Saturday, March 31, 2018

This is Sort of a Big Deal

America has long had only one place that could be called a base in Africa--in Djibouti. And that issue has been so sensitive that it has been described as an "enduring presence" rather than a "base." Now there is Ghana.

Ghana is going to allow America to have a base "unimpeded access to agreed facilities and areas to U.S. forces, their contractors and other related services:"

[The agreement] said facilities provided by Ghana shall be designated as either for exclusive use by U.S. troops or to be jointly used with their Ghanaian counterparts. “Ghana shall also provide access to and use of a runway that meets the requirements of United States forces,” it said.

The Americans will use Ghana’s radio spectrum for free and will be exempted from paying taxes on equipment imported into Ghana, it said.

In return, the United States will this year invest around $20 million in training and equipment for the Ghanaian military. There will also be joint exercises.

Ghana's opposition boycotted the session of parliament that approved the agreement.

So thank you Ghana, for stepping up to help AFRICOM help Africa.

Of course, even with "bases" at opposite ends of Africa and bases in Europe near North Africa, large portions of sub-Sahara littoral Africa are out of range of quick American help. The AFRICOM Queen could fill that gap and reinforce the Ghana positions discreetly from over the horizon.

UPDATE: This is a bit late, but a needed update:

Ghana will not sign an agreement with Washington to set up a military base, President Nana Akufo-Addo said on Thursday.

The president confirmed in a television address that the two countries would ink a defence cooperation agreement, but was emphatic that "Ghana has not offered a military base, and will not offer a military base to the United States of America".

Sensitivity remains, it is clear. It remains unclear whether the agreement allows American forces to operate from Ghana facilities so that it is effectively a base without being called a base.

Let me just say that a bare bones presence that could be rapidly reinforced with assets based on The AFRICOM Queen modularized auxiliary cruiser that remains sensitively over the horizon would help make a low-key presence more useful in crises or for specific training missions with Ghana forces.

Deleting the Killer Infiltration App

Other countries are joining America in worrying about the national security threats posed by Chinese electronics:

The U.S. has taken a series of actions aimed at Huawei, the world’s biggest supplier of wireless equipment and No. 3 vendor of smartphones. The Shenzhen-based company has been effectively shut out of the U.S. telecom market since a 2012 congressional report said its equipment could be used for spying.

I bet you thought I was paranoid over a decade ago worrying about what China might do with subverted electronics to threaten our fleet?

I moved from worrying about a smuggled device to consumer electronics.

Now a number of countries are worried about Chinese consumer electronics. And you thought Facebook was bad?

The Collateral Damage of the Long War on Terror

A long war against Islamist terrorists harms us whether we win or lose.

Is this a shock?

Government leaders across the world have relied on overbroad, self-serving definitions of "terrorism" to craft counterterrorism policies that could lead to the repression of basic human rights like freedom of speech, according to a new report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The study, called "Counterterrorism Measures and Civil Society," reported an "alarming rise" in restrictions imposed on citizens to curb their freedoms in the name of national security. Though this trend first became prevalent in the direct aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the report says civic space "has diminished more rapidly" in recent years.

We are not immune or apart from this trend.

Early on, within days of the 9/11 attack when I wrote about responding to the attacks, I warned about the threats to civil liberties of a long war against terrorists (in the Civil Defense subsection).

To our credit, we've done really well in not blaming American Moslems for the actions of the jihadis--which in 2001 I did not assume was assured given FDR's rounding up of Japanese-Americans in World War II. Indeed, we've probably done too well on that in some ways by refusing to really focus on the jihadi ideology as a problem that comes from Islam.

But civil liberties are being eroded by the length of the war that has not reduced the threat enough to allow us to relax our vigilance.

Destroying the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and staying to prevent their return is good. Defeating Saddam was good. Destroying ISIL's caliphate that spanned Iraq and Syria--and in Libya--was good. As is Saudi Arabia's decision--if fully implemented--to essentially reverse their support for the jihadi ideology by funding a dangerous strain of Islam. Pakistan remains a problem but if Saudi Arabia won't fund those terrorist finishing schools, that could end a source of state support for jihadis.

But we haven't done enough and the problem of a long war continues.

I was more expansive on this problem before the Iraq War started, and warned about the danger to our civil liberties if the war went on for long. We needed a sense of urgency to wreck the terrorist groups and the state actors that give the terrorists the abilities and reach to strike us at home:

As long as we fight our enemies our civil liberties will be reduced. That is what happens in war. One of the mundane aspect of this threat level hit me yesterday. I received a rejection letter from a defense journal for an article I submitted (oh well, I'm one for two for the submissions I made in the fall). What really struck me were the two copies of my paper that they returned. They were yellowed. Then I remembered, oh yeah, as a government outfit they would have to zap every mail package with whatever device they use to neutralize Anthrax. This process yellows the paper.

This is just one of the prices we pay for defending against terrorists. And if we are to pull back into fortress America, how many police and soldiers will be needed on our streets? How many questions will we need to answer as government security people question us wherever we move? How many public places will be closed off to the public to keep terrorists from destroying our monuments and buildings?

Loss of privacy and freedom are the prices we will pay for letting our enemies live to plot against us. And every time they strike, we will crack down more. By sitting on the defensive, we guarantee that our enemies will eventually strike us successfully. Defense can only slow the pace, not end the attacks against us. Would these opponents of war say that we should do nothing to prevent attacks? Will they say that exploding malls and occasional plagues are the price we should pay to arrive at the airport five minutes before our flight?

If we want our liberties back fully, if we want the luxury of not having our mail irradiated because nutballs would kill us by mail, we must take the offensive and go after our enemies. Al Qaeda and the states that support them because of their common hatred of America must be destroyed.

Draining the swamp in the Islamic world that creates jihadis is another issue altogether and a much longer project. Can we really afford to erode our civil liberties for as long as that project will take to carry out--if it can be carried out?

But we haven't done a good enough of denying jihadis state support and sanctuary until the reasonable Moslems can crush and de-legitimize the minority of jihadis willing to kill as many people (Moslem and non-Moslem) as they need in order to win what is essentially a Moslem civil war.

And as we have failed to do what we can to really defeat the threats and make their capabilities and reach too low to pose more than a police-level threat, the collateral damage to our civil liberties continues.

Friday, March 30, 2018

An Evergreen Headline

Well of course they will:

Palestinians set to reject US peace plan

The Palestinians still think they are the queen of the victim prom.

UPDATE: I see the Palestinians are trying to crash the gate at the victim prom to regain their crown:

Dozens of Palestinian youths gathered by the Gaza-Israel border on Saturday, though the area remained mostly quiet, a day after deadly violence broke out in one of the biggest Palestinian demonstrations there in years.

Other Arabs have bigger problems than worrying about the Palestinians who have no limits on what they think must be granted to them to solve their problems.

Those "youth" could have grown up in a Palestinian state if their rulers hadn't rejected every offer that doesn't include destroying the state of Israel.

Our Friends, the Effing Russians

The Russians lie so much and so routinely that I sometimes think they forget what their lies sound like.

This is hardly a shock:

In an exclusive interview, Gen John Nicholson said he'd seen "destabilising activity by the Russians."

He said Russian weapons were smuggled across the Tajik border to the Taliban, but could not say in what quantity. Russia has denied such US allegations in the past, citing a lack of evidence. [emphasis added]

Innocent people say they didn't do something they are accused of doing.

Guilty people tell you there is no evidence to clearly demonstrate they are guilty.

