Sunday, December 31, 2017

Weekend Data Dump

Happy New Year! May it be happy and prosperous for you and your loved ones. I have nothing to complain about.

Illegal aliens are disproportionately represented among foreigners in federal prisons. Open border advocates have conflated the good record of legal immigrants--who are by definition screened to weed out those with criminal records--with all immigrants to argue illegal immigrants are law-abiding. That is incorrect even if you ignore illegally crossing the border as part of their criminal record. And how many criminal foreigners are deported rather than being housed, which would make the problem seem smaller?

Idiot: useful, one ea. Green presidential candidate Jill Stein regularly appeared on Russian propaganda network RT. As I've said, Greens are just socialists (or communists) who recycle.

The idea that America is hypocritical for defending our sovereign rights in defense of our Israel embassy decision while denying that right to others in the UN General Assembly by threatening consequences for voting against America, as former Obama spokesman Kirby argued on TV, is nonsense. Those countries clearly had the right to vote against us. We didn't deprive them of that right. We just said that there could be consequences for exercising that right to screw us after all the help we've given. When Kirby switched to a suit from a uniform, he went off the rails, as far as I can tell.

And thanks to Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Togo, Honduras, and Guatemala, who voted with us (in addition to Israel, of course) in the Jerusalem resolution. Luckily they are small countries so rewards will be relatively inexpensive. Let's see how this incident transforms the State Department into a soft-power element of national power rather than a dispenser of money with no strings that make sure the money benefits America.

Here's your dose of despair for the last day of the year: Escaping the effects of Europe by carrying out Brexit to escape the European Union is only the first step to curing Britain. After that Britain has to escape what Britain has become.  Remember, Venezuela is not and never was in the European Union. Yet they mucked up an oil-wet dream. Thatcher managed to escape that path. Can Britain's future rulers do the same?

The Defense of Holy Legacy is kicking into high gear. President Obama's national security policies were poor overall, indicating a flexibility provided to all of America's enemies even if we only have it recorded being offered to Russia's Putin.

Is the sale of sniper rifles and related equipment to Ukraine no big deal? The State Department says we've sold light weapons before. But Russia is upset and Ukraine thanked us. Is it possible that past sales were on the order of pistols or other weapons not at the scale of military items?

The United States will spend money to repair and build air fields in Iceland, Norway, and Eastern Europe. Which will be handy in case America and NATO has to move reinforcements east and, in the case of Iceland and Norway, contain the Russian navy from operating freely in the North Atlantic and Baltic Sea.

Russia will have bases in Syria to project power into the eastern Mediterranean and into the Middle East for decades to come. No surprise there. Assuming Assad wins the multi-war there. Assad with his Iranian allies continues to wage war there against rebels: "The army and the Shi'ite forces advanced east and south of the Sunni-rebel held bastion of Beit Jin backed by some of the heaviest aerial bombing and heavy artillery shelling since a major assault began over two months ago to seize the area, rebels said." The war goes on without the Islamic State.

Remember this when California politicians demonstrate their moral superiority by droning on about global warming, pardoning illegal alien criminals, or "resisting" the Trumptatorship. Tip to Hot Mic.

Arab states are finally tired of Palestinians naming themselves queen of the prom to monopolize their own agenda. Tip to Instapundit.

I recently heard General Keane say that the war against ISIL took far longer than it needed to. That's nice to hear because I didn't understand why it was taking so long to defeat what was essentially a small light infantry army. I initially figured victory over ISIL in 2015 on the Iraq front with Syria following the next year (and that delay was for the purpose of building up non-ISIL rebels to continue the war against Assad once ISIL was crushed. Remember, from the ISIL conquest of Mosul in June 2014 to the offensive that eliminated ISIL's territorial control in Iraq took 42 months. From Pearl Harbor to the defeat of Nazi Germany (and that included building an American army, air force, and navy capable of landing in France)--the priority front in World War II--took 41 months.

India's procurement bureaucracy continues to be China's best air superiority weapon.

Both South Korea and Japan are thinking of using the V/STOL version of the F-35 on their large-deck helicopter carriers. These are small carriers--and right now each has but one--with a limited air capacity. But it is better than nothing. And operating under the umbrella of shore-based air will help in a fight around the region from Taiwan to South Korea to keep sea lines of communication open in the face of Chinese threats. China won't like this. They'll like nuclear-armed Japan and South Korea even less if China doesn't help solve the North Korea problem. Japan already has a good fleet--if short-ranged. And South Korea has a blue water ambition as their economy grows and North Korea's conventional military rots away.

Russia will expand restrictions on American aircraft conducting "open skies" recon flights over Russia. This is in retaliation for America blocking Russian flights over Alaska and Hawaii. Which was done in retaliation for Russia stopping American flights over Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea. As a rule, I like having these--as long as they are reciprocal--in order to reduce fear of the unknown. In the face of the unknown, worst-case scenarios of the other side's capabilities will guide your own programs. Of course, I don't know if the flights are as important as they once were. I suspect they are still important, but don't know. Also, until North Korea is resolved, I like blocking Russia from viewing Alaska and Hawaii which will be key staging areas if we fight North Korea.

Occupational licensing is often about protecting a guild's profits for their members rather than protecting the health and safety of consumers. But the guilds donate to politicians who enact such rules and enforce them. So they won't easily be repealed. Tip to Instapundit.

More on the clusterfuck with a UN seat: Yemen, including added American pressure on ISIL and al Qaeda there.

Military readiness goes away when nobody is looking. You can polish a non-functioning plane and photograph it on the tarmac, recall, after the towing vehicle is out of the frame. This isn't only a French problem. I suspect America over the last year has been focused on fixing this. I hope our foes have worse problems in this area.

American troops won't save Venezuelans from their corrupt and brutal socialist rulers, but the American dollar is doing its best to help those people cope. Funny that while Maduro wants to create a virtual currency that he already has one--the "bolivar" that nobody uses in the physical world. As if Venezuelans don't have enough problems. Heh.

Huh. That's amazing. And consider the wildly contrasting media environments that each had in their first year, with one being demonized and the other granted God-status.

This country has nuclear weapons. What could possibly go wrong?

Putin promises Assad that Russia will defend Syria's "sovereignty." It is unclear to me whether that is just a justification for retaining bases in Syria, a promise of continued support in the west against rebels, or a promise of further support to defend Syria's pre-multi-war authority throughout the country.

Two actresses mocked those who question the climate change consensus by saying denying climate change is like denying gravity. But that isn't accurate. Of course the climate changes. It always has. And of course humans contribute CO2 to the atmosphere that is a factor in warming. The controversy is over how much humanity affects the climate; whether it is bad if the climate warms; and if so, how and when to respond. And given that we are two decades into a "pause" in global warming notwithstanding increased human inputs on to the warming side of the scale, the very first portion of the consensus is surely in doubt. If humanity's contribution is decisive, why have natural factors overwhelmed human effects to lead to the plateau the planet has experienced? So isn't the actress comparison more accurate if they compared belief in man-caused climate change to a belief in man-caused gravity? Huh. That is pretty funny, after all.

As the year ends, I still don't like President Trump as a person. But for all his flaws (including his long-time liberal status that has been restrained by the weight of Republican staff) I remain grateful he kept the fully corrupt Hillary Clinton out of office (and I should throw a thanks to President Obama for doing that, too). And his policies have for the most part been fine and well within political boundaries. I always rejected the hysteria that leftists and many opponents of Trump generated about tyranny, Russian "collusion," disasters, and horrors rising up in his wake.  So this is a welcome development as we prepare to enter 2018. Dial it back from "11," people. Life is pretty darned good, and 2017 was a good year despite your panic attacks brought on by Trump Hysteria Condition. And my personal life would still be pretty good if Hillary had won. If you doubt that I'm sincere, please review my non-panic on this blog during the Obama era. One can oppose someone without believing they are pure evil. Really. Try it. Your mental health will improve.

