Sunday, July 15, 2018

A Russia Survey

Strategypage's post of issues regarding Russia has a number of interesting parts. Go read it.

Let me highlight some parts.

Russia is managing to keep its military modernization plan going, but at the cost of economic problems at home and the alienation of Western European states who have halted disarmament in response.

The Russian Su-57 "5th generation stealth fighter" is being dropped because it isn't working out. (I suspected this would be the case when I saw a headline elsewhere about how awesome the 6th generation Russian fighter would be. Hah!)

Russia sent better mercenaries to Syria who won't walk into a kill sack so readily.

Russia has basically annexed the Sea of Azov as Russian territory in some economic warfare against Ukraine, pretty much blockading Ukraine's ports at Berdiansk and Mariupol. That's begging for a Freedom of Navigation Operation by some Western nation, no? Or will China consider that a template for the South China Sea?

The Russians, Turks, and Iranians are starting to part ways on what to do in Syria. Syria would be happy to have Iran leave after a nice party and a hearty thank you by Assad for their help, but Iran won't go.

In related news, they say Turkey is unlikely to get F-35s delivered. But I thought we delivered one? What's up, anyway? I'm confused.

Stupidity or Disinformation: You Decide!

Russia hasn't developed radical new tactics for tanks based on their Syria experience. They've adapted tanks for static warfare against opponents without anti-tank weapons. And we can only hope the Russian army is adopting the stupidity described.

The Russians, it is reported, adapted in Syria with three new tactics:
  • tank carousel;
  • tank trousers;
  • syrian shaft
The first, the tank carousel, is rather silly:

[A ]“tank carousel” ... is Non-stop shooting, when three, six, nine or more tanks move uninterrupted in a circular motion, one pummeling the enemy, the other moving to the rear and reloading, the third preparing to enter firing position, and so on.

Why? If the enemy has anti-tank missiles or tanks, that circular movement isn't going to throw them off. And if they don't have anti-tank missiles, just sit there and shoot while out of range.

And this might be done with three tanks? Oh good grief:

Even if the tactic works, three tanks is kind of pointless.

This is just an old cavalry tactic--which made sense at the time--pointlessly revived. Just shoot your damned weapons, if the enemy has nothing to reach you, with other tanks in overwatch just in case to shoot at anything that does shoot at your tanks.

And that's if you don't have indirect fire to let you keep your tanks safely out of the line of fire.

This is possible for a static line with long fields of fire against enemies without the means to shoot at tanks. But it is ludicrous.

Next up:

[“Tank] trousers” ... involves tanks alternating fire between two trenches, without staying in one position for more than a few seconds. The tank enters the trench, fires, kicks into reverse and moves to the next. Enemy anti-tank weapons don’t have time to react.

This is nothing more than having alternate firing positions and I'm reasonably sure I read about that in US Army practice in the 1970s. Certainly, there is nothing new about digging in tanks for a "hull down" position.

And again, if the enemy has anti-tank weapons they will notice the big loud cloud-spewing tank entering and leaving the trench with plenty of time to shoot it--especially as it exposes more vulnerable top armor as it enters and leaves the trench.

Again, this is something possible for a static line against enemies without the ability to shoot at your tanks. And if that is the case, why bother moving?

And finally, although it is unnamed it must be the "syrian shaft":

In Syria, mounds and bench terrace began to be used in tactics on the use of armor on the battlefield. Here, tanks can move along the parapet and, when they reach an opening, shoot, quickly concealing themselves back behind the embankment. So long as they remain in constant motion, it becomes almost impossible to aim at or hit them.

If the tanks are in constant motion, how do they aim?

But never mind. So tanks are tied to long walls that provide cover and concealment from enemies, with gaps so the tank can drive into the opening and fire its weapons.

Congratulations, the Russians invented the battlement. For tanks.

Good Lord, if the Russians want to use their tanks as artillery to bombard, do what America did in the Korean War when the front was static and the enemy lacked armor:

This at least keeps the tanks safely away from enemy direct fire weapons.

And for added insults to the reader's intelligence, after detailing silly tactics that require a static frontline to use, the author concludes:

In an era of local conflicts without clear front lines, the idea of large tank armies facing off along vast fronts has become a thing of the past.