While Russians are naturally really good at lying, I suspect that the Russians let officials at the Afghanistan Desk not trained in the art of lying speak about this issue.

Perhaps their best liars are at the Ukraine Desk where they demonstrate that Russia is fully capable of invading a country and simply denying they are doing it.

Priming the Pump

I expect a deluge of refugees now that Venezuelans fleeing the socialist nightmare Maduro built have hope of finding food across the border in Colombia:

Venezuela is experiencing severe shortages of medicines and basic goods.

The US said the money would provide fleeing Venezuelans and the Colombian communities hosting them with emergency food and health assistance.

Colombian officials estimate that about 600,000 Venezuelans have crossed the border in recent years.

The situation is bad and growing worse inside Venezuela where the government is responding to the accelerating disaster by doubling down on oppression.

Let's hope the Dutch are on alert for Maduro pinning his hopes on a short and glorious war to rally his base of support around him to hang on to power.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Right Place is Lebanon. The Right Time? Soon

Saudi Arabia, under continued missile attack by Iran-backed Houthi rebels using Iranian-supplied missiles, says it is willing to strike back at Iran. Hello Israel.

This would be tiresome:

A military coalition led by Saudi Arabia on Monday threatened retaliation against arch-foe Iran, accusing the Shiite power of being behind a barrage of Yemeni rebel missile attacks on the kingdom.

Saudi forces said they intercepted seven missiles on Sunday, including over the capital Riyadh, in a deadly escalation that coincided with the third anniversary of the coalition's intervention in Yemen. ...

We "reserve the right to respond against Iran at the right time and right place", [coalition spokesman Turki al-Malki] added.

Of course, the best retaliation by Saudi Arabia against Iran would be to support an Israeli strike on Iran's proxy force in Lebanon, Hezbollah.

Hezbollah, you'll remember, has north of 100,000 rockets of various sizes to bombard Israel.

I suspect that the Saudis have a new sympathy for the plight of Israelis who sit under the gun of Iranian proxies who have weapons to shoot at civilians.

The Definitions Section is Large and Growing

Emperor Xi Jinping, First of His Name, has embraced the xenophobic nationalism growing in China to bolster his rule in the face of rumblings over his unlimited tenure.

Uh oh:

Chinese President Xi Jinping has delivered a fervently nationalistic closing speech to parliament, painting China as the rising global power.

Mr Xi said "achieving total unity" was the "collective hope of all Chinese people" and any attempts to divide it were "doomed to fail".

The speech was a strong warning against any attempt at separatism from places like Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Xi may say that socialism is the way. But nobody believes that.

The inclusion of Taiwan as an example of China's glorious unified state gives away the game that China claims their borders extend far beyond what China controls now.

And the list of what China claims as forever part of one China is a growing appendix to the claim of representing the hope of all Chinese people.

And let's not even discuss how China is making completely new territory to absorb.

"Total unity" apparently has no limits on its scope. The Chinese don't even bother to pretend they have no more territorial ambitions.

I Yawn at the Threat Potential

Iranians are defying government attempts to control social media. So what?

Social media beats censorship in Iran? Wow, that's special, eh?

In an Instagram post that same day, [Iranian telecom minister] Jahromi admitted that "we are now in a situation where our sovereign state and other nations of the world do not have the ability to regulate international social networks." Some 25 percent of Iranians use virtual private networks, software that allows people to avoid internet restrictions, he observed.

On January 13, the messaging app was finally unblocked by order of the president. The move came despite the efforts of "hardliners who wanted to force the government to keep the Telegram blocked forever," says Reza Ghazinouri, a refugee and former activist at the University of Tehran who now runs United for Iran, a nonprofit in San Francisco.

Maybe the reason Iran has let up on control is that they can use Telegram to monitor those who use the social media. Has the Facebook revelations of user data mining taught us nothing?

And even if Iranians can defy the mullah-run government, so what? Oppression takes place in the real world and unless "resistance" leaves the cyber-realm, what's the impact?

As I noted in the aftermath of the failed 2009 abortive revolution, when you Twitter a king, kill him. Telegramming a king is no more effective.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

When You Start to Deploy All Capabilities, Deploy All Capabilities

As Britain gathers up the outrage following the nerve gas poisoning of the father and daughter Skripal to counter Russian aggression against Britain that has for years taken the form of killing opponents of Russia in Britain, the British can't hang on to a fantasy structure of the conflict they are in.

Really?

Coming just days after Britain moved quickly to blame a nerve-agent attack against a former Russia spy on Moscow, the [British national security] review says London must use its soft power and communications resources to combat new hybrid warfare. [emphasis added]

There is no new "hybrid" warfare. And I pointed that out early.

"Hybrid" warfare is basically Russia committing an act of aggression--whether murdering an opponent or invading a country--and denying it, while the West goes along with that fiction:

Good Lord people, Russian "hybrid warfare" is just Russian aggression that we pretend isn't happening. Sadly, there's nothing new or novel about that.

It is a distracting concept that the American military has finally decided not to embrace.

What happened in Britain is that Russia tried to murder two people--and they may die yet or likely be crippled if they do survive--in a manner that scares the Hell out of any other opponent of Putin who believes they found safety abroad.

And Russia denied doing it.

What soft power and communication resource is going to combat that? Will the British begin a #NerveGasisBad or #BringBackOurSkripals hashtag campaign?

Will they mobilize resources to convince the world that Russian denials are false?

Will Russia suddenly realize the error of their ways with clever memes?

Will the Skripals be any less dead or crippled for life?

The point of using nerve gas on the Skripals rather than arranging a fatal fall down the stairwell of their flat is to make it obvious that Russia killed these people--these opponents of Putin. And if Russia gets away with this at the price of Britain simply amplifying what Russia wants everyone to know--that Russia reached into the West to strike two people--the British "counter" effort actually reinforces the point of the Russian action.

Information war is certainly appropriate. But WebOps are no substitute for LeadOps when you are involved in a war. Basically, Russian intelligence operatives in Britain have to start disappearing--either killed or dropped into some black hole somewhere to finish their days (or be traded)--to win this subliminal war--which is how I described Russia's war against Ukraine--being waged by Russia against Britain.

Prime Minister May said that Britain will employ the "full range of our capabilities" to counter Russia. Will they?

UPDATE: Huh:

Russia said on Wednesday it would respond in kind to the mass expulsion of Russian diplomats by the West over the poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal in the English city of Salisbury.

I think we can call it progress when Russia pledges to respond to expulsions with mere expulsions rather than more murder and invasion.

Not So Few These Days

A record number of Marines are exercising in Australia:

The United States will deploy a record number of Marines to train in Australia, the Australian defense minister said on Friday, as Washington seeks to counter what it describes as Chinese aggression in the region.

Payne said 1,587 U.S. Marines will spend six months training in Australia’s remote north, an increase of nearly 27 percent on its 2017 rotation for the program known as the Force Posture Initiatives.

We will continue to set records until a full Marine Expeditionary Unit is rotated through there, which began with a small contingent of 200 in 2012 as part of the "pivot" to the Pacific.

The article headline says it is a "symbolic" challenge to China. That is incorrect.

Because when the potential battlefield includes small islands in the South China Sea, even a few will do.

Do We Have Enough Survivable Tank-Killing Power?

Big and expensive, nothing yet has replace the mobile protected firepower that tanks bring to the battlefield, and the expense of active protection systems is now worth it to increase their survivability.

