they will be put out of action just like ours can be.

My main worry in war is that our Navy could be distracted by the shiny object while the Chinese sacrifice their carriers to achieve their objective.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Ukraine Really is a Forgotten Crisis

 Let's not forget that Ukraine gave up a lot of nukes and for their faith in paper guarantees got invaded and partially dismembered by Russia.

In a pessimistic article about avoiding war over North Korea's nuclear program, the author notes the problem from North Korea's view of the negotiated end of Iraq's and Libya's WMD programs followed by Western attacks for regime change:

What’re the odds that a revived dialogue, of however many parties, is going to lead to complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement (CVID) of the North Korean nuclear program? They’re brutally long. The North Korean regime has made clear, citing the cases of Libya and Iraq, that WMD dismantlement has previously been an invitation to intervention by external powers.

In the case of Iraq, Saddam's regime wasn't attacked because it gave up WMD. It was attacked because it refused to stop pursuing WMD.

As for Libya, the Khadaffi regime wasn't attacked because it gave up WMD. It was attacked because during a civil war the regime looked like it was about to go postal on rebellious civilians.

If North Korea agrees to give up nukes, does North Korea plan to cheat on the deal or massively oppress their people?

Oh wait, North Korea has done both. So for completely different reasons than the author intends to convey, negotiations with North Korea really are futile.

But on the terms of the author, there is a very good example that isn't being made: Ukraine.

Ukraine actually did give up nuclear weapons (inherited during the break up of the USSR) in an explicit exchange for safety from invasion by a neighbor--Russia--and guaranteed by America and Britain.

Ukraine gave up their nukes and a decade or so later Russia invaded Ukraine, taking over Crimea and continuing to fight for the eastern Donbas region.

One wonders if Russia would have invaded if Ukraine still had nukes.

Honestly, while the Crimea operation with an obvious Russian invasion might have been considered risky, the Donbas method of an atro-turfed insurrection would have been plausible.

Nobody would have speculated about Russia trying to take over large chunks of Ukraine, however, as that would have prompted a small nuclear strike by Kiev perhaps on Ukraine's own territory against a Russian-occupied target. But it is hard to say because Russian nukes might have deterred Ukrainian use of nukes.

Or maybe nukes just deter use of nukes in any scenario short of national extinction.

Anyway, I guess that obvious example of WMD disarmament gone wrong didn't come to mind despite being exactly relevant to the issue in question.

I'm Still Critical of Air Power Purists

Huh, while searching around I ran across a letter to the editor that the Washington Post published that I'd completely forgotten about. My basic concern was the unlimited faith some had (and still have) in what air power can accomplish on its own.

By the end of that year, America and Britain led a brief strike campaign on Iraq in Operation Desert Fox; and in response China, Russia, and France took the lead in the dissipation of international sanctions designed to compel Iraq to comply with the Persian Gulf War ceasefire provisions on proving Saddam Hussein had eliminated his WMD programs.

Air power didn't work to stop Saddam from aiming for WMD, the ability to turn the screws on him without war was eroded as Saddam evaded sanctions and eroded the willingness of the world to enforce them with the threat of Western aerial punishment behind them, and 5 years later America did actually gather a coalition to deal with the problem on the ground in Iraq.

Funny, too, is that al Qaeda's air power strategy on 9/11 failed to terrorize America as much as piss us off, and we put a coalition on the ground to defeat them in their sanctuary in Afghanistan, too.

The struggles go in in different ways, but at least neither is the threat to America that they were in 1998. Which is no sign of failure as we continue to deal with evolving security threats on the ground in Europe and against South Korea so many decades after those wars put Americans on the ground in Europe and South Korea.

I completely forgot about writing that letter. And it doesn't even occur to me to write letters to the editor.

Is There a Realistic Threat Aircraft (and Tactics) Already Out There?

Via Instapundit, this is good news for American airpower:

The F-35 Lightning II strike fighter is easily able to counter the adversary services aircraft thrown at it in numbers, said an official of an adversary services contractor, who added that the industry is facing challenges in coming up with a realistic threat aircraft for training for high-end combat.

And the F-35 isn't even optimized as a fighter--it is a fighter bomber--the way the F-22 is.

I was concerned about the design philosophy of the F-35, while admitting I lack the knowledge to say it is wrong. Yet I've been comforted about the plane as it is being put into service.

But I sure hope that our enemies have the same assumptions about fighting the F-35 as our Navy, Marines, Air Force, and adversary services companies have.

Monday, April 24, 2017

We Came, We Saw, We Forgot

I don't know why we support the problematic GNA faction in Libya. Is the West truly too stupid to learn from experience?

The basic problem [in Libya] is that the UN and most Western nations continue to back the GNA despite the fact that the GNA relies too much on Islamic conservative militias and senior Libyan Islamic clerics who favor imposing Islamic law on Libya, something most Libyans don’t want.

Sure, let's support "moderate" Islamists! It worked so well with Erdogan in Turkey and the Moslem Brotherhood in Egypt, eh? So what on Earth are the Italians thinking?

Italy tried to get the new U.S. government interested in providing military support for the GNA in its fight with HoR. The Americans declined but will continue helping with efforts to destroy surviving ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) groups in Libya.

The West is aware that Islamists are either hostile to or at war with the democratic and liberal (in the classical sense) West, right?

Democracy Dies in a Coma

In Russia, Putin doesn't bother that much with planting fake news at home given that he has compliant journalists who do it willingly with the threat of dead journalists to remind the rest:

A prominent Russian journalist known for articles criticizing Russia’s government and President Vladimir Putin has died at a hospital in St. Petersburg after being severely beaten by unknown assailants.