I don't know if this article is stupidity by some breathless Putin fanboy or disinformation because the Russians damn well know that the most important weapon of the tank is its engine, making it a mobile, protected, cannon.

Tying tanks to static positions is surely an acceptable adaptation for Russian tactics of bombarding enemies on static front lines. But the glorious tactics discovered by Putin's minions in Syria seem pretty darned stupid and in no way reflect how Russia would use massed armor on a modern battlefield.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Weekend Data Dump

I had recently been trying to avoid posting too much on political issues, despite the outrage of the day. I tried to find a line between interesting in a political science way, amusing, or demonstrating media bias on the one hand and simple politics over some outrage outside my lane. But that was difficult. I'm not sure I really succeeded much at all. The border issue is in part a national security issue and prone to outrages. But even that blurred lines I want to keep. Really, posting about some individual's outrage when I know that it doesn't really reflect the vast majority of people on that "side" contributes to polarization. So this week I decided just not to post on any domestic political issue to see how it goes. Maybe as time goes on and I demonstrate I've learned to avoid reacting to the outrage of the day, I'll try again for the political science, amusing, or media angles. Or maybe I'll feel better staying in my blogging lanes.

The details are sketchy, but it sure seems as if Iraqi police fired on protesters way too readily. I realize "protest" has acquired a loose definition lately, so maybe it was justified. But I doubt it.

Strategypage reviews the state of American artillery. I noted the current push for increasing tube artillery range.

Two American destroyers transited the Taiwan Strait, physically sailing between China and Taiwan in a move seen as a show of support for Taiwan despite the transit being through international waters. Clearly, America isn't throwing Taiwan under the bus to get Chinese help with North Korea.

Brazil has a helicopter carrier after buying Britain's Ocean, which I believe participated in the 2011 Libya War.

Iranian agents were arrested for trying to bomb a meeting of Iranian opposition in France. You may recall that Iran attempted to commit a similar act of war in Washington, D.C., in 2011--which we basically ignored.

The Hamas-Israel border protest war is a lot of political theater, with each side avoiding inflicting casualties or risking actual war.

Russia ordered an expensive bridge to reach their Crimean conquest by a land link. Perhaps they should have built a big water pipeline instead. Would Russia expand their war against Ukraine to seize the source of the water that Crimea used to get when part of Ukraine?

American and Afghan special forces went on a mission to destroy ISIL fighters. It would be nice to prevent such fanatics from setting up shop there.

Democratic socialism wrecks a country and abandons the democratic part pretty quickly. Could be have the sense God gave flatworms and turn away from a blazing warning that Venezuela is? Or are you really going to argue that Venezuela was undermined by the Obama administration for 8 years, leading to this sorry state?

I'm worried about Brexit now. Just get out while you can, Britain, and worry about amending it later when you are legally out! Any exit whether hard or soft is worth the short-term pain to escape. Good grief, Europeans are eager to deal with Iran despite the American withdrawal from the nuclear deal! How much more attraction does the non-nutball ally Britain--with a far larger economy and market--have for Europeans? They'll cut deals!

Unless China captures really large segments of Russia east of the Ural Mountains, China will only be able to use the Arctic Sea--not dominate it. And I doubt Chinese efforts in Antarctica will lead to much. So stop worrying so much and work the minor problem it appears to be.

This article is good. But the idea that NATO expansion after the Cold War prompted Russian aggression is nonsense. Russia capable of thinking the weak NATO pushed east is a threat to them would think a NATO further back is a threat. And Russia would think that "neutrals" between NATO and Russia are a threat unless brought under Moscow's control. The idea that leaving states vulnerable to Russian aggression by denying them the ability to join NATO and the West; and essentially telling them that their lot in life is to submit to Russian demands on their behavior is repulsive. Russia is the problem. Not NATO.

The Saudi-led coalition is making progress taking the Houthi rebel-held port of Hodeida in Yemen. The rebels would rather see the port destroyed than see the Saudi coalition take it and use it for humanitarian relief aid. As I noted before, why is the safety of the port reliant on the Saudis letting the rebels hold the port and use it to smuggle arms along with the aid?

