Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Every Analogy is Bad for Belarus

Belarus has a Russia problem:

On February 3 Belarusian president Aleksandr Lukashenko launched the fiercest of his rhetorical attacks against Russia—a country that has been financially underpinning Lukashenko’s regime. Despite the audacious comments of the Belarusian leader, there is little chance that his words will convince Moscow to continue providing support to his country with few strings attached. The status quo will likely be extended, which means there will constantly be a diminishing value for Russia. Thus, Lukashenko’s options are few. Either he fully participates in Russia’s integration initiatives, or he sees his power collapsing. At this point, Moscow does not even have to make dramatic moves to rein in Lukashenko, since time is working against the Belarusian president.

The author says that Belarus can't afford to be the new Ukraine, a target of Russian territorial aggression.

But it is worse than that. Ukraine is at least still sovereign despite losing some of their territory in the Donbas and Crimea to Russia.

Belarus could become the new Belgium--a road conquered on the way to the real objective.

Or perhaps just the new Austria.

Either way, the result would be a new iron curtain.

Poor Belarus. So far from God, and so close to Russia.

From the Edge of a Former Empire

I write little on Mongolia. Once under the control of the Soviet Union, Mongolia is now independent. But it was once part of the Chinese empire. So Russia certainly has an interest in keeping Mongolia at least neutral.

Is Mongolia going to be okay?

The roller-coaster ride that was the commodity supercycle sent Mongolia's resource-driven economy pinwheeling from 17% growth in 2011 to an external debt crisis just a few years later. But with commodity prices rebounding and the IMF swooping in for an imminent bailout, many feel the worst may be over. Can the country -- so ripe with potential -- transform this moment into the lasting stability its people and businesses have waited so long for?

Corruption raises its ugly head as the chief impediment to progress.

America can't be everywhere (funny, I thought I blogged about that 2004 article) this but can't find it. This certainly seems like an area where Japan and Russia could work together for shared interests in keeping Mongolia unbroken. Although I'd prefer the Japanese to be the ones working on rule of law.

You never can tell when the next edition of China's "Wall Map Series of National Territory" will include Mongolia as historic territory that the empire once owned.


"Core interests" can reappear from history at any time. A broken Mongolia could earn a spot on that map.

Which One China?

The idea that Trump would completely overturn our China policy was nonsense. We balance economic and military-diplomatic needs in regard to China that require us to block Chinese aggression while trying to avoid the economic disruption of war with China.

Do read the article and see the maps:

In addition to its military strategy, the US is using an economic strategy. It wants countries to see the economic benefits of cooperating with the US. As the largest economy in the world, the US used its economic power very effectively in the past.

And yes, the economic and security pieces are meant to be complementary. But there is friction.

Not only between our poles but with allies who also have economic reasons to have good relations with China even as they need American economic and security links.

So these factors shape our options. I know there was hyper-ventilating over Trump's statements on Taiwan, but there has been hyper-ventilating at 11 on everything he does.

President Trump didn't really back down over Taiwan by reconfirming our one-China policy.

He just got the Chinese to be relieved that we didn't change it. Like he did a favor to Peking. Which makes it more difficult for China to push for concessions on the issue since it already looks like Trump did make a concession.

Plus we have the advantage of being reminded that our policy is actually one of acknowledging that the Chinese and Taiwanese think there is one China--not that we agree with that statement.

And honestly, if China falls into chaos as they do on occasion, the Chinese might not be happy to have reminded everyone that the Taiwanese could govern China as legally as the mainlanders.

Northern Expedition 2.0, anyone?

I also think we should review our practices to see if we've gone beyond our formal commitment to acknowledging "one China" under the pressure of China over the decades to ratchet up our formal stiff-arming of Taiwan.

For all that China demands we live up to the agreement, they can hardly object to America living up to only the agreement and not any unofficial additions China has gotten over the decades.

Is Landing a Plane on Concrete Really Such an Odd Thing?

After decades of promoting inter-service "purple" thinking, is our ability to solve an air power gap really restricted to one platform within one service?

I find it fascinating that in all the discussion of fixing "carrier gaps" in our deployments overseas to make sure we have air power forward deployed, the concept of our Air Force which operates from land bases forward never comes up. Why does forward air power in either the western Pacific or Middle East have to be based on carriers?

And if we must have Navy planes forward, why can't Navy planes be based on land during those gaps in carrier battlegroups?

Well, the lack of readiness in our Navy's planes is one reason we can't, I suppose.

So what about that Air Force option? Or the Marines who also have planes?

Do we worry about a gap in airplanes or a gap in large floating air fields?

Monday, February 27, 2017

At the End of the Beginning

Iraqi forces don't seem to have reached whatever main line of resistance that ISIL has established in western Mosul. Iraqi forces are pushing forward and are planning to seize the southern bridge across the Tigris River inside Mosul to allow the Iraqis to shift forces between the two sides more easily.

Iraqi forces are pushing forward:

Iraqi troops have already captured the southern and western accesses to western Mosul, dislodging the militants from the airport, a military base, a power station and one residential district, al-Maamoun, according to military statements.

Commanders say they will soon complete the recapture of two others residential district, al-Tayyaran and Hawi al-Josaq.

That the Iraqis want to capture the southern bridge in Mosul is interesting:

The bridge is the southernmost of five bridges spanning the Tigris. All were damaged in strikes by the U.S.-led air coalition, and later by Islamic State fighters trying to seal off the western bank still under their control.

"The bridge is very important," Colonel Falah al-Wabdan of the Interior Ministry's Rapid Response unit, one of the two main forces spearheading the campaign in western Mosul, told Reuters. "The bridge is about 400 metres away. By the end of the day you will hear that our forces have arrived (there)."

Army engineers plan to rehabilitate the bridge to allow troops to bring in reinforcements and supplies directly from the eastern side, he said.

These are the bridges:


The map is not up to date on control. I just grabbed an older map to show the bridges.

Grabbing a bridge from the overland assault makes far more sense than launching a river assault crossing against a prepared enemy.

Iraqi engineers are certainly capable of repairing the bridge once they control both banks.

In related news, the American commander for the fight against ISIL entered Syria to get a feel for the situation on the ground:

The top US military commander for the Middle East made a secret trip to northern Syria on Friday to meet a US-backed alliance fighting the Islamic State group, officials said.

General Joseph Votel, who heads US Central Command (Centcom), met with leaders from the Syrian Democratic Forces.

I assume this was part of the order to provide a faster option to defeat ISIL.

Which is good. My primary complaint with President Obama's strategy was the pace. It took us nearly as long to help Iraq begin to return to Mosul as it took for us to land in France on D-Day after the Pearl Harbor attack. I never had any problem with making Iraq the priority front.

My secondary complaint was that the objective for the secondary front, Syria, didn't seem to have the end game of defeating Assad in addition to crushing ISIL there.

But we have a way to go in Iraq. Mosul needs to be liberated. And there is other ISIL-held territory in Iraq, too, don't forget.

Plus ISIL will continue to fight as terrorists without their caliphate.  They will be weaker but will still want to kill.

And of course the next war to establish rule of law will need to be fought in Iraq. I hope that is part of the advice given to Trump.

Missionova Accomplishky

The Russians want the Syrian civil war to be over. The war is not over.

Nice try:

During his speech to the Russian Parliament on February 22, Russia’s Defense Minister General Sergei Shoigu made victorious announcement that the days of the Syrian war conflict were numbered, INTERFAX reported.

The Russian military dealt a deathblow to the forces of international terrorists in Syria and prevented the collapse of the country, he said.

That's what the Russians want everyone to believe. The Russians are eager for an exit strategy from Syria.

