Friday, June 22, 2018

In the Nick of Too Late?

What role do the Chinese envision for their aircraft carriers? Prestige, sea control, or bait?

Strategypage notes that a Chinese pilot conducted the first ever night landing on a Chinese carrier, which is a big deal.

The post then goes on to discuss American combat UAV development for the Navy, which is crucial to extending the range of carrier aircraft to give the carriers a chance to get close enough to targets to launch strikes within the lengthening range of Chinese anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) systems (cruise missiles, ballistic missiles, aircraft).

One thing that strikes me is that the Chinese may be entering the carrier field just in time for their dark ages as a sea control weapon under threat by cheap, networked missiles married to persistent surveillance networks.

My belief is that carriers are useful for two missions: sea control and power projection. Sea control is defeating enemy fleets to control the seas. Power projection is striking targets ashore in the absence of enemy capacity to strike the carriers at sea. 

Unfortunately, the debate has often been an apples and oranges debate here, with proponents of carriers extolling the usefulness in the power projection mission while ignoring the problems of surviving a sea control mission. Opponents of carriers focus on the vulnerability without seriously acknowledging the power projection value.

Of course, China may want a limited number of carriers just for peacetime presence missions and power control missions against smaller states. China may realize that carriers are vulnerable to those missile networks, and that just as China threatens American carriers, American, Japanese, South Korean, and Indian missiles will be too potent for China to risk their carriers to control the seas.

And if that is true, China might very well use their first couple carriers to leverage America's continued belief in carriers as sea control weapons by dangling those first, simpler carriers as bait to occupy the American Navy in a glorious carrier battle while China captures their true objective--like Taiwan, for example.

On the other hand, it is possible that massed carriers networked for defense could survive and fight--with more and longer ranged UAVs on the carriers--within an enemy A2/AD envelope.

But I just don't if it is worth it to invest so much money in these expensive and vulnerable ships for the mission of sea control when anti-ship missiles on a variety of platforms and networked in a 24/7 surveillance network would work as well and be better able to lose parts and keep working.

What role do the Chinese see for their carriers and how many will they build?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Syria: Where Nuance Went to Die

Yes, Assad came back from what looked like certain doom in early 2012. Despite President Obama telling Assad he had to step down, Assad retained hope because of Obama's refusal to do anything because Obama was certain that the forces of "history" would inevitably force Assad from office (and besides, he didn't want to "further militarize" the conflict!).

Assad has the edge now in the war, and only a seriously unexpected event could change the vector:

The Assads depend on both Iran and Russia for the unexpected comeback from certain defeat. Iran has been backing Assad since the 1980s while the Russians largely stopped supplying Assads with much material aid after the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991. The Russians returned in 2015 and the air and tech support put the Assads on the road to victory.

Perhaps in the long run, Assad is doomed. But "history" doesn't tell us that Assad had to lose this decade--or the next one or the next generation (or the next Assad at some point in the future).

Early in the war I noted what Assad had to do to have a chance of winning. And he appears to have gotten his whole new war (albeit not as a deliberate plan but as losing ground in combat, and so with far more casualties) bolstered by Russian and Iranian intervention plus American supplied cash via the amazingly inept 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

And let me add that the survival of the minority Alawite regime demonstrates that the people who thought the Saddam minority Sunni Arab regime in 2002 was doomed to lose against the majority if America would just stay out and avoid "tainting" the Iraqi opposition.

Violence isn't over in Syria. Nor is opposition ended. Idlib province in the northwest has the bulk of the rebellion. There are pockets in the south although those seem to be getting ready to give up. And in the northeast the Kurds who want independence or at least autonomy from Assad (remember, I long noted that the Syrian Kurds would never be the core of an anti-Assad rebellion to march on Damascus) hold a large amount of territory; along with American-supported Arabs east of the Euphrates River who don't want to submit to Assad's rule (so what do we do post-ISIL there?).

So there is room for a "black swan" event to change the pro-Assad vector.

Syria would be better off if the rebellion had been "tainted" by association with America rather than figuratively inviting foreign jihadi ideology to fill the vacuum left by America's decision to do just enough to look like we are doing something yet not enough to prevent the spiraling casualties, massive refugee problem that eventually shook Europe, and the opening for Russia and Iran to entrench inside Syria.

Ah, nuanced Smart Diplomacy.

The Most Difficult Period for Russia or the West?

Is Putin determined to continue the pointless confrontation with NATO and the West?

Is this true?

No one knows if the next six years of Vladimir Putin’s reign will be his last, but signs suggest they will be the most difficult for Washington to navigate in what is now widely acknowledged on both sides as a long-term confrontation between Russia and the West.

If this is true, it makes sense that Russia is sucking up to China to secure their rear while they continue to pressure NATO in the west.

But sucking up to China now also makes sense if the purpose is to buy time to shift Russian forces east while trying to disengage from the pointless confrontation with NATO.

Lord knows what Putin thinks makes more sense.

I'll note that the author relies on the strategic concept of raids to describe Russian strategy, which I relied on for my recent article on potential Army operations in the Asia-Pacific region when opening the possibility for Army operations on the Chinese mainland, as opposed to operations with allies around the periphery of China. I figured we could achieve limited objectives along the coast of China (following on the Marines) but couldn't hope to occupy China. I expanded on that in the end note:

Archer Jones, The Art of War in the Western World (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), 54–57. Archer Jones contrasts a raiding strategy with a persisting strategy. His definitions work for both offensive and defensive warfare. A persisting strategy of taking or holding terrain requires a high troop-to-area ratio to exert a strong physical presence to own the land. With a low troop-to-area ratio, attempting to occupy the entire area is futile. A raiding strategy is the alternative. On the defensive, a raiding strategy does not attempt to hold a front to stop an enemy but conducts a mobile defense to defeat the invader by waiting for opportunities for military victories or just seeks to avoid battle in the hope of tiring the invaders out. On the offensive, a raiding strategy involves maneuver to inflict military defeats or seize critical terrain to inflict pain and does not seek to take and hold terrain except for short periods to gain local successes. Despite advances in weaponry and surveillance, neither virtual occupation with aircraft flying overhead nor Third Offset-enhanced troops spread thinly are a substitute for troop density.

Interestingly, the author thinks that Russia didn't intend to conquer Crimea or Donbas. In both Putin just wanted to pressure Ukraine to federalize their government structure to allow Russia to exert more influence in the more decentralized periphery of Ukraine, with Russia withdrawing from their "raids" after that. And withdrawing in Crimea meant withdrawing back to the bases that Russia already had.

In the former (me opining) Putin could put pressure on whatever government emerged in Ukraine to keep their bases in Crimea (which perhaps explains my confusion over why he'd take Crimea when he had the bases). Perhaps the complete inability to resist in the chaotic first days of the revolution encouraged Russia to just take the place.

But I do think that Russia could afford to take and occupy the low-population Baltic NATO states. Russia would link up with their Kaliningrad exclave and Russia's border with NATO would actually shrink.

(In theory, mind you, on the assumption that NATO doesn't fight for them--and I think NATO would fight to liberate them if Russia overruns them.)

And the author doesn't seek to think much of the Western worship of so-called Russian "hybrid warfare." You know my opinion.

So do read it all.

Anyway, the next six years will be the most difficult for someone. But it might be for Russia rather than for the West.

Sail Into the SOUTHCOM Gray Zone Littorals

The SOUTHCOM commander stated that there are threats in his command that require serious attention:

The U.S. is facing the “latest evolution of warfare” in its own backyard, threats to international security that are bubbling up from Latin America’s criminal networks, corrupt governments and “state actors with global ambitions,” the chief of U.S. Southern Command says.