A new soldier, Emmanuel Mensah--not even fully trained and home for the holidays after basic training before going on to his MOS school--died trying to bring a fifth survivor out of a burning Bronx building. Because standing between civilians and danger is what an American soldier does. May PFC Mensah rest in peace. Tip to Instapundit.

No. Way! #MeToo$ Tip to Instapundit.

Dave Barry's always hilarious year in review.

And one last comment for 2017. Millennials will be fine. I tire of the constant condemnation of them. Remember that younger generations can seem like an alien tribe. But that involves forgetting what you were like at the same age. Stop condemning them for not having the knowledge and experience (and for settling down with age!) you have at your current age.  They'll be fine despite the out-sized footprint of the a-holes who fill social media with their demented ravings (way different than dignified rants, if I do say so myself). Recall that after 9/11 people wondered how those youngsters would handle war against jihadis. They stepped up, volunteering. I stopped worrying about younger generations years ago after I read complaints by the World War I veterans that the youngsters who we now call "the greatest generation" couldn't possibly have the guts and hardiness to fight Hitler. Seriously people, your lawn will be just fine.

The Future Bradley

The Army is upgrading the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (and Bradley Cavalry Vehicle, I assume):

The Army is working on a future Bradley Fighting Vehicle variant possibly armed with lasers, counter-drone missiles, active protection systems, vastly improved targeting sights and increased on-board power to accommodate next-generation weapons and technologies.

Also designed to be lighter weight, more mobile and much better protected, the emerging Bradley A5 lethality upgrade is already underway - as the Army works vigorously to ensure it is fully prepared if it is called upon to engage in major mechanized, force-on-force land war against a technically advanced near-peer rival.

This is interesting:

At one point, Bassett told Warrior that, in the future, virtually all armored vehicles will have an ability to be tele-operated, if necessary.

Could we start with just some of the weapons before the full crew is removed?

I'd like to see a variant that sees if Remote Weapons Stations mounted on the rear right and left sides operated from battalion headquarters could work.

The cavalry version that only has a couple dismounts rather than the 6 or 7 of the infantry version seems like the best option to test this "reachback for the squad" because this could augment firepower without reducing the dismounts carried.

Not in the Mood to Submit?

Iran's government is taking the protests seriously enough to shut down some social media.

"It has been decided in the highest security level to restrict access to Telegram (messaging app) and Instagram," the source said.

Does the notable absence of Facebook and Twitter in the ban mean that those companies are sufficiently cooperative with the mullah regime to avoid a ban?

I wouldn't be surprised. Although the report could simply be incomplete in what is banned.

Ah, this article has much more--including the fact that two protesters have been killed--and notes that Facebook was banned there in 2009.

The protests seem more significant than I first thought from early news reports (CNN kept saying it was an apple, when it looks more like a banana, but I'm not sure CNN even recognizes it as a fruit at all), but I obviously can't know if they are serious enough to be a threat to the regime.

Days of rage against the mullah government--which these protests clearly are--need to be more focused to be a revolution.

As a general rule, of course, when you Twitter a king, kill him. That was my advice the last time Iranians protested their mullah rulers in 2009.

As an aside, it is funny how American liberals assume a foreign "enemy" will rally all people (except American liberals who won't rally against jihadis, North Koreans, Chinese, or even the newly hated Russians) around their government (tip to Instapundit):

After years of cynicism, sneering or simply tuning out all things political,” wrote Erdbrink, “Iran’s urban middle classes have been swept up in a wave of nationalist fervor.” He went on: “Mr. Trump and the Saudis have helped the government achieve what years of repression could never accomplish: widespread public support for the hard-line view that the United States and Riyadh cannot be trusted.”

There have been protests in 18 cities.

That's a far cry from a revolution. But it's also a far cry from widespread public support for the Iranian regime.

UPDATE: Now I am seeing reports from yesterday and today from CNN and the New York Times speaking of the political slant of the protests. So it is not fair to say there is a failure to report.

UPDATE: If this protest wave intensifies, will Iran recall their military people and Shia foreign legion from Syria to crack down on the protesters?

And will Hezbollah be ordered to help Iran inside Iran?

If so, Russia won't like being the last man standing in Syria when the music stops and Assad needs help staying in power.

UPDATE: Rumor that Rouhani, the president, will speak Sunday night to the nation; while the government warns people not to use economic grievances to call for downfall of government.

UPDATE: President Trump warns the Iranian government not to commit human rights violations in responding to protests.

UPDATE: And please remember that Rouhani is a "moderate" only in the sense that he has enough sense not to be caught screeching "Death to America!" on camera and in English.

Spending More? Quadruple That

Taiwan's president pledged to spend more to defend their island democracy against Chinese threats:

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen pledged Friday to step up military spending to defend the self-ruled island's sovereignty in the face of China's growing assertiveness in the region. ...

"China's attempt to expand militarily in the region is more and more obvious," Tsai said at a news conference at a military research center. "Taiwan needs to stand up for its sovereignty, and it wants to protect regional peace, stability and prosperity."

Taiwan needs to spend a lot more on defense to hold off China by at least ramping up the price China would need to pay to win even if Taiwan ultimately can't defeat China in a full war.

Talk that Taiwan needs to spend more wisely is not exactly untrue, but spending more is clearly the first thing Taiwan needs to do before prioritizing the many competing defense needs. Virtually any spending increase in any area will help Taiwan given the disparity that has been allowed to develop with the mainland autocrats.

Even with this commitment to spend more, Taiwan's small increases promised are insufficient to match China's increases even on a percentage comparison.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Thanks Russia!

Oh good, Russia will build a nuclear plant for Sudan, whose ruler is wanted by the International Criminal Court for genocide and general war crimes:

Russia has signed an agreement to build a nuclear power plant in Sudan, Russia's Rosatom nuclear agency announced on Friday, a month after a meeting between President Vladimir Putin and his Sudanese counterpart Omar al-Bashir.

Bashir is a swell guy, of course:

During the visit Bashir asked for Russia to protect his country from the "aggressive acts" of the United States. He also said he wanted to ramp up military ties and praised Moscow's military campaign in Syria.

Back in the late 1990s, the US bombed a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan that we believed was linked to al Qaeda and involved in chemical weapons production.

That strike may have been based on an intelligence mistake, as it turns out. But I still feel uneasy with any type of dual use system that could be used for genocide or war crimes being provided to Sudan's government, which thinks highly of Russia's campaign in Syria and looks to Russia to shield his own killing spree.

Thanks Russia!


To Use a Technical Term, Russia's Strategic Position "Sucks"

Russia is militarily weak but geographically well positioned to threaten NATO's northeast frontiers.

Strategypage looks at post-Soviet Russia's military. It is well worth the read.

Basically Russia has few well-trained troops with decent equipment and a massive land border that requires the threat of nuclear weapons to defend. Russia is weak, with a GDP a tenth of China's and just 6% of America's.

And even Russia's strategic nukes are having money problems despite the priority they have in Russia's battered defense industry. I sometimes wonder if Russian emphasis on shorter range "theater" missiles, done in violation of the Cold War INF treaty, is in part being done to build those simpler missiles to make up for readiness deficiencies in the longer-ranged complex missiles.

Of course, Russia doesn't have to send their army around the world to fight as America must to use it.

And their Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian, Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, and Belarusian potential foes (the first two aren't in NATO, with Belarus actually semi-ally of Russia) are very weak while the bulk of NATO power is well to the west and most in North America. Only Poland seems to be more than a speed bump for Russia in the NATO east.

Much like the USSR was weaker than America but only had to advance to the Rhine River to achieve a major victory over NATO, Russia could advance into weakness in the northeast and then dig in, threaten nuclear war if NATO counter-attacks, and hope to hold their gains.

