Thursday, March 23, 2017

Why I Like Maps

Stratfor has videos on the shaping influence of geography on America:

And on China:

These two videos explain why I've long said I'd never trade places with China. And that hold true even if China matches or surpasses America in raw power.

Although I have my doubts about the likelihood or durability of that projected power transition.

The India video is also interesting:

I've noted the "long walls" of the Himalayas that shape Indian defense issues.

Maps are the start of looking at options.

Stratfor has a lot of videos on the geography of countries of interest to you.

When Worlds Collide

Too many Americans on the left (and some on the right) look down on those who oppose mass unassimilated immigration as mere racists who are too ignorant and poor to know better. These snobs are wrong. Dangerously and totally wrong.

George Friedman, in his discussion of Geert Wilders, writes of the nature of this struggle between worlds in the debate over immigration:

In some countries, such as the United States, immigration and nationalism are intimately connected. Since economic opportunity requires speaking English, immigrants must learn English and their children learn loyalty to the regime. It is an old story in the U.S. But when there is no opportunity – as in many European countries – assimilation is impossible. And when the immigrant chooses not to integrate, then something else happens. The immigrant is here not to share the values of the country but as a matter of convenience. He requires toleration as a human, but he does not reciprocate because he has chosen to be a guest and not a citizen in the full sense of the term.

For the well-to-do, this is a drama acted out of sight. The affluent do not live with poor immigrants, and if they know them at all, it is as servants. The well-off can afford a generous immigration system because they do not pay the price. The poor, who live in neighborhoods where immigrants live, experience economic, linguistic and political dislocation associated with immigration, because it is the national values they were brought up with that are being battled over. It is not simply jobs at stakes. It is also their own identities as Dutchmen, Americans or Poles that are at stake. They are who they are, and they battle to resist loss or weakening of this identity. For the well-to-do, those who resist the immigrants are dismissed in two ways. First, they are the poorer citizens, and therefore lack the sophistication of the wealthy. Second, because they are poor, they are racists, and nationalism is simply a cover for racism.

Thus, nationalism turns into a class struggle. The wealthy are indifferent to it because their identity derives from their wealth, their mobility and a network of friends that go beyond borders. The poor live where they were born, and their network of friends and beliefs are those that they were born into. In many cases, they have lost their jobs. If they also lose their identity, they have lost everything.

For people of the so-called "compassionate" Left, they find it so depressingly easy to demonize people who are being destroyed by problems the upper class Left will never face because of their money and social status.

Perhaps it is because I am of two worlds that I resent the left-wing assault on Trump supporters as evil, ignorant, racists even as I do not like Trump himself (he is a former liberal and personally distasteful--although I never feared him and hoped he'd do as well as he is doing so far on policy).

I was, as I've noted, born in "Deplorableville." Born and raised in Detroit, I received an education from good schools and live in Ann Arbor, "Elitesville," if you will. It is a slice of our coastal elites right here in flyover land. Contempt for the people I grew up with as family, friends, and neighbors is obvious.

I enlisted in the Army National Guard not--as so many in Elitesville truly believe--because I couldn't hack it in the civilian world. I enlisted because it was my duty to defend America, and at 26 I was running out of time to fulfill that duty.

[Mind you, my duty was easy, peacetime duty. I can only say I was almost sent to war in 1991. "Almost" is the same as "not sent," in the end. I will feel guilty about that as long as I live when so many suffered from real service, truth be told.]

I never learned to share that contempt for good and decent people playing by the rules others wrote, despite my education and zip code. So many who make that transition, perhaps fearing rejection in the new world, reject their past to avoid that fate. I remain with a foot in each world, in my heart at least, even if I no longer have the real fear of lost jobs and identity that the working class has.

I worry my children will lack the balance I maintained and because of their education and zip code will be firmly residents of Elitesville. I try to help them maintain respect for the problems and people of Deplorableville. It would break my heart if I fail.

Yes, the "why do they hate us?" debates flourished on the Left after the 9/11 terror attacks to justify as a reaction to American policies why some Moslems could become jihadis who slaughter us in our buildings with our own planes.

But the Left will never have a heart-felt debate about why working class Americans--or Europeans--hate mass immigration when it wrecks their jobs and their identities. And why they responded to the one politician--imperfect as he is--who heard their cries for help. Ah, empathy and compassion.

For God's sake, do read it all. We should all want America to prosper under Trump out of empathy and compassion for fellow Americans. And if that isn't enough for you, from true fear of who could come next.

Fighting Domestic Enemies of the State

North Korea has a relatively large special forces component of their military. But except for a small portion of that (5,000), it is not comparable to our special forces.

This isn't as scary as it sounds:

North Korea has long maintained elite commando forces, troops who were carefully selected, then paid, housed and fed better, and given access to better equipment. About 15 percent of the 1.2 million North Korean military personnel are in these elite units.

That small country does not have 180,000 special forces, as we would count them. They are better than the mass rabble that would probably break up the moment they advanced into a South Korean mall where they'd stop to loot (seriously, South Korea should put malls and consumer goods warehouses all along the likely invasion routes to Seoul).

Their primary role is very different from high value raids as traditional special forces carry out. No, the North Korean special forces have a far more traditional role than that:

While the North Korean special operations troops are grumbling about not getting all the training resources (ammo and fuel) they need, they remain a highly motivated and generally loyal force. The government uses these troops to insure the loyalty of the other 85 percent of the military, and more and more elite troops are being used to assist the secret police in going after dissidents and corrupt officials.

These special forces are more like Saddam's Republican Guard was, a better combat force that was capable of defeating the regular army if it got ambitions of regime change.

But the North Koreans have added the job of helping the secret police, which Strategypage says likely harms their morale by exposing them to the fact that things back on the block aren't as good as their political officers claim in the barracks lectures.

What Kind of Benefit Does Iran Expect?

Why is Iran wrecking their economy to win in Syria? Normally you expect to achieve something worth the price you are paying. So what is Iran's payoff?


Estimates of Iran’s military expenditure in Syria vary from US$6 billion a year to US$15-US$20 billion a year. That includes US$4 billion of direct costs as well as subsidies for Hezbollah and other Iranian-controlled irregulars. ...

The Iranian regime is ready to sacrifice the most urgent needs of its internal economy in favor of its ambitions in Syria. ...

The Iran Revolutionary Guards Corps evidently has first claim on the public purse. It is also willing to shed blood. Reported dead among Iranian-led forces in Syria include at least 473 Iranians, 583 Afghans, and 135 Pakistanis, as well as 1,268 Shi’a fighters from Iraq. In addition, perhaps 1,700 members of the Hezbollah militia have died. Other estimates are much higher.

That casualty breakdown explains one question I had about reported casualty levels that implied all-Iranian casualties but that seemed unlikely to me. Iran is suffering. But they are trying to fight to the last Arab, Afghan, and Pakistani, as much as possible.

The author says the price being paid is for Russia (as the junior partner) and the leader China for the New Silk Road project and to avoid jihdis returning to China.

One, the idea that putting Shias into power in Iraq has caused Iran to be more dominant is ridiculous both as a moral matter of arguing for continuing Sunni Arab minority rule over the Shias in Iraq and in the laying of fault for allowing majority rule by destroying the Saddam regime in 2003; rather than being the fault of America leaving Iraq to the mercy of Iranian intrigue when we left in 2011.

The author quotes Ralph Peters as saying the Sunni Arabs would never give up when thrown out of power, which is the cause of our troubles in the region. But the Anbar Awakening (which was a vital part of the Surge offensive) prior to that statement proves that is wrong. The Sunni Arabs did give up.

But the Sunni Arabs took up arms again after America left and was no longer an honest broker to moderate Shia hatred of and fear of the Sunni Arab minority, which was fueled by unchecked Iranian influence in our absence.

And more to the point, I don't see why Iran would sacrifice so much for China. If China wants Iranian oil that desperately, Iran doesn't need to bleed money and men to get China to purchase Iranian oil.