Tell that to these guys:

Militants attacked two Syrian security offices in the western city of Homs on Saturday with guns and suicide bombers, killing at least 42 people including a senior officer, a war monitor said.

Jihadis (and other rebels) are still active in Homs.

And fighting continues near Aleppo, despite Assad's capture of rebel-held areas of the city after years of trying. Let's see if Assad can hold it.

Russian direct intervention in September 2015 was surely key in propping up Assad on the verge of defeat. But Assad has reclaimed little outside of a portion of Aleppo.

Most gains against ISIL have been from American and Turkish efforts. Assad and his Russian and Iranian friends (which includes Iran's pet Hezbollah from Lebanon and a Shia foreign legion of foreign cannon fodder more willing to die than the long suffering Assad supporters) avoid fighting ISIL, for the most part, to focus on other rebels.

Assad controls--with crucial Russian, Iranian, Hezbollah, and Shia foreign legion help--only a crescent of western Syria, for the most part, and he holds that tenuously and with a military that is a shadow of itself after heavy casualties.


And what will Iran be able to afford in Syria if the Trump administration pressures Iran instead of enriching this aggressive state as the Obama administration did?

Will Hezbollah be content to lose men in an endless civil war in Syria? What might Israel do to Hezbollah while Hezbollah is busy in Syria if the Trump administration facilitates an Arab-Israeli alliance to roll back Iranian aggression in the Middle East and truly stop the mullah nutballs from getting nukes?

If America and others ramp up support for non-jihadi rebels and defeat ISIL in Syria, the long-suffering backers of Assad will see victory snatched away from their grasp again.

Just how long can Assad's supporters endure this financial and human sacrifice?  A conflict whose days are numbered says nothing about how big that number is nor specifies who wins.

It Should Be Easier to Get Forgiveness Than Permission

This has long been my worry about the Army:

Our armies, and in particularly ours, are drunk on information and dependent on permission.

That was said by Major General Eric Wesley, commander of the United States Army Maneuver Center of Excellence, about a month ago.

This has long been a worry of mine. Prior to the Iraq War, I worried that a zero mistakes outlook promoted dangerous caution in our Army officer corps. I mentioned that issue in "The Path of the Future Army," which Military Review published in 2000. (It is not online but I saved it here (with editing errors) and here as submitted.)

I worry that our Army, despite two rapid conventional offensives against Iraqi forces since 1991, is in fact a tightly controlled force that at our higher levels of command discourages thinking on your feet in favor of following the plan, timetables and phase lines, and force protection.

What if we face an enemy less cooperative than Saddam Hussein who did nothing to interfere with the plan?

It is common for the Army to remind people that the enemy gets a vote on the outcome of battle and war. Which is true. We try to win and our enemy tries to win. Well, I'm not sure what Saddam was trying to do.

But we could face an enemy with technology approaching ours (and exceeding it in pockets).

And if that enemy makes a real effort to cast their vote by trying hard and with skill to win, will our Army commanders be able to react to a fluid situation that falls outside the PowerPoint presentations that brilliantly illustrate the glorious plan's path to inevitable victory?

Our Army should be more forgiving of mistakes to allow officers to fail in training--and in war--so they learn. There is no shame in learning from your mistakes and it should not be career suicide to make a mistake.

Officers should not be asking for permission in the chaotic environment of war. They should be trained to thrive in chaos and then to ask for forgiveness--and have a presumption of getting it--if things go badly.

UPDATE: I don't like the idea of an "investigation" into the SEAL raid in Yemen that led to the death of one our SEALs. Yes, I'm sorry for our loss. And I feel bad for the father who wants an investigation. Have we really gotten to the point where a single KIA is grounds for thinking a mission a failure?

I'm sure the military is reviewing the mission. Perhaps the plan made during the Obama administration was poorly drafted. Perhaps the training for the mission was inadequate. Perhaps Trump or the military was too eager to pull the trigger when parameters weren't right. Perhaps we performed poorly in the raid. Perhaps we had plain bad luck. Heck, maybe the enemy simply reacted and fought well. Enemies sometimes do that. Our military shouldn't be paralyzed by fear of a single KIA.

UPDATE: A senior US official said we gained "valuable intelligence" on Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in that raid.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Murder-Suicide Pact

I commented on this article on the Russian policy angle, but it is also a solid critique of our media a month into the Trump administration:

America needs an intellectually solvent and emotionally stable press to give this president the skeptical and searching scrutiny that he needs. What we are getting instead is something much worse for the health of the republic: a blind instinctive rage that lashes out without wounding, that injures its own credibility more than its target, that discredits the press at just the moment where its contributions are most needed.

I'm not anti-media. I'm very pro-freedom of the press. But I'm not fooled that these people aren't heavily biased against conservatives.

I thought the Obama era made that bias evident to even the densest. But sadly the denials continue. Can the denials continue still?

We need a free press. I want a free press. I never wanted MSNBC to be shuttered (along with ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and PBS; along with their print brethren) because they are biased. The cure is worse than the disease.

And as regular readers know, I've never been a fan of Trump. I want this until-recently liberal to be constrained and focused by his conservative allies, his left-wing foes, and a free press that looks for real issues to cover. I think this will help to make him a successful president that helps achieve a successful America.

But right now the left-leaning media is effectively trying to carry out a murder-suicide pact with Trump.

Yet the media in their circular firing squad is missing its target so completely that only President Trump will be left standing given the frothing rage pretending to be news.

Who are These Oligarchs Who Refuse to Relinquish Power?

Those in the military have no problem following the lawful orders of their civilian president--whoever that is. They (as I once did) take an oath to that effect.

But many of their civilian federal brethren shamefully can't fathom that they don't get to determine what the orders they must follow will be:

By any historical and constitutional standard, "the people" elected Donald Trump and endorsed his program of nation-state populist reform. Yet over the last few weeks America has been in the throes of an unprecedented revolt. Not of the people against the government—that happened last year—but of the government against the people. What this says about the state of American democracy, and what it portends for the future, is incredibly disturbing.

Maybe they need to take an oath, too; which would provide a basis for firing them outside of civil service protections when they violate it by brazenly trying to reverse the election results.

The media can't seem to wrap their heads around the idea that bureaucratic guerilla warfare is contrary to democracy and rule of law.

But this is par for the course with these partisans. Back in 2008, the media's best and brightest couldn't seem to grasp that our military accepts democracy and rule of law even if they perhaps don't like the new orders from the new boss.

I can't find it, but I know I wrote a post that said the election of Obama would be a good example for the Iraqis as they witnessed an American military smoothly following orders of a new administration.

I truly don't get this attitude. It is repulsive. When I was an employee of the Michigan Legislative Service Bureau, I worked for both parties regardless of who held the majorities. I worked for the state legislature as an institution. I worked hard to give good information and good products to whoever placed the request. I did not occur to me that I should pretend that I had more authority than the people who sent their chosen representatives to Lansing.

And this refusal of government employees reinforces my longstanding complaint that our government is too big and the federal bureaucracy such a center of power that it is madness to fight to control the few who sit at the top of the bureaucracies.

Far better to dramatically reduce the bureaucracies by trimming back their powers so that their open revolt--disgraceful as that is--just doesn't matter that much.

Or a good decimation (as I mentioned in item 25 of that Trump Hysteria Condition data dump). That would focus minds.

Estonia in the Crosshairs

Estonia is reaching out to their Russian-speaking minority out of worries that alienation could make them vulnerable to Russian propaganda or provide a pretext for Russian intervention. That effort can only go so far in deterring Russia.

This is good:

Worried that divided loyalties in its largely Russian-speaking border areas could lay Estonia open to conflicts like those in eastern Ukraine and Crimea, Estonia wants to better integrate its Russian speaking minority.