America is putting active protection on the tanks of three of our armored brigades, with other systems for Bradleys and Strykers. Strategypage looks at the systems and notes the origins:

Russia pioneered the development of these anti-missile systems. The first one, the Drozd, entered active service in 1983, mainly for defense against American ATGMs. These the Russians feared a great deal, as American troops had a lot of them, and the Russians knew these missiles (like TOW) worked.

Late in the Cold War, I recall that the objective for our heavy divisions was to have a thousand anti-tank weapons (tanks and heavy missiles, for the most part) each. On the narrow central front, the Russians had to launch a frontal assault on those "sponges" that would absorb and slaughter Soviet armor.

That works out to a hundred anti-tank weapons per battalion (9 battalions in 3 brigades plus an armored cavalry squadron).

With two tank companies and two mechanized infantry companies in missile-armed Bradleys per battalion, we have nearly 170 anti-tank weapons in three battalions in our armored brigade combat teams.

That doesn't count the ability of artillery to use precision rounds against armor, nor does it included anti-tank support from helicopters or Army drones.

But it still falls short of the 300 we should have with the old Cold War objective. And if tanks are more survivable with active protection and exotic passive armor, is even 300 anti-tank weapons per brigade enough?

Or is precision firepower delivered by aerial drones, fixed or rotary wing manned aircraft, and rocket or tube artillery going to provide the bulk of the anti-armor weapons that will blunt and stop an armored attack?

And how do our infantry brigades survive without the anti-tank capabilities of the Abrams and Bradleys that provide the bulk of anti-tank power in the armored brigades? Does the distant precision firepower make up for lightness? At least in firepower if not in survivability, of course.

Which makes it seem like heavy tanks and possibly heavy infantry fighting vehicles will be with us for a while longer.

I still just don't think that we can replace the heavy tank with a technologically advanced wonder tank (see page 28).

UPDATE: I made my case in "Look to Abrams Tanks to Support the Infantry," in the April 2018 edition of Army Magazine, for increasing the survivable tank-killing power of infantry brigades by attaching tank companies or battalions (or tank-mechanized infantry units) rather than searching for a new light "tank" to do the job. Not online.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Bloody, Costly Victory

If the evacuation of this small rebel group in the Ghouta pocket is the template for the remainder (and if this repeat deal continues it is a trend), Assad's side will have won a major victory. Can these factions shift to insurgency after losing territorial control? Can Assad hold what he takes?

Strategypage writes that with the Ghouta victory, Turkey's defeat of Kurds in the northwest, and America's defeat of ISIL in the east, Assad has sort-of won. [Note that the post keeps referring to Kurds in "northwest" Syria but except when speaking of the Afrin region, they clearly mean "northeast."]

Yet the east is run by Kurds and Arabs with American-led coalition support, with some ISIL still running loose. There are rebels in the south still holding ground but fairly quiet. There are pockets of rebels in the west as well, but none seem terribly powerful. And although Turkey has hammered the Kurds in the northwest, is Turkey really a friend of Assad? Turkey is holding the ground up there and it doesn't seem as if Assad's authority will be restored there.

He is clearly winning for the moment, but if he has sort of won the situation is like the "post-Syria Assad" I discussed where Assad holds only part of Syria. Sadly, we got here in addition to the death toll and destruction rather than as an alternative to the death toll and destruction. But is this a transition stage to Assad's defeat?

Even if America, Turkey, or Saudi Arabia don't seek to overthrow Assad in his core Syria, will Assad be able to unify the splintered Syria he does control and regain authority that Iran now weilds?

Will Assad's supporters continue to back Assad for presiding over this death and destruction to get the nominal win when the threat of jihadi victory in Damascus no longer keeps his supporters in line?

Total casualties in the Syrian civil war are north of 500,000 dead since the first protests in 2011 shifted to rebellion, civil war, and foreign intervention (the global jihadi movement, Turkey, Israel, Jordan, Iran, Russia, and America). For all the brutality, most deaths have been combatants and civilian casualties are "only" 100,000. This is more than the Iraq War total pre-2011 civilian death toll, but different in nature. In Iraq the civilians deaths were mostly caused by the terrorist enemies while in Syria most were killed by the Assad government which deliberately attacked civilians to drive millions of potential rebel supporters out of the country.

I won't say Assad has won. He is winning. And winning more clearly now. But I don't assume that can't change in some unexpected way, I don't assume Syria (or even just the core Syria Assad's side controls now) will be politically united again any time soon, I don't assume Assad can regain control from Iran and escape Lebanon's fate where Iran-controlled Hezbollah prevents the formal government from being in charge, and I don't assume Assad personally survives the win.

On the other hand, Assad reached this point despite teetering on the edge of defeat early in the fighting. It was so bad for Assad that President Obama felt safe to jump in front of the parade to declare Assad had to step down, confident that a mere statement would allow America to share in the glory of Assad's defeat.

I just thank God we didn't intervene early in the fighting by helping the then non-jihadi rebellion and further militarize the conflict.

UPDATE: Casualties might be north of 500,000, but they may not have yet reached that milestone.

If You Can't Have the Aircraft You Love, Love the Aircraft You Have?

The Army is working to help helicopters penetrate enemy air defenses. Good luck with that.

As the main Army close air support aircraft, a lot of effort is devoted to making helicopters work:

Speaking to reporters yesterday, [the head of the Army’s aviation Cross Functional Team BG Wally] Rugen outlined a symbiotic relationship between Army aviation and artillery. Drones jam the enemy radars and locate the anti-aircraft batteries; artillery destroys them with long-range missiles, rockets, and cannon shells; and manned aircraft penetrate the enemy defenses at the resulting weak point.

I've noted the effort some years ago, which I imagine is inspired by a near-disastrous deep strike by massed Apache helicopters during the Iraq War conventional phase, which I noted back in 2004 in that post.

I wonder if the Army would devote so much effort to making a vulnerable platform like the helicopter viable on a dangerous battlefield if it could use fixed wing aircraft for close air support.

The Air Force has a point that expensive aircraft like the F-35 can't go low to provide support to troops--whether close air support or air defense against drones--in the face of dangerous air defenses. And the A-10 is on the way out and may not be survivable (even if the pilot can survive in the tough plane) in the face of conventional enemies rather than insurgents.

So the future is that in conventional combat, the Air Force will have nothing that can go low to support troops. That means that the Army has to make helicopters work because that is the only aircraft that will come in low to support troops.

But is the only game in town the game the Army should play?

I really wish the Air Force would aim high and be the Aerospace Force while leaving the "brown skies" above the battlefield to the Army that can use whatever type of aircraft it thinks is best to carry out the missions in that dangerous air space above the troops.

Would the Army invest so much to make the helicopter viable on the battlefield if it had broader options?

And honestly, while armed helicopters operating over friendly forces to kill enemy forces approaching American troops at long range is very helpful, I'm not sure why deep penetrating raids by manned Army systems are even necessary with weapons like this:

Within five years, the US Army will field new artillery weapons — howitzer shells, rockets, and missiles — with ranges of 70 to 500 kilometers, double that of current systems. After 15 years of close-range combat against insurgents, the service’s top priority is now what it calls Long-Range Precision Fires to counter “peer competitors” like Russia and China on vastly larger battlefields.

Yes, such missiles and long-range artillery can suppress air defenses to pave the way for manned aircraft to strike targets. But the missiles and long-range artillery could also simply hit the target that the aircraft would have struck, no?

In the long run, you want to suppress enemy air defenses so all your support assets on the ground and in the air can pile on the enemy; but in the short run, troops in need of support will want the target threatening them knocked out quickly without pondering the long-range benefit of air supremacy.

