Monday, April 30, 2018

Exposing the Shame of the Iran Deal

It isn't newsworthy that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu detailed Iran's lying about past nuclear programs. We knew that. But shamefully the Obama administration did the 2015 deal, anyway.

Although many here denied it or believed the lie irrelevant. And to their everlasting shame, participated in the Ben Rhodes echo chamber snow job to praise the awful deal.

And that cast of characters continues to mislead.

The fact that Israel managed to get so much information out of Iran has got to rattle the mullahs in Iran and is surely newsworthy.

It seemed like this revelation was about past work. Let's hope Israel got more than that on current projects suitable for targeting, but didn't want to reveal that publicly right now.

Regardless, how could America not cancel the deal and treat Iran's mullah rulers like the lying, dangerous enemy they are?

So the expectation is that America will pull out of the deal. That's good for the Iran problem.

That withdrawal will also have a good effect on North Korea which will know it can't negotiate a deal that it can cheat on and get away with it.

UPDATE: Documenting the lies that Iran has made is more than "just" confirming what we all knew.

As I said early in the process years ago, my fear was that the basic form of the deal would be that Iran would pretend not to have a nuclear program; and that America would then pretend to believe Iran.

Obviously, Iran's failure to come clean on their past nuclear weapons programs is a problem just at the level of trusting the Iranians.

But less obvious is that by letting Iran get away with lying about never having a nuclear weapons program, we lose the ability to compare what Iran does now or in the future in the nuclear area with past nuclear weapons program activities.

If they match, we can call Iran on the resumption of nuclear weapons programs in violation of the (really awful) deal.

But without a record of past nuclear weapons programs admitted, anything we discover Iran is doing related to weapons allows Iran to claim is really a new thing unrelated to weapons programs.

Also, saying of course Iran would save past nuclear work, so this is no big deal, ignores that the deal does expire allowing Iran to resume nuclear weapons work without foreign scrutiny. The assumption in the Obama administration is that by the time the deal expired, Iran would be such a normal, "reset" country that it wouldn't want nuclear weapons.

So by keeping that information, Iran doesn't seem like it expects to not want nuclear weapons when the deal expires.

Claims and Control are Separate Issues

This is true enough:

China has deployed electronic attack systems and other military facilities on disputed islands in the South China Sea and is now capable of controlling the strategic waterway, according to the admiral slated to be the next Pacific Command chief.

China has bases, weapons, and capabilities to control the South China Sea. America has the ability to control the Gulf of Mexico. And Britain and France have the ability to control the English Channel.

So it just isn't surprising that China can control the South China Sea initially if it comes to a shooting war.

What I object to is the notion that some have that failing to prevent China from having the ability to control the South China Sea in a shooting war is the same as conceding Chinese territorial claims to the South China Sea. That is false. Peace and war are separate issues.

As long as America and our allies carry out freedom of navigation exercises in the South China Sea to deny China's claims, peacetime is fine because China won't shoot to enforce their claim.

And if China does shoot to enforce their claim, then it is a shooting war situation that will decide who controls the sea in practice, just like shooting decides who controls any area of sea regardless of legal claims.

Marines will come in handy then.

As will working with the Australians who could fight alongside our forces:
The Marine Corps is learning to operate with Australia’s amphibious warships and will embed 40 logisticians on the HMAS Adelaide during summer’s Rim of the Pacific exercise in Hawaii, according to the commander of U.S. rotational forces Down Under.

The Marines’ annual six-month deployment to the Northern Territory, which began last month, includes nearly 1,600 Marines, eight MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and an artillery battery of six M777 Howitzers.

The Marines who rotate through Darwin don't have Navy ships assigned so they need someone else to deploy them.

The Australian army brigades the Marines will train with each have amphibious capabilities. So that's useful, too.

And as the next PACOM leaders testified, he could use certain weapons to come out on top in a shooting match.

UPDATE: China is working to make their ability to control match their ability to claim:

China has installed anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missile systems on three of its outposts in the South China Sea, U.S. news network CNBC reported on Wednesday, citing sources with direct knowledge of U.S. intelligence reports.

So it will be a fight to deny China control--or at least deny China the benefit of control.

Smells Like Woke Spirit




Dress up in black, bring odds and ends
It's fun to lose and condescend
Zhe's all ignored and self-assured
Oh no, I heard a hateful word

Hell no, hell no, hell no, hell no
Hell no, hell no, hell no, howl no!
Hell no, hell no, hell no, howl no!
Hell no, hell no, hell no

With a mask on it's less dangerous
Here we are now, insulate us
I feel muted and outrageous
Here we are now, insulate us

A gelato, an espresso
A burrito, from Toledo

I'm worse at what I do best
And for this gift I feel oppressed
Our victimhood has always been
And always will until the end

Hell no, hell no, hell no, hell no
Hell no, hell no, hell no, howl no!
Hell no, hell no, hell no, howl no!
Hell no, hell no, hell no

With a mask on it's less dangerous
Here we are now, insulate us
I feel muted and outrageous
Here we are now, insulate us

A gelato, an espresso
A burrito, from Toledo

And I forget, just why I hate
Oh yeah, I guess it makes me smile
I found you marred, you're marred to find
Oh well, whatever, realigned

Hell no, hell no, hell no, hell no
Hell no, hell no, hell no, howl no!
Hell no, hell no, hell no, howl no!
Hell no, hell no, hell no

With a mask on it's less dangerous
Here we are now, insulate us
I feel muted and outrageous
Here we are now, insulate us

A gelato, an espresso
A burrito, from Toledo

A show trial, a show trial
A show trial, a show trial

Let me know when we reach Nirvana on this strange path.

With thanks to these people for the original lyrics.

Overcommitted?

I don't see America's influence declining and I don't see how American military power is stretched.

Oh?

The decline of US power has become a trope in discussions of global affairs. But its ability to contribute to the domestic problems of its adversaries—and an ally with which it is increasingly at odds—is a sign that the US can still exercise substantial soft power, even as its military is overcommitted and limited in its ability to deploy force to new theaters. [emphasis added]

The article focused on how the currencies of Russia, Iran, and Turkey are being hurt by America's economic soft power. This power is felt just from the size of America's economy apart from whether anything is deliberate. Which is interesting.

But I just don't see American influence declining--at least not in the sense of America pulling back from the world which is what that claim seems to rely on.

Certainly, as other powers like China rise in power, American relative power decreases. That's normal. And math.

Yet rising Indian power is helpful rather than a problem despite its role in diluting American power.

But our power remains huge even when we aren't aiming it anyone. Small countries dependent on a single export might flounder because their product is no longer trendy in Manhattan or is removed from the shelves in Whole Foods Market.

But what really confuses me is the idea that American military power is overcommitted.

Yes, American forces are abroad in significant numbers. Although this is greatly reduced from either the Cold War or the peaks of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But America has zero Army combat brigades or Marine regiments involved in combat. Our Navy is not fighting more than pirates or occasionally firing missiles at ground targets or ballistic missiles. Our Air Force is bombing only irregulars for the most part, in smallish conflicts (although airlift is certainly overcommitted).

I certainly no longer hear about how our special forces are burning out despite their crucial role in the war on terror.

During the heights of the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns, American ground power was surely so committed to those campaigns that deploying ground forces to a new theater was virtually impossible. So air and naval power would have had to hold the line in a new theater until brigades could be mobilized or redirected.

But I just don't see the overcommitment.