Estonia and the other Baltic nations look at Russia's actions in Ukraine and fear they could easily be overrun by their huge neighbor. By reaching out to his country's Russian-speakers, Ratas is hoping to bolster national unity and remove a possible pretext for Russian intervention.

Latvia and Lithuania have smaller minority populations. And remember that the Russian-speakers are there because the Soviet Union pushed colonists into their conquests to try to Russify the population to cement control. So Russia likely still thinks of those people as a tool of Mother Russia no matter what the locals think now living in a Western state.

So even with a 100% successful outreach program, Estonia won't deter Russia. No, Russia will simply lie and haul out former Estonians who live in Russia to be the face of an astro-turfed revolt that begs Russia to protect their poor brethren locked in the Estonian Hell hole.

Russia does that.

And Russia could carry out a small conventional invasion with "volunteers" to grab Narva and challenge NATO to do something.

Putin's personally loyal National Guard might be just the source of units for that kind of mission.

We need to be prepared to counter-attack--without leveling Narva--and defeat such an attack designed to break NATO as much as to grab chunks of Estonia.

And while Estonia reaching out to their Russian-speaking people won't prevent Russia from claiming to save them, that effort will make Estonia more capable of resisting an actual attack.

We Ain't Gonna Study Conventional War No More?

You wouldn't complain that a hammer you used to nail two pieces of wood together is proven worthless because it can't smooth the combined surface, would you?

Then why complain that the Vietnam War and the Iraq War prove that conventional warfare is inadequate?

And I have no idea how Afghanistan fits in there.

Seriously, I am perplexed by this:

Conventional warfare, though still relevant, demonstrated its limits in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and the prevalence of insurgencies, coups, popular uprisings, and revolutions has made it clear that future threats are likely to include a complex brew of irregular conflict that is centered on resistance movements[ii]. Preparing to meet such a challenge requires a disciplined approach to understanding resistance movements. Studying the nature, evolution, and dynamics of resistance through the lens of science is an effective approach. [emphasis added]

I have no problem with studying "resistance" that takes the form of insurgencies, coups, uprisings, and revolutions.

But why preface that--which is an ongoing area of study by the way--with references to those three wars as limits of conventional warfare?

America and our allies fought a blended war of large units and counter-insurgency in South Vietnam. Our conventional forces fought the North Vietnamese Army to a standstill and the COIN effort defeated the insurgency before we left in 1973. Where was the failure--the limit--of conventional warfare?

Indeed, the failure was in the conventional realm when the South Vietnamese military, deprived of American fire and logistics support, failed to stop a conventional North Vietnamese invasion in 1975. Ragtag peasants didn't topple the Saigon government. North Vietnamese tanks and artillery did.

In Iraq in 2003, we set the land speed record in the Middle East by destroying Saddam's conventional military in a lighting campaign that itself was the definition of a "cake walk" culminating in the elimination of the Saddam state.

And although conventional warfare--by definition--did not defeat the various insurgencies and terror campaigns--we did evolve to defeat the battlefield threat of the "resistance" by early 2008.

So again, where is the limit of conventional forces and operations that is supposed to justify this urgent new approach to studying "resistance?"

Heck, where is the failure of COIN? The Obama administration boasted about how good Iraq looked when we left.

And I have no idea what Afghanistan is doing in that list. I don't recall a conventional American campaign to destroy the Taliban regime in 2001. That was quite the blend of small conventional forces supporting local forces and backed with air power and cash. I suppose you could say that it was conventional if you dim the lights and squint. Yet it too worked.

You have to go back to the Soviet Union to see a more purely conventional invasion of Afghanistan, that did in fact rapidly overthrow the government to install a pro-Soviet government. The Soviet failure came after that success.

Conventional warfare is a form of warfare that is not discredited because it is not appropriate for dealing with enemies who are not organized and fight as conventional militaries. You wouldn't get to the COIN stage without the conventional campaign that turns a conventional enemy into irregulars.

I think that article would have been far more valuable without the pointless and perplexing introduction that seems only intended to diminish the importance of conventional warfare in order to argue for the study of "resistance."

By all means, continue to study non-conventional forms of warfare and unrest, whether we want to wage war for or against that. But we risk much by thinking that conventional warfare is merely "still relevant" rather than crucial to master.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Weekend Data Dump

The media is all upset that Russian fake news to sway the sheeple is rampant in America. Say, remember when the New York Times welcomed Putin to their opinion page?

The Dutch (who actually fought at our side in Afghanistan) are bringing back retired Cold War-era soldiers to train their army to fight conventional wars. Because of Russia. I guess the 1980s answered that call President Obama said the decade made.

News from the 19th century. Anarchists? Really? Seriously, these are some of the street thugs of the Left.

The Finns are beefing up their military in response to Russia's increased aggressiveness, reversing a pre-Crimean invasion reduction. Best to be safe, since Finland was once part of the pre-Soviet Russian Empire. And the Soviets made one big and bloody effort over the winter of 1939-1940 to reconquer the country.

Trump is pushing Australia toward China? Who are these people with their fantasies of doom? America and Australia remain close allies and will continue to be close allies. Funny enough, the author says that the barely noticeable pivot to the Pacific under Obama started the process, but he then complains that a Trump phone call is finishing off the relationship--despite the fact that the migrant deal in question will be upheld by America. Get a grip, people. Some academics truly need a good whack with a clue bat to knock some sense into them.

British politicians are getting used to the once shocking notion of leaving the European Union.

"Mother" Nature is no nurturer and is in fact trying to kill all of us.

I just don't buy ideas that dress up Russian military efforts in Ukraine as representing some deep new form of operating, whether it is "reasonable sufficiency" or "hybrid war," or whatever. If Russia could have pounded Ukraine with 300,000 troops using heavy armor and firepower, Russia would have done that. Russia hit a chaos-wracked and unprepared Ukraine to quickly seize Crimea but faltered in their effort to seize Donbas. If Russia could have quickly conquered the entire Donbas, and perhaps more, they'd have done that. Russia did what they could with the forces available. And if Russia manages to update and modernize more of their military, they will use more of it in acts of aggression to get a conquest over fast rather than endure financial and economic hardships from an incomplete conquest.

Stratfor discusses North Korea's pursuit of the "ultimate deterrence" of nuclear weapons. If North Korea is worried that America will invade them, North Korea already has the ultimate deterrent. And South Korea's dear friend China punishes South Korea for not wanting to be nuked.

Does the assassination of Kim Jong-Un's brother signal that the dictator might spark a coup as a self-defense move by those who might follow that man to the grave or gulag? Strategypage has more on North Korea, purges, and other issues.

Yes, Russia's aggression is spurring the West to react to Russian threats. But the Russians still have the land they grabbed in violation of the UN system in general and agreements with the West over Ukraine in particular. And Russia will retain the edge in power over their close neighbors for a long time despite the relatively small NATO reaction.

Given that Trump's actual policies aren't out of bounds of recent mainstream debate parameters, is the intense liberal opposition to Trump based on class? Are the upper class liberals (and some conservatives, too, it is true) "just" upset that Trump broke the "crass ceiling" by elevating people the left considers suitable for fixing their appliances and collecting their garbage, but who otherwise should be unseen and unheard? Funny, liberals weren't unhappy with their version of Trump when he was president. Apparently, Republicans then were bigger people than Democrats of today, able to work across the aisle with such a man. But we're early yet. Surely the Left can't keep the outrage dialed up to "11" forever.

As it turns out, communist Cuba was more valued by the Left as a symbol of their leftist credentials than it is valued as a tourist destination. Americans just aren't going there. Well, best not to have the reality of Cuban poverty and oppression crush your sacred symbol by visiting before Starbucks, Hilton, and Cheesecake Factory can open up enough locations to let you pretend that all Cubans live that way.

