Thursday, November 30, 2017

Christmas Was Better Not So Long Ago

Christmas is almost here and jihadis want to kill more Christians to mark the season.

In response to the threat of jihadi-manned trucks mowing down pedestrians, concrete barriers called "bollards" are going up all over Europe to block vehicles from pedestrian areas.

To avoid upsetting those who would like to be more festive under the jihadi threat, the governments are dressing up the bollards to be more bright and appealing.

What was once a holy season is now a target-rich environment that attracts jihadi scum. So we'd best re-write that Christmas favorite "O Christmas Tree" (or "O Tannenbaum") to reflect the new Christmas symbol in the age of terror.

O Christmas bollard, o Christmas bollard
How blast resistant are you
O Christmas bollard, o Christmas bollard
How blast resistant are you
Your sides so grey in summertime
Stay naively bright in wintertime
O Christmas bollard, o Christmas bollard
How blast resistant are you
Let us all remember
In our gift giving and our merriment
With our family and friends and loved ones
The new and grim meaning of Christmas
The birth of death and terror threat--Jesus Christ!
O Christmas bollard, o Christmas bollard
How blast resistant are you
O Christmas bollard, o Christmas bollard
How blast resistant are you
The pillars all guard faithfully
Our trust in cement unchangedly
O Christmas bollard, o Christmas bollard
How blast resistant are you

With thanks to these people for the original lyrics.

Is China Having Fun Yet?

China's attempt to bully its way to regional dominance has finally put Japan on the road to having a military capable of seriously fighting the growing Chinese threat.

Japan will arm up (currently spending only about 1% of their GDP on defense--I think they recently broke that symbolic long-standing limit by a small amount) if China persists in their course. This is only partly true:

What does Japan have now? Her self-defense force numbers at about 250,000. At present, she lacks any but defensive armaments. Even so, her advanced technological capabilities mean that she can develop herself any weapon she needs, as good or better as the American systems on which she now largely relies. Japan does not steal technologies. She already has her technologies.

It is not true that Japan has only "defensive" armament. Shooty things can be used for offense and defense, and is only a legalistic formulation to keep Japan's sort-of-military--if you dim the lights and squint--legal under their pacifist constitution. Case in point is Japan's latest "helicopter destroyer" that looks suspiciously like a small carrier, complete with angled flight deck, and which could carry F-35Bs.

Which this subsequent point in the initially linked article makes for me:

The jewel in her crown is her small (19) submarine force. The Sōryū is a conventional submarine so stealthy that the highly skilled Japanese anti-submarine forces can find only 5% of them when under way. They regularly sink American carrier escorts (using lasers) in war games. More importantly, as retired Chinese General Liu Yazhou 劉亞洲, an adamant Japanophobe, has warned, in case of naval conflict today, the Japanese submarines could sink the entire Chinese East Sea fleet in four or so hours.

That's pretty good for "defensive" weapons.

What Japan really lacks is the ability to sustain combat or engage in it very far from their own home islands without American assistance. Japan will proceed to gain those capabilities given enough time.

And quite possibly nukes because the Japanese won't rely on America risking Los Angeles to strike back at North Korea or China if either threatens to nuke Tokyo.

Russia, which occupies Japanese islands in the north (since World War II), will no doubt be really happy with their so-called ally China for increasing the chance that Japan will resort to force to recover that territory should negotiations fail.

UPDATE: A coup sponsored by China or invasion by China (whether joined by South Korea and Russia, or not) is better than an aerial strike campaign that could potentially lead to a state or regime collapse and resulting massive refugee flows to China. China doesn't want that, either.

So China doesn't want a nuclear-armed North Korea that will prompt nuclear proliferation in potential foes of China; and China doesn't want North Korea to send large numbers of refugees to China in a collapse of state authority.

Which seems to leave a coup that puts a non-nuclear but pro-Chinese state into power in Pyongyang or an invasion that forcibly achieves that--and a joint invasion avoids putting China in the spotlight to see potential weaknesses in their shiny new military as well as sharing costs for rescuing North Korea from the poverty and oppression that has traumatized the nation.

There is more on China at the link about non-Korea issues, too.

Ready for What and For Whom?

Is the readiness crisis of our military overblown?

Despite a rash of fatal accidents across the services, the U.S. military’s top enlisted leaders said Monday that Washington’s talk of a readiness crisis was overblown.

The top enlisted leaders have the job of making sure top brass aren't surprised by trends bubbling way below their pay grades in the enlisted ranks. So their pulse of the military is not to be dismissed because they aren't officers.

My impression from my figurative basement in my figurative pajamas is that the military doesn't have the resources to train, sustain, and maintain more than the forces directly engaged in the relatively small combat and support missions overseas, while the forces at home receive inadequate resources until their turn in the overseas rotation comes up.

So we'd have a problem reacting rapidly with the best forces we are capable of fielding in a short period and sustaining that larger force in combat.

That's a problem even if it isn't a crisis in a narrow and perhaps reasonable definition of the problem.

As I've mentioned before, our potential enemies certainly have worse problems than we do.

UPDATE: Of course, our European allies are less ready than Russia.

And American power is far away.

North Korean Roulette

Is it safer to strike North Korea and risk war now or deter them and risk a bigger war later?

While the assumptions built into the calculation are hardly to be considered hard data, the basic trade-off is true. Do we risk smaller casualties now by striking first (and soon) or risk many more casualties later when we don't have the same chance of winning in the hope that time will solve the problem?

This is basically correct:

Choosing to deter North Korea is to engage in a gamble: you avoid the costs of a preventive war today when North Korea is relatively weak, but you run the risk of an accidental nuclear war later when North Korea is vastly more powerful. Using plausible estimates of the probability of accidental nuclear war derived from the U.S.-Soviet experience during the Cold War, I find that gambling on deterrence will lead to 7.5 million U.S.-South Korean-Japanese deaths on average (under optimistic assumptions) while a preventive war now will lead to 1.4 million deaths (under pessimistic assumptions).

But I wouldn't call it "reckless" to choose deterrence. Although the lack of North Korean ability to detect an American attack does greatly increase the chance that North Korea will adopt a policy of "launch on warning" (of a preemptive attack) even if North Korea has no real way to be sure their warning is of an actual attack.

Over time that factor does approach "reckless" and may reach that stage, I admit.

And one factor is not even addressed in this calculation: Iran.

Iran is North Korea's partner in nuclear missile development and if North Korea gets nukes, Iran will soon have them, too.

Can Iran under religious nutball rule even be deterred, with accidental launch not a significant additional risk for nuclear launch at all?

(And even if Iran can be deterred from using nukes, their nukes will deter us from stopping Iran from doing more than they already do to wreak havoc in the region without nukes!)

That Iran-North Korea linkage my concern. I've long said that deterring North Korea can only be debated if Iran is not a potential customer--either by regime change in Iran or some as-yet unknown means of virtually guaranteeing that Iran can't ship the technology or actual missiles to Iran.

This type of analysis--as rough as it is--is the kind of analysis we need to perform after my concern is addressed and we are dealing with North Korea in isolation.

As an added factor, remember that while both action and inaction have consequences, politicians consider it safer to have consequences based on inaction, which they can more easily deny had any relation to the consequences--which might not even happen until many years down the line when they are safely retired polishing their Nobel Peace Prize.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Taiwan Needs to Spend More on Defense Before They Ponder Spending Better

Taiwan has so many defense needs to deter or defeat a Chinese invasion that they can almost literally throw more money at any problem and gain needed capabilities before they need to debate how to spend their money more wisely.

This author argues that Taiwan needs to ditch their submarine plans in order to focus on larger numbers of small anti-ship vessels on the west coast to stop a Chinese invasion fleet and only slightly larger vessels to keep sea lines of communication open on the east coast.

I must say that I fully agree that Taiwan has two different needs for their navy that require different types of ships.

Taiwan needs a lot of smaller anti-ship vessels in the Taiwan Strait because larger ships would be toast at the hands of Chinese air and sea power. Taiwan has a sea denial mission there to stop or weaken a Chinese invasion effort so that ground forces can throw the surviving invaders into the sea.