If the overcommitment is from the idea that we need everything we've got and more to face Russia in Europe, Iran in the Middle East, China in the Pacific, North Korea in northeast Asia, and jihadis all over, that's true enough. But that is a factor that has existed since World War II (even in the post-Cold War era after Soviet power collapsed and before Chinese power rose, as I worried about here) as we balance allocating forces for various contingencies. We simply can't afford to build a military capable of facing all conceivable threats.

If the overcommitment is based on what is deployable because of years of readiness problems, that's a separate issue from the force structure. By all means, that needs to be fixed.

Russia Needs to Check Their Math--and Maps

Russia is a huge country with large defense needs and a mid-level economy. Trying to be a super-power rather than a potent mid-level power on their available resources harms Russia's ability to defend itself.

Strategypage looks at the wreckage of Russia's security activity, concluding:

Meanwhile the Russian GDP ($1.3 trillion) is stagnant and the population continues to shrink because more people are leaving and not enough children are being born. Few want to move to Russia, at least not for economic opportunities. Russia projects a more powerful image than it can sustain. Russia needs a win but so far can only manage some feeble spin.

Australia and Canada have economies in the same scale as Russia. Neither of the former tries to build a  military the same scale of Russia's nor do they threaten weaker neighbors who have strong allies and friends.

Face it, Russia needs a small blue water navy, ballistic missile subs for a survivable strategic nuclear deterrent, naval forces to protect bastions for those SSBNs, shorter range warships backed by shore-based missiles and planes to dominate coastal waters, a sizable army with an air force to support it, and a nuclear force weighted to theater- and short-range weapons to threaten invaders.

And more important, Russia needs to redeploy their military center of gravity away from facing and threatening NATO that poses no threat to invade Russia; and bolster their defenses in Central Asia and the Far East where China looms.

And Russia needs to do this before Germany with almost three times Russia's GDP rearms and poses even a theoretical ability to attack Russia.

Russia doesn't have the money to be the USSR. And the reason we have a shrunken Russia is that the USSR didn't have the money to be the USSR.

Russia could be a successful continent-spanning middle power with friendly Western nations securing their European flank. Instead, Russia futilely tries to challenge NATO and America while the Chinese threat in the Far East grows--and the end of a treaty in 2021 on the horizon which put Russian-Chinese territorial disputes on the back burner.

Somebody in the Kremlin really needs to tell Putin he's effing things up royally.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

The War Continues

The ISIL caliphate was crushed in Iraq and is crippled in Syria, but the wars against the ISIL terrorists continues.

With Kurdish forces trickling in from the Turkish front, the coalition offensive against ISIL's remaining territorial control in eastern Syria can continue:

"You'll see a re-energized effort against the middle Euphrates River Valley in the days ahead and against the rest of the geographic caliphate," [U.S. Defense Secretary Jim] Mattis told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, referring to territory held by the group.

In the west, it is damning of the Western world's efforts that the only substantial surviving resistance to Assad is by jihadis:

The Syrian army and its allies engaged in a fierce battle on Saturday with Islamic State fighters in an enclave south of Damascus held by the jihadist group.

And in Iraq, Iraqi forces continue to find ISIL terrorists:

Based in the Hamrin Mountains, the jihadist group is led by Hiwa Chor, who used to belong to al Qaeda in Iraq and later ISIS, BuzzFeed reported on April 1. Chor reportedly did not share ISIS' ambitions of establishing a local caliphate and eventually joined forces with a Turkmen militant from Diyala province.

This "White Flags" terror organization has an estimated 150 to 700 members, and is considered an off-shoot of ISIL (ISIS).

According to a Defense Department briefing, thus far the jihadis in Iraq remain pretty atomized:

You've also seen, in places along the border where Iraqi Security Forces, as in -- in the area near Dashisha, along the border, as terrorists attempt to flee those locations, they are being captured, as well.

So the only two places where they actually control or are even a group of more than what we would consider to be, I think, four or five -- that's what -- something that Prime Minister Abadi had mentioned in his weekly address last week -- is that any of the ISIS elements that the Iraqi Security Forces have encountered or found in Iraq, they have not exceeded four people at any one time.

So that goes to show a -- potentially, a snapshot of what ISIS looks like when they don't hold territory. And, as they attempt to get together and they attempt to conduct attacks, they have been thwarted, largely, throughout Iraq, as an example.

If the jihadis can be kept from operating in larger groups, they will remain a nuisance rather than a real military threat.

When we left Iraq in 2011, the largely defeated and atomized al Qaeda was able to reconstitute without American help to pursue the jihadis and to keep the Iraqi security forces in condition to fight. By 2014, ISIL was a potent force able to take and hold Iraqi territory.

Let's not make the same mistake again. We must stay in Iraq to help our Iraqi allies keep killing jihadis.

It is a lot less expensive in money and lives to fight them they way they are now than when they controlled a proto-state.

PRE-PUBLICATION UPDATE: Strategypage looks at the situation.

One problem is that only the special forces-type Iraqi troops are receptive to Western advisors. We really need to get the Iraqi government to change that. Regular army units need Western help and the militias need to be purged of pro-Iranian elements willing to do Tehran's bidding. Although that's just the beginning of their problems.

Another problem is that the Iraqi operation (engineered by Iran) in October 2017 that pushed the Iraqi Kurds out of Kirkuk and nearby regions is less secure without Kurdish troops, and ISIL is seeking to take advantage.

UPDATE: Syrian forces took territory east of the Euphrates River near the provincial capital that American-backed forces then recaptured:

Syrian government forces on Sunday briefly captured four villages east of the Euphrates River in the eastern province of Deir el-Zour after rare clashes with U.S.-backed Kurdish-led fighters before losing the area in a counteroffensive by the Kurdish-led force.

This works for the SDF so far. But when Syria has beaten down enemies in the west enough--assuming that an insurgency doesn't replace the territorial control of the civil war stage--Assad will eventually be able to send major formations to the province to bulldoze through any lighter SDF forces.

And that gets closer as more Syrian rebels agree to evacuate positions near Damascus.

This article has a report that coalition jets supported the SDF counter-attack, although saying the "jets" were based in northern Syria makes no sense.

UPDATE: Iranian targets in Syria were struck Sunday, one assumes by Israel:

An opposition source said one of the locations hit was an army base known as Brigade 47 near Hama city, widely known as a recruitment center for Iranian-backed Shi'ite militias who fight alongside President Bashar al-Assad's forces.

An intelligence source who closely follows Syria said it appeared that multiple missile strikes hit several command centers for Iranian-backed militias and there were dozens of injuries and deaths.

The strikes hit weapons warehouses, and further explosions were heard, the source who requested anonymity said.

Could be the Turks, I suppose. Or it could be Israel hitting potential reinforcements for the Lebanon front. Or it oould be Israel knocking back Iran in Syria. Or something else, of course.

The Fog of Electronic Warfare

I have read that the Russians are good at electronic warfare:

The Compass Call is supposed to be one of America’s foremost electronic warfare weapons, but the EC-130s flying near Syria are being attacked and disabled “in the most aggressive EW environment on the planet,” the head of Special Operations Command said here today.

“Right now in Syria we are operating in the most aggressive EW environment on the planet from our adversaries. They are testing us everyday, knocking our communications down, disabling our EC-130s, etcetera,” Gen. Raymond Thomas told an audience of some 2,000 intelligence professionals.

But I hope that we are talking up Russian capabilities when in fact we are finding we can deal with what Russia is showing us over Syria, but would rather not have them know this.

But I have no way of knowing what is true, I admit.

Leaving Europe

Erdogan is making Turkey unfit for the European Union--or a European identiyy in general--as well as encouraging NATO to wall Turkey off from sensitive information whether Turkey remains in NATO or not.

