Sunday, April 01, 2018

Weekend Data Dump

Deep in the Western Desert of Egypt, jihadis are now a problem for Egypt. Start killing them now. The job won't get any easier tomorrow. Sadly, Egypt is basically the Nile River valley, and projecting power and authority to their formal borders is not that easy, really.

First they came for the white people. But as Zimbabwe demonstrates, pretty soon they come for everyone. "White" privilege doesn't count for a whole lot in South Africa. And while South Africa is starting down the disastrous path forged by Zimbabwe, the recollections of fond memories of white rule for even second-class blacks in Zimbabwe is not about "white" rule. It is about rule of law and property rights that allowed even second-class citizens to operate within the restricted areas they were allowed. Which is not the same as defending minority rule, I hasten to add. But ending minority rule did not have to mean eliminating rule of law. Zimbabwe under majority black rule could have been just as prosperous as the white rule was. But hey, at least nobody in South Africa is calling for the slaughter of white people, at least for now.

Well yes, America should help--and by help I mean pressure as well as help--Ukraine rein in corruption. If Ukraine is just a smaller version of corrupt Russia, Ukraine will lose their struggle with larger Russia. Kiev might as well just add "The" before their country's name and get it over with, if fighting corruption isn't a priority for them.

Why yes, the world should take China's threat to invade Taiwan seriously. Here at The Dignified Rant, I've never been anything but acutely aware of the threat. I was off on the timing, but China has been getting their military ready and already set their legal justifications. The question is when do they give the "go" order?

Sadly, ceasefires in Syria are just means Assad uses to get targets to patiently wait their turn for destruction. The rebels along the Jordanian and Iraqi border regions are in for a world of hurt as Jordan gets tired of paying the price to sponsor rebels who are losing and unwilling to hang together to avoid hanging separately. Don't ever try to tell me that a war outcome is inevitable, as the smart set said early in the Syrian civil war. I didn't buy that notion, of course, and set out the whole new war Assad needed. I didn't see how Assad would get the foreign army to help him, but Russia and Iran stepped in with troops plus Hezbollah and a Shia foreign legion for the shock troops. But I did call it on getting Western help to fight jihadis. And here we are.

The Chinese fish pirates privateers.

My understanding is that a presidential refusal to spend appropriated money is tantamount to a line-item veto which the president does not have the power to do. Although there may be ways to do it without running afoul of binding precedent by studying the language of the spending laws looking for any discretion granted.

AFRICOM announced that an American airstrike killed two jihadis at Ubari in southwest Libya. I assume this was achieved by a drone from the south where America is assisting African countries fight jihadis rather than from Europe on a deep strike into the interior.

It amuses me that when President Trump mentioned stealthy F-18s he was mocked for not knowing F-18s are not stealthy. Imagine the stream of corrections as it was learned that Boeing has been working on a stealthy F-18. Here's news from 2014. I thought I never mentioned it, but I did mention long before that a stealthy F-15 project (the Silent Eagle). Mind you, you can't turn a non-stealthy plane into a fully stealth plane. But just as the F-15SE is a frontal only stealthy plane, I assume the F-18 project is more stealthy from the front without being all-around stealthy. Which actually makes it similar to the Russian and Chinese "stealth" fighters so hyped (and actually, in that 2013 post I note the F-18 Super Hornet stealth project that does say it is for frontal stealth).

Claims that the House committee investigating Russian "collusion" has failed to get information from the vast majority of suspects relies on deliberately deceptive statistics that don't hold up under scrutiny. Always check the "definitions" section, I often advise. And keep in mind that the media kept telling us the apple in question was really a banana.

I've mentioned that China is hard at work building the Beta version of Dystopian Surveillance Police State 1.0 in restive Xinjiang province (somewhere in that data dump). But the features are being built everywhere in China. Not even jaywalking or how much toilet paper you use is beneath notice. This should scare the Hell out of people. Remember that even here almost all of us voluntarily carry around devices that can record what we say and where we go 24/7. No way that would be used against us by companies or our government, right? Right?? Tips to Instapundit.

