Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Fourth Option for African Littorals

This Navy analyst offers three options for matching Navy assets with operational needs in east African waters:

U.S. naval presence in East Africa has improved maritime security and facilitated operations on land. Coalition efforts reduced piracy incidents from 237 attempted hijackings in 2011 to only three such attempts in 2017[1]. Joint exercises, such as Cutlass Express, have developed partner nation maritime law enforcement capacity[2]. Intelligence gathering from sea based platforms has enabled multiple U.S. military missions ashore[3]. Increasing demand for high-end combatants in the Persian Gulf and Mediterranean Sea leaves the East African littoral mission vulnerable to having its gains reversed and questions the utility of those ships for low intensity missions.

The author makes no recommendation after laying out the three alternatives. Why just three options? Perhaps that's why no option stood out as the best solution.

I of course think that the match between Navy high value assets needed elsewhere and operational needs around Africa is best achieved by a fourth option: outfit The AFRICOM Queen modularized auxiliary cruiser (as many as needed, of course).

The AFRICOM Queen could be an Army vessel designed for multi-service assets, as I suggested. But the Navy could equip the ship, too.

Hopes and Fears for Rule of Law

So we've established that the Obama practices are just standard operating procedures rather than a scandal, and so Trump can act this way in the 2020 campaign? Well, as long as we have the ground rules established.

But no, I'm not seriously saying that. If true, this is an extremely bad way for our government to use the greatly expanded powers of the modern federal executive branch. And it doesn't make it right if both sides manage to use that power to defeat political opponents. A politicized intelligence system quickly becomes a political domestic intelligence system that loses the ability to carry out their formal roles to keep us safe from foreign agencies.

How can we trust these agencies with the power to conduct surveillance inside the United States to find enemy plots when assurances that they'd never target Americans for non-security reasons seems to have been carried out?

Rule of law--which I drone on about quite a bit here--took a bigger hit than I feared in the Obama era. Yet the media didn't explode in outrage. Surely even the left-leaning media would have the decency to wonder what is going on, right?

So is it really as bad as it seems? Or are there reasonable explanations? Are those painting this picture right to be portrayed as tinfoil hat types? 

I hope to God the answer is that there are reasonable explanations (but if not, heads need to roll).

And remember, with this type of apparent government collusion in support of Hillary Clinton, with rigged Democratic Party rules and processes to pave her way to the nomination, with a "blue wall" of Electoral College advantage, with all the data analysis they could buy, with a massive spending advantage, with the media a full-time ally, and with Donald Frigging Trump as her actual highly imperfect opponent, Clinton still lost the election.

Yet some people pine for the alternate history of Hillary bringing her purported skill set to the White House? One shudders at the thought. If you wonder why I am skeptical about any conspiracy theory that requires a government secret plot, the 2016 Democratic campaign will stand as Exhibit A for a generation, I think.

And her victory would kept quiet what seems to have happened in making elements of our intelligence agencies an actor in our election.

I want to know what happened. A free America governed by rule of law needs to know what happened. Either prove bad things happened and punish the bad actors; or prove that our intelligence agencies acted properly, so they don't have their reputations unfairly tarnished.

I fear the former happened. I hope the latter happened.

What If Europe Had Hard Power?

The European reaction to America ending the Iran nuclear deal demonstrates Europe's weakness compared to America:

The EU’s goals, announced after yesterday’s foreign ministers meeting, are ambitious and reflect the Europeans’ political resolve. But even if the EU follows through on them, European businesses are unlikely to risk access to the U.S. market for the comparatively marginal revenue available in Iran. So any economic incentive for Iran to remain compliant will likely come from China, Russia and India, among others.

As a result, after having played a key role in the painstaking negotiations that resulted in the JCPOA, Europe will watch the deal’s commercial payoffs head East.

It would be insane for European businesses to pursue trade with Iran if it harms their trade with America.

But wait, there's more!

There is no shortage of explanations for why Europe finds itself powerless to back up its bark with some bite. To begin with, as Jeremy Shapiro explains in Foreign Affairs, the trans-Atlantic relationship continues to be based on a fundamental power asymmetry: Europe simply needs the U.S. more than the U.S. needs Europe. Moreover, as Shapiro astutely notes, Europe’s internal divisions at times make the U.S. a more valuable partner for individual member states than the EU itself.

So Europe needs more unity to use its aggregate power. This would be useful to block Russia? No. Stop terrorism? No. Fight chaos around their southern periphery to prevent destabilizing migration to Europe? Oh no, of course not.

Europe, the author (and likely every Eurocrat in Brussels)thinks the EU needs more unity to resist America. Yes, the America that defended them from the threats of a Kaiser, Nazis, and commissars for much of the 20th century, which allowed them to think they could build a giant EuroDisney fantasy world where power is exercised not by tanks and secret police, but by ever closer cheese regulations.

And that urge to stick it to the Americans is currently strongest even when America has taken a step to oppose a theocratic, nuclear weapons-seeking, destabilizing power in the Middle East.

Yes, they think, Europe should create and use its power to bolster charter member of the Axis of Evil, Iran. Ah, the sweet economic and cultural friendship they could have, but for meddling America!

That's what those Euro-suckups really think. And yes, the picture of Iran's reprehensible foreign minister with the EU's top foreign policy official--the reprehensible in her own way tyrant fangirl Mogherini--was used in the article, which nicely makes my point.

So don't even talk to be about how a stronger European Union that aggregates their dispersed power into a single entity is in America's interests. That political "Europe" is not our friend.

America--for the sake of the free West which Europeans are a major part of--should want the European Union to die with festering boils.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Damned When We Don't

Venezuela's political and economic collapse could draw in America to cope with the humanitarian disaster.

Yet despite the obvious need for American troops to secure entry points for humanitarian aid if Venezuela does collapse, the usual suspects threw a fit when Trump mentioned the possibility of American military intervention.

Far better to let Venezuelans starve and allow the refugee flow to destabilize neighbors than "taint" the aid with American soldiers, eh?

One can regret that America didn't support a coup back in 2002 that would have stopped the Chavez/Maduro destruction of a once-prosperous nation. But there is no Wayback Machine, and you can easily write the history that the usual suspects would have spread if America had done that:

Venezuela might have been spared this destruction at the hands of the idiotic Chavez-Maduro regimes if the 2002 coup attempt had actually succeeded.

We should wish that America had actually supported the coup which would have rewritten the past 16 years.

But recall that if we had helped the coup leaders succeed back then, that intervention would have led to ruffled feathers in the region and among the global Left every time an American secretary of state visited the region.

Yes indeed, we'd have endured sad tales of how brutal America prevented Venezuela from reaching the heights of prosperity and equality that Hugo's brand of socialism could have built on the solid foundation of the world's largest petroleum reserves! It would have been one more damning indictment of America's long role in Latin America.

But instead, here we are.

And my best-case scenario simply counts on Maduro not attempting a last-ditch war with the Netherlands in an attempt to rally his people around the flag that Maduro waves.

The Fisher Solution

China's navy is rising but this Stratfor description of what America's naval dominance will look like is static and potentially misleading:

Barring significant internal strife, an economic collapse or a major war, China's navy will continue its significant rise in the decades to come and continue to close the gap on its U.S. counterpart.