Erdogan appears ready to place the crown on his own head:

Tayyip Erdogan’s shock announcement of snap elections in June has caught Turkey’s troubled opposition off guard and brought him within reach of his cherished goal, a powerful presidency with sweeping executive powers.

The European Union is already experiencing heartburn with eastern European states emphasizing nationalism and allegedly undermining democracy and rule of law. Considering my suspicion of those making the charge, I doubt the allegations are more than a small part true.

But those worries really will be true with Turkey. And Erdogan doesn't care (tip to Instapundit):

Turkey has told a European rights body "to mind its own business" after it voiced concern on Tuesday over the freedom and fairness of Turkish snap elections and recommended they be postponed.

Will the EU want to admit the already democracy deficient Turkey that is making itself more alien from European culture and norms when it has enough problems within the existing EU keeping nations in line?

And does Turkey even want to enter the EU, preferring to rail against Europe to rally Turks around Erdogan's power grab with a new foreign policy focus south and east?

Prophecy of Warfare: Theme Three

This is a really good article on planning for future wars by a talented retired Army major general.

Let me review, at his challenge, the ten themes Scales set forth about future war in 1999. Mind you, it speaks well of him to predict the future and then stand by them when the future approaches. As he notes, predictions about future war shouldn't be about getting the future right, it is about not getting it too wrong to win.

I'll do them one at a time in separate posts. This is the third post. Let me preface this effort with my warning from my 2002 Military Review article (starting on p. 28) about the projected FCS that was the primary weapons system envisioned by those planning efforts:

Barring successfully fielding exotic technologies to make the FCS work, the Army must consider how it will defeat future heavy systems if fighting actual enemies and not merely suppressing disorder becomes its mission once again. The tentative assumptions of 2001 will change by 2025. When they do, the Army will rue its failure today to accept that the wonder tank will not be built.

The third theme from 1999 is:

3. Maneuver by Air at the Operational and Tactical Levels
Increasing the strategic speed of a force is of little value unless the momentum generated by global projection can be sustained by aerial maneuver at the operational and tactical levels.

I don't have much of a record on this issue. I briefly mentioned in that 2002 article tactical airlift for a future light armored fighting vehicle that would bridge the gap between leg infantry and heavy armor.

Mind you, I definitely didn't see how the strategic speed of the force could be achieved without sending light armor to slaughter. So I suspect that my view was that while tactical or maybe operational aerial maneuver could be useful, that a light armored vehicle for that purpose is a niche capability--as I recently stated in an article to advocate attaching heavy armor to our infantry type brigades today in "Look to Abrams Tanks to Support the Infantry," Army Magazine, April 2018 (pp. 42-45).

But I have long been worried about air defense systems. Since a deep Apache strike in the 2003 Iraq War major combat operations phase was shot up by the Iraqis I've worried about the safety of low-flying aircraft over the battlefield filled with air defenses. Although I heard about that mission after the 2002 article.

Today I can definitely say I'm not sure how we would airlift on the battlefield when faced with air defenses. Although as the above post addresses, perhaps drones will be able to find and suppress air defenses to pave the way for such missions. If that is possible there is a niche need for light armor that can be airlifted short distances.

Theme two is here.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Weekend Data Dump

Qatar had purchased a more substantial navy that goes beyond coastal patrol craft. Although it might be more accurate to say Qatar purchased foreign protection from Saudi and Iranian pressure.

If you can delay inspections long enough, you can pass any inspection. Which is one reason the 2015 Iran nuclear deal is so horrible on the enforcement issue.

I've been assured that everyone supports the troops.

Personally, I think the solution to the Swedish violence problem is stricter hand grenade control. Sweden has opted for a public relations campaign to deny there is a problem.

Has the Chinese collapse theory collapsed? Funny that an article saying China won't collapse lists so many Chinese problems. I don't predict collapse. But I think it is one possibility considering that the collapse of the center is not unknown in China's long history. Why would that record be invalid now? Is the creation of Dystopian State 1.0 a game-changer on keeping the center strong? Or perhaps the collapse of the collapse theory means that China's rulers should worry!

I'm lucky I sleep just fine. And enough. Without devices, medication, or a ridiculously expensive pillow and mattress.

Just a reminder of how much the liberal media wanted Trump to run for president. I believe I noted this in the context of commenting that the media would list all their pro-Trump stories during the primaries and all their anti-Trump stories during the general election, and conclude that they were completely balanced in 2016. Along with a bonus Norm McDonald quote. I don't remember that one, but it is glorious. Don't forget that Hillary Clinton lost to the candidate who she desperately wanted to face. Be careful what you wish for, as the cautionary wisdom advises.

Is it a long journey from thinking a person is "deplorable" or a "truly indefensible human being" for being part of large category of people to thinking of such a person as "subhuman" who should be eliminated for the good of society from political, social, or actual life?

So who exactly are the marginalized voices in our society?

An interesting discussion of the division between north and south Korea that goes back thousands of years. One might say that it took several decades of communism in the north and freedom and capitalism in the south to finally and decisively reverse the historical dominance of northern Korea.

An inconvenient truth. Suppressing science was a good thing, I guess. Tip to Instapundit.

"Perhaps most tragically, the students who preach the loudest against intolerance are themselves the most closed-minded." As I've long said, it is a tragedy of language that "liberal-minded" is used as a synonym for "open-minded." Although to be fair, those loud students aren't so much liberals as much as they are proto-fascists.

A discussion of how air strikes are guided by persistent drone surveillance and ROVER, which allows a shared view from the air by ground forces and air crews. The ROVER gear went from being mounted in a Humvee to being hand held. I'd forgotten about this equipment that was rapidly created in 2002.

It is interesting that Japan wants a fighter plane that combines the technology of the F-22 and F-35. Japan has found that pursuing the technology on their own is rather expensive. The F-35 is a good fighter but is not optimized for that role the way the F-22 is. It is fascinating that the old F-22 still has technology too sensitive (and not stolen) for export in contrast to the new F-35.

Strategypage takes a tour of Thailand, which is edging away from China despite being more friendly to authoritarian government than America which has been the big factor in post-World War II economic growth.

Is it just me, or is President Trump mellowing out on Twitter which used to send the Resistance into rage on a daily basis? Trump hasn't made me like him any better as a person. But his enemies on the left sure work overtime to make sure that I despise them more than I dislike Trump. Good enough for government work, I say.

One reason I don't like government regulation is fairness. Big companies have the armies of lawyers and subject specialists to find ways around the regulations while individuals or groups without those resources get caught in the gears of the enforcement machine.  And that is before we get to the concept of regulatory capture with the revolving door of government regulators who go into the regulated industry; and industry officials who because of their expertise on the industry go into the regulatory agencies.

If the Navy's view of cross-domain integration is about achieving within the Navy what the Army would think of as combined arms capabilities among different branches, then the concept isn't "gobbledygook." But if the concept turns out to be how to get the Army to focus on helping the Navy shoot down planes and sink ships at the expense of the Army's core competency of large-scale ground warfare, then it is worse than gobbledygook. If the naval missions are that difficult to achieve, I'd rather see the Navy get the budget money directly than force the Army to be a naval auxiliary.

I wouldn't mind professors spouting off on their Revolutionary and violent beliefs so much--freedom of speech, and all--if colleges didn't pay those hard left professors like they're capitalist pig overlords.

Yeah, given reports that I've read in the past that North Korea basically cracked apart their nuclear test site with past tests, I suspected the North Korean offer to suspend nuclear tests is making basic reality seem like a concession. But our intelligence people say it is a real--if easily reversible--concession. The missile test suspension is another question and depends on whether they need to test missiles more in the next several months or whether this is a natural lull.