When Democrats had more power in state legislatures, they were fine with partisan gerrymandering of legislative districts. Now they can't reliably control the process and are going to the courts to protect their interests. I was around working for the state legislature for parts of three rounds and so followed the process in Michigan and around the country. So don't think this effort to change the process away from partisan control has anything to do with a deep desire for fairness.

The Russians could learn from Democrats on how to AstroTurf a mass movement to influence our elections. Anti-gun crowd sizes are overstated about as much as the claim that gun violence--in or out of schools--is going up is wrong. Tips to Instapundit. Mind you, it is fully legitimate to figure out how to reduce gun violence even more even if gun violence is down in general over the last 25 years. But the reliance on claiming alternate facts to advance gun control is disturbing and reduces the gun control side's credibility. This environment also increases the chance that we make new laws that are counter-productive in the rush to "do something" and which might crowd out actual good ideas. For example, while putting guns into schools to protect kids may very well stop or limit the death toll of a school shooter, the pro-gun side should admit that the chance of gun accidents or a good guy with a gun going bad could very well outweigh the benefits of stopping outside shooters given the actual safety in our schools--notwithstanding highly covered school shootings. And scaring the Hell out of our children who are in fact pretty safe for this purpose is shameful.

Yemen sure gets a lot of prominent attention as a massive humanitarian problem. Which I think is undeserved if you are talking scale of the problem justifying the attention. Is Yemen really worse than Congo? Oh, you don't see constant reports on the horrors of Congo that have been ongoing in varying degrees of death tolls since the 1990s?

I'll say again that the idea that China has "won" the struggle for the South China Sea because America has not ejected the Chinese from their island fortresses is nonsense. I didn't claim that for Obama and I won't claim that for Trump. As long as China does not keep our Navy (and free civilian shipping traffic) out during peacetime, they've won nothing. We conduct freedom of navigation operations to oppose sea claims of a lot of countries--friends, neutrals, and foes--without compelling any of them to renounce their claims. And in war, China would fight to control the Sea of China regardless of whether they claim sovereignty over it. Claims we've "lost" to China seem more like a way to provoke conflict needlessly.

The United States expelled 60 Russian diplomats over Russia's attempted poison gas murder targeting two people in Britain (but the effects not restricted to the two targets). The Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland seem likely to do the same unless the Russian ambassadors are really, really persuasive.

And as other NATO or EU states join in the expulsions, Turkey seems likely to sit this one out. Well, they're better than Iran, at this point. So we've got that going for us.

Good Lord, under the circumstances coming out is it out of line to wonder if the mall tragedy in Russia that killed over 60 people was a terrorist attack?  Or it could just be the result of corruption that makes safety rules just scraps of paper.

The Theodore Roosevelt carrier group carried out a sea control "fleet problem" in the Pacific. Let's hope these exercises become common and help us find where carriers can help control the seas and what their limitations are in the face of precision long-range missiles. A single carrier would have problems if they can succeed in that environment, so it was good to read that a 3-carrier exercise was carried out. I don't know if that generates enough defensive firepower to succeed while having enough offensive firepower to rapidly inflict damage and bug out of range, but the more the merrier. I was fully supportive of this process when I heard about the "fleet problem" revival back in summer 2017.

China remains a valuable conduit for rogue regimes seeking our technology as a side problem to the issue of what China gets from America contrary to our laws.  How much farther away from nuclear missiles would Iran and North Korea be if not for China's help? And no, it doesn't make it better if it is just business.

Fake news involves leaving out inconvenient facts. So in a report on the possible firing of VA head David Shulkin, the piece makes it seem like just more "chaos" what with Shulkin clashing with Trump's "political" appointees. You'd never know Shulkin was appointed by Obama (that is, a political appointee himself) and is a hold-over.

Two US senators want to sell F-35s to Taiwan. I strongly disagree. Until Taiwan spends an adequate amount of money to defend their country against China's growing military threat, the F-35s won't stop the Chinese and will just be captured by the Chinese and taken apart to study and reverse engineer. Sorry Taiwan. I have great sympathy for your survival but your actions have consequences.

US-Mexican trade relations will be just fine.

It would be nice if the US could export natural gas to Europe to lessen Russia's blackmail options.