By 2030, the Chinese will likely be the dominant naval force in a line stretching up to the Philippines, and will have a further zone of advantage out into the Pacific Ocean.

The U.S. Navy, on the other hand, will largely remain paramount on the rest of the world's oceans and seas.[emphasis added]

So yes, as Straftor notes:

The coming decade of development will significantly reduce, but not eliminate, the gap between China's navy — already the second most powerful maritime force on the planet — and the U.S. Navy by 2030.

What we will see, I think, barring events that interrupt that Chinese navy rise, is a more pronounced shift of American naval power to be within range of the western Pacific--from the Indian Ocean to the west coast of America.

Once the Cold War ended, America began to shift forces away from Europe, with "the pivot" formalizing the shift and looking to divide our fleet 60-40 weighted to the Pacific up from 50-50 in the Cold War. Our once-massive Mediterranean fleet pretty much evaporated. For a time (until recently) we didn't even have an Atlantic fleet.

And once China's fleet becomes even more powerful, the shift will become more pronounced, in the manner that Britain concentrated their global fleet in home waters as the German fleet rose in power in Europe:

[British] Admiral John Fisher, who became the First Sea Lord and head of the Admiralty in 1904, introduced sweeping reforms in large part to counter the growing threat posed by the expanding German fleet. Training programs were modernized, old and obsolete vessels were discarded, and the scattered squadrons of battleships were consolidated into four main fleets, three of which were based in Europe. Britain also made a series of diplomatic arrangements, including an alliance with Japan that allowed a greater concentration of British battleships in the North Sea.
To concentrate power in or near the Pacific, America would need to leave securing the Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea largely to our NATO allies (including Canada) who have significant if dispersed naval power to block Russia's weak navy from Norway to the Mediterranean Sea.

America would have to shift Fifth Fleet from the Arabian Sea center of gravity to the the east from Diego Garcia to Darwin and Perth (where they'd still be able to respond to Central Command problems), to support operations against forces in the South China Sea from the Indian Ocean, with logistics and military support from Australia.

Putting American assets on the eastern end of the Indian Ocean also helps keep our fleet within supporting distance of Pacific assets. And with more Chinese warships heading for the Indian Ocean, an American naval force based out of Australia will be able to hammer the Chinese ships, bolstered by American and allied land-based air power in the Gulf region and Diego Garcia (plus the Indian navy).

America's regional allies would step up their abilities to secure sea lines of communication in the Persian Gulf region (like Saudi Arabia), with larger ships that even now are being built for Qatar (which I noted here) in the region. Britain will help there, too. Don't forget that America could expand the deployment of smaller vessels in the Gulf backed by air power there. And diverting some of the oil traffic away from the Strait of Hormuz is one element of that protection.

And as far as I'm concerned, I don't know why land-based air power can't replace carriers in the Middle East (and in the Mediterranean Sea and North Atlantic, for that matter--with land-based planes in Norway, Britain, and Iceland defending the Greenland-Iceland-UK gap to secure trans-Atlantic lines of supply).

Don't forget that in Asia, America may have the support of powerful Japanese, South Korean, Indian, and Australian navies and air forces; plus smaller forces from allies and friends like Taiwan, the Philippines (where bases would be more important), Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, and New Zealand.

And America will need to integrate land-based air power from the Air Force into the naval effort in the Pacific.

China's fleet rise will not take place in a static environment. It is worrisome, no doubt. But America will do things other than build more ships and train our crews more diligently.

And optimistically, if China only wants a fleet to protect their sea lines of trade that America has no interest in cutting outside of a war that we don't want, China's stronger fleet will be no threat anyway.

UPDATE: This terminology change reflects my view that rising Chinese naval power will compel America to concentrate naval power in or near the Pacific--including the eastern Indian Ocean:

The Pentagon may soon be announcing a new name for its largest area of operations, with a change to Indo-Pacific Command to “better encapsulate the responsibilities the command currently has,” Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Rob Manning said Monday.


Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Usual Suspect

Of course the European who would have to be invented by autocrats if she didn't exist is trying to save the Iran nuclear deal for Iran's odious mullah-run regime. It only gets better if she proclaims the EU effort will bring peace for our time.

From All Your Friends, With Love

America and the other partners in the deal with Iran gave Iran a lot of gifts--in pallets of cash and sanctions relief--for the 2015 Iran deal (aka Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA).

Looking at the deal, there are signatures (although the signed page is different here--why?). But it looks more like a "from all of us" greeting card than a formal diplomatic document, no?

Where are the neatly aligned signatures? The official wax seals? Where are the ribbons, for Pete's sake, that elevate a mere piece of paper containing words that might be your "to do list" affixed to your refrigerator door with magnets, into an actual formal deal between nations?

Of course, there is a reason that Wikipedia labels this JCPOA title page as "souvenir signatures." The "signed" deal is no such thing, as the State Department confirmed.

The relevant part of the letter states:

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is not a treaty or an executive agreement, and is not a signed document.

So basically it is a document that everybody agreed to pick up and take home.

So yeah, this was just a Bizarro World Hallmark moment to mark the occasion of giving gifts to Iran.

Willing to Die for Their Mullahs?

Just because a country has a lot of people doesn't mean it is willing to lose them in war.


Iran's population of 82 million means that it can draw on a deep well of manpower. This is a key factor in sustaining long wars of attrition such as the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War.

The article cites Global Firepower Index to rank Iran as the 13th most powerful nation. I'm not sure what to make of GFI. Whenever I've seen something specific I scratch my head in puzzlement. But I've never actually really explored the methodology of the site.

Anyway, the idea that Iran's population makes them able to wage a war of attrition is misleading. Sure, you can't lose people you don't have. We're in "duh" territory here. But in the Iran-Iraq War, the Iranians had three times the population of Iraq and suffered "only" twice the casualties of Iraq. That should mean Iran won, right?

Well, not on the battlefields. Iran is the side that broke in the war, with the January 1987 Iranian offensive called Karbala Five signaling that defeat:

Perhaps 20,000 Iranians died in the battle. Iraq's casualties were about half of Iran's. Iraq's performance is notable in that Iraq withstood and won the kind of brutal bloodletting that supposedly only Iran could endure. Observers at the time saw only that Iran had launched yet another in a seemingly endless series of big offensives. They speculated about how many more of these attacks Iraq could endure. Actually, Iran broke at Karbala Five. It would be many months before observers began to wonder what was wrong with Iran when no further attacks were begun, yet it was true that the "Islamic Revolution bled to death in Karbala V."

Clearly, having a lot of people and having a lot more than your enemy isn't a guarantee that your people will suffer whatever it takes to win.

And of course, even if a country is willing to lose massive numbers of people in one war doesn't mean that they will always be willing to lose troops in another war.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Weekend Data Dump

America should support the European PESCO initiative if and only if it is limited to making arms procurement more efficient across the continent rather than being the leading edge of a European Union military that undermines NATO. And I have little confidence that the EU elites want the former without the latter.

Hahahahahahaha!!!! Wait.What? He's serious? That's just sad.

I don't think we should torture. But once again, let me correct the record. Torture works. If backed by multiple sources that give you confidence that your target knows what you need to know, few people can withstand torture without telling what they know. What doesn't work is torture as a routine matter on a large scale when you round up the usual suspects to see what they will tell you when you inflict pain. In that case, people who know nothing really will tell you whatever you want to hear. That form of torture is worthless and counter-productive by pushing people to side with the enemy. Further, not every extremely unpleasant method is torture. And even further, we can totally rule out any extremely or even mildly unpleasant method of getting information without defining it as torture.