And Taiwan definitely needs larger ships off the east coast to engage in a sea control mission--especially regarding anti-submarine warfare--to keep lines of supply open to the outside world so China can't blockade Taiwan.

But saying that Taiwanese subs aren't worth the cost for anti-submarine work fails on two counts.

One, I'd give more weight to the argument that subs are too expensive given that the same money could buy other arguably more useful capabilities if Taiwan was struggling under the weight of defense spending. But Taiwan is not maxing out, spending only about 2% of their GDP on defense. Taiwan needs to spend more and can afford it.

Two, it is a mistake to think of the Taiwanese subs as solely an anti-submarines weapon. Their value is much broader.

The subs could be used to sink Chinese surface ships in the west trying to invade and in the east to sink Chinese surface ships trying to blockade the island.

The subs could be used to blockade China and interfere with Chinese sea lines of communication. China would not like Taiwanese subs sinking oil tankers heading to China or interfering with Chinese exports.

Further, if Taiwanese subs are at sea, it gives America (although we currently lack anti-ship missiles for our subs), Japan, and Australia the option of engaging the Chinese with our own submarine fleets in the grey area of conflict after we've decided to intervene to help Taiwan but before we can gather our surface fleets and aircraft to openly intervene.

It would be very easy to simply commend the "Taiwanese" sub captains for their skills.

I remain firmly committed to the Taiwanese acquisition of submarines. I just wish the Taiwanese had managed to find sellers earlier this century when they first tried to buy them. I worry that by the time Taiwan can build their own, it might be too late.

Confederacy Alert!

Look out! Really old racist Confederates have opened up slave markets!

And the UN is on it!

The UN Security Council must take stronger measures, possibly including sanctions, to put a stop to slave auctions in Libya, the French ambassador said Monday. ...

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said last week he was horrified by footage aired by CNN showing an apparent live auction of African migrants to be used as farmhands.

I can only assume that Confederate racists are involved. As every left-wing college student apparently believes, slavery was unique to America in world history.

And because the story doesn't say who was selling and who was buying, it must have been Confederates.

So We Missed That Whole "Imminent" Stage?

I'm so old that I remember when anti-Iraq War types said that if only America had waited until we had solid proof that Saddam's WMD threat was "imminent" that they'd of course support military action to stop him. How did we miss that magical stage of unity with North Korea?

The idea that nothing is justified until we can prove with a court-level of clarity that a country has WMD is proven to--again--be a ridiculous standard by our experience with North Korea that may have blown past that "imminent" threshold with nukes:

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Tuesday it would not be easy for reclusive North Korea to destroy its nuclear arsenal quickly, even if wanted to, given its weapons programs were so developed.

Sadly--and predictably--we were unable to determine with enough clarity to persuade leftists that North Korea was on the cusp of nuclear weapons and so justifying a preemptive strike campaign during the Obama administration.

And yet somehow North Korea blew threw that stage and now has so much of a nuclear weapons industry and arsenal that dismantling it will take a lot of time.

So if North Korea agrees to give up nukes, I guess we need to go through with inspections and international scrutiny to complete disarmament with Kim Jong-Un just as we did with Saddam and Assad (and as we are foolishly trying again with Iran). Wonderful. Which is the only reason North Korea might sign an agreement to give up nukes. North Korea could believe that like Syria (and Iran) they can play the system, and unlike Iraq avoid conventional war consequences.

Have a super sparkly day.

UPDATE: North Korea tested an ICBM that demonstrated their ability to fire an object if not their ability to make a warhead capable of surviving reentry and detonating:

Wednesday's test of what the North called a new ICBM capable of hitting the entire U.S. mainland was, like all the others, calibrated to both convey defiance and boast of a dramatically improving military capability to Washington.

Yet from other sources I hear that the test doesn't demonstrate reentry survival technology needed for an actual nuclear weapon.

But I think the author's speculation that North Korea may be ready to "declare victory" and stop further work on nuclear-armed ICBMs is a dangerous fantasy:

The North, some speculate, may announce that since it now considers itself a nuclear power equal to the United States, it can put more effort into Kim's other priority of trying to fix one of the world's worst economies.

In short, could the end be near for North Korea's years of headlong, provocative nuclear development?

Even if North Korea does that, so what? We're to trust them?

We're to believe that North Korea won't hand off the job of perfecting the reentry survival problem to their Iranian partner which pushed back international scrutiny with that farcical 2015 Obama-Kerry-Lavrov nuclear deal?

Iran continues to test ballistic missiles to carry nuclear warheads one day and denies that they are violating any agreements to do so. It makes sense for this rump Axis of Evil to trade places on this step to allow the heat on North Korea to dissipate before America leads an attack campaign.

We don't have a North Korea problem. And we don't have an Iran problem. We have a North Korea-Iran problem.

UPDATE: Here we go!

North Korea only needs to perfect a nuclear warhead that can survive re-entry into the atmosphere to have a credible nuclear threat against the U.S. As Michael Auslin, a fellow in contemporary Asia at the Hoover Institution, told me this week: "That's only a matter of time. It's a technical issue at this point. They are going to get it."

So it's time for a new approach: Give up. America should never "accept" North Korea as a nuclear weapon state. But it can end the pointless cycles of pressure and negotiation. The North Koreans have used all that posturing to buy time to perfect their nukes, and the Chinese have artfully used that dance to distract us from countering China's own predations.

Pity we missed that "imminent" window when every reasonable American on the left or right would support military action as a last resort; and the prized global test would be passed to get world support for American military action.

And yes, if this was a bilateral issue only, I'd be willing to discuss whether we can deter North Korea. I have a long history of being in favor of that. North Korea is not "crazy" and I've never believed that. Their rational isn't our rational, that's all.

But unless we can figure out how to stop dirt poor North Korea from selling nuclear weapons to Iran--which I have little confidence can be deterred meaningfully if those nutball rulers get nukes--accepting (and yes, not striking is "accepting" even if you don't like the word) North Korean nuclear status risks Iran getting nukes.

So the only possible way to accept North Korea as a nuclear state (and that acceptance has to include accepting potential targets of North Korea going nuclear to deter North Korea and not rely on our extended deterrrence) is to overthrow the mullah regime in Iran and get a state that either doesn't want nukes or is no more of a threat to the world than France is with nuclear weapons.

Have a super sparkly day.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Cheap Power Projection

Turkey wants to buy the old British amphibious carrier Ocean to use as a mobile base. This is a mission that The AFRICOM Queen modularized auxiliary cruiser could perform.

This would be very useful:

Turkey has established a military base in Mogadishu, Somalia to train the local forces of that country. With the HMS Ocean, Turkey could remotely deploy aviation assets to those bases without having to build extensive infrastructure on-land and/or deploy integrated infantry, armour and aviation forces. Overall, LHDs would be a valuable means to connect and support overseas bases.

The price is a bargain.

An off-shore base would be more secure from terror attacks. This type of off-shore support for power projection is the mission I thought a modularized auxiliary cruiser could perform.

Although a lot of Africa is well away from the shore, admittedly, I did offer the possibility of offloading shipping container-based modularized facilities for temporary bases ashore in support of local forces.

Although given the threats rising in Africa, perhaps the Navy will prioritize Africa for the traditional amphibious warfare assets. My assumption behind The AFRICOM Queen was that the Navy had higher priorities than Africa for those scarce assets.

If so, there's always The SOUTHCOM Queen. Talk about a low-priority theater (until Venezuela or Cuba implodes).

Ally Maintenance

I'm going to assume that the Ugandans will remain in Somalia for now.

American defense officials met with the Ugandans:

Secretary Shanahan recognized that Uganda has been in Somalia for 10 years and thanked Minister Mwesige for his country's contribution to security there. He also acknowledged those Ugandan lives lost in Somalia. He expressed his understanding of the frustration with the pace of progress in Somalia but also his confidence that progress is being made.

The leaders discussed how to best help the Horn of Africa move forward toward stability in Somalia. The U.S. Department of Defense continues to support Ugandan forces in Somalia with equipment including Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles and five new Huey-2 helicopters, which were delivered yesterday.

Weapons are nice, but the Ugandans probably don't like feeling all alone on point in that dismal place, Somalia. Our military help to combat the Lord's Resistance Army was nice and all that, but Somalia is a jihadi-infested Hell hole.