The B-52 will quadruple the weight limit of wing-carried bombs. Which is nice if you need to sink--or at least scrape clean--an artificial island in the South China Sea, I suppose. Let's hope the 20,000 pound "weight class" capacity mentioned is just rounding down from 21,600.

Britain is doubling its troop strength in Afghanistan and Canada will take a leading role in training Iraqi forces in Iraq. Our alliances are just fine despite squabbles between friends and allies. I thank them for their help and value what they do.

Finland and Sweden are preparing to defend themselves from the renewed Russian threat. And reaching out to NATO, too.

Russia has backed off from their former position that Iranian forces should leave Syria.

The Russian war on Ukraine in the Donbas continues. Will Ukraine ever reach the point where they attempt to retake that territory? It is an odd subliminal war. I mean, as much as the Russian-occupied Donbas is a dull background roar, when is Russian-occupied Crimea even mentioned these days?

I don't really follow events in Myanmar/Burma.

A squad of American Marines reinforced our embassy in Haiti as protests turned violent.

What the Hell happened to Max Boot?

The human terrain of military recruiting and training. It's not just an American problem. But it is more of a problem for America which wants a real and large military.

The Iraqi prime minister headed to southern Iraq to address complaints that the government isn't addressing their needs. Long kept in poverty by the minority Sunni Arab Saddam regime, the end of the ISIL war's conventional phase has allowed Shia locals to demand the Shia-majority government actually do something. That's where Iraq's oil is mostly produced and so gets prime minister attention.

The French continue to tighten the screws on domestic liberty to combat "extremist violence," "radicalized inmates," and "terrorist convicts."  Oddly absent from the AP article is any mention of Islamist jihadis which might help French authorities focus on the problem. This will work out just swell, I'm sure. Unless this is just a polite public fiction and those involved are well aware of the nature of the current terrorism problem.

Socialism effs up a (oil-)wet dream in Venezuela. And note that oil prices are higher now than when Hugo Chavez began his drive to fundamentally transform a prosperous nation with huge oil resources into a nation of hungry and oppressed people who flee that paradise in large numbers when they can. Tip to Instapundit.

Trump should not tap into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Personally, I'd expand it while oil is cheaper. Oil may be plentiful now. But if war breaks out somewhere, oil will no doubt suffer. And while America is basically self sufficient in energy now, we have allies who are far from immune to supply disruptions and we will need to help them if we are to keep them fighting on our side.

Is it just me or is the fondness of the Resistance for Germany's Merkel--because of Nazi Trump, of course--actually pretty funny given that the Germans claim they can't have a real military to help defend NATO because they might go all actual Nazi again?

Good. I've long said I'd never bow to royalty. Not that I'm likely to be in that position, of course. Tip to Instapundit.

The German View of Russia

Germany barely has a military. We are told that Germany doesn't feel the need to spend much on defense because Russia isn't much of a military threat to Germany:

For Germany and France, Russia poses no challenge to territorial integrity or economic position[.]

I guess the Germans figure they have plenty of time to react if Russia has an Anschluss with Belarus and takes Poland. And in the meantime the Germans can cut deals with the Russians on energy supplies that throw Ukraine under the bus.

But West Germany sucked up to the Soviet alliance back when the Russians were a severe and looming challenge to German territorial integrity (and in fact occupied the eastern part of Germany).

The Germans appear very flexible in their reasons for being weak. Is the only time the Germans aren't sucking up to the Russians when the Germans are invading the Russians?

New Capital Ship

The Arleigh Burke destroyer is the heart of the surface Navy and is very good, but it is at the limit of its capacity to handle upgrades.

So a new ship design is needed:

The Navy has crammed as much electronics as it can into its new DDG-51 Flight III destroyers now beginning construction, Rear Adm. William Galinis said this morning. That drives the service towards a new Large Surface Combatant that can comfortably accommodate the same high-powered radars, as well as future weapons such as lasers, on either a modified DDG-51 hull or an entirely new design.

I've mentioned the electric power requirements for new systems.

The newest DDG-1000 Zumwalt class stealthy warship is only going to have three ships and is really just a test bed, although in war it would obviously be pressed into service.