Iran earns money exporting oil. Are the Iranians really banking on making money on the long-run project of being part of China's trade route to Europe?

And China is really fine with this Iranian level of support for war in the Middle East when surely China wants a peaceful Middle East producing oil for the world market at prices China can afford to import?


I don't buy this China explanation for Iran's commitment of blood and treasure to wars in Syria and around the Persian Gulf.

But that leaves unanswered the question of why Iran is making the sacrifice. Iran clearly expects a payoff from their sacrifice. That makes sense.

But what does a mullah-run Iran consider the payoff for their draining fight for Syria? Does the Iranian regime really have end-time fantasies of building the chaos that fulfills their prophecies of the "hidden (twelfth) imam?"

I don't know. I don't know much about that kind of thinking or about how many Iranian rulers think that way or whether so many decades after the revolution if there are still enough true believers to carry out such a project in the face of the cynically corrupt who benefit from the mullah-run economy and state.

Maybe the payoff is as simple as being able to kill Israelis by having allies in Syria and Lebanon:

In Moscow last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told President Vladimir Putin there could be no peace in Syria as long as Iranian forces remained there.

“Iran is arming itself and its forces against Israel, including from Syria territory, and is, in fact, gaining a foothold to continue the fight against Israel,” he said following his meeting with Mr. Putin.

As I've mentioned before, during the Iran-Iraq War Iran justified repeated human wave assaults on Saddam's Iraqi forces by saying they were trying to go through Iraq to get to Israel.

Iran expects something from their sacrifice. What?

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

When You Strike a King, Defeat Him in the Post-Settlement Reconstruction?

While this article seemingly wants America and the West to not give up on a good outcome for the Syria civil war, by advocating a better post-war negotiating stance, it gives up on the war when Assad has not won the war. It is, in fact, a defeatist proposal:

Since 2011, Western policymakers have not only failed to bring an end to a brutal conflict but also shied away from confronting the biggest refugee crisis ever experienced, Despite this, there is still an opportunity to re-shape Syria for the good, drawing on painful lessons learned from the past six years and using the leverage that post-settlement reconstruction offers. This may be their last chance.

If I may be so bold, the West has "failed to bring an end to a brutal conflict" because it has not tried to win that conflict. The allure of hurting Assad just enough to push him to negotiate only convinced Assad that Western opposition would only be tough enough to kill his expendable supporters without being strong enough to defeat him.

And a post-settlement reconstruction effort will have no leverage on Assad because Assad will know the West is desperate for Syrian recovery to allow for the return of refugees sitting in Europe to Syria.

Assad has not won the war yet, however. So focusing on post-settlement strategies concedes Assad as the victor.

Yet Assad's army is bloodied and skeletal, reliant on Iranian-provided shock troops (Iranians, Hezbollah, and a Shia foreign legion) and money as well as Russian arms, firepower support, logistics support, and even special forces support.

Post-ISIL, the rebels could be strengthened to attack Assad's weaknesses, and stress out Russia and Iran who can ill afford to continue their support indefinitely.

Going right to the post-conflict settlement requires abandoning Assad's non-jihadi foes now. Don't do it. Assad can still be defeated as long as resistance to Assad exists and has hope of defeating him.

Because the author is quite wrong about the last chance to win in Syria. If Assad wins this war, in a generation or so the fight will erupt again to defeat his Alawite-minority regime. How many more hundreds of thousands will die because we gave up on defeating Assad now is the only question.

The war rages. Try to win it. It is not too late to do that. Do you really think a victorious Assad won't eventually seek revenge by thinking he shouldn't bicker and argue over who killed who?

UPDATE: I haven't gotten the air assault into western Mosul as I expected (but perhaps the fight is going well enough not to risk such a move), but we did carry one out in Syria:

The U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State has for the first time airdropped local ground forces behind enemy lines near the ISIS-held town of Tabqa in northern Syria, the Pentagon said on Wednesday, opening a new front in the campaign to recapture nearby Raqqa city.

American forces also provided artillery support to capture a nearby dam.

This also tends to block Syria moving in to this area. Recall that the Assad regime was shaken by a major defeat at the Tabqa base back in 2014. It would be nice to deprive Assad of redemption for that by putting other rebels in charge of the area.

Maybe we are trying to shape the post-ISIL battlefield to our benefit, after all, and not preparing to accept an Assad victory.

Making Russia Grate Again

The paranoid Russians who stoke fear of nonexistent NATO aggression face a future of a poor economy as sanctions scare off investors and talented Russians; and as American fracking depresses oil prices that remain the key factor in Russian income. If Russia connects those dots into a fantasy picture it could get ugly.

Russia's foreign policy of beating their chests and flinging poo has reminded the world that Russia is a factor to be weighed in international relations. While this grates on our nerves in its pointless posturing, Russians can't actually eat that foreign annoyance (for those far from Russia) or fear (if you border Russia):

The corruption, police state atmosphere and trade sanctions mean that while the rest of the world continues to see an average of three percent GDP growth a year Russia will be stuck at two percent a year, or worse. Since sanctions and much reduced oil income hit in 2014 the government insisted that everything was under control. That was only partly true. The reality is that the real average income of Russians has been declining every month since late 2014 and the decline continues. With so many people seeing their income decline it is not surprise that corruption is getting worse, despite vigorous (or at least well publicized) efforts to curb it. The number of best educated and capable Russians who have left the country since 2014 is over 1.5 million. The poor are getting poorer and more Russians are slipping into poverty. The Ministry of Defense is telling its veteran officers and NCOs that a new benefit for ex-military personnel is preferential treatment when it comes to getting unemployment benefits. There is still the implied promise of a government job for retired officers but, well, you know hard times and all that. And then there are the foreign cash reserves, essential for buying imports. Those reserves will be exhausted later in 2017 or in 2018. So no, the economic news is not good so it is not discussed much in the state controlled mass media.

The Russians claim NATO is out to get them; justified attacks on Ukraine and threats to other Western neighbors based on that claim; and now that NATO and others are prudently reacting to Russia's threats and aggression, see those reactions as proving their claim of a threat from NATO. And this makes sense to the Russians.

I imagine that sanctions are a small component of Russia's economic problems compared to corruption that lowers growth by driving away foreign investment, erodes the impact of domestic investment, and already pushed 1.5 million Russians to leave the country.

And fracking would have been done if Russia had no oil. Yet if Russia was less corrupt the oil industry wouldn't be so important.

But Western sanctions over Ukraine fit nicely with the Russian paranoid world view as the source of blame that allows Russia's government to evade responsibility.

One thing I worry about in the area of sanctions is that they are generally ineffective and just a signal of your moral position. In time, there are ways at least partly around sanctions.

Yet if sanctions do work by targeting a truly key element of national survival--or if the targeted nation believes that the sanctions are the key problem--then sanctions have the effect of being seen by the sanctioned nation as war by other means rather than as an alternative to war as the states imposing sanctions believe.

Will the thrill of being a power to be reckoned with wear off in the Russian population as Russia falls farther behind the rest of the world in economic growth?

Will the Russian leadership decide that the only way to break the sanctions that they see as decisive and avoid further fragmentation or weakening of their rump empire (and it isn't just me worrying about that) is to break NATO by taking territory from a weaker NATO state far from the center of NATO power and daring NATO to mobilize and take back what is grabbed in the face of Russian nuclear missiles?

We don't think that is rational. But what the Russians already clearly believe isn't rational. Yes, things can always be worse.

So what if Russia decides war is the answer to their problems?


UPDATE: Russian government corruption:

A major new investigative report has detailed how at least $20 billion was moved out of Russia between 2010 and 2014 in what it describes as a massive money-laundering scheme.

According to The Global Laundromat, an investigative report coordinated by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) together with local partners in Russia, Moldova, and elsewhere and published on March 20, many of the Russians allegedly involved have ties to the Russian government and the Russian security services.

If the West was truly conspiring against Russia, the West would have engineered the current government and system to bring down Russia from within.