I wonder how much of our more aggressive stance in Somalia is designed to keep African nations like Uganda committed to keeping troops in Somalia rather than walking away in frustration.

UPDATE: Another strike:

The U.S. military said on Monday it had carried out an air strike against Islamic State militants in northeast Somalia, killing one person.

Sadly, only one jihadi was killed. Let's hope he was an important one.

The Invisible Tip of the Spear

Air Force F-35s will stage a show of strength near North Korea. This is in addition to Marine F-35s in Japan, a deployment of F-22s to South Korea, and exercises by B-2s near North Korea.

Are these planes coming on line just in time to deal with North Korea?

The Air Force is planning an F-35A show of force in the Pacific in coming weeks now that 12 F-35A’s have deployed to Japan for a six-month rotation, service officials said.

While service officials describe the move as a routine deployment, called a Theater Security Package, the current tensions with North Korea are by no means lost on the Air Force and other Pentagon planners – who are preparing to demonstrate F-35 power, technology and combat readiness in a series of upcoming exercises.

Pacific Air Forces is now finalizing plans for a wide range of F-35A multi-national collaborative training events which will, without question, seek to demonstrate possible coordinated attack options using the stealth aircraft, if ordered, over the Korean peninsula.

Which is good, because we will need every stealth plane we can scrape together if we go after North Korea's nukes.

And the article mentions the ability of the F-35 to act as the first line of missile defense:

Therefore, in addition to land-based defenses such as Patriot and THAAD or ship-based SM-6s, stealth air power in the form of F-35s could prove instrumental in any kind of US attack on North Korea. In particular, the F-35A is able to fire laser-guided precision weapons such as the GBU-54 which is engineered to track and destroy mobile targets such as mobile missile launchers on the move.

Which I mentioned, although with a different capability for post-launch destruction in mind given North Korea's old missile defenses compared to the F-35s capabilities.

I hope China manages something to avoid the need to use force to stop North Korea.

And as I've mentioned before, I'd be content to deter North Korea with American nukes and missile defenses (and later Japanese and South Korean nukes--to be followed by Taiwan not to be left out--on top of their missile defenses) if not for the problem of North Korea selling the technology or physical nukes to nutball-run Iran.

If Iran wasn't the Shia Islamist problem it is today, a dirt-poor nuclear North Korea wouldn't be as big of a problem.

NOTE: I rewrote the second to last paragraph that got so long I forgot what I was writing. Sheesh, bad week to quit sniffing blue, I guess.

We Do Remember September 11, 2001, Right?

Don't look for excuses to walk away from Afghanistan and let jihadis set up a sanctuary again.

It is shameful that we suppressed reports of child sexual abuse by our Afghan allies (yet don't forget the enemy from the same culture does the same thing). I know I've mentioned this horrific practice before.

But this is no reason to cede the field there to terrorists lest they become a sanctuary for another 9/11 as this comment implies: "What do we hope to accomplish with yet another Afghanistan surge?"

The implication is that we are doing the same thing and that the last one was futile.

The first surge ordered in 2009 (in two increments) was smaller than the Pentagon wanted and so the military planned a two-stage offensive that the Obama administration truncated after the first stage in the south in order to prop up the "Obama won the war" reelection bullet point.

And even without the second stage eastern offensive, we did knock back the enemy a great deal. Pity we didn't leave enough strength to defend the gains (just as we failed to do in Iraq in 2011 to even worse consequences in 2014)) that allowed the enemy to revive not only in troublesome Pakistan but in Afghanistan itself.

The Afghans have a lot more military power now than in 2009.

And the new "surge" of American forces won't even reach 20% of the earlier troop levels ordered in 2009.

And there is a new regional focus that doesn't try to resolve Afghanistan as if it is immune to actions in Pakistan (especially) and Iran.

So the situations are different although the objective remains the same.

Is it really an excuse for retreat that our deadly enemies are more determined than we'd like?

Are our deadly jihadi enemies really likely to bask in the glory of that victory over us and retire to a comfy cave to write their memoirs and abuse boys?

A lot of Afghans are willing to fight the jihadis if we give them enough help. Let's help them so we don't need a surge like the last one to fight.

Good Freaking God, Why?

You don't take a knife to a gun fight and you shouldn't take a light tank to a mechanized fight.

This is really disturbing to me:

The Army’s effort to bring a Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF) capability to infantry brigade combat teams -- a near-term priority laid out in the service’s combat vehicle modernization strategy -- has officially kicked off with the release of a request for proposals on Nov. 21.

Why is it a priority to equip our infantry brigades with a light tank when a brigade equipped with such inadequately protected and armed vehicles will just be a slightly higher speed bump when hit by a Russian motor rifle regiment?

Seriously, this is the mission?

The requirement for MPF is to provide infantry brigade combat teams a protected, long-range, cyber resilient, precision, direct-fire capability for early or forcible entry operations.

In what world are Army infantry brigades the early or forcible entry force when we have the 82nd Airborne Division, the 101st Airmobile Division, and the entire Marine Corps for that role?

We're really going to lead an offensive with infantry brigades while heavy brigades are still struggling to reach the area of operations by sea?

Light tanks have a niche role in airmobile or airborne brigades, but if we want to help our infantry survive contact with a heavy enemy force, just equip the brigades with Abrams main battle tanks--we have lots in our stockpiles, remember.

Put a bunch of Abrams-heavy combined arms company-sized teams on prepositioned ships near the theater (or ashore in sets) for the purpose of augmenting each infantry brigade sent overseas--or each battalion within the brigade if the enemy armor threat is high.

Don't take a light tank to a main battle tank fight.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Are the Meetings Wrapping Up?

It is certainly reasonable to wonder if even a really big meeting can enable the Arab world to unite the Islamic world to fight jihadi extremism, whether Sunni or Shia. But if the real goal is to fight Iran's Shia extremism, the question is whether the Islamic world can unite to let Israel smash up Hezbollah in Lebanon with a multi-division raid.

That's a good point:

A group of defense ministers from 40 Islamic countries met in Riyadh on Sunday to map out a strategy to confront and defeat international Islamic terrorism.

Spearheading the effort is Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi Arabian defense minister, whose rapid rise in the Kingdom has impacted the entire region.

But can any alliance of Muslims really confront the issue of Islamic terrorism?

Is this really about Sunni, largely Arab terrorism? Because if it is about uniting Sunni states against Islamist Sunni ideology and terror, it really is hard for many states that support jihadis and their ideology with one hand while killing jihadis that threaten their own rule with the other.

But is it actually about Shia terrorism and Iranian influence? That's much easier for all Sunni Moslem states to agree on.

If the latter, all this meeting has to do is agree to let Saudi Arabia fight Iranian influence in Yemen without raising a diplomatic stink; and to let Israel smash up Iran's client terror group and expeditionary force Hezbollah in Lebanon without raising too much of a stink until Israeli forces return to Israel after however many weeks or months are needed to root out the infrastructure in Hezbollah-occupied Lebanon.

So this Riyadh meeting might just be to ratify the Cairo meeting of Arab states--which Israel wasn't at, of course, but which might be the purpose of that meeting:

I wonder if the topic is basically about whether the Arab states opposed to Iran can manage to quietly back--or at least refrain from loudly complaining about--an Israeli raid in force deep into Lebanon (that Saudi Arabia would support diplomatically) to tear up Hezbollah's infrastructure and kill as many Hezbollah personnel--both fighters and bureaucrats--in as many weeks as Israel can sustain before withdrawing back to their border.

We shall see.

The Fog of Anti-War

A former prime minister forgets that Saddam was obligated to prove he did not have WMD (weapons of mass destruction) potential.

Oh good grief (tip to email from Eric):

The US defence department knew that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction but kept Britain in the dark, according to an explosive new claim from Gordon Brown.

In an extraordinary allegation, the former prime minister states that a secret US intelligence report into Iraq’s military capabilities was never passed to Britain and could have changed the course of events. The revelation leads Brown to conclude that the “war could not be justified as a last resort and invasion cannot now be seen as a proportionate response”.