Trump spoke poorly in regard to Sweden, but when he said he was concerned about what is "happening" last night in Sweden rather than what "happened" he was clearly not implying a terrorist attack. That interpretation is motivated purely by Trump Hysteria Condition. Those people interpreted poorly. Swedes on their high horse might want to reflect that Trump was talking about trends he saw on a story the night before. Funny enough, as if on cue, within days there was a riot with traditional car burnings one night by unnamed "immigrants." Might have been the damn Finns. Shoot, I've long figured that Malmo, Sweden, would be the first Sharia-compliant municipality in Europe. People excusing the immigrant violence in Sweden say that it is no worse than what America experiences (are they thinking of Chicago, perhaps? Or Detroit for that matter.). Perhaps. I really don't know. But the point is that until recently Sweden did not have that problem. That is what is significant. If the Swedes think Trump is their biggest concern, they're delusional. And consider with renewed Russian threats, Sweden spends more on migrants than on national defense. #WhatCanHappenAnyNight

Afghan troops need better training to take advantage of our support in order to gain the upper hand over the Taliban. That's good, because relying on the Afghan commandos to make up for the line troops' inadequacy will destroy the special forces.

I'm sure I'll get ample opportunities to repeat my oft-repeated complaint that it is an assault on our language that "liberal minded" is considered a synonym for "open minded." Yeah, that expression doesn't mean what you think it means.

This is odd, isn't it? But maybe it seems odd to me because it was framed as odd. Tip to Instapundit.

Japan has decided to build more but less capable warships to handle Chinese threats to Japanese territory.

Another reminder that Venezuela destroyed itself with socialism and corruption that negated the world's largest oil reserves asset. Although the elites managed to enrich themselves as the rest of the country sinks into despair and poverty. On the bright side, those newly poor will be swimsuit season ready in no time!

Iran's organized nutballs threatened America while Iran seizes another hostage (a US resident in this case) under color of law. It is true that Iranians in general have a pretty good opinion of America. But the organized nutballs and government are very clearly in the minority that wishes death to America.

In response to the September 11, 2012 Benghazi attack, America has forces around the periphery of northern Africa to react to such attacks in the future. But the radius of action is limited. So there is a search for alternative means of sea-basing these forces to extend their reach given the shortage of American amphibious platforms. One means might be a Modularized Auxiliary Cruiser. And of course, I still want to know why we couldn't scrape up a company or even a platoon of something from our military presence in Europe to send quickly when the crisis erupted.

Ezekiel Emanuel always strikes me as a weasel-like creature when he discusses health care. I recently heard him defend Obamacare by claiming that the rate of health care costs rose much more slowly under Obama than under Bush. But that does not defend Obamacare as a cost-control measure. Emmanuel surely knows that Obamacare didn't begin to cover people until calendar year 2014. So if health care costs rose more slowly during the Obama years, it was not because of Obamacare which existed in only 3 of Obama's 8 years. Something else lowered overall health spending (if Emmanuel's cited statistics can be trusted, which I do not assume). Perhaps the poor economy in general that depressed the ability to raise prices. I've read that lower rates of price increases was a global thing, after all.

I not infrequently introduce an article by saying it is "interesting." I find it ridiculous to have an entire article arguing that the subject in question is interesting to the person who calls it "interesting." Duh.

The Battle for Aleppo continues around the suburbs. Syrian forces pushed out some rebels southwest of the city. I don't assume that rebels won't infiltrate the city to continue the fight inside the city, or even hit and hold a portion of the city itself at some point.

Yeah, I was never really tempted to enable comments. One Turkish emailer (or at least someone in Turkey) once accused me of failing to uphold American freedom of speech by not having comments on The Dignified Rant. He clearly didn't understand freedom of speech as freedom from government restrictions on speech and not me providing a platform for others on this site. Tip to Instapundit.

This young lass just reeked of "communist" when I saw her:

And I was right on the money about her politics. It took all of 10 seconds of Googling. I despise communists. I have contempt for the liberal bias that communists aren't as equally bad as Nazis. And I mistrust the press corps for their failure to identify communists and ask every Democratic leader at every chance they get whether the Democratic politicians renounce such evil supporters. Sunsara Taylor doesn't refuse fascism. She just wants her flavor of fascist socialism (the international rather than the national type) to be the ones ordering people about. She is an adequately pretty young thing in thrall to an ugly and murderous ideology. Shame on her. As for the communist "black bloc" cannon fodder getting deserved punishment, you'd think that they'd have expected to be "disappeared" if they were truly fighting a fascist government. Those cul-de-sac communists who grew up in affluent suburbs crack me up. Orange is the new black, comrades. Tip to Instapundit on the last link.

Do you want to see a country where real anti-immigrant violence take place? Gaze at South Africa. Sorry, I can barely hear the cries of global outrage over the sound of crickets.

If there are people in Australia worrying about America's commitment to Australia under Trump, they are people who have been hostile to America all along, I think. Good Lord, a comparison to the Singapore debacle to make that point? Seriously? America is with Australia. Period.

One thing that will be different in the battle for western Mosul is the narrow streets. That will limit the use of Iraqi heavy armor to support their advance. But those narrow streets will also prevent the ISIL defenders from using car bombs as much. Suicide drivers on motorcycles could be used of course, but are easier to stop than heavily armored vehicle bombs. And the ISIL forces will likely make more use of bomb houses--buildings rigged as giant IEDs--that we saw in the past when American troops fought the enemy in the original Iraq War.

During base closing rounds, I wrote resolutions to Congress from the state legislature urging them to keep Selfridge Air National Guard Base, outside of Detroit, open. I guess they worked. So I feel an affinity which makes me willing to note a site that the Detroit chapter of the Association of the United States Army sent me which urges the basing of F-35s at Selfridge.

Our influence in Afghanistan is at least making progress on paper, as the Afghan government outlaws child sex slavery. Recall that one of our soldiers got in trouble by stopping a local Afghan commander from committing child rape. I can't find a post that mentioned that. Perhaps I just intended to write about it in pre-data dump days. Note that this is a local cultural thing rather than an Islamic thing. Anyway, we shall see how rigorously this ban is enforced. At least none of our troops will get in trouble for standing in the way of such awful abuses.

Fighting to control cities is one area of combat that translates okay from counter-insurgency to conventional combat. Although obviously fighting against an army with heavy firepower support is a far greater degree of danger than light infantry without such support.

I see the Dakota Access Pipeline protesters are just another version of Occupy Wall Street's outdoor sewer culture. Or perhaps Native Americans aren't as one with nature as their image says.

This is banana republic territory. WTF: "Working from an office suite behind a Burger King in southern Virginia, operatives used a web of shadowy cigarette sales to funnel tens of millions of dollars into a secret bank account. They weren’t known smugglers, but rather agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives." An illegal revenue-generating scheme? Good Lord. Heads must roll and people must go to prison, if this is what was going on.

The Left confuses me. According to them, America is a racist, sexist, whateverist country. The Left also accuses conservatives of being those bad things and says conservatives are un-American for being those things. Huh?

Strategypage looks at Libya. I continue to be baffled that the West stiff-arms Hiftar and embraces the Tripoli government.

Iraq ordered their air force to strike ISIL in Syria in retaliation for a Baghdad bombing. Nobody will raise a stink. I admit I'm jealous. Sure, Assad gave permission. But I doubt that is key. During the Iraq War, Iran and Syria helped to kill Iraqis and Americans and coalition troops. But the world would have thrown a fit if we struck back to stop that effort to kill and defeat our effort.