UPDATE: Russians can't even have nice shoes. Although to be fair my personal annual rate of shoe purchases is less than the Russian rate based on my needs!

Reachback for the Convoy Escort

In "Reachback for the Squad," I proposed a method of saving infantry lives and preserving them for dismounted combat by enabling infantry fighting vehicles to support tanks on the move by using virtual gunners on the IFVs. This has convoy applications.

I recently wrote that remotely operated weapons systems could be used to help guard supply convoys against insurgent attacks:

Automating ground supply convoys and the route clearance missions needed to clear roads of IEDs and other threats to the supply runs would end the vulnerability of having troops in poorly protected convoys. ...

If we pair virtual soldiers that use a battlefield internet to man remote weapons stations on the convoy vehicles, we could have the ability to have both direct fire in defense of the convoy and eyes on targets to call in fires strikes against attackers. But without actual human friendlies in the convoy who can be killed.

If we have a semi-autonomous tele-operated convoy with unmanned ground vehicles carrying supplies and weapons, that would reduce our casualties a whole lot, no?

But where do we get the armored escort vehicles with room to carry remote weapons stations and the hardware for remote operations?

Well, we have a lot of MRAPs left over from the Iraq War.

Why not adapt some of those vehicles as autonomous convoy escorts with Remote Weapon Stations to be the convoy escorts. Surely they have a lot of internal space to accommodate the equipment to do this.

And imagine the frustration of jihadis who must fight our robots. Does religious doctrine provide that the jihadis get their allotment of virgins in paradise if they die fighting a robot?

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A Long Campaign in the Long War

This study urges a better American approach to fighting al Qaeda and ISIL in Iraq and Syria, where our operations are focused on ISIL while allowing al Qaeda to move in to replace ISIL as the sword of too many Sunni Arabs who see America as an ally of Iran and Russia.

To me, the problems identified of Sunni Arab perceptions of America; Iraqi unwillingness to allow much of an American presence in Iraq; and Russian ability to interdict the sea line of communication from Suez to the Strait of Hormuz argues not so much for an integrated strategy against all Sunni jihadis within the Sunni Arab populations of the region as it argues for a strategy that attempts to defeat Iran with their efforts to build bases in the region, create local loyal militias, push America out of the region, and develop nuclear missiles.

Break Iranian power and the allies Iran backs weaken, which weakens Russia's position that exploits and relies on Iran's efforts.

While the proposal to back off from Raqqa missions to focus on building up an American position in southeast Syria to create local armed allies for the eventual drive on Raqqa--while shielding Jordan--is interesting as a Plan B if Iraqi politics under Iranian influence drive America from Iraq, it doesn't mention Assad's regime.

Such a strategy requires the eventual defeat of Assad, doesn't it? Which would be good. But he is not really mentioned.

Also, in the past we tried to carve out friendly rebel areas in the Syrian southeast but have failed. I guess this plan would make that work out better with more American involvement.

While I think the original post-9/11 war resolution covers the battle against al Qaeda and ISIL in Syria--the declaration of war didn't expire, and is it really our fault that our enemies have been so persistent?--an effort to topple Assad with substantial American direct help really should require a public debate and Congressional assent of some type.

Although historically Congressional "assent" has been given through more passive means--like agreeing to fund such operations--than explicit declarations of war (or the modern authorization to use military force that allows for combat without the full legal ramifications of being at war under international law).

Perhaps Assad isn't addressed as the logical follow-up because of that issue. One problem at a time?

And of course, the report is useful to remember that the amazingly long campaigns to take Mosul and Raqqa will not defeat ISIL although it will cripple their pretense to being the new caliphate. Iraq needs our help to continue to battle jihadis in Iraq where ISIL still holds ground outside of Mosul. And ISIL can still operate as terrorists in Iraqi-held territory.

And there is the concurrent next war for Iraq's institutions, of course.

So when Mosul and Raqqa are liberated from ISIL, resist the temptation to assume that we can declare victory and go home on the assumption that surely we must have won this campaign against jihadis after all this time.

Land-Based Naval Air Power? Who Knew?

The Air Force has demonstrated that the once-shunned A-10 can rip apart swarming small boats that threaten our Navy's operations in the Persian Gulf.

Fancy that:

The U.S. Air Force has revived an original mission for the A-10 ground attack aircraft; destroying small boats. Experiments have been conducted recently and, while no details were made public, the tests were considered successful. There were basically two tests. One had had experienced civilian boat operators in typical (for Iranians and others) small boats with a dummy heavy machine-gun mounted on it, sent out to use typical Iranian swarming tactics while A-10s (and some other aircraft) make simulated attacks. These attacks were electronically recorded for later analysis. The other tests had the A-10s firing training (non-explosive) ammo at remotely controlled boats.

The Navy is surely happy to have this kind of help from land-based air power.

I hope that the Navy also learns the lesson that naval air power can be based on land even when an aircraft carrier is not available.

Fancy that.

At the Knife's Edge of History

I have no idea if Russia is actively plotting to take over Belarus. But if Russia does that, the Cold War is on again in earnest. Must Putin's Russia expand or die?

Is Russia actively trying to reabsorb Belarus?

Tensions between Belarus and Russia have been mounting over the past months, as the Kremlin puts more and more pressure on Minsk. The nature of this pressure is perfectly encapsulated by the so-called Gerasimov Doctrine of hybrid warfare. According to the doctrine, Belarus and Russia have entered the 'pre-crisis' stage of conflict.

One, I'm not on board the whole "hybrid warfare" school. As far as I can tell, Russian hybrid warfare consists of committing aggression against a target while denying they are doing anything aggressive--which the West then bizarrely goes along with.

"Hybrid warfare" stops being useful to Russia the minute the West calls what Russia is doing aggression and reacts like it wants to stop the aggression.

Two, Putin has made no secret that he considers the loss of the Soviet (and Russian) empire a great catastrophe. So whether or not Belarus is in the "to do" list right now, Belarus has reason to worry about Russian intentions.

Europe cannot ignore this conflict as they did Georgia and as they have mostly tried to do over Ukraine. Belarus is the most important territory in Europe and if under Russian control a seriously tense Cold War 2.0 starts right at that moment.

Of course, Russia has their own problems. On the 100th anniversary of the Soviet revolution, Putin regrets the fall of the Soviet Union, so is nostalgic for it. But the revolution is a touchy subject, really:

Following mass anti-Kremlin rallies in 2011-12 and the ouster of the Russian-backed leader of Ukraine by protesters in 2014, authorities have been increasingly wary of any popular revolt that could impact their grip on power.

And some analysts say the main aim of the authorities now is to use discussions of 1917 to warn against any uprisings.

"The centenary of the revolution will allow the Kremlin to immunise Russians against any form of revolts," sociologist Lev Gudkov, the head of the Levada Centre independent pollster, told AFP.

Putin has to worry that celebrating that occasion highlights that Russians could overthrow autocrats (in 1917), democrats (also in 1917), and communists who were much tougher and ruthless fellows (in 1991).

Putin is an autocrat banking on foreign policy success to sustain his popularity. He has formed a personally loyal military just in case he needs to win a foreign war to stifle dissent or to suppress dissent that escalates to threaten his power.

Will the centennial observation immunize Putin against revolt or remind long-suffering Russians that they are not helpless in the face of a government that cares little for their welfare?

Because who knows? Is the rump Russian empire still done fragmenting?

But with all these questions and potential problems revolving around the fate of Belarus, we have this accusation from the Belarus leader:

President Alexander Lukashenko says Monday that "Western funds under the direction of Western security services" are trying to "inflame the situation in Belarus," the state news agency Belta reported.

Oh good Lord. Is Lukashenko seriously giving Putin all the excuse he needs to invade Belarus?

Yeah, my pucker factor just reached 11 or so.

Have a super sparkly day.