You thought the Indonesia suicide bomber attacks on three churches in Indonesia couldn't get worse? Wrong answer. Let's hope the counter-programming works. It took time to radicalize so many Moslems. It will take time to undo the damage. On the bright side, despite being a large Moslem-majority country, Indonesia is not very jihadi-friendly.

So the daughter of the Profit says that churches should preach about supporting climate change activism. Which makes sense. Now go and emit no more.

I bet the people who use these pronouns mock religious people who "speak in tongues." Go figure. Tip to Instapundit. I keep hoping we've reached Peak Stupid and yet the bar keeps getting raised.

What's the betting line on years to the first span collapse?

A government big enough to help everyone is apparently big enough to help overseas terrorists. The Long War is long enough because of the nature of our jihadi enemies. Do we have to make it longer?

The Iran-backed Yemen forces are slowly being defeated but Iranian aid keeps them fighting longer than they could otherwise, the Yemen government believes.

California has apparently been a sanctuary state for STDs.

If "the world" makes America pay a diplomatic price for walking away from an atrocious nuclear deal with Iran that would not stop Iran from going nuclear and which enabled Iran to fund mayhem around the Middle East, "the world" can ef itself. Repeatedly. The French decline the offer to self-screw.

Whether or not they are a natural Democratic constituency,  my view is that when someone is an ex-felon having served their punishment, the state should stop punishing them and restore their voting rights. Obviously, it is fine to deny actual felons currently serving time the right to vote.

A desire to get out of Afghanistan is fine as far as it goes. Who wouldn't want to end a war we have been fighting in for so long? But what is acceptable if we leave too soon? Are people really fine if the territory reverts to a jihadi sanctuary the way it was when al Qaeda launched the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on America? I'm truly sorry the war is so long. But we face religion-inspired fanatical enemies who really want to kill us at home. I say we don't let them.

Erdogan says the UN has "collapsed" because of its failure regarding Gaza. Not Syria. Not Sudan. Not Somalia. Not (big) Congo. Not Zimbabwe. Not Pakistan's support for jihadis. Not Myanmar. Not Libya. Not Mali. Not Russia's aggression against Ukraine. No, Turkey's proto-dictator says that failing to prevent Hamas from sending civilians and children to attack Israel's border condemn Israel  means the UN has "collapsed." I think somebody hasn't realized that the Palestinians are no longer Queen of the Victim Prom.

Yeah, once Turkey was the hope for moderate Islam and Saudi Arabia was the problem, being the Patient Zero for jihadi ideology. Now they are switching places.

I have no way to judge this threat. But it has been a while since we've had one--which historically have devastated regions. Are we really immune to it now?

Is the Trump administration starting a full-court press on Iran? Weakening or defeating the Iranian mullah-run government would help resolve or lessen a lot of problems we have in the region.

A declining American birthrate (tip to Instapundit), if it remains lower than recent rates, will have a great effect on what the US-China power balance is in 2050 or 2100. UPDATE: More on fertility.

Socialism isn't about superior caring; socialism is about exploitation with a better cover story for the exploiters that the rubes will believe even as they are impoverished, starved, and otherwise killed off. Tip to Instapundit.

When the media willfully lies to make Trump look bad, it has real world consequences in foreign countries where people believe the lie is true. I remain confused about how Trump's "fake news" charge continues to gain traction, of course.

Again, my first reaction is that they (CAIR in this case) should ef themselves for their stupid reaction. Repeatedly. I'm truly sorry we aren't at war with extremist League of Women Voter types, but whaddayagonnado? You go to war with the enemy you have and not the enemy you wish you had.

Really, it's okay to mock an enemy. For "super dark" you just need to see what our jihadi enemies do every day.

I am very unhappy that Moqtada al Sadr's alliance won big in Iraq (although Sadr himself did not run for an office). He has the blood of a lot of Americans on his hands and I don't trust that he is no longer an Iranian stooge. But Sadr was behind the deaths of a lot more Iraqis. If they don't mind, I don't know if we can do anything but accept the results and focus on making sure free elections [UPDATE: and rule of law in governance, of course] continue. Democracy must not be, as Erdogan in Turkey explained, like a train that you get off when you arrive at where you want to go. Who knows? Maybe Sadr is no longer a walking piece of breathing garbage who will make all of us--Iraqi and American--regret we let that three-time insurrectionist live.

A Russian company, Rosneft, is drilling for oil on behalf of Vietnam in Vietnam's EEZ in the South China Sea that China claims as Chinese territorial waters in defiance of the Law of the Sea that China and Vietnam have signed. Huh. The company is basically an arm of the Russian state. Interesting, no? Especially given that, according to the second article, China may have decided that investments in China are too risky (and apparently the political benefit of investment is no longer high enough). Well, if Russia is pivoting to Asia (and 2021 isn't far away), this sign of Russian-Chinese friction might make sense.

Remember that when National Security Advisor Bolton spoke of the "Libya model" for North Korea, he was speaking about the intrusive WMD removal and verification process; President Trump (and the North Koreans) were speaking about the subsequent European-pushed (remember "leading from behind"?) overthrow of Khadaffi during his civil war. So Trump was just reassuring Kim Jong-Un that our intent is de-nuclearization and not revolution.

It shouldn't require legislation. I just don't see how we can trust Turkey with the F-35. I assume that we reserve the best stuff for our own planes. But even that is insufficient for Turkey under Erdogan. Unless we sell Turkey a "monkey model" that lacks the advanced stealth and electronics, how can we possibly believe the Russians and Chinese won't rapidly have full knowledge of the plane? Of course, perhaps we should take the opportunity to pretend we are selling the Turks the top F-35 with flaws that the Russians and Chinese may think apply to all F-35s. Or would we just outsmart ourselves and reveal more than we realize? Okay, I'm getting dizzy now.

Where actual oppression of Moslems under occupation and ethnic cleansing takes place--but nobody acts like they care or even know about it. Well, maybe if the Chinese convert to Judaism--or even Christianity--on a large scale, people in the West and Moslem world will suddenly care about Xinjiang. It's amazing what a communist state--even if just formally communist--can get away with. On the bright side, Starbucks employee reeducation isn't that bad--yet. Remember, that training day is “just one step in a journey.” A Long March has many steps.

Even small infantry units equipped with Switchblade can have their own air force for recon and strike. And they like it.

I don't know how valuable a B-1 with some type of cannon/rail gun/laser for close air support would be, but I kind of like the idea for anti-ship strike. Bonus material about how rare friendly fire is by requiring going back to 2014 for a single incident to explain why troops are a bit worried about Air Force close air support. Good Lord, before precision that was a routine price of doing business and you just prayed your air force (and artillery, for that matter) did more damage to the enemy.

I don't even think about trade talks with China as talks about trade. Nobody seems to mention that last year Trump noted that concessions on trade might be made if China actually helps us solve the North Korea nuclear program. So really, threats of doing things that harm China just allow us to agree to the status quo as a concession to China, no?

The Army pistol replacement story. Because indoors, a pistol is better than even a scary looking rifle.