Unlike the Cold War, NATO would not suffer a strategic defeat from such a grab in the Baltics or points north and could take the time to mount a counter-offensive under NATO's own nuclear umbrella.

Luckily for short-term Russian options, Ukraine is a buffer that protects NATO's southeast flank. Ukraine also demonstrates the limits of Russian power. After years of gutting the Ukrainian military and in the midst of a revolution, Ukraine was unable to stop Russia from securing Crimea where Russia already had a major base complex.

Yet Ukraine contained the limited Russian gains in the eastern Donbas. All the talk of novel Russian "hybrid" warfare disguises the fact that Russia was unable to organize a regular smash and grab conquest of eastern Ukraine.

If anyone thinks that Russia chose this diabolical "new" method of warfare and subsequent isolation and sanctions with continued drains on Russian lives and money in an endless low-level war over a rapidly concluded invasion as a superior choice rather than necessity from weakness is deluded.

But then, you know my view on "hybrid warfare" mania.

It really is practically insane* for Russia to needlessly provoke tension with NATO that can't invade Russia (and would rather spend even less on their defense than they do if not for Russian sabre rattling) while ignoring and enabling Chinese military growth in the east where Russian conquests of former Chinese lands might become an active Chinese claim sooner than Russia hoped.

*Although it does make sense if you look at it a certain way.

War By Other Means

Just a reminder of Russian disinformation. Do read it all.

I know Democrats are just learning about Russian disinformation, but the Russians and Soviets before them did this a lot. Then Democrats didn't care.

We disarmed in the 1990s (in information war) after we won the Cold War and decided to pretend the Russians were victims of Soviet communism, too (recall that when you seek to blame America for bad relations with Russia).

And as the article notes, once Trump became president, Russian disinformation that attacked Clinton turned to harming Trump while sowing discord:

After Trump took office, Russia’s army of trolls began to shift their focus within the United States, according to U.S. intelligence reports. Instead of spreading messages to bolster Trump, they returned to their long-held objective of sowing discord in U.S. society and undermining American global influence. Trump’s presidency and policies became a Russian disinformation target.

So much for the pro-Trump narrative of Russia's online campaign.

As I said early on, Russia assumed Hillary Clinton would win in 2016--they could read our polls and analysis that pointed to inevitable Clinton victory--and were trying to harm her once she won and divide America, discrediting American democracy abroad while doing it--not trying to get Trump elected despite the obvious fact that harming Clinton would by definition help Trump.

The ineffectiveness of President Obama as his administration watched this Russian campaign is clear. But heck, they didn't think it would work so kept quiet.

And complaints that Trump didn't enact the "road map" the Obama administration left to him sounds like an excuse for their own passivity and ignores how Obama "reset" relations with Russia after the late-Bush era Russian invasion of Georgia in August 2008.

It is perhaps natural that a new president thinks they can restore relations with Russia. Which is a fool's errand, really, in the Putin era. But no more proof of collusion in 2017 than in 2009.

Also note that Assange and WikiLeaks are Russian tools. The Left loved him but I was never fooled about his hostility--although it took a while before I found out his Russian ties.

Although the exposure often said nothing to harm us, which led me to wonder if he was actually our guy. Apparently Russia was just misfiring, which should be a lesson too about assumptions that Russia is evil and always competent in propaganda.

And as I've written, I sincerely doubt Russia changed votes with their minuscule and ham-fisted political campaign that was swamped by American political spending during the campaign.

We need to wage this war that Russia wages. But don't inflate it to provide a too-useful excuse for every politician's failure here to persuade voters to the rightness of their message. That kind of reaction serves Russia just as well as their disinformation campaign. I'd suggest that it would make sense for Russia to fund "the Resistance" just as they bolstered the "no nukes" and "peace" movements in the West during the Cold War, but so far it is a self-funded operation. Look for Russia to step in when it wanes, to keep it going.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Make Iran Great Again

There were widespread if small protests against the Iranian mullah-run government that had quickly evolved from protests against economic problems.


Anti-government demonstrations that began in Iran on Thursday have now spread to several major cities.

Large numbers reportedly turned out in Rasht, in the north, and Kermanshah, in the west, with smaller protests in Isfahan, Hamadan and elsewhere.

The protests began against rising prices but have spiralled into a general outcry against clerical rule and government policies.

Anger about spending money on adventures in Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen while at home the economy continues to suffer played a role, apparently.

The demonstrations involve hundreds or even thousands in various cities, but nothing really big.

Could we be lucky enough to have the Iranians take care of the Iran nuclear problem and the empire-building mullahs?

It would be nice if President Trump said something nice about the protesters rather than embracing the Iranian regime as President Obama did in 2009 during the Green Revolution protests in order to get a nuclear deal. Which we got--good and hard.

Do the Iranian protests dwindle over the weekend or gather steam?

UPDATE: The State Department issues a statement supporting the protesters and in sympathy with the people of Iran. Tip to Instapundit.

UPDATE: The mullahs framed annual pro-government marches that commemorate the ending of the Green Revolution protests as a rebuke to the recent demonstrations.

Again, no indication that this is the start of something major.

UPDATE: More on the contrast then and now.

I hasten to add that this doesn't mean we go to war with Iran to back the protesters if they do come out into the streets in force.

What it does mean is that we validate their cause by publicly verifying the evil of the regime. It does mean that we apply pressure to lessen a violent reaction by the government of Iran.

Also, just because Iran has accused foreign elements of stirring things up doesn't mean the accusation is wrong. Saudi-Iran tensions are rising and the Saudis may want to hit back at Iranian stoking of unrest in Arab countries.

And if true, it doesn't mean that the Iranian protesters don't have real reasons to demonstrate against the mullah-run government's policies and existence.

UPDATE: It sure sounds like the protests have grown on Saturday, with some violence involved:

Protests in Iran took a violent turn on Saturday, with reports of some demonstrators being shot, as thousands took to the streets for a third day refuting economic conditions, personal freedoms and denouncing President Hassan Rouhani.

We'll see. This could just be some public venting of frustration, and if the security services remain firm the only uncertainty will be the body count and arrest count.

Although the government is worried enough to cut off internet access (tip to Instapundit):

Several reports indicate that telecoms providers in Iran have begun blocking internet access across several cities in the country as mass protests erupted for the third day in a row.

The last time the government was worried enough to cut off the internet was 2009, the article says.

UPDATE: Of course if you rely on some news outlets, you might not even know that there is the potential for something important happening.

And if "the world" abandons Iranians because Trump said kind words about the protesters I don't want to hear one damn word about the world having a "moral leg to stand on."

Anyway, as much as I would like it to be true that these three days of protest are significant, I can't say I see evidence of more than protests and government reaction. I could be wrong.

Or things could get significant.

UPDATE: If American media think this is just about jobs, they should perhaps listen to a commander in Tehran's Revolutionary Guards:

Brigadier-General Esmail Kowsari, the Revolutionary Guards' deputy security chief in Tehran, said the situation in the capital was under control and warned protesters would face "the nation's iron fist" if unrest persisted.

"If people came into the streets over high prices, they should not have chanted those (anti-government) slogans and burned public property and cars," Kowsari told ISNA.

There you go. Anti-government slogans.

But again, I have seen no indications that the iron fist isn't working.

UPDATE: As of Saturday night I haven't seen indications the protest are serious events. But is that because the media is failing? I guess I can't know.

Eventually the news will leak out even if our media is failing.

Was it Over When the Germans Bombed Pearl Harbor?

Assad's forces are turning their attention back to the west after exploiting the American-led anti-ISIL campaign in the east in order to extend Assad's rule to the east.

Have the non-ISIL Syrian rebels given up?