Nikolai Andrushchenko, a 73-year-old co-founder of the weekly newspaper Novy Petersburg, had been unconscious since he was attacked on March 9.

Yeah, note to America's liberals, this is what a real resistance to tyranny by speaking truth to power looks like.

In America, liberal journalism is encouraged by threats of killing your social life if you don't go along with the left-wing herd.

Our way of slanting news is way better, of course, even if it gets to the same general place.

UPDATE: I was prescient on the social life angle

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Houston, We Have a Problem

The chance that the people of North Korea will spare the world the problem of a nuclear-armed North Korea is disappearing.

I don't think it is right to say that North Korea is a particularly difficult problem because while Iraq under Saddam was a prison, North Korea under the Kim dynasty is an "ant colony."

North Korea's prison camp system is so large because North Koreans do resist. Sadly, the smallest resistance is punishable by massive force. North Korea is a particularly harsh prison.

Although resistance in the face of even that exists.

Which is why I never complained about the Obama administration "strategic patience" with North Korea. I truly hoped that a policy of "talk, talk; die, die" could allow North Korea to implode before it could explode a nuclear warhead, while offering reasons for North Korea not to use their eroding conventional power to strike South Korea.

Heck, I was less concerned that Obama would try to cut a faux deal (as Clinton did in 1994) than I was worried Bush 43 would because Obama didn't face any public liberal outcry to use diplomacy the way the Bush administration was vulnerable to faux outrage on that issue. Perhaps we are lucky that the left had Iraq to focus their ire on.

Anyway, we may have lost that race as North Korea's tests of nuclear devices and long-range missiles continues. It is common to say that North Korea has 10-16 nuclear weapons, but I don't know if that is truly accurate. I'm not aware that the intelligence consensus has concluded that North Korea has perfected the nuclear devices they've tested down to rugged nuclear warheads small enough to mount on missiles. Perhaps I'm wrong, of course. And even if I'm right, North Korea is on the path to nuclear weapons sooner rather than later.

If' we've lost that race, another of my assumptions that we could deter a nuclear-armed North Korea is no longer true. I assumed that America would seek regime change in Iran both to protect freed Iraq and to remove the people in Iran who want nuclear weapons.

So one pillar of my patience that we could wait for North Korea's people--even if it was up to the army or a faction of the ruling elite to fight that battle for the beaten down people--was that North Korea would be unable to sell their nuclear weapons technology to Iran, because Iran without mullahs wouldn't want them.

Sadly, the Obama nuclear deal has saved the Iranian mullahcracy just as the Obama chemical deal with Syria saved Assad's dictatorship. I assume that the Iran deal will prevent Iran from having nukes just as poorly as the Syrian deal prevented Assad from having chemical weapons.

So North Korea's prime nuclear weapons customer, Iran--who I have doubts can be deterred--will be willing to pay for nukes (and because of the Iran deal will have the money).

Which means that we may not be able to risk a policy of deterrence with North Korea for the simple reason that it is no longer a case of deterring North Korea.

Perhaps China will deal with their problem child from Hell. It was all fun and games for Peking when their pet psycho just scared America, Japan, and South Korea. But now China has reason to be scared as potential targets of North Korea arm up to deal with the threat and who may decide that they need nuclear weapons. Krauthammer is right about that motivation.

Remember, South Korea and Japan could count on American pledges to use our nukes to defend them with confidence as long as North Korea could only threaten Japan and South Korea. What happens when North Korea can deter American nukes after nuking Japan or South Korea by threatening to nuke American cities?

What happens is that Japan and South Korea decide they need their own nukes. Having fun yet, China?

North Korea could yet collapse--because their people finally rise up in desperation--before Kim Jong-Un is a real nuclear threat if China seriously clamps down on North Korean trade and criminal enterprises.

Or maybe China takes direct action against North Korea, with America's blessing.

Or maybe because the multiple assumptions that allowed patience with North Korea have collapsed, America has to hammer North Korea in cooperation with Japan and South Korea to end the threat of North Korean and Iranian nuclear weapons.

And have no doubt that South Korea is prepared to participate in the hammering:

Back in 2012 the South Korean military also called for over $2 billion to be spent on missiles during the next five years and this plan was largely approved. This was part of an effort to develop the capability to quickly weaken the North Korean artillery and missile forces in any future war. The South Korean plan included the purchase of over a thousand new ballistic and cruise missiles. These are aimed at specific North Korean missile launchers and artillery positions. In the event of a war, the South Korean missiles can be quickly launched and most North Korean missile and artillery weapons destroyed.

Since 2012, America agreed that South Korea could build and deploy longer-ranged missiles. South Korea is fielding them. (And yes, that's a good thing the Obama administration did.)

Although I remain doubtful that missiles and smart bombs alone can knock out the North Korean artillery threatening Seoul as easily as it appears we think. I think troops will have to stand on that ground to protect Seoul.

Have a super sparkly day.

UPDATE: I honestly think that Americans who voluntarily go to North Korea where at best they give hard currency to an odious regime; and at worst become hostages to restrain American policy, should be told that they are on their own if they go there and not to expect help from the American government.

UPDATE: Austin Bay also sees the need to supplement a strike on North Korea's nuclear and delivery assets with a ground operation to protect Seoul from North Korean artillery.

Which looks a lot like a war rather than a "simple" air and missile campaign to defang North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

Move the Springboard East

The supplies have to roll:

The 16th Sustainment Brigade is based in Germany, but soldiers with the only large logistics unit in Europe aren’t home very often.

The brigade is the logistical springboard for Operation Atlantic Resolve, U.S. Army Europe’s efforts to expand east to counter Russian assertiveness without more permanent basing of U.S. troops.

It's a big job in a NATO logistics desert.