Challenges arising in Latin America and the Caribbean fall into a “gray zone” rather than being widely understood traditional military threats, and there are consequences for regional and international security, said Navy Adm. Kurt W. Tidd in remarks at a Rogers Strategic Issues Forum hosted by the Association of the U.S. Army’s Institute of Land Warfare. The region, he said, merits greater focus.

As I've mentioned before, SOUTHCOM isn't likely to get major naval assets. So just as I recommended for AFRICOM, Admiral Tidd should consider a modularized auxiliary cruiser.

The SOUTHCOM Queen would be just fine.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Continue the Farce Without America, Thank You

The UN Human Rights body is a joke dominated by despots. American withdrawal is justified. China's reaction is priceless:

China expressed regret on Wednesday over a U.S. decision to withdraw from the U.N. Human Rights Council, with state media saying the image of the United States as a defender of rights was "on the verge of collapse".

China is building Dystopian State 1.0 in its Xinjiang west:

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.

And if leaving that farcical UN body really did tarnish the image of America as a defender of rights, China would be very happy indeed to have that happen.

Because China is happy to have a neutered human rights body that retains credibility by the continued presence of America on it.

UPDATE: Hahahaha! The Russians are moaning about our decision, too:

Russia says that the U.S. exit from the United Nations' Human Rights Council reflects Washington's unilateralist approach to global affairs. ...

The Russian mission described the council as a "key international platform for cooperation in protecting human rights."

Never say the Russians don't have a sense of humor.

Russia likes the council because it is not a body for protecting human rights. And until now, America's presence on the flawed dictator-protection council gave it some undeserved credibility.

UPDATE: To Hell with those people:

A recent United Nations report blasting President Trump and America in general for harboring “contempt” and “hatred for the poor” is based on highly inaccurate data that can’t easily be used to compare the U.S. to other nations.

Not just any UN report, a human rights council report.

And it not only used bad statistics but used statistics from the last year of the Obama administration to launch the attack on America under Trump.

Airlifting Right for the Jugular

China is introducing their equivalent of the C-17:

Two years after the Chinese Air Force received its first production model Y-20 air transport seven are now in service. Earlier in 2018 the Y-20 was used, for the first time, for dropping paratroopers as well as cargo by parachute. The Y-20 is similar to the American four engine C-17 heavy jet transport. But the Y-20 was developed and put into production much more quickly and apparently going to be built in much larger number.

In large numbers, it will be useful for dropping and airlifting troops and equipment in or near Taipei, in an invasion of Taiwan that goes right for the jugular.

Prophecy of Warfare: Theme Ten

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 tenth and final 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 tenth theme from 1999 is:

10. Move Beyond Jointness to True Interdependence of Services
Combat functions such as operational maneuver and precision firepower — functions provided principally by one service yet vital to the warfighting effectiveness of another — should be removed from the constrictive rules of joint warfare and elevated to a new dimension of interdependent command and control.

That's an interesting theme. Is it possible to train senior staff to think about true joint command, with officers mastering all services the way senior service personnel are now expected to master all branches of their own service to employ that service to its full potential?

I don't know. I can't say I've ever addressed this.

The only aspect is that I've often said that when someone calls in fire support, they shouldn't care who provides it, and the fire support system should be able to determine if a 60mm mortar half a mile away, a plane flying high or low with precision bombs or streams of bullets, or a ballistic missile at sea is called for the effect needed. I noted that in the 2002 article:

Communications will allow the FCS to direct distant firepower if it does not use its own cannon. An FCS will identify a target, and the appropriate missile module, helicopter, aircraft, or artillery asset will destroy the target. The source of the warhead will not matter.

As to the joint command and control, I suspect that we'd have to allow either older senior "true purple" commanders or accelerate the career paths of promising service commanders to be "true purple" commanders who are fully capable of conceptualizing the contributions of all services and their assets into a single campaign and war plan.

And we wouldn't need many of these senior "true purple" commanders.

Do we risk older commanders who may be less flexible in thought? Do we augment such older commanders with drugs or gene editing to make them more youthful in mind and physical endurance despite age?

Wouldn't we want to extend the career of any officers reaching that "true purple" level of command abilities? So would "up or out" be set aside for them?

If we don't allow (and enable) older commanders, how would we accelerate the education and experience of selected officers (and enlisted for senior enlisted spots, too, I imagine) within the traditional time frame that is the path of service officers reaching the highest levels? Would a faster rate of "checking boxes" for promotion harm our officer corps rather than create "true purple" commanders?

And how do we identify the qualities of such an officer candidate early on to focus resources on preparing that officer for "true purple" command slots? What if we are wrong? Again, few will be needed at that level so how do we do it? Are we in Ender's Game territory? The Air Force is starting down that path, it seems.

An excellent theme question, however.

Theme nine is here.

Next Time For Sure?

Is there a way to renegotiate a deal with Iran over their nuclear missile program when Iran doesn't even admit it had a nuclear weapon program?

It is good that Iran is facing economic hardship:

Mounting economic hardship is fueling persistent unrest in Iran, now characterized by labor strikes across the country and anti-regime sentiment. New sanctions stemming from President Trump's decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal may well exacerbate already difficult economic conditions.

Now may be the right time to exert maximum pressure on the regime in an effort to bring Tehran back to the negotiating table.

But the simply atrocious 2015 deal that Trump withdrew from this year did nothing to reverse or even slow down Iranian support for terrorism and violence in the region; nor did it stop Iran from pursuing long-range ballistic missiles that really need nuclear warheads to make sense.

And we have no way of knowing if the flimsy and limited inspections by the IAEA under the 2015 deal have slowed down Iranian nuclear weapons work even as the deal itself strengthens basic Iranian nuclear technology and engineering skills.

So why would we seek another deal expecting it to work better on nukes and have a different effect on other issues with Iran?

It would be better to let Iran sink under the weight of their economic hardships and expanded spending on foreign adventures that run counter to American interests.

Maybe if a deal with North Korea is rapidly concluded, it would be possible to negotiate a new agreement with Iran. But that deal with North Korea would have to include coming clean with America on all the nuclear and missile cooperation between Iran and North Korea up to now.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Make India's Navy Great

The best thing America could do to help India's navy resist Chinese ambitions to stretch its reach across the Indian Ocean to Africa and the Middle East would be to help India reform their completely inadequate naval shipbuilding:

India has long had problems designing and building larger warships (frigates, carriers, subs). For decades India blamed colonialism for the decline of the Indian shipbuilding industry. But after other nations, with even less history of shipbuilding (China, South Korea), became world leaders in the industry Indians began to accept that the problems were Indian and not the fault of British colonialism (which brought the industrial revolution to India, where that industrialization process declined after the British left). By the 1990s the Indian government agreed that internal reforms were needed and since then India has made a lot of progress but is still way behind countries like China, Taiwan and South Korea in ship building and new tech in general.

Although we have enough problems to fix ourselves, we could help.

Deadly and Serious Threats

A RAND analyst writes that China is a serious threat to Taiwan.

Well, I've long felt China could invade if it is willing to take the casualties to do so.

The main question is whether America and Japan could intervene quickly enough to help Taiwan hold off and then eject the invaders.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Soft Duty for Now

No wonder the Russians want the Donbas front quiet during the World Cup:

Russian paramilitary units providing security for the soccer World Cup included among their members Cossack fighters who took part in clandestine campaigns in Ukraine and Syria that Kiev and Washington condemn as backed by Moscow.

More than 800 members of at least six local Cossack organizations will patrol the streets, fan zones and team bases during the five-week tournament starting on Thursday, according to Cossack leaders and regional officials.