Syrian rebels prepared to evacuate an enclave in southwestern Syria on Friday in a surrender deal with the government, state media said, as the army thrust into the northwest - the insurgents' main remaining stronghold.

I've long worried that the rebels are a bunch of separate rebellions that are largely static and unable to effectively react to Assad's forces offensives that focused the small amount of mobile forces Assad has (at this point mostly Iranian-controlled or funded) on one victim at a time while the rest simply enjoyed being further down the list of targets.

Given the casualties and money that Assad has lost so far, how is it that the rebels are effectively defeated as the article assumes?

The government's gains across many fronts have ended rebel hopes of ousting President Bashar al-Assad by force.

If the rebels retain foreign support, they can continue to fight and increase the cost the government has to pay to win. At some point that price could be too much to pay.

And without ISIL as the threat to hold over his supporters' heads to keep his side in the trenches, will Assad's supporters continue to throw their sons and futures into the giant bonfire that the multi-war has become?

Is Hezbollah willing to keep losing huge numbers of fighters to keep Assad in power and to keep their Iranian paymasters happy?

Assad, Iran, Hezbollah, and Russia have high interest in getting the rebels and those who have backed them to believe Assad has won and all the rest is just mopping up.

If the rebels and their backers go along with this, it will be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

And when the rebels in the west are crushed, Assad will go after the Kurds in the northeast and the American-backed "anti-ISIL" Arabs in the east. Hezbollah may be able to beg off this campaign to remain closer to home in Lebanon, but Iran will still have their Shia foreign legion ready to go.

Assad doesn't get to say the war is over unless his enemies go along.

UPDATE: The actual Assad victory in the southwest was a small one:

The government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media said 153 people, including 106 fighters, left the village of Beit Jin early Saturday toward the southern province of Daraa.

The Ibaa news agency of the al-Qaida-linked Levant Liberation Committee said six buses carrying fighters and their families arrived in rebel-held parts of Daraa province.

And the rebels live to fight another day. But for now it is a good press release in the effort to portray the rebels as collapsing.

Rules of Disengagement

This is about right:

“The rules of engagement under the Obama administration were onerous. I mean what are we doing having individual target determination being conducted in the White House, which in some cases adds weeks and weeks,” said retired Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula, the former head of U.S. Air Force intelligence. “The limitations that were put on actually resulted in greater civilian casualties.”

I've explained how false compassion can kill more people despite the best intentions of those who want to limit American firepower.

Of course, I was all over the false compassion that will kill more of our troops in battle long ago (see page 15).

Ignorance is not compassionate even if it makes you feel morally superior.

Where the Arab Winter Never Ended

Algeria remains the post child for the best-case scenario of an autocracy that suppresses Sunni Islamist impulses with force.

Algeria clamps down on jihadis successfully (and won a long bloody war that was at a high level in the 1990s against them):

Algeria can afford to be unpredictable because they have oil and natural gas resources which are well managed (by African standards) and a military which is considered one of the most effective in Africa. Algeria spends 6.2 percent of GDP on defense and that has paid off because Islamic terrorists tend to avoid Algeria because it is a hostile and dangerous place for Islamic terrorists. The government does not send troops outside the country (for peacekeeping or whatever) and concentrates on keeping Algeria safe. That makes the security forces popular within the country and not likely to back a coup. But the military does support the corrupt and often inept government that has opposed foreign investment and free elections for half a century. If that does not change Algeria will, and not for the better.

Oil helps fund this. But with Algeria's government offering no choice but accepting their own autocratic rule or joining jihadis, the government makes sure that the alternative to the autocracy when it finally falters is Islamist government.

Which is bad, too. Which is why I don't dismiss the potential of the 2011 Arab Spring (despite the failure overall) that finally proposed democracy (and that must include rule of law to avoid being tyranny of the majority) as an alternative to the traditional choice given to Arabs of living under autocracy or mullah rule.

And Algeria's strategy also puts them in bed with bad actors despite hostility to Sunni jihadis:

Algeria is considered the most pro-Iran country in North Africa and has always supported the Assad government in Syria.

And low oil prices because of fracking is putting Algeria's strategy of paying for their autocracy under stress.

If the stress is fatal, who takes over?

Is democracy and rule of law really a bad alternative to counting on governments like Algeria's always winning?


I was dismissive of the power of social media to achieve victory over tyrants. Tyrants have harnessed the power of social media to crush dissent.

Years ago, I wasn't impressed by the power of social media:

Twitter is surely a great tool for overthrowing a regime. But in the end, high-drama meetups don't defeat despots--killing despots defeats despots. You have to take the next step and actually kill the king.

Twitter was a tool and not an inherently pro-freedom factor.

Behold what is possible when governments catch on to this tool--Facebook in this case--for their own goals:

Zuckerberg’s social network is a politically agnostic tool for its more than 2 billion users, he has said. But Facebook, it turns out, is no bystander in global politics. What he hasn’t said is that his company actively works with political parties and leaders including those who use the platform to stifle opposition—sometimes with the aid of “troll armies” that spread misinformation and extremist ideologies.

The initiative is run by a little-known Facebook global government and politics team that’s neutral in that it works with nearly anyone seeking or securing power.

So now every despot (or even just those who don't like opposition) can do what China is doing with its own resources to establish a Social Credit System (see the second and following updates):

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?

Be careful what you like and fail to like.

You'd reject a government's demand that you use a program that allows the government to track and classify you. But if you can play free games and post about your lunch, it's all cool?

Oh, and social media can be weaponized to attack foreign countries:

The records show how digital communications tools invented by U.S. companies, such as Twitter and Facebook, were instead exploited by the Kremlin-backed agents to promote autocracy and fear.

Although 203,000 troll tweets in 2016 was swamped by 200 billion actual tweets by real people each year. That's globally, but you get the idea of the relatively small splash the Russian trolls made.

Which like spending contrasts between Russia and domestic entities is probably an anti-body to being influenced by foreign trolling.

For now I don't think we are seriously threatened. But autocrats and enemies will get better at this.


Thursday, December 28, 2017

Excuse Me, What?

The North Korean soldier who sprinted across the DMZ under fire has immunity to anthrax:

A North Korean soldier who defected to the South was found to have antibodies to anthrax — triggering concerns that the rogue regime has weaponized the deadly bacteria, according to reports Tuesday.

As the article notes, this doesn't necessarily mean he was immunized by the regime to operate in a bio weapon environment. He might have been exposed in agricultural work. Such exposure happens here on occasion, after all.

Whether the soldier knows whether any of the battery of shots he may have received while in the service is unlikely, I imagine. I was certainly jabbed enough in uniform and I have no idea what I got.

And I am not sufficiently familiar with delivery matters to know if this is readily weaponized.

But this deserves further scrutiny.

UPDATE: Strategypage looks at weaponized anthrax. North Korea could use anthrax, and it can survive missile launch. But it isn't very good as a weapon. Nor could the North Koreans afford to vaccinate all their troops to move into an infected area.

But I will say that when the prime objective--Seoul--is so close to the DMZ, that if the use of anthrax causes panic in the South Korean defenders then it could be effective long enough to matter.

And if used against air bases and headquarters, it could degrade air power and command and control long enough to be of use. That might be the most likely use because it avoids the need for North Korea to vaccinate more than their special forces troops tasked with operating in the South Korean rear areas.

Well trained troops will put on their protective gear and fight on. But I will never forget the sight of American troops (reservists, admittedly) running off when a cloud of tear gas rolled out of a poorly encased "gas house" even though each of them had gas masks on their hip. I just put my mask on rather than run off.

How well trained are the South Korean troops? Heck, how well trained are US troops these days? My Cold War training put a high priority on surviving in a chemical environment. What is the situation now?