Ultimately, soldiers on the ground should simply call for a target to be stuck without even really knowing--or caring--what system the fires people task with doing the job the most effectively and in a timely fashion.

UPDATE: Army aviation-related. But I have no basis for judging this, so I just pass it on.

Oh Yeah, the Physical Real World Exists, Too

Why is there a cyber limit on responding to cyber hackers who live and operate in the physical world?

Okay:

It is not news that cyberspace is insecure. Attackers have had the advantage over defenders for not just years, but decades. Quotes from decades ago make it clear that cyber defenders then faced the same challenges we do today (and with a similar lack of success).

When confronting enemy air defenses, we don't simply focus on counter-measures on the plane that deflect air defense missiles. We go after the launchers to blow them up.

When confronting enemy artillery or surface-to-surface missiles, we don't just try to shoot down the projectiles and harden defenses. We go after the artillery and missile launch sites to blow them up.

Body armor is not the only way to keep soldiers from getting killed; and active protection systems are not the ultimate way of defeating threats to armored vehicles. Killing the threats works even better.

So why do we seem to focus so much on defending against cyber attacks and mounting cyber counterattacks of our own when hackers in the real world blow up real good?

Not that fighting in cyber more effectively isn't something that should be done, but you'll note that attacking the hackers in the physical world isn't even hinted at in the scope of the issue.

UPDATE: It's great that the Army is preparing cyber-warriors at Fort Gordon (ah, I remember it well), but in an era when "cross-domain" capabilities is a thing in the Army, don't forget that enemy cyber-warriors may fight in the cyber domain but live in the physical world--where old school high explosives can kill them.

Monday, March 26, 2018

The Coming Slaughter

One day soon, Assad's forces will just kill all the rebels who agree to be relocated.

The last rebel group in the Ghouta pocket near Damascus expressed interest in coming to terms for laying down their arms and relocating to other rebel territory:

Rebel fighters with the Jaish al-Islam group in the Syrian town of Douma, near the capital Damascus, have expressed readiness to lay down their arms and leave the town, Russia's RIA news agency quoted a Russian General Staff official as saying.

I suspect the signal that the rebellion/civil war is over and won by Assad will be the first relocation deal where Assad simply slaughters the rebels who turn in their weapons rather than relocate them.

That would mean that Assad and his allies have been able to divide and conquer enough of his enemies (and to be sure, the rebels have always been divided so the issue was exploiting the divisions rather than creating them)  to be sure that they don't need any more of those deals that let an enemy live to fight another day. So Assad might as well kill a lot of rebels when they make it easy by gathering and turning in weapons.

Not that such a signal victory means fighting is over or that Assad can rest easy in his palace.

Too many foreign actors are involved in Syria today for this to be a simple mission accomplished moment. Assad cannot stand on his own.

And too many of Assad's supporters have suffered tremendous losses. Some of them may want Assad removed just for paying too high a price for his victory.

The Jihadi Interregnum?

Let's hope 1979 to 2017 will become known as the unfortunate gap in sane Islam in the modern world.

Will Saudi Arabia end their reign of terror they unleashed on the world for their own survival in order to survive the Islamic world that created?

The year 1979 was a key moment in the Islamist wave that has crashed across the world:

The [1979] attempted takeover of Mecca was a defining event in my country, mainly because of what happened next. Saudi rulers, fearing Iran’s revolutionary example, decided to give more space to the Salafi clerical establishment in hope of countering the radicals. Traditional Salafi preachers are neither violent nor political, but they hold a rigid view of Islam. Their legal rulings and attempts to police morals made the kingdom increasingly intolerant, setting back the gradual opening up that had occurred in the 1960s and ’70s.

The recovery by Saudi security forces of the Grand Mosque that was seized by Islamists included French special forces, if I recall correctly.

The plan assumed that Islamists would be content to reign in social areas while not challenging government authority:

The policy makers’ idea was simple: Give the political Islamists and their Salafi affiliates room to influence educational, judicial and religious affairs, and we will continue to control foreign policy, the economy, and defense. Saudi rulers were handling the hardware, while radicals rewrote the nation’s software. Saudi society, and the Muslim world, is still reeling from the effects.

That was an error. And the non-Islamic world is also, if not uniformly reeling, suffering as collateral damage in the Islamic civil war that has been raging over who defines Islam.

And now Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the heir apparent, is on a personally dangerous course to end the reign of terror his country unleashed on the world.

He deserves our help. This won't leave lasting positive changes as long as progress relies on one man.

The Saudi author of the WSJ piece says the genie can't be put back in the bottle. But the bottle can be shattered and the genie beheaded. So don't assume this first tentative step can't be stopped in its tracks.

This is a Problem for Iron Dome

Well that's an interesting flaw in the Iron Dome software:

Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile shield was launched on Sunday against Palestinian machine gun fire originating in the Hamas-dominated Gaza Strip, and not against incoming militant rockets, the Israeli army said.

Iron Dome is supposed to detect incoming missiles and rockets and only shoot at projectiles calculated to be a threat to a target.

By letting rockets calculated to hit open ground go through, the Iron Dome ammunition is preserved for real threats.

Gaza-based terrorists or Hezbollah in Lebanon could deplete the Iron Dome magazines by firing machine guns in order to pave the way for rockets to get through, no? I assume the software will be tweaked rather quickly because that's a big flaw.

Remember, just against actual rockets and missiles, the ammunition supply problem for Iron Dome already means that Iron Dome merely buys time to destroy the rocket-launching sites.

And in practice that means the army must move in and take over the rocket-launching sites.

Which is necessary because in 2006 the Israelis hoped that air power would knock out the rockets. But that didn't work in those pre-Iron Dome days.

I know there have been tremendous advances in precision targeting and persistent surveillance since 2006. But I suspect there has been an advance in human ingenuity on the part of Hezbollah to endure that more lethal air power (and artillery fire) with enough success to keep their far-larger rocket supply in business, launching at Israeli targets. Perhaps figuring out that cheap machine gun fire could spoof the software is only one of those clever ways to counter the technology.

This could kind of be like my thoughts on overwhelming the ammunition supply of active protection systems on armored vehicles. Although even in that post I essentially assumed APS wouldn't be triggered by mere machine gun fire, requiring armor at least thick enough to stop that.

UPDATE: When you don't have the launch sites, even absolute aerial supremacy doesn't prevent barrages of missiles at your cities, as the Saudis continue to experience in regard to Yemen's Iran-backed Houthis:

The Houthi movement that controls northern Yemen vowed on Monday to fire more missiles into Saudi Arabia unless it stops bombing the country, after missiles crashed into Riyadh overnight causing casualties in the Saudi capital for the first time.

Saudi defenders hit the incoming missiles but debris still fell to kill one person.

UPDATE: It is possible that an anti-missile malfunctioned and is the source of the debris that caused casualties.

UPDATE: And mind you, that's an old problem of anti-aircraft fire--what goes up must come down. British anti-aircraft fire killed British civilians in World War II and Iraqi anti-aircraft fire killed Iraqi civilians in Baghdad during the Persian Gulf War, if memory serves.

Working the Problem: AA/AD Edition

America tested a thousand-kilometer anti-ship missile:

The U.S. Air Force and U.S. defense contractor Lockheed Martin successfully tested a production configuration Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) from a B-1B Lancer long-range strategic bomber over Point Mugu Sea Range in California, the company announced in a March 19 statement.

I mentioned this project a while ago.