Virtually everybody including Saddam's own generals believed Saddam had WMD in working condition. I'm not convinced he didn't given the long telegraphing of the invasion (there was no "rush to war") and the long period when WMD facilities were bizarrely not secured after Saddam's overthow. Regardless of that question, Saddam had the intent along with the skills, personnel, organization, and some of the raw materials to resume chemical weapons production given the time.

As Eric writes, the Department of Defense could only say that we hadn't found WMD--not that they didn't exist. And we knew that fact. We just thought it was because Saddam's deception and refusal to cooperate had worked. That's why anti-war types said we had to keep looking.

And regardless of those issues, Brown gets it completely backwards by failing to note that the Gulf War ceasefire required Saddam to prove he had disarmed of all WMD and potential to make WMD. So more to the point:

In the operative context of the OIF decision, Iraq's guilt of proscribed armament was established fact by UNSCOM and IAEA in the UNSCR 687 disarmament process and presumed until Iraq proved it disarmed in accordance with the "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" (UNSCR 1441). The mandated question of Saddam's WMD was never for the US, UK, and UN to answer. Iraq was obligated to answer the question in accordance with UNSCR 687. The intelligence was weighed in the operative context of the established fact of Saddam's WMD with the burden on Iraq to prove the mandated compliance and disarmament.

That's it. Failure to cooperate with proving disarmament was the "material breach" of the ceasefire as I noted with the last UN effort led by Hans Blix to get Saddam to comply with the ceasefire provisions and so prevent war:

Blix exceeded my expectations in his report. Yes, he wants more time and has a ridiculous faith that inspections can work, but he did document the fact that Iraq has not cooperated. That conclusion added on to the non-disclosure adds up to 'material breach.'

Later, as idiots continued to insist that Bush 43 "lied" us into war, I quoted Blix to demonstrate the point.

Indeed, we found 5,000 (admittedly old and so useful only for terror and not the battlefield) chemical shells that prove Saddam failed to account for all of his chemical weapons produced.

And who can doubt Saddam would have gotten WMD?

Do we not have the example of Syria to show us the perils of letting a Baathist minority-run government from continuing? Assad denied having chemical weapons; then admitted he had them to "give them up;" then continued to use them while denying he was doing anything (while Russia ran diplomatic interference in the UN Security Council). And the Assad regime lives on.

And recall that the Obama Syria deal included raw materials as part of the chemical weapons we took from Syria. Yet Saddam's possession of raw materials didn't count as chemical weapons in order to condemn Bush 43, oddly enough.

Instead, the fantasy that we were required to find WMD while Saddam hid them and impeded inspectors in some type of bizarre game of hide and seek is put forward. That is the reverse of what was required and Saddam flouted his obligation, sure that he could succeed just as Assad is succeeding in remaining in power and having WMD.

Oh, and let me remind you of one more thing. We had a lot of reasons to overthrow Saddam and not just the WMD reason that everyone believed. And even though everyone believed Saddam had WMD, including Democrats with ties to the Clinton administration that believed Saddam had chemical weapons, the hard left still opposed the war even believing Saddam had WMD.

Face it, we are better off without Saddam (or his evil spawn) in charge of an oil- and terror-exporting Iraq armed with chemical weapons and abusing its own people and threatening to invade neighbors.

And recall too that even the Obama administration boasted of the developing allied and democratic Iraq as it left Iraq following the battlefield victory; validating the war by their decision to re-engage in 2014 with Iraq War 2.0.

Brown is just trying to sell his book, don't buy his book or the nonsense he is peddling.

Stockholm Syndrome in Beirut?

Is Lebanon's government quietly the enemy of Hezbollah or fully allied with the pro-Iranian terror group sub-state autonomous actor?


Lebanon’s army chief told his soldiers on Tuesday to be extra vigilant to prevent unrest during political turmoil after the prime minister quit, and accused Israel of “aggressive” intentions at the southern frontier.

Troops should be ready to “thwart any attempt to exploit the current circumstances for stirring strife,” the army’s Twitter account quoted General Joseph Aoun as saying ahead of Independence Day celebrations on Wednesday. “The exceptional political situation that Lebanon is going through requires you to exercise the highest levels of awareness.”

Would Lebanon really fight alongside Hezbollah if Israel gets Arab world backing to take down Hezbollah with a deep thrust into eastern Lebanon to tear out Hezbollah in what would be a giant multi-division raid?

Or is the army just being told to be ready in order to reimpose Lebanese control over a weakened Hezbollah post-Israeli invasion?

After all, until Hezbollah is torn apart, it isn't wise for Lebanon's nominal national government to openly take sides against Hezbollah given the terror group's current power.

How much longer will Hezbollah be tied down and bleeding inside Syria to prop up Iran's client Assad? That pretty much defines the window of opportunity for Israel and the Arab world.

Pretext in Ankara

The new Eastern Crisis is looming over an over-hyped "crisis" that Turkey is amplifying.

This is a bullshit crisis:

A major blunder in NATO has brought bitter political rivals in Turkey into a rare demonstration of unity. Parties across the political spectrum are announcing their distrust of the international alliance.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke of the “major scandal,” as it is being referred to in Turkey, during an address to officials from his Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Ankara Nov. 17.

Erdogan said he had been informed by Chief of the General Staff Hulusi Akar and EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik that Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, and Erdogan had been depicted as NATO’s enemies during a recent NATO military exercise in Norway.

He was referring to a military exercise held Nov. 8-17 in Stavanger, Norway, that, according to NATO, was “a Command Post/Computer Assisted Exercise without troops on the ground.”

Given that Erdogan is undoing what Ataturk achieved in secularizing the government of Turkey, an alleged insult in a NATO command post exercise in Norway was a small thing and something to be brushed off in a healthy relationship. (And doesn't leaving NATO prove the "enemy of NATO" part, at least a bit?)

If Turkey leaves NATO over this BS "major scandal," it is because Erdogan doesn't want the scrutiny of an alliance of democracies as he takes Turkey back to autocracy under his rule.

I'd rather have Turkey as an imperfect ally. And boy, under Erdogan, have no doubt that they now rival Pakistan as an imperfect ally that is only better than an enemy.

But under the circumstances, there is no way America should sell Turkey anything but massively "dumbed down" F-35s to avoid just granting Turkey a huge intelligence gift to sell to Russia (or China). Trust but verify, eh?

Let's hope our military-to-military relations can salvage this relationship and keep Turkey in NATO. Although I imagine America can retain bilateral relations with Turkey if Turkey leaves NATO (in the long run Turkey can't rely on the good will of long-time enemy Russia or the friendship of a possibly nuclear-armed ancient enemy Iran).

This move to exit NATO, if Turkey then balances between NATO and Russia more than it has (with the whole S-400 purchase issue), reinforces the New Eastern Question in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

But if Turkey does leave NATO, America's regional unified commands should shuffle the areas of responsibility to reflect the new reality.

On the bright side, if Turkey exits NATO, Greece will renew its enthusiasm for the alliance and work more closely with Israel.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

One, Belt, One Road, One Worry

Is China's ambitious New Silk Road (rebranded as One Belt, One Road) already running into fatal problems?

China has a grand strategic economic plan involving Pakistan, Nepal and Burma and it’s unravelling. All three of these countries are pulling out of economic deals with China because the terms, as interpreted by China, are unacceptable. For the last few years Chinese officials have been describing their economic and military expansion plan internally as Obor (One Belt, One Road). Earlier in 2017 China went public with Obor via a PR campaign that described it as a revival of the ancient “Silk Road.”

The flag follows trade, but China is leading with the flag, it seems. Which locals are already worried about.

While I don't want China to succeed in this plan, as I've long written, I do want them to try.

A China that has significant interests inland to defend will have to divert resources to aero-land power and away from focusing on their aero-naval power that confronts America and our allies in the western Pacific.

So Ukraine Dressed Like a Western Slut and Deserved What They Got?

I'm no fan of the European Union, but this charge of guilt for Russia's invasion of Ukraine is just stupid:

Four years after the EU’s push for closer ties with Ukraine provoked Russia and helped start a revolution, the country is ravaged by war and nearly broke.

Having economic and diplomatic relations with a Ukrainian government that wanted to reach out to the free and prosperous West somehow "provoked" Russia into invading Ukraine?

