Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Mountains Remain When an Emperor Reigns

Is centralizing power under Xi the best way to maintain order in the vast country/continent China when the saying is "the mountains are high and the emperor is far?"

The future of 1.4 billion people, the world’s second-largest economy and an emerging military juggernaut now lies largely in the hands of just one man: China’s President Xi Jinping.

Let a single flower bloom!

The ruling Communist Party's flagship newspaper on Thursday provided more evidence that President Xi Jinping should be regarded as China's most powerful leader since Mao Zedong after this week's party congress.

Xi's official portrait dominated the People's Daily's front page report on the unveiling of the party's new top leadership. Below that was a smaller group photograph of the new top leadership - the seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee including Xi.

At least when China had multiple rulers with provincial powers able to maneuver between them, some limited form of autonomy (under local autocrats--not a form of democracy, I hasten to add) allowed the system to move a bit and avoid friction under orders from the center.

What happens when the center strengthens and reduces the limited autonomy that the provinces have had to adjust faster than the center can order?

I don't think the empire of China is immune to decentralization--perhaps dramatically--as the periphery pulls away.

UPDATE: Related discussion.

UPDATE: This is scary as Hell:

On June 14, 2014, the State Council of China published an ominous-sounding document called "Planning Outline for the Construction of a Social Credit System". In the way of Chinese policy documents, it was a lengthy and rather dry affair, but it contained a radical idea. What if there was a national trust score that rated the kind of citizen you were?

Imagine a world where many of your daily activities were constantly monitored and evaluated: what you buy at the shops and online; where you are at any given time; who your friends are and how you interact with them; how many hours you spend watching content or playing video games; and what bills and taxes you pay (or not). It's not hard to picture, because most of that already happens, thanks to all those data-collecting behemoths like Google, Facebook and Instagram or health-tracking apps such as Fitbit. But now imagine a system where all these behaviours are rated as either positive or negative and distilled into a single number, according to rules set by the government. That would create your Citizen Score and it would tell everyone whether or not you were trustworthy. Plus, your rating would be publicly ranked against that of the entire population and used to determine your eligibility for a mortgage or a job, where your children can go to school - or even just your chances of getting a date.

A futuristic vision of Big Brother out of control? No, it's already getting underway in China, where the government is developing the Social Credit System (SCS) to rate the trustworthiness of its 1.3 billion citizens.

Good God. The emperor is far and the mountains are high, but the Chinese Internet will follow you everywhere.

Thank goodness this tool is being used by a reasonably enlightened ruling elite, eh?

UPDATE: In America, Twitter mobs ruthlessly enforce the changing standard of the Left by attacking dissenters. How will that work with the power of a dictatorial state apparatus behind it?

UPDATE: Of course, when the revolution comes, nobody will be able to claim that they were with the "resistance" all along when their personal loyalty score is high enough to have made the former regime happy.

In their revealed shame they can try saying that they will focus on fighting the PLA going forward, but nobody will buy that defense.

An Enemy is Identified

An interesting interview with National Security Advisor McMaster. Iran is the primary foe.

McMaster, whether talking about Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, or Qatar, is really talking about reducing Iran's power and influence in the region through their proxies.

While I don't know how it will translate into policy, there is a clear indication that we will back Syrian forces in the east without allowing Assad to reassert control over that territory.

Also, Iran has a role in dividing the Iraqi Kurds and pushing Iraq to take over post-2014 Kurdish territorial gains in the north, including Kirkuk.

Iran has been our enemy throughout the mullah era. It's about time we returned the favor rather than futilely try to turn Iran into a responsible regional power.

UPDATE: Iraq War 2.0 has rolled back the ISIL threat in Iraq after we mistakenly left Iraq in 2011.

But now we need to roll back the Iranian influence that has penetrated Iraq following our mistaken withdrawal in 2011.

And let me add that I think it is a major mistake to consider Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi as "our man" just as it was a mistake to think of Maliki that way.

Our goal should be free elections and rule of law in Iraq rather than wanting "our" strongman to run Iraq through the formality of elections to validate his continued rule.

UPDATE: The enemy in Lebanon:

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced his resignation Saturday, citing Iran's "grip" on the country and threats to his life.

Iran would like similar power in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, based on Iranian-sponsored militias operating as states within states.

America should want to stop Iran from these successes. Yet we wasted 8 years treating mullah-run enemy Iran as just friends we haven't made yet.

Does Anybody Ever Go Home By Christmas?

The ability to sustain a conventional war is a weakness in our military:

The United States must reshape the military to incorporate low cost, high volume capabilities that enable greater endurance on a fluid twenty-first-century battlefield. Soon, the United States will face peer or near-peer competitors able to challenge the nation across all domains. The future is uncertain, and war is not inevitable, but at some point, the military may be called on to face a capable and determined peer adversary. When that time comes, the contest will test the nation's wherewithal in all areas. Prevailing will require a highly lethal, resilient, force using advances in robotics, artificial intelligence, and computing science to endure from the first shot to the last. The race for military endurance and dominance in these emerging fields is a race the United States must win.

I'm not sure about all of those solutions to the problem, but the problem is real.

I'll note that in World War I, everyone thought the war would be over in months. But the war dragged on. Until factories and training camps could be geared up, old weapons and ammunition were used; weapons were fired less; and less-trained troops were sent into combat.

We have an additional problem of not having the ability to build new high tech weapons to replace losses.

So we'd have to build simpler weapons to supplement the really good stuff in a high-low mix.

Because face it, if a war isn't won, it won't end just because men and weapons are running out.

On the bright side, I'd bet our potential foes are in even worse shape than we are. So if we can solve this problem we'll eventually prevail as they start hauling out old weapons and ammunition, shooting less, and sending less-trained troops to fight us.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Rockets in Boxes

The Marines want a highly mobile rocket artillery system that can be easily moved around by air. I suggest actual boxes of rockets.

This is not unreasonable to want:

The Marine Corps is on the hunt for an uber-compact rocket launcher system capable of raining down suppressive fire on the enemy, then flying away in a V-22 Osprey or CH-53K King Stallion.

As the Corps prepares for a future fight in which units operate with greater independence and at greater distances apart, portability and power are at a premium. ...

“If we can get a self-contained vehicle that can fire rockets, a box of rockets on a truck that fits in the back of a tiltrotor or a ’53-K, that’s what we’re after,” [MG Coffman] said.

But I think that wanting all of that on a vehicle that drives up a ramp to fit in a V-22 or CH-53K is unreasonable.

The Marines have lots of trucks, big and small. Why not simply use those trucks as the base for a box of rockets? That way when the box runs out you just put another box of rockets on the truck bed rather than reloading a box that is part of a unitary box-truck system.

Follow the example of the mortar in a box. That is in a 20-foot long shipping container.

It sounds like that is considered too big for the Marines. The basic HIMARS pod must be considered too big, too.

But what about using the smaller containers that the Pods company uses (16, 12, and 7 feet long) for storage and moving?

Move the boxes around by air to either sit on the ground in a fire base or on the back of a truck for mobile operations.

There is no need to get overly complicated by unifying it all on a compact vehicle able to drive up a ramp.

And I'm always in favor of more weapons and systems in boxes that can be mounted on a modularized auxiliary cruiser.

But I've long been a fan of rockets in boxes, as I mentioned in this 2002 article (see page 29).

Although back then before even rockets were precision, I wanted guided missiles for beyond-line-of sight firing and for anti-tank work. And I thought of them as 2-missile modules that could either be mounted on a turret or used on the ground as part of a networked force. Now even smaller rockets are guided, so we've got that now.

The Sun Also Rises After the Rooster Crows

I find it amusing that the argument is made that international law reduced war as a result of the 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact.


On the ban on war, this plays out—as Hathaway and Shapiro document—in the rapid decline of aggression and conquest as motives for war after they are made illegal in 1928 and reinforced in the U.N. Charter. Walt suggests that the change is better explained by the rise of nationalism and the costs of foreign territorial occupation. [emphasis added]

Does it matter if a state changes the reason it invades from simple conquest to one of rescuing ethnic kin or lying that the enemy struck first?

Every Soviet invasion plan to conquer NATO began with a 5-minute defense against a NATO invasion of them, rapidly transitioning to a "counter-attack" to the Rhine River. That was progress?