The Iranians say that American credibility will be damaged in regard to a North Korea deal if America abandons the Iran deal and shows the deal won't last a change of administrations. To that I say that the Obama State Department admitted the deal isn't legally binding. I say if people want American commitment that extends past the administration that negotiates a deal that the deal should be submitted to the Senate as a treaty to gain the approval of America rather than a single American president who will pass from the scene. As for American credibility, right now the Iran deal teaches North Korea that America will negotiate a bad deal that allows Iran to go nuclear and continue to sow chaos in their region. That's what we want North Korea to learn from Iran? Isn't it better for North Korea to learn that they can't take advantage of America and count on us to look the other way and pretend a bad deal is great?

In 15 months, President Trump has done nothing to harm democracy and rule of law. The same can't be said of the Resistance.

When victimhood is celebrated and sought after, anybody can claim to be a victim. Will women start a "why do they hate us?" inquiry the way the left did after 9/11 for jihadi killers to explain why the West deserved that hate and violence? What a shock that men who appear to really hate women can't attract women. Although I dare say that murderous Canadian loser will attract a lot of female fans once he is in prison. The world is big and weird, people.

Are people fleeing high-tax jurisdictions refugees looking for better policies or just locusts moving on to destroy a fresh field of crops?

Just as Russia and China hire people to push the state propaganda in online comments, merchants pay people to write glowing online reviews of their products. I don't trust the positive reviews like I did when the review system first came out. Tip to Instapundit.

Is there actually anything unique about dish soap, body wash, liquid soap, and shampoo that make them required for their specific purposes rather than being a general purpose liquid cleaner separated only by branding and scent? How would liquid detergents fit in that other than being more concentrated? Just wondering.

It isn't people forgetting the Holocaust that is alarming, but that some people may think the Jews deserved it.

Look, you idiot, they aren't suicide drones--they're loitering missiles. Don't confuse them with actual suicide bombers when no human operator has to be sacrificed to guide the weapon in and detonate it.

Marine F-35s experienced maintenance and supply chain problems in the initial deployment in the Pacific--and the report is classified limiting sharing with the other services. I'm not sure what to make of that. That doesn't sound good. But every new weapon has problems when introduced. I'm old enough to remember reports that the Stinger anti-aircraft missiles was too complicated for American soldiers; and that the Abrams tank would have trouble operating in the Middle East because of the dust. I've read good things about how the plane works--but it has to be in the air to work.

The Army is getting the M109A7, which will be its primary self-propelled artillery to mid-century.

Hillary Clinton doesn't even like the people who support her. I'm still amazed she managed to lose the 2016 election. This will be material for a generation of political science PhD students.

The Turks really don't have broad agreement with Russia or Iran over Syria: "The Turkish foreign minister accused the Assad government of having killed over a million Syrians since 2011 and that it had no legitimate claim on being the government of Syria." It's an odd and unstable alliance between Russia, Iran, and Turkey that serves to protect Assad at the moment.

US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley is proving popular across the spectrum. With the experience of being a former governor, I firmly believe that Haley's stint at the United Nations is rounding out her experience portfolio to prepare her to run for president. I have long believed--notwithstanding early reelection moves--Trump would, if he gets the economy moving and has some foreign success to point to, will want to exit on a high note after one term claiming he "fixed" Washington, D.C. What better antidote to the harm the Republican brand  has experienced outside of core Trump supporters (unfairly, considering what Bill Clinton did to women with no repercussions on the Democratic party) would a Haley presidency provide? I've long considered her worthy of support for presidential ambitions. I suspect we'll see her sooner than we think enter that stage.

So basically the Russians are admitting that our old cruise missiles are better than their missiles.

There appears to be a "color revolution" going on in Armenia. There is darned little awareness in the media, if so. Russia has troops based there. This is the first I've heard of it. Will the Russian help the government put down the protests and allow their government to slide to authoritarian form? Will Russia try to leverage the unrest to pull Armenia back into the empire? Or will the protests just dissipate after a couple weeks? But this doesn't sound like dissipation.

The TOW missile lives on. It is interesting that the wire-guided feature isn't really a problem in combat and with advances in electronic counter-measures, being guided by physical wires is an advantage.

I don't believe Putin considered joining NATO in 2000. And if he did think about it, there is no way NATO states would have pledged common defense along Russia's Amur River facing China. Perhaps that 2000 period was part of Russia getting leverage for a better deal with China that resulted in a 2001 treaty that made territorial disputes (China's claims on Russian territory) dormant for 20 years.

If the Iran nuclear deal has provisions for the inspection of Iranian facilities that are actually "robust," why aren't there any of these "robust" inspections to point to in defense of the deal? I read the public portion of the deal and it doesn't seem robust to me.

Iran's economy is having problems just from not having Hillary Clinton defending the Obama "legacy" by helping Iran "reset" via the 2015 nuclear deal. Well, that and Iranian insistence on firm state control of the economy.

I don't understand why people get so upset about "spoilers" before seeing a movie. Doesn't that outlook imply that these people never view a movie more than once?

It's nice to see Daniel Ortega and his ilk experience a setback in Nicaragua. May it stick.

Google's new capabilities to erase old emails and otherwise limit the ability to retain the information in emails received have raised issues of data retention if government offices use gmail-based email or simply use something similar. The article mentions two methods of getting around it that occurred to me--screen prints and just taking a picture of the message. There will be other ways figured out to get around it, however. I recall years ago my former IT department made emails expire 3 months after they were read. I liked saving my emails as a resource. When I mentioned to one IT staff that I just forwarded my read emails to myself and then just didn't open them (to avoid triggering the deletion countdown) here eyes went wide. But for good or ill, Google's initiative will reduce information retention by making it harder.

Israel kept some of its warplanes out of a big exercise in case they are needed at home.

This is interesting.

It proposes abandoning the idea that we could fight more than one war in the main domains of ground, sea, and air at one time to build forces capable of winning the most challenging war in each domain. There are problems with that but problems in trying to pursue the multi-war per domain force structure if it harms the ability to create capabilities to defeat the toughest job in each. And I appreciate the statement of what I've long argued about a Taiwan scenario: to win a war over Taiwan, China doesn't have to defeat America. China has to delay America long enough to defeat Taiwan.

I'll give you my masculinity when you can pry it from my cold, dead hands. Erm, perhaps a better expression should be used, I suppose. If a Texas university does that, how much worse must it be in California? Of course, and man who submits to that treatment is never in any danger of being a man.

It is sad that Ronny Jackson was ridden out of town on a fake rail, but I'm  kind of disappointed that a rear admiral couldn't take that kind of fire and emerge victorious.

Evidence of Intelligence

So would we know if there were previous advanced societies on Earth long ago?

The Silurians are a species of lizard-like creature that appeared in the cult science fiction TV show Dr. Who. They achieved industrial expertise about 450 million years ago, long before humans evolved on Earth.

The Silurians are fictional, of course. But the idea of advanced prehistoric life is an intriguing one and raises a variety of interesting questions. Not least of these is this: if an industrial civilization had existed in the past, what traces would it have left?

Basically, little of what we have done up to now would last geological time spans, although chemical traces of our civilization could be discernible in the noise of natural actions.

It's a fascinating question in its own right with implications for discovering signs of extinct civilizations on other bodies in our solar system or around other stars.

But it raises another question for me. How would older energy-using technological civilizations have arisen in the first place?

Consider that I've read that the way we have used up the easily accessible fossil fuels means that a far future attempt to follow our path after our (assumed for this argument) destruction would not be possible.