UPDATE: Lukashenko has put a big "invade me" sign on his back:

Belarus' president said Tuesday that about 20 militants have been arrested for seeking to fuel unrest in the ex-Soviet nation, a statement that comes amid mounting social protests.

Alexander Lukashenko said the militants were preparing an "armed provocation," adding that they had undergone training in neighboring Ukraine and received money from EU members Poland and Lithuania.

"There are people who want to destabilize the situation in the country," he said. "They need to raise a mutiny. Their dream is to destroy the government and oust the president."

And conveniently for Russia, Lukashenko gave Russia reason to target Poland and Lithuania as well as justify ongoing aggression against Ukraine.

Seriously, has Lukashenko decided he'd rather survive as a provincial governor of Russia under Putin?

So yeah, holding steady at 11.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Beware the Counter-Message

In the face of repeated Pakistani-backed terror attacks inside India, India is responding in kind on the ground with (non-terroristic) ground raids to avoid higher levels of conflict that might escalate to nuclear warfare. That works until Pakistan reacts.

This is a new form of Indian retaliation against Pakistani efforts inside India:

Since 2015 Indian special operations troops have carried out two successful cross border raids where the special operations troops went in on foot at night, carrying all their weapons with them, attacking an enemy base (Indian tribal rebels in Burma in 2015 and Islamic terrorists in Pakistan Kashmir in 2016). In both cases the commandos went in with heavy loads, quickly marched long distances in the dark, carried out their attack (expending most of the heavier weapons) and then quickly marched back into India via another route without being detected or intercepted. The commandos involved reported that their biggest problem was not the dark or the enemy, but the weight of the gear they had to carry.

The problem with a publicized Indian policy to reassure Indian voters that the government doesn't consider dead Indian civilians and troops acceptable collateral damage is that Pakistan in now pushed to respond to a policy that highlights what Pakistan doesn't want to highlight--their support for "good" terrorism.

So Pakistan has incentive to work very hard to intercept those Indian special forces entering or leaving Pakistan. This will show their own civilians that India is a threat that justifies budgets and a lot of political power for the Pakistani military.

What will India do if Pakistan cuts off the Indian special forces on the way out?

Will India let their force be wiped out or captured?

Or is there a rescue plan that starts with a battalion of helicopter-borne Indian infantry with artillery support and ends with a heavy division functioning as an "integrated battle group"--ready under Cold Start--pushing into Pakistan backed by air power?

And now we have a higher level of conflict when both countries have nukes and short flight times.

Pakistan has played a dangerous game. India has been forced to respond in kind.

Have a super sparkly South Asian day.

Oh, the bulk of the Strategypage post quoted focuses on the ongoing infantry load weight issue, which is useful even thought the potential nuclear escalation angle is what disturbed me.

Hi, We're from Moscow and We're Here to Help

As we see the Russians getting involved in Libya, remember that after Russia helps they expect a reward from those they help.

This isn't new but it bears repeating:

Russia will start construction on a planned five-year expansion of its naval base in Syria this spring, officials said in Russian state media. ...

The Russians have operated the installation in Tartus since 1971 and it has served as a key logistics hub for the Navy during their fight against ISIS in support of the al-Assad regime.

The expansion will to much to extend Russian influence in the Mediterranean and beyond into the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

Russia has made an opening to Hiftar's faction in eastern Libya. A base was discussed.

As Russia continues to expand their outreach to Libyan forces, remember that the Soviet Union had bases in Libya under Khadaffi.

Which would fit in with other Russian actions that bolster Russia's military footprint and influence in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

Russia is not in the business of doing favors without getting something in return. Bases in Libya are on the table. The Russians still have all the floor plans, I'm sure.

UPDATE: Russia's half of the transaction is getting clear:

Asked whether Russia was re­peating its military strategy from Syria in Libya, the U.S. military com­mander in Africa, U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Thomas Waldhauser said: "Yes, that's a good way to charac­terize it."

The impact that increased Rus­sian influence will have on Libya's conflict remains to be seen.

On the bright side, Libya's population is perhaps a fifth of Syria's. So 80,000 dead as the impact, at worst.

Statutes and Statues

This author, writing about Canada's welcome mat for refugees, hits on a basic reality of our immigration policy that should be obvious:

Inscriptions on statues do not actually carry the force of law. There’s nothing in the American character that says we have to welcome anybody who wants to come here, just as there’s nothing in the American character that says we have to be either hawkish or isolationist.

Yes. We don't actually have to welcome your tired and poor. That's just a poem.

For a long time we did just that, actually. Which was fine. America had a long history of needing warm bodies. So even huddled masses could easily be put to needed work. That policy was in America's interest. And it is a necessary linkage:

The United States was built from immigrants, beginning with the English at Jamestown. America celebrated immigrants, but three things were demanded from them, two laid down by Thomas Jefferson. First, they were expected to learn English, the common tongue. Second, they were expected to understand the civic order and be loyal to it. The third element was not Jefferson’s. It was that immigrants had to find economic opportunity. Immigration only works when this opportunity exists. Without that, the immigrants remain the huddled masses, the wretched refuse etched on the Statue of Liberty. Immigrants don’t want to go where no economic opportunities exist, and welcoming immigrants heedless of the economic consequences leaves both immigrants and the class they will compete with desperate and bitter. [emphasis added]

Do read it all. [I actually added in the above quote and the sentence introducing that linkage point well after I wrote this post but before it was scheduled. Good timing on Friedman's part!]

It has been a long time since America has been desperate for warm bodies. So we can change our policies on how many we let in.

Look, I'm pro-immigrant. I've long said in this blog that America is a nation of ideas and not of blood and soil. Anybody can be an American if they accept our ideas. So I don't worry about the ethnic, racial, or national origin of new Americans. America will be America regardless of who is the majority as long as the idea of being an American is promoted and people yearning to breathe free are those who come here.

What I am not is pro-illegal immigration. We have the right to control our borders to make sure that the number of and background of legal immigrants benefits America.

The poem welcoming all is on the Statue of Liberty, remember.  Whatever immigration policy we have and whatever numbers we accept should not undermine the liberty that the statue celebrates.

And besides, I thought America under Trump was preparing to round up immigrants to put in concentration camps. Shouldn't Hollywood celebrities be leading refugees across the border to Canada for their safety in a new underground railroad?

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Weekend Data Dump

Iran has set up a "Golan liberation" Iraqi militia unit. Iran's jihadists are nothing if not consistent. During the bloody Iran-Iraq War the Iranians would claim they were trying to get at Israel by plowing through Saddam's Iraq. Now, of course, Iran prefers to fight Israel to the last Arab.

Really, the Yemen raid was not a debacle as the legion of Clausewitzes in Democratic ranks has been charging. Yes, we suffered losses in the raid. But the enemy fights when they can, oddly enough. And sometimes bad stuff just happens.

I've mentioned that I worry about the Chinese figuring out how to get devices aboard our carriers that could function as homing beacons for anti-ship missiles. Yes, there are no cell phone towers at sea so a simple phone with PLAN malware won't do the job. But this does seem like an option given this pre-installed malware news. Devices like that have come from China in the past.

Life is funny. America leads a coalition to save poor South Korea in 1950, a country the Left attacked for decades. Now, 67 years later, South Korea is a free and advanced democracy that impeached their president under rule of law and which has sold needed advanced weapons to European countries concerned about defending their own freedom from Russia.

This study has immense personal satisfaction for me. Organic farming is not as environmentally friendly as advertised; doesn't seem to have nutritional advantages; and the pesticide advantage isn't as big a deal in the West that regulates pesticide use. But it does cost much more and does allow you to pretend you are morally superior. So well worth the price.

I haven't been a big fan of the Littoral Combat Ship. I am fine with the basic concept of modularity, which inspired my concept for a modularized auxiliary cruiser ("The AFRICOM Queen"), but the poor survivability of the ship combined with a bizarre notion that the ship could sail, fight, and survive in the littorals--close to shore--made me skeptical. The LCS is fading as problems and costs proliferate. But a Navy frigate is still needed.