But if there is a reduction in war, the reduction might not be because of the carnage experienced in World War I (and ignoring World War II and ignoring nukes, I guess)?

Isn't it far more likely that the revulsion and fear of such carnage led to both a reduction of aggressive war and a pact to outlaw it?

And that without the pact the revulsion and fear would have led to the same result?

Yeah, my single class on international law in grad school didn't convince me of the value placed on it by some.

Let Countries Distrust the Word of Obama and Kerry

If President Obama wanted to commit the reputation of America to the Iran deal as opposed to his and Secretary Kerry's reputations, the president should have submitted the Iran deal to the Senate for approval, which is the process America uses to commit our nation to a deal.

I don't think so:

Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta on Monday said he is concerned that countries will not trust the word of the United States following President Trump’s announcement he would not recertify the multilateral Iran nuclear deal.

I think countries had trouble trusting the word of America to stand by our allies under assault by Iran when we signed that atrocious nuclear deal that will not stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

From the Hulls of Navy Amphibs To the Shores of Latvia

The Atlantic Marines are raising the profile of the Marine Expeditionary Force--the air-ground team centered around a full ground division--in response to increased Russian threats to NATO. Good. Look to the Baltic Sea.

A full division of Marines backed by Marine air power is looking at Europe:

The prospect of a near-peer fight against the Russian military in Eastern Europe is pushing the Marine Corps to shift more warfighting capability to its top-level Marine Expeditionary Force headquarters, a top Marine general said.

For years, the Corps thought it was unlikely to need to deploy a full Marine Expeditionary Force, which is the largest element of Marine combat power that can include more than 25,000 Marines. ...

“The MEF command element will have to be ready to support a warfighting effort in Europe,” Hedelund told attendees at the National Defense Industrial Association’s annual Expeditionary Warfare Conference on Tuesday.

I don't see a Black Sea mission because I'd fear the bottleneck of the Turkish Straits trapping our Navy ships there.

I personally see the Baltic Sea as the natural stomping ground of the MEF, to seize and secure islands and to conduct a flanking attack into the Baltic states to support a NATO counter-offensive should Russia invade and (inevitably) conquer them.

So the Atlantic MEF needs to relearn tank warfare and scrape up all the tanks, artillery, air defense weapons, and armored vehicles the Marines have in their warehouses.

And be able to hit the shores in the Baltic Sea, of course; build up forces; and attack inland.

I Am a Denier

I am a global warming "denier." So you can totally hate me and doubt I have the brain power of a mossy rock or have any faith in science (even as you reject genetically modified crops and vaccinations).

I am a denier because I accept that CO2 is a factor in warming the planet and recognize that mankind is putting CO2 into the atmosphere.

I am a denier because I accept that global temperatures have gone up for the last 150+ years (as the Little Ice Age receded); while mankind has been a factor in warming only since 1950.

I am a denier because since 1950, when mankind became a factor, temperatures have gone up; then gone down, leading scientists to say we faced a new Ice Age; then gone up, leading scientists to say we faced a scorched planet; then flattened, which scientists insisted was but a "pause" before going up again. All this variability occurred despite taking place in the era when mankind has had an effect on the atmosphere with increased CO2 production.

I am a denier because I've noticed that the models do not accurately reflect the actual planet in regard to actual temperatures.

I am a denier because I wonder why scientists keep "adjusting" modern temperature records upward and still can't get the predicted warming in the models they make.

I am a denier because I wonder why defending our current temperature is the hill to die on. Isn't it quite the coincidence that we apparently live in the climate ideal? If not, what is the climate ideal anyway? If we have it within our power to calibrate the global temperature, shouldn't we figure out what it should be set at? Is it, amazingly enough, our own temperature right now? Two degrees warmer? Two degrees cooler?

Yes, with all that, because I consider it unsettled as to whether a changing climate (as it always has been) means the sky is falling; and because I consider it unsettled as to whether mankind is the dominant factor in temperature changes or whether natural factors overwhelm mankind's contribution, I am a denier.

I am a denier because even if warming is a problem I don't think that policies that always seem to involve granting government--run by the people who believe in man-caused climate change--powers to run our lives and to harm economic growth are the proper solution.

I am a denier who should be punished as some global warming fanatics have demanded, as if I am a heretic who cannot be tolerated.

Yes, every fire, volcano, earthquake, hurricane, or any other natural disaster is considered by the climate change believers to be a sign of God's climate's wrath as punishment for our affluence.

And yet the science continues. Including science that focuses on the natural factors that have changed the climate long before 1950 added mankind to the factors that change the climate. I am a denier to note that doubts to Holy Orthodoxy Consensus exist.

Now go and emit no more.

ISIL Was Just a Battle in the Long War

It cracks me up when those on the left wring their hands over battlefield victory.

It is a good thing that ISIL's caliphate is being defeated and that the jihadis lost 60,000 or more killed in action defending that turf.

This doesn't mean the fight is over. As I've repeatedly written, battlefield victory is the shield that can allow the Islamic world to define Islam in a way that coexists with the modern world rather than a violent Islam that attacks the world.

And if Salman is serious and if the Islamists don't murder him, this is a good sign:

Powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pledged a "moderate, open" Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, breaking with ultra-conservative clerics in favour of an image catering to foreign investors and Saudi youth.

The Saudi strongman, 32, did not mince words in declaring a new reality for the kingdom, hours after announcing the launch of an independent $500 billion megacity -- with "separate regulation" -- along the Red Sea coastline.

"We want to live a normal life. A life in which our religion translates to tolerance, to our traditions of kindness," he told international investors gathered at an economic forum in Riyadh.

This is a goal based not on doing a favor to the West, but for government survival.

While the oil flowed and prices were high, having surplus young Saudi men direct their energies abroad where they were killed before they could threaten the Saudi government was a dangerous if workable survival strategy.

But if Saudi Arabia has to adapt to energy surpluses and build an economy that requires people to make goods and services, then turning bored proto-jihadis into productive people is necessary for the survival of the government.

And yes, back to the main point, defeating ISIL in Iraq and Syria will scatter survivors back to their home countries*:

A new report, to be released Tuesday by the Soufan Group and the Global Strategy Network, details some of the answers: At least fifty-six hundred people from thirty-three countries have already gone home—and most countries don’t yet have a head count. On average, twenty to thirty per cent of the foreign fighters from Europe have already returned there—though it’s fifty per cent in Britain, Denmark, and Sweden. Thousands more who fought for ISIS are stuck near the borders of Turkey, Jordan, or Iraq, and are believed to be trying to get back to their home countries.

The argument is almost made that scattering the jihadis is counter-productive. I only assume this article is part of that long line of thinking because I have seen it made in the past about Afghanistan and Iraq War 1.0, and even the Syria multi-war.

Yet even in this article it is noted that jihadis from the caliphate or inspired by the caliphate attacked Western Europe while the caliphate stood. So the choice is having a caliphate that in victory trains and sends jihadis to the West to kill or a defeated caliphate that sends defeated jihadis back to their home countries where they lack the support of a proto-state to kill.

I choose the latter.

And remember as I've said before, that scattering jihadis adds to the assets in the West that fight jihadis.

When the jihadis are concentrated in one spot in the Moslem world, the world seems to rely on America to fight and kill them. Sure, local allies help a lot. And Western allies add some help. And I thank them for it. But without America there would be little of this kind of effort.

But when jihadis scatter back home, a broad range of countries that would not or could not support the military campaign abroad will be compelled to use domestic security services to arrest or kill jihadis in their own countries.

A coalition of the willing is tough to gather. A coalition of the besieged is easier to form, as Europe and Saudi Arabia demonstrate in different ways.

*And note that contrary to the author's aside, we did defeat the Viet Cong in South Vietnam, losing the war only when we abandoned the country when it was invaded and conquered by the North Vietnamese conventional army.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Weekend Data Dump

Is evacuating the northern part of Seoul within range of North Korean artillery a solution to allow us to deal with North Korea by force if necessary? Sure, that would help in theory. But would South Korea really want to see a portion of their people seek refuge overseas when their birthrate is alarmingly low? A crisis that leaves North Korea still a threat would mean the people might have to evacuate again; and a war even if won would likely wreck their neighborhoods. Would they return once abroad in a safer location? And would such an evacuation in a crisis simply convince North Korea that it was a move prior to America, South Korea, and Japan striking first? I suspect that better warning systems and hardened shelters in Seoul combined with precision fires plus carving out a no-launch zone north of the DMZ around Seoul is the real answer.