Although I never understood the notion that the ship was designed to bombard the coast of China. Stealthy ship and non-stealthy explosions on Chinese soil? What could go wrong? Thank goodness that was dropped.

But I digress (as I can!).

As I've mentioned, the technology developed for Zumwalt will be useful for a future ship even though the cost of developing that technology that was counted against the DDG-1000 made the ship class too expensive to build in numbers. So the new surface capital ship will be pretty good, no doubt--and under budget!

Friday, July 13, 2018

America is Not the Problem in Ukraine

People need to calm down:

Some comments Trump made on the presidential election campaign trail in 2016 made Ukrainians nervous about a Trump presidency, but such worries have proved premature.

Kiev has continued to enjoy strong bilateral support from the United States, and sanctions imposed against Russia after the Crimea annexation have been strengthened, not, as some feared, lifted.

In Kurt Volker, Washington appointed a hawkish special envoy to the Ukraine conflict after Trump's election victory, and went as far as providing military aid to Ukraine, a step Trump's predecessor Barack Obama had shied away from taking. [emphasis added]

The article notes all the ways that Trump has been more supportive than Obama in reaction to Russia's 2014 (and ongoing) invasion of Ukraine, but that evidence is only sufficient for the writer (no doubt reflecting widespread liberal sentiment) that fears Trump might throw Ukraine under the bus are simply "premature." Not evidence of being "wrong"--just premature.

If Trump should do something like that--and his "unpredictability" that makes "some" worry has been in rhetoric, basically--I would surely blog to high Heaven in opposition.

I don't think we need to worry. And again, I welcome liberals to my side of the debate on Russia.

Stop Making Stupid Arguments

Spending and activities are both vital components of measuring allied contributions to an alliance.

NATO in 2014 agreed to the current spending goal that Germany especially is resisting. Germany's argument that their activities are a substitute for spending rather than complementary duties (spending enables more and better activities) of a good alliance member is just ridiculous.

Or are we to be happy that Germany might contribute more inadequate military power to NATO activities?

Just meet the spending benchmark without trying to undermine it with end notes that "refine" spending down in practice

Eight Years of Waging Wars Without Being At War

President Obama declined to go after the source of Taliban money in Afghanistan:

As Afghanistan edged ever closer to becoming a narco-state five years ago, a team of veteran U.S. officials in Kabul presented the Obama administration with a detailed plan to use U.S. courts to prosecute the Taliban commanders and allied drug lords who supplied more than 90 percent of the world’s heroin — including a growing amount fueling the nascent opioid crisis in the United States.

The plan, according to its authors, was both a way of halting the ruinous spread of narcotics around the world and a new — and urgent — approach to confronting ongoing frustrations with the Taliban, whose drug profits were financing the growing insurgency and killing American troops. But the Obama administration’s deputy chief of mission in Kabul, citing political concerns, ordered the plan to be shelved, according to a POLITICO investigation.

President Obama ordered two escalations in the "good" war, pushing our troop strength to 100,000 plus perhaps half that number from allies, only to walk away from trying to win.

What, I asked, was the point of the blood we shed? The president really couldn't bother to shut down a means the Taliban used to pay for their war and terrorism? Killing Osama bin Laden was the only thing Obama wanted out of the war, for his reelection campaign? Is that what the sacrifice was for?

But it isn't like we don't have a pattern here. President Obama also blocked prosecution of Hezbollah drug dealers--in pursuit of the gloriously awful Iran deal.

So just who was President Obama sucking up to with the Afghanistan decision and what awful deal did he hope to get with them?

And what is the excuse for Trump not reviving the effort?

Thursday, July 12, 2018

NATO Remains After the Storm

I told you America is solidly in NATO.

Will you people now stop your panic over NATO?

"The United States' commitment to NATO remains very strong," Trump told reporters at a surprise news conference following an emergency session of NATO members held to address his threats.

And if you don't believe Trump, cue the nuanced:

"President Trump never at any moment, either in public or in private, threatened to withdraw from NATO," [French president] Macron said.