The Left makes a terrible error in attacking people who voted for Trump. Fine, oppose Trump as is your right, but don't condemn decent people as "deplorable" for simply wanting a president who hears their concerns. (Tip to Instapundit) I wrote about that "revolt of the unseen" as the author calls these voters just after the election: "Flyover land isn't a speck. And a person's a person, no matter how small their plight seems to you from your lofty positions on the west and east coasts (and that can be a literal or figurative position)." Sadly, my post-election hope that liberals would hope for the best was way off.

Michael O'Hanlon is the lead author in this article that argues that Trump has been far better on foreign policy than so many feared. I didn't worry. I figured his more worrisome statements would be molded by the reality of and responsibility for our foreign policy. Until 2007, I didn't much care for O'Hanlon. But his intellectually honest assessment that the surge was showing good results when others were yelling "defeat" (remember Hillary's "willing suspension of disbelief" attack on Petraeus reporting on initial successes?) gave me new respect for him. I may not be aligned with him politically, but I do trust him now to give an honest analysis and don't disregard him as I do some left leaning analysts (coughLawrenceKorbcough).

President Trump is the oddest Nazi ever, given that the actions he is taking so far diminish federal power rather than expand it. Speaking of who supports anti-Semitic actions. Never forget that in practice "anti-Zionism" is just a dog whistle for "anti-Jewish."

Expose your male private parts to a young girl in public and you get convicted and put on a sex offender registry for life. Do the same thing in a bathroom and you get to be a Hero of Tolerance with that teachable moment. Portions of the world have gone mad.

The Yemen Houthis used a remote-controlled explosives-laden boat rather than a suicide boat to hit that Saudi frigate in the Red Sea. My question is how is it possible for a warship operating in dangerous waters to let the boat get so close without apparently seeing it to outrun it on the open seas or blow it out of the water? I trust that the lesson is to blow away any approaching vessel if it does not comply with orders to turn away.

The Next Iraq War

As I spoke about even before the surge offensive in Iraq War 1.0, after defeating the enemies on the battlefield in Iraq, American and Western help will be needed to strengthen rule of law in Iraq. Otherwise the jihadis will continue to kill with far too much success.

Even before Mosul is liberated from ISIL control, ISIL fighters are reverting to insurgent and terrorist mode within Iraq:

The Islamic State is nearing defeat on the battlefield, but away from the front lines its members are seeping back into areas the group once controlled, taking advantage of rampant corruption in Iraq’s security forces and institutions.

Police officers, judges and local officials describe an uneven hand of justice that allows some Islamic State collaborators to walk, dimming Iraq’s chances of escaping the cycle of violence that has plagued the country since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

There are other jihadis trying to reform in Iraq, too.

It is of course important for the American military to remain in Iraq after the Islamic state caliphate is broken in order to help the Iraqis hunt down ISIL remnants; and to keep an eye on training standards in the Iraqi security forces.

But that is not the only thing that should be on the 30-day review of the fight against ISIL (and jihadis in general, including al Qaeda that is rebuilding).

It is also important to have a surge of FBI and court advisors to help the Iraqis build a law enforcement system with rule of law that does not leave so many holes for the jihadis to enter Iraqi life and kill Iraqis.

And advisors on how to run government agencies as something other than personal enrichment fiefdoms.

This must be a government-wide effort and not just a military effort.

This will be the next Iraq War. We need to win that too.

Win this war and democracy can become a practical rather than aspirational alternative in the Arab world to autocrats or Islamists for a governing system.

Is This What "Compassion" Gets Us?

As we debate the issue of border security on the Mexican border, we should remember that the porous border that allows drugs from Mexico and Latin America in general to easily reach America has destabilized Mexico and even affects Central America.

Controlling our southern border is just one part of regulating traffic into our country. But it is a part of being a sovereign nation that has the right to set the terms of immigration and trade.

Remember that it is perfectly legitimate to stop illegal immigration, set the terms of legal immigration, combat illegal trade, and define legal trade.

And really, controlling our southern border is the compassionate thing to do to control the violence being left in the wake of our failure to control our southern border.

But people here who argue for no border controls by citing "compassion" just mean that they want to feel good about themselves as "compassionate" people, secure in the knowledge that their wealth and status will insulate them from any bad impacts that happen to other Americans (tip to Instapundit):

California Governor Jerry Brown is proposing cuts to higher education scholarships for middle class students while increasing scholarship funding for illegal immigrant students.

As an aside, I'll say again that we should have a system that reduces federal power in order end the high stakes battle for control of Washington, D.C., that has polarized our society--well, at least the portion we see on various media--so much. If California wants to punish their existing middle class to create a better class of middle class voters more malleable to the elites, that is their choice. Let them enjoy their compassion theater. But don't foist that nonsense on the rest of the country, eh?

But I digress.

And don't forget the collateral damage to Mexicans and Central Americans pulled north through a gauntlet of abuse by that so-called compassion, of course.

Funny how the Left defines "compassion."

Friday, February 24, 2017

Why is ISIL Fighting So Hard Now?

The Mosul battle has been pretty hard for the Iraqis to complete. But they are winning and they are going slow to minimize friendly and civilian casualties as much as possible. That is admirable. But why is ISIL fighting so hard now?

One thing that made the battle harder is that ISIL is fighting hard, according to retired Army General Jack Keane:

Well it largely depended on ISIS. ISIS did not defend in place in Ramadi and Fallujah. They put up initial resistance, withdrew their command-and-control unit, and then eventually withdrew the main body of their forces. In Mosul, ISIS command and control is still in place, and the main body of ISIS fighters is defending in place. That, in of itself, has made the battle significantly harder. Specifically, ISIS has also used human shields to their advantage in order to disarm the American air power advantage, and they’ve done that very successfully.

I had noticed that ISIL wasn't fighting to the death in their fights for cities as early as the battle for Ramadi (and for Sinjar just before that) more than a year ago.

Which led me to wonder if the jihadis had the morale to fight for their caliphate in Iraq.

And in military briefings, there was discussion of faltering jihadi morale.

The fight did not in fact begin sooner than everyone expected and it has not moved faster than everyone expected. I was wrong in thinking that the offensive would begin sooner and go faster than the general consensus.

The jihadis are in fact fighting and dying to hold Mosul. But why?

Was jihadi morale sound all along, but the jihadis pulled back from their conquests to buy time and preserve resources for the Mosul battle?

If so, why were there reports of ISIL commanders executing their fighters who deserted rather than fight to the death? It certainly didn't sound like the lack of resistance was due to the big picture plan.

Or did the slow pace of getting on with the Mosul offensive allow ISIL to rebuild shaky morale? That is, did the delay in launching the offensive allow ISIL to rebuild their morale, which has led to the slow speed in completing the offensive?

I don't know.

Another difference is that in the past the Iraqis left an avenue of retreat open so the jihadis could flee. Now the Iraqis are more committed to isolating the defenders inside Mosul. Perhaps this has been effective in eliminating the option to withdraw.

I'll just say right now that if the jihadis are willing to die in place to fight for Mosul, we should help them die there and now.

And do read all of the interview.

And here's a Stratfor piece on the coming battle. Which is good.

My comment on their analysis is that while the harsh treatment of Sunni residents in the region by Iraqi Shia-dominated security forces opened the door to the ISIL sweep through northern Iraq in mid-2014, that harshness did not cause the defeat of the Iraqi forces trying to hold Mosul.

Our departure in 2011 gave the Shia-dominated government the freedom to let corruption erode the security forces by decimating the leadership by replacing trained soldiers with politically loyal leaders who lost the confidence of their troops. Good troops could have withstood the ISIL and local Sunni uprising without collapsing. The Iraqis would have lost ground, but not suffered such a complete defeat.