Setting aside how easy it was for us to extract the energy in the first place several centuries ago, that's an interesting issue.

If there were advanced civilizations on Earth long before modern humans, how did they get energy?

Wouldn't such a civilization have used up the easily recovered fossil fuels, denying modern humans the path we took? The path some say future civilizations could not take because of us? Doesn't this alone tell us humans were the first?

For oil in particular, is it possible that theories about production deep within the crust that seeps up closer to the surface, thus replenishing supplies given enough time, be true rather than the conventional idea that fossil fuels are one-time resources because they come from ancient plant matter placed under tremendous pressure?

I honestly have no background to judge such a claim and no reason to doubt the conventional idea. But an older disappeared civilization would raise the issue, no? Would the time between civilizations allow oil resources to be replenished?

Or is confidence in sentient ingenuity the answer. Did an ancient civilization use another "easy" source of energy that left modern humans to use fossil fuels of coal and oil?

And so would future intelligent life simply be compelled to find their own "easy" form of energy?

And if the future intelligent life was not evolved from primates, would they recognize anything about us remaining in fossil records as intelligent?

Would we recognize something from non-human sentient civilizations in the past as evidence of a technological civilization?

Anyway, an interesting article that I lack the knowledge to really evaluate.

Fortress Guam

The Marines are getting closer to calling Guam a major home:

The Corps is getting underway with one of its biggest redistribution of forces since World War II as thousands of Marines are shifting to the Pacific and moving around the region in an effort to prepare to counter rising threats from China to North Korea. ...

Now, the Corps wants to move roughly 9,000 of those forces from Okinawa, Japan, to other regions like Guam and Hawaii.

There are 31,000 Marines in III Marine Expeditionary Force (a division-sized ground unit--although I think this MEF has only 2 regiments--and air wing), with 22,000 on Okinawa. But Okinawa is now too close to China whose military power can now easily reach that island.

Guam will get 5,000 Marines.

Australia is also the site of an increasing rotational deployment that will eventually reach 2,500 in a full Marine Expeditionary Unit.

Construction on Guam began in 2010 and will finish in 2021.

It is amazing how long this is taking, given that I wrote about the plans so long ago, designed to spread the Marines out to make them less vulnerable and to lessen friction on Okinawa where the Marine presence has long been an irritant to the local residents.

April 2006, about negotiations between America and Japan on relocating Marines from Okinawa.

May 2006, about a press conference on the plan.

June 2006, about defense in depth in the Pacific.

January 2009, about the potential of Guam to be a staging base to deploy power west.

April 2012, about spreading the Marines out.

December 2013, about providing alternate runways for Guam assets given growing Chinese missile threats.

April 2014, about reducing the Guam deployment in favor of Australia and Hawaii.

December 2015, about how Guam can be struck by Chinese forces.

America started this project in reaction to China's growing threat to bases on Okinawa.

Yet this move to Guam is taking so long that by the time Marines are deployed on Guam in strength, China's extending reach will threaten Marines on Guam:

The [DF-26] missile is believed to have a range of up to 4,000 kilometers (2,500 miles), leaving vulnerable the crucial U.S. military installations on the island of Guam, along with other bases in the region.

But hey, at least Hawaii is so far east that it could never be hit! Right?

That's not something we'd possibly risk again.

Linked

American B-52Hs operating from Guam are operating near the South China Sea where Chinese forces are exercising near Taiwan. So many pretend targets to practice on.

The Chinese noted the American activity:

U.S. Air Force B-52 bombers have carried out training in the vicinity of the South China Sea and the southern Japanese island of Okinawa, the Air Force said on Friday, in what a Chinese newspaper linked to China's drills near Taiwan.

I don't know if the Chinese fleet is taking part in those drills. But if they are, the American bomber exercises would have a more realistic training opportunity with a lot of Chinese warships to practice on.

And if Chinese ships aren't involved, exercising with Chinese aircraft in the air is a good defensive exercise for protecting the bombers at their launch points.

The B-52H has anti-ship capabilities.

Friday, April 27, 2018

The Hermit Outcome

I honestly don't know how to judge the prospects of achieving peace on the Korean peninsula:

The leaders of North and South Korea agreed on Friday to work to remove all nuclear weapons from the Korean Peninsula and, within the year, pursue talks with the United States to declare an official end to the Korean War, which ravaged the peninsula from 1950 to 1953.

At a historic summit meeting, the first time a North Korean leader had ever set foot in the South, the leaders vowed to negotiate a treaty to replace a truce that has kept an uneasy peace on the divided Korean Peninsula for more than six decades, while ridding it of nuclear weapons. A peace treaty has been one of the incentives North Korea has demanded in return for dismantling its nuclear program.

In the past, North Korea seemed determined to get nuclear weapons in order to survive. So talks seemed pointless given that North Korea would pocket any concessions and continue on their merry way toward nukes.

I didn't think the Clinton administration's deal would work, and it didn't.

I worried that the Bush 43 administration would agree to a deal just to have a deal no matter how bad, especially with all the attacks over the Iraq War.

And I was relieved that Obama didn't even bother to try to talk to North Korea, hoping that a strategy of hoping for regime collapse before they got nukes ("strategic patience") would work.

It didn't work. But I don't blame Obama for the first 6 years of that attempt. Clearly he should have changed course given how close North Korea got in the last two years of his administration. But that's another matter.

I'm worried that a dovish South Korean President Moon Jae-in might take any deal. But I'm not worried Trump will take any deal to have a deal.

And I do think the Chinese appreciate that while it is nice to have a North Korean ally rattling South Korea, Japan, and America by pursuing nuclear weapons; it is actually bad to have a North Korean ally who possesses nuclear weapons.

That's a major change in the environment.

And maybe Kim Jong-un realizes that the absence of an American attack on North Korea since the end of the Korean War--and especially since the end of the Cold War which lost North Korea Soviet support--means that if America hasn't attacked given North Korea's decrepit armed forces, we never will.

It's possible we will have a good deal out of all this. And it is possible that Lu-ci will pull the football away one last time to get sanctions eased or lifted to make the final dash to nuclear weapons status.

Would it be too much to hope that a deal involves North Korea revealing everything they've shared with Iran?

Have a super sparkly day?

UPDATE: Stratfor thinks it is possible North Korea would de-nuclearize. But North Korea would want more than just the lifting of sanctions to do so.

Bonus material: I'd long denied, as anti-war people often claimed, that the 2003 Iraq War taught thug rulers that they need nukes to deter America. I argued that given that we tolerate lots of thug rulers, the Iraq War proved that thug rulers pursuing WMD attract our attention (without going into the non-WMD reasons for the war, of course).

The 2011 Libya War, where a thug ruler who gave up his WMD programs was targeted for destruction, was the war that taught thug rulers they need nukes. Stratfor thinks the latter Libya War impressed North Korea for the reason I offered, implying the former is a correct reading of the Iraq War, too.

Fake News Meets Fake Fact Checking

A reporter purports to fact check Trump on his claim that President Obama sent bundles of cash to the Iranian government as part of the Iran nuclear deal. The fact checker needs a fact checker.

Okay, let's play the context game:

President Donald Trump likes to tell a story about the U.S. paying out billions of dollars to Iran as part of the multinational deal freezing its nuclear program and easing sanctions against it. What he doesn't say is that most of that money was Iran's to begin with. The rest relates to an old debt the U.S. had with Iran. ...

There was no $150 billion payout from the U.S. treasury. The money he refers to represents Iranian assets held abroad that were frozen until the deal was reached and Tehran was allowed to access its funds.

The payout of about $1.8 billion is a separate matter. That dates to the 1970s, when Iran paid the U.S. $400 million for military equipment that was never delivered because the government was overthrown and diplomatic relations ruptured.