Ukraine as an independent state had--and has--every right to order its foreign policy without a friggin' Russian veto over Ukrainian actions that the West--whether the EU as it is for now, or NATO with American participation--goes along with?

Russia had no right to invade Ukraine and annex territory regardless of Ukraine's fully lawful and peaceful foreign policy.

Or are you trying to tell me that Moldova deserves the Russian Treatment, too, for the crime of wanting to be part of the West?

The U.S.-led NATO alliance will open a new security cooperation center in neutral Moldova, a small Eastern European country locked in a territorial dispute with Russia.

This is NATO rather than the EU, but the logic is all the same, I assume. Moldova is asking for it, right?

Stop making excuses for Russian aggression--which sadly is the key component of Russian "hybrid" warfare.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Weekend Data Dump

Ascribing the collapse of civilizations in the past to ecological disaster is wrong--as is describing what they went through as a civilizational "collapse" (rather than as a continuity of decline and evolution). The funny thing is that the embrace of such thinking by global warmers is part of a long history of societal destruction myths that religion embraces as a sign of cleansing society from a sinful past. But today's global warming religious fanatics think that instead of surviving the flood by building an ark, they believe they can achieve god-like powers to prevent the flood instead. Now go and emit no more.

Denmark, with threats from Russia to their east in the Baltic Sea and to the north in the Arctic where their territory Greenland lies, plans to increase defense spending over the next 5 years to emphasize air and naval combat capabilities. Good. Back in Cold War days, holding the western end of the Baltic Sea was key to preventing the Soviets from breaking out into the North Sea and Atlantic. Now the Baltic Sea needs to be held at the eastern end to protect Baltic region democracies both inside and outside of NATO.

If Russia thinks the Cold War-era INF treaty allows them to build and deploy new nuclear-capable intermediate range missiles, America will let the Russians enjoy being on the same receiving end of such missiles. Or perhaps they'd prefer to talk about destroying their problematic missiles? We should just bring back the Pershing II, whose existence scared the Soviets into the INF in the first place (and don't forget that the Soviets supported Western protesters in a pre-Facebook version of influencing Western policy against the missiles).

If the Philippines wants to sell its South China Sea territory to China, that's their business. I think they are short-sighted, but it is their business. The problem is that China leaps from controlling those islands and the nearby waters to claiming that control of the islands means China controls all of the South China Sea as territorial waters rather than being international waters (and the air space above the waters) free for commercial and military travel.

So Rome has added climate science to faith and morals as the areas the pope may claim infallibility: "Pope Francis denounced those who deny global warming and urged negotiators at climate talks in Germany to avoid falling prey to such 'perverse attitudes, and instead accelerate efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions." Pope Francis is pissing me off. Christians under attack in the Middle East, ISIL making threats for Christmas, and the Church struggling around the world to retain believers, and he has decided he'll be the spiritual leader of climate change believers rather than the leader of mere Catholics. About that render unto God what is God's and unto Caesar what is Caesar's? Never mind. To Hell with him. I'm done. I know I'm hardly the model Catholic, but good grief. He has no more moral authority over me. I already wrote the new Nicene Creed for his new flock of sheep. How has my Church descended to such a level?

A bunch of Germans protested North Korea and America as if being a brutal and hostile dictatorship seeking nukes is equivalent to being an allied democratic nation with nukes trying to stop the brutal and hostile dictatorship from getting (and selling) nukes. What the Hell is wrong with these people?

I see people are worried that President Trump would "push the button" and launch a nuclear war out of nowhere for some odd reason. As a new soldier, I will add, I was trained that I was only to obey lawful orders. But I honestly think that those worried people imagine there is literally a "button" (like that Hillary Clinton "reset" button) that Trump could deliberately or accidentally press. The system is more complicated than that. Indeed, during the Cold War I recall one high ranking officer noting that all the worries about a Soviet decapitation strike that would prevent the commander in chief from ordering a nuclear counter-strike were ill founded because local American commanders would obviously launch their nukes even in the absence of explicit orders if we were obviously nuked. The advantage back then was that if we were nuked on a large scale we knew exactly who did it. Only the Soviets had that power. In a world of nuclear proliferation that clarity will be lacking.

In the annals of fake news, the idea that Trump weakened the Republican Party platform on Russian aggression against Ukraine is a major part of their charge of collusion , is a big chapter. Trump did not do that. What Trump did was ask that a proposed amendment calling for the United States to provide Ukraine with defensive weapons added to the existing strong language not be adopted--which made the plank more in line with Obama policies that provided only non-lethal support to Ukraine. That platform request to not explicitly call for arming Ukraine was done. And the new language adopted called for additional sanctions. That is the so-called evidence proving that Russia got what they wanted. Only now are we looking to fill gaps in Ukraine's arsenal with shooty things rather than training and other equipment.

Has the media degenerated to the point that it can't report on anything that the president doesn't Tweet? Really, this isn't big economic news for West Virginia? Even if the reporters find the news isn't as big as it seems, it is still news, no?

Hillary Clinton boasted that Bill Clinton didn't Tweet while he was president and instead "just got it done." To be fair, if Twitter had actually existed then, I bet Bill would have gone the Anthony Weiner route with social media.

Romania will buy American Patriot air defense missiles. Which will help defend Romania as a NATO power projection platform into the Black Sea and target Russia's Sevastopol power projection platform.

Oh those sophisticated Europeans: "President Trump’s approval ratings, often mocked by Democrats and the media, top those of Europe’s biggest three leaders, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Britain’s Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron." The nuance, it burns!

Merkel can't form a government despite "winning" the election. We don't have that problem with our Electoral College system, that liberals are suddenly angry about (but they're good with their "super delegates" in the primary).

I'm sorry, but what part of "Museum of the (Christian) Bible" is unclear?

Well whaddayaknow? I could never understand why she was a sex symbol of some sort. Now we find she may be ugly on the inside.

As I understand it, the US Senate couldn't refuse to seat Roy Moore if elected and has never ejected someone for pre-Senate activity. But could they forge new roads on the latter issue? Although if voters send him to Senate despite the allegations that remain unproven no matter how credible they seem, it is troublesome not to seat him, I think. It is a difficult situation.

With that bastion of liberalism in Hollywood (and their brethren in "ugly Hollywood" media) exposed as a sexual predator machine, just who is in that basket of deplorables now?

Sarah Silverman has discovered that Trump supporters aren't evil. Good. That's all I really ask of liberals. Recall that during the election I reacted very badly to the growing Democratic chorus that Trump's supporters were evil. That--rather than even the over-the-top opposition to him--really angered me. Trump actually heard the long-ignored who took a chance on him. And I've always thought Silverman is cute, so her previous position was rather disappointing.

I didn't understand why Ukraine would agree to work with Russia on building transport planes given that Russia invaded Ukraine and occupies their territory. Strategypage discusses it. Is it really a step toward a peace agreement? But does that mean Ukraine has given up trying to liberate their territory?

Algeria doesn't have a big jihadi problem--the 1990s Islamist insurgency was bloody enough to make people unhappy with the government wary (for now) of that "solution." But Algeria is Islamist-friendly in many ways, I assume to preempt jihadi recruiting. Strategypage reviews the country.

The Russians should have avoided that new-fangled social media campaign to sway our elections and used the tried and true Democratic Party method--just buy the win.

Global warming isn't a crisis and the so-called solutions are terrible.

Karma is a bitch.  Of course, I'm still trying to wrap my head around the idea she was some sort of sex symbol.

The resistance to the war on women sure was stamped out quickly.

Yes, we had much to be thankful for on our first Trump ThanksgivingMore here. I'm thankful for all that and for the fact that President Trump has evolved more than I expected on a number of foreign policy issues more in line with my preferences. But I worry that if Republicans in Congress don't send Trump bills to sign that Trump will pivot to working with Democrats to get victories without losing a night's sleep over the return to his more liberal (if populist) roots.