And long-range Tomahawks might play a role in fighting China's fleet, too, despite their age.

As I noted in this post:

China's rising naval power isn't taking place in a vacuum. We are reacting to China's efforts to keep our fleet away from China's shores (and away from our allies close to China). Long-range American air power will be able to find and sink Chinese ships leaving port.

We worry about Chinese anti-access/area denial (AA/AD) weapons that could keep our fleet far from China's shores.

But we may be able to deploy weapons that just as readily deny China access to their own coastal waters when they leave port.

And I'll note that I have a tiny amount of Lockheed Martin stock.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

So How Regional is Our Afghanistan Strategy?

In a regional approach to fighting the Afghan Taliban and related jihadis, somebody has to kill jihadis who seek refuge inside Pakistan.

This is fascinating:

A Pentagon spokesman said that the US military will not conduct hot pursuit of Taliban and allied jihadist fighters from Afghanistan into Pakistan. Additionally, the spokesman said that the military would be fine if the Taliban was operating on the Pakistani side of the border.

“We have no authority to go into Pakistan,” Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Mike Andrews told Pajhwok Afghan News.

I assume drone strikes are a different matter. But why are we basically ruling out "hot pursuit" by ground forces into Pakistan?

A regional approach to Afghanistan means expanding the fight outside Afghanistan's borders. Is Pakistan suddenly committed to fighting the jihadis under American pressure? That seems unlikely. But I'll take it as a great development, if true.

Or is America going to enable tribes inside Pakistan to fight the jihadis, bypassing Pakistan's uncooperative government (or at least their uncooperative security services, more specifically)?

There's more than one way to have a regional strategy.

Stop, Don't, Come Back

I don't know if China's One Belt, One Road project (aka the New Silk Road) that extends trade routes to Europe largely through Russia on land will work, but I do know I want China to try.



China may invest up to $8 trillion& by 2049 in their "megaproject."

It may actually be too little to do any good, despite the grand scale.

And it may promote anger and resentment on the route to Europe. India, especially, will worry, as the initial article notes.

But it will at least redirect China inland and away from confrontation with America and our allies at sea.

It will certainly create economic interests requiring defending that will split Chinese military spending between air-supported land power in the interior of Asia and air-supported sea power in the Pacific.

While it would be better to win than lose a war with China, I'd rather avoid any war. And getting China focused away from the sea where we and our Pacific allies are is as good a means as any.

UPDATE: I don't know why I had that rail gun video embedded. I must have thought I was editing another post. Or ... I might have tried to add a map but the paste feature was stuck on the video and I didn't notice. So let me add a map just in case.

The Army Rail Gun Queen

The Navy's project for a rail gun is oddly a lower priority now, apparently. But the Army is moving forward with its own rail gun project:

Earlier this month, General Atomics—the same folks who produce the Predator and Reaper drones, as well as the Navy's less than ready for prime time Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), among many other defense products—announced that it had been awarded a contract to further develop and test their railgun for U.S. Army applications. The contract will run for three years and will result in a number of prototypes that will be evaluated and integrated into existing Army vehicles and fighting doctrine.



Notice that the system is modular and can be carried on the beds of trucks.

Rail guns were a feature of future warfare that I took a stab at describing for the Army Mad Scientist contest.

Note too that the smallest version could be a direct fire weapon, I imagine.


The same modularity would make it deployable on an Army vessel--like The AFRICOM Queen modularized auxiliary cruiser I wrote about--capable of providing rail gun missile defense and firepower support for troops near the coast.

I'm glad somebody is pushing forward on this. As long as one service develops it, all services will benefit in the end. The modularized auxiliary concept would work for the Navy, too.

Also, the Army directed microwave weapon is housed in a short shipping container. Standard shipping containers are the basis of the building blocks I'd like to see for the modularized auxiliary cruiser.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Weekend Data Dump

I'd be happier if schools were criminal-free zones before we focus on guns too much. Good Lord, how stupid are people with power? Tip to Instapundit.

It's good to see a focused effort to make infantry and other "close combat" troops more lethal and effective. The money is a drop in the bucket compared to the big ticket high-tech weapons usually given priority. And it will make infantry more survivable, of course, even without protective additions, by making them more effective and lethal.

The NATO southern flank wasn't pretty but ultimately it worked well enough to help win the Cold War.

Wait, did this "diplomatic staffer" work for France or for Russia?

To be fair, some people just need to be killed. Tip to Instapundit.

Canada will send peacekeepers to Mali. There is little peace to keep in that dangerous jihadi-infected place, so Canada's tough soldiers best recall their Afghanistan combat experience to accomplish their mission.

I did wonder if freeing American captives might be a condition of starting talks with North Korea.

Early in the week, the Assad victory at Ghouta looks like it is past the point of rebels being able to resist the conquest; yet Assad could face a bigger problem if Turkish control in the north allows Turkey to bolster non-Kurdish rebels there. Rememer, Kurds are not willing to spearhead a drive to overthrow Assad. Although Turkey threatens America's position (and those of the Kurds, of course) east of the Euphrates along the border.

Nigeria gained the release of "scores" of girls kidnapped by jihadis. Nigeria claimed no ransom was paid. But are these all of them? Well, all of the surviving girls. Those released say five died and know of one still in captivity. Boko Haram has a real weakness for waging war on girls.

It's different! Because ... shut up. Granted, I would have advised against congratulations, as I would have in 2012. Putin is dangerous. But I didn't criticize Obama then. And don't pretend Russia suddenly got worse between 2012 and 2018--it's just that Democrats suddenly perceived that Russia was working against them. Gosh, I'm so old that I remember when Pravda viciously slammed Romney's presidential bid. Flexibility is waay different than collusion.

But I'm repeatedly told that socialism means you care. Oddly, for a business that purports to explain things to us, "socialism" isn't even mentioned in the article. So the reason for oil-rich Venezuela's accelerating collapse remains a mystery.

Questions as yet without answers. What our government did in trying to get Hillary Clinton elected really is shameful, and heads should roll. Rule of law needs to mean something here. And for those who believe in the ability of the federal government to solve problems, consider that the vast resources of the federal government couldn't help Clinton defeat Donald Trump, of all people. Democrats should have been able to nominate a ham sandwich and get an Electoral College victory given their advantages.

North Korea says their offer to discuss getting rid of their nukes is a sign of strength and not weakness. Good to know. So there is no reason to ease sanctions on North Korea while the talks go on.

Why I always say check the "definitions" section. While the entire cost of an iPhone assembled in China is counted as part of China's trade surplus, only 3-6% is actually from China's part in the multinational supply chain that goes into the phone.

Effing Russians. But don't forget that the Russians got away with that because of the Obama administration's failures. Remember,  flexibility is waay different than collusion.

So a porn star passes a polygraph test about Trump? Years of experience faking orgasms on film makes that achievement less than persuasive. But perhaps I've shared too much. Although honestly it wouldn't be a huge shock if she is essentially telling the truth, eh?

CNN is heavily promoting their admiring series on Pope Francis. I'm sure the shift from seeing the Pope as the head of a vast pedophilia ring as a moral leader has nothing to do with having a pope who seems to have more faith in socialism and global warming than Catholic faith. Sheer coincidence, no doubt.

Israel admits the open secret it destroyed a nuclear reactor in Syria back in 2007. You'll recall the mysterious Big Hole Incident that fingered Syria as the location for an Iran-North Korea nuclear transaction.

I'll note again that I deleted my Facebook account early last summer and never did join Twitter. Social media seems really anti-social.

I am woman! Hear me roar! Shut up!