No worries about Russia and Germany seeking a pact common cause, right? Smaller powers between them should check their ammo. I'm talking to you, Ukraine. That's what the common cause is all about.

Um, no. That's just not how these nuclear negotiations are going to work. not when we have a Plan B if negotiations fail.

If I'd seen this, I wouldn't have bothered writing this. Although it is nice to have more historical support for a modern role for the Army's core competency in the Asia-Pacific region.

Let me say that I feel better about restricting non-national security comments here. I am a national security analyst. Of course I have opinions on other issues--with varying levels of background to comment on them. But I have no obligation to comment on everything and shouldn't if I want to be an analyst. Sometimes other issues touch on national security. And sometimes I will comment on whatever because I can. Sometimes just for the humor value. But I like throttling back my other commentary. Maybe this could be a trend that could benefit a lot more people.

Screaming Dragons

The Chinese reorganized their 35,000-strong airborne corps of 3 divisions into one based on six brigades, making them more flexible.

Instead of requiring a full division for all combat and support capabilities, now China can have that in a single brigade:

In April 2018 the Chinese Air Force 15th Airborne Corps completed a yearlong reorganization effort that involved disbanding the three airborne divisions (the 43rd, 44th and 45th) and reassigning divisional headquarters and support troops as well as the units of the airborne regiments to six independent airborne infantry brigades (127th, 128th, 130th, 131st, 133rd, and 134th) which now report directly to the headquarters of the 15th Airborne Corps. While the new airborne brigades have some support troops they now also receive logistics, maintenance, engineer and signal support from the 15th Corps Strategic Support Brigade, as well as the Aviation Brigade (over a hundred helicopters and large UAVs) and Special Operations Brigade (airborne commandos and recon troops).

As Strategypage notes, the airborne corps would be a key force in invading Taiwan.

Personally, I think the paratroopers go right for the jugular.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Size Matters

I'm not going to say that training better quality Afghan troops at the expense of quantity is a mistake. But I will say that the two factors are not fully interchangeable.

This is where we are going:

Yes, Afghan forces are shrinking even as violence grows, but that smaller force is better trained, better advised, and better at taking the offensive against the Taliban, the Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs told the Senate. The ongoing increase in US and other NATO advisors is crucial to this turnaround, Sec. Jim Mattis and Gen. Joseph Dunford argued to skeptical Democratic senators this morning.

You can’t just count the number of violent incidents, Mattis told Sen. Richard Durbin, ranking member of the defense appropriations subcommittee: “Who’s initiating the attack is as important as the number.”

It is true that measuring violence alone isn't a metric of success or failure. Violence in Europe dramatically increased on June 6, 1944 and didn't mean the Allies were suddenly losing the war against Germany.

It is good that more of the violence is initiated by Afghan forces. That's what I wanted to see in Afghanistan.

Also, numbers matter. As I reminded you during the Iraq War. Not all troops can or should be SEAL/Delta-level troops, as I addressed again late in the Afghan surges:

Now, during the Iraq War, I constantly reminded people that we didn't need all security forces to be of the caliber of the 170,000 peak force of American troops or their equivalents (essentially the British, in any number). Many who stand guard duty in static locations where 99% of the time there is no major enemy threat simply don't need to be special forces. But somebody has to be there even if all they can do is call for help before firing a few shots and running from a force too large to handle.

You do need less-trained troops for guard duty and putting really good troops there is a waste of their skills and the time and resources used to train them. You need a mix. Will we have that?

UPDATE: Strategypage looks at Afghanistan where the government forces have better morale from American-led increased support; and where the Taliban are dying in higher numbers than the government.

Which makes me ask whether widespread Taliban attacks across the breadth of Afghanistan are really a sign of strength or an indication that the Taliban can't make a main effort in their spring offensive and simply want the optics of broad strength? Or perhaps the Taliban are trying to distract Afghan forces from harming drug-producing regions in the south that finance the Taliban?

People Keep Writing America Off

Will China's economic and military rise and assumed replacement of America as the largest power lead to war with America in the manner of Athens and Sparta, which has been called the Thucydides trap?

This author fears it could:

The ultimate result was that Britain and Germany followed the ancient example of Sparta and Athens: the incumbent power and the rising power ended up going to war. The Harvard political scientist Graham Allison calls it the “Thucydides trap,” after the historian of the Peloponnesian War.

Are the United States and China on the way to repeating this classic historical mistake? Having just spent a fascinating week in Beijing and Shanghai, I fear they may be.

China’s economy has already, by at least one measure, overtaken that of the United States.

I don't think so.

I don't know if China will pass us by in power--other than granting them the handicap of Purchasing Power Parity to bolster their statistics; I don't know if China can hold the lead; America will retain a geographic edge in deployable power; and I think the sheer distance between China and America is a factor that lessens the fear caused by a power transition.

Also, remember that both the Athens-Sparta and later British-German examples of this trap involved a power strong in land sea power versus a power strong in land power.

Right now, American military power is stronger than China's across the board.

As for the New Silk Road China is building across the interior of Asia as a means to help China pass America by?

Go for it! I think that will divide China's growing power between a naval focus and a ground focus--just as the Kaiser unwisely sapped his ground power to build a large fleet still unable to challenge the British.

I just wouldn't be so eager to come to terms with China in an effort to salvage something on the incorrect assumption that China is destined to be the dominant power.

People wrote off America in the face of a rising USSR, a rising Japan, and even a rising European Union. America held off those challenges.

Now China is to be the challenger that replaces us? Maybe. But it might not happen. And it might not matter if it does.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

A Blockade Relies On One Dimension of One Domain

A naval blockade of China's energy imports is technically feasible but possibly not as effective as proponents think:

But taking a tool that is fundamentally about slowly grinding an adversary down and trying to convert it into a substitute for head-on military conflict would be a risky strategy. It could make regional allies and China question U.S. resolve; it could allow service leaders and civilian politicians to “punt” on important procurement commitments that are necessary to ensure credible combat capabilities in the face of China’s rising antiaccess/area-denial (A2/AD) capabilities; and it could lull the American public into thinking that there are relatively low-cost ways to resolve a military conflict with China victoriously—a combination that would be extremely unlikely in practice.

These are excellent points. I do think that blockade should be in the tool bag if there is war. We can absolutely carry it out and it would hurt China.

A blockade also assumes a total war. If China seeks a small goal--one that doesn't even directly attack American forces--will America really escalate to blockade of China? Is that credible? Will our allies accept it?

While a blockade can impose pain on China, it shouldn't be the only tool we rely on. And let me add that one of the problems of a blockade is that it might work. A blockade that wreaks havoc on a nuclear-armed state might prompt a response that seeks to end the havoc by unleashing a different kind of havoc on America or our allies to break the blockade.

Even short of that nuclear escalation, if we go to total war justification with a blockade, China might believe the effects are so great that they are fully justified in escalating the conflict from whatever localized dispute prompted the blockade to a major military campaign. They'll have the time to gear up for that, remember.

Long ago I noted that China was preparing to cope with an energy blockade. And overland energy import routes will help China cope, too, buying time.

Certainly, energy imports are just one aspect of China's overseas trade that is now critical for China's economy. So coping with an energy shortage is only one problem China must face if America blockades China. And as I noted there, China's inland alternatives require building military power that isn't available at sea.