I assume that when the soccer event is over, those paramilitary units will get on trucks and head to the front to kill Ukrainians.

The Manbij Deal

This was the deal that is supposed to reduce US-Turkey tensions over Manbij to balance American defense of the Kurds west of the Euphrates River in Syria against Turkey's goal of building a buffer zone from the Euphrates River west to the Mediterranean Sea to keep jihadis (and Kurdish terrorists) from flowing from Syria to Turkey:

In the northwest the Kurds have agreed to withdraw the town of Manbij while leaving it under the control of Kurdish and American troops and government and foverened by a local council representing the ethnic population of the town. This eliminates the risk of a clash between American and Turkish forces over Manbij.

Fingers crossed. But I'm still not satisfied that Turkey is reliable enough to be trusted with the F-35, as it seems they will be.

When My Enemy's Enemy Disappears

Is the friendship between Iran and Russia going to return to the natural state of opposition?

Now that the tide in the Syrian civil war appears to have definitely turned in favor of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, one of the key factors that will shape Syria’s future is the precise nature and durability of the relationship between the two countries that saved Assad from collapse: Iran and Russia.

Tehran and Moscow worked together to bolster Assad, but the character of their ad hoc alliance has always remained a bit of a mystery. They each, for their own purposes, wanted the regime in Damascus to survive. Beyond that, it has never been clear just how committed Russian President Vladimir Putin has been to his links with the Islamic Republic.

Indeed, the Russians have stoked a little tension with Hezbollah, Iran's favorite Arab cannon fodder to fight Israel:

A Russian force deployment on the Syria-Lebanon border this week in a Hezbollah stronghold sparked protests by the Lebanese militant group, prompting the force to withdraw from its positions only a day later in a rare sign of tension between the allies.

Strategypage addresses the growing tension:

The alliance between Russia, Iran and Turkey is coming apart because all three nations have different goals even though the three have been cooperating with the Assad government since 2015 to end the civil war. But with the rebels no longer a major threat to the Assad government each of these three allies are more interested in their own objectives in Syria. For Russia it is to maintain its two bases their and that is only possible if the Assad government (which granted the use of an airbase and port facilities) survives. Iran is in Syria to keep the Assads in power so Iran can mass forces there to attack and destroy Israel. Turkey is mainly there to destroy Turkish and Syrian Kurdish separatist groups, as well as any Islamic terrorists that are seen as a threat to Turkey. To accomplish this Turkey wants to clear all Kurdish separatists and from the Syrian side of the border and turn that “security zone” over to the FSA (a Syrian rebel group that not works for the Turks).

Yes, long-term rivals and sometimes enemies Russia and Iran have lost a lot of their reason to cooperate closely in Syria. And you can add Russia and Turkey and Turkey and Iran, for that matter.

Heck, Assad has every reason to want Iran out of Syria now, well aware of what Iran could do to Syria given the Iranian record in Lebanon.

Will Turkey begin to remember the value of being an ally of America and friend of Israel? Or will Erdogan simply push away all potential allies in his dream of a new (non-territorial) Ottoman Empire?

But more immediately, how will the growing Russia-Iran split affect Israeli ambitions to take down Iran's Hezbollah ally in Lebanon (and now in Syria, too)?

Sunday, June 17, 2018

CliffsNote Version of the JCPOA

That's it, basically:

The Iran deal was born in deceit, sold through deception, and kept alive by willful blindness.

There was no way that horrendous deal was going to stop Iran from going nuclear or make Iran a responsible regional power whose possession of nukes was irrelevant.

We already know the brain trust that gave us the 2015 Iran nuclear deal also gave us the failed 2013 chemical weapons deal with Syria that did not eliminate Syria's chemical weapons or prevent Assad from using chemical weapons.

I'm skeptical about whether North Korea is sincere about giving up nukes. But I'm more willing to trust Trump's team will do a better job than the Obama team did.

And note that Obama tarnished the "Libya model" of denuclearizing by killing Khadaffi after he gave up his nuclear program.

So I don't want to hear the horrified utterances of Obama's fanboys (and girls) over the Trump-Kim meeting.

This is Multi-Domain Synergy I Can Fully Back

The Army wants long range fires both to hit enemy targets that threaten the Army and to clear lanes for the Air Force to strike targets that threaten the Army:

“This is why long-range precision fires is number one for the Army. So, if I need to, for example, suppress enemy air defenses using long-range artillery, I have the means to do that, reaching deep into the enemy’s rear. What that does, if I can suppress enemy air defenses, either the guns, missiles, radars…ect.. it helps clear the way for the Air Force to do what they do – and do well,” [Army Secretary Mike] Esper said.

That's what I got out of the Army call for long-range fires when I wrote about it last month. This makes the linkage absolutely clear.

Defend, Disperse, and Deploy

This author notes that in addition to the vulnerability of our aircraft carriers to Chinese (well, and to other powers) missiles and aircraft, our few land air bases out there are just as vulnerable:

“From a USAF standpoint, we are organized for efficiency, and in the high intensity conflict that we might find ourselves in, in the Pacific, that efficiency might be actually our Achilles heel, because it requires us to put massive amounts of equipment on a few bases. Those bases, as we most know, are within the weapons engagement zone of potential adversaries,” Wilsbach said.

“So, the United States Air Force, along with the Australian Air Force, has been working on a concept called Agile Combat Employment, which seeks to disperse the force, and make it difficult for the enemy to know where are you at, when are you going to be there, and how long are you are going to be there.

I've noted the vulnerability before.

So yeah, we need to figure out how to disperse our land-based air assets. In contrast to how we plan to defend our carriers that have equally concentrated air power, isn't it interesting that the Air Force solution isn't just to add more and more missile defenses to the few air bases it uses so it can continue business as usual?

Not that air bases don't need air defenses, rapid runway repair, and hardened aircraft shelters. But we need a lot more bases with those things--and the ability to set up new bases quickly.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Forgetting the Success Achieved

Yemen wants to rapidly capture the port of Hodeidah to deny the Houthi a major source of smuggled Iranian weapons and to keep relief supplies flowing to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe.

This is a major offensive against a tough target. No doubt.

But this is nonsense:

The coalition of Arab states has battled with little success for three years to defeat the Houthis, who control the capital Sanaa, the Hodeidah port and most of Yemen's populated areas. The assault on Hodeidah is the alliance's first attempt to capture such a well-defended major city.

"We are at the edges of the airport and are working to secure it now," the Arab coalition said in a statement to Reuters. "Operational priority is to avoid civilian casualties, maintain the flow of humanitarian aid, and allow for the UN to press the Houthis to evacuate the city." [emphasis added]

The Arab coalition's intervention reversed the rebel tide and has slowly ground down and pushed back the rebels. There is a lot more to do in order to win the war, but it is definitely untrue to say that the coalition has had little success in the war.

Weekend Data Dump

I don't understand how those on the Left can insist that Trump is a racist bent on enabling overt racism in America. Where is it? I don't see any form of government discrimination or government toleration of discrimination going on around me. Bizarrely, the Left insists that Trump keeps sending "dog whistle" racist comments to his deplorable backers. This is perplexing. If Trump is the dictator who can do what he wants, why would he bother with mere "dog whistles" to give his supporters a giggle? And if Trump is capable of putting a racist government in place, why would his so-called racist supporters be satisfied with mere "dog whistles?" I'm honestly perplexed.

All things considered, Iran should probably focus less on nuclear missile technology and more on water desalinization technology.

Ethiopia says it will withdraw from territory (around Badme) granted to Eritrea by an arbitrator some 20 years after Eritrea went to war with Ethiopia over territorial disputes. At some point, struggling for small scraps of land aren't worth the price even if you win it.