One Belt, One Road, One Speed Bump

Russia has moved troops deeper into Central Asia where the Soviet Union once ruled. China looms over the former Soviet space.

This makes sense:

Armored and attack helicopter units of the Russian Armed Forces have begun deploying towards the Afghan-Tajikistan border over the last several days in a move that will see the Moscow expand its military presence in Central Asia.

According to official Russian sources, the Russian military has begun sending heavy equipment to Tajikistan in order to bolster the hard-pressed anti-terrorism efforts of the country’s border security forces.

The justification for the mechanized forces is to fight terrorism. Which makes little sense.

But if the purpose is to provide heft to resist Chinese penetration of former Soviet space via the One Belt, One Road (OBOR, a.k.a. the New Silk Road) project to extend trade routes from China to Europe and points in between, the type of Russian force deployed makes more sense.

The Chinese flag will follow Chinese trade. And Russia wants their flag firmly planted first.

But no, really Russia, keep talking like NATO is an actual threat to invade Russia while the real threat from the east rises.

Promoting Freedom is Not a Mistake

President Bush 43 has taken a hit in the analysis of Trump's national security strategy by those who say that it rejects democracy promotion as a national objective. I hope not. It is key to ending the Long War against jihadis.

The promotion of democracy (and rule of law as the unstated but necessary partner) in the Arab Moslem world is not a fool's errand.

As I've long argued, the Arab Moslem world has long been stuck between the awful alternatives of autocracy (whether kingdoms or dictatorships) or Islamist rule.

Autocrats played the game of trying to promote "tame" Islamists to support the autocrat to draw away support for "wild" jihadis who sought to overthrow the autocrats.

The result was that the autocrats ruled or Islamists thrived as the only legitimate opposition. So when the autocrat fell, Islamists were the only alternative game in town.

Helping Iraq achieve democracy was a logical goal to show the potential of democracy with ample American support in a state in the heart of the Arab Islamic world in place of the Islamist-friendly Saddam who emerged in the 1990s.

And I was hopeful that the Arab Spring of 2011 was a sign that Arabs finally wanted an alternative to autocracy or Islamic dictatorship. They may not have fully understood democracy--and rule of law--but with our help we could assist them in understanding democracy as more than the tyranny of the majority.*

Yes, the Arab Spring largely failed. But it was a first in that democracy and not Islamism was seen by a significant minority as the alternative to autocracy. That impulse deserves America's support.

Remember, every Arab state (and Iran) has elections of some sort, whether rigged or not. Clearly the idea of democracy provides legitimacy rather than being an alien concept imposed on the Arab/Moslem world.

So rather than being a fool's errand, democracy promotion in the Arab world--which is the heart of the Sunni Moslem world--is key to providing a real alternative to autocracy or Islamist theocracy that has retarded development compared to the rest of the world.

Imagine what world we'd have if the Arab world had advanced at the same rate as post-colonial South Korea, which after the Korean War was in worse shape than the newly independent Arab world.

I dare say the Twin Towers would still stand.

Imagine what horrors await if the resentment and extremism that Islamist thinking represents continue for another 60 years. Will we really rely on autocrats to keep the lid on that problem better than autocrats did between World War II and 2001?

*Although the often unhinged "Resistance" to Trump here demonstrates that a lot of Americans don't understand the concept of rule of law and peaceful transfer of power, truth be told.

UPDATE: Eric at his Operation Iraqi Freedom FAQ blog has similar observations.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

When Imminent, Appear Inevitable?

When the Chinese assure us that Taiwan will inevitably fall under Peking's control, I worry that Sun Tzu's influence is showing.


China's growing economic, political and diplomatic power means it is achieving an "overwhelming advantage" in bringing self-ruled Taiwan to heel, and time is on China's side, a senior official said in a comments published on Monday.

Taiwan is one of China's most sensitive issues. Beijing has never renounced the use of force to bring what it considers a wayward province and sacred Chinese territory under its rule.

Writing in the influential state-run newspaper the Study Times, Liu Junchuan, who heads the liaison office of China's policy-making Taiwan Affairs Office, said it was inevitable Taiwan would come under China's control.

So China believes Taiwan will eventually join China on China's terms?

When near, appear far, I believe the Chinese strategist Sun Tzu advised. Is China appearing far but preparing to take advantage of a North Korea crisis?

I don't think America would make a deal to abandon Taiwan to get China's support against North Korea.

But would China take advantage of an American campaign against North Korea to hit Taiwan, presumably while we are too busy to fully--if at all--respond to assist Taiwan?

This would be the time to review my Chinese invasion template. The basic outline holds true 12-1/2 years later.

This invasion would mean China won't do the job of taking care of North Korea for us, but will look the other way while America does. But perhaps with assurances from America that North Korea won't be annexed to South Korea, China could believe it is time to take the most core of core interests, Taiwan.

Interesting times suck.

Predicting the Future of War is Hard

This is an interesting discussion about a strategy book that is now on my wish list to purchase.

The tension between political science and history is included. Which reflects my background. Political science seemed more useful in the Cold War for employment. Yet my bachelor's degree was a double major in political science and history because I basically got the history part by accident. And then I got my MA in history.

And to keep this personal (it is my blog, after all), I had an independent study on the Correlates of War project under J. David Singer who was a co-founder of that effort to quantify war outcomes. I was exposed to it in a poli sci class with him. Smart man. Not conservative. But back then liberalism didn't have the same level of intolerance that has infected our colleges today. Pity.

I still have the data set (on 3 x 5 cards) of an effort to factor distance into the measurements of power to provide better predictive power in war outcomes for the data.

I never got far enough to have any conclusions on that. And I became skeptical of the validity of much of the data in the process. My early exposure to problems of global warming modeling, I suppose.

Although the concept appeals to me (perhaps because of the Foundation science fiction series) even if I lack much faith in it.

And here's an entry of mine into future warfare. FWIW.

False Dawn of the Royal Navy?

When you put all of your navy eggs in just two baskets, you'd think you'd make sure those baskets are better.

This is not encouraging:

There are concerns that the new aircraft carrier will not have enough crew trained to operate her, the ordered fighters for her decks are too expensive and weak, the design itself is flawed and that there will not be enough royal navy ships to protect her.

The Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier is currently under sea trials and is the largest warship ever built by the Royal Navy. The ship has absorbed £6bn ($7.6bn) worth of investment and has taken around 10 years to come to fruition. The Royal Navy hopes that after a long period of underinvestment these two new supercarriers will bring prestige capability and prowess back to the UK’s naval forces.

Of course, the ships aren't super carriers. Sure they are bigger than anything the British have sailed. But they are medium carriers.

The F-35B should be the least of Britain's problems, I'll say. Unless they are vulnerable to hacking, they are turning out to be good planes despite the long Russian propaganda effort to paint the plane as a waste of money.

But it is true that the 2 ships have soaked up so much money that there seems like there is too little of the rest of the Royal Navy to even escort the ships.

And the marines and army the carriers will support ashore are fading away.

But the design is flawed? Good Lord. Although the article doesn't really make the case for that flaw.

Yes, there is a problem that carriers may be "obsolete." That is sort of true, I think.

For sea control against a naval and air power, large numbers of planes, ships, and subs with long-range missiles and guns fighting networked are the way to go. Carriers really are vulnerable in that environment.

But for power projection to attack targets ashore when the enemy lacks the ability to attack your ships, carriers as big as you can manage are the way to go.

Sadly, the debate over carriers is too often one of apples and oranges with advocates emphasizing the latter ability while critics point to the former, with neither really acknowledging the other part of a carrier's role.

On the bright side, they can sail with the American Navy and fight. So they've got that going for them.

NOTE: I originally wrote F-35C. That was a typo. I do know the difference and know that the British have the B variant (as do the Marines. C is Navy and Air Force is A).