Mind you, China doesn't want a long war. Their advantage is the initial stage before America can mobilize superior but globally dispersed power to the western Pacific. China wants a short war. And we shouldn't assume we know what China's objective is. China might gain their objective in weeks while we settle in for a blockade that lasts months, with the bad effects for America of a blockade strategy accumulating while China sits on their gains and digs in.

Yet is a long war really in America's interest? If we think that a blockade is an inexpensive strategy, how expensive will it be for America to embark on a massive naval and air power expansion to defend the perimeter of the blockade? Do you think China's massive ship-building capacity will remain idle while our ships strangle China's imports and exports?

It may be that while a short war is what China wants; America may need a medium-length war rather than a long war.

In that problematic long-war scenario, a distant blockade places allies on the other side of the line we are willing to defend. How long will they endure that position of being hammered or counter-blockaded by China?

Yet even if we win that confrontation, how long will it be before allies too close to China for America to defend start to rethink their alliance with America and cut deals with China?

I just don't think that our strategy should assume total war for any military confrontation. Isn't that kind of like 1914 Germany assuming that their war plan had to be to strike France first--which is a problem if France isn't involved in the initial crisis, no?

War with China would be a big effing deal. Don't even begin to think there might be an easy way to win it.

I guess there is a reason the article appealed to me. I guess I've given this more thought than I remembered over the years. Although one of the reasons for this recent article on using land power in the Asia-Pacific region was the problem in a China scenario of abandoning allies on the wrong side of our blockade line (page 102).

Prophecy of Warfare: Theme Six

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 sixth 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 sixth theme from 1999 is:

6. Adopt an Operational Maneuver Doctrine Based on Firepower Dominance and Area Control
The need to accelerate the velocity of maneuver at all levels of war becomes more important when an adaptive enemy begins to level the firepower playing field by acquiring his own precision weapons. Distributed maneuver forced by proliferated precision weapons will change the geometry of ground combat from a linear to an irregular, roughly circular area formation.

I've certainly been on board the dispersal trend of units given increases in precision firepower and surveillance. Although I don't think that a linear front will go away. Why abandon a linear--if far thinner--front and allow enemies to penetrate territory unopposed by anything but firepower?

Mind you, spreading out means there are gaps covered by firepower. But that is still a linear front. I'm not fully comprehending how this is different when units have long adopted a "diamond" formation of covering flanks while advancing. How is a "circular" formation different or more effective?

Anyway, in this 2002 article (starting on page 28) I noted the need to disperse in smaller units:

A variant carrying three or four infantry soldiers is necessary.22 The infantry version should have an autocannon and allow the troops to fight mounted. The squad is small for dismounted fighting, but the Bradley already put U.S. infantry on the road to smaller squads. Compensating for reduced numbers, Land Warrior project-derived systems will digitize even walking infantry. Individual soldiers will be lethal, in constant communication, and exploit realtime intelligence. Each soldier will have more survivability than current equipment allows.23 Infantry soldiers may even look forward to personal electronic shields that disarm incoming rounds by disabling their proximity fuses.24 Dismounts may fight with flying or crawling robots that will see and kill for the soldiers.25 Small numbers compensated by greater lethality at longer ranges will, however, make such hyperinfantry less appropriate for peace operations where restraint and face-to-face policing are necessary. Situational awareness and long-range personal firepower will be largely useless when soldiers patrol streets that allow civilians to approach within arm’s length. Low-tech knives can kill even hypersoldiers under such circumstances.

Of course, dispersal only applies in conventional warfare.

And in blogging, I wasn't upset about going to smaller brigades given the trend of dispersal (although that was reversed more recently when the Army reduced the number of brigades--which I suspect was done to preserve battalions in case an expansion of brigades is needed again).

But rather than requiring a circular formation, doesn't precision and persistent surveillance mean that an advance could take place in virtually a road march formation?

Of course, that relies on facing enemy forces without as much precision firepower and certainly without the persistent surveillance.

Perhaps the real battle takes place around units in an effort to decouple enemy precision firepower from the persistent surveillance that makes precision so dangerous; while sustaining our own network of surveillance and precision firepower. And if we can manage that, our dispersal isn't as necessary.

[UPDATE: I neglected a lesson from the Donbas fighting between the Russian invaders and the Ukrainians--precision and surveillance certainly require everybody to be under armor or cover to survive the combination. That--and frequent movement--may possibly be more important than dispersal.]

Theme five is here.

The Italian Job?

The Italians are in an anti-European Union mood. Are they about to pull out? Apparently not. But they might:

Yet an Italian euro-exit is hardly off the table either. Beppe Grillo, the 5Stars’ founder, last week revived the idea of forcing a referendum on Italy’s membership in the single currency. It is, after all, in the party’s DNA — and we all know what usually happens when the EU goes on the ballot (see France and Netherlands in 2005, Ireland in 2008, Britain in 2016, pick your year in Denmark).

The faith in the ability of mere European voters to derail the EU proto-imperial project is kind of touching.

And we actually do know what usually happens when the EU goes on the ballot. As France, the Netherlands, Ireland, and Denmark show, those nations remain in the EU--even if it required telling the voters to keep voting until they got it right.

And the only reason it is what "usually" happens is that Britain is still unclear. Although every day that passes without Britain just getting the Hell out of that sh*thole continental imperial states in the making is another day for the pro-EU side to reverse the surprise Brexit vote by stoking frustration with the pace and details of the Brexit negotiations.

Mark my words, I think the British effed up by failing to just get out of the EU and dealing with the fallout after. As I've remarked, the Russians must be kicking themselves that they relied on tanks and secret police to futilely hold their Soviet European empire; while the EU wields lawyers and cheese regulations to keep their increasingly imperial rule an "ever closer union."

But sure, maybe the Italians who might blow up the EU from the inside are the only hope Britain has of actually getting out of Europe's smothering embrace.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Potemkin Strategic Rocket Forces?

Is Russia losing their ability to reach the continental United States with their nuclear missile force?

The Russians are experiencing major problems with their sea-based nuclear deterrent:

The Russian Navy has made a mess of its SSBN (ballistic missile nuclear subs) force and has done slightly better developing new SLBMs (Sea Launched Ballistic Missile). This is all about what kind of SSBN force Russia will have in the future and what those SSBNs will be capable of. At the moment the answers seem to be “diminished” and “not much”.

Their Soviet-era SSBNs work. But they are going to be too old to go to sea safely.

The new Borei-class SSBNs are having troubles because the state of Russia's nuclear weapons industry has been pretty bad:

Despite initial failures the government insisted that the Bulava SLBM be made to work, no matter what it takes. Many Russian officials believed that the root of all these problems was the flight of so many skilled engineers and scientists from Russian defense industries after the Soviet Union collapsed (and defense orders promptly dropped over 90 percent). The smart people quickly found lucrative jobs in other industries, and there has been little new blood in the last two decades. The same thing happened on the manufacturing end. During the Soviet period defense industries had the cash and fringe benefits to attract the most skilled manufacturing staff. No more. And the dismal Bulava test performance is yet another result of this brain drain.

The Russians are resigned to having these missiles even though they probably will work only half the time.

And they will be based in the east rather than the northwest as the Soviets based their SSBNs with America as the primary target. In the east they can reach America and China.