Mostly I'm happy that people who have spent my entire adult life denigrating NATO and the need for it are suddenly--since, oh, November 2016--really, really concerned about the health of NATO.

UPDATE: East Europeans get it:

While President Donald Trump's hectoring at the NATO summit alarmed many in the West, his message was mostly embraced Thursday along the alliance's eastern flank — the region that feels most threatened by an assertive Russia.

Staying diplomatically quiet while the alliance fails to spend enough to defend its members is not what the new NATO states with experience under the Soviet boot expect of Trump.

UPDATE: And British-American relations remain in the "special" category after SharknadoTrumpnato passed through London.

Honestly, the British lost a lot of credibility for criticizing Trump for his bluster given the giant "baby Trump" balloon they hoisted over London to unwelcome our president.

UPDATE: Oh good grief:

Trump intends to bring about the collapse of the liberal international order, in its commitment to open societies and its institutions.

Opponents of Trump tend to view him as an idiot who gets lucky--except for his diabolical plan to destroy the Western world.

And the author's inclusion of the European Union as one of the entities in the "liberal international order" that Trump wants to destroy (which is nonsense) neglects that the EU newcomer is hardly a foundation of the West; and that the institution is fact an anti-democratic body to its core, which will become an imperial state if left to gather power one intrusive cheese regulation at a time.

Frenemy Advice

The European Union is no friend of America and the European Council President revealed more than he perhaps wanted:

European Council President Donald Tusk told U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday to stop berating NATO allies over military investment levels ahead of what is expected to be a fraught alliance summit.

Before taking off for Brussels, Trump again chided fellow NATO members for not contributing enough to the alliance while maintaining a trade surplus with the United States, his latest reprimand on issues that are straining transatlantic relations.

"Dear America, appreciate your allies, after all you don't have that many," Tusk, a former Polish prime minister, said after a signing statement on more cooperation between the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. [emphasis added]

Tusk can pretend the EU is oh so concerned about NATO, but those are crocodile tears. The EU is eager to gut NATO and replace that American-dominated alliance in favor of an EU military. So of course the EU doesn't want Trump to convince European states to reinvigorate NATO defense capabilities.

Tusk is right in the sense that America has few allies in the European Union bureaucracy. Those swine who are building a pan-European royal class can bugger off, as far as I'm concerned.

America has friends and allies in Europe. But never confuse Europe with the European Union. Don't take advice from the EU.

To our European friends and allies, I say you should appreciate your existing military alliance, after all you don't have any other.

We should want the EU to wither away and die. And if Trump can save NATO and the West, the EU might lose a potential weapon to destroy NATO and build that European empire that Brussels dreams of creating.

The only reason the EU isn't America's enemy now is that it is too weak. Don't let it get strong.

Although that dangerous outcome some decades in the future should we fail to preserve NATO without giving ground to the EU would surely repair American-Russian relations as we find ourselves with a common autocratic enemy.

Getting What They Wish?

There is a warning to "be careful what you wish for--you just might get it." Could Xi Jinping get what he wishes for?

China is going from authoritarian state to dictatorship under Xi:

Internally, China under Xi has been moving from authoritarianism back to totalitarianism. The political system is now much more intolerant than it had been in decades, and these days it is far more aggressive in enforcing its intolerance.

And he has the means to enforce it:

Moreover, officials are developing ways to use technology to collect and analyze vast amounts of data for the purpose of controlling behavior. The new “social credit system,” where every citizen is assigned a constantly updated score, gives the party the ability to administer punishments and hand out rewards. As foreign policy analyst Ian Bremmer pointed out in Time, “The plan’s ultimate purpose, according to Chinese officials, is to ‘allow the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step.’”

Or, for that matter, board a plane. Officials prevented Liu Hu, a journalist, from taking a flight because he was on a list of low-scored individuals. Ordered by a court to apologize for tweets he had posted, he was informed his apology was insincere. “I can’t buy property. My child can’t go to a private school,” Liu said. “You feel you’re being controlled by the list all the time.”

How will the Chinese people react under that kind of reward and punishment system? Will innovation be stifled out of fear of losing your good score and having you--and your family--insufficiently trusted to board a plane or buy property?