This article says that Ukraine will blockade rebel-held areas of the Donbas. One, those so-called rebels are Russian hand puppets when not actual Russian soldiers. And two, how on Earth is that move a threat to a "ceasefire" that exists solely as a means to solidify and expand Russia's conquest of the region? Those "rebels" from the region, as their leaders oddly get assassinated, will find themselves absorbed as their "separatist" South Ossetia armed brethren in Georgia just lost their nominal independence.

Assad played a poor hand well. Outnumbered as a minority regime with a military of uncertain loyalty that has suffered huge casualties, Assad reacted to peaceful protesters by shooting and eventually bombing and gassing them; ignoring jihadis flowing in to focus on killing the opposition; leveraging the growth of the ignored jihadis to flip America from a foe on the cusp of attacking Assad to a de facto ally under President Obama; pulled in Iran, Hezbollah, and Russia to fight for him; and now portrays himself as a stalwart warrior against jihadi "extremists" (where was that man when he was feeding jihadis into Iraq to kill our troops and far more Iraqis?). Bravo. That, my friends, is smart diplomacy. He could still lose. But he played his hand well.

"Feelings" are now a legal arguing point in our judiciary. So much for rule of law. This is seriously effed up. Tip to Instapundit. Seriously, the court logic is that because Trump on the campaign trail said he wanted to ban all Moslem immigration, that when he temporarily suspends immigrants from a small number of mostly Moslem countries already identified as problems by the prior administration that he is following through (illegally) on that promise? And that his order would be legal if he hadn't said those things on the campaign trail? How is this logic remotely based on rule of law?

Strategypage posts seem to go back and forth between discussing a slow Saudi-led victory in Yemen or a slow defeat. They seem more optimistic on this post that discusses the war. I've been in the "slow but gathering victory" camp. But slow also means vulnerable to something happening to derail the gathering victory and provide defeat instead.

Yes, there is a "deep state" in America. But while it is real it is not a shadow state ignoring President Trump. The permanent bureaucracy bends administrations to the forces of inertia--for good and bad. As it was intended, truth be told. Indeed, I wrote early that opponents of Trump should stop their panic in realization that the bureaucracy would shape Trump and narrow his options. I was not worried about a Trump presidency--even if I find him personally clown-like--even as liberals sincerely but farcically worried about future death camps in Colorado. I figured a combination of the bureaucracies and appointees drawn from Republican ranks would shape Trump policies in a good way. Democrats instead have gone quite mad in their fear-mongering (yet oddly they haven't fled to Canada as they promised). Mind you, the permanent bureaucracy is far more openly hostile to Trump than I expected and must be tamed by the appointees. But it is not a coup threat. Nor is it unique to America. I heartily endorse the British series on the subject that is mentioned in the article. Here's a taste.

Strategypage looks at Thailand. A long-time ally, Thailand is also flirting with autocratic rule rather than constitutional democracy. Their history of democracy is tentative at best. I worry that a Thailand that goes full autocrat will be more comfortable with China as a friend.

Via Instapundit, Trump Hysteria Condition is driving the Left quite mad. They're half an eye tick away from going on about their precious bodily fluids. Total commitment, indeed.

I've always been a proponent of the "Oxford comma." But I've never insisted others use it. The value of the Oxford comma has been settled with a court ruling. Tip to Instapundit.

Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course. Couldn't have happened to a nicer ... whatever.

If piracy is rearing its ugly head again from land bases in Somalia, will the world response be to again carry out naval patrols to launch a years-long long struggle to choke the piracy into submission, with hostages languishing in captivity? Or will someone go in on land in force with punitive missions to kill pirates and destroy their buildings and boats to really discourage them?

Syria fired at Israeli aircraft attacking Hezbollah targets in Syria. Assad must be feeling pretty good about his chances of surviving the civil war to risk adding an enemy. Perhaps Israel should consider the timing of that Hezbollah project I've mentioned. UPDATE: In case of war with Hezbollah (and/or Hamas) and their massive stockpile of rockets and missiles (150,000), Israel plans a mass evacuation of civilians from the north.

Milk is racist? Wake up sheeple! It's worse than that! I've been on this issue for a long time.

Someone is hacking cell phones in Washington, D.C. (Tip to Instapundit). There is a reason the Russian embassy is located where it is. Funny that the Russians don't think the Trump administration will just send them this kind of information straight from the NSA. Go figure. Well, no evidence that the Russians are doing this, of course. But I assume they've been doing something like it all along without headlines.

Well, I broke the pattern, anyway. Tip to Instapundit.

Sure, even if you accept that Republicans are wrong on this tax issue concept, you have to admit that everyone is wrong. Slashing taxes doesn't push leaders to cut spending to make up for the cuts nor do tax cuts unleash enough economic growth to expand tax revenue enough to overcome the tax rate cuts. But you must admit that raising taxes to cover budget deficits doesn't work either, because leaders always find four ways to spend every single new dollar of tax revenue that comes in. That's how we got here, after all. So neither side seems capable. You wonder why Bernie Sanders almost--but failed because of a far more real Hillary "hack" of the Democratic Party nominating system--won the Democratic primary and why Trump did win the Republican primary? Tip to Instapundit.

Fake news. Conservatives have long experience with this form of it.

Trump's America did not stop an international investigation into the mass oppression, rapes, and killing of Moslems in Myanmar (Burma)--Russia and China did that.

For what it is worth, to avoid making the pursuit of the perfect the enemy of the good, I back the Ryan plan to roll back Obamacare as much as possible. It seems good enough to be a start. A sense of urgency is needed to start that process. Remember how the Democrats lost control of the Senate which forced them to use reconciliation (well, "forced" because Democrats didn't want to accommodate any Republican input) to pass a highly flawed bill? How will the debate look if just a couple of Republican senators are similarly unexpectedly replaced by the other party?

I'd make sure the lease specifically bans urinating in the compost pile. Let's put homeless people into shoe boxes in the backyards of upper middle class people and see whether resentment builds faster than fear, respectively. Remember, the host family's dog lives in the house while the formerly homeless person lives in the backyard box. Will the hosts really enjoy their outdoor barbecue with sets of eyes peering hungrily out of the tiny home windows? I sure hope that nobody becoming a 5-year landlord wants to sell their home during that time. Explain that to the potential buyer. And how will neighbors of those hosts feel about this program? What could possibly go wrong?

The Army reopened its jungle warfare school at Hawaii's 25th Infantry division.

If a single old global warming paper is truly so good at predicting the future rather than being random good luck plucked from the pack after the fact, shouldn't we scrap the line of inquiry represented by every other failed predictive model to focus on that one "accurate" one? Today's modeling reminds me nothing more than fitting epicycles into circular planetary orbit models to explain observed trajectories in the absence of elliptical orbit explanations.

I always worry when our allies "reorganize" their military out of fear that they just spelled "reduce" wrong. Britain has launched a revised reorganization for their army.

While I can appreciate that the European established parties have driven the rise of Geert Wilders in the Netherlands (and others like him elsewhere) by their refusal to debate--or even accept that there is a problem with--mass immigration that does not include assimilation, Geert Wilders himself is increasingly repulsive to me. But it is hard to blame many of his supporters for looking to him in desperation for someone to even admit there is a problem. I have written that I thought the immigration issue rather than leading to the defeat of Europe by Moslem "invaders" would provoke an extreme reaction if the established parties didn't address the blowback. Here we are getting closer to that solution. Sadly, Europe becomes less "Western" whether the continent is Islamicized or radicalized (to extreme right or left) to combat that assimilation problem. And all because European elites have for decades ruled out discussing the problem when it could be resolved by polite policies.

So in an era when Hillary's "reset" with Russia for better relations via American "flexibility" was official Obama policy, Trump is supposed to be impeached because he did (legal) business with Russians?  If American policy appeases and accommodates Russia more than it did under Obama, you let me know, okay?