Guess Who's Coming to Deir ez-Zur?

Under American-orchestrated pressure at Raqqa, ISIL has moved its capital in Syria southeast:

In the wake of increased airstrikes and pressure applied from three directions by U.S.-backed Syrian forces, the Islamic State has essentially moved its so-called capital in Syria, U.S. defense officials told Fox News.

ISIS is now centered in Deir ez-Zur, roughly 90 miles southeast of Raqqa, the officials said.

Which is interesting when you consider that Assad has forces there under siege.

Will ISIL launch an assault to wipe out those defenders to cleanse their new capital?

Or is this just an interim move to just going underground as a terrorist organization?

Here's a CRS overview of the civil war+.

UPDATE: US-backed forces advancing around Tabqa may accelerate the ISIL shift east:

A US-backed alliance of Arab-Kurdish forces entered the key jihadist-held town of Tabqa on Monday as they pursued their campaign against the Islamic State group in northern Syria.

The really interesting part comes when Russia- and Iran-supported Assad decides that he should move into the area that ISIL is being pushed out of.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Weekend Data Dump

This is an interesting article on the French Foreign Legion. If it is a death cult, it is not very good considering the low casualty rate of the modern era. Or it is a virtual death cult. Tough mind you, but not exactly a death wish to join.

Will opening up to trade with Cuba unravel the communist dictatorship? I'd be happy if it does. So far the Chinese communists seem to have managed to maintain power while allowing trade. I'd be happy if that unraveled the communist dictatorship, too.

Is Bleeding Kansas Berkeley what we want in America? While it is no shock that the communist/anarchist "Antifa" (anti-"fascist") storm troopers have motivated opposition street fighters, I take no pleasure in this. The end of this road is bad. Is this what we want our politics to become? If the damn local authorities (under sympathetic leftists--and I mean really sympathetic leftists) had dealt with the black-clad violent communists and anarchists in the first place, we wouldn't see people taking their own protection into their own hands. Tips to Instapundit.

You go, dead girls! Yeah, I'd forgotten about that weird conference call. Oddly, the media didn't remind us last year. And again, tip to Instapundit.

American airpower is mostly grounded these days. That has to change, if that understatement suffices. Our potential foes are likely worse off. But if one of them initiates hostilities they will work to bring their availability rates up before they strike while we will still be in a low state initially. But is the real problem--which is less likely to be solved with an infusion of money--a tolerance for bad leadership?

The Saudi-led coalition backing the Sunni-dominated government of Yemen continues to make slow progress. It's a slowly developing victory, but it is progress for defeating Iran on that front, at least.

America is now battling Iran for influence in Iraq. The Obama administration abandoned the field to the Iranians when we left Iraq in 2011. If we are serious, we have the advantage over Iran despite Iran's operations that go back to the 1979 Iran revolution. Despite the common Shia ties, Iraq's Shias are Arab and not Persian like the Iranian Shias who run Iran (as a rump empire, Iran has sizable and diverse minorities). So most Shias don't want Iran to dominate Iraq. The Arab Sunnis who sided with us in 2008 (the Awakening) despite our role in overthrowing their minority rule of Iraq in 2003 will back us against Iran. And the Kurds have long been pro-American since we stood with them following the 1991 war against Iraq. Let's hope the Iraqi government and American government are on the same page about continuing America's role in Iraq after ISIL's caliphate is dispersed.

Marine helicopters are now using drop tanks to extend their range, which is useful for the distances encountered in the Pacific.

Since last year's campaign season, I've been worried about Afghanistan's ability to hold in the face of Taliban encroachment that is inflicting heavy casualties. With ISIL's caliphate going down in Iraq and Syria (and Libya), the role of Afghanistan as a sanctuary for terrorists will resume, making it a pre-9/11 threat as a launching point for attacks on the West. So yes, we need a new strategy for the region that defeats the jihadis there. America led the West into Afghanistan because of 9/11. We need to remain to win to prevent another 9/11. I continue to think that focusing on strengthening the artificial central state is problematic as the bulwark against the jihadis, but I will defer to the experts. Oh, and for real yucks, the Russians and Iranians who the last administration banked on becoming our best friends are involved up to their denials in Afghanistan now (and unless I am sorely mistaken, the weapon in that picture is an automatic grenade launcher and not a heavy machine gun).

Apparently frustrated that he can't bamboozle American secretaries of state like Clinton and Kerry, after meeting with Tillerson the Russian foreign minister Lavrov decided to pick on an American journalist. Well, sh*t rolls downhill, as the expression goes.

Liberal fake news is rising. But liberals will still look down on stupid conservatives. Personally, my experience has been that fake liberal news has been a problem for a long time. Tip to Instapundit.

As they are everywhere (outside Russia), the Russians are involved in secession movements in America. Remember, little green men aren't just for Ukraine. Never say the Russians don't think big. When you consider the record of pro-Russian decisions by the last administration, it all makes sense. Born in Kenya? Hah! Try Kolyma! (And good God, yes I'm kidding.)

Heh. The Navy wouldn't think of anything like that.

Marijuana doesn't make you a better mom. It makes you not care if you are or not. And Doritos.

In 2008, Democratic voters denied Hillary Clinton the presidency. In 2016 all voters denied Hillary Clinton the presidency. But only the latter election is a symptom of voter misogyny.  I sometimes find it easier to plumb the motivations of Kim Jong-Un than of our leftist brethren here.

Leftist protesters fixated on President Trump's unreleased tax returns, wondering if they reveal any wrongdoing, are a danger to the liberals. Seriously, does anybody believe the IRS wouldn't have taken action long ago if there was suspicious activity? The Leftist activist are an eye tick away from claiming that Trump's taxes were prepared in Kenya. So drive on activists!