Russia spreads lots of lies to deflect attention about their deeds. Behold "Carlos the Kiev air traffic controller!" The instinct to lie is natural given that Russia is very good at lying. Some us have known this for a long time given that the Soviets practiced this during the Cold War. So I welcome Democrats in their new-found interest in resisting Russia and exposing Russian lies.

So European Union states are overlooking Britain's Brexit plans to rally around Britain in the face of Russia's poisoning attack? Well aren't those European states--for the most part--special to side with their friggin' NATO ally.

My annual pilgrimage to Eliot's Bookshop in Toronto will be no more. It was my go-to place to buy books from the Ballantine's history series from my childhood. The last time I was there I discovered it would close after Toronto decided to tax property on its maximum potential usage. The used book store could not pay the taxes that a condominium could pay and so at the end of last year it closed. Yonge Street lost a gem and I'm not sure why I'd bother to go there now.

Strategypage looks at Iraq where ISIL is adapting to the loss of their caliphate. As I suspected, Iran was a major factor in the assault on Kurds last year and the reason Iraq brought the militias into the armed forces is to control them and wring out the pro-Iran elements. The big picture is that Iraq, with American help in a lasting presence, is pushing back against Iranian influence and continuing to hunt surviving ISIL terrorists. Remember, the war goes on against jihadis. They are more powerful with a sanctuary and state but are generated in the first place by the society that ratifies Islamist thinking way too much.

It is interesting that Iran has lost 2,100 men in Iraq and Syria since 2011 (that's what Iran says they lost). Considering how few Iranians have actually been sent to those countries to fight that is a large toll.

Sure, private security forces in Mexico contribute to the death toll. But what would the death toll be if the drug cartels faced no opposition? Private security arose because the state security forces haven't done the job. And the death toll isn't the metric people think it is. Without private security, the drug cartels would simply win the war to control sections of Mexico. Would the eventual drop in deaths as nobody resists the cartels mean that everything is fine?

American leadership in the world is just fine, and Haass and his ilk are just having an evidence-free panic attack, from what I can see. Just one point: Trump questioned America's commitment to NATO? Well, he did eventually affirm our commitment to Article V collective defense. Further, since the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is a product of a treaty obligation it is a commitment by America ratified by our Senate as a symbol of that commitment and not the agreement of a single president subject to erasure by a future president (as the horrible Iran nuclear deal--which isn't even legally binding!--is). At least the question seems to have gotten NATO to recommit to spending more on defense which at its core is about resisting Russia. Gosh, remember how stable the world was before Trump? Judging on policies, as Black writes, Trump earns better reviews than judging on personal character or what he says or writes. He's done better than just being not-Hillary. (Although I part company with Black on Iraq.)

Sure it is fairly stupid and it is prompted by a bizarre sense of moral superiority, but it is just an egg spoon. Let it be. Lord knows I'd like to join the parade of entrepreneurs selling some expensive stupid thing to people with too much money for their own good! My view is that rich people buying stupid expensive things is a great way to redistribute wealth rather than having the government try to engineer it.

In a less hyper-partisan environment, we'd all celebrate this discovery. Not that there aren't problems notwithstanding the good news. But the big picture says good things about our country.

Yes, the Supreme Court struck a blow against rule of law in that Obamacare subsidy decision. How long will it take the high court to walk back that absurd political reading of the statute?

South Sudan is in bad shape. Again, is Yemen really the biggest humanitarian problem in the world today?

It is understandable when you remember that for them it wasn't so long ago that they believed in Santa Claus. The reality bat of life will help most of them, I imagine.

The Chinese say Kim Jong-Un's visit to China before America-North Korea talks indicate that de-nuclearization is possible. We'll see. I suspect the American military is gearing up and on the path to striking North Korea before North Korea gets long-range nuclear missiles; and only a solid deal hammered out before that event, that China guarantees, will stop the military campaign.

About the only useful item for military-to-military talks between NATO and Russia that this former NATO commander suggests is the goal to reduce the chances of military incidents between the two (and open communications channels to keep accidents from escalating to war).