The notion that Seoul could be defended from massive numbers of dumb artillery shells and rockets by using an Iron Dome system is nonsense because the defenders will never have enough defensive missiles to shoot down all the incoming rounds. All it can do is defend select point targets and hopefully buy time to destroy the artillery or occupy the artillery positions. To be fair, the author only says important targets can be defended until the enemy artillery is destroyed. But the first page and title wrongly implies that the entire city can be defended with the wonder weapon. How many got to the second page for that caveat?

Social media really is destroying the fabric of our society, where trust is eroding. We're a big country and people have different views. It was better when people couldn't see what other people were thinking. And it was better when the most visible elements of those other people weren't complete jerks and extremists. And unfortunately, it is too easy to assume that the other people's jerks represent what all the other people secretly believe; while excusing your own jerks because their hearts are in the right place even if they are a tad over-enthusiastic from their passion now and again. And social media makes it easy to go down that path to less trust of the motives of fellow Americans. Good grief, people, 95% of your fellow citizens are not awful people even if they have different views (I'll reserve a portion for genuine sociopaths, racists--of all races, communists, anarchists, Nazis, and even the odd Confederate still out there). It is depressing. I know that I sometimes speak of Democrats or liberals in shorthand. What I generally mean is the hard Left. And I always know that it is wrong to generalize from the loudest jerks' voices. That's why I left Facebook and won't go on Twitter. It is wearying to wonder if friends really think I am their caricature of a conservative rather than a person they've known for a while. They probably don't think that, just as I don't. But social media is a constant hammering on that resolve to know better than believe it.

It amuses me that Democrats in Michigan are all in on redistricting "reform." I went threw at least part of three of them and so I know that Democrats were happy to gerrymander as much as the law allowed them without guilt. But now that Republicans have held a lock on the process for a while Democrats want to "reform" them. Yet I am also aware that this highly political job always becomes political even when nonpartisan groups are given the job. I decline to sign their petitions to put it on the ballot. "Reform," indeed.

The problem with regulating hate speech (as if our constitutional freedom of speech even allowed that exception) will always be, who gets to define what hate is? In practice, restricting free speech "for a higher good" is just a weapon the majority can use to club minorities into submission--or at least silence.

The Air Force has had a pilot shortage. Contractors for training has attempted to reduce the gap, for example. And Trump has allowed Air Force retirees to help out. Although the Air Force says it has no plans to use that authority. Why there is no way to use these pilots for non-frontline missions is not clear to me. The Air Force has long been dominated by a "fighter pilot mafia." This shortage, I imagine, will do more to accelerate unmanned planes with robotic software pilots more than any efforts to persuade the leadership.

So why was this Indonesian general denied entry into the United States? I know radical Islam is starting to make inroads into what has been a country with a more laid back strain of Islam. But we have generally good relations with Indonesia. So what's up?

I noted that American warships turned on their beacons to avoid collisions at sea. Strategypage discusses the system and notes that training for American sailors really has deteriorated in the last 5-10 years. I was reticent to conclude that absent knowledge of a causation factor, but I trust that is the case. As a side note, if we are planning to hit North Korea if necessary to halt their nuclear weapons drive, deterioration of training, maintenance, and ammunition stocks during the Obama era would require many months of work to remedy first.

There is a lot of sympathy for the Kurds of Iraq in their confrontation with Iraq. And I do sympathize with the bad deal the Kurds have gotten over the last century. But to be fair to Iraq, do remember that they only occupied territory that the Kurds occupied since 2014 when ISIL drove Iraqi forces from the north. If Iraq is wrong to claim ground with troops outside of talks, so too was the Kurdish government. So Iraq is just going for the status quo ante rather than invading what the Kurds had before 2014. I did say this was a futile Kurdish charge.

It seems like for as long as I have been blogging the Marines have been planning to move a regiment and other assets from Okinawa to Guam. And still problems stand in the way. Inertia is sometimes a scary thing. If China doesn't donate to "Earthjustice," they aren't as smart as we think they are.

Funny, I never like O'Reilly much. Initially it was fun to see someone (finally) push liberals hard. But it got old fast and he seemed like a jerk. And he was. To say the least.

The Russians, naturally, made a major effort to penetrate the office of Secretary of State when Hillary Clinton was the secretary. That's no fault of Hillary Clinton, of course. But the corruption magnet of the Clinton Foundation (as it was designed to be) is her fault. And it is also her fault for setting up a private email server to conduct official business and expose secrets and procedures to the Russians who obviously wanted information on her activities.

Yes, media bias extends to what stories are covered and what questions are asked; as well as what stories are considered non-stories and what questions nobody thinks of asking. It's nice to see some recognition from somebody on the left. I spent a couple decades listening to National Public Radio on my long commutes. Their attempts at balance were laughable and almost always came down to this, "Republicans. Evil or just too ignorant to know better?" And God help us all, but those were the best years, as the media has settled that long debate with the curing power of "and."

Please God, let this happen. "Reality"-based community. The mind boggles. But isn't this essentially what Democrats have been doing since the last election?

Aren't liberals who get bent out of shape over Halloween costumes running afoul of their conviction that everybody can self-identify as whoever they want? Even if just for an evening?

Hillary will win, Hillary will win, Hillary will win!!. HILLARY WILL WIN! ... Trump won.

Strategypage takes a tour of China.

It's funny to see who gets investigated and who doesn't. It's as simple as (via Instapundit) good apples and bad bananas, eh? Reason Number N for why we have Trump.

Deny, deny, deny, deny, deny!! DENY!! ... It's old news.

Actually, the best parody of CNN's "this is an apple" advertisement would simply change the voice-over to say "this is a banana," and go on from there with that simple word switch with "banana." Yeah, democracy dies in fruit salad. Fruit of the loon? Stay with me, I'm on a roll.

The idea that the sale to Russia of 20% of our uranium supply (apart from any Clinton corruption involved) is unimportant because no uranium has been sold overseas is nonsense. How much does Russia learn about our nuclear material processing and system because they are now part of it? Might that not come in handy someday?

Senator McCain has made a career of working against Republican presidents, so the fact that he doesn't like Trump is hardly a stunning development in Republican disunity.

United States Pacific Command is likely to get an Air Force Commander rather than a Navy commander. Whether this is from Navy ship-handling sloppiness or because an air campaign is being planned for North Korea just in case, I don't know.

Thirty-four years ago, the United States invaded the Cuban-supported communist state of Grenada while rescuing American students. This was the first small rollback of communism in defiance of the Brezhnev Doctrine that held that once you go Red you never go back. And we learned the importance of jointness.

As an old Army signal guy, it disturbs me that our communications network might be a major vulnerability.

So about that Steele Dossier. Democrats paid the Russians--far more than the Russians paid for Facebook ads that allegedly swung the election, if you believe Clinton--for obviously nonsense "dirt" about Trump, gave it to the Obama administration, and the government used that information to spy on Trump and then damage the new president, including a special investigator prompted by this whole process. That's what it looks like. The Democrats have spent the last year yelling, "The Russians are coming!" and now we find out the Democrats invited them as their plus one. And paid them. Also, how does this support the notion that the Russians were trying to get Trump elected rather than--as I assumed from the start--trying to damage our system and damage Hillary Clinton, the presumed winner? Ten things to know.

The Iraqi Kurds offered to suspend their independence vote to end the conflict with the Iraqi government. Baghdad wants the vote nullified. The Kurds erred in pushing this and lost territory gained since 2014 for no gain.

I've long held that solving Afghanistan required solving Pakistan. Secretary of State Tillerson visited Pakistan in pursuit of our new regional approach to solving Afghanistan. He wants Pakistan to control their tribal territory sanctuary for Afghanistan jihadis. Let me suggest that we have an alternative to ending the sanctuaries if Pakistan isn't cooperative.