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Reset! Or Maybe Flexibility?

Russia is violating the INF treaty with 4 different missiles:

Thus, we now have four different Russian ground-launched cruise missiles, two revealed in U.S. government sources and two reported in both the Russian and Western press, which have reported ranges that violate the INF Treaty.

I was wrong to not worry about that loophole in the New START Treaty.

In my defense, this was before 2014 and the Russian invasion of Ukraine demonstrated that Putin really is addled enough to think the West is plotting against Russia.

Now, if those cruise missiles are armed with nuclear warheads, the Russians can target more of Europe without using any of their longer range ICBMs reserved for America.

And Russia can target China with more nukes. Will China respond with more nukes that can be used against America, too?

Never allow any loophole for the Russians. They see them as an invitation.

Failure is Worse Than Forgotten

Is the fighting in Ukraine's Donbas where Russian sock puppets are fighting for Russia a forgotten conflict?

For three and a half years, Ukraine has been resisting Russian efforts to take and keep portions of the Donbas region. A ceasefire is technically in effect but the Russian side continues to kill and continues to hold the ground taken.

Is it a forgotten conflict?

Well, there are no "days of rage" in Europe to protest the Russian invasion and occupation.

Ukrainians and people in Russian-occupied Donbas can be forgiven if they might resent how the Palestinians were elected queen of the prom by the sainted international community.

Ukrainians would love a fraction of the attention.

On the other hand, America and Europe have led sanctions against Russia.

American energy production has crippled Russian finances by driving oil prices lower.

America is training Ukrainians and keeps American troops in Ukraine for this purpose.

America has sent equipment to Ukraine and recently approved the first weapons sale.

America has led NATO to reinforce the east which provides some cover for other countries to quietly assist Ukraine. I'm reasonably sure Poland has taken advantage of this. Perhaps Romania, too.

So Ukraine has gotten concrete help. They don't get the high profile UN General Assembly outrage that Palestinians still get even if nobody works up a proper rage even in the Arab world:

The curious case of the street that did not rage in the day. Perhaps a lot of Arabs are wondering whether in an age of Iranian and jihadi terror killing Arabs every day it was wise to make the Palestinians queen of the prom. Indeed, their appeal has become more selective.

Of course, Ukrainians should heed the warning of the Palestinians who got so much support over the decades but squandered that help to hope for the destruction of Israel rather than get an actual state smaller than they'd like.

If Ukraine can retake the Russian-occupied Donbas, that's fine. It is surely morally right and proper under international law.

But if liberation is a longer-term project that requires strengthening Ukraine's economy and military by suppressing corruption to actually join the West in reality and not just with a common Russian foe driving us together, Ukraine needs to exploit the help given to make Ukraine so much more prosperous than Russia that the residents of Donbas one day agitate to escape Russia's grasp.

If you want to talk forgotten conflict, you'll want to bring up Russian-occupied Crimea, which was the first victim of Russian aggression already annexed and considered by Russia to be part of the rebuilding Russian empire already. Nobody talks about freeing that conquest. Not even Ukraine.

Ready, Set, Go?

Adding to my post from a week ago that China appears to be getting ready to cope with an American-led assault on North Korea, we have another piece of information that I missed:

China appears to be preparing for possible American action against North Korea. An army group from a Chinese theater command in charge of defending the Sino-North Korean boundary held a training exercise in late November.

That exercise is in addition to noting refugee camp preparations and a quote about China coping that I had noted. The authors believe China won't fight to save Kim Jong-Un.

Of course, the preparations painted as means to cope with the effects of an American-led assault might be Chinese disinformation to hide the preparations that China is making to attack North Korea, possibly for regime change to get a friendlier and more compliant buffer state, to avoid the image of America dealing with North Korea in China's backyard.

There have been signs that could point to that option, after all.

If so, America, Japan, and South Korea might restrict military action to an upper limit of air attacks in the south away from Pyongyang after a certain time to avoid accidentally hitting Chinese forces advancing on the capital; carving a no-launch zone north of the DMZ to protect Seoul from bombardment; and a joint America-South Korean ground thrust with a division-sized force supported by special forces to secure North Korean nuclear facilities if the North Korean military begins to collapse under the Chinese assault from the north.

We shall see. There are different options with different things that can go wrong. A Chinese and American-led operation at least has the advantage of great power cooperation to prevent a great power war from being triggered perhaps by accident by a unilateral mission to stop North Korea from fielding nuclear weapons that will prompt proliferation in the region that nobody--not even China and Russia--wants.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Let's Keep This a Season of Joy, If We Can

Merry Christmas!

I love this time of year. Enjoy whatever holiday you celebrate, of course. My exclamation point above is a sign of sincerity and not of command.

And for those who endure grey "holiday" or "end of year" parties at work, please feel free to use my often-suggested solution at my last place of work (that was never accepted): Celebrate CHRISTMAS.

It's an acronym completely unrelated to religion: Collective Holiday Reflecting Individual Sentiments To Mark Another Season.

Consider it a big beautiful wall separating church from state.

And may jihadis leave us the ef alone today.

UPDATE: Natural disasters don't take holidays off, of course:

Authorities in Vietnam prepared to move a million people from low-lying areas along the south coast on Monday as a typhoon approached after it battered the Philippines with floods and landslides that killed more than 230 people.

I assume our Navy will be on call to help. Duty doesn't take a holiday, either.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Weekend Data Dump

Poland will update its 300 T-72 tanks as an interim step. This upgrade would be of use to Ukraine, I imagine, in updating their large inventory of older Soviet-designed tanks.

Say, as long as our country is in a mood to tear down statues of past heroes, can we start ripping out stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame to punish those warriors of the war on women who have been exposed? No? Why not?

Sweden is reestablishing an army unit to garrison their strategic Gotland Island in the Baltic Sea, which has been virtually undefended since 2005. Russia's return as a threat is the reason, of course.

It's always amusing when international socialists discover that national socialists are so darned similar to them! Americans should despise both flavors of destruction.


The "world's first artificial intelligence citizen" in Saudi Arabia is calling for women's rights there. Which is safer than an actual Saudi woman calling for that. And yes, it is a publicity stunt and not an actual AI.

I've mentioned China's Confucius Institutes that China has set up at universities around the world. They are the forward defense of China's control at home to lessen news and opinion that China's rulers don't like and which they have to block if produced. They attempt to "to monopolize ideas, suppress alternative narratives, and exploit partner institutions." Obviously if the news and opinion isn't produced the Chinese don't have to block it at home.

Russia punches above their weight. I agree. Which means that Russia's reputation will falter when somebody in a higher weight class punches back. But that doesn't mean Russia is no threat. As long as Russia targets weakness, they pose a danger.

How is it possible for liberals to claim the new tax law "takes away" health care when all it does it take away the penalty for not purchasing it? If people don't have health insurance won't it be because people choose not to buy it absent a penalty? Of course, I was confused way back when why we needed to penalize people for not buying health insurance if the problem was that people "couldn't get" insurance. You'd think people would jump at the chance if that was the problem. Apparently not.

Speaking of that bill, while the left seems to be misrepresenting the bill's effects a lot, one thing I've noticed that bill supporters seem to ignore is that while the standard deduction is nearly doubled, I think the personal exemption is eliminated. So the nearly doubled standard deduction will be mostly negated by the loss of the personal exemption. If I understand this provision. Which I might not. Or it might no longer be accurate. Mind you, it still reduces the tax burden especially with a small cut in the federal tax rate.

And yes, I'm disgusted by the crocodile tears that liberals shed over the deficit from a tax cut. That deficit argument never works on them when discussing more spending. Why is it only compassion to spend tax money on people but never compassion to refrain from taking it from them in the first place? If we're going to have the deficit anyway, I'd rather have lower taxes that might at least keep the economy growing. Honestly, the only hope of lowering the deficit is to get the economy moving so that tax receipts race ahead of appetites for spending programs as we experienced during the late Clinton era. Of course, back then we had divided partisan control of government, welfare reform, and the post-Cold War defense savings to help with the spending side.