I'm not sure what is going on with the Brexit talks, but the British need to formally get out of the EU even if the terms aren't ideal, and work on fixing it from the outside. Don't let pursuit of a good exit be the enemy of an exit. Because of this effort fails, no British government will be foolish enough to ask the British their opinion on the issue ever again.

The 2018 Ramadan spike in the murder count by jihadis. I'm so old I remember when liberals said that out of respect for Islam, America should suspend offensive operations during Ramadan in the campaign against the Taliban following the 9/11 attacks.

It indeed appears as if Iran is backing the Taliban in western Afghanistan where Taliban from all around Afghanistan massed 2,800 fighters in the failed attempt to take Farah. But the reports of how bad the government's position there are confusing given that the Taliban assault on Farah did actually fail. And the Taliban did apparently have to draw in forces far from Farah. I admit I'm worried. I just don't know if I have a reason to worry.

A brief tour of China-related issues, including Dystopian State 1.0, North Korea's growing fear of China that may be outweighing North Korea's desire for China's protection, and the state of the Philippines' project to get resources from the competing Chinese and Americans.

California may have to severely limit how much water people can use. But don't worry! The progressive government that cares so much about the poor will allow those with swimming pools, spas, and "other water features" to use what they need to maintain them. Woe to those who want to fill a tiny inflatable pool for their over-heated tots on a summer day. Physical inspections  ("site visits") will ferret them out! But the wealthy with even vague "water features" will be just fine. I'm sure they'll invite the sweating tots of the California underclass to cool off in whatever those are. But I'm sure the left-wing fully woke tech oligarchs will be more than happy to pay the bills that their open virtue and compassion require.

Maybe it is just me, but I never watched mafia mob movies and thought, "We really need to keep those dirty Italians out of America." Apparently for the fully woke, you can't hate Hispanic animal killers and criminals. Even in a work of fiction. Perhaps we are running out of upper class English villains. Well, perhaps not.

Apparently, we are no longer allowed to look at Miss America contestants, with the death of the swimsuit competition. The purpose of the competition is now: "To prepare great women for the world, and to prepare the world for great women." Apparently that involves making sure nobody in the world wants to tune in to watch those women who bother to "compete" (is that still allowed?).

Is California large enough that the declining Republicans and growing independents could form a new party to provide an alternative to the increasingly left-wing progressivism of California Democrats who dominate the "jungle" primary system California has? Normally you'd figure they couldn't avoid being absorbed into the national Republican party. But California has the population and donation base to perhaps support a long-speculated viable third party within their state's borders alone. Could it be a power broker in leadership elections in Congress, pulling both parties to the center? Such a California regional party would forfeit roles in presidential debates, but how much of a role does California have now? Republicans write it off and Democrats run up the vote there. And would a California Democratic Party free to be as left wing as it wants forfeit its role in pulling the national party left by being just too far left? Or would that enable more pulling? Would a new center-right (and even moderate liberals with a working relationship with reality, really) party with a strong base in California then spread to other states? Remember, our two-party system has been pretty stable. But there is nothing that enshrines either the Republicans or Democrats as one of the two parties. Could one or both die if a California center-right party that succeeds in their home state expands to other states to eventually become a national party? Just speculating.

Surely, this is Peak Stupid. Can't we start with banning assault straws so people can still have the right to home hydration?

Remember that despite the hyper-ventilating about Trump starting "trade wars," that Trump wants an even playing field--at a lower level--and not barriers that prevent trading partners from exporting to America. On average, I've read, our tariffs are lower on imports than our exports face abroad. That was acceptable when our economy dominated the world and our allies needed to export to America in order to recover from World War II. But times change and just because our allies have had the advantage for so long doesn't mean it has to remain that way. Naturally they defend the status quo. We don't have to. I expect the end of this path viewed with panic by some will be a more even playing field at lower levels of tariffs, and not recession-inducing trade barriers.

Have they moved too far to the what? I don't think that word "center" means what they seem to think it means. Tip to Instapundit.

Just go and sign to make PAINCOM a reality!

Some Basques are agitating for independence from Spain. And the European Union smiles.

Unless Egypt plans to bomb the dams, they don't really have much of a choice but to accept Ethiopia's pledge not to screw with Egypt's Nile River water flow. Now what Sudan, which is between those two, might do is another question, I suppose.

Unless Romanians are happy to lag behind the prosperous West they joined, corruption really has to be stamped out to bolster rule of law. And being strong enough to resist Russia would be another benefit of defeating corruption. I don't have the background to judge the anti-corruption protesters versus the government sponsored anti-corruption judge protests, but I suspect the former are the good guys here.

So is Trump the price liberals paid for supporting Bill Clinton's sexual appetites?

It was a bit over 9 years ago that President Obama went to Cairo, Egypt, and gave his much anticipated and much cheered (by the media) "outreach" speech to the Moslem world. Is anybody really surprised that the soaring words that moved liberal pundits so much had no effect on the Islamists fighting the West in the Long War on terror?

Michigan's public universities have a level of autonomy unique in the country, sometimes being called the "fourth branch" of state government. But that doesn't make them immune to obeying the United States Constitution's First Amendment. Good. Because nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition University of Michigan’s bias response team.

Or is it proof God is trying to get us drunk to trick us?

Oh great. Given how broadly the F-35 is being exported, this is rather inevitable given enough time. I really hope America keeps a lot back in the export models.

I do find it frustrating that Obama claims he had a scandal-free administration. That isn't true and we aren't done discovering what was done. Tip to Instapundit. (Although I'm not sure there is a Benghazi criminal "scandal" as much as there was a shameless political lie told by the Obama administration to benefit his reelection campaign--and the public did not punish Obama for the political deceit in the 2012 election when it had the chance. My interest has always been in knowing why no American forces in Europe began to move toward Benghazi during the crisis given that we had no idea how long it would last at the time.) What is true is that the media ignored, explained away, and moved on from any revelations in solidarity with the administration. And our government didn't investigate itself. Rule of law matters. We should all value it, and it shouldn't require a change of party control in WDC to get it.

As I recently revealed, I didn't vote for Trump in 2016. I remain eternally grateful that he defeated Clinton--whose epic corruption would have been deeply destructive to American rule of law. Not that I expected Road Warrior ruin--but beneath the facade of normality, corruption would have been strengthened to our long-term detriment in the world and in regard to our democracy at the federal level. But Republicans should draw the line on supporting Congressional candidates just because they claim superior loyalty to Trump regardless of their sometimes awful shortcomings on policy or as people. Yes, I wish the Congress we had would have used its control to pass legislation while it had the majority. I complained bitterly about the idea that it was safe to wait after the 2018 elections and do more after. One result is that control of Congress is so much more vital that too many Republicans are willing to tolerate flawed candidates to maintain that control. But no Democrat at the Congressional level is as bad for our future as Hillary would have been. We should risk loss of control of one or both houses of Congress to reject some of those candidates who shield their nature with pledges of loyalty. And damn Congressional Republicans for failing to exploit their control while they had it. Democrats are going nuts by driving hard to the left where antifa, communists, and anarchists thrive. Republicans should not try to trump that level of power hunger.

May Daniel Ortega finally pay a price for being a communist SOB.

Apparently, North Korea will "destroy" an ICBM engine test facility. This wasn't included in the statements of intent signed at Singapore.

This is why so many Americans have contempt for the professor class rather than respect for their education and advice.

News From 325 BC

I see 27 years of stupidity have been resolved:

Macedonia reached an agreement with Greece to change its name on Tuesday, ending a 27-year dispute between the two countries.