This is odd. Why was there such a disconnect between public statements on the Carl Vinson battlegroup and its actual sailing away from the peninsula? It could be a way of preventing expectations of action by showing up earlier than wanted while raising the threat of the carrier group. It may be that other assets--like subs and anti-missile defenses--need to move in and so the presence of the carrier wasn't needed yet. Or it could be that diplomatic moves delayed the need for the carrier presence. Or it could be a screw up. I don't actually suspect the latter as the explanation, but you never know. It would be illuminating to see the Vinson group commander's face when he says, "POTUS thinks we're where?"

The Great Liberal Hope Jon Ossoff failed to top 50% in the special Congressional election in Georgia. So he will face likely defeat against Republican Karen Handel who led the crowded Republican pack in the second phase. I assume Handel will win because, as Madeleine Albright has explained to women, "There's a special place in hell for women who don't help each other."

I'm sure liberals will cheer at claiming the scalp of Bill O'Reilly (whether he is guilty or innocent), but I honestly couldn't care less about him. I tend not to watch talking head shows like his. Other than The Five and the Greg Gutfeld Show, which have good entertainment value, I find the partisans of Fox News Channel no more illuminating--and only somewhat less annoying--than the partisans on CNN or MSNBC (or on the main networks, for that matter). So the Left can enjoy their scalp. If he did wrong he should be punished. But say, about your superiority dance. Tip to Instapundit.

I thought maybe my phone charging cord was going bad, with intermittent connection for recharging. But then I used a toothpick to gently remove a build up of lint in the charging port, and all is well. Your results may differ.

I'm perplexed at the statement that North Korea has 10-25 nuclear weapons. I thought North Korea hadn't yet miniaturized and ruggedized nuclear devices sufficiently to be called warheads. How did I miss that evolution? The key to using force to stop a state from getting nukes is to strike before they get nukes--not after. Isn't this concept from Pre-emptive Strike 101?

I'm unhappy that President Trump congratulated Turkey's Ergodan for engineering via referendum a legal autocracy. This development is not good for the West any way you look at it. But then again, President Obama elevated Erdogan as a favored "tame" Islamist in the Moslem world; and I'm not a liberal Democrat upset with the Bush freedom agenda that sought to support democracy in Moslem countries. So I assume Democrats are saluting this display of pro-Erdogan realpolitik in action.

"If you see something say something" doesn't apply to potential Islamist terror because if you are wrong the outrage mobs will tag you as "Islamophobic." But by all means let your imagination run wild if you see a father with their child. Yeah, I had experiences with my toddler son and daughter that follow that thinking. My small son had swollen eyes from yellow jacket stings and I got dagger stares in line at a pharmacy from one woman until I raised up the antibiotics I was waiting to pay for while holding my son. The woman changed totally, saying that happened to her grandchild. With my daughter at a theater, I let her go into a women's room unattended (she was more interested in running off to the bathroom than in seeing the movie, so that wasn't our first trip and I decided that rather than taking her into the men's room with me, I'd try this) while I stood outside close to the door to hear if she had any problems--or if the bathroom wasn't empty as it sounded. That was fine until a bunch of tweens trooped in looking at me in horror standing there. I avoided eye contact and said nothing until some moms came along with the same look and I explained that my very young daughter was in there. Again, things changed with an explanation and various girls checked on my daughter and gave me status updates. Thankfully my experience involved people capable of adjusting their notions when a reasonable explanation was given. But there is no social stigma for failing to adjust, it seems. Tip to Instapundit.

I vote that we retire "shock and awe" to describe a bad-ass blitz with the new North Korean expression "super-mighty preemptive strike." If we have to go after the Kim regime, I hope it is called Operation SMIPS.

It occurs to me that if we make North Korea worry enough that China is considering intervening in North Korea to end the problem that President Trump says is China's responsibility, then North Korea might do something against China that provokes China to do exactly that.

The idea that a threat of violence by protesters justifies canceling the speech of someone the proto-fascist "protesters" don't like is 100% wrong. Imagine if in the Civil Rights era segregationist governments had cancelled civil rights speakers "for their safety" because masked and hooded "protesters" (in Klan white rather than the anarchist black today) threatened violence. Would that have been acceptable logic or would have state troopers, National Guard, or even active Army troops have been sent in to protect the people exercising their rights? Tip to Instapundit.

Just when you think we've reached Peak Stupid, something else comes along. The "tiny house" movement "appropriates" poverty? I just thought the movement was stupid. Say, is being thin actually appropriating starvation? Now this is getting fun! Of course, now I hate the tiny house people seeming more rational than the utterly stupid "appropriation" nutjobs.

I'm really not worried about a couple Russian "nuclear capable" aircraft flying near Alaska. It's Superpower Theater for the Russians.

Russia is expanding the use of military contractors and is using them in Syria and Ukraine, in particular. Strategypage has more and looks at the wider picture. If you like, you can see a collection of posts from The Dignified Rant on private warfare, with commentary, for only 99 cents!

Turkey may buy Russian S-400 air defense missiles. Other than possibly a sign of Turkey's drift to autocracy and Russian friendship, I don't know whether I should be worried that Russia will know the weaknesses of Turkish air defenses or whether I should be happy NATO could get a really close look at Russia's S-400 system.

Romania, by contrast, will buy Patriot air defense missiles. Which should reliably shoot down Russian aircraft if necessary.

I didn't realize how many drugs I must have been using at the time, because I totally missed the Apocalypse that experts predicted on the first Earth Day. The end is always nigh, for some people. Tip to Instapundit.

Is anyone really shocked that Palestinians tried to smuggle explosives into Israel labeled as medical supplies? No good deed goes unpunished.