More on the Cheesestapo in Wisconsin. Democrats should be in jail over this. And the media would pay a whole lot more attention and actually work up some outrage if Republicans did it.

Well, it is well established that he gets a thrill up his leg at work. Tip to Instapundit.

And in completely unrelated news, the special counsel has begun to look into allegations of Trump collusion with space aliens to win the 2016 election, citing the glaring omission of a space wall in Trump's promises to stop illegal immigration. FBI agent Mulder was unavailable for comment.

As I understand it, liberals think that Trump is destroying freedom of the press by criticizing the press. Get back to me on that accusation when the press corps is browbeaten into coverage of Trump as adoring as the media gave Obama without any pressure.

And once more, stop making every damn routine piddly thing into CATASTROPHE FOR THE REPUBLIC!!! People, you're embarrassing yourselves.

Yes, American nuclear weapons aren't really launched from the president's "football" with him at all times: "Lower-level military commanders can act on their own if the US comes under attack and the president can’t respond in time." I mentioned this decentralized nature of nukes a month ago in a data dump (7th paragraph). Honestly, given our conventional superiority and geography, I'd be happy if there were no nukes. Russia would disagree given their inability to defend their long border otherwise. And the goal is unachievable because cheating to have even a small number of nuclear weapons would provide such great advantage.

India's "Tejas" light combat aircraft project isn't producing a useful light fighter aircraft. But it is producing experience in building a fighter with a locally produced engine that could pay off in the future. So it isn't fair to say it is a complete waste. But it is fair to say that it harmed Indian security to pretend the project was for the former rather than the latter objective.

Linda Sarsour was a vile and loathsome terror apologist before this #MeToo news--on the side of the Weinstein faction--was alleged. Really, in what alternate universe can an Islamist be an advocate for women? Sarsour backs a war on everyone else. Why would women be immune?

Just ... no.

While this sounds like really scary oppression and control, remember that this is run by reasonably enlightened autocrats, as the odious Tom Friedman put it.

Not dead--just vewy vewy quiet. While this is good news, I suppose it just adds another victim for global warming to kill.

Hunger in North Korea is NOT our fault. We simply can't care more for North Korean than the North Korean leaders care about their people who don't care how many people have to die to get nuclear weapons. If we do, who cares for Americans who could be nuked by North Korea?

Another Inflategate in New England. So where is Tom Brady?

I  certainly hope we've managed to tamp down the Iraq-Kurd tensions that boiled over into armed conflict two months ago. But there are rumors of more. I assume Iran is involved in pushing for clashes to keep the pot boiling and provide opportunities to strengthen pro-Iran militias in Iraq.

Sexual assault and sexual harassment are obviously horrible crimes. And there are actions that are just boorish even if not rising to the level of a crime. But the way the Democratic Party is going, it won't be long before they establish the Junior Anti-Sex League. You'll love the head-to-toe Empowerment Cloak. (Now available in 50 shades of gray!)

The Founders' design might have been sound enough to discourage tribalism. Sadly--and dangerously--concentration of so much power in Washington, D.C. with the ever growing federal government has encouraged the growth of super tribes to amass the power to control WDC. And one problem is that when the federal government is so complex and massive, the ability of the people to understand it all decreases. Hence the temptation to leave governance it to "experts" who are better able to pretend they know how to guide the behemoth. And I do think that blaming Speaker Gingrich is a bit much. I remember the 1980s and the demonization of Reagan and Republicans. It may be that after four decades in the House minority, a lot of resentment built up in Republicans and a leader had to break the habit of being the loyal opposition when they achieved majority status. But Haidt has a point about the effects, I think, although I'd never really thought about it those terms. And yeah, the situation is desperate but not serious, eh? I too don't think we are doomed. America has bounced back from threats before and I think we will do it again with this threat. Sending power back to the states so California can be California and Texas can be Texas, without either believing that making the other state be just like their own is the only way to "be" would help, I think. Most people are decent sorts. Don't let the zealots on both sides set the terms of the debate and make you hate "the other."

It can hardly be a shock that the Russia-seeking missile the Democrats fired with the intent to hit Republicans has circled back to target the Left. Greens are just communists who recycle; and communists loved the anti-American USSR but are willing to adore just an anti-American Russia without communism. Love the one you're with if you can't be with the one you love, I suppose.

It really really annoys me when Democratic politicians claim that corporate tax rate cuts are "permanent" while those for individuals are not. No Congress can bind a future Congress and any tax cut can be reversed at any time with new legislation just as any tax cut that "expires" can be renewed by a future Congress. And these people know better than to make the claim but still they do. And they wonder why their polling numbers are so low.

The Democratic effort to get Senator Franken to resign over sexual harassment charges is so pre-Roy Moore. To his credit, Franken still plans to resign in the new year.

I always thought that leftists going on about "food deserts" was BS, and it is.

It seems to me that Democrats are claiming that the tax cut act will actually increase the taxes of middle class people in the long run by assuming more national debt that the same people will have to be taxed to repay in the future. I'd buy that reasoning if we can also use it when deciding when to spend more money on programs that also increase the national debt. That's different because shut up? And a related interesting factoid: there is no established definition of "middle class." It is very flexible depending on what you want to argue. Always check the "definitions section," I say.

Only in America could young people think so highly of socialism--because they live in a free market society that insulates them from the effects of living in a socialist state. Or maybe they're just stupid.

These people are disgusting as well as nuts. Imagine the horrors of the Internet reverting to the legal structure of 2014!

Russia doesn't like American sanctions put on 5 individuals over human rights abuses. Russia promises to retaliate in kind. So Russia's "retaliation" for economic sanctions on Russia is to sanction Americans willing to to do business with Russia? Are they clear on the concept?

A second North Korean soldier defected across the DMZ. A few more and it is a trend. Or a new way to infiltrate soldiers into the south, I suppose. I'm sure North Korea would like it if South Korean troops were more likely to shoot potential defectors just to be sure rather than rescue and welcome them.

The Marine Corps would like to pivot to Europe and the Pacific where threats are growing, shedding Middle East responsibilities. In theory that is fine. But the Marines will always be the most significant "ally" to fight alongside the U.S. Army when it is sent to war. So whatever the Marine want and plan for, they shouldn't sell off their desert gear and tan paint stockpiles.

Austin Bay looks at the new national security strategy. I've yet to look at it. But the basic concept is that national power can't rely on military power and must use all elements of national power to solve, delay, or change problems. With Chinese economic power rising, our economic dominance has eroded. So our military power that rests on that base is losing its dominance in conventional warfare. So yes, all elements of power need to work together just as our military power is far more joint than it was decades ago. And calls to link UN votes to our aid is part of that, clearly. Most narrowly this approach is a response to the plea of our military for the rest of the government to take on roles that by default get dumped on the military on top of military jobs (nation-building, in essence).

Drone wars are welcomed by Niger to fight jihadis. There are about 50 locations where Americans operate from under the AFRICOM umbrella, with the Djibouti facilities the only real "base" on the continent. I continue to advocate The AFRICOM Queen to provide mobile assistance in the littorals.

Strategypage looks at Iraq issues, including the Kurds and Iran.

Nikki Haley already has executive experience as a governor. And in the UN she is getting experience in foreign relations. She could be a powerful candidate for president if she can bring together these skills. Hell, Hillary Clinton would have to support her, eh?

Socialism descends into murder of opponents and shallow graves in Venezuela, as it so often does when autocrats use socialism's alleged "caring" as a pretext to cling to continued rule.