I'm confused. Democrats were aghast that Trump was mean to Kim Jong-Un because it might start a nuclear war even though North Korea as yet has no nukes that can reach America. But Democrats are even more aghast that Trump isn't mean to Putin who has thousands of nukes that can reach America. I'm sure my nuance deficiency is the problem.

Democrats aren't the only side that can organize a Children's Crusade. Have our public schools been so successful at educating or kids that they can take a break from that obsolete job? Stop using children as props and cannon fodder for your cause. Tip to Instapundit.

A tour of Algeria that had its bloody war on jihadis in the 1990s and is hopefully still too exhausted from that to be a jihadi battlefield any time soon.

The Navy wasted a lot of time and effort trying to make the wholly inappropriate Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) actually operate in the littorals (waters close to shores). It was too flimsy, too big, and too expensive to risk that close to vast numbers of land-based assets. Meanwhile an actual littoral warship--the Cyclone class--is getting worn out operating in the Persian Gulf with no replacement in sight.

If Republicans pass a spending bill like this when they have Congress, the presidency, and the Supreme Court, why do they imagine people will walk across broken glass to vote for them in November? What? They need Hollywood and college professors, too, before acting on their platform? Seriously, WTF? Republicans deserve to lose the House this fall if they can't use their majority to pass legislation. Sadly, America doesn't deserve to endure that development. Amazingly, President Trump would have been the voice of fiscal sanity if he had vetoed the bill. But he didn't. He says this is the last of this kind he will sign. We'll see. And we'll see if he'll even have a Republican Congress to send him better bills. What a clusterfuck.

Yeah, politics don't belong in entertainment. I mostly stopped watching any NFL game other than the Lions (I have issues, I know) and  Supergirl pushed me away despite a really pretty lead actress. Good grief, the reboot of X Files put me off on day one despite my eagerness to have that show again. I'm resigned to entertainment leaning left and overlook a lot. But lately it is getting too much.

The American-designed missile defense site in northern Poland that was supposed to be finished this year won't be ready until 2020.

And yes, McMaster is out. Bolton is fine but it is a shame there isn't room for both in the administration.

China spends on domestic security more than it spends on external security. Here's the data trend. If official data is to be trusted. This development is interesting when you consider that the Chinese Communist Party sees all threats as a continuum of threats to party control of China.

In an age when we're supposed to believe women on rape charges without question, what if the police had brought in some suspects based on her charge? Would they have gone to trial if she had "identified" them as the attackers? Being falsely accused of rape these hypothetical men would have faced tremendous danger to their lives and liberty. That woman should have been imprisoned with serious jail time to send a message about false reports. Rule of law is weakened when there is a "no harm, no foul" attitude about false accusations.

Global carbon emissions are up globally for 2017. No word on whether America, which pulled out of the Paris Accords, continues to show declines of green house gas emissions since the peak of 2007. I eagerly await the details to see if the rest of the world who remained in the farcical accord have reduced their emissions.

Guccifer 2.0 was apparently a Russian intelligence officer. Remember that the Obama administration quietly let Russia's efforts to disrupt our election slide. But don't call that collusion. It's waay different! Assuming the clue is real and not a plant to misdirect. I don't know enough to judge although the article assumes it is a clue.

A jihadi claiming ISIL affiliation was killed after the jihadi killed 3 in France. The jihadi demonstrated the link between Moslem criminals and jihadis. It's almost as if guilt over crime convinces the Moslem criminal to go on a personal jihad to redeem their sin-filled life. Which is fairly twisted, you must admit.

Thin reporting of a possible failed terror attack using a VBIED loaded with propane tanks at Travis Air Force Base in California. It had the ideal result--a dead terrorist. Although this report minimizes the possible terrorism angle. It was certainly deliberate if not terrorism.

ISIL used their brief caliphate period in Iraq to do what they do best--slaughter civilians. It is confirmed that 39 Indian construction workers were murdered by ISIL after taking Mosul in 2014.

I hope that the American presence in Manbij in northwest Syria west of the Euphrates River can keep this area free of Turkish-instigated conflict and free from Syrian control. Ideally, an unofficial deal of having no actual Kurdish troops in Manbij will be a deal good enough to prevent Turkey from expanding their buffer zone in Syria all the way to the Euphrates River.

Europeans are being surprisingly supportive of Britain in regard to the poisoning incident. Russia has the backing of Serbia and Venezuela. Russia couldn't even get Cuba or the rump Axis of Evil to say a good word? We'll see if Europeans (and America for that matter) seriously punish Russia for waging chemical warfare in a Western country. Russia accuses Britain of organizing a "hate campaign" against Russia, neglecting the obvious response that people actually should hate Russia.

"'It's a big discomfort for us to have unpredictable and aggressive counterparts. But this is the reality we have to live with,' Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according to the [RIA news] agency," regarding European reaction to the Skripal poisoning by Russia.
#WhyRussiaCan'tHaveNiceThings

Good Luck With That

Everybody thinks that they have a substitute for infantry going in and standing on the ground that enemies use to threaten you. South Korea joins the effort:

The South Korean Army plans to deploy surface-to-surface missiles in a newly created counter-artillery brigade by October, with the aim of destroying North Korea’s hardened long-range artillery sites near the Demilitarized Zone, should conflict erupt on the Korean Peninsula.

I suspect the North Koreans will be clever enough to avoid the rapid destruction of their threat to Seoul and that South Korean troops will need to carve out a no-launch zone north of the DMZ to protect Seoul from artillery fire.

Will South Korea be the first to make standing on the ground to keep that ground from being used to kill you an obsolete method of war?

Point of Friction

Russia and China have competing interests in Central Asia where once the Soviet Union stood. They may cooperate for now, but Russia is just sowing the seeds of eventual Chinese efforts to supplant Russia.

Russia and China have set aside their competition in Central Asia:

But China has also managed to avoid stepping on Russia's toes in Central Asia because it has been willing to play second fiddle to the Kremlin on regional defense. Unlike Russia, China does not operate military bases or permanently station troops in Central Asia — and it hasn't demonstrated an interest in doing so anytime soon. (Beijing has categorically denied recent reports that it is constructing a base for Afghan troops near the Tajik-Afghan border.) Russia's appetite for overseas military deployments far outstrips that of China, at least for now.

China focuses on trade and economic development in the region. Russia dominates in the military realm. But China's economic investments will likely be followed by military means to protect the investments, Stratfor notes.

So basically Russia is providing the security for Chinese economic penetration of Russia's sphere of influence.

If the flag follows trade, the flag will be Chinese.

The Russians are delusional to seek confrontation with NATO rather than reinforce their China frontiers.

The Carrot of Not Being Hit With a Stick

President Trump announced tariffs to target China over theft of intellectual property and industrial espionage.

Okay:

President Trump will reportedly announce plans to levy more than $50 billion in tariffs and other penalties on China.

Remember long ago that Trump promised China trade benefits if they help us deal with North Korea. I've mentioned this angle even if I don't trust China to be our friend.

I suspect that this tariff plan is a way of pushing China to help on North Korea with looming talks an alternative to waging war on North Korea to end their nuclear threat.

Perhaps the appeal of trade concessions isn't doing the trick and the prospect of trade punishment is being added to the mix.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Potemkin Pillage

Russia continues to beat their chest and fling poo at NATO. Having former Russian satellite states in NATO is a source of information on Russia--if we listen:

As a result the intel on Russia from the former Russian states was often more insightful and less scary than the reports Western agencies were still putting out. Old habits die hard and the Western intelligence agencies didn’t want to stray too far from the “conventional wisdom” about Russia still favored by politicians and journalists in the West. The “conventional wisdom” was not only often wrong but could be dangerous as well.