So the fact checker agrees that pallets of cash were sent. Even if that payment was legitimate, none of it had to be sent in cash form easily distributed for terrorist uses.

As for the rest of the money involved, as long as we are in fact checking mode, while it is true that the cash was originally Iran's, it is not true that we had to give it to Iran in 2015.

The fact is we grabbed that cash in the aftermath of the Iran revolution that began with Iran's thugs seizing American diplomats and holding them hostage for a year and a half.

The fact is that badly needed cash was leverage to get better behavior by Iran and to be a source of compensation for any American suing Iran for actions of the revolutionary government.

The fact is, there was no requirement that America give Iran the money at that time and under those terms. Why not, for example send the cash in electronic form as is normal? Why not dole out the $150 billion over the life of the Iran deal as Iran meets benchmarks of compliance?

In the context of the deal, that money was an up-front reward to Iran and a de facto ransom to get Americans that Iran held released. Advantage: Trump.

The deal is bad. Could it be fixed? Maybe. But I'd cancel the deal and start over rather than risk that talks to "fix" the existing deal might degenerate into talks to "save" the deal, which would leave Iran in position to freely pursue nuclear weapons as the current deal provides.

As long as we are checking facts.

Pursuing Jihadis to the Ends of the Earth

AFRICOM will be busier next year from a new base in Agadez, Niger:

On the scorching edge of the Sahara Desert, the U.S. Air Force is building a base for armed drones, the newest front in America's battle against the growing extremist threat in Africa's vast Sahel region.

Three hangars and the first layers of a runway command a sandy, barren field. Niger Air Base 201 is expected to be functional early next year. The base, a few miles outside Agadez and built at the request of Niger's government, will eventually house fighter jets and MQ-9 drones transferred from the capital Niamey. The drones, with surveillance and added striking capabilities, will have a range enabling them to reach a number of West and North African countries.

The author notes that the deployment and activity are little known.

Not that they are not knowable. I've known for a while. But I pay attention.

The base at the intersection of No and Where is a reminder that while I believe The AFRICOM Queen would be a useful tool for AFRICOM missions, large areas of the large African continent are far from the littorals and so beyond the reach of sea-based assets.

Although it could be the source of reinforcements and equipment for inland missions if shipped across the land, either by air or land links, once off-loaded from the ship.

It's best to kill off jihadis early before they can really kick off a terrorism campaign or gain territory to be a sanctuary and possible caliphate.

UPDATE: Jihadis are setting up shop in the region:

From the shores of Lake Chad, Islamic State's West African ally is on a mission: winning over the local people.

Digging wells, giving out seeds and fertilizer and providing safe pasture for herders are among the inducements offered by Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA), which split from Nigeria's Boko Haram in 2016.

It is sad that people fall for this, and when it is too late find that beheadings and rape are inflicted instead of trying to win hearts and minds.

Also, our activities are so little known that I think a reporter at a joint press conference on April 30 on the occasion of the visit of Nigeria's president to America mixed up Niger and Nigeria by asking a puzzled Nigerian president if he was fine with America's military presence in his country.

Well, Kinda Sorta

Is the New Silk Road program to expand trade links west overland and by sea just a ruse to expand Chinese national security reach?

A massive Chinese infrastructure program that Beijing says is aimed at promoting global trade and economic growth is actually intended to expand the country's political influence and military presence, according to a report issued Tuesday.

Well, the flag follows trade. So one will lead to the other regardless of the primary intent.

And that worries those on the silk road.

But basically I think the charge misses the point that Chinese rulers see all problems as part of a continuum of threats to Chinese Communist Party rule.

So improving trade routes that redirect economic growth to interior Chinese provinces helps preserve stability and secures China from internal threats; while the political and military inroads abroad help secure the economic benefits and provide direct security benefits for China from external threats.

Of course, the project probably isn't sufficient to gain the economic benefits the Chinese hope to get.

Which may mean that the Chinese dig in even harder along those trade routes to secure the limited security benefits the trade routes provide; and probably shift Chinese justification for a political and military presence in more external security terms.

So is the New Silk Road really intended to secure China from threats? Sure. Everything China's rulers do is intended to secure China--defined as Chinese Communist Party continued rule in China, of course.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Locked and Loaded

There could be a South Korea-North Korea summit in May or June. American and South Korean forces will suspend their routine exercises during the meetings. That's not really a concession.

This is fine:

The United States and South Korea will suspend joint war games Friday to help ensure a successful summit between President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, military officials said.

I think of the suspension of exercises as pulling forces back to where they are better positioned to be used rather than out in training areas or geared for training rather than war.

So the allied forces will be ready for anything while the diplomats and leaders talk.

UPDATE: For similar reasons, Israel pulled aircraft out of an exercise to keep them at home. Although admittedly distance is an added factor.

What Happened to Germany?

Ever since the September 11, 2001 terror attack and especially since Russia invaded Ukraine, I've wondered what happened to Germany?

Once West Germany was a formidable military ally during the Cold War. Now united Germany has become a weak ally that avoids any heavy lifting in the defense area, markedly more so than our other European allies.

But I actually know very well what happened. Back when I taught an American history course in 1990-1991, I had sections on the growing gap between the British and the American colonies following the French and Indian War

From then to the Revolution, tensions increased with Britain who wanted to keep higher levels of forces in North America. But the colonists didn't feel they needed Britain for defense after defeating the French threat, and so didn't want to help pay for it. I told the class that in the manner of the American colonists, that the modern Europeans would pull away from America in the absence of a Soviet threat.

That Cold War threat had compelled Europeans to stand with America who was needed to defend Europe. And Germany built the best armored forces NATO had. But then the Soviet Union and empire in Eastern Europe collapsed.

And what happened to the American colonists happened to the Europeans, especially the Germans. They decided they didn't want to pay for a military when the military threat evaporated.

Of course, America drew down forces in Europe, too. And America never tried to compel allies to pay more for defense. So the friction between sovereign allies was way different than the 18th century break between colonies and the mother country that did try to compel payment.

Well, Britain and America are close allies now despite the unpleasantness in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Will the revival of the smaller Russian threat (smaller than the Soviet threat) lead Germany to be a reliable and formidable ally again?

UPDATE: To be clear, if I had a choice, I'd prefer no Russian threat and a weak Germany I could complain doesn't help the West abroad. That's way better than a strong Russian threat and a strong German military to oppose Russia, which would still mean Germany wouldn't help the West abroad.

Defining the Battlefield

An Iran-Israel clash seems likely. But not over Syria, it seems.

This article speculates that an Iran-Israel clash is likely soon:

Senior members of the Israeli security establishment are predicting that the month of May will be one of the most volatile periods in the current era. Maj. Gen. (Res.) Amos Yadlin, the former head of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Military Intelligence Directorate, said in an interview published April 22, “I have not seen a May this dangerous since May 1967.”

Of particular note, two of the five military fronts concerning Israel have rapidly escalated in recent months. In the campaign against Iran being waged in Syria, the two sides have inched closer to an unprecedented tipping point. The situation in Gaza has worsened, with mass marches and protests held at the border fence every Friday for the past four weeks, in addition to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the enclave.

The odds for an all-out war between Israel and its opponents this summer are no longer miniscule. As I wrote April 18 in Al-Monitor, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said at a Cabinet meeting that it is possible that war will, indeed, erupt, and if so, Israel will have to cope with Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and the Lebanese army as well as Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Salafist groups in Gaza.