California really is effing up a wet dream, aren't they? Sadly, Governor Brown prefers to seek solutions with faith in--and fear of--his god rather than in engineering.

Sonofabitch. I want companies to have personal data on 3 x 5 cards only, at this point.

A tour of another bloody mess called Sudan (and South Sudan). I bet those people wish they got half the attention that the Palestinians manage to get.

Another bizarre talking point is that Americans won't like the "uncertainty" of a tax cut that ends in 8 years (if not renewed or otherwise changed before then). Oh please. Who has any certainty that they will be alive in 8 years or have their job (not everybody has tenure or civil service protection) let alone worry about what their tax rate will be in 8 years? I assure you, people will be happy to have more money for now without worrying what will happen to it in 8 friggin' years. This is a massively stupid criticism. But they persist.

A history of how American artillery lost the barrage to became a precision weapon.

Given that I just heard a Democrat say that the Congressional inquiry into Hillary's activities while Secretary of State is misplaced because Congress has other domestic priorities it should be working on, I have to assume Democrats are worried. Because last I checked they were all in on the Russia-Trump collusion priority that has turned up nothing, and not quite so concerned about other domestic priorities.

Is it a bubble yet? At least they didn't rename themselves Long Tulip Bulbs. Tip to Instapundit.

Schumer and Pelosi haven't slammed Democratic states for reducing corporate tax rates since 2012 even as they've used the recent tax act to accuse Trump of being a pawn of corporations. I just don't even listen to those two anymore. It's just background lamentations that signify victory. It's all Apocalypse, all the time, for those hacks and their adoring moron supporters (and yes, Tom Steyer continues to be a moron with his moronic televised jihad). I swear, just being a happy person is the probably the worst rebuke to liberals that I can offer. I'm happy even when they are in torment (and I was happy during the Obama years--you may have noticed on this blog that it wasn't an 8-year panic attack for me) every day over every damn little thing. Although I think this gives Democrats and advantage in that their supporters are far more motivated to activism because of their emotional health issues.

"[The] practices of leaking, ignoring and twisting intelligence for political gain were ingrained in how the [Obama] administration conducted national security policy." Perhaps this is true for more than just the Obama administration, but did those who paid attention really need this reporting to know it was true for Obama? The Syria revelations show what I believed all along: President Obama provided aid to rebels to avoid blame for not doing anything rather than to defeat Assad. But none of this was revealed by the press when it might have mattered. Democracy really does die in darkness, as we're now told.

The opposition conceded defeat in Honduras. I don't understand why there was "a vote controversy" over the victory of the conservative president in Honduras when before the election everyone expected him to win the election. Isn't the controversy just leftists refusing to accept the results of an election? Street theater should not overturn actual votes no matter how much the protesters "care." Mind you, I'm against voter fraud. Although if there was, I wouldn't have punished Honduras to give them a leftist leader any more than I would have intervened to give them a conservative leader. We can't and shouldn't intervene everywhere.


ISIL still clings to some territory in Syria where US-backed forces fight them. We say that some are escaping west because the pro-Syrian forces have porous defenses unable to block them. This speaks to the small force-to-space ratio that pro-Syrian forces have in the east that make the map depiction of sparsely populated eastern territory between the core west and the Euphrates River valley in the east more impressive than it is.

When You Sabre Rattle You Have a Sabre

In response to new UN sanctions that severely restrict oil exports to North Korea and ban foreign earnings by virtual slave labor rented to other countries, North Korea has issued a worrisome response.

Said the North Koreans in response to the new UN-approved sanctions:

"We define this 'sanctions resolution' rigged up by the U.S. and its followers as a grave infringement upon the sovereignty of our Republic, as an act of war violating peace and stability in the Korean peninsula and the region and categorically reject the 'resolution'," it said.

"There is no more fatal blunder than the miscalculation that the U.S. and its followers could check by already worn-out 'sanctions' the victorious advance of our people who have brilliantly accomplished the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force", the ministry said.

This is not just sabre rattling as I've heard analysts assert. Oh, it might be. They do that.

But perhaps not.

As I've said repeatedly on this blog, I'm skeptical of sanctions as an effective alternative to war because if sanctions are truly effective, the target nation may view them as indistinguishable from kinetic war in their effects and so include military operations in their potential responses.

It was no happenstance that my first lyrics of my "Rocket Man" song parody were based on oil sanctions:

Xi blocked my oil last night--we'll fight
Zero hour six AM

Mind you, it is worth a shot to at least weaken North Korea. And it might work.

But we need to be prepared for the possibility that initiating war is not purely an option for America or China.

Have a super sparkly Christmas Eve.

For Your Little Ones

Don't forget that NORAD tracks Santa's travels tonight. Your young ones will like it.

The surge logistics capacity of Santa is simply astounding.

And a little frightening if he was loaded up with JDAMs instead of presents.

For the little Un, rocket man should really consider whether he is on the naughty or nice list.

Jaw Jaw is Better Than War War; But Remember What Where

I don't think America should reduce financial support for the United Nations. There is value in that corrupt body that purports to represent the sainted international community. But we should adjust how we support the body.

Sure, this is a good point:

[Nikki Haley] has made it clear that the U.N. needs America more than America needs the U.N. This is not just because the U.S. hosts the body's headquarters. It's because the U.S. remains the indispensable member of the organization. It contributes 23 percent of the U.N. annual budget. The U.S. provides nearly 30 percent of the budget to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, or UNRWA. That's the agency that runs Palestinian schools and medical facilities and has often turned a blind eye to the participation of outlaws like Hamas. The U.S. provides the logistics for moving troops and material for peace-keeping missions and disaster relief. There is no U.N. without the U.S.

The body is corrupt and often hostile to America. But it isn't worthless. Having a forum where foreign diplomats can publicly rail against America--or anybody--as a substitute for acting against America is very useful. Do not discount that.

And it does do useful things like occasionally backing American action and helping to gather coalitions of the willing on thankless peacekeeping missions that keep the number of military problems America has to focus on reduced to a dull roar.

For example, notwithstanding the wailing and rending of garments by pundits about how America alienated the world with the embassy to Israel decision, "the world" backed America on North Korea hours from our so-called outrage:

The U.N. Security Council unanimously imposed new sanctions on North Korea on Friday for its Nov. 29 intercontinental ballistic missile test, seeking to limit its access to refined petroleum products and crude oil and its earnings from workers abroad.

And when the UN opposes America? Well, it is so corrupt and hostile that it is easy to reject its authority and legitimacy. So win-win. (That's why I ultimately rejected a League of Democracies as an alternative to the UN--it would have actual moral weight to oppose our actions.)

And there are plenty of health, social, and scientific roles apart from the horrible political bodies that are worthy of support. It is the political bodies that are the worst.

If I was Lord of what to do about the UN, I'd support it but cut support for specific entities within the UN that don't support American policy and redirect the funds to bodies that do actual good for the people of the world. I'd certainly oppose efforts to increase UN authority as a sort of proto-global government. The EU is bad enough on that score regionally.

More importantly, I'd support building a UN complex outside of New York City. I assume selling that property for private development would raise a fortune that would go a long way toward building a massive UN village complete with a perimeter wall and a UN Town to live in if it was located somewhere in the Third World.

Put the UN General Assembly in Zaire, I say. Or Zimbabwe or Libya. Or maybe in Bengladesh.

Maybe if diplomats were in less glamorous surroundings where chronic double parking gets your car stolen the UN could get to work to do things that benefit people, starting with improving the location of the GA in some poor place that will see plenty of money coming in to build the new UN buildings.

Imagine the savings in counter-espionage spending alone for America!

The UN has value as annoying as it is to be on the receiving end of BS resolutions. Work the problem.

And part of working the problem should be shifting what the UN does and where it sits. Use our money better rather than cutting off the UN.