Let's be clear, China is punishing South Korea because South Korea is deploying weapons (THAAD) to prevent North Korea from nuking South Korea--and China fears those defensive missiles could interfere with China's ability to nuke South Korea. Nice guys, eh? UPDATE: South Korea is trying to use the WTO to stop China.

Recall that our very low-key effort with Uganda to hunt down the nutball Joseph Kony (Koni) continues. Murderous nutballs of the non-jihadi version also exist, despite the current primary Islamist threat. Personally, I'd help Uganda as we have directly since 2011 just to keep their help in Somalia against jihadis. With Uganda making noises about leaving Somalia and Trump making noises about ending our Kony mission, perhaps both missions continue in a deal that stops the noise. Funny enough, stomach ulcers might fell Kony before military operations can do it. Perhaps the stress of being hunted so long gave Kony the ulcers, of course. Dead is dead.

When a PIG Can Fly

While it is comforting that the military cooperation between NATO Greece and the West continues, I do worry that the economic debacle in Greece makes them vulnerable to a defection by Greece paid for by Russia and China who will end the migrant crisis and flood Greece with money in exchange for Russian and Chinese military bases in Greek territory.

Sure, this is good:

The trilateral Noble Dina exercise between the American, Israeli and Hellenic navies will begin later this month, with nearly a dozen surface ships, submarines and related air assets scheduled to engage in joint reconnaissance, counterterror and antisubmarine warfare training.

But are we whistling past the graveyard?

As the Greek economic crisis enters its seventh year, the difficulties standing in the way of its resolution continue to mount. At first glance, this is surprising. After all, Greece is a small country, representing just 2 percent of the European Union’s economy, and is home to just over 10 million of the bloc’s more than 500 million citizens. But it has played an outsize role in driving the political and economic uncertainty facing Europe today, and has in many ways taken the brunt of the fallout. ...

Greece’s position is a tricky one: Standing at the crossroads of three continents, the country’s strategic value has always invited trouble and placed it at the forefront of nearly every geopolitical crisis of the 20th century.

The last thing I worry about is Greece taking down the EU. That's the silver lining in any scenario I worry about.

No, I worry that given its standing at the crossroads, Greece will decide that NATO and the EU provide no protection against the twin threats of migrants and financial crisis.

I worry that Greece will defect to Russia and China.

Russia will provide ruthlessness to help on the former and China the money for the latter to cushion the impact of repudiating debt owed to Europe.

Add in that for Greece, NATO was mostly a shield against fellow NATO state Turkey. (Yes, that's why Greece is one of the "good" European states on defense spending. Hurray, eh?)

If Turkey is getting wobbly on NATO membership as it feuds with Europe and flirts with Russia and China, seemingly pining for Ottoman glory days, Greece might decide that being within a different alliance that includes Turkey where the dominant powers can restraint Turkey against weaker Greece might be wise.

Remember, Greece would be a major asset both for Russia's gambit to dominate the eastern Mediterranean Sea and China's New Silk Road project with sea lines of trade reaching Greece as the entryway into Europe. Each has the motivation to engineer a Greek defection.

Portugal, Italy, and Greece are the financially insolvent PIGs that Europe watches closely (Ireland was once a second "I" in that group). Europe thinks that their deliberations on how Greece will be bailed out of their crises are the only game in town and that Greece is stuck within that universe of options.

Yet Greece may find that with Russian and Chinese wings, it can fly away from its many problems by selling their soil (for bases) to the Devils they don't know.

Of course, such a bold move by Greece would also distract from the problem caused by Greece's political system and allow the entrenched factions to continue on as is, but with different foreign backers.

Why I sleep like a baby at night is a mystery to me.

NOTE: I added the link and quote to the article on Greek-Israeli-American naval exercises that I clearly forgot in the original post.

UPDATE: Italy could bolt from the EU, too. Although I don't worry about a defection to Russia or China if they do reject political Europe.

Reaching the Rally Point

Stopping our retreat will take some effort given that our foes have gotten use to pursuing us into the vacuum of our withdrawal.

In the first year of Obama's presidency, I noted that retreat can seem like peace until the enemy catches up:

Understand that when you retreat, it takes a while for an enemy to pursue you and fill the vacuum. And that time it takes for the enemy to re-engage will surely be much quieter.

And if you want to, you can argue that the period of quiet while the enemy approaches is actually "peace." It isn't peace, but you can pretend for a while that it is so you can focus on domestic issues.

The enemies finally caught up starting in 2012 at Benghazi, but too late to prevent President Obama from winning reelection on the claim that he's responsibly ended our wars--complete with mocking Romney for thinking the Russians were America's foe.

Sadly, our diplomacy will be hampered until our military has its readiness restored after we "responsibly ended" our defense spending.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Unclear on the Concept: German Defense Minister Edition

The German defense minister wants Germany to get a credit toward meeting the NATO 2% of GDP defense spending goal by counting participation in NATO foreign operations. Excuse me?


Germany's defence minister called Friday for changes to the way NATO members' commitments to budget targets are assessed, in the face of bigger demands from US President Donald Trump. ...

"For me the question is who is really providing added value to the alliance," she said.

Von der Leyen proposed using an "activity index" that would take participation in foreign missions into account when assessing budget earmarks for defence.

So the minister believes that sending the German military--with ground and air forces in pitiful condition--into foreign missions even as defense spending is inadequate to make the German military capable of participating in foreign missions makes up for lack of defense spending?

In practice, an inadequately funded military that requires a unit deploying to strip other units of their already inadequate equipment so the deploying unit can function exacerbates the readiness problem by disrupting the non-deploying units and harming their ability to train. So this kind of logic will result in meeting the spending/activity goal while undermining what the goal is supposed to bolster.

The What Planet Does She Live On Index is maxing out, I believe.

But Germany's defense minister is the kind of defense leader a nation that is not serious about defense chooses. Not to pick on her in particular. I'm sure she's a fine person. And I'm reasonably sure she reflects much of Europe's approach to defense staffing and issues. That's the real problem she personifies.

Oh, and I am truly tired of this excuse from that initial article:

Germany, whose militaristic past has led it traditionally to be reticent on defence matters, currently spends 1.2 percent of GDP.

Let me apply the clue bat (again) to pound some common sense into Germany's collective and figurative skull:

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

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

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

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

I would rather NATO reduce the defense spending goal to reflect political realities than to debase the standard to technically meet it. The standard is already debased because so many European armies are civil servants in uniform. But their salaries count toward defense spending goals.

I'd rather have capabilities than spending, but how do you measure that across countries? We have the measure we have. As imperfect as it is, it could be worse.

Remember, other NATO countries--like America--would get far more credit for an "activity index"than Germany would get.

So it would actually be very funny to go along with that German notion and then increase the defense spending objective to 3%.

UPDATE: To be fair to the Germans, no:

US President Donald Trump unleashed a diatribe against Germany on Saturday, saying Berlin owes NATO "vast sums of money" and must pay the United States more for security.

It is literally not true. Sadly, it would be in our interests to defend Germany to prevent its vast economic, demographic, and technological resources out of hostile hands even if the Germans spent nothing on defense.

To be fair to Trump, what is true is that Germany is weak and should do more despite the accurate protest:

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen on Sunday rejected U.S. President Donald Trump's claim that Germany owes NATO and the United States "vast sums" of money for defense.

"There is no debt account at NATO," von der Leyen said in a statement, adding that it was wrong to link the alliance's target for members to spend 2 percent of their economic output on defense by 2024 solely to NATO.

But hopefully, President Trump's hyperbole brushes the Germans back from the nonsensical notion that things other than defense spending should count toward the defense spending goal that Germany agreed to meed eventually.

Many Problems are Because of What is Perfectly Legal

As much as I worry that Iran will cheat and go around the nuclear deal to get nuclear weapons, some of the biggest holes in the deal are actually perfectly legal under the deal authored by Spongespine Spandexpants.