But this article seems to carve out one potential battlefield as off limits:

Iran and Israel traded blame on Sunday for an unprecedented, weeks-long surge in hostilities between their forces over Syria but played down prospects of a spillover into war.

Both can be true. A war could be coming but both Israel and Iran may want to keep Syria out of the fight.

Perhaps with Syria as the big prize, Iran is willing to throw Hezbollah in Lebanon under the bus--while offering them new sanctuary in Syria--and does not really care what happens to Hamas in Gaza.

But then again, I tend to connect my dots to bolster the idea that Israel plans to hammer Hezbollah in Lebanon.

UPDATE: Are the Iranians and Israelis continuing to negotiate their respective homelands out of the battlefield?

Israel would retaliate against any Iranian attack on Tel Aviv by striking Tehran, Israel's defense minister said in remarks published on Thursday, as the arch-foes faced off over Syria.

We'll see. Hezbollah won't be part of that kind of deal, of course, but Israel can deal with Hezbollah.

UPDATE: Although Secretary of Defense Mattis appears to believe Israel-Iran conflict in Syria is "very likely":

Direct conflict between Israeli and Iranian forces is increasingly likely in Syria as Tehran pursues a permanent military presence there, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis warned on Thursday.

Addressing a congressional panel before hosting his Israeli counterpart, Avigdor Liberman, at the Pentagon, Mattis said it was “very likely” from his perspective, “because Iran continues to do its proxy work there through Hezbollah.”

Is bringing it up the way he did a warning to Iran to not use their forces in Syria if Israel hits Hezbollah in Lebanon?

Is bringing it up intended to put Russia on notice that they should control Iran--if they can--in order to avoid a conflict in Syria that might draw Russia in? A fight that would be humiliating for Russia's reputation as a protector of Assad and as a weapons exporter?

Or is it intended to warn Israel not to expand a war against Hezbollah in Lebanon to Syria where Iran is?

Getting a Secure Grasp of Reality Would Be a Good First Step

The German foreign minister denies that Germany isn't carrying its military share in the defense of the West, but the facts of German military size and readiness, missions abroad, and basic military spending clearly defy that assertion.

And this statement about his vision of Germany in defending the West makes that failure to defend the West clear:

Foreign policy is rooted in values and interests. It's not always easy to harmonize the two. But following World War II, Germany saw itself as a peaceful power. We have done our best to ensure that there is a long-term effort in international politics to secure peace. I would like to continue that focus.

Despite seeing itself as a peaceful power, during the Cold War the West Germans probably had the best armored force in NATO. (Heck, the East Germans probably had the best armored forces in the Soviet world, albeit on the side of attacking freedom.)

But Germany has done precious little to "secure" peace since the West won the Cold War.

Let me apply the clue bat to the German foreign minister:

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.

The interviewer asked if a refusal to act abroad is a continuation of the old German habit of letting allies fight while contributing only the money.

I wish.

Germany doesn't fight in defense of the West and because they don't spend money on defense, would be hard pressed to defend NATO inside Europe let alone contribute to the broader defense of the West abroad.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Be Careful Out There

The American commander for Pacific Command wants more forces near China. Be careful out there.

Every commander wants more forces:

The nominee to be the next chief of the U.S. forces in the Pacific has called for an increase in U.S. forces from all three services stationed in the vital region, adding that China is now effectively able to control the South China Sea and challenge the U.S. presence in the region.

Although the admiral correctly speaks of adjusting the footprint to account for Chinese capabilities, putting forces forward within range of enemy forces tempts an enemy to strike first to take out forward-deployed American forces.

It is true that the loudly proclaimed "pivot" to the Pacific has not been terribly impressive in the context of a shrinking total force that can provide forces for the Pacific.

And continued problems in the Middle East plus renewed threats in Europe again compete for assets.

So there is no safe region to pivot from these days to reinforce PACOM.

But it really freaks me out to think we can forward deploy enough to win the war against a peer competitor with what we start the first battle with. I just want to avoid and absorb the first blow, survive, build up reinforcements, and then win the war.

The Naval Source of Russian Weakness

Russia's naval ambitions won't be met and are sucking up resources in a so-far futile effort to build a blue water naval capability:

Russia’s naval construction program continues to suffer from multiple problems, including the shortage or obsolesce of Russian shipbuilding facilities, financial and management problems, as well as technological flaws and lack of access to foreign components—notably Ukrainian-made engines. As a result, a serious gap exists between planned and expected warships. Up to 2020, Russia is likely to operate 5 out of 20 new nuclear submarines, 9 of 20 frigates, 4 of 14 small missile ships, 16–18 out of 41 corvettes and patrol ships, 1 of 6 amphibious ships, 2 minesweepers, and 14 out of 14 fast boats. Such limited numbers of new ocean-going vessels, problems with modernizing older ships (Vz.ru, February 26, 2018), along with reductions to military expenditures (Wek.ru, March 27) may compel Moscow to postpone its blue-water ambitions. Nonetheless, several hundred more long-range cruise and anti-ship missiles deployed to its forthcoming small naval platforms will still likely increase security threats to littoral countries within Russia’s neighborhood.

I believe a blue water navy is beyond what the vast Russia needs to defend their long borders.

Russia needs SSBNs for a survivable nuclear deterrent; coastal vessels and SSNs to secure SSBN bastions in the Sea of Okhosk and the Barents Sea; other coastal vessels to protect their coasts from enemy navies in the Sea of Japan, Barents Sea, Baltic Sea, Black Sea, and Caspian Sea; perhaps a few larger ships for show-the-flag operations; and a solid determination not to waste resources on more than that which are more needed for air and ground power to defend their long border.

It isn't just that Russia won't meet their goals for ships and subs, but that Russia is wasting money on trying to achieve those goals at the expense of real defense objectives.

Remember, Russia's three sources of weakness are the fleet, Poland, and the Caucasus.

Russia lost all three sources of weakness when the Soviet Union collapsed. Yet despite the defense problem Russia now faces in defending its long border that so far can only be achieved by threatening early use of nuclear weapons, Russia has not exploited the relief of losing the Soviet fleet, losing Poland, and losing most of the Caucasus (having fought brutal wars to retain Chechnya).

No, Russia keeps pressure on Georgia (and Russia formalized control of small portions of Georgia in the brief 2008 war) and keeps troops in Armenia, no doubt to keep a foothold in case Russia can reclaim the region; Russia focuses on the non-threat of NATO where Poland is the NATO main line of resistance in the east (thus sparking NATO rearmament), and has grabbed territory in Ukraine in 2014, where Russia still wages war; and Russia tries to build a blue water fleet when none is needed--failing even as the Russians keep pumping scarce resources into that vanity project.

How many resources would Russia have to defend their vulnerable but valuable Far East from Chinese claims if Russia didn't waste money on a blue water fleet; didn't alienate NATO by effectively trying to build forces capable of driving toward Poland to link up with Kaliningrad; and didn't care if it loses control of the Caucasus which doesn't want to be ruled by Moscow and which separates Russia from Turkey?

If it makes the Russians feel better, they can pretend they need to build up their army and air power in the Far East to protect the region from American and Japanese plots, eh?

It really amazes me that Russia tries to build a blue water fleet. Even in the context of just being jerks in regard to NATO, a coastal fleet focused on the Barents Sea, Baltic, and Black Seas would make more sense than trying to build a blue water fleet. Does Russia really believe that they could revive a fleet capable of interfering with North Atlantic convoys coming from North America to reinforce NATO in Europe?

But no, trying to build a blue water fleet, trying to build an army/air force capable of taking Poland, and aspiring to return to the Caucasus where Russia would just find themselves reminding Turkey of the long history of Russian-Turkish warfare all serve to weaken Russia in carrying out their basic defense requirements.