One year ago, my dad died. /NOTHING FOLLOWS/

Just in Time to Be Blamed on Trump

American liberals spent the last 15 years or so praising socialist Venezuela under Axis of El Vil founder Hugo Chavez and then that mini-me Nicolás Maduro, but a liberal writer says the descent of Venezuela into autocracy, violence, and poverty is the fault of America rather than because of liberals who cried "hands off Venezuela" and of a liberal president who did nothing during his tenure?


The void of U.S. leadership has been partly filled, at last, by the energetic new secretary general of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, who since taking office in 2015 has campaigned hard to bring pressure to bear on Maduro. But the OAS is unlikely to save Venezuela. Instead, a country that was once a close democratic ally of the United States, and the richest in Latin America, may be doomed to years more of violence and hunger — while a former superpower looks away. [emphasis added]

One, America is a former superpower? Seriously? Apparently you can smoke Trump Hysteria Condition.

Two, I'm so old that I remember that failing to lead and letting others take care of their neighborhood was considered the height of nuanced Smart diplomacy. "Leading from behind" ring a bell? Anyone?

But no, now America's refusal to do something about this long-telegraphed catastrophe is Trump's fault (in his nearly three-month old administration) despite 8 years of tolerance for the problem under Obama and nearly as long under Bush when liberals demanded that America keep our hands off fraternal socialist brother Hugo as he built his delicious socialist omelet.

Yeah, the name conspicuously absent in the article blaming America is "Obama."

Jackson Diehl does know who was president for the previous eight years, ending only this last January, during that void in U.S. leadership while Venezuela really began its steep spiral leading to chaos, right?

If I was Lord of news feeds, this would be considered "fake news."

UPDATE: The killing is so far limited:

At least 12 people were killed overnight during looting and violence in Venezuela’s capital amid a spiraling political crisis, authorities said Friday.

But there will be more of these:

Venezuela's opposition prepared to march in silence on Saturday to honor a dozen people killed in three weeks of protests demanding that the government of President Nicolas Maduro hold delayed elections and address a growing economic crisis.

Oddly enough, Maduro's government is inept even for socialist autocracies which usually lack everything but the means to violently control people:

Venezuela's National Police threw rocks at a peaceful demonstration Thursday, as inventories of tear gas seem to be running low in Venezuela, due to embargoes by materiel-producing countries and a decline in the price of oil, the commodity that brings in more than 90% of all hard currency.

On the bright side for the forces of el vil, swinging a baton aimed at heads is cheap.

UPDATE: Let's hope not:

After several days of violent protests, Venezuela's socialist government is struggling to keep order on the streets of Caracas. Amidst the chaos, a local woman known only as 'La Dama' was photographed putting herself between people and an armored truck.

Reminiscent of Tank Man who came to symbolize China's Tiananmen Square Massacre, La Dama could go down in history.

People do remember that ultimately the Chinese tanks crushed the demonstrators with perhaps thousands of civilian casualties; and that the communist government won, right?

Of course, that's real courage as opposed to the silliness over a statue of a girl posed in front of a statue of a bull.


Venezuela cannot wake up from its socialist nightmare.

The Venezuelan opposition just staged a massive protest against the government, which the government repressed with military force, leading to at least three deaths, The New York Times reports. Detained opposition activists say the authorities tortured them, according to Reuters. Meanwhile, across the country, people are starving.

Venezuela, a beautiful, oil-rich country, once one of the wealthiest nations in the Southern Hemisphere, is only sinking further into economic devastation and chaotic, corrupt authoritarianism.

Never forget that when you want a government big enough to "give" you everything you think you need; you get a government big enough to give you tear gas, bullets, and batons when that government predictably fails to be your father and mother forever.

Friday, April 21, 2017

A Red Sports Car Would Be Cheaper

I didn't really get any sense of why a land power like Russia is apparently trying so hard to build a navy from this article.

Other than some banal observations on the utility of naval power and actually sending ships to sea, I didn't learn why Russia wants a navy. With the question of whether Russia is trying to revive a blue water navy capable of acting far from Russia's shores, this seems important to know. But could Russia's renewed drive to build a navy really a function of Putin liking naval uniforms?

My view is that Russia needs smaller ships to protect their coasts; ballistic missile submarines as a survivable nuclear deterrent; forces to protect those subs; and down the line in importance, ships for show-the-flag missions abroad.

Otherwise, a fleet is a pointless drain on limited Russian resources when they need ground and air forces to protect their extremely long border.

Of course, in addition to the fleet there are two other traditional sources of Russian weakness.

Is Russia so used to facing aggressive threats from the west that they can't adjust to the new reality that unless Russia provokes it, no Western European countries want to spend money on military power to confront Russia?

Pain and Response

Liberals crack me up.

The American flag is a symbol of our country and all Americans. Yet liberals like to complain that Republicans act like only they deserve to display the American flag.

So the Democrats haul out newly purchased flags every two years for elections while they harrumph that Republicans don't have a monopoly on patriotism.

Yet outside of election windows, this is the message our left gives us:

First we have some California college students who wanted to make the flag's presence at their student government meetings "optional." ...

“We don’t have to have this show and demonstration of patriotism everywhere in our society,” one student senate member, Itmar Waksman, told KOVR.

Another student told KOVR, “The flag to a lot of people represents capitalism, colonialism and the genocide of indigenous people, and this is why we don’t want the flag in meetings.”

Yeah, America's problem is that patriotism spread too widely.

Also, a lot of people are apparently stupid.


Second, NBC baseball writer Craig Calcaterra was annoyed that the "political symbol" of the flag is present at sporting events.