Oh good grief:

In a letter to the U.N. nuclear watchdog circulated to member states on Thursday and posted on the agency's website, however, Iran argued that the deal does not require it to ship excess heavy water out of the country.

"Nothing in the (agreement) requires Iran to ship out the excess heavy water which is made available to the international market but has not yet found an actual buyer to which the heavy water needs to be delivered," Iran said.

The deal says all excess heavy water "will be made available for export to the international market based on international prices and delivered to the international buyer".

So it isn't Iran's fault that nobody wants to buy the heavy water or that Iran is producing the heavy water at a rate that exceeds the rate of sales, the Iranians essentially argue. If that was wrong, we would have agreed to it, they say, eh?

So the heavy water can stay in Iran. And the deal slips just a little bit more, getting everyone used to those little "oops" moments.

And the Iranians have a point. The deal itself is the problem as much as Iranian efforts to cheat.

The mullahs may be nutballs but they aren't stupid. Our negotiators were clearly the reverse.

When a Young Taliban's Fancy Turns to Mayhem

The Afghan security forces are better prepared to fight a Taliban spring offensive. Good. I was worried after the last fighting season.

Let's hope this optimism about Afghanistan isn't just whistling past the graveyard:

As in past years, coalition forces in Afghanistan expect a substantial spike in spring fighting from the country's Taliban insurgency in 2017, particularly in the latter's southern stronghold regions. Despite the continuing deadly attacks on Kabul and other areas, NATO said the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) are better prepared compared with just four months ago to confront the insurgents.

Yeah, I was worried about the direction of the campaign back then and the need to rely on the elite of Afghanistan's forces to hold the line to cope with inadequacies of the regular forces.

In theory, Afghan troops and police--and especially their leaders--are better and more numerous after the winter of training and recruiting; vulnerable outposts are reduced in order to have more Afghan mobile forces to react to and seize the initiative in the face of Taliban attacks; and coalition support is better to help Afghan forces in combat.

Sadly, we needed the winter to regroup. It would have been better if we had been able to launch a winter offensive to go after the Taliban and other jihadis while they hunkered down and regrouped over the winter.

Ah, spring.

Friday, March 17, 2017

New and Improved!?

Could jihadis be reprogrammed?

In a word, yes, assuming they had lots of help from the CIA to deliver their persuasion.

I would not have said this was possible five years ago. But in 2017, cognitive scientists know how to reprogram a human brain fairly effectively. They have weaponized what hypnotists have been doing for decades.

As luck would have it (sort of) we can test persuasion ideas at Guantanamo Bay without any cruelty whatsoever. There would be no hardcore “brainwashing,” just a series of pleasant experiences engineered to get a certain outcome.

I don't know enough to say if Adams is right or wrong. So far it doesn't work.

Although to be fair, "hookers and blow" is better than "beheading and blowing things up."

But even if he is 100% right, how many Moslem jihadis are in Guantanamo Bay to be reprogrammed in controlled circumstances and how many of them and the potential recruits for the jihad are out in the world being persuaded every day that being a jihadi is just swell?

So maybe jihadis can be reprogrammed. But how do we make it stick when they are back in their environment being reprogrammed back? After all, that environment right now is having no problem getting the jihadi outcome. Could we risk releasing them?

But wouldn't it just be cruel to "fix" the inmates and then keep them imprisoned because they'd just be reprogrammed to jihadi mode again if freed?

Until we figure out a solution to that problem--which involves Islamists being beaten in the Islamic civil war so the wider environment doesn't program jihadis--lead persuasion is the only answer, I think.

The Trojan Horse is Wearing a Kilt

So Scotland may re-vote on independence to avoid Brexit? The Eurocrats in Brussels surely smile at the prospect of European states fragmenting to reduce the threat to ever close union that the Eurocrats need to build their imperial state.

The Queen let the last potential speed bump on initiating Brexit hit the rearview mirror:

The Queen has given Royal Assent to the Brexit bill, clearing the way for Theresa May to start talks to leave the European Union.

I see the Scots are falling for the siren song of EU identity (tip to the Instapundit Borg):

Scotland’s leader has said she will seek authority for a new independence referendum.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Monday she will move quickly to give Scottish voters a chance to make Scotland an independent country.

Do the Scots really believe that they will be able to negotiate a better deal with the EU than the larger Great Britain did, which proved insufficient to hold all of them in the EU?

An independent Scotland won't be able to just carry on the British deal as a rump-successor to that deal. Oh no.

And do the rest of the EU states really want to go along with encouraging the Scots in a misguided effort to stick it to the British for leaving the EU when so many European states could feel the blowback of encouraging separatist tendencies?

That map is from Stratfor that I referenced in this post

European states that are pro-EU should discourage the Scots from believing that separatism is a glorious and fast track to the glories of EU membership before they become victims of the same weapon:

Are secession movements and political splintering a sign that Europe itself is the "sick man of Europe?" Or is this how the EU Empire is being created? ...

The Brussels elite in their imperial capital and throughout the provinces of the EU will be happy when everyone is just the Duchy of Grand Fenwick in size and power, capable of being just the administrative arm of the empire.

Even the pro-EU Germans, who encouragingly no longer desire living space but still need trading space might find that fragmentation weakens their ability to benefit from the European Union.

Yeah, sticking it to the British for daring to leave "ever closer union" will feel good for the pro-EU countries for a bit. But it will bite them in the end. The more the merrier?

More fully functioning and healthy states may be a brake on "more Europe," as that quip above argues. But the EU has bypassed that motivation, eh? Even more boutique mini-states will surely hang separately in the face of the super-state in Brussels if it continues to grow.

Really, Britain has done as much damage as they can from within. Time to get out. Is Scotland really eager to stay on that train wreck?

And of course, I think America should naturally want to oppose any single entity from controlling Europe. Eurocrats running an imperial European state will be as dangerous as a Kaiser, a Fuehrer, or a Soviet empire.

Red Herring

China added a third maneuver brigade to their marine force. Strategypage has more:

Even with the third brigade the Chinese marines are still a small force. The three Chinese marine brigades contain a total of 14,000 troops, plus another 4,000 troops in support and training units.

It is unlikely that these troops would ever set foot on Taiwan. The marines are more likely intended for the South China Sea, Strategypage writes. Which I've noted.

They could be used for the East China Sea, too.

While a lot of analysts dismiss the potential of China to invade Taiwan because they lack a large Marine Corps like America has, I think that conclusion is incorrect.

I think China's amphibious-trained army divisions plus airborne forces would likely be the spearhead of an invasion of Taiwan that goes right for the jugular; but that the Chinese invasion would rely on civilian shipping taking most of the invasion troops into captured Taiwanese ports.

I think they could also have a mission of taking the Pescadores Islands as a stepping stone to the invasion of Taiwan.

For those who still think China can't invade Taiwan because they lack a large marine corps, just how many Marines took part in any of the amphibious warfare operations in Europe during World War II? Or in the southern prong of the Pacific offensive after Guadalcanal, for that matter.

We are unique in having a large amphibious-oriented ground force. But it can be done without that capability. I am sure China is aware of that fact.

UPDATE: Of course, if China keeps up their subliminal conquest of islands, why do they even need a marine corps?

China plans to build the first permanent structure on a South China Sea shoal at the heart of a territorial dispute with the Philippines, in a move likely to renew concerns over Beijing's robust assertions of its claims in the strategically crucial waterbody.

The top official in Sansha City that has administered China's island claims since 2012 was quoted by the official Hainan Daily newspaper as saying that preparations were underway to build an environmental monitoring station on Scarborough Shoal off the northwestern Philippines.

You'll recall Sansha, China's Venice of the East.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Hope Amidst the Ruins

Yes, the fight against jihadis still rages coming up on 16 years after the 9/11 terror attacks. But the Islamic world has already changed a lot. It can change more to be less of a threat to the West by producing jihadis, as well as to their own people.