The Russians need these long-range missiles to work because they allow Russia to defend "bastions" in coastal waters against enemy anti-submarine forces (ASW) that must operate close to Russia against land-based air and short-range naval assets.

With shorter ranged SSBNs, you have to fight your way through enemy ASW forces to get close enough to launch. So problems with their new missile subs are a problem for a survivable Russian nuclear deterrent.

If your SSBNs are as vulnerable as silo-based land missiles are (because of increased accuracy of  incoming rounds at an identifiable land target), you have a problem of deterring an enemy. And in fact you get dangerously close to having a negative deterrent by encouraging your enemy to attempt a disarming first strike to knock our your vulnerable missiles.

The Russians also have a problem with ICBM reliability, as I noted some time ago (quoting Strategypage):

While Russia got the new Topol M ICBM into service since 1991, this was a Cold War era project, meant to replace the older, and much less effective and reliable ICBMs. While Russia has several thousand nuclear warheads, most are undeliverable because of the post-Cold War military meltdown. In fact, they can launch only a few hundred warheads, with any assurance that these will land anywhere near where they are aimed.

That bolstered my impression that the Russians can't afford to maintain their huge nuclear arsenal. Honestly, that's been my impression given the state of the Russian military that has pockets of excellence and a slice of adequate military power resting on top of a far larger portion of their military that shouldn't be sent to control a Pussy Riot concert let alone combat.

As I noted in this post, I wasn't too eager to negotiate a nuclear agreement with Russia because I figured their deterrent was going to deteriorate with or without a treaty. A treaty was really a gift to Russia to save them the futile expense of trying to keep all their nukes in place, and so we should have gotten concessions for that gift.

That's one reason I wasn't overly upset that the New START treaty didn't cover Russian shorter-range nukes (especially if the Russians reduced general hostility to America). Russian problems with their longer range missiles would erode their arsenal, and in need of a nuclear deterrent, Russia would have to emphasize simpler shorter-range missiles that can't reach America.

Britain, France, and China all have missiles that can reach Russia as a partial compensation for America's weakness in the shorter-range categories.

And the Russian violation of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty that limits development of shorter-range nukes that Russia can still build (another note of this here)--because they are simpler and give more bang for the ruble--may indicate just how bad Russia's longer range missiles ("strategic"--although if you are within range of a short-range "theater" or even "tactical" nuke, you won't feel the nuance of the distinctions based on the US-USSR situation) are and will be.

So Russia's long-range missiles are eroding but they will likely be a deterrent because we can't really know how reliable they are and just thinking a 50% success rate exists still means that is a lethal threat.

But Russia, which will know the real state of their nukes (one assumes), isn't counting on that uncertainty and seems to be emphasizing shorter-range missiles that are more reliable because they are simpler. And relying on those weapons to the point of violating the INF treaty.

Well, Putin is relying on shorter-range nukes and idle boasts:

Russia's new weapons, including an array of new nuclear systems, will ensure the country's security for decades to come, President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday at a meeting with top military brass.

Which probably means that Russia's strategic missiles really are fading away.


I thought pacifistic Germany was getting on my nerves. They're just getting started, it seems.

Germany's Merkel says America can't be counted on to defend Europe:

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Europe can no longer count on the U.S. for military protection and must “take its destiny into its own hands.”

Merkel’s comments on Thursday reprise a theme she first sounded last year in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s “America First” foreign policy and his hectoring of European NATO allies for allegedly spending too little on defense. It’s her latest retort to Trump, who this week withdrew the U.S. from a nuclear accord with Iran that European powers say they will uphold.

America actually has a military. America has two Army combat brigades in Europe, commands one of four new multi-national battalions in eastern NATO, has been deploying an additional armored brigade in rotations to Europe, is prepositioning more Army and Marine Corps equipment in Europe, our planes stand guard in their skies over grounded German aircraft, and our warships on occasion patrol the Baltic Sea and Black Sea.

Good Lord, we are building missile defenses in Europe designed to protect Europeans from Iranian nuclear missiles. But we're to be condemned by the Germans for refusing to pretend that the nuclear deal actually prevents Iran from going nuclear?

Germany in contrast to America mostly has a uniformed civil service with little combat power. Only recently has it occurred to them that "national security" should be the concept to base their military on.

And I worry that the Germans will reduce the capacity of NATO allies who subordinate their units to the German army. The modern German army is a joke except for some special forces. The Germans have no business absorbing allied contingents.

So no, chancellor, Europe can count on America to fight. Will Germany fight? That's not very clear. Although their clinging to their past and their unwillingness to spend money says no they won't.

Can Germany fight? The evidence on that is more clear--they can't. And according to the Germans, they apparently can't be trusted with the ability to fight.

Merkel has a lot of nerve questioning American resolve that has lasted for more than 70 years, and which has outlasted German willingness to defend Europe.

I used to occasionally stand up for Merkel, arguing she is not nearly so bad as many conservatives portray her. With this latest comment, I'm out.

UPDATE: I see Bravely Brave Frau Merkel has vowed not to "surrender" to America which poses no threat at all to--and is an actual ally of--Germany:

Merkel defends nuclear deal, Iran says won't 'surrender' to U.S.

Pity that she orders Germany, accompanied by her favorite minstrels, to bravely run away from actual threats.

Although the irony of a German leader claiming a farcical deal provides "peace for our time" is not lost on me.

UPDATE: The German military is "ailing":

The country's embarrassingly long laundry list of inoperable fighter jets, grounded helicopters, idled tanks and dry-docked submarines has exacerbated tensions between Germany and the United States, which — like other NATO allies — worries about the threat of Russian aggression following its annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Ailing? Ailing?

Don't even try to tell me the German military is "resting" after getting tired and shagged out after a long Cold War.

The German military is no more. It is an ex-military bereft of life.

And God help me, if I hear this excuse one more time I'm going to pound my head into a door frame until I am woozy:

But for many Germans, a country with a deeply pacifist streak following two wars in the last century, the lack of military preparedness is of little concern. In fact, it's a source of pride among the peaceniks who grew up with a post-World War II idealism of a world without wars — the Nie wieder Krieg generation.

Let me again pull out the clue bat for our pacifistic German friends:

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.

There are Germans who take pride in this sad state of affairs?

We Value Your Input

A UN body is unhappy that America won't trade with dictatorial Cuba the way the cool kids do:

A United Nations agency said on Tuesday an "unjust" U.S. financial and trade embargo on Cuba had cost the country's economy $130 billion over nearly six decades, coming up with the same estimate as the island's communist government.

Although many U.S. allies join Washington in criticizing Cuba’s one-party system and repression of political opponents, the United States has lost nearly all international support for the embargo since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

I'm sure we will file the agency's concerns in an appropriate place.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Plan B for the PDRK

The North Koreans are upset with US-ROK military exercises:

North Korea said it was suspending high-level talks with South Korea scheduled for later in the day on Wednesday due to U.S.-South Korean military exercises that it said went against the trend of warming North-South ties.

North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency also cast doubt on whether next month's summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump could go ahead as planned, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported.

That's okay. We have a Plan B if talks collapse.

We'll see if the "trend" trumps the "Spirit" of the future.

UPDATE: More about North Korea's objections.