I've noted before that NATO's logistics capacity in the post-Cold War NATO states is inadequate. NATO is starting to work on just how bad that is. The graphic is misleading. Much of NATO's strength is in North America and much of what is on the continent is more suitable to domestic police work. And that's before considering how to move and supply the European forces to the east. Also, it is clearly wrong to claim that NATO now has nearly six times as many planes as NATO had in the Cold War. Also, is that graphic counting only Russian tanks in units while counting all of America's stored tanks? The article would have been better without the graphic if you can't get it right and can't provide the context.

President Trump is going to release (based on his power to block their release which he is not using) secret files on the Kennedy assassination. Let's see if Ted Cruz flees the country before the release date. (I kid, I kid.)

Will crap be honored by professional historians? Tip to Instapundit.

I know the media plays up divisions in the Republican Party. But aren't the divisions in the Democratic Party even worse as the Clinton wing includes the Sanders wing in the blame game alongside Russia for Clinton's 2016 loss?

Strategypage discusses Libya. I've long wondered why we didn't support Hiftar.

I'm thinking the entire Russia-Trump collusion allegation should be called Seinfeldgate because it is a scandal about nothing--even if there is a claim that a lot of nothings constitute a pattern of something.

Six seconds to live.

Venezuela continues the race between poverty that leads to government collapse or totalitarian control that leads to poverty that the people are forced to accept.

I don't know about that. I think some people just need to be killed to protect the rest of us. Although once they've surrendered, killing them outside of legitimate judicial processes should be ruled out. Not because they have measurable humanity but because we do. Although you have to admit that the jihadis would have an easier time if they hadn't acted like inhuman demons when they were free. Tip to Instapundit.

The liberal media wasn't playing the role of useful idiots in the Clinton- engineered post-election Russia obsession, they were Hillary's willing executioners.

The really funny thing in politics is that the pro-Trump people would consider me a RINO. After all, I was horrified that the Republicans would nominate Trump--who until 2016 was a liberal Democrat. And then I was horrified that Hillary Clinton would likely be elected because Republicans nominated the one candidate she could beat. And then on election night, I experienced the unexpected joy of averting the horrors of Hillary Clinton's corrupt family business returning to the White House! And so as much as I still don't like Trump, every day he is in office is a day that Democrats aren't making policy. Even if Trump doesn't do anything good (and I think he has), the simple absence of bad for four years would be a relief. So there you go. The Left can hate me because I laugh at accusations of Russian manipulation and fear of fascism descending on America as nothing but ego-inflating nonsense. That pretense alone makes it easier to defend Trump as Democrats turn the dial to 11 again and again in their "resistance." And yet the pro-Trump right can hate me for not actually liking Trump and wishing he didn't Tweet so much. I'm just hoping the policy successes will be sufficient when Trump leaves office to defend the circus that came along with them as a necessary evil.

An AOL.com article reporting on a poll of troops found 44% had a positive view while 40% had a negative view. It goes on: "But when broken down by troop class, the results shifted to be more negative for the president." No. No it does not. And math says that can't be true. Subdividing the results cannot make the overall results change to be more negative. What breaking it down shows is that enlisted have a more favorable view while officers have an unfavorable view. When journalists can't get something as simple as this right, is it any wonder that people don't trust reporters to check their bias at the door when they go to work?

I've reported on bomb shortages, which I assume means war reserve stocks are still untouched but the bombs allotted to ongoing operations are in short supply. Regardless, the Air Force is ramping up bomb production. Which would be handy if we have to use a lot all at once someplace.

It bears repeating that while The Handmaid's Tale has been lauded as a resistance to what conservatives want to impose on women (forcing them to be have babies), it is really about Hollywood making women second class citizens and forcing them to have sex. Given the apparent strength of resistance to that long-running quiet scandal of business models, I might just watch the next Oscar's show.

Watching Jihadis Fail and Die is the Best Information Potential Recruits Can Have

Killing jihadis will always be the first step of information operations against jihadi ideology.

With the fall of both Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria, the Islamic State caliphate that was supposed to be the start of a bigger and better unified Islamice world hit a major setback.

I hear some talking about online information operations (WebOps, it has been called) to exploit the success to undermine the ideology of Islamist extremism and reduce the appeal of joining the jihad.

But victory on the battlefield is the major way we can undermine the ideology that claims God will help them overcome Earthly power.

My view is that LeadOps will be how we contribute to victory, as I argued earlier in the year when Mosul was being liberated:

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.

The Islamic world must exploit the battlefield victory over ISIL to win their civil war over who defines what Islam will be in the 21st century.

Pakistan Continues to Be Problematic

Pakistan is worried about America's outreach to India. If Pakistan is worried we'll find a better regional ally, you'd think they'd work harder not to be the worse choice.

Pakistan gets hit with the clue bat:

As U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson heads to Pakistan on Tuesday to pressure Islamabad to act over militants targeting Afghanistan from its soil, anxious Pakistanis may be equally interested in dissuading Washington's deepening ties with India.

Nuclear-armed Pakistan, a staunch U.S. Cold War ally and key player in the U.S.-backed invasion of Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, has watched warily as Washington has in recent years pivoted towards its arch-foe.

Pakistan has been our ally for a long time. In part because India was friendly with the USSR.

But Pakistan has always been a problem child of an ally, necessary for fighting in Afghanistan yet in many ways acts like a frenemy.

Yes, I'd rather have nuclear-armed Pakistan as a highly imperfect ally than as an enemy. If North Korea acted like Pakistan we'd call our North Korea policy a success.

But Pakistan gets that kind of courtesy only as long as we lack an alternative.

India can't take the place of Pakistan when it comes to landlocked Afghanistan. But if we ever cut the Gordian Knot of mullah-run Iran, a land line of supply to Afghanistan will be opened (we know it would work) and then we can review our Pakistan options with a little more freedom of action.

Friday, October 27, 2017

So We Missed That "Imminent" Standard Window, Then?

Did we miss the window during which even Democrats would support war against North Korea to keep them from getting nukes?

Before the original Iraq War, Democrats backed the drive to prevent the awful Saddam regime from continuing on and possibly getting weapons of mass destruction.

When the going got tough, Democrats retroactively opposed the war and said that preemptive action is only justified when the threat is "imminent" because the state in question is on the cusp of having weapons like nukes and we can prove it.

North Korea has made an interesting threat:

North Korea’s deputy U.N. ambassador warned Monday that the situation on the Korean peninsula “has reached the touch-and-go point and a nuclear war may break out any moment.”

So North Korea is claiming to have nuclear weapons. Which would mean that we missed that whole period of time when all Americans could join together in harmony to stop a threat.

Actually, I suspect that the North Koreans are still bluffing and don't yet have long-range nuclear missiles, or even any missiles so armed. Perhaps they have bombs that their ancient air force could drop if not shot down.

But North Korea won't have to bluff for much longer.

Just as Saddam bluffed having chemical weapons, hoping that would deter an attack on him until he could escape Western scrutiny by weakening sanctions to be free to pursue such weapons.

Which is what Iran may have achieved by escaping scrutiny with inspections limited in scope and duration under the farcical 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

And as Syria escaped serious consequences for using chemical weapons with that farcical 2013 chemical weapons deal that banned an arsenal they had previously denied having but which didn't actually prevent Assad from launching more chemical weapon strikes.

Or did we miss that bi-partisan window because as I long argued, we can never have intelligence information with enough precision to convince the Left that an enemy is about to become very dangerous?

Is the lesson from [the intelligence failure on Iraq's WMD] that we shouldn't do anything when we think an odious regime is pursuing nuclear or other unconventional weapons? Are we still on that silly "imminent" standard where we have to have a clear picture of somebody turning a wrench on an obvious bomb and then we bomb the offending threat as they fuel up the missiles? Is our solution going to be strengthening our ability to make a prosecutor's case against the offending regime?

Look, it is easy for a sovereign nation to hide its activities and keep the evidence ambiguous enough to prevent a clear picture from emerging until it is too late to do anything about the offending nation going nuclear. Even with inspectors crawling over Iraq and intelligence agencies from around the world looking at Iraq, we never knew that there were no chemical weapons in firing condition as the Coalition went into Iraq.