Prime Minister Zoran Zaev reached an agreement with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to change the country's name to the Republic of Northern Macedonia in acknowledgement of the Greek region of Macedonia across the border.

I assume West Macedonia was ruled out to avoid objections from everybody from Turkey to India.

I assume Macedonians Northern Macedonians walk around like the biggest bad asses in the region because of the fear that they'll suit up and conquer all who stand in their way.

Honestly, the Greeks embarrassed themselves over this, I think.

Friday, June 15, 2018

The State of the Nuclear Threat

I've heard people bitterly complaining that Trump tweeted that the North Korean nuclear threat to America is over when it is not. I didn't like that statement, either, but it is complicated.

The tweet in question:

Just landed - a long trip, but everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office. There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea. Meeting with Kim Jong Un was an interesting and very positive experience. North Korea has great potential for the future!

Right now, I don't believe that North Korea has the ability to strike American cities with nuclear missiles. My understanding is that North Korea has nuclear devices but hasn't perfected the long-range missile to hit and hasn't miniaturized and hardened the warheads enough to survive the trip and explode. As I heard one expert say (or read it, I forget)--if he's right--North Korea would have to emplace a nuclear device on their side of the border to detonate it and damage anything in the south; or put it in a ship and sail it somewhere.

So if the question is whether North Korea's threat to strike has ended, that threat actually isn't here yet--that's why I've figured we're on a deadline of North Korea taking real steps to reverse course before we have to strike to stop North Korea's nuclear program before they can hit us.* So on that measure, the complaint about the tweet is wrong.

So the question is on whether the claim is on the intent of North Korea. Is the president right? Is North Korea really no more of a threat than France with nuclear weapons? France has nukes. We don't worry that France will hit us any more than France worries about America.

I doubt that. And on that basis I don't think that statement should have been made. It is wrong.

On the other hand, I don't think anybody, including the president, actually believes that the nuclear threat--whether the impending North Korean capability to strike or the desire to strike--is literally over based on signing a vague statement of intent in Singapore. Obviously this is a process that will take time, as our secretary of state confirmed:

Speaking the day after an unprecedented summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Pompeo told reporters negotiations on Pyongyang's atomic arsenal could move forward quickly and would take place "most certainly in the president's first term."

"Major disarmament... We're hopeful that we can achieve that in the two and half years," he said, adding that there is "a lot of work left to do".

(And as an aside, I was wrong to expect a more fleshed out agreement to be ready for signing at the Singapore meeting, as normal practice dictates.)

If the president stating that the threat is "over" helps North Korea continue on the path of making the threat truly over in both senses, the hyperbole is acceptable. Believe me, nobody in the American military involved in fighting the nuclear threat heaved a sigh of relief and said, "Well, my job is done!"

We will see if this outreach works or if North Korea is trying to buy time to get nukes and make an American military option too dangerous to consider. And we will need to see reversal quickly--even if the process of course takes time to complete--before we are faced with the decision to strike or risk allowing North Korea to cross the nuclear weapon threshold.

*And maybe I'm just not noticing it, but the media used to be filled with speculation about when North Korea would get the ability to strike an American city. Last year the guess was sometime early this year, if memory serves me. But I don't recall reading or hearing any such estimate this year. I'm hoping that we just got better on not leaking that information and don't want the North Koreans to know the state of our knowledge. And hopefully our intelligence people accurately think we have more time than I thought we had.

Feel the Bern

Venezuela continues to provide its citizens the benefits of wise and compassionate socialism:

Venezuela's sky-high inflation soared to 24,571 percent in the past 12 months, lawmakers said Monday.

President Nicolas Maduro's socialist government controls most of the country's economy and is in the midst of an ever-deepening crisis with food and medicine in short supply.

On the bright side, fewer Venezuelans have to endure that hyper-inflation--because they are increasingly fleeing the collapsing economy.

About the only other insane "remedy" for this socialist disaster would be to drum up a foreign enemy in hopes that the remaining people will rally around the flag.

But it would have been "wrong" if America had actually supported a coup in 2002 to stop this madness in its tracks.

UPDATE: Democrats pulled left. Thanks Bernie!

UPDATE: And the water supply is kaput. Is air to breathe the next thing to go?

Socialism is all about making sure everyone equally lack the means to survive. Well, the rulers will be just fine, of course. They'll be wealthy and hydrated wherever they flee eventually.

Blending In

NATO special forces, including America's special operations command in Europe, practiced in the Baltic states:

SOCEUR’s growing mission in Europe was reflected in the just-completed Trojan Footprint 18 exercise, which took place on the ground, in the air and in the Baltic Sea over a two-week span.

The war games involved the rapid deployment of special operators into the Baltics and Poland for a crisis-response mission. U.S. warplanes also took part, including F-16s and a B-1 bomber that conducted its first-ever live drop in Estonia.

The mission involved "2,000 NATO and partner nation Special Operations Forces from 13 nations to the Baltic region[.]"

This will be useful to build a stay-behind capability in case the Russians overrun the Baltic states in war. They could fight the Russians (including calling in air strikes) and support local irregulars until the NATO counterattack begins.

This mission is more clear from this article:

The Baltic states are tiny, and could be overrun by Russian forces within hours. That’s why NATO special forces rehearsed the next steps: how to conduct reconnaissance, how to bring irregular troops into the region, how they might meet up once they got there, what they might do.

Because the real next step would involve popular resistance, civic organizations were part of the exercise, too. Lt. Gen. Leonids Kalnins, the chief of national defense in Latvia, told me that his country’s national guard, which includes civilians who identify as both Latvian and ethnic Russian, is a critical part of the country’s military[.]

The special forces also operated in the littorals, which would be useful as well to help control the Baltic Sea islands and assist local resistance to prepare for the counteroffensive.

That counteroffensive must be the next step, because popular resistance in the face of brutal Russian oppression can only last so long.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Missing the Occupation Forest Because of the Ceasefire Trees

I'm told this is good news:

Germany and France are voicing cautious optimism that Russia and Ukraine will take steps to revive the long-stalled cease-fire in eastern Ukraine, but said no agreement was reached on deploying a UN peacekeeping mission there.

That assessment came from the foreign ministers of France and Germany after a meeting with their Ukrainian and Russian counterparts in Berlin on June 11 in their first attempt at reviving peace talks in over a year.

This assessment only indicates Russian foreign policy prowess, as far as I can tell.

By getting Europeans to negotiate over the strength of the ceasefire, Europeans gloss over the fact that pushing Russians out of Russian-occupied Ukraine in the eastern Donbas and Crimea remains off the table for discussions.

Hybrid Soccer

Russia easily defeated Saudi Arabia in the first World Cup game.

Despite celebrating the win, President Putin denied that a Russian team had even entered the stadium, where he said indigenous soccer players had spontaneously organized a team to face the Saudi team.

Putin did say that it is possible that Russian players may have taken leave from the official team to enter the stadium and help the local team in their game.

Rumors that the indigenous team members would get medals from Russia in a couple months when the excitement dies down were vigorously denied by a Kremlin spokesperson.

UPDATE: On the bright side, in authoritarian Russia there are probably no annoying vuvuzelas allowed.

UPDATE: On the other hand, it sure sounds like that vile instrument is present in Russia. So we have another example of "hybrid warfare," I suppose.

Putin Bends the Knee to Xi

So Russia is eager to forge closer ties with China as a junior partner to China which has dormant (for now) territorial claims on Russia; all while using that relationship to "resist" a NATO that has no interest in Russian territory? Somebody needs to send Putin the latest issue of Geopolitics for Dummies.

Okay, that's the Russian plan to cope with Russia's policies that alienate the West?