Russia is unlikely to be able to afford to develop their Arctic "frontier."  Russians couldn't develop their far north more than marginally with the slave labor of their Soviet gulag system. Today Russia has neither the people to sacrifice nor the money to replace that labor.

I was pleasantly surprised when the overthrow of Apartheid rule in South Africa did not lead to a communist radical government with all the misery and death that implies. Much credit goes to Nelson Mandela who turned out to be a far-sighted man who truly wanted to end oppression rather than just be in charge of those who do the oppression. After he left office and passed away, his heirs have begun moving South Africa toward the misery and death that Mandela stood against.

I don't really buy this contrast between the American "Afghan" model for opposing Assad in Syria and the Russian "Chechnya" model for bolstering Assad. It is apples and oranges. While the models of America in Afghanistan and Russia in Syria both support the governments; the test cases in Syria have America opposing Assad while Russia is backing Assad. Applying competing models of support for governments to actions that support or oppose a government seems problematic. Even more problematic is that the American effort against Assad was never focused on defeating Assad. At best America tried to put enough pressure on Assad to compel him to negotiate to end the war--which I always thought was doomed to failure. In addition, Russia isn't the only actor. Iran with their money, Hezbollah and Shia foreign legion shock troops, and advisors to organize a separate militia of Syrians controlled by Iran have had a major role. And America actually helped Assad by--for our own reasons--taking down ISIL in eastern Syria. I just don't see how you make judgments about the utility of each style given the differences.

Let's hope the Democrats win their challenge to Trump using Defense Department funding to pay for a wall on the US-Mexican border. Can you imagine what Democrats could do with this precedent by turning the defense budget into a giant slush fund for their objectives? Let's knock this idea down now, while we can.

Italy opposes additional EU sanctions on Iran for Iran's ballistic missile programs and Syria intervention because that step "would endanger burgeoning business ties with Iran." Wow. What a nuanced European appreciation of diplomacy to stop a nuclear threat. I mean, hey, what are the odds of Italy being high on the list of potential Iranian nuclear targets?

I didn't watch Roseanne the first round and don't plan on watching it in the reboot. Although it is interesting.

Mark Steyn's trial by ordeal continues. I suspect Michael Mann, in a "perhaps the horse will sing" strategy, is hoping that if this drags on long enough maybe his climate change hockey stick will actually appear.

Army magazine published my "Look to Abrams Tanks to Support the Infantry" article about using proven Abrams tanks (or combined arms attachments) to support infantry brigade combat teams rather than hoping a new light tank can provide mobile protected firepower. See pages 42-45 of the April 2018 edition (not available online).

Russia continues to pressure and commit aggression against Georgia ten years after the Russo-Georgian War of 2008. It is not in any way a "new" "hybrid" war. In practice, people call anything Russia does below the level of a corps-sized offensive "hybrid war." And if Russia denied it, people might still call it that.

The basis of our military power is our economic strength. The role of the dollar as a global currency should not be under-estimated. So it seems like a pretty big deal if China can get their yuan currency accepted as payment for their oil imports.

Yes, this shooting by police is disturbing. And if Black Lives Matter didn't immediately turn the dial to 11 with anti-police demands, they'd have my support and not just sympathy.

They would never do this about Mohammed. Because their faux bravery doesn't extend to risking posthumous Je suis Charlie Exponent weepy hashtag remembrances. Tip to Instapundit.

A 40mm gun is not "massive." Although it is certainly bigger than the 30mm that I viewed as just a start in building anti-armor capability for our units that rely on non-tank armored vehicles.

I eagerly await the media investigation into Russian and anti-GMO group collusion.

The idea that Russia could initiate a conventional war against China in the Far East as soon as 2020 is ludicrous. I'm not even sure what the point of that story is.

As journalists work overtime on finding Russian collusion in the 2016 election, a short PSA is instructive.

Yes indeed, the Russians learned the mechanics by watching journalists with their Journolist in the 2008 election. Tip to Instapundit.

It was snowing Easter morning. Not sticking, but it was there. I'm so tired of winter. And without Easter eggs and Easter baskets for my young children, Easter sneaks up on me these days. Happy Easter! And actual spring to match calendar spring will arrive soon, right?