Our only option is to forget about trying to establish clear proof of nuclear guilt and focus on the regimes. Your country is a collection of nutballs that make aggressive statements and you appear to be pursuing nuclear technology, missiles, and other weapons? Then your regime should be history and we will work for that result. We won't take the chance that you will get something that makes your threats real.

So what is it, America's Left? Are we in that sweet spot of glorious consensus when even your side says a preemptive strike is justified?

Or, darn the luck, did we miss it and you are just relieved that the duty to cope with North Korea falls on Trump rather than Obama?

The Battle for Multi-Domain Battle

My worry about the Army's emerging Multi-Domain Battle doctrine is that it will be hijacked by the Navy and Air Force--perhaps with the Army's cooperation--to turn the Army into additional anti-aircraft and anti-ship assets rather than using the Army's core competency--land warfare--to help the Air Force and Navy with their core competencies of air and sea control.

Is Multi-Domain Battle just old doctrine just dressed up for the modern age? Sort of.

The idea of meshing different forces together for their synergy for a single mission is old stuff.

Within the Army, combined arms doctrine holds that the tank, infantry, and artillery branches (and others, but those are the big three) work together rather than fighting their own battles on their own.

Air-Land Battle worked to increase jointness by getting the Army and Air Force to work together to defeat the common land enemy.

Heck, in World War I and in the Persian Gulf War, Marine and Army combat brigades operated under the divisional control of the other service. And in the Iraq War, Army support units bolstered the Marines in their march up the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers valley. (And *sigh*, this was the subject of an article that the US Naval Institute purchased from me about 20 years ago but never published.)

So the idea of jointness isn't new.

What is new is that rather than an intra-service or bi-service doctrine, Multi-Domain Battle seeks to mesh all the services together with uber-jointness to achieve a single campaign objective.

This is good. With long-range fire and sensors allowing more cross-over missions by each service to help the other, it would be nice if a pilot, grunt, or ship captain calling for fire could get the effect without worrying about which service fired the kinetic or cyber "round" at the enemy target.

But remember that combined arms doctrine didn't try to make infantry into artillery or tanks into infantry or artillery into tanks. Sure, each branch had some cross-over capability to provide the effect of being one of the other services. But each branch carried out its core mission in service of the overall mission on the battlefield.

And Air-Land Battle was intended to get the Air Force and Army to fully exploit their own core competencies and exploit the synergy of working together against the enemy air-ground foe. The Air Force did not become more of the Army and the Army didn't become more of the Air Force.

What I worry about when reading about all this planning--much that predates Multi-Domain Battle, of course--is that under pressure from China's rising aero-naval power that the Navy and Air Force just want to use the Army (and Marines) as additional anti-ship and anti-aircraft assets.

While some of that is reasonable--the Army (and Marines, for that matter) does have anti-aircraft weapons, aircraft, and artillery that can be used to help the Air Force and Navy--the new Army doctrine should be used to figure out how to use the Army's core competency--large-scale ground operations--to help the Air Force and Navy to achieve not just their objectives but the common theater objective that all the services should be aligned to achieve.

And I worry that the Army, seeing the rising threat of Chinese aero-naval power, sees getting into that battle is the key to retaining a role in planning and budgets; rather than arguing for the unique contributions that the Army can make in a truly joint campaign where each service brings its core competency that the other services can fully exploit for the synergy jointness provides.

That's my view, anyway.

Don't You Dare Say You are Surprised

I suppose you thought that the Russian-designed Syria chemical weapons deal was intended to stop Assad from having and using chemical weapons?

Wait. What?

The United States is "very disappointed" that Russia on Tuesday cast a veto at the United Nations Security Council against renewing a mandate to continue an investigation into who was responsible for the use of chemical weapons during Syria's civil war.

Who could have predicted this veto?

The entire point of the deal was to save Assad. That was achieved, meaning the deal reached its implicit expiration date.

So Russia is now willing to defend Assad's possession and use of chemical weapons.

In the end, the deal bought time for Assad to defeat the insurgencies (with America defeating ISIL in the east and the Russians defeating or nullifying the rebels in the west), and as a bonus got the West to pay for cleaning up old chemical weapons.

Paving the way for enemies to have WMD while paying them for the honor seems to be a pattern for the Obama administration, you must admit.

Ah, Smart Diplomacy. The nuance, it burns!

UPDATE: This is what Russia is protecting:

Syria's government was responsible for a deadly chemical attack on a rebel-held town in the north-west of the country on 4 April, a UN report says.

The authors say they are "confident" Damascus used sarin nerve agent in Khan Sheikhoun, killing more than 80 people.

The Syrian government denies the report. Russia thinks it is best the world not look too closely at that denial, apparently.

UPDATE: Russia gets a benefit, of course:

Russia expects all "terrorists" in Syria to be destroyed by the end of the year and then plans to keep enough troops in the country to prevent any new conflict, the Interfax news agency cited a prominent Russian senator as saying on Monday.

They won't repeat our mistake of prematurely leaving Iraq in 2011.

And the troops will maintain naval and air bases for Russian use in the region. That's the real pay off.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Unclear on the Concept: Bergdahl Edition

Bowe Bergdahl says the Taliban treated him better than the United States.

How the United States treated Bergdahl before he tried to defect to the Taliban:

Trained him, trusted him with weapons and responsibility, and suffered casualties trying to rescue him before realizing he wasn't a victim.

How the Taliban treated Bergdahl:

Threatened to cut his throat, kept him in a steel cage, and tortured him.

How the United States treated Bergdahl after he tried to defect to the Taliban.

Traded 5 jihadi killers for him, promoted him to sergeant, gave him a trial for his actions, and makes him do chores.

Bergdahl clearly won't be in the Leavenworth MENSA society.

You Must Admit We Have a Different "German Problem" These Days

When a think tank based in Belgium, of all places, says Germany is "ducking military responsibility," you know you are truly avoiding basic responsibilities in defense.

Ah yes, the emperor has no clothes:

Germany needs to make a “sustained investment” in defense and stop “leaving the dirty work” to others, according to a new study.

The study, called “Jumping over its shadow,” was published Thursday and calls for Berlin to stop “ducking military responsibility.”

Germany is our friend and ally. Which is good.

But the Germans seem to think that a new German-Russian non-aggression pact is the way to go rather than bolstering their military and working with NATO to block the Russians:

Germany can’t exist without stable economic partners. It has never been self-sufficient since it reunified. It must explore alternatives.

The most obvious alternative for Germany has always been Russia, either through alliance or conquest.

Germany needs Russian raw materials. It also needs the Russian market to be far more robust than it is so that it can buy more German goods.

But Russia is incapable of rapid economic development without outside help, and with the collapse of oil prices, it needs rapid development to stabilize its economy. Germany needs Russia’s economy to succeed, and what it has to offer Russia is capital, technology, and management.

In exchange, Russia can offer raw materials and a workforce.

The last time such a grand outreach was achieved, the Germans just wanted a free hand to defeat the West before turning to destroy the USSR; and the Russians just wanted to buy time and territory to be strong enough to fight Germany.

The Germans are really going to trust the Russians without an army or a vigorous alliance with America in NATO as a safety net?

Ultimately, I think the Russians are too paranoid to really trust the Germans won't rearm and invade Russia for the third time (or is the fourth with the Teutonic Knights counted?).

My God, the Germans are truly exasperating:

I keep reading that the Germans hate their militaristic past so much that they don't want to fight.

Let's try applying the clue bat to Germany's collective skull on this issue.

Conquering and setting up death camps under the shield of a powerful military? That's bad. By all means, don't do that.

Having a military capable of fighting death cult enemies or stopping the Russians from moving west? Well, that's a good thing. Try doing that.

And God help us, the Germans are trying to disguise their lack of responsibility while infecting other European militaries with Germany's own inadequacies.

Why? Why would anyone grasp that kind of anchor when the waters are rising? The Germans, who threatened to starve Britain with submarines in two world wars, currently has no submarines in operation!

The German Navy’s six-strong fleet of submarines is completely out of commission after the only operational sub had an accident off the coast of Norway on Sunday.

When the Belgians are sneering at your military inadequacies, can you admit you have a problem?

Missing the Point

This author basically says that President Trump doesn't understand that by opposing Iran's aggressive actions and nuclear drive, he is alienating from America Iranians who don't like their government and who actually are more favorable to America than the Iran of the revolutionary era.