I worry about Russia. But I have never inflated their strength. Blogging in Michigan where my income and status doesn't rely on what I write perhaps made me immune to the pressure to conform to conventional wisdom.

I never elevated Crimea into the template of Russia's strengths, preferring to count Russia's extensive troop presence and large base in Crimea as well as the complete lack of Ukrainian military strength to resist Russia in the early weeks of the new government that overthrew the Russian stooge.

I never got on board the whole "hybrid" war frenzy, preferring to see that as old methods that in fact highlighted Russia's inability to use large-scale conventional warfare to quickly gain the territory they wanted in eastern Ukraine's Donbas region.

I never go caught up in the near worship of Russian battalion tactical groups as revolutionary organizations of massive power. I prefer to think of them as the the only usable power of Russia's brigades scraped up from across the country. Rather than being great battalion task forcess, they are essentially weak brigades.

I don't worry about Russia's fleet and instead hope they put more resources into a blue water fleet to deprive the ground and air forces of needed money.

I can see that their "stealth" plane is at best a frontal-only stealth plane and not a reason to panic. If they can get it to work and put it into production.

The same applies to the new Armata super tank. Nice looking prototype. Try mass producing it and maybe I'll worry.

Heck, I wonder how many of Russia's nuclear weapons work given that I wonder how likely is it that their nuclear forces are uniquely well built and maintained amidst the mess of their military?

But Russia has a geographic advantage over NATO by being able to generate a high level of superiority over our NATO allies of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania (and old NATO state Norway for that matter in their far north)--and against neutral but NATO-friendly Sweden and Finland--that will last for many months before America and the rest of NATO can send troops to the east through the logistics infrastructure-poor new NATO states.

So Russia is a danger to NATO territorial integrity. Especially if the Russians talk themselves into the notion that NATO is too "soft" to fight tough Russian fighters in a lengthy fight. Russia might believe they can use their initial advantage to take territory, dig in, wave their nukes around, and scare the decadent NATO nations into giving in to Russian aggression.

On the bright side, taking Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania doesn't have to be more than a temporary loss if NATO gathers a counter-attack force. NATO is in a much better position today than in the Cold War when a Soviet advance of only a hundred miles or so after defeating the best NATO troops would reach the Rhine and cripple NATO.

Exactly How Far Does China's Sacred Territory Extend?

China is again threatening free Taiwan:

"It is a shared aspiration of all Chinese people and in their basic interests to safeguard China's sovereignty and territorial integrity and realise China's complete reunification," Xi said in a speech at the end of the session.

Far be it for me to quibble with Emperor Xi, First of His Name, about China's "sacred" territory (is that an escalation from "core" interests?), but he is confused.

If Taiwanese are really Chinese, then all Chinese don't share the aspiration of unification. Sure, the tiny population of Taiwan is a rounding error of the mainland's population, but the math is clear.

And if all Chinese truly share that aspiration, Taiwan can't possibly be part of China.

Seriously, do the Venn Diagram. It's obvious.

No matter, the official word is out to the "news" arm of the state:

A widely read Chinese state-run newspaper said on Thursday China should prepare for military action over self-ruled Taiwan, and pressure Washington over cooperation on North Korea, after the United States passed a law to boost ties with Taiwan.

Anyway, I should recall my Chinese invasion of Taiwan scenario, which would still be a good template for conquering that sacred land.

Taiwan needs to be ready to fight like Hell, 24/7, every step of the way from the air and sea to the shores and cities, because I doubt Xi would be content to let Taiwan suffer the "punishment of history" for escaping the dystopian surveillance police state that China is building.

Heck, Taiwan is certainly one part of the Asia-Pacific region that the Army--with the Marines at its side--should plan a campaign. We have an example from 75 years ago.

And let me ask Russia, are you properly worried yet that huge tracts of your Far East might become as "sacred" as Taiwan is to China?

Just what does Russia think their place in line will be if China conquers Taiwan? Russia would be smart to sell submarines to Taiwan.

Freedom of Navigation

The Navy carried out a freedom of navigation operation within 12 miles of a Chinese artificial island in the South China Sea.

This sounds like an actual FONOP rather than innocent passage:

A U.S. Navy destroyer carried out a "freedom of navigation" operation on Friday, coming within 12 nautical miles of an artificial island built by China in the South China Sea, U.S. officials told Reuters. ...

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the USS Mustin traveled close to Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands and carried out maneuvering operations.

The maneuvering is the key detail. Innocent passage means you rapidly and meekly move through waters you recognize as belonging to someone else.

Of course, under international law China only controls waters measured in not many yards around an artificial island consistent with safety. So legally our ship could have gotten much closer. But the movement made the point.

I look for details because during the Obama administration I grew to suspect--and eventually had it confirmed--that our "freedom of navigation" missions were actually innocent passage.

UPDATE: China makes an ominous threat in their complaint about Mustin:

China's defense ministry claimed that by carrying out these so-called infringements, the US had "damaged the atmosphere of military-to-military relations between the two countries, caused close encounters by air and naval forces, which could easily trigger miscalculation or even accidents at sea or in air."

Miscalculation and accidents? I do hope we provide muscular overwatch for ships on FONOPs in case China engineers an accident.

And you know my views on mil-to-mil contacts with China.

Belarus Basically is a Road

Belarus' economy appears to be stronger than I feared. Which makes me feel better about Belarus maintaining independence from Russia but also makes me worried that strength could make Belarus a more appealing target for Anschluss with Russia.

I assumed Belarus was basket-casey. Apparently not:

Indeed, Belarus has not only overcome the economic slump of 2015–2016 but is experiencing accelerated growth. In January 2018, the GDP was 4.6 percent higher than in January 2017 (Tut.by, February 16). Annual change notwithstanding, it is also instructive to remember that, over the long run, Belarus has been rather an overachiever than underachiever.

Belarus carries out a balancing act enticing the West to balance Moscow to keep Russia out, but acting with Russia to keep Russia from thinking it must control Belarus directly.

A stronger economy makes Belarus more resistant to Russia and a more valuable target.

Which is something to pay attention to because I think Belarus may be the most important territory in modern Europe. Belgium a century ago may be instructive.

And notwithstanding allusions to World War II with the "Anschluss" remark, I suspect Russia would get the supporting role in that analogy.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Good Grief, They Suck

The Germans are screwing up their pledge to provide a single armored brigade for the NATO response force:

Germany has come up short once more in meeting its military obligations to NATO. Leaked readiness data indicates that a key component of the NATO rapid reaction force, which Germany is to supply in 2019, is nowhere near ready to perform duties German said it could handle. The German armored brigade that was promised for 2019 is not able to fulfill its duties. Only about 20 percent of the armored vehicles (Leopard 2 tanks and Marder infantry vehicles) are fit for service. German military aircraft continue to have the lowest readiness rates in NATO and Germany continues, as it has for over twenty year, to promise the situation would be fixed but it never is.

Yet we're supposed to trust Germany to be the NATO framework nation for land combat missions rather than worry that Germany will be the anchor that drags every other NATO army that associates with the Germans down?

Heck, these days I don't know if Germany could design a decent anchor.

What happened to our once capable NATO-era ally that fielded the best mechanized army in NATO? Do the Germans value so little the prosperous democracy they built as part of the free West that they are unwilling to defend it?