Anyway, I just don't know if the ISIL defenders will continue to fight as hard as they did for the east.

UPDATE: Remember, catastrophic loss of troop morale can be overcome if the enemy doesn't exploit it before morale recovers. Is that what happened with ISIL since late 2015?

Size Doesn't Matter

You certainly can't miss something like a carrier sailing near you, and it certainly sends a signal of power and interest. But is it a freedom of navigation operation?

The Carl Vinson carrier strike group entered the South China Sea to conduct operations:

A U.S. aircraft carrier strike group is patrolling in the South China Sea, the U.S. Navy said Saturday, days after Beijing told Washington not to challenge its sovereignty in the region.

China asserts ownership of almost all of the resource-rich waters despite rival claims from several Southeast Asian countries. It has rapidly built reefs into artificial islands capable of hosting military planes.

The USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier group was engaging in "routine operations in the South China Sea," the navy said in a statement on its website.

You can't miss something that big. But the issue is what the battle group is doing while there.

It is good that the group carried out "routine operations." That makes it a true FONOP, if I am interpreting that statement correctly to include operations uniquely routine to warships. That defies Chinese assertions that the South China Sea as a whole is Chinese territorial water.

But have any of the ships of the group carried out routine operations within 12 nautical miles of Chinese artificial islands to demonstrate that their construction on these mere features do not convert them into islands with claims on surrounding waters?

And yes, while China's aggression is understandable in some sense from their point of view, that doesn't mean that we or the victims of that urge to expand for purposes of defense have to accept that desire.

UPDATE: More on recent American military deployments in the Pacific. But don't be fooled by this:

On Tuesday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry acknowledged the USS Vinson's patrol.

"China always respects the freedom of navigation and overflight of all countries in the South China Sea in accordance with international law," said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang.

"But we oppose those who threaten and harm the sovereignty and security of coastal countries under the pretext of freedom of navigation and overflight."

China's version of international law runs counter to traditional international law that was incorporated into the Law of the Sea treaty (LOST) that China signed.

In China's version, the exclusive economic zone of LOST gives China sovereignty and not just natural resource rights in those waters, which allows China to forbid any type of military or intelligence activities  under Chinese interpretations that are contrary to the law on international waters as practiced.

These WEGs are Either Stupid or Think We are Stupid

So shipping blankets, bottled water, and NGOs to Russia will prevent the Russians from invading a NATO state? Is that what I'm to believe?

These Euro elites can't really be this stupid, can they?

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Thursday that Europe must not cave in to U.S demands to raise military spending, arguing that development and humanitarian aid could also count as security.

Fascinating. Those people really think that way, don't they?

It seems like just a couple of weeks ago that I was blogging that the Europeans wanted to increase their defense capabilities--and it didn't include development and humanitarian aid.

Of course that goal was aimed at weakening NATO--the real source of defense for Europe that Mattis wants strengthened--and strengthening the proto-imperial European Union project.

Pray tell, just how does Juncker count our Navy when it swoops in to lead a humanitarian rescue effort after some catastrophic natural disaster?

Say, given that migrants soak up social spending when they reach Europe, why not count European development and humanitarian aid that prevents economic migrants from reaching Europe as domestic social welfare spending? That makes far more sense to me.

Worthy European Gentlemen, wegs, for sure

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Inside Out

Iraqi forces are battling for the airport and a base south on Mosul. Securing this objective and screening it from fire from inside Mosul would allow it to be used as a staging base for an overland and airmobile assault into Mosul.

The battle is getting close to the urban area itself:

Iraqi forces backed by the U.S.-led international coalition fought their way Thursday into a sprawling military base outside of Mosul and onto the grounds of the city's airport, taking control of the runway amid fierce exchanges of fire with Islamic State group militants.

I have long suspected (well, for three months now) that we might yet see an airmobile element helicopter into positions to aid the southwest offensive, which is something we haven't seen since the 2014 CTS air assault on Tikrit, where the Iraqi CTS landed in a Tikrit stadium to use as an airhead.

According to satellite photos the Al-Idara Al-Mahalia Stadium is on the west side of the Tigris River.

An airhead there could be used to get behind the ISIL defenders to the south and west, while also supporting a secondary river assault operation from eastern Mosul, securing bridge sites for temporary bridges either across the river or to span gaps on the damaged bridges.

But first the base and airfield have to be secured and prepared for operations.

The assault could certainly be mounted from farther away, but having an airfield close would greatly reduce response time to support and reinforce the airhead.

Where the Iron Curtain 2.0 Will First Descend

I've long been worried about a Russian anschluss with Belarus. Russian-Belarusian relations are getting tense:

The spiraling conflict between the neighbors has reached such a level that some analysts have talked about Russia possibly staging a "palace coup" against Lukashenko. Visibly nervous about Russia's intentions, the Belarusian leader recently assured his nation of 10 million people that "there will be no war" between the two countries.

Lukashenko has sought to present Belarus as an indispensable partner for Russia and a bulwark against NATO. At the same time, he has periodically made overtures to the West, masterfully exploiting Moscow's fear of losing a crucial ally to win more financial aid.

As I've noted, Belarus might be the most important territory in Europe today.

In Russian hands, Belarus becomes a Russian launching pad to make the defense of the Suwalki Gap the new Fulda Gap flash point.

At that point we will have no choice but to admit that we really need armored cavalry again.

I Don't Think This Reset Was Translated Accurately

While it is certainly admirable (and safer from an escalation standpoint) that Russia might rely on conventional forces to defend their country rather than nuclear weapons, the Russians are a long way from having a conventional military capable of defending their vast border from Central Asia to the Pacific.

Okay:

Russia will continue to see the development of its nuclear forces as a top priority, but the military will rely increasingly on conventional weapons to deter any aggression, the Russian Defense Minister said Tuesday.

Sergei Shoigu said Tuesday that weapons such as the long-range Kalibr cruise missiles carried by navy ships, long-range cruise missiles carried by Russian strategic bombers and the land-based short-range Iskander missiles will play an increasingly important role as a non-nuclear deterrent. Those missiles can carry nuclear or conventional warheads.

Really, with most of Russia's conventional combat power in the west where they face weaker states on their borders, Russia has sufficient combat power to deter or defeat any conceivable conventional assault on Russia.

It is in the east where Russian conventional power is so weak that it must rely on nuking an invader.

The article conveys the notion that Russia can downgrade their reliance on nukes to defend their territorial integrity.

But is that what Shoigu is saying? I don't think so.

Isn't Shoigu really saying that Russia's successful use of precision weapons in Syria gives them a capability we've long had--that of using precision conventional weapons to take out targets that once required a nuclear warhead to destroy?

So if someone bombs Russia with conventional warheads, Russia could consider keeping their nukes in their silos and instead reply with conventional precision weapons.

That narrow window is way different than saying Russia can defend themselves from any aggression, including conventional invasion--from China, for example--without using nukes to make up for lack of conventional military power to cover their long border in the east.

NATO Still Has Its Original Mission

The idea that in an age of increased Russian aggression that NATO needs a new mission outside of Europe to keep it relevant is just ludicrous.

Oh good grief:

Nato needs to reform into a global alliance against Islamic terrorism – or become obsolete

That's the title of the article. The suggestion is, to use a technical term, stupid.

NATO needs to focus on its core mission of protecting NATO Europe from threats, whether from Russian tanks, terrorists, or migrants from the south.

The fight against Islamic terrorism is a nice bonus created by well-trained European military forces used to working with each other and America under common standards and procedures that the alliance requires.

NATO nations have been and are taking part in anti-jihadi operations without this new and improved NATO that downgrades defense of the continent itself.