This is fairly idiotic stuff unless the author is arguing that President Obama should have in 2009--and Trump should--support a pro-democracy revolt against the mullah-run regime.

Because if the author isn't arguing for regime change to get a government that the people of Iran actually tolerate, the author is very confused to apparently believe that we should give a damn that most Iranians will be really, really sad if their mullah rulers manage to nuke Charleston harbor with a ship-bomb out of some bizarre religious fervor:

I will draw no comfort if we don't attack [Iran's nuclear weapons infrastructure] out of fear of alienating the Iranian opponents of the regime, and those people become really, really sad after the mullahs slip a nuke into Charleston harbor.

Iran under the mullahs is our enemy and has been since the revolution:

The deputy commander of Iran’s notorious Quds Force bragged at a recent ceremony that his operatives have killed more Americans than U.S. troops have killed Iranian fighters.

The sooner we accept that Iran is at war with America and act on that reality (hopefully with non-military means that prevent the need to wage war) the better.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

99 Reasons She Lost to Trump

Hillary Clinton continues her excuse-fest about why she lost to Donald Trump.

99 reasons that I lost to Trump, 99 reasons I lost.
Write one down and post it online, 98 reasons that I lost to Trump. ...

No more excuses for losing to Trump, no more reasons to write.
Go to a ghostwriter and buy some more, 99 reasons that I lost to Trump.

This could take some time, people.

Do read it all, as they say, for the glories of Australian media bias.

I find it amusing that the news person assumed Australians, with their glorious penal colony past, wouldn't know what a shiv is.

Tip to Instapundit.


China has enjoyed their little pet attack dog snarling at Japan, South Korea, and America with nuclear fangs. Now a big dog of the region may be coming off the portch.

To be fair, Japan tried pacifism for a long time:

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, buoyed by a huge election win for lawmakers who favor revising Japan's post-war, pacifist constitution, signaled a push towards his long-held goal on Monday but will need to convince a divided public to succeed.

But pacifism didn't prevent prevent China and North Korea from threatening Japan.

So Japan may try the traditional method of defending itself--a military like every other major power has.

China might find itself in more dangerous waters if Japan does that and then spends even 2% of their GDP on defense.

I assume this is part of the pressure on China to do something about North Korea before bad things start happening in response to North Korea's march to a nuclear arsenal.

I bet Abe would rather not have this fight and would pull back if China solves the North Korea nuclear problem once and for all.

So congratulations to Peking on their foreign policy that is pushing Japan to become a "normal" country with a military.

Memo from the Leader: Double the Guards!

Our four converted nuclear ballistic missile submarines are best known for carrying over 150 land attack cruise missiles. But they can carry Navy special forces, too. Which might worry Kim Jung-Un more than anything.

Huh, we didn't mind showing that?

The US Navy maintains that the USS Michigan, a submarine known for carrying special-ops teams, stopped in the South Korean city of Busan for a "routine port visit," but pictures of the event suggest a more clandestine purpose that may involve US Navy SEALs.

On top of the Michigan as it arrived in Busan appeared to be two silos for SEAL Delivery Vehicles, the tiny submarines used to transport US Navy SEALs and their equipment for their most covert missions deep in enemy territory.

If we didn't want that seen, it wouldn't have been seen.

[And I'm reasonably sure that the part quoted saying the submarine is known for carrying special-ops teams was intended to say the class is known for carrying cruise missiles.]

Remember, President Trump's statements and Tweets along with displays of military power might serve to get North Korea to back down or convince China that they'd best deal with North Korea lest America do it in ways that China can't influence to benefit them.

Indeed, China may be the intended audience:

David Petraeus interprets all of the "rhetoric" about the North Korea nuclear threat as being directed at China, rather than Pyongyang, to convince Beijing to get tough in negotiations as it could have the ability to strike a U.S. city "on this president's watch."

Which makes sense because I suspect that we've given China a warning to do something about North Korea before they have nuclear missiles or we will do something.

So the rhetoric reinforces whatever China sees America and our allies doing quietly to prepare for the day when we can do something if China hasn't acted.

Kim Jong-Un may need to double the guards because of the threat from China rather than America and our allies.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Yes, China Can Conduct an Amphibious Invasion

China has perhaps reminded North Korea that it is vulnerable to Chinese attack from the sea; and has reminded others that China really can invade Taiwan without a "million-man swim."

Why yes, indeed:

Perhaps as an effort to persuade North Korea to drop its nuclear weapons program China recently allowed public discussion of the current size of its “civilian reserve fleet” that would be mobilized quickly for a major amphibious operation. This fleet is huge in large part because since 2000 China has offered subsidies to shipping companies to make a few modifications to ferries and other RO/RO ships and agree to make them available to the military for short periods of amphibious training and extended use during wartime. For decades before 2000 China had used a system where it kept track of hundreds of commercial ferries and barges that could be mobilized by the military and used for amphibious operations against Taiwan or, it is now implied, North Korea. It is believed that there is now sufficient lift for about a dozen divisions plus non-specialized ships (mostly civilian) for moving support units.

In the West this practice goes back centuries and came to be known as STUFT (Ships Taken Up From Trade) and the current size of that Chinese fleet of recently built (with modifications for military use) ships could quickly assemble and move over 100,000 troops and 20,000 or more vehicles (combat and support) in one trip.

People like to point out the lack of large numbers of specialized ships to argue China can't mount an amphibious invasion. But this mistakes America's commitment to specialized amphibious warfare ships in large numbers as the norm rather than a unique capability in history (and forgets that America could only land two brigades with all of our ships concentrated for one landing).

I noted this program for special-built civilian ships back in 2015. Twice.

And for my older invasion scenario, I relied on the older Chinese practice of mobilizing pure civilian ships plus using older warships to carry light infantry into Taiwanese ports for the first wave of an assault.

With China taking off most weapons of older warships and transferring them to the Chinese coast guard, I wouldn't be surprised at all if those ships were used in large numbers to open the ports for the RO/RO ships to sail in and unload vehicles and heavy weapons.

China can invade Taiwan. The question is will they? Although for China the question is when, unless Taiwan surrenders before the choice is made.

And sure, as I mentioned in passing, a Chinese invasion of North Korea combining an overland assault across the Yalu River with an amphibious invasion on the west coast is possible.

Space is Not a Benign Domain

Space is increasingly a valuable region to fight for:

Space, once seen as the benign final frontier, has evolved into a crowded potential battleground that the U.S. must defend as conflicts extend beyond Earth, according to the Air Force’s top military space official.

Which is why I've long argued that the Air Force should give the Army the job (and money) for ground support and "aim high" to become the Aerospace Force.

Divisions of responsibility are up for grabs (and I refined thoughts after that initial post) within that broad division of responsibilities. But the key is to get the Air Force to think of controlling and using the region above the earth as one continuum from the atmosphere to orbit.

A Space Navy can come later when we move beyond the Earth-Moon system.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Dunkirk Turned Out to Be a Path to Victory, Too

Churchill vowed that Britain would never surrender if Nazi Germany invaded Britain. Today's Britain can't even work up the resolve to untangle European Union cheese regulations. That's depressing.

It's come to this. A British columnist says Prime Minister May should tell the British people that their vote to leave the European Union cannot be done:

I want to tell you the absolute truth as I see it. It cannot be done. Yes, you can shout. You can storm out. But I have looked at it every which way. And, as your leader, I have concluded that it cannot be done without enormous damage to our economy, to your living standards, to our public services, to our standing in the world. This is damage I am not prepared to inflict. The cost is too high.

Wow. The British people voted. But it is to be rejected by Britain's leaders.

Britain needs a little more of this resolve:

[We] shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender[.]

Britain needs to defend their island democracy and fight the EU on the subsidies, fight them at the Chunnel, fight them on the agricultural subsidies and in the business regulations, fight them in the towers of the EU Lords--and never surrender to the latest of the continental empires that want to control Britain, promising that Britain will be "stronger in Europe."

Get out of the EU now while you can, Britain.