And will China's economy have room for innovators, anyway?

While Xi is closing down public discussion, he is also walling off China’s economy from the world by increasing Beijing’s sway over markets, tightening capital controls, creating new state monopolies, enlarging subsidies for favored domestic businesses, and employing an array of tactics to cripple foreign competitors. He has reinvigorated central planning with state-centric initiatives such as the now-notorious Made in China 2025 program, which seeks Chinese dominance in 10 crucial industries.

Xi believes in Marxism, as seen in his actions and campaigns extolling the ideology.

Ah yes, centrally plan your way to dominance! Great plan! This time for sure, Marxism will work out!

Yet the worst periods of Chinese history were when they abandoned more open societies for territorial aggrandizement:

The Georgia Institute of Technology’s Wang, in The China Order: Centralia, World Empire, and the Nature of Chinese Power, maintains that the tianxia system [“all under heaven” system, in which "Chinese emperors believed they ruled the entire world, near and far."] “has a record of suboptimal performance that features despotic governance, long stagnation of economy, suffocation of science and technology, retardation of spiritual pursuits, irrational allocation of resources, great depreciation of human dignity and life, low and declining living standards for the masses, and mass death and destruction periodically and frequently.”

Will the economic and technological process unleashed by loosening China's economy (and of course putting the most efficient peasant in the most inefficient factory helped) be throttled by Xi and his plans for total control?

There is another saying. Don't kill the goose that lays the golden egg.


Today is the sixteenth anniversary of The Dignified Rant.

Sixteen years since starting on Geocities. I've lost a bunch of posts from those pre-Blogger days before I switched to Blogger in late 2014, when backup sites to the old Geocities/Yahoo!Geocities site went down, it seems. And my emailed data archive from the old posts seems to be compressed now, and my casual attempt to view them failed. So I don't know if it is lost or if I care enough to work on that.

Anyway, thanks for reading!

Readership peaked years ago before social media took off. But I don't care to follow potential audiences to the cesspools of social media.

I'm not tired of being a solo blogger, rarity that it is these days. But I can't rule out that I might tire of the whole thing. But for now, I'm good to go.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

That's a Good Kill Ratio

An American-Afghan offensive against ISIL forces in Afghanistan did some serious damage to the terror group trying to set up a sanctuary there:

ISIS' main stronghold in Afghanistan was captured by U.S and Afghan Special Forces after a prolonged assault that killed nearly 170 terrorist fighters and resulted in no American deaths, military officials said Saturday.

The multi-staged military operation in Deh Bala, located on the border with Pakistan, began in April but wrapped up in June, military officials told Reuters.

No American or Afghan troops were killed during the offensive, which involved 600 Green Berets and three Afghan commando companies, according to

That's an impressive record. I'm assuming a lot of precision firepower was used to keep allied casualties zero, despite the operation beginning in April.

Sometimes people just need to be killed.

America is Not Walking Away from NATO

The article asks "Does old squabble over NATO’s costs mask US shift away from Europe?"

The answer is no. If Trump wanted to shift away from Europe, why would he loudly ask NATO to fix the imbalance of defense effort and justify American presence?

Seriously, if Trump wanted to walk away from NATO, he'd have ghosted them already and NATO would be wondering why Trump didn't respond to their text messages.

The article also asks whether NATO is obsolete, in part because it has so many members. Why not, the author asks, abandon it and just have coalitions of the willing, like Afghanistan.

I don't get why people question the value of NATO.

One, Europe is a large pool of economic, demographic, scientific, and military power that America needs to keep on our side and out of the hands of any hostile power--as we have done for more than a century now. NATO keeps America in Europe with Europeans as our (admittedly sometimes imperfect--but they can say the same) allies.

Russia may not currently be the threat to Europe that the Soviet Union was because of their power and geographic position, but nuclear-armed Russia is a threat to the alliance and Russia's conventional and irregular military power is a threat to weaker states; and the alternative to NATO within Europe, the European Union, is a potential threat as a non-democratic imperial state with its own hard power at the end of that body's planned path.

Two, NATO is hardly too big. Most deployable military power is still in the hands of a relatively small number of members, reducing the size issue for practical purposes. And if there was a long war, we will be happy to have the rest who collectively will be able to mobilize considerable power.