Will Republicans in Alabama stand by Roy Moore for the Senate? Republicans for years--since Bill Clinton--said character matters and had their asses handed to them by Democrats who stood by their men and mocked and scolded Republicans for caring about "bedroom matters" and also accused the same Republicans of "waging a war on women." It  appears that many Republicans have reacted to the series of sexual predator accusations (erupting--so far--mainly in the leftist bastions of Hollywood and the media) by saying "you first" to Democrats when Democrats ask Republicans if they will dump Moore. This is depressing. But the Democrats built the standards, no? It would be nice if we could all agree that we don't want our sisters, mothers, daughters, girl friends, and wives to be treated this way. And men can be victims, too, of course, in the focus on women.

I've asked this before, but if Republicans remove the mandate to buy Obamacare policies, why will that "take away" health insurance from people? If they don't have it in the future won't it be because they choose not to buy a product that has not in fact lowered premiums as Democrats promised and which have just left policy holders with massive deductibles to pay for the privilege of having those policies?

Wait. So science can be settled by a conspiracy of self interest? Huh. Tip to Instapundit.

Blaming Saudi Arabia for instability in the Middle East on an equal level as Iran for Saudi resistance to Iranian actions is nonsense. Yes, if the Saudis didn't try to counter Iran and just let Iran win, there would be more "stability" in the sense that Iran would lock down more friendly regions on their side. Is resisting Iran really a cause of instability? I think not. I thought the major point would be Saudi support if Islamist ideology, which is quite true (although I have hope that since 9/11 and the Iraq War, that Saudi Arabia is having second thoughts about that survival strategy in the long run).

Is China allowing a broader debate about what to do about North Korea to telegraph intentions or to float balloons about what the public finds acceptable? Or is it all just a sign that China doesn't know what to do.

Yes, South Korea has a sizable marine corps, but except for small operations in the islands off the west coast of the Korean peninsula or small, short-range tactical envelopment, lack of significant amphibious lift makes it virtually impossible for that force to impact the course of a war with an Inchon-style operation. The South Korean marines will remain a good land-bound force held in reserve, for the most part. And that is where they will make their mark if it comes to war.

Friendly nations are also searching, but I'm not sure how the missing Argentinian submarine story can have a happy ending. Crap.


We cant let the monsters win the Islamic civil war.

Jihadis slaughters hundreds of Moslems in Egypt:

Militants killed more than 230 people at a mosque in North Sinai on Friday, detonating a bomb and gunning down worshippers in the deadliest such attack in Egypt's modern history, state media and witnesses said.

These particular Moslems follow a non-radical form of Islam called Sufi Islam. The jihadis can no more tolerate that form of Islam than they can tolerate Christians, Jews, or Hindus in their midst.

There continue to be Westerners who say that jihadis don't practice "true" Islam. These people ignore the fact that people define what religions believe and so if the jihadis win their civil war, their version of Islam will define their religion rather than more accommodating versions like the religion of the more than 300 Moslems killed and wounded after their Friday services.

We fight monsters. While monsters need to be killed to better protect people from mass murder, this is only the holding action until the Islamic world can resolve their civil war in a manner that encourages people to be more like the Sufis who were slaughtered rather than encouraging people to become like the jihadi killers.

It's a long war.

UPDATE: This is great in the short run:

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has vowed to respond forcefully after attackers killed at least 305 worshippers in a packed mosque in restive North Sinai province, the country's deadliest attack in recent memory.

But in the long run Egypt has to reform Islam locally as part of a broader effort to end the gruesome appeal of Islamism to Moslem young men.

Friday, November 24, 2017

A Scheduled Hanging Focuses the Mind, I Hear

A little unity any time now, guys. Any time:

Syria's fragmented opposition doubled down on attempts to unify their ranks on Thursday, the second day of a Saudi-sponsored meeting ahead of next week's UN-brokered peace talks.

Around 140 opposition figures are gathered in Riyadh in a bid to form a unified delegation to meet representatives of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime in Geneva on November 28.

I'm sure Assad will wait patiently while the rebels get their act in order. No pressure at all.

The toll is put at over 330,000 in 6 years of fighting. And Assad still rules. Will the death and destruction be for nothing?

Yes, We Can Be Thankful

One of the things that really annoys me about the "Thanksgiving as celebration of genocide" nonsense is the utter lack of historical appreciation of what people do.

The idea that Europeans descended on peace-loving Native Americans living in harmony with nature and each other and then slaughtered and conquered them in a unique sin in the annals of humanity puts Native Americans in a separate line of development as humans from Europeans (and everyone else).

Imagine seeing the European Union today for the first time with their military weakness and decades of peace and pacifism, and assuming that this is how Europe has always been, without the understanding of the centuries of bloodshed that led to the era you viewed.

Similarly, Native Americans in North America (with the Aztec exception completely memory-holed) are seen by the nonsense peddlers as peace-loving people sitting around smoking weed and enjoying nature when--POW!--Europe wiped them out.

Yes, Europeans nearly did that. As they did to each other for centuries.

And the Europeans did what the Native Americans did to each other. Do you really believe that the Native Americans who existed at the time of contact with the first colonists were anything but the victors of past centuries of conflict with other Native Americans?

Again, ask the victims of the Aztecs if you wish.

And when the Europeans arrived, they were seen as a source of help in the competition between Indian groups. (Tip to Instapundit. And yes, 1491 was a fascinating book.)

Just as some Africans worked with Europeans to gain advantage over other Africans.

Sadly for Native Americans, long isolation made them vulnerable to the diseases that Africans were immune to. So their strategy had a fatal flaw that doomed them.

What happened to the Native Americans was a tragedy. And based on our standards today, quite wrong. Evil, even. But what happened then was how the world was then. And everybody acted that way, expanding where they could and dying off when they lost.

Ask the Carthaginians if you wish.

If the Mongols had had the advantage of new disease crippling their enemies, do you think they would have stopped before conquering the entire Eurasian landmass?

So get over the self-flagellating nonsense of condemning the European colonization of the Americas as so uniquely evil that we can't celebrate the result today of freedom and/or prosperity that is expanding across the planet in place of the despotism and struggle for existence that once defined human life.

Have some Turkey and gravy, enjoy the Lions game on TV, and be a little Goddamned thankful for once in your pathetic life embracing victimhood.

PRE-PUBLICATION NOTE: After I wrote this I found a post that I could have simply linked to!

Friends in Need

Non-NATO Sweden has stepped up to help defend NATO's newest Baltic members.

This is good:

In late 2017 Sweden decided to upgrade its air defenses with the American Patriot system. For decades Sweden had been using the older Hawk system and was in the midst of upgrading Hawk when it was realized that even a much improved Hawk could not deal with all the new weapons Russia was developing.

My view on defending the Baltic states from Russian aggression is to plan to survive the Russian invasion by preserving NATO's most ready heavy forces, holding the line around the Polish-Lithuanian border, capturing Kaliningrad, and then driving north after mobilizing to liberate the Baltic states which are resisting Russian occupation with the assistance of NATO special forces and long-range firepower.

Swedish territory combined with air defense weapons give NATO depth to control the Baltic Sea despite a potential Russian conquest of Estonia, Latvia, and at least part of Lithuania; which will allow NATO to prepare for the liberation of the Baltic NATO states.

Remember, Sweden has an interest in having a friendly shore on the other side of the Baltic Sea. Russia is not a friendly state for Sweden any more than Russia is friendly to America and NATO under Putin.

And Europeans Made Catan?

Citzalia wasn't enough fun for EU gamers, so the European Union has come out with another online game!

Your dose of Brussels insanity arrives in a rare form today: an online game teaching children “to collect more taxes”. ‘Taxlandia’, a simulation game released by the EU Commission’s Department for Taxation and the Customs Union, bears the motto “tax builds my future”.

I can hardly wait for the next exciting game in their series, Camplandia, where you round up undesirables who stand in the way of "ever closer union."

I hear that game will bear the motto "work sets you free."

And then? The grand end-state socialist EU game with the working title of Venezuela.

Tip to Instapundit.

Better Late Than Never?

Mosul resident paid a price for the ISIL occupation. Is there a silver lining to this dark cloud of death that passed through the city?