Imagine how Putin must feel to see that secret police and tanks were amateurs in keeping the Soviet empire in line when compared to the awesome power of entangling cheese regulations and all the rest of the red tape the proto-empire in Brussels wraps around Britain to choke the last gasps of free men and women who wish to live free.

Britain will be fine in the world cut loose from the albatross of the continent's dysfunctions and "ever closer union."

Won't Somebody Rid Me of This Meddlesome Mullah?

The Iraqis took land that Kurds occupied across a broader swath of northern Iraq than just Kirkuk. And Iran was involved as I suspected. Overthrowing the mullah regime would ease a lot of our problems in the area.

Iraqi forces had clashes with Iraqi Kurds in a number of places in the largely quiet military operation that Iraq carried out:

Iraqi forces say they have now wrested control of all areas of Kirkuk province from Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, following fierce fighting.

They say they have retaken Alton Kupri, the last Kurdish-held area. There has been no Kurdish confirmation.

A BBC correspondent at the scene witnessed rocket, artillery and machine-gun fire.

Iraqi forces have this week taken over swathes of territory held by the Kurds since 2014.

This is a militarized dispute rather than a war. But it is dangerous.

And the Iranians were hip deep in pushing the Kurds back from their (unwise, in my opinion) push for formal independence:

A senior Iranian military commander repeatedly warned Kurdish leaders in northern Iraq to withdraw from the oil city of Kirkuk or face an onslaught by Iraqi forces and allied Iranian-backed fighters, Kurdish officials briefed on the meetings said.

We need to reduce Iran's influence in Iraq. And taking down the mullah regime in Iran would improve our ability to do that.

The mullah regime in Iran is a Gordian Knot for many problems. Rather than running around putting out fires that Iran's rulers set, we should destroy the people with the matches and gasoline.


U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Sunday it was time for Iranian-backed militias and their Iranian advisers who helped Iraq defeat Islamic State to "go home", after a rare joint meeting with the leaders of Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

As I've mentioned in relation to Iraq in Iraq War 1.0, in Afghanistan, and in Ukraine, militias are useful additions to military power in emergencies to supplement the army.

But eventually when the crisis passes the patriotism that led militias to form recedes and the militias can become criminal gangs or warlord armies. Then they have to go or come under strict discipline of the government.

Iraq needs allied help to reduce Iranian influence. The Iraqi government would like that help.

So hopefully we stay and provide that help and leverage the help of fellow Arab (although Sunni and not Shia) states.

Go Big or Go Home

A RAND study reports what I'd thought was already established: if you build a carrier it is more cost-effective to build it big. But that is only half the story.

Carriers need to be big or we lose capabilities:

After soaring costs and years of delays with the Navy’s new Ford class of supercarrier, Congress wants the service to pursue lower-cost carrier options for the future fleet.

But a new Rand Corp. report commissioned by the service and published this month concludes the Navy cannot build cheaper, more modest carriers without significantly limiting capability or overhauling its current air acquisition plan.

And when you throw having to switch types of aircraft that are big carriers use but which can't be used on significantly smaller carriers, the argument in favor of big grows.

Honestly, I thought the size advantage was well established.

But that isn't the end of the carrier debate. So don't drop the mic, yet.

Big carriers are clearly more effective for power projection roles, being floating air fields to bomb enemies without the ability to shoot back at the carriers.

But the value of any type of carrier is called into question for sea control roles when battling enemy navies and air forces equipped with cheap precision long-range weapons.

Unfortunately, as I've complained, we argue apples and oranges over the value of carriers without clearly distinguishing between the two missions:

Power projection is what we've done with our carriers since world War II. Sail them off the coast of some country that doesn't possess a potent navy or air force, and use it as a floating air base. Without the need to fight for control of the sea, we exercise that control of the sea from the start of a conflict. We've done this a lot. And the carriers have performed superbly.

This history of power projection is what the defenders of carriers point to.

But what the anti-carrier side points to is usually the sea control mission. In this mission, by definition we face a nation with a navy and air force capable of fighting us for control of the seas--or at least denying us full control.

And for nations without carriers, advances in persistent surveillance and guided missiles give them a potent weapon to use against our big carriers.

Further, while defenders of carriers like to call them sovereign pieces of American real estate that can host our planes, unlike actual real estate, our carriers float and therefore can sink. Or just burn and become mission kills. Really.

We don't like to admit it and rarely practice what we do if a carrier goes down, but they can be sunk. They can be sunk by relatively cheap missiles. They can be sunk by relatively cheap missiles guided by relatively cheap surveillance assets.

Having an accurate carrier debate is better than what we have now.

But we need a sea power debate and not a carrier debate, which is almost as pointless as having a battleship debate or a ship-of-the-line debate.

NOTE: Pre-publication update.

Of course, if you can't afford the big carriers, you can't afford them. This is an interesting review of major carrier fleets.

I'll note that the importance of the carrier as a symbol of national power is a two-edged sword if the big ships go up in flames and sink on camera.

Note too the review fails to explicitly distinguish between the two carrier roles in the arguments over carrier utility.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Weekend Data Dump

The Mexican people noticed that the death toll of their recent earthquake was elevated because of corruption that made central Mexico where the quake hit less resilient to damage. Will Puerto Rico demand similar reforms because of what the hurricanes revealed?

Speaking truth to power is one thing when "power" won't retaliate because of decency, freedom, and rule of law; but tolerating speaking truth to a power that is willing to kill you in the most gruesome way imaginable is quite another. Well, the university wouldn't want to catch the attention of some jihadi for tolerating that kind of statement of fact, eh? The Soviets defined opposition to communism as a mental health issue and locked dissidents away to be "treated." American colleges clearly think opposition to their approved views requires mental health intervention (with a "behavior intervention team"), too. I thought we won the damned Cold War. Tip to Instapundit.

Strategypage discusses the Chinese stealth program and the fact that the newly deployed J-20 is a frontal only stealth plane (as I noted recently) that is more of a development to true stealth in the future.

Some murderous sickos slaughtered at least 200 300 in Mogadishu with truck bombs. By the time this is published I'm sure jihadis will be found responsible. Al Shabab is suspected, but the real news is that the original target was the new Turkish base in Somalia. Huh.

The Philippines is nearing the end of the reconquest of the city of Marawi which jihadis had oddly taken.

A tour of Mali and the surrounding territory where jihadis are a problem. The French do a lot in this area where they used to be a colonial power. The jihadi problem a bit to the east is why America's AFRICOM is more active.

Ukraine has found that cheaper and less advanced tanks work better against the AstroTurf rebels in the Donbas. A willingness to fight is more important there. But Ukraine should learn a lesson from Iraq which evolved their tank force in the long Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988) to focus on simple and cheaper tanks suitable to fighting Iranian light infantry only to find that those simple tanks were no match for the advanced American and British tanks that led the offensive to free Kuwait from Iraqi control in 1991. Cheaper tanks weren't the only problem Iraq had, of course, but Russia looms behind the Donbas and would be a different type of foe altogether.

To be fair, Jimmy Kimmel is handicapped in condemning Hollywood's predatory culture given that whole "women jumping on trampolines" thing.

A fascinating debate on free speech. The one woman on the panel threw the victim card really early and tried to make the debate about her (no doubt genuine) painful past. It was really sad to witness. Although it didn't prevent her from being in her current position, I'll say. It strikes me that the pro-censorship side is claiming that free speech is great--eventually. But until then, wise leaders must limit free speech until we are all capable of equally exercising free speech. Which sounds suspiciously like communism where the vanguard of the people must build socialism without allowing a shred of freedom until true communism blooms and the dictatorial state that suppresses freedom on that path magically fades away.

This reflects what I've felt about doctors treating the patient's data rather than the patient. I too had borderline high bad cholesterol. Which is quite an improvement over a decade ago, I should add. But I'm not sure what the drama was in the story. I simply told my doctor that rather than take statins I'd work on making sure I had more fruits and vegetables in my diet. And I've lost some weight and made sure I exercise. My doctor did tell me I was in amazingly good health notwithstanding my age. So I figured why take medication when anything can have side effects? Besides, does taking statins really fight the problem or mask it by lowering the data marker? Anyway, I treated the recommendation as a suggestion and I turned it down. Without any drama. Now if he had said, "We really need to do something about that dangling limb hanging by a thread," I'd do whatever he said I should do!