UPDATE: Stratfor discusses Europe and NATO, which lost the simple mission of stopping the Soviets when the USSR collapsed.

Our problem is really with Europe and not with NATO:

In the end, there is no NATO problem. There is a European problem. A European consensus on defense does not exist any more than a consensus on economics does.

So even the political arm of Europe, the European Union's proto-imperial state, can't agree on goals. And the political arm works at cross purposes to the military arm, NATO.

As far as I'm concerned, the solution isn't for Europe to get a military arm under the EU that weakens NATO. What good does that do when the EU can't agree on political goals; and when such a program would weaken the NATO military arm without building a real replacement?

For me, the solution is to get rid of the EU political arm that can't be effective unless it becomes the autocratic empire it clearly wants to be with their "ever closer union" vision.

The continued existence of NATO with a strong America involved at least makes sure that European states continue to maintain common weapons and operating standards to work together on a volunteer basis outside of NATO.

And to be prepared to defend Europe from a Russia that could develop a military threat to NATO or to react to a threat from the south, as Libya was in 2011. Sure, that didn't work out so well as a means to stop a migrant wave to Europe, but European states were able to operate together because of NATO habits.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Live By the Scimitar

Iran has worked hard to destabilize their region. Is the Persian imperial state as vulnerable to this disorder as Arab states have been?

If it is true that the era of Sykes-Picot is coming to an end in the Middle East and that states like Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq are going to have their boundaries redrawn, it is hard to see how this process can be stopped at the Iran-Iraq border. The Iranian Kurds want independence, and many of Iran’s Arabs would gladly join with their Shi’a Arab brethren (and fellow tribesmen in many cases) across the boundary. Iran’s own meddling has played a major role in the breakdown of order across the region and the enflamed identity politics now plunging country after country into terrible wars. Can the mullahs play with fire and not be burned?

I've mentioned that Iran is really a multi-ethnic empire with subject people not happy about Persian rule.

Strategypage has more on Iran that is relevant.

Iran could well die by the scimitar they so eagerly wield against their Arab neighbors.

Be Careful What You Claim You Wish For

That Russians are "turning on" Trump is quite the dilemma for the "Evil Genius Russians Hacked Our Election" cabal, isn't it?

The new U.S. president has been in his role for just under a month, taking office in a transition that has been marked by chaos and missteps. And already, from the right of the political spectrum to the marginalized Russian left, a mixture of disappointment with the new U.S. president — who came into office promising to remake relations between the two countries — and a sense of vindication that Trump couldn’t be trusted after all has crept into Russian political chatter.

Were the Russians so awful at spy craft that they screwed up the premise in successfully getting Trump elected?

Or, as I think, did the Russians screw up by assuming there was no way Trump could win in a failed effort to get a damaged Hillary elected?

Russia expected to get a crippled but predictable (made even more "predictable" by the Kremlin's possession of Clinton's secret emails that would have provided blackmail material) President Hillary Clinton.

And now the Russians have to deal with a President Trump who apparently can't be damaged by any revelation. That's gotta suck from the Kremlin's point of view.

And worse for Russia, rather than showing American-style democracy to be too difficult to carry out (and thus have less appeal to Russians should Putin's aura of success crack), we got a clear result with no constitutional crisis.

And even worse, our people elected the candidate that the national media waged war against. And our people voted even though the national elites and media tried to bully them through shame into passivity.

For Putin who relies on state media to prop him up and the power of the state to bully any opposition into passivity, our election must be profoundly disturbing.

I'll still bet on the latter.

And now the Russian people, after being told by their own government that if only the corrupt American system would let a true friend like Donald Trump become president all would be great again, find their government was 100% wrong.

Size Matters

Why Would the Navy build light aircraft carriers when a larger number of smaller carriers will never match the quality of a smaller number of large carriers built for the same price?

It may seem odd that I'm defending large carriers as the primary sea control asset given my questions about how well they'd survive in a war with a peer competitor in a network-centric threat environment.

But we need some type of naval aviation. And carriers remain invaluable in power projection roles, which is different than their sea control weaknesses.

But is building light carriers really the answer to costs and survivability?

The new conventional carriers would be roughly the same size as the World War II-vintage Midway-class—as they were configured toward the end of their service lives—and would carry a formidable air wing. Initially, the new carrier strike groups would be equipped the Lockheed Martin F-35B, but once the new CVLs are built and are operational, they would be able to embark more capable air wings.

“In the near-term, existing LHA/LHD amphibious assault ships would be employed as CVLs using a loadout of twenty to twenty-five F-35B aircraft. As they reach the end of their service life, LHA/LHD-derived CVLs would be replaced by purpose-built CVLs with a displacement similar to a Cold War-era Midway-class aircraft carrier and equipped with catapults and arresting gear,” the report states.

The Navy commissioned the report and seems to be backing it.

I find it odd that the Navy backs this idea.

Smaller carriers of a Midway-class size are not as efficient as a larger carrier and provide capabilities far less than the money they save:

I recently read that the Navy had studied medium carriers with 55 planes versus large carriers with 75 planes and found that the large ships and wings generated twice the sorties at a ship and plane cost only 13% more than the medium ships.

And interesting enough, even a wing of 55 planes on the large carrier generated 40% more sorties than the same wing on a medium carrier.

That's because our carriers are planned to be able to use 2/3 of the wing at the same time. So a big carrier's deck can handle a higher percentage of the smaller wing's planes.

So, yeah, we couldn't build enough smaller carriers at the same price to be more survivable and we'd have less sortie generation capacity.

If we build carriers, they should be big. But that doesn't end the carrier debate. Then the question is, do we need carriers at all?

Unless you can build and operate multiple smaller carriers for the price of one big one, plus the escorts, you don't save money and you don't maintain capabilities. (See Bay for more discussion.)

Nor is survivability enhanced much unless you have lots of smaller carriers. If you can replace one big deck with four smaller ones, you could have 40 targets instead of 10. Even if we can do that, is it really that tough for an enemy with far cheaper anti-ship missiles to expand their arsenal to cope with that number?

And yes, we can use amphibious assault ships as light carriers, but exploiting a feature of a ship designed for landing Marines for aviation missions when necessary makes more of what we have. That is not comparable money-wise to building a light carrier specifically for that aviation mission.

Heck, I even suggested moving from the LHA to Ford-class amphibs. Perhaps we could have a total of multi-purpose aviation and amphibious Fords smaller than the current mix of full-deck amphibs and fleet carriers, as long as the Fords could operate as either amphibs or fleet carriers, depending on what is needed.

If we build carriers, they should be big. Although we have to accept that those carriers are primarily for power projection and not for leading the fight for sea control.

The question is really whether we need as many as we have or whether we should start gradually shifting the central player in our sea control mission to non-carrier Navy assets, reserving a smaller number of big carriers for power projection missions or sea control missions in a more permissive environment.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Is There Nothing Trump Can't Do?

Less than a month into the Trump administration, the Euros have a scapegoat for their woes:

European leaders Friday fired a salvo of warnings against Washington, cautioning it against hurting EU cohesion, abandoning shared values and seeking a rapprochement with Russia behind the backs of its allies.

Because EU cohesion was in fine shape when American policy favored the EU and when President Obama weighed in on the Remain side in the Brexit campaign last year.

As for shared values, what Western values exactly does that proto-imperial project share with the world's longest running constitutional republic?

On Russia, settle down skittish Euro squirrels, we're not going anywhere--which pisses you guys off, too. Every top official we have, like Vice President Pence, is out there reassuring Europe that America isn't walking away from NATO or going wobbly on Russia under Putin.