The price for Mosul was heavy:

The Iraqi government, the coalition, the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq and several human rights groups have tried to keep accurate casualty figures for the campaign. The UN reports are issued on a monthly basis. Last week the blog "Musings In Iraq" summarized UN and media figures. Since the Iraqi offensive's official start date in October 2016, 21,224 have been killed and 30,996 wounded in Ninewa province. Of the dead, 17,404 were killed in devastated Mosul and 24,580 were wounded in the city fight. How many of the dead were executed by ISIS? The estimate is 5,325.

This isn't the last word on casualties. Investigators will find more graves.

And don't forget that execution isn't the extent of ISIL responsibility for deaths. Fighting behind civilian "shields" is a war crime and makes ISIL responsible for deaths inflicted by Iraqi or coalition bombs or shells.

In 2003, no American offensive was launched from Turkey during Operation Iraqi Freedom because the Turkish parliament refused to allow it. The invasion came from the south through the Shia region only.

So the shock of losing the war wasn't accompanied by the sight of armies rolling over Saddam's army and smashing it, making defeat something felt in the bones.

Some said that the rapid collapse of Saddam's regime which left the west and east untouched by the battles to overthrow Saddam contributed to Sunni Arab resistance that followed. Did the bloody battles for Mosul and the rest of ISIL's conquests in the north correct that invasion flaw?

Could finally being a battlefield of a liberation--and many of Saddam's boys helped make ISIL a proto-state rather than a mere collection of killers, remember--help solidify Iraqi authority in the north?

It would be helpful if Sunni Arabs, Shia Arabs, and Sunni Kurds could now unite post-ISIL behind the difficult task of rejecting Iranian influence and expelling Iran's agents:

Some problems are particularly difficult to deal with. The Iraqi Kurds still control the northern provinces they have held since the early 1990s and are threatening civil (and guerilla) war if the federal government does not control (preferably expel) the growing number of Iranians (mainly Quds Force personnel) and curb the power of the Iran backed Shia militias. It’s not just the Kurds and the Sunni Arabs who fear the Iranian influence. Most Iraqis do, including most Shia Arabs.

If the Shia government would do that rather than focus on punishing Sunni Arabs for centuries of abuse and rather than carrying on the Sunni Arab equally long history of punishing Kurds, there might be real peace and a chance at a better future not being oppressed by Arab tyrants or jihadis of the Sunni Arab variety or the Shia Persian kind.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Back to the Future

An author notes that the problems of today with North Korea are pretty darned similar to the problems of a quarter century ago. Does this mean we need to accept that deterrence is the best policy and get on with that project?

He has a point:

After over a quarter century of failure in demanding the very same concessions from Pyongyang, and relying heavily upon the same conventional strategy (more sanctions, threats of force and diplomacy on American terms), it’s time for the United States to change the policy. The longer U.S. political leaders continue to believe that denuclearizing North Korea is realistic, the longer it will take for the White House to craft a strategy to the problem that actually has a possibility of working: Cold War–era deterrence.

I've long been a believer that a problem restricted to North Korea can be handled by deterrence and isolation.

(That's from America's perspective, of course, since we won't care if Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan go nuclear as a result of North Korea's nuclear status. What China thinks of that consequence is another matter altogether).

But isolation has to mean isolation. The problem with deterring North Korea is that without true isolation, North Korea could sell nuclear technology or even nuclear weapons to Iran. China won't mind that. But we should care a great deal.

So if you can show me how we prevent a nuclear North Korea from leading to a nuclear-armed nutball-run Iran, I'm fine with containing and deterring North Korea.

And keep in mind that such a program to separate North Korea from their Iranian customer could be achieved either by securely isolating North Korea or by ending the mullah-run regime in Iran that is the only country in line for North Korean nukes right now.

Back when President Bush 43 named an Axis of Evil of Iraq, Iran, and North Korea, I assumed it meant direct military action against Saddam's Iraq, the overthrow of the mullah regime by supporting popular unrest in Iran, and isolation and deterrence of North Korea.

I'd be more than happy to get back to the original assumptions I had back then.

A Bold Plan to Surrender

A French author believes that to prevent "civil war" in France that France should establish an Islamic province:

The situation in France has gotten so desperate that the only way to prevent civil war between Muslim and non-Muslim sections of society is to divide the country in two, one French academic argued. This may seem needlessly drastic, but the push for Sharia (Islamic law) being enshrined in the government may make it necessary.

Well, I've seen this coming.

But for clarity, is it really a "civil" war if it is a fight between French native born citizens and Moslem immigrants who don't become culturally French? Isn't that an invasion with an "occupied zone?"

What lucky region gets to be the Sharia province? Would France load up those who don't want to live under Sharia law on rail cars and dump them in the rest of France? Will all Moslems be forced into the Sharia province? Would France hunt down and punish locals (of any religion) who won't or can't leave the Sharia province for the other France and instead join the resistance to Sharia rule?

Does this mean that once the Sharia province is established that French police will prevent Moslems from moving out of their Sharia province and prevent non-Moslems from moving to the Sharia province?

So if a Sharia-compliant province is created within France, I suppose we should call the rest of the country "Vichy France," eh?

Of course, maybe the final part of this brilliant plan is to wait for America, Britain, and perhaps Free French from Quebec province in Canada to liberate them all.

Ah, nuance.

Ground Your Turkeys

Remember, Turkeys can't fly.

"As God as my witness I thought turkeys could fly" is a classic line!

The full episode:

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Sicilian Tulip Craze

Comparing the Athenian Sicilian expedition that diverted Athens from their primary enemy Sparta by attacking a potential Spartan ally in Syracuse to the American campaign against Saddam's Iraq as a diversion from the primary enemy al Qaeda in Afghanistan is nonsense.


In the present age, the United States’ decision to invade Iraq as part of the War on Terror is analogous to the Athenian experience in Sicily in its strategic effects. It represents an extended campaign, in the wrong theater, at the wrong time.

Sparta was a powerful city state that was undefeated. Syracuse was a powerful trading partner of Sparta in Sicily that was a potential enemy of Athens that Athens decided to strike.

Yes, striking a distant trading partner of their enemy when there was no imminent threat of Syracuse going to war with Athens was an obvious mistake, especially given the destruction of the Athenian expeditionary force.

But the comparison to Iraq and Afghanistan is such a stretch that it is a meaningless comparison. It is just a more sophisticated form of the old "distraction" charge.

I was going to go into a longer piece concerning the fact that Iraq was an existing enemy that really did help terrorists to fight us, that American power was massively greater than our combination of enemies, that we didn't lose our army fighting Iraq, that we really did have to worry that Saddam would get WMD if left in power, that we actually won the Iraq War (and without 300,000 American troops that is oddly still considered a requirement to win that war even after we won that war*), that our ground forces became experienced (if unbalanced) rather than "broken" or even destroyed, and that we had prior to Iraq succeeded in smashing the Taliban regime that sheltered al Qaeda and scattered al Qaeda there.

This is dramatically unlike the stalemate Athens faced with peer power Sparta and the decision by Athens to send and lose too much of its power against another peer.

And although the author goes into differences that should have ended the impulse to compare, he persists in saying that notwithstanding the differences that the effects were the same.

But rather than go into those factors to argue for why they invalidate the comparison, the comparison founders on the very basic fact that al Qaeda in fact relegated Afghanistan to a secondary theater in order to fight America in Iraq as al Qaeda's main front.

Or did I miss the part of the Peloponnesian War where Sparta sent their army off to Sicily to fight and defeat Athens there?

If the Iraq War (that ended Saddam's brutal minority regime, ended the WMD potential of the state, and turned Iraq into an ally that helped us kill jihadis rather that creating jihadis**) distracted us from the "real" war against al Qaeda in Afghanistan, why did al Qaeda itself follow us to Iraq and fight us there rather than fight in Afghanistan to exploit our so-called distraction?

Seriously, al Qaeda didn't really focus on Afghanistan after their defeat in our initial Afghanistan campaign that began in October 2001 until our Surge and Awakening combination crushed al Qaeda in Iraq in 2007 and led them to return to the remote Afghanistan to make a stand; and based on the complication of the Taliban setting up shop inside Pakistan in 2006 (thanks Pakistan!) where they could move against Afghanistan.

Until those things happened, Afghanistan was a backwater that deserved the status of secondary theater. Don't believe me? Listen to President Obama in April 2010:

"I would dispute the notion that [Afghanistan is] not getting better. I do think that what we've seen is a blunting of the momentum of the Taliban which had been building up in the year prior to me taking office," Obama said.