Wait. What? I thought the official Democratic line is that Republicans don't have a monopoly on the American flag? Now the American flag is a political symbol at American sporting events?

Which recalls President Obama's reluctance when a candidate to wear a flag pin on his suit despite seeking to be elected president of America (and not head of the DNC).

Democrats would have a better chance of convincing me that Republicans don't have a monopoly on the American flag if Democrats didn't react to our flag the way vampires react to Holy Water and sunlight.

Code Dead

After 9/11 we got a color-coded terror alert system to let people know the level of the jihadi terrorist threat to our nation. We need a system that informs the world of our danger to jihadis.

The Obama administration thought it inadequate and changed the Bush system.

I think the system needs to be changed again. But not to warn Americans about the terrorist threat to us.

No, we need an alert system that tells terrorists how pissed off we are and what they can expect from us. Let's split the difference between the 5-level Bush scale and the 3-level Obama scale, and have 4 levels of (our) threat.

Code Green is peacetime where if you catch our eye, we'll kill you when we get around to it. Death will come from the air. The British will participate, too.

Code Yellow is routine wartime. We'll look for you and you can expect a drone, special forces, or missile strike to regularly upset your training and mayhem schedule. Expect allies like the Canadians, Dutch, Poles, and Australians to participate as well.

Code Red is a state of intense desire to kill you, and you can expect a MOAB or lots of smaller bombs impacting in a short period of time. There could be lots of American special forces and regulars after you, too. The French might join in.

Code Dead is a state of American anger and resolve that will strain the capacity of jihadi paradise to scrape up the required virgins to meet the sudden need. For innocents, please leave a generous buffer zone around any jihadis you see. Measured in tens of kilometers, please. Also, while the French will participate, the Germans still won't take part.

So that's my suggestion. Enough of the focus on what our enemies can do to us. Let's focus on what we do to them.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Hold the Swagger

In 2014 I did not assume Ukraine was doomed in a conflict with Russia. The conventional wisdom did assume that.


Russia’s hybrid war against Ukraine is now entering its fourth year, but there was a time when few expected it to last even four weeks.

The virtually bloodless seizure of Crimea, which fell to Russian troops in early 2014 without a fight, led most observers to conclude that Ukraine was effectively defenseless and at Moscow’s mercy.

This was the consensus view in Moscow, where many of the bolder voices began speaking of celebrating the traditional May holidays in Kiev itself. Such swagger seemed perfectly reasonable; Ukraine was still reeling from months of anti-government protests that had spread chaos across the country before culminating in the flight of President Viktor Yanukovych and the collapse of his entire administration.

Before the war, I assumed Ukraine could resist--and had counter-offensive options if their military wasn't shot (yet it was from years of neglect and corruption and the immediate confusion of the change in government)--and that Russia would face problems in taking much Ukraine. I assumed Russian operations would be limited to taking a chunk of the east and Crimea.

And I called the Russian on their failure to quickly move into the Donbas region as they did in Crimea which gave Ukraine time to scrape together defenses in the east.

Even in mid-March I thought that Ukraine could resist in Crimea.

Also, in bonus territory, before the invasion I called any Russian operation to grab Crimea an opening to expand their role in the eastern Mediterranean region:

Pushing Russia away from the Black Sea--should Russia lose their bases in Crimea if Ukraine doesn't want them there any more--in the long run makes Russian operations in the Mediterranean much more difficult. That would make their help for Syria a bit more difficult and deprive Russia of some leverage in Egypt.

Russia is now directly fighting in Syria, updating their air and naval bases there; making plays for influence in Libya, Turkey, and Egypt; and sent their carrier on a photo op mission to Syrian waters.

I write this post not to claim prescience--I've certainly gotten things wrong.

But I do want to remind readers that I give you my analysis of events rather than just running with the herd.

I'm not willing to call this a Russian "quagmire," as the article says--absolving the West of doing anything--unless the West helps Ukraine send body bags back to Russia in larger numbers and gets the fight going inside Russian-occupied Ukraine rather than on the line of contact that only seems to work against Ukraine.

And about that hybrid war hype ...

The Last Refuge of the Scoundrel Maduro?

Will the mother of all protests in Venezuela lead to the mother of all distractions?

Venezuela's amazingly inept socialist strongman Nicolas Maduro has targeted America as his nation spins apart:

General Motors said Wednesday it has been forced to stop operating in Venezuela after one of its plants was illegally seized by local authorities.

The seizure, in the country's industrial hub of Valencia, comes amid a deepening economic and political crisis that has sparked weeks of deadly street protests.

Could Maduro take a desperate gamble to convince his people that the nearby Dutch island of Curacao is a safe haven for enemies of the state and the launching pad for an imminent American invasion that must be crushed to save the socialist paradise that Hugo Chavez passed down to Maduro to defend?

If you think you are doomed, a near-doomed gamble looks good by comparison.


With Venezuela’s capital girding for massive demonstrations Wednesday, President Nicolás Maduro is accusing the United States of trying to overthrow his leftist government.

In an address from the national palace in Caracas Tuesday evening, Maduro complained of “a State Department push” to “provoke an imperialist intervention” in the South American country, with pro- and anti-government demonstrations as a backdrop.

Protesters don't seem swayed by mere words to rally around Maduro. Will Maduro try something more dramatic to "prove" the American threat?

It's Just Plain Old Warfare

Stripping out the cyber-war, fake news, denials, and irregulars, Russia's aggression in Ukraine's Donbas is just plain old aggression. Stop trying to over-think this as an excuse to do nothing.

Don't forget the conventional warfare part of Russia's aggression against Ukraine!