I did say the Euro elites would blame Trump for everything, I'll note.

UPDATE: Vice President Pence said that America backs the EU:

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence assured the European Union in Brussels on Monday that the Trump administration will develop their cooperation in trade and security and backs the EU as a partner in its own right.

I hope this is just an exercise in dealing with the reality of the existence of the EU (for now) while not giving the Euros the excuse of America to explain away their failures.

Despite the words, I hope our policy is not to encourage or in any way prop up the European Union that can only undermine NATO, the true defender of the West in Europe.

Perhaps we're just standing aside as the proto-empire destroys itself.

The Tragedy of the Commons

Europe doesn't build enough hardware, maintain enough hardware, or let their troops train enough on their hardware to make many of Europe's troops more than glorified riot control police. So now they won't do enough cooperatively? That will work out just swell.

On the surface, this could work:

In signing ceremonies at NATO, defense ministers from France and Germany said they will buy Lockheed Martin C-130J transport planes, while Germany, Belgium and Norway will join a Netherlands-led fleet of Airbus A330 tanker planes.

Buying in bulk should lower prices.

But will operating cooperatively reduce costs or just result in the tragedy of the commons for the A330, with nobody with an ownership interest in maintaining the capability?

This is interesting, however:

Germany also agreed joint training and deployments of land forces with the Czech Republic and Romania, with both countries set to provide a brigade of several thousand troops for a larger division under German leadership.

Smaller NATO countries will group smaller units into a brigade that will fight under a German division.

We're getting closer to some European states providing tribal auxiliaries to the more capable European powers--not for American units.

So We Need What, Now?

It's nice to see money-saving joint programs like this:

The U.S. and Canadian governments on Feb. 7 established a partnership that will enable the U.S. Coast Guard heavy polar icebreaker acquisition program to test and validate potential heavy polar icebreaker design models at Canada’s National Research Council (NRC) in St John’s, Newfoundland, the Coast Guard said in a Feb. 9 release.

Wait, what? A new heavy icebreaker?

I was under the impression that the polar ice would disappear under the onslaught of global warming.

Never mind.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Does Russia Fear an Orange 2.0 Revolution?

I don't buy the idea that Russia wanted above all else to avoid Hillary Clinton as president. I do buy the idea that the Russians are worried about Trump.

If the Russians did fear the possibility of President Hillary Clinton, as this article says, why didn't the Russians try to prevent Hillary Clinton from getting the Democratic nomination?

Why didn't the Russians try to put Comrade Bernie into that position to end the Hillary threat early rather than rely on Trump--of all people!--to stop Hillary?

And why didn't the Russians try to help anyone--anyone at all--in the Republican contest, given that Trump was widely viewed as the weakest possible candidate to face Hillary? Indeed, Democrats in the Hillary camp welcomed a Trump challenger (as the favorable press by even the left-leaning press demonstrates).

So no, I don't buy the idea that Russia has "buyer's regret" over Trump.

I do buy the notion that the Russians are worried about Trump.

And in bonus territory, this Russian worry noted in the article is exactly what I wrote about early after the election:

The Kremlin today is staunchly opposed to “regime change,” the visitors were told, and thus skittish about eulogizing [the Bolshevik revolution in] 1917. It plans to use the centenary, instead, to draw attention to the catastrophic consequences of resorting to revolution to solve social and political problems.

The last thing the Russian government expected was that 2017 would bring it face to face not with a revolution of the past but with a revolution of the present — the radical regime change taking place in the United States as a result of the electoral victory of Donald Trump. It is Trump’s electoral revolution that has captured the imagination, and fanned the fears, of Russian elites today.

As I said before, the Russian people saw the American people elect an underdog that the elites and the media tried to stop with a shamelessly biased effort that pulled out all the stops to demonize Trump and his supporters, and bully those supporters into staying home and not voting for Trump.

Who knows what lessons the Russian people might draw from our election when the thrill of cheap intervention abroad wears off?

Putin is right to fear Trump even if Trump does nothing at all.

UPDATE: The Left rabidly condemns Trump as a Russian puppet despite Trump's reversal of Putin-friendly policies of Obama who the Left loved:

If Trump were the Manchurian candidate that people keep wanting to believe that he is, here are some of the things he’d be doing:

*Limiting fracking as much as he possibly could
*Blocking oil and gas pipelines
*Opening negotiations for major nuclear arms reductions
*Cutting U.S. military spending
*Trying to tamp down tensions with Russia’s ally Iran

That Trump is planning to do precisely the opposite of these things may or may not be good policy for the United States, but anybody who thinks this is a Russia appeasement policy has been drinking way too much joy juice.

Obama actually did all of these things, and none of the liberal media now up in arms about Trump ever called Obama a Russian puppet; instead, they preferred to see a brave, farsighted and courageous statesman.

But don't worry, the born-again Cold Warriors on the Left will pivot to traditional Leftist apologies for the USSR/Russia once it becomes clear even to their denser elements that Trump is not actually a Putin puppet.

And the Left will claim that they've always been at war with Eastasia.

The Ten-Year Rule Reaches 8 With Predictable Results

How is it possible to be short of ammunition in a dangerous world?

This is really unacceptably stupid:

Shortages of bombs and other munitions have forced the U.S. military to pull weapons from headquarters in other parts of the world to sustain its 2 1/2-year-old air campaign against the Islamic State group, despite billions of dollars invested in increasing the stockpiles.

"We are concerned, worldwide, when looking at ammunition needs," Deborah James, the former head of the Air Force, said in an interview shortly before stepping down from her position last month. "We've been expending so many in the Middle East we've had to borrow in some cases from other areas."

"What we want to do is replenish," James says.

We aren't even involved in high-intensity conventional warfare against a peer-ish military. Yet we are emptying warehouses earmarked for other potential theater of war to bomb one ragged group holding ground in Syria and Iraq?

Seriously?

And this is even worse because America maintains stocks of ammunition that serve as the reserve for our allies who as a rule do not maintain such stocks. We had to replenish allies in the Libya War in 2011 despite the weakness of Khadaffi's surviving military in that civil war.

And ammunition is just one measure of our lack of readiness that is finally catching up with our military. (Tip to Instapundti.)

But don't say we weren't warned. This poor readiness is just one effect of the modern ten year rule we launched in 2009:


We assume no enemies will match us in the medium term. This is undoubtedly correct. But this also sounds too much like we're instituting our version of the British Ten Year Rule from 1919.

It was a perfectly reasonable rule when adopted by the British government in 1919, which stated the British would not face a war in the next ten years. The rule was formally abolished 13 years later, in 1932. But defense spending did not rebound from its post-1919 collapse, and when war broke out in 1939, the British only barely proved they'd done enough to withstand the German offensive in the opening of the war.

Certainly, we won't face such a dramatic collapse in defense spending that the British military endured in the 1920s. My worry is whether we will do any better than the British did in recognizing when our version of the ten-year rule no longer holds true. When our national debt is scheduled to skyrocket even under optimistic administration projections, will we actually ramp up our defense spending once the medium term is over in order to maintain our military superiority? Or will we just continue to act as if the medium term never ends? That's what the British did. But they had the Arsenal of Democracy to back them up when they found themselves at war without the military they needed. We don't have such a back-up source of arms.

We've just instituted the Medium Term Rule on our defense spending. The problems that will flow from this plan won't show themselves in the near term. We can coast on our past progress in building the best military in the world. But have no doubt that our military strength will erode, and this means we are accepting risks in case we have to fight a conventional war in the medium term despite our assumption that we can still win such a war.

We won't cancel the Medium Term Rule until it's too late to do any good.

We seem prepared to cancel the Medium Term Rule. I guess the question is whether it is too late to do any good.