The year prior to his presidency. That is, 2008. We won the war in Iraq by 2008. As I wrote in that post:

So the president judges that it was in 2008 that the enemy started making gains.

I've judged that it was that year--or maybe sometime in 2007--that we could say that.

My timeline was based on the fact that we pretty much beat al Qaeda in Iraq in 2007 during the surge, and so al Qaeda switched emphasis to Afghanistan. Also, the Taliban in Pakistan managed to set up a good deal inside Pakistan by 2006, eventually complicating our efforts in Afghanistan.

Which means, of course, that Iraq did not "distract" us from winning in Afghanistan. We were doing fine in Afghanistan through 2008 according to the president, but possibly only sometime in 2007 if you ask me. At worst, you can argue that we were delayed in reinforcing Afghanistan by perhaps a year because of Iraq. But since it looked like a win was coming in Iraq by the end of 2007, we didn't take extraordinary measures to bolster Afghanistan before reductions in Iraq could ease that path. If the situation in Afghanistan was that bad, we could have done something sooner.

Or are you really going to argue that the commitment of 100,000 American and 50,000 coalition troops could have settled Afghanistan down in 2002-2008 if we hadn't deployed troops to fight in Iraq?

Aren't we having to re-engage again in Afghanistan after the Taliban recovered from the Obama surges and rapid draw down and the distraction of the 2012 reelection campaign that required an official line that al Qaeda was dead?

I know Thucydides is all the rage again (and I do enjoy his history of the Peloponnesian War--and I have an old paper on it that I keep thinking I might update and use), but the Iraq War was no Sicilian Expedition. Don't try to shoehorn Iraq and Afghanistan into that template.

Give it up. Iraq did not distract America from Afghanistan.

*And no, General Shinseki was not fired for saying that before the war.

**Seriously, the Iraq War was no mistake and we gained much--or tell me what you'd have chosen not to achieve?

I'll Take Democracy for the Win, Alex

I know Democrats like claim that failure to find WMD in Iraq led us to post-facto justify Operation Iraqi Freedom as an effort to bring democracy to Iraq, but democracy has survived so far.

Yes indeed:

“Iraq’s democratic and more importantly constitutional structures that were put in place as a result of 2003 and U.S. direct involvement have weathered 12 years, ISIS seizing one-third of the country, a simultaneous drop by 50% of its main economic driver oil, and conflict with Kurdistan,” points out James Jeffrey, a scholar at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a former U.S. ambassador to Iraq.

But then he went a caveat too far:

He cautions, however, that none of that justifies the “huge cost” of ousting Saddam in 2003.


The Iraq War made sense and was no mistake

That was clear a decade after OIF and before the rise of ISIL in Iraq in 2014.

Seriously, what would you have "chosen" not to achieve in that "war of choice?"

By casualties, the Iraq War cost was actually quite low--just look at the battle deaths in Syria if you want a real horror show (and this statement does not diminish the tragedy of each death, because it is a measure of costs to the nation relative to historical experience).

The direct costs basically matched what we spent at the stroke of a pen with the Obama Stimulus in 2009. And by GDP burden, the war was trivial, even with questionable definitions that include too many costs as solely war costs and which extend costs well into the future.

Seriously, get a little perspective, people, before flinging about the "catastrophe" charge.

And if none of what happened justified the "huge" sacrifice, why did President Obama validate our achievements--achievements he boasted about and which his vice president claimed would be one of the great achievements of the administration--by initiating Iraq War 2.0 to recover from the ISIL onslaught in 2014?

By that author's perspective on Iraq, the Korean War was not justified by the cost, which included over 36,000 American dead and veterans costs we still pay today. Shall we redeem our "mistake" by turning over free South Korea to North Korea and so not spend one more penny on that war?

We won the Iraq War. The cost did not invalidate the victory.

And it is our responsibility to build on the success so that in 50 years nobody will question Iraq as a win any more than anybody question Korea as a win today despite the cost.

Sometimes I feel like I have to keep blogging until the partisan warping of analysis on the Iraq War runs its course and an honest assessment of what we achieved can be made by the so-called professional analysts and historians.

May I live that long.

And Learning Curve is a useful cure for the equally dumb notion that the war was illegal.

You Kill the Jihadis Where They Stand

You kill jihadis where the jihadis are and not where it is most convenient.

America has quietly increased the number of special forces in Somalia to resist jihadis:

The number of U.S. military forces in Somalia has more than doubled this year to over 500 people as the Pentagon has quietly posted hundreds of additional special operations personnel to advise local forces in pockets of Islamic militants around the country, according to current and former senior military officials.

The article notes that this in relation to the "Black Hawk Down" battle in Mogadishu where 18 American troops were killed in 1993. The American government gave the order to get our of there after that rather than exploit the lopsided casualty rate (although the mission wasn't worth it in the first place, truth be told, even if we could have carried it out). The implication is that we are returning to the site of a "catastrophe," as the article puts it.

Not mentioned is that our troops killed at least 500 enemy gunmen in that rolling ambush. I don't think Somali jihadis are really eager to repeat that kind of "victory."

So let's kill more jihadis. They're the only good kind.

UPDATE: This is timely:

Somalia's government said on Wednesday it had requested the U.S. air strike which killed more than 100 suspected militants on the previous day to help pave the way for an upcoming ground offensive against Islamist militant group al Shabaab.

The United States military's Africa Command said on Tuesday it had killed more than 100 of the al Qaeda-linked insurgents in an air strike on a camp 125 miles (200 km) northwest of the capital Mogadishu.

I didn't catch the AFRICOM statement on Tuesday.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

If God is My Copilot, the Internet is My Gunner

Remote weapons stations (RWS) have saved lives by ending the exposure of gunners to direct fire. The Army sees these systems as key to robotic and remotely controlled ground vehicles. Why not use the for manned/unmanned teams, too?

Strategypage reviews remote weapons stations and notes:

The army sees RWS as a key element in the development of remotely controlled, or autonomous, armored vehicles.

I'd like to see remotely operated weapons stations on our crewed infantry fighting vehicles.

If we can operate weapons on an infantry fighting vehicle remotely via troops in the rear areas, during some missions like advance to contact, we'd reduce the exposure of troops to catastrophic loss and high loss of life when the crew and infantry in an IFV are supporting tanks on the move.

That's what I argued in this Infantry article (and which I incorporated into this entry into an Army science fiction contest).

Russia is Not Trustworthy

It is absolutely true that we can't trust the Russians to help us unless we are absolutely sure the Russians share the same objective. Given that the Russians are spending a lot of effort to sow chaos in America and Europe, those common objectives will be rare indeed.

This is about right:

The goal isn’t primarily to get a particular politician in power, but to sow chaos and doubt, to heighten the contradictions, and to weaken the strong countries and alliances that Putin thinks are holding down Russia. The Russians helped push for Brexit, not because Brexit was good for Britain (which I think it might be), but because it was bad for the European Union. ...

The Russians just wanted to cause trouble and wound the presumptive winner, Hillary Clinton.

Jonah correctly notes that the Russian effort to intervene in our 2016 election with propaganda wasn't to elect Trump but to harm the expected winner Clinton.

But I think this reasoning extends to Brexit. I don't think the Russians really thought Brexit would win. They just wanted to sow disorder in Europe.

Nor do I think that Russia really wants to weaken the EU.

I think Russia sees the European Union project as sowing defense disorder in Europe by increasing tensions between the EU which wants an independent (of America) military arm and the existing NATO which includes the powerful American portion of NATO that has successfully defended Europe from Russia and the USSR for so long.

And don't forget that Russia was key in getting both the 2013 Syria chemical deal and the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Those were not common objectives. Those were cases of America stupidly thinking Russia would help America.

Nobody should trust Russia. For a time after the Cold War I thought Russia might take the chance of a lifetime to join the West as Japan, Germany, and Italy did to their enormous benefit after being defeated in World War II. But Russia chose to be Russia and treat the West as an enemy.

But Russia prefers to be Russia. #WhyRussiaCan'tHaveNiceThings