Three, the geographic location of NATO Europe helps America deter threats in Europe, where even weaker NATO states can provide valuable bases.

Four, the geographic location of NATO Europe provides a forward staging location for operations further abroad in an arc of crisis from West Africa to Central Asia.

Five, America's comprehensive power and depth helps knit together bits and pieces of European power to make it effective. The 2011 Libya War, for example, demonstrated how limited European NATO power was, requiring American operating and logistics capabilities to enable the Europeans to fight even a small power.

Six, the so-called alternative to NATO--just creating coalitions of the willing for specific missions--is far more difficult without NATO. Without effort, American military services have found they had trouble operating together. How much worse would it be in Europe without the efforts of NATO to standardize equipment features and operating standards for troops?

Those are just off the top of my head in the military area.

Mind you, there is one area where NATO is obsolete and needs to be adjusted--NATO is still geared to defending the Elbe River line within Germany because that was the edge of NATO before 1991.

NATO from its new eastern edge to that Elbe River line is virtually non-existent in alliance terms. Yet Russia still screamed about the NATO threat when there was no logistical support network built in the expanded NATO and no NATO forces other than the forces of individual NATO states within their own borders were facing Russia. NATO had little ability to send forces east from the bulk of the military power further west.

And because of Russian aggression and hostility, NATO is finally working on the logistics aspect of the alliance. Whether the center of gravity of NATO forces will shift east is still uncertain.

NATO is worth keeping and strengthening in a world different than the Cold War. And President Trump is trying to get Europe to take their NATO membership seriously.

UPDATE: Well that's nice:

The Senate is sending a couple of legislative messages in advance of the NATO summit in Brussels this week and next Monday's Helsinki summit between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

As Trump flew to Belgium today, the Senate passed 97-2 a measure offered by Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-R.I.) to "reaffirm the ironclad U.S. commitment under Article 5 to the collective defense of the alliance." ...

Separately, a bipartisan group of senators introduced a resolution today condemning Russia's invasion and annexation of Crimea and calling on the Trump administration to formalize a policy of non-recognition of Russia's land acquisition.

While I don't think there is any justification for worrying that Trump is anti-NATO, it doesn't hurt to remind people that our membership in NATO is a national commitment and not one based on any president's view of the moment. As I've said repeatedly.

UPDATE: And don't forget that NATO was in a "mid-life crisis" in the Obama administration with European allies worried about American commitment.

China Captures a Port

China is busy loaning money to countries on their New Silk Road trade project. Sri Lanka's default on a loan demonstrates a problem America has pointed out for those who take Peking's money.

India should worry, too:

Filipinos are alarmed at the recent Chinese takeover of a major new port facility Chinese loans had financed in Sri Lanka. As many finance experts warned, Sri Lanka could not meet the payments on the loan and defaulted. Chinese firms took controlling interest of the port. Filipinos fear China has the same scam in mind for them.

Not that this is suddenly a Chinese naval base. And even if it was, right now it would be cut off from support. There is a lot of military power between Sri Lanka and any source of supply.

But it is a start. What might the Sri Lankan government agree to in order to escape the debt that they can't repay?

And there are other nations vulnerable to what Sri Lanka experienced, such as Djibouti, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, the Maldives, Mongolia, Montenegro, Pakistan, Venezuela and Tajikistan.

The Golden Hour is a Guideline and Not a Rule

The "Golden Hour" that says casualties have a much better rate of survival if they get to a real medical facility and actual doctors within an hour is misinterpreted, placing troops' lives at risk, according to Col. Jay Johannigman, a former Air Force surgeon who is director of the university’s Institute for Military Medicine.

I didn't realize this rule risks lives by misinterpretation to narrowly focus on getting wounded troops to hospitals fast:

The 60-minute rule is “a myth,” Johannigman said, suggesting the Army suffers under the “burden of the misunderstanding about the golden hour,” which he described as getting wounded to a combat surgical facility because it would have a variety of lifesaving capabilities critical to survival. Some of those lifesaving procedures can be done closer to the battle, such as using a tourniquet to stop bleeding, providing blood transfusions and opening airways, to gain more than an hour to receive advanced care.