Honestly, since last autumn I've thought the American military has been ordered to gear up to be able to strike North Korea before it gets nuclear weapons capable of hitting American soil (which would be some time this year, if estimates are to be believed); and so North Korea getting too enthusiastic with these objections risks failing to get a real deal before we feel we must strike.

UPDATE: If this is true, getting a deal is a problem:

North Korea will never completely give up its nuclear weapons, a top defector said ahead of leader Kim Jong Un's landmark summit with US President Donald Trump next month.

Does North Korea believe we are deadly serious about a Plan B if North Korea won't provide the verification we need to avoid another bad WMD deal (after Syria 2013 and Iran 2015)?

UPDATE: A Pentagon study says North Korea relies on getting nukes to survive. Let's hope that isn't true. But we need to be prepared for the possibility that it is still all too true.

The Secondary Front

This article worries that our Afghanistan effort won't emphasize local centers of power to base security on:

Since 2001, U.S. Special Operations Forces (USSOF) have routinely employed irregular security forces to wage unconventional warfare (UW) and conduct counterinsurgency operations (COIN) in Afghanistan. During this time, an extraordinarily high level of operational insight has been gained about the proper design, development, and employment of tribal and ethnically linked forces. “Hands on” experience slowly revealed the benefits, risks, and costs associated with irregular force operational constructs. These lessons learned—along with support from academics, innovative USSOF leadership, and geopolitical conditions—coalesced during 2010-2013 to enable the successful development and application of Village Stability Operations (VSO) and supporting Afghan Local Police (ALP) programs. ... VSO is a “bottom up and top down” supported balanced counterinsurgency approach, with the objective of connecting traditional tribal governance at the village level to the central government at the district and provincial levels. The key to this objective was empowering rural populations to govern and defend themselves on a day-to-day basis, while stabilizing and improving the basic functions of district governance.

It is dense, but that's the basic point.

Of course, talking about how we have blown the unprecedented security gains of 2010 to 2013 glosses over the fact that those years were the years of maximum American and allied troop presence and effort. We simply could not have maintained that level--and shouldn't.

I'm just relieved my worst fear of a Stalingrad in the landlocked mountains reliant on less than fully friendly lines of supply didn't happen.

My ability to comment is limited because I don't follow Afghanistan closely, which may seem odd.

I only really followed it closely, handicapped--in contrast to the situation in Iraq despite poor media interpretation of the massive flow--by the poor flow of information by the press, which always prevented me from getting a "feel" for the fight--during our surge years.

The reason I didn't follow it closely at a lower level of American commitment is because after destroying the Taliban regime with our counter-attack that began in 2001, I always viewed Afghanistan as a secondary theater compared to Iraq (and more broadly, to Saudi Arabia which is the source of so much of the destructive ideology we face). I viewed Afghanistan as a potential distraction--because of the pull of 9/11 to hammer the enemy in Afghanistan--to dealing with Iraq (much as Japan in World War II was a potential distraction to dealing with Germany, despite Pearl Harbor pulling us to the Pacific).

That worry about being distracted by Afghanistan remains true despite being the major area of combat post-Islamic State.

But the call for a local emphasis resonates, as I called for in early 2009 before our surges in Afghanistan took place:

The end result in Afghanistan, if all goes well, will be a nominal national government that controls the capital region and reigns but does not rule local tribes and which actually helps the locals a bit rather than sucking resources from the locals, who in turn do not make trouble for the central government or allow their areas to be used by jihadis to plan attacks on the West. We press for reasonable economic opportunities, with bribes all around (I mean, foreign aid), to keep a fragile peace.

And we stick around this time, unlike after the Soviets left Afghanistan when we ignored the place, for a generation or two to see if we can move Afghanistan into the 19th century (hey, let's not get ahead of ourselves).

Hopefully our military surge recedes by the end of 2011 and we can get down to a single combat brigade plus air power that function as a fire brigade and a hammer for the central government should a local difficulty exceed Afghan military capabilities.

Sadly, we walked away too much by 2014, requiring a restoration of our power in Afghanistan to prevent the place from being a sanctuary for jihadis.

But we do need to focus on local security forces rather than prop up a weak national government that has no nation to govern.

And Afghans need to gain the initiative against the various insurgents and drug gang gunmen. It seemed like we were starting to see that at the end of December.

But are we? The results don't seem to indicate more than some limited momentum that may have checked the expansion of enemy efforts. Perhaps the progress will be made this year.

All I know is that I don't want to sacrifice much in Afghanistan, but we do need to avoid losing Afghanistan.

UPDATE: I suspect this is Iran replying to America's withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal:

Taliban fighters with heavy weapons and night-vision equipment fought their way close to the center of the western city of Farah on Tuesday, as Afghan forces with U.S. air support battled to force them back, officials and residents said.

Apparently the attack has failed but it is early.

I don't think it is a coincident that the city is close to Iran.

UPDATE: The Taliban assault was brief but flashy. Friendly forces repelled the attack; meanwhile in the east, more Taliban attacks are underway.

I'll Believe My Lying Eyes, Thank You

Are you freaking kidding me?

With the U.S. retreating from its traditional role as global policeman, this week quitting the Iran nuclear accord, Macron called for Europe to take its own destiny in hand and not allow outside powers to set the agenda. [emphasis added]

America still stands guard around the world. Where, pray tell, has America pulled back?

In Europe? In the Middle East? In Africa? In Afghanistan? In North Korea? In the South China Sea? In any other part of Asia? Where? Name one place that America has left, telling locals to do the job on their own?

Face it, staying in the Iran deal was an example of retreating from our traditional role as global policeman by pretending that the farcical deal actually prevented Iran from getting nuclear weapons.

In fact, pulling out of the deal puts us back in the business of containing and defeating Iran rather than ignoring the gathering danger.

Sometimes reading the news is just an exercise in increasing my blood pressure. Do they even believe what they write?

Drawing the Line a Little Thicker

American-led coalition operations against ISIL in Syria continue. In the short run, there will be a liberated zone in Syria.

The war against ISIL in Syria is renewed:

Today's briefing will focus on our efforts to defeat ISIS in Syria in order to bring peace, security and stability to the liberated areas of northeast Syria.

This week, following an increase in coalition strikes against the final ISIS-controlled areas in Syria, the Syrian Democratic Forces resumed offensive operations to clear the final ISIS-held territory in eastern Syria.

This increased defensive action to destroy ISIS marks the beginning of Operation Roundup, which is the coalition name for the operations to destroy ISIS in the final areas where they hold ground east of the Euphrates River and liberate the last of their fake caliphate.

The territory east of the Euphrates River will largely (except for some Assad pockets) be a free zone, with the new demilitarized zone (DMZ)--which I eventually dubbed the Deconfliction Line (DCL), based on the agreement with Russia to "deconflict" military aerial operations along that line to avoid unintended US-Russian military clashes--forming the unofficial border.

The problem as I've noted is that the Syrian forces on our side of the line (the SDF) are light and reliant on American firepower. What happens if Assad can clamp down in the west after defeating rebels there and organize a multi-division force to move east of the DCL?

So far, the SDF is holding off smaller-scale Assad efforts:

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.

Ultimately, the eastern free zone can only survive with the fall of Assad and his replacement by a non-Alawite government that includes all groups; perhaps with strong regional governments in a more loosely rules confederation.