In an otherwise good article about the dangers of conspiracy-thinking, Kevin Williams writes:

The reality of George W. Bush’s “democracy project” program for the Middle East — to bomb the Arabs until they became Canadians — just wasn’t crazy enough for his critics. There needed to be something more.

Yes, Williams may be just mockingly describing what critics thought, as part of the point of the article against deep conspiracies on the left and right, but the charge is too close to what many people wrongly say about the Iraq War to let that stand.

One, we were always very careful in our use of firepower in the Iraq War. Russians bomb Moslems until they become Russians (or allies). America truly wants hearts and minds.

Most basically, the democracy project is not futile. I know I'm an outlier in both liberal and conservative circles, but I think that the much-mocked democracy project is the long-term solution to solving the long-standing choices given to Moslems of living under an autocrat or under a mullah-run regime.

Indeed, even in the days after the 9/11 attack, when I felt at war to my very bones, I did not descend into the bomb all of "them" until they are Canadian mentality:

Above all, vigilance must not degenerate into paranoia. We must trust that our Moslem and Arab neighbors share our values. They or their parents or grandparents immigrated to America because they too cherish our freedoms and way of life. Like most Americans, they are here because someone in their family fled poverty, oppression, or both, to build a better life for their children. They are horrified and angry like all Americans. "They" are our friends and neighbors and are part of "us." Some, whether citizens or residents, will be guilty of cooperating with the enemy or even actively fighting us. This is not new. Fascism and communism had their admirers here even in our darkest hours during those fights. Those betrayers were guilty as individuals and not as members of any religion or ethnic group. Let us not descend into the logic of our enemies that the perceived or actual guilt of one condemns all similar innocents. Our enemies will have won the war in a fundamental and lasting way if we become like the terrorists even as we physically destroy our terrorist enemy.

The Arab Spring was the first indication that people in the Moslem Arab world wanted something more than that choice.

Yes, it has failed for the most part. The forces of autocratic and mullah-run options are still strong enough to win when it comes to a fight. Nor did the democracy advocates in the Arab Spring really appreciate that democracy is more than just setting up an election, requiring rule of law and the suppression of corruption to work.

But the short-term defeats can't blind us to the potential of long-term reform that gives the Arab Islamic world true democracy with rule of law.

Remember, already the Moslem world has been transformed by contact with democracy and the West. The Moslem world is ideally a caliphate unbound by national borders. That is the appeal of ISIL in proclaiming the beginning of a new caliphate to recapture the glory days when Islam was one entity.

Yet the Islamic world has overwhelmingly rejected the appeal of that caliphate. Yes, some heard the siren song of jihad and journeyed to die in Iraq and Syria and other battlefields. But the Islamic world is large and so a small percentage could fuel that caliphate. They are too many, to be sure, but it is a failing appeal.

The Islamic world is made up of states in a still-Westphalian United Nations world. Has anyone in the Islamic world argues that Islamic states should merge their membership any more than European Union fans argue their states should let the EU represent all of Europe?

And the Moslem world has governing institutions modeled on the West, with executives, legislative bodies, and court systems. This alone is significant if function follows form.

Territorial-based states and Western-style governing bodies are not how classical Islam worked and the reality of today is far from that ideal. Yes, pan-state Islamic appeals still stir hearts. But the modern Islamic world is built on states with countries providing the primary appeal to loyalty rather than pan-Islamic solidarity.

This is the bigger picture of my observation that seeing head-scarved Moslem women driving mini-vans in my city is a daily assault on the Islamist-defined world of Islam. Indeed, choose any--even radical--Moslem woman in America publicly advocating for an Islamist-friendly cause, and then put them in an actual Islamist-friendly society, and you won't see that woman any more because the Islamists consider a public woman more of a threat. Ponder that irony.

Driving and even disturbing advocacy within our system are signs of Western influence that given time will be decisive.

As an aside, that's a potential gap in Islamist thinking that could be decisive in reform. Islam has rules on how Moslems are to behave in Moslem societies and even in Moslem societies conquered by non-Moslems. But given the long stretch of early Islamic conquests, nobody setting down doctrine thought about the duties of Moslems who choose to live in a non-Western society, as so many have chosen in the modern era. It is a lacuna in Islamic thinking that damages the idea of Islam as an organizing template for every facet of life.

Within my lifetime, plenty of people argued that Latin American Catholic countries--including the Philippines--weren't suited for democracy because of their religious culture. Yet democracy has spread there.

And recall that the European Catholic hierarchy doesn't quite know what to make of the American Catholic world that has been deeply changed by the new world of freedom of opportunities--and assimilation.

Killing jihadis shouldn't be the objective--it should be the means to an objective. We bomb jihadis in Iraq in defense of a freed Iraq so that Iraqis could have the opportunity to become more like Canadians.

That opportunity is needed for more Moslems than just Iraqis. Let's not overlook the real changes and potential for more change in the Islamic world as we rightly condemn the brutality of the jihadis and resist the threats.

If Islamic society doesn't change to dry up the pool of jihadi recruits, we really will have to bomb forever--as President Obama set up his drone program to do--just to keep the production line of jihadis off balance to reduce the pace of carnage in Western cities.

And really, what's crazy with having more Canadians?

UPDATE: Really, wasn't the Obama drone project to bomb Arabs until they stop wanting to kill even Canadians? 

Yeah,  I'm under suspicion of bigotry because I think Moslems are deserving of and capable of achieving rule of law and democracy. It's a funny world.

The Rail Gun Queen

Whenever I hear about military systems in shipping containers, I dream of The AFRICOM Queen. Could there be a Rail Gun Queen?

Hello, new building blocks for a modularized auxiliary cruiser:

General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS) has developed a High Energy Pulsed Power Container (HEPPC) that provides twice the energy density than existing railgun pulsed power solutions, the company announced in a March 9 release.

The HEPPC can reduce the number of pulsed power containers required to launch projectiles or hybrid missiles from a railgun weapon system, providing greater flexibility for future Navy and Army railgun applications.

GA-EMS has put the same power capacity in a 10-foot shipping container that used to require a 20-foot shipping container.

So could the Navy mount a rail gun on a container ship taken into Navy service with as many of those HEPPC units as needed (and the ammunition, of course) to have an auxiliary cruiser with a big-ass rail gun?

Hey, no space limitations for the weapon on that kind of large platform, eh?

The concept isn't just for the Army (see page 50), you know.

The Point of the Pivot

Is the "pivot" to the Pacific over? It started before that policy was announced and it will continue when it is "over."

Is the pivot to Asia and the Pacific over?

The Obama administration’s Pacific rebalance effort — also known as the Pivot to the Pacific — effort is officially dead, according to a top State Department official.

Asked by reporters about the future of the rebalance, Acting Assistant Secretary of State Susan Thornton said Monday that the new administration has its own plan for the region, even if that plan has yet to take shape.

As a move of American air and naval power from Europe to Asia, that was a shift that started with the collapse of the Soviet Union well before the packaged "pivot" unveiled by the Obama administration.

Really, I always assumed that the "pivot" was more useful to disguise a retreat from Europe and more important for the Obama administration, from the Middle East.

Renewed war in the Middle East and in Europe mooted that motivation. Land and air power are certainly needed in Europe and the Middle East again.

Threats are everywhere after 8 years of Obama smart diplomacy. So a new "formulation" makes sense.

The one thing about the pivot that was useful was the signal that it provided to allies and neutrals that China would not chase us from the western Pacific.

Japan has been improving their military and leaning forward more to help us despite their pacifist constitution.

And Japan will help more:

Japan plans to dispatch its largest warship on a three-month tour through the South China Sea beginning in May, three sources said, in its biggest show of naval force in the region since World War Two.

That ship is Izumo, a helicopter carrier called an aviation "destroyer."

The Chinese are unhappy:

"If Japan persists in taking wrong actions, and even considers military interventions that threaten China's sovereignty and security... then China will inevitably take firm responsive measures," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular press briefing.

America and Japan are allies, of course.

So thanks Japan. Their role is no doubt going to be important in a new formulation.