Just a month after beginning his new term in office, Russian President Vladimir Putin is heading to China for a state visit, underscoring how mounting U.S. pressure is drawing the two countries increasingly close.

Russia and China have responded to the U.S. national security strategy describing them as America's top adversaries by vowing to further expand their economic, political and military cooperation. They have also sought to strengthen the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a regional grouping they created.

China will use this cooperation to supplant Russian influence in Central Asia; and increased Russian raw material exports will just make China remember that if China still owned all that Far Eastern territory that Russia took from China, China wouldn't need to buy the raw materials from Russia.

Russia can only be a junior partner to China and Xi rubbed that subordinate status in by awarding Putin a "participation ribbon" for working with China:

Chinese President Xi Jinping gave visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin China's first friendship medal on Friday, calling him his best friend, underscoring the close ties between the two despite deep reservations many Western nations have of Putin.

My goodness, that's embarrassing. At least it wasn't a bracelet.

Good grief, Putin isn't playing a poor hand brilliantly, as so many Westerners claim. He's playing a poor hand poorly. Or does he think sharing vodka and sausage with Xi makes Russia special when the Chinese have territorial claims on a country?

Seriously, will somebody explain to Putin that he's screwing things up royally?


It is zero dark hundred here.

So wake up and wish the United States Army happy birthday!

Since its official establishment, June 14, 1775 — more than a year before the Declaration of Independence — the U.S. Army has played a vital role in the growth and development of the American nation. Drawing on both long-standing militia traditions and recently introduced professional standards, it won the new republic's independence in an arduous eight-year struggle against Great Britain. At times, the Army provided the lone symbol of nationhood around which patriots rallied.

Cake would be appropriate today, I think.

UPDATE: More from the Army.

UPDATE: Also, it is Flag Day. With bonus details on how lack of precision in statutory language can give the executive great discretion in obeying the law.

But back to the Army.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Well, It is Better Than "Solo"

I don't know whether this is silly or persuasive to North Koreans.

But what I do know is that it won't be as worthless as President Obama's outreach speech to the Moslem world in Cairo in June 2009.

Or as bad as "Solo: A Star Wars Story."

Anyway, let's hold off on Oscar or Nobel Peace Prize nominations until we have actual results.

But I do think results will be more possible with North Korea than with Iran. The latter has messianic visions of spreading their religion and their empire; while North Korea seems more interested in surviving in their little corner of Hell on Earth for their people.

UPDATE: Background.

And in Yemen There are No Summits

The Saudi-led alliance is serious about pushing the Iran-backed side in the Yemen civil war back:

A Saudi-led coalition geared up on Tuesday for an assault on Yemen's main port, preparing to launch by far the biggest battle of a three-year-old war between an alliance of Arab states and the Houthi movement that controls Yemen's capital.

The United Arab Emirates, one of the main members of the Western-backed alliance, has set a Tuesday deadline for the Iran-aligned Houthis to withdraw from the port of Hodeidah under U.N.-led negotiations or face an assault.

Here we go.

Note that the article also mentions the motivation to protect Red Sea shipping lanes, which as I've noted provides one alternative for oil exports from the Gulf if the Strait of Hormuz is too dangerous.

UPDATE: Strategypage discusses the offensive that kicked off. A lot of firepower is available to the Saudi side, but an amphibious assault on the port failed.

A Mobile Reserve for AFRICOM

The number of special forces on the ground in Africa may be reduced in the aftermath of the loss of four American special forces troops in Niger. Is the need for American special forces in AFRICOM's area reduced as well? If not, AFRICOM needs a mobile reserve of special forces

Well, that's one way to reduce the risk to American troops on the ground in Africa:

A sweeping Pentagon review of elite United States commando missions is likely to result in a sharp cut — by as much as half over the next three years — in Special Operations forces in Africa, military officials said.

Ordered by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in recent weeks, the assessment of Special Operations units worldwide follows an ambush in Niger that killed four American soldiers last fall. The review is an outgrowth of a Defense Department strategy that focuses on combating rising threats from Russia and China.

I'm torn about the Niger issue. On the one hand, it does seem like the mission was hasty and used troops without the experience and support necessary should stiff resistance be met. And there may have been a bit of fudging of report on the situation to get the mission going. That's my impression.

On the other hand, I like the ability of local commanders to move on targets of opportunity within broader mission objective parameters that everybody is clear about.

If special forces are needed for the missions against peer militaries, we do have to make choices about where special forces go. We can't expand them too fast without diluting quality (is Niger one result of that?).

Certainly, pulling special forces out of forward positions in Africa will reduce the ability of local commanders to take risky action--for good and bad.

But if the need for American military help to control jihadis is not lower, what do we do?

Well, one measure might be to put special forces and supporting forces--including a Marine or light infantry company--on a couple of modularized auxiliary cruisers that can carry out such missions while being under tighter command and control.

I described such a power projection platform in "The AFRICOM Queen" two years ago.

With afloat forces, AFRICOM would have a mobile reserve to deploy for specific raids or missions, staging inland to existing bases (or creating temporary bases) beyond the range of their sea-based aircraft; or as reaction forces for missions carried out by reduced land-based forces.

And if AFRICOM rated higher on the priority scale for regular Navy and Marine Corps assets, they'd have tats capability already--as CENTCOM has:

U.S. Marines, attached to special operations forces in Syria, often found themselves in direct-fire gunfights with Islamic State fighters earlier this year, according to the commander of the Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response for Central Command.

The unit, designed with capability to launch combat forces within six hours anywhere in the CENTCOM theater, sent two rifle companies to support Special Operations Command units operating in Northern Syria between January and April, Marine Col. Christopher Gideons, commander of the task force, said Friday at the Potomac Institute.

I'm assuming this is the afloat reserve that CENTCOM has long had with a Navy amphibious ready group carrying that kind of battalion-sized ground force supported by air elements.

I don't think the need for military help to our African allies has decreased a whole lot. Modularized auxiliary cruisers could make AFRICOM great again.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

This Is Kind of a Big Effing Deal

Iran admits they helped the terrorists who struck America on September 11, 2001.

Iranian officials, in a first, have admitted to facilitating the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the U.S. by secretly aiding the free travel of al Qaeda operatives who eventually went on to fly commercial airliners into the Twin Towers in New York City, according to new remarks from a senior Iranian official.

Mohammad-Javad Larijani, an international affairs assistant in the Iran's judiciary, disclosed in Farsi-language remarks broadcast on Iran's state-controlled television that Iranian intelligence officials secretly helped provide the al Qaeda attackers with passage and gave them refuge in the Islamic Republic, according to an English translation published by Al Arabiya.

Well that's a rather inconvenient revelation for our European friends upset that America withdrew from the farcical Iran nuclear deal.

I thought that this help--and Iranian support for al Qaeda in general--was well known, although Democrats would have impeached Bush 43 for acting on it in the heat of the Iraq War; and it was shoved down the memory hole by Obama in his quest for Nobel Peace Prize-inspired reset with aspiring nuclear power Iran.

But the Iranians have admitted it. It is convenient that, as I've said before, the difference between an Iranian "moderate" and a radical Iranian is that the latter are unwilling to even pretend to be anything but fanatical killers who hate the West.

Of course, it took a lot of deception all the way around to pretend the mullah regime in Iran could be made a responsible non-nuclear power.

If this is big news to some people, just wait until people hear news that Saddam had ties to al Qaeda.

UPDATE: We took note:

The Trump State Department said Tuesday it is taking a top Iranian official's explanation of events linked to the travel of the 9/11 terrorist attackers as an admission of guilt in facilitating the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, according to comments provided to the Washington Free Beacon.

Iran under the mullahs has long been at war with America. We should act accordingly.