Could the free zone east of the DCL be a magnet to attract some of the Syrian refugees in neighboring states or in Europe? That might make the east more capable of organizing the capability to defend themselves against being pulled back into a dictatorial minority-led government run from Damascus.

UPDATE: Strategypage takes a tour of Syria.

Monday, May 14, 2018

About Those Great Inspection Provisions

I keep hearing defenders of the Iran deal wailing about the end of those great provisions providing rapid access to Iran's nuclear sites. I don't see what these defenders claim.

Let's go back to my first reading of the Iran nuclear deal (the provisions made public, anyway) for the inspection provisions:

At page 42 we get to access to nuclear facilities. The section starts out by saying access shall be requested "in good faith, with due observation of the sovereign rights of Iran, and kept to the minimum necessary to effectively implement the verification responsibilities" under the deal.

Who decides good faith, what doesn't interfere with sovereign rights, and what the minimum is? These sound like multiple grounds for Iran to halt inspections.

If we think there are unlawful activities or materials or undeclared facilities, the IAEA has to tell Iran the basis for the concerns and request clarification. No time limit is mentioned for getting clarification.

If the clarification doesn't resolve the IAEA's concerns--not our concerns apparently, just the secretive IAEA's--the IAEA may request access to the location and provide Iran with reasons in writing and make available relevant information. May? Not must? What is relevant? The name of whoever provided the information? The type of satellite that spotted something? Doesn't this just give Iran information to refine their ability to avoid detection?

On page 43, Iran can propose an alternative to site visits, which should be given due and prompt consideration! Seriously?

Ah, the first time frame. So that doesn't include the time for clarification of the concerns expressed to Iran. If the absence of unlawful materials or activities cannot be verified within 14 days of the IAEA original request for access, Iran and the IAEA have to agree to a means to resolve the dispute.

And I'll ask whether this will morph into the need for the IAEA to prove there is unlawful materials or acclivities, the way Saddam got the world to reverse his WMD obligations under the 1991 ceasefire.

Anyway, if following that 14-day period, the IAEA and Iran can't agree to means to resolve the dispute, a vote of 5 out of 8 members of the Joint Commission (one each from France, Germany, the United Kingdom, China, Russia, the United States, Iran, and the European Union) would approve advice on means for resolving the IAEA concerns.

China, Russia, and Iran will vote as a bloc, meaning Iran only has to bribe one country to abstain (coughfrancecough).

The commission would have 7 days for this step and the Iranians would have 3 days to implement the means.

So that's the 24 days we keep hearing about for access to nuclear sites. I'm still not confident that clarification efforts won't suspend that time. Lord knows how long that can last. And that is only if the IAEA decides to try to gain access to the site. They don't have to do that and we can't make them try.

Nor am I confident that logistical considerations won't stall the process. What if the Joint Commission needs a week to gather? Does that halt the time periods?

What if the Russian commissioner has an ingrown toe nail and can't make it for 3 weeks? Or if the Chinese commission member resigns and it takes a month for China to appoint a replacement?

What if it is Ramadan and of course the Iranian representative can't make it for weeks?

What if the EU representative is on vacation for the entire month of August and can't be reached?

Clearly, we just wait, right?

And consider that the IAEA has to tell Iran the basis for the concern. So Iran gets to figure out who blew the whistle and kill the leaker and/or figure out a better way to hide their activities. So we will always have to weigh the revelation of our sources against the gains we might make trying to get access to a site.

I see plenty of ways for Iran to delay, deflect, and deny inspections. Just what are the Iranian deal defenders reading, anyway? Certainly not what I read.

Hating America ... More Than Ever!

I see the Iranians, who have chanted "Death to America!" (admittedly, for many it is just something they have to do) for forty years now, have turned the dial to 11:

New and improved rage! Now with "more than ever" hatred!


Somebody notices that the Palestinian "protests" seem to involve attacks by known terrorists using human shields that actually attempt to destroy the means to export goods to Gaza:

According to Beinart, the ongoing attempts to damage and breach the border security fence to attack Israel, the rocks and firebombs hurled and shots fired at Israeli soldiers, the firebomb-bearing kites that torment Israeli farmers trying to grow crops, the widespread presence of swastikas at the demonstrations, the anti-Semitic threats against Jews, the horrible ecological effects caused by burning tires to blind Israeli border guards—all actions carried out by Gazans—are reactions of victims motivated by resistance against their oppressors. The fact that most of the rioters who Israelis have killed were terrorist operatives, or individuals affiliated with terrorist organizations, is irrelevant, because it gets in the way of this narrative.

And contra Beinart, the fence is not made to "enclose" Gaza. It is there to protect Israelis. As the ongoing border assault by Hamas shows is quite necessary.

In my last weekend data dump, I noticed that kind of misinformed narrative:

Palestinians continue their border assault on Israel, this time destroying infrastructure used to import goods and supplies into Gaza. No doubt this problem will be described as part of the mythical Israeli "blockade" of Gaza.

But it is all our fault. With "our" being the international community. Uniquely in the history of refugees, the UN deemed Palestinians able to pass down refugee status to their as-yet unborn offspring:

The Palestinian refugees’ worst catastrophe wasn’t displacement, a fate they have shared with much of mankind. It was being fed a lie — that the clock will be turned back, and the last 70 years undone. The grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the 1948 refugees, whether they live in Lebanon or Jordan, in America or the West Bank, are not refugees. They are at home. That is how they should think of themselves. That is how they should insist that the world think of them. No one is going back to the 1940s. Once Palestinians stop believing otherwise, the “nakba” will be at an end.

The UN made the Palestinians the Queen of the Victims Prom. Only now are the first efforts being made to remove the crown and make possible an actual solution that doesn't involve the destruction of Israel.

UPDATE: Will the Palestinians seize the opportunity for actual peace that America will offer?

The United States is in the "late phases" of finalizing its Israeli-Palestinian peace plan that will be presented to both parties for consideration, according to a senior White House official, who discussed progress on the matter ahead of a massive celebration in Israel to open the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem.

I suspect this will be a serious offer:

A real plan with Israel's agreement that Arab states can get behind will provide cover for Arab states to mute their response to an Israeli attack on Iran's proxy Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Will the Palestinians continue in their circular firing squad or will they try for peace short of destroying Israel?

Tough call.

UPDATE: People are complaining about what Israel is doing while defending their border. Despite the death toll, with a 46:1 wounded-to-killed ratio, the Israelis clearly aren't trying to kill Palestinian human shields who are screening Hamas gunmen charging the border fences. I guarantee that if Israeli troops were trying to kill those human wave attacks, the ratio would be closer to 3:1.

Also, it is a war crime to use human shields--and particularly scummy to use children in that role.

All blame should rightly fall on the Hamas thugs who are waging this assault. The Israelis are under no obligation to ease off and risk the attackers getting through the fence in their hundreds or thousands while trusting that the "protesters" will only brandish giant puppets when inside Israeli territory.

UPDATE: It is very sad that civilians and especially children have been killed during these Palestinian operations. But the blame for their deaths lies with Hamas who uses civilians as cannon fodder. Children should not be sent to war. And that is what Hamas is waging on the border, have no doubt.

UPDATE: Huh. If true, of course. But this is certainly consistent with past behavior.

UPDATE: Did Egypt pressure Hamas to scale back their border operation?