Strange Russian Respect

Putin won his election. There was no electoral surprise in Putin's Russia. And no actual rule of law democracy, of course, no matter how much he wants Russians to believe that.

I've noted before that for all that some Westerners excuse non-Western autocrats for not having a "Western" democratic system "imposed" on their "authentic" societies, that every tinpot dictatorship of the secular or religious variety likes to have elections to pretend they have legitimacy based on popular will expressed at the ballot box. Russia is no exception:

Vladimir Putin, Russia’s longest-serving ruler since Joseph Stalin, surprised no one with his landslide re-election on Sunday. While his victory, in which he claimed 73.9 percent of the vote according to state-run exit polls, was a foregone conclusion, the Kremlin was reportedly anxious about turnout, and conducted an elaborate, well-financed get-out-the-vote campaign. For an authoritarian regime in which election results and turnout are pre-ordained, such concerns may seem odd. But even in Russia’s “managed democracy,” appearances still matter, and the Kremlin needed to present believably high levels of support to ensure Putin’s mandate.

If Western democracy is so inauthentic to local cultures, why does every thug ruler hold sham Western-style elections rather than just assert their local history of superior governance?

It's an odd thing. Putin works hard to discredit Western democracy while working just as hard to justify his own increasingly dictatorial rule with the color of rule-based Western-style democracy.

Times Change and So Must Our Taiwan Policy

America downgraded relations with Taiwan when China lacked the ability to launch an invasion of Taiwan in order to gain Chinese support for containing the far bigger problem of the Soviet Union. Those factors changed so why should America continue to hold to the obsolete terms of that old agreement?

China poses a threat to Taiwan and aligns with Russia on many issues that harm America. So old agreements are due for revision to take into consideration today's realities:

President Donald Trump on Friday signed legislation that would allow U.S. officials to travel to Taiwan to meet their Taiwanese counterparts, a move certain to anger China, which views Taiwan as a wayward province.

The Chinese complained that this harms the "one China" policy that says that all of China, including Taiwan, are one entity that Peking should rule.

China doesn't mention the part about not using force to achieve that goal, which we've long insisted be observed.

Now that China has the ability to invade Taiwan (if it wants to pay the price, of course) and now that China no longer helps us contain Russia (and indeed, now that China is a long-term threat greater than Russia), I don't understand why America should consider the old deal written in stone.

Further, it was one thing to stand apart from Taiwan when China couldn't invade and when Taiwan was an authoritarian state.

But now Taiwan is a free and prosperous democratic state under threat from a one-party (and increasingly one-man) dictatorship.

Of course, official visits don't replace spending a lot more on defense which Taiwan still doesn't do given the scale of the threat Taiwan faces.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Act Like It Could Be True

Whether or not Russian subs stalked our naval bases undetected, we should assume it could be true.

The Russians claim their submarines got close to American naval bases undetected:

Russian nuclear attack submarines conducted a mission where they approached U.S. military bases with the intent of staying undetected, a Russian military official told Russian state-owned media. ...

[Russian navy submarine officer Sergey] Starshinov claimed Russian submarines came “close enough” to American shores and were “undetected,” but did not infringe on U.S. maritime borders.

I don't know if this claim is true. It could be sheer propaganda. But I know I worry that we act as if it couldn't be true.

Although I can't rule out the possibility that one of our nuclear attack subs stalked them and the Russians don't know it. Which would mean we should let the Russians think they counted coup on us.

Austin, Texas

The Austin, Texas, bomber was found and he killed himself with his own bomb.

The debate is whether this is terrorism. In a sense, of course it is. His bombs terrorized and killed. But if it isn't part of a group dedicated to achieving a goal--even if the goal is just killing people different than the terrorists--and with the potential of appealing to a broader (even if limited) audience to support the goal, it is hard to call it terrorism.

But it is very different from the IED campaigns of Iraq and Afghanistan that plagued civilians and troops fighting the terrorists.

There was an entire IED industry in Iraq, for example, that had large teams composed of scouts to determine locations for bombs, people who made the bombs, people who emplaced the bombs, and people who detonated them. Each bomb was a battle plan.

That kind of effort required a certain level of support in an area to carry out over time.

The Texas bomber was apparently a lone bomber (unless that is just to lull accomplices still being pursued) who did all of it himself. And quickly tracking him down indicates no support in the community.

So while the intent may well be terrorism, it is not at all like an organized terror campaign. I suppose we'll find out what likely motivated the man. Then we may know if it was terrorism, mental illness, a grievance, or a serial killer.

And this being early, we'll find out if he truly acted alone as it seems. Much could change so I'm necessarily speculating on thin information.

But thank goodness he is dead. Hopefully no more bombs kill more after the bomber's death.

Baby Steps to Sanity?

Behold the power of the Iran deal in getting Iran to reconsider the evil of their ways!

Britain, France and Germany have proposed fresh EU sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missiles and its role in Syria's war, according to a confidential document, in a bid to persuade Washington to preserve the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran.

Even the Europeans who believe in the farce of the nuclear deal don't think testing ballistic missiles that would be really useful for nuclear warheads is a good idea for Iran to pursue.

Remember, the nuanced set in the White House believed the awful nuclear deal would set Iran on the path to being a friendly "successful regional power."

So given the glorious future the deal would create, small details like defining what a banned missile is were unimportant to the American negotiators, quoting an Iranian official here on the deal:

"It doesn't call upon Iran not to test ballistic missiles, or ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads ... it calls upon Iran not to test ballistic missiles that were 'designed' to be capable," Zarif said.

So if the missile isn't technically capable of having a nuclear warhead on it, it's cool.

No matter that once you have the missile perfected you can redesign the thing easily enough to be capable of mounting a nuclear warhead.

So now the Iranians are driving a nuclear ICBM through that loophole.

Europeans see the nuclear deal isn't stopping Iran from pursuing missiles most useful for nuclear warheads. Maybe the clue bat will get them to reverse course on the bigger deal before it is too late.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Coming War

That seems rather definitive about a war between Israel and Hezbollah:

Despite all the noise the Palestinians make Israel is concentrating on what it perceives is its greatest threat; war instigated and backed by Iran on two fronts. In the north there are over 100,000 rockets in Lebanon and Syria aimed at Israel. In the south there are over 50,000 rockets in Gaza, where Iran is once again a major backer of Hamas. Iran does not have sufficient ground forces available in Gaza (Hamas) and the north (Hezbollah and Iranian mercenaries in Syria) to invade Israel. The coming war involves Israel invading Lebanon, Syria and Gaza to stop the massive rocket attacks.

Well, I've been expecting this.

The main target, I think, will be Hezbollah in Lebanon where Israel will mount what is essentially a deep ground raid on a large scale to tear up Hezbollah by killing fighters, rear echelon types, and digging out intelligence from the rubble of the Hezbollah infrastructure captured.

I think Israel should avoid targeting any of Lebanon's infrastructure and forces with the goal of enabling Lebanon's formal government to reassert control over southern Lebanon against a dramatically weakened Hezbollah. Otherwise Israel will need to do this again in a decade--possibly with a nuclear-armed Iran operating a fully controlled Syria as an additional asset.

I suspect that any operations in Syria will be from the air only to smash up Iranian assets and forces close to Israel.

And I suspect Israel won't target Gaza, hoping Fatah can restrain Hamas, and react only with limited artillery and air strikes to any attacks from Gaza--unless Gaza fully joins Hezbollah.

UPDATE: There does seem to be "chatter" in the air for something happening soon