Russia Made a Choice to Be Feared

I've long wanted Russia to stop their pointless prodding of NATO that is only making the larger military alliance view Russia more as a potential enemy than as a potential partner. Is Russia capable of choosing not to be a pain when both of us have reason to settle differences to focus on coping with China?

Secretary of Defense Mattis is right about the situation in Europe:

The challenge of Russia is that Russia, from NATO's perspective, has more in common with NATO in terms of its future. But try as we might, trying to make common cause with Russia has been exceedingly difficult.

And 2014 was a watershed year. They have not lived up to the Minsk Agreement, and we tried to resolve the events of 2014. We have Intermediate Nuclear Force Treaty issues with Russia.

We -- again, we look for, where can we collaborate, where can we dialogue with Russia? And by Russia's choice, we have not found that to be fruitful.

NATO will never turn off dialogue with Russia. NATO will never turn its back on trying to make better relations with Russia. But when we see what has gone on in the American elections and some European elections certainly, when we see other aspects of the Russians changing borders in Europe through the force of arms, then NATO has to respond. That's when democracies unify, and recognize they must have a NATO fit for its time. So we're working back from that.

We have to guard against Russia doing something stupid and aggressive while hoping that the paranoid fever raging in the Kremlin dies out.

Nobody in NATO wants to invade Russia. And if Russia is worried about the example of Western democracy on Russians who live under Putin's autocracy, the solution isn't to stoke military confrontation with the West in the belief that Moscow can fine tune it so precisely that it keeps a foreign threat alive enough to keep Russians in line; while not doing so much to make NATO an actual military threat.

Russia is starting to fail with that balancing act. Can they recover and make a better choice?

If a Concession is Needed

Did North Korea really agree to get rid of their nukes at the Trump-Kim meeting? And do it soon enough to preclude the need for America to strike North Korea's nukes to protect America?

If Kim Jong-Un wants a tangible concession on US troop presence in South Korea for giving up North Korean nuclear weapons, we might have a win-win offer to make.

We should absolutely not pull missile defenses out of South Korea. And we need our aircraft, artillery, and helicopters to support the South Koreans.

But we have just a single combat brigade in South Korea that is a drop in the bucket. It is a symbol of our commitment but it is not a significant addition to a war given that multiple corps and armies will be wielded by both Korean armies.

Our ground contribution would be major once we ship forces to South Korea, but that will take a while. So in the short run our firepower is more important than our ground forces.

So why not very publicly pull our single maneuver brigade out of South Korea and replace it with a Military Police brigade as part of a nuclear deal?

The MP brigade that quietly replaces the combat brigade would be really good light infantry to secure our bases to keep them open for shipping in those American troops and to protect prepositioned equipment for arriving American troops.

The withdrawn American maneuver brigade could go to Hokkaido Island in Japan where it will be close to South Korea, will face Russia that holds Japanese territory north of the island, and would be farther from Chinese missiles and so able to move to counter Chinese moves.

The end result is that we would have a bit more ground forces in the region and no North Korean nukes. Could that be a concession that helps North Korea sell nuclear disarmament to their people (and generals) as a good deal?

I'm not convinced that Kim is serious about doing anything but talking about disarmament long enough to finish his nuclear missile arsenal.

So if the Trump-Kim meeting yesterday in Singapore is just the first step for a long process of negotiations rather than the start of a very rapidly concluded deal, I don't know if we are doing anything but playing into North Korea's hands.

The only way this diplomatic path can last years is if China takes control and responsibility for North Korea's nuclear weapons and facilities.

It may very well be that the only useful function of the Singapore meeting was to demonstrate to the world that America went the last mile for diplomacy, making a very serious American-led strike campaign to destroy North Korea's nukes truly the last resort.

As an aside, I'm not happy to make a nuclear deal with such a horrible and brutal regime. But the ability to deal with North Korea's human rights crimes ended when North Korea blew its first successful nuclear device. That failure is on past administrations that let North Korea get to this point. So "all" I want Trump to do is end North Korea's nuclear arsenal.

As another aside, the last person I want to hear give his opinion on this issue is that deceitful and inept Ben Rhodes who sold the lies--to and through a compliant media--that were the foundation of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

UPDATE: It didn't occur to me until now, but selecting Singapore as the meeting site tells North Korea that you can have a wildly successful and advanced but ultimately authoritarian state.

UPDATE: And while I'm skeptical that this diplomatic initiative can work before we need to strike, I've also said that things remain the same--until they don't.

So just because past deals have been frauds doesn't mean we can't get a deal under today's circumstances.

UPDATE: I'm not thrilled we suspended military exercises in South Korea. On the other hand, we finished the Foal Eagle spring exercise; and the next major exercise is a couple months away.

We probably need to have real progress in that time frame to avoid the possibility that North Korea is just buying time by pretending to negotiate away their nukes. Although perhaps our estimates of passing the nuclear missile threshold are more comforting--and more certain--than I thought.

UPDATE: I'm not celebrating just because Trump has done this. I remain worried that we have too little time to see if diplomacy is an alternative to war if we truly don't want to accept a nuclear-armed North Korea, provoke nuclear proliferation, and risk deliberate or accidental nuclear war.

But just because Trump did this, a lot of people on the left who normally swoon at a foreign anti-American thug dictator, couldn't care less about the dignity of the American flag, and who think all problems with enemies require America to talk a little more and give a little more, can't say enough bad things about the Trump-Kim meeting.

I don't know if this will work. And I don't know how much time we have to test whether North Korea is serious. But I do trust this administration won't make a deal just to have a deal.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Secure the Win

Secretary of Defense Mattis wants the coalition that defeated the ISIL caliphate in Iraq to remain in Iraq:

Every battlefield is also a humanitarian field, even after the fighting stops. To ensure a lasting defeat and prevent an “ISIS 2.0” requires all elements of our collective national power.

Initiating and maintaining stabilization activities are essential. If citizens cannot return to normal life in communities cleared of explosives and debris, then those conditions that initially allowed ISIS to take root return.

We walked away from defeating Saddam in 1991 after ejecting him from his Kuwait conquest (for some valid reasons, it is true) and found out what a joy it was to have a hostile terror-supporting Iraqi state under Saddam.

We walked away from Iraq in 2011 after overthrowing Saddam in 2003 and defeated various Syrian- and Iranian-backed terrorists and insurgents of the Sunni and Shia variety by 2008. And we experienced the joy of seeing an ISIL terrorist state rise up in Iraqi territory in the first half of 2014; and the joy of seeing Iran increase its influence in Iran to fight that terrorist-state threat.

Now that ISIL has lost their territorial hold in Iraq with our help in Iraq War 2.0, we need to remain in Iraq to leverage our increased influence to help keep jihadis out of Iraq, develop democracy and rule of law in Iraq, and to push Iran out.

Otherwise we might again see a terrorist state in Iraq or even an actual terrorist-supporting state again.

Making Necessity a Virtue

That's nice:

Russia has no plans to pull its military out of Syria but isn't building permanent facilities there, President Vladimir Putin said Thursday in his annual marathon call-in show.

If Russia isn't planning to build "permanent" facilities in Syria to house his troops, it is only because the Russians can't afford to build anything new in Syria to house the Russian troops who aren't leaving.

Prophecy of Warfare: Theme Nine

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 ninth 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 ninth theme from 1999 is:

9. Establish a “Band of Brothers” Approach to Selection, Training, and Readiness
The surest way to reduce casualties among close-combat units is to only place in harm’s way soldiers trained through a “band of brothers” approach — those who, over a period of years, have worked collectively to achieve physical fitness, emotional maturity, technical competence, confidence in their leaders, and an intuitive sense of the battlefield.