They're their own worst enemy.

UPDATE: The Russians will update their carrier Kuznetsov a bit.

It needs it. The mission to Syria was an embarrassing display of the ship's problems.

Given that the ship floats and so the money to build it is already spent, updating it to get some more life out of it seems reasonable for show-the-flag missions.

Replacing it when the ship is finally retired makes no sense, however.

Prophecy of Warfare: Theme Two

This is a really good article on planning for future wars by a talented retired Army major general.

Let me review, at his challenge, the ten themes Scales set forth about future war in 1999. Mind you, it speaks well of him to predict the future and then stand by them when the future approaches. As he notes, predictions about future war shouldn't be about getting the future right, it is about not getting it too wrong to win.

I'll do them one at a time in separate posts. This is the second post. Let me preface this effort with my warning from my 2002 Military Review article (starting on p. 28) about the projected FCS that was the primary weapons system envisioned by those planning efforts:

Barring successfully fielding exotic technologies to make the FCS work, the Army must consider how it will defeat future heavy systems if fighting actual enemies and not merely suppressing disorder becomes its mission once again. The tentative assumptions of 2001 will change by 2025. When they do, the Army will rue its failure today to accept that the wonder tank will not be built.

The second theme from 1999 is:

2. Project and Maneuver Land Forces by Brigades
Land forces will best be able to achieve the necessary balance between strategic speed and sustainable fighting power if all early-arriving, close-combat forces are dispatched and fight as autonomous, self-contained brigades of about 5,000 soldiers each.

In 2000 (starting at page 91) I was in favor of having more but smaller divisions (two brigades) to speed deployment, with the ability to add a third brigade when power is required. I did not think that self-contained brigades would have the power of the same number of brigades in a division.

I did not anticipate the need to rotate forces through Iraq for years, which was definitely improved by having self-contained brigades which the Army adopted during the Iraq War.

And I do wonder if the return of conventional warfare as the prime focus means divisions should be revived as the basic Army unit.

At least for Europe. Perhaps we need a mix of divisions using brigades reliant on the division for support; with more resilience for Europe and self-contained brigades for the rest of the world where flexibility and ease of deployment is more important.

So I'm not sure what to make of this. For the environment foreseen with no peer competitor, the independent brigades--brigade combat teams as they are called--have performed well and were probably superior to divisions as the basic self-contained unit.

I'm not sure if we need divisions now given some talk that precision firepower and persistent surveillance might require dispersal and so require self-contained Army units at a level even lower than the brigade. I just don't have a handle on this.

Theme one is here.

Cast a Giant Shadow

I recently noted the very thin British presence in the Pacific. There might be a good reason to value this commitment.

I wondered why Britain was pushing ships to the Pacific (and east of Suez in general) when the small Royal Navy has missions in NATO waters that should more than occupy their assets.

But it seems as if the British are taking on a mission to stabilize small Pacific nations in the south Pacific region:

In the post-Brexit era, the U.K. will be looking to make itself more valuable to its various partners. One area in which it already has a very deep bench is intelligence and strategic analysis. Two of the diplomatic missions the U.K. is reopening, in Tonga and Vanuatu, were only closed in 2006. There are people in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and other circles with strong knowledge of the region and good contacts.

The U.K. also had existing representation in Fiji, Solomon Islands, and Papua New Guinea. With six posts in the South Pacific, the U.K. will have better coverage in the region than the U.S. (excluding its Freely Associated States), France, Germany, India, or just about anyone else except Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Taiwan, and China.

Britain could be a major factor in resisting Chinese penetration of the region that could harm the interests of America, Australia, and New Zealand, for example.

For that mission, the small British naval efforts that defy China in waters close to China would be excellent background scenery for British efforts to provide alternatives to China in the south Pacific region.

So while I noted (correctly) that the impact of the small British naval contribution on the China issue would be pretty small; the impact of British ships fresh from defying China sailing to the waters of small south Pacific island nations could be pretty big.

UPDATE: Britain's military really is eroding, despite the effort to punch above their weight.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Who Risks Taiwan?

I find this complaint about the Taiwan Travel Act ridiculous:

So-called friends of Taiwan in the United States are putting the island at risk as never before. ...

If the United States implements the Taiwan Travel Act in a manner inconsistent with its traditional one-China policy, the principal damage will be to Taiwan itself. Taiwan will experience reduced trade, increased tensions, a heavier burden of military expenditures, and poorer prospects. Moreover, Taiwan would compromise its freedom of action on a key aspect of its own security, which is the ability to calibrate the level of threat through careful management of its relationship with mainland China. Unless wiser heads prevail, the United States could unwittingly precipitate the most dangerous crisis since the end of the Cold War. ...

Blurring the distinction between official and unofficial relations will damage U.S. credibility, undermine Taiwan’s future prosperity, and generate dangerous tensions. Putting the future at risk is not good policy.

So this expert wants me to accept that an American refusal to stand up to China over American officials traveling to Taiwan will somehow not undermine Chinese belief that America will fight to defend Taiwan if the Chines attack Taiwan.

If Taiwan thinks such visits by American officials are dangerous, they can refuse to allow them. I'd rather have that situation than one where outside experts tell Taiwan what is really best for their independence and freedom.

Heck, Taiwan might even be able to negotiate with China to reduce the military threat to Taiwan by using visits as bargaining chips.

Would China pull back missiles aimed at Taiwan to keep an undersecretary of housing from visiting Taiwan?

Or scale back military exercises to keep Secretary of Defense Mattis from visiting Taiwan?

I'm thinking so-called experts are involved in making the travel act seem like the threat to peace when the real threat to peace is China's claims on a free and prosperous Taiwan and China's threats to destroy it by force and drag it into China's empire.

And don't forget that China threatens to attack simply if Taiwan puts off too long complying with China's demands to absorb Taiwan.

So just who is putting the future at risk?

A Wolf In EU Clothing

The European Union advocates seem to firmly believe that strengthening the European Union will protect Europeans from external threats and internal threats to democracy. I do believe they have it exactly backasswards.

I don't doubt he believes this is true:

French President Emmanuel Macron issued a call to Europeans on Tuesday not to retreat into nationalism but to build the European Union as a bulwark for liberal democracy against a disorderly and dangerous world.

Addressing the European Parliament in the French city of Strasbourg, the 40-year-old head of state won a standing ovation from most lawmakers after condemning the rise of "illiberal democracies" even within the EU. Nationalist MEPs from France, Britain and elsewhere sat in silence, however.

The European Union can only harm European security from external threats by undermining European commitments to NATO and causing NATO to wither as already scarce defense money is directed to the EU military structure. If NATO withers, America's role in defending Europe will erode. Given the scale of American military capabilities, that would be a huge loss to Europe.

As for preserving internal democracy, thus far membership in the EU hasn't been a bulwark against illiberal democracies (cue my predictable boring commentary on rule of law as the essential partner of voting for true democracy).

Naturally, those in favor of the EU will insist that even more power must be granted to the EU proto-imperial state to suppress that regrettable nation-state-based urge for illiberal democracy.

Which will just mean that illiberal democracy will be entrenched at the continent-wide level rather than being aberrations at the nation-state level that can be reversed under pressure from other true democratic nation-states in Europe.

I can't rule out that I'm the one living in the fantasy world by worrying about the ultimate effects of a more powerful European Union in creating a more dangerous world that threatens liberal democracy, but I strongly believe the pro-EU people are the ones spinning the fantasy benefits of protecting liberal democracy and keeping a dangerous world at bay.

I liked the European Union better when it was the European Economic Community.