A French intelligence agent accidentally texted the Islamist target of his surveillance, revealing that French intelligence was on to the man and his comrades. Oops. On the bright side, the Islamist was too eager to reply in order to gloat rather than remaining silent to let the agent think his surveillance wasn't blown a little longer.

Is it really true that the first 100-200 F-35s won't be updated and so will be incapable of being more than training aircraft with no ability to participate in combat? That harms our ability to mount a stealth-only campaign over North Korea in the early hours of a fight. In one sense it might not matter because one way or the other we will need F-35s in training units and so the planes will be unavailable for combat regardless of the planes' capabilities. But still, this seems wrong. Maybe I'm wrong to worry.

I guess there is a multi-step theory of getting Hillary Clinton into the White House. This insanity masquerading as thinking strikes me as likely as the gnome profit plan:

US-backed militias have largely secured Raqqa in Syria by defeating ISIL there. The really big question is whether those forces--and not only the Syrian Kurds--continue to resist Assad and whether they continue to be US-backed in that case.

Democrats have been so eager to find collusion and corruption involving Russia and American politicians that they will surely be ecstatic that it has been found.

Jihadis will remain a problem despite the defeat of ISIL's caliphate until the Moslem world resolves their civil war on who gets to define Islam--the nutballs or the reformers. Defeating the Islamic State caliphate and killing jihadis is essential to shield the West but as a war winner it just buys time for Islam to win the civil war in a way that stops the killing of heretics as jihadis see nearly everyone.

As for state threats to the West, China is the long-term threat because it is growing. States like Russia and North Korea are aggressive but faltering threats that must be stopped before they carry out their threats. There is hope that Russia and North Korea will be self-correcting problems given internal weaknesses. But we can't count on being spared the risk of directly dealing with them--especially North Korea.

God help us all: Could our Navy focus on ship handling a little more and fight "climate change" less? Ships float on the water regardless of the level, you know.

It isn't totally fair to say that Trump defeated ISIL in months while Obama failed over 2-1/2 years to do the job. But it is fair to say that Obama went way too slow. You may recall my repeated complaints that the war was taking way too long to defeat what was a weak Islamic State in Iraq.

Feminists knew about the open secret of Hollywood's treatment of women, including sexual assault. This just demonstrates my long-expressed view that feminists are nothing more than the women's auxiliary of liberalism, willing to tolerate any indignity or crime for the sake of other political goals.

Yes, the practice by the previous administration of encouraging people you like to sue the government so the government can settle the case to do what the government couldn't do without a court order was a terrible abuse of power. Tip to Instapundit.

The Philippines won't attempt to enforce its legally recognized claims in the South China Sea because it figures accepting Chinese gifts is safer. What could possibly go wrong with that strategy?

Useful idiots. Although at this point I think the entire free "Resistance" movement has most of the useful idiots. After all this time, it still seems fairly clear that the intent of Russia was to sow discord, damage the appeal of American democracy, and damage Hillary Clinton who the Russians assumed would win just like virtually every political observer in America--including me, your humble blogger who consumed all that analysis.

It bears repeating that we have Trump in part because Democrats loudly tarred McCain as a senile fascist (neatly book-ended between celebrations of his wise dissent from Republicans Bush and Trump) and damned thoroughly decent Romney as a mean-spirited one percenter. It has been the standard operating procedure all my adult life, really. Is it really so incomprehensible that Trump supporters often defend their support of Trump by saying, "He fights," After unfair attacks on decent politicians that went unanswered, someone who doesn't take that crap is appealing. So enjoy!

Yes, communism (and socialism--remember that the USSR was a socialist state building true communism under their theory) is an inherently evil governing theory and it is impossible for anyone at the top with "pure" motives to make it work right. Tip to Instapundit. I recall a test at Michigan that had the question of whether economic reforms in the USSR meant that the country was less of a totalitarian state. I vigorously denied any such transformation. My basic point was that the state allowing peasants to own a few chickens did nothing to eliminate the fact that the chicken ownership was made possible by a state granting a favor while retaining the power to take them away again and kill or imprison you for resisting--and perhaps even for succeeding with that little bit of "freedom." Why Bernie Sanders has any support at all remains a mystery to me.

A good take on the Harvey Weinstein revelations (tip to Instapundit) about how Hollywood treats women (and some men, it seems) as a sexual buffet. The basic point is that this was all well known in that world but oddly not considered that bad. This is spot on: "The blind eye turned to sexual harassment did (and does) tell us that many people don’t think it’s that wrong. Presumably, companies would not have said 'Well, I don’t like the way Bill kidnaps young children and dismembers them in his basement, but we might lose Acme Pharmaceuticals if we let him go.'" You wondered by Whoopi Goldberg would defend Roman Polanski's drugging and raping of a child by saying it wasn't "rape-rape."? Rape-rape is a stranger--perhaps one who drinks Budweiser--attacking you. What Polanski and Weinstein did was only sort of technically rape but not really. Obviously that kind of thinking went on. And to be honest, while I firmly believed what Polanski did was actual rape, I kind of assumed that the "casting couch" culture was more of a free exchange of sex for advantage. I didn't realize how it was very far from that and more like rape-rape. But I'm not in the industry. And who knew that such rabid feminists as exist in that industry--and we know they are because they loudly condemn Republicans for waging a "war on women"--would refuse to call it rape-rape and let the rest of the country know what was going on? But as I've said, feminists are just the women's auxiliary of liberalism, which trumps all other issues.

Saying a soldier died knowing what they signed up for is an ordinary thing for those in the business to think. I was just a reservist, and as I've said before, that service just gave me faint hints of what soldiers who are sent to war experience. I make no claims to having sacrificed for our country. On this subject, when I started my career just after the Persian Gulf War--when I was still in the Army National Guard--a new colleague asked me if I would have gone to war if mobilized. In some puzzlement, I replied, "Of course. That's what I signed up for." "Well good for you," she replied. She clearly didn't understand that attitude (and as I got to know her I realized she expected me to say I'd have gone to Canada, or something). A nice woman, but the concept of obligation to serve was clearly alien to her. The concept is alien to a lot of people. But not to soldiers.

The Left is sinking into serious Trump Hysteria Condition over the Niger ambush. I haven't gone into the Florida congresswoman kerfuffle sideshow out of respect to the pain that a death in combat unleashes on a family. I can't imagine what that must be like. But I will say that because of that congresswoman, the Left has finally been cured from their belief that anybody who wears a cowboy hat is automatically assumed to be a drooling moron.

New York Times columnist Charlie Blow spoke in Ann Arbor this last week. I don't much like him. Perhaps I only see the really bad stuff because I only see him when I catch a "you'll never believe what this guy wrote" link. But I took my daughter who got extra credit for her AP history class. What his diatribe against Trump had to do with history escapes me. What surprised me was how poorly the man made his case. Selective evidence, mockery, and failure to see that the alleged wrongdoing applied more broadly and even to his own side was amazing. The idea that freedom of the press is under threat is nonsense. He spoke and no secret police broke it up. And no conservative students disrupted the speech. What really got me was his mockery of the idea that many people believe the media makes up bad stories about Trump. This after describing one of the three types of "lies" that Trump uses as the "they say" or "I've heard" [insert lie here] variety. But isn't that exactly what the flood of anti-Trump stories based on a single "unnamed source" (probably a Democrat "Resistance" member in the government) without any corroboration that evaporate after a news cycle are? "They say," indeed. In the end, the speech had more of the feel of a religious sermon delivered to the faithful. As I said, the strength of the reasoning was low. I started out annoyed to sit through his drivel but finished kind of amused, thinking, "That's all you've got?" And I don't even like Trump (although I remain grateful he beat Clinton)! But the poor quality of the arguments put me off. And God help us, but he probably thought he was bravely going into "flyover country" to make his case to the rubes.

In the last data dump, I wondered if we weren't selling Abrams tanks to Taiwan because we decided we needed them to replace war losses or if we didn't want to offend China at this delicate time with North Korea. Well, we're selling tanks to Kuwait. So the latter explanation is more likely.

I find it hilarious that Democrats are reduced to claiming that enforcing the Obamacare law undermines it. It's. the. law, they used to say.

A briefing on disaster relief in Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.