Let me just say that while I can't go to anything contemporary to that theme's predictions, this issue of unit cohesion was an issue I long blogged about here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

It is timeless and should be--but isn't--a no-brainer.

Theme eight is here.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Weekend Data Dump

ISIL may not have a caliphate to rule, but as long as they have civilians to slaughter, they'll be content enough for now.

I suspect Iran is sending their messenger boy Assad to North Korea ("'I am going to visit the DPRK and meet HE Kim Jong Un,' Assad said on May 30, North Korea's KCNA news agency reported[.]") to urge them not to spill their secrets on the Iran-North Korea nuclear missile links. And how woke is Assad to emphasize Kim's preferred gender pronoun?!

Big bada boom.

Don't be fight evil. And if our strikes on bloody jihadis are less effective because of this action, killing more innocents, those same employees can protest America even more, demonstrating how much they truly care.

I suspect that this isn't remotely "science," but is just guilt-stricken Western liberalism applied to the cosmos. I find it odd that the "study" assumes humans will be on the giving end of that killing imperative. Tip to Instapundit.

The recent Lebanon election strengthened pro-Hezbollah factions. After the election, the Saudis insisted on--and got--a purge of pro-Hezbollah elements in one party, Future Movement. That would certainly help mute Lebanon's official reaction to a possible Saudi-backed Israeli operation to gut Hezbollah in Lebanon.

It's really a darned shame that Americans never lived up to President Obama's lofty expectations.

I know there has been some mocking of about the reports of the "narrow" 7-2 Supreme Court ruling in favor of a baker in the "gay" cake case, but the "narrowness" was in the scope and not the size of the vote. The baker was treated unfairly, the court said, without making this a case of broad application (or was it?). And as I've said before (in this data dump), I'd rather this be a matter for private decisions and not be a case for the law. But if it is to be a case for the law, I think the baker should be compelled to bake for all. And on that score, I eagerly await a gay couple's attempt to get an observant Moslem baker who opposes gay relationships to bake their wedding cake. The battle for supreme victimhood status will be delightful to watch.

Yeah, this has always been a problem for me. As I get older, I think I'm better at identifying those dangerously under the slope of the line. But perhaps I've shared too much.

Good Lord, is New Zealand really untrustworthy on intelligence sharing because of Chinese influence? How is that even possible for a free democracy far from China?

Putin says he isn't trying to divide and weaken the European Union. I believe him.

The federal government will borrow $1 trillion this fiscal year. This has to end. I didn't oppose the tax cut because the deficit always seems to reach staggering levels whether or not revenue surges or crawls ahead. Better to have a deficit with Americans keeping more of their money, I figure. But eventually spending growth needs to be cut below the level of tax revenue increases.

Russia has some of the dud missiles we fired at Syria's chemical weapons assets. One can hope we launched weapons that were not as advanced as the ones we'd use in a great power war.

Yeah, my view has been that "evidence is piling up that recycling is a waste of time and money, and a bit of a fraud." It seems more like a religious rite designed to make people feel superior to those who don't. I take part in the city "single stream waste process." I hear it is popular in Japan. Really, just disregard anyone who claims we are running out of landfill space because they have no idea how that works.

Were there "unprecedented" violations of Iraqi election law and practice in the recent parliamentary election? Or is this more an excuse by the government to retain power? I suppose the healing power of "and" is required. If America hadn't left Iraq prematurely in 2011 we might be further along in helping the Iraqis build democracy and rule of law. Let's work the problem, people, or bullets rather than ballots will be the means Iraqis use to settle political disputes. The next step will apparently be a manual recount. I hoped this would be an opportunity to identify fraud and not just have a new round of fraud. Silly me, thinking those were the only choices: the ballot box storage site went up in flames.

If "reality doesn't exist until we measure it" doesn't that support the notion that we live in a simulation where areas of the world we don't directly see aren't generated until we look at that area?

A fascinating discussion of the presidential pardon power. Funny how the nuance of the issue disappeared since then. I have no informed opinion on the issue. I just note it.

Democrats claim Trump wants the national anthem issue alive to motivate his base in the fall elections. But the only reason this is an issue is if the Democrats oppose him. Democrats should simply say "The anthem is a symbol of Americans pursuing our ideals--even when we haven't achieved them--and we should all celebrate a country that allows everyone to pursue their potential and strive for our ideals." That would disarm the issue as a Trump weapon. But Democrats won't do that.

Details on America's parallel air war in Yemen targeting jihadis with the intent to strike America. America also supports the Saudi-led coalition to defeat the Iran-backed side in the civil war, but the strike campaign is separate.

North Korea may very well just be trying to scam goodies without giving up anything significant on their nuclear program, buying time to get nuclear weapons in the meantime during the talks. But if the Trump administration is serious about striking North Korea to prevent them from going nuclear, there is no better symbol of making military force "the last option" than a Trump-Kim meeting. Can anybody say that America didn't try all measures before using force if North Korea doesn't agree to something good, verifiable, and fast in the summit?

If Kim Jong-Un is that worried, America should offer to give him 100 "antifa" thugs for his personal bodyguard. And buh bye commie cadet. We should have given him to the North Koreans to lead the "antifa" guards. North Korea could keep them all as a lovely parting gift even if the Singapore talks don't work out.

It does seem if the dominant European culture is all about waiting for Europe to deservedly die. If Europeans don't want to defend the advanced democracy they built, somebody will take the prize by force--whether from within or by invasion. Right now I think the Brussels-based European Union is the biggest threat to democracy in Europe. We've seen from the difficult Brexit issue that cheese regulations are more powerful than Russian tanks in holding an empire together.

So we don't have to impoverish the world starting last week if global warming takes place enough to be dangerous? Huh.

Wonderful. Jihadis in South America. I missed that story about thwarting ISIL in Trinidad and Tobago earlier in the year. At this point I'm just going to assume jihadis are in Venezuela where the state is in the process of collapsing.

Hamas continues its civilian shield border assault. If Israel didn't resist, this wouldn't be the first time that civilians were used to assert control by marching across a border.

I'm not even going to pretend to understand this reason--unless it is 5-dimension chess. I assume it was a joke. Which is fairly funny.

The Marines have reorganized and reequipped their squads. It seems like it is related to preparing to fight big rather than small wars.

We lost a special forces soldier in Somalia to an enemy mortar attack. While that isn't near the border, with Kenyan and Somali troops involved, it sounds like there was an operation along the common border to hunt jihadis.

America and Turkey came to a deal over Manbij, Syria, west of the Euphrates River where what I've called a Deconfliction Line (DCL) is getting more firmly defined. I think basically we were unwilling to fight for the Kurds west of the Euphrates but didn't want to abandon the Kurds to be hit by the Turks. 

It is odd that the Taliban would approve a short ceasefire during their "spring offensive" in the "fighting season," isn't it? I don't trust a three-day ceasefire in Afghanistan. Could the Taliban just be repositioning troops for another try to take Farah? Could it be to help their fighters massed for the prior failed attack scatter back to their points of origin? Or something not related to Farah, of course.

We have grounded our B-1 bombers over a faulty ejection seat hatch. I'm always suspicious when something like this happens because it could be a cover for readying more of the force for surge combat missions. If the Singapore talks fail, would we tell Kim Jong-Un at the end of that meeting that while he is obviously free to go wherever he wants, that flying back to North Korea would be inadvisable until our just-beginning bombing campaign on his nuclear facilities ends?

Ah, Hell, this is sad.

China stole naval missile data from us. We minimized the value of the data stolen. Even as I fear what China could do with this kind of information, I always hope in these cases that the information lost is information we want China to have.