[What] is often lost in the discussion of the technological innovation of Russian hybrid warfare is that a conventional line of effort resides just below the surface. The Donbas campaign of the Russo–Ukrainian War (2014–present) highlights this idea. The Donbas campaign showcases innovations in Russian land warfare through the actions of Russian land forces—working in conjunction with separatist land forces—throughout the campaign. Most notably, these innovations include the development of the battalion tactical group (BTG)—a formation that possesses the firepower to punch at the operational level of war—coupled with a reconnaissance-strike model not seen on contemporary battlefields. Furthermore, the BTG and reconnaissance-strike model work in tandem to create siege warfare opportunities for the Russian and separatist forces, allowing them to generate high levels of destruction while operating beneath the notice of the international community. [emphasis added]

As I understand it, one reason for the use of the BTG is that Russian brigades are not capable of being committed, requiring the Russians to tap brigades across the entire Russian expanse to pick out the acceptable troops in those brigades (the RUSI report link is broken):

Russia is compelled to bring in troops from all over Russia, compel draftees into becoming "contract" soldiers, putting troops from different units together to form battle groups for the Donbas, and even using Interior Ministry troops behind the lines to keep Russian troops from retreating.

As for operating beneath the notice of the international community, that's just BS.

We know the Russians invaded Ukraine yet the West has chosen to ignore the blatant invasion. How on Earth are multiple battalions with hundreds of tanks directing massive and sophisticated firepower so subtle that we can't notice it?

And as much as I hope the Ukrainian lawsuit works, even the Ukrainians go along with the fiction by asserting that Russia is  "'sponsoring terrorism' by financing pro-Russian separatists and failing to stop military aid from seeping across the border into eastern Ukraine's Donbas region."

It's not only financing separatists--it's an invasion.

And it isn't "failing to stop military aid" from crossing the border like it is a problem to be solved by tougher border controls--it is a deliberate policy to send aid into the Donbas.

Face it, hybrid warfare is just Russia invading a country with conventional and special forces at the side of an astro-turfed secessionist movement while denying Russia is responsible, and the West going along with that fiction. The Russians could commit entire numbered armies to the fight with that kind of thinking on both sides.

And if the Russians could do that kind of large invasion, they would have. This "hybrid warfare" theory is just dressing up Russia's inability to do a fast smash and grab with overwhelming force.

Do you really think the Russians chose from ingenious thinking to stretch out the war in the Donbas this long and wouldn't have preferred to pull the bandage off fast if they could to avoid the Western sanctions that were imposed when it became embarrassing to ignore Russia's aggression any longer?

That's how Russia avoided sanctions over attacking Georgia in 2008 and cementing their control of that country's breakaway provinces. Heck, that's how Russia has gotten away with seizing Crimea with a direct attack bolstered by reinforcing troops, special forces, and astro-turf local rebels. Who talks about getting Russia to relinquish that conquest as the focus remains on Russian-occupied Donbas?

There is a full report at the first link. I'm so disgusted with the willingness of the West to go along with Russian fiction that I'm not inclined to read it (although I know I will eventually when I get a paper copy).

Training Eagles

American regulars will train Somali and African troops in Somalia.

The 101st Airborne Division will help locals and regional allies fight jihadis in Somalia:

A few dozen troops from the 101st Airborne Division in Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, arrived in Mogadishu on April 2 at the request of the Somali government, a U.S. military official told VOA.

The team is carrying out a train-and-equip mission that is expected to last through the end of September, according to the official.

This also helps our special forces who normally do jobs like that.

With special forces' direct action role in demand to fight terrorists, it is tougher to spare them for training. So regulars help the locals and help the special forces.

Of course, having our special forces do the training and advising makes the special forces better, too, in understanding the local environment and actors. So it shouldn't be an absolute substitution.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Turkey Starts Down a Dangerous Path

The Turkish opposition wasn't very happy with the process that gave Ergogan a narrow victory (51.4%) in the vote to give him pretty much dictatorial powers. But whether or not the vote is totally legitimate, that's the working theory Erdogan will go forward with. What will NATO do?

Yeah, the result is probably fishy:

Turkey's main opposition party urged the country's electoral board Monday to cancel the results of a landmark referendum that granted sweeping new powers to the nation's president, citing what it called substantial voting irregularities.

Bulent Tezcan, deputy chairman of the Republican People's Party, or CHP, cited numerous problems in Sunday's vote, which gave a narrow victory to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's long-time plans to greatly expand the powers of his office.

But urge too hard and that magical and broad "anti-coup" purge that has been going on will surge again, eh?

I've wondered if Erdogan might want to leave NATO--triangulating with NATO, Russia, and China to create maneuvering room--to chart a course for a new Ottoman Empire to serve as the real caliphate of Sunni Islam (under Turkish rule).

But with Erdogan heading into caliph territory, will NATO downgrade or expel Turkey?

I ask because NATO has become a club of democracies, using membership to push former Soviet vassals toward rule of law and real voting.

Can Turkey despite its important geographic position be allowed to set an example for going backwards on democracy and rule of law when we have enough problems keeping some of our new NATO allies on that path?

I imagine the actual path will more likely be pressure on Erdogan from NATO to stop what he is doing that Erdogan will finally meet with downgrades of alliance cooperation followed by a formal break.

UPDATE: The election in Turkey was close--and if there wasn't voter fraud, close for Erdogan's power grab. But what does it say that Turkish voters who live in Europe were more in favor of giving power to Erdogan than voters in Turkey itself?

These Turkish voters, living in some of Europe’s most liberal countries, overwhelming cast their ballots for Erdogan’s illiberal reforms of Turkish society. The results, from the state-run Anadolu Agency:
  • Austria – 73.23% Yes, 26.77% No
  • Belgium – 74.98% Yes, 25.02% No
  • France – 64.85% Yes, 35.15% No
  • Germany – 63.07% Yes, 36.93% No
  • The Netherlands – 70.94% Yes, 29.06% No
Not only did these European Turks vote far more heavily in favor of Yes than their countrymen back home (the domestic vote was 51.18% Yes, 48.82% No), they also voted more heavily Yes than just about any other Turkish expatriate community. In the U.S. and U.K. Turks voted No by about 84% and 80%, respectively.

How is it possible for Turks living in liberal democracies to reject that democracy in their country of origin?

Does this say more about continental Europe than the Turkish residents? Tip to Instapundit.

Best Stand-Up Comedy Act, EVER!

This is comedy gold:

Yet amid all the hyperbole and hysteria, a basic point gets missed. Europe today is a genuine superpower and will likely remain one for decades to come. By most objective measures, it either rivals or surpasses the United States and China in its ability to project a full spectrum of global military, economic, and soft power. Europe consistently deploys military troops within and beyond its immediate neighborhood. It manipulates economic power with a skill and success unmatched by any other country or region. And its ability to employ “soft power” to persuade other countries to change their behavior is unique.

If a superpower is a political entity that can consistently project military, economic, and soft power transcontinentally with a reasonable chance of success, Europe surely qualifies. Its power, moreover, is likely to remain entrenched for at least another generation, regardless of the outcome of current European crises. In sum, Europe is the “invisible superpower” in contemporary world politics. Here’s why. [emphasis added]

Get a room. This is a full spectrum delusion.

I'd go through the piece to argue against it. But why bother? When has a European power projected significant military power in recent decades without the assistance of America's logistics machine? Even pounding on civil war-wracked Libya was embarrassingly reliant on America despite pretensions of showing that Europe could lead the show.

Seriously, on paper Europe has military power, but the numbers lie. And without military power, I don't believe any entity can rank high in actual--as opposed to potential--power.

This hope is nothing new. Even France's good--but small--operation in Mali inspired visions of Euro-power leading the West into the glorious future!

But in reality, Europeans are getting dangerously close because of their refusal to spend on defense to being suitable only as tribal auxiliaries for America.

The author is well educated and deploys many (many) charts, but the claim that Europe is an "invisible" power should lead the author to question whether he is astutely perceiving what others don't see or is just delusional (back to the original FP article):

Sixty years ago, when European leaders met to sign the Treaty of Rome, one of their shared goals was to strengthen Europe’s global position. They have succeeded and, looking forward, there is little reason to doubt they will continue to do so.

Yeah, I'm going with the latter. Remember, the author concludes by saying Europe will continue to succeed but started out saying that Europe still had some good decades left in it. Pick one.

Oh, and here's a fellow comedian arguing that when Britain leaves the European Union--superpower that it is!--that Argentina will have an opening to get the Falklands back!

All that stands between Britain and Argentina's wrath are the EU legions?? (Or is it the soft power?)

Stop! Please! You're killing me!! I think I'm going to burst my spleen!!!

As I wrote in this post on some questionable power projection measurements that ranked Europe high in the future:

I suspect that the EU is just primed to be the most healthy, educated, and well-governed non-factor in global power consideration the world has ever seen.

Europe has economic, scientific, and demographic power but lacks the military power to be more than a potential superpower that for now is more likely to be fought over as an objective than a force to fight--or stop--others.

UPDATE: This is related. This video headline says that American and European Union special forces are training African militaries. No, that is not is what happening. American and European forces are training African troops. The EU is doing nothing.

Yes, the European states are part of the EU, but you could by that logic say that NATO, United Nations, or even UNESCO troops are doing the training.

But if you want a myth of a rising EU power, such little things push the image. To be fair, it is just the headline that makes this error and not the text or video. But how many just see the headline and move on?

Be Proud of the West

The thing that horrifies me the most about the modern world is the willingness of so many Westerners to actually despise the West as much as any of our enemies.

Yeah, the rise of threats is an age-old problem that does not explain today's threat environment:

The problem, rather, is the West’s growing inability to agree on how it should be defined as a civilization. At the core of the deepening dysfunction in the West is the self-induced deconstruction of Western culture and, with it, the glue that for two centuries kept Europe and the United States at the center of the international system. The nation-state has been arguably the most enduring and successful idea that Western culture has produced. It offers a recipe to achieve security, economic growth, and individual freedom at levels unmatched in human history. This concept of a historically anchored and territorially defined national homeland, having absorbed the principles of liberal democracy, the right to private property and liberty bound by the rule of law, has been the core building block of the West’s global success and of whatever “order” has ever existed in the so-called international order. Since 1945 it has been the most successful Western “export” across the globe, with the surge of decolonization driven by the quintessentially American precept of the right to self-determination of peoples, a testimony to its enduring appeal. Though challenged by fascism, Nazism, and communism, the West emerged victorious, for when confronted with existential danger, it defaulted to shared, deeply held values and the fervent belief that what its culture and heritage represented were worth fighting, and if necessary even dying, to preserve. The West prevailed then because it was confident that on balance it offered the best set of ideas, values, and principles for others to emulate.

Why can't every Westerner value what the West has built, even if we try to improve on our failures or shortcomings? Are those flaws really sufficient to condemn the entire structure? Seriously?

When so many on the left asked "why do they (jihadis) hate us?" and answer their own question by saying we caused the hate, I asked instead "why do we hate us?"

Really, I don't blame our enemies for hating us. They are slime. Why wouldn't they hate us? But honestly, can't we in the West appreciate what we have and have the backbone to defend it?

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

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

And this confidence would help with dealing with the Russians, especially, as well as the Chinese, Iranians, and others who would defeat the West.

What is our major malfunction is failing to see our civilization is worth defending?