I guess I rather assumed that the Golden Hour didn't mean you deny immediate life-saving treatment near the front, given that we have trained and equipped far more troops to provide lifesaving "patches" near the front.

For God's sake, don't deny troops immediate treatment to stabilize a wounded patient near the front in order to get them moving to meet the one-hour standard!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Test of Concept

I've advocated for modularized auxiliary cruisers as a power projection platform for AFRICOM for joint forces, including special forces, to extend America's reach around the vast African continent. Special Operations Command is getting its own permanently converted merchant ship for their own missions:

With no fanfare at all the U.S. Navy completed the conversion of a cargo ship into an MSV (Maritime Support Vessel) for SOCOM (Special Operations Command). The ship to be converted had been built in 2011 for commercial service with Maersk Lines. It was quietly purchased by the U.S. Navy and in early 2014 an American shipyard began converting the 20,000 ton (displacement) RO/RO (Roll On/Roll Off) cargo ship MV Craigside to serve as a seagoing base (MSV) for SOCOM commandos and support troops. This included renaming the ship to Ocean Trader.

About $80 million was spent on the conversion which consisted of turning the deck into a landing pad for at least two helicopters and hanger in the forward part of the ship that can house three helicopters for maintenance or just to keep them out of bad weather. The ramp for RO/RO of vehicles is in the rear and remains. The Ocean Trader had a special windowless communications and planning areas built as in well as spaces for launching and recovering Scan Eagle UAVs. There was a dive locker (chamber) for U.S. Navy SEALs to quietly slip into sea as well as storage and launch facilities for RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boats) like the 11 meter (35 foot) RHIB used by SOCOM and the 12.8 meter (41 foot) CCA (Combat Craft Assault) for more difficult insertions of SEALs to a hostile shore.

The ship is crewed by 50 screened civilians and has room for 200 special forces. It has apparently been in use for two years now.

If this works out--and it should--could the Army follow suit with temporary conversion of container ships as I suggested?

And I'll note that the post says SOC had "my" basic idea back in 2004. Although I hadn't read about it when the notion was born. Initially my idea was to use modularized auxiliary cruisers for Navy missions, the way auxiliary cruisers had historically been used. Actually, my original thought was for use as a logistics support vessel to help the Dutch if needed, as one link in that post leads to. Plus I do think I fleshed out the idea quite a bit.

Anyway, would the Army want to expand on this for AFRICOM use? The Navy will never be large enough to spare the big deck amphibious ships for African waters outside of the Horn of Africa in CENTCOM or in the Mediterranean Sea while transiting between CENTCOM and America's Atlantic coast.

Will We Never Reach Peak Stupid?

What is it with these people?

During his 17 months in office, President Trump has walked out of the Paris climate change agreement, the Iran nuclear deal and UNESCO, and effectively dismantled decades of rules-based global trade and strategic transatlantic relations with Europe.

So it is only logical to wonder if NATO might be his next target[.]

Decades of American trade and strategic trans-Atlantic relations with Europe since World War II have been "dismantled" by withdrawing from a toothless climate deal and a toothless Iran deal--both signed just three years ago?

And the withdrawal from the United Nations cultural body is part of "dismantling" the trade and strategic relationships?

In what alternate European fantasy world does that even make sense? Or am I so divorced from the concept of sophisticated European nuance that I can't appreciate it?

European relations with other Europeans are more in danger than cross-Atlantic relations (and may a vision of "Europe" as a geographic term with sovereign states win the dispute against the visions of the Germans and French who want a Europe-spanning empire on their own terms--but without military conquest this time).

God, these people are just stupid.

Trump is kind of a jerk, no doubt. But get over it. Trump Hysteria Condition clearly drives that needless worry about trans-Atlantic relations from America's end.

The worry oddly places all the blame on America, ignoring the constant sniping from Europeans about American foreign policy over the decades. Europeans can man the ef up and endure justified criticisms of their meager defense effort--as even the author agrees with in his childish effort to avoid giving credit where credit is due (back to the first link):

This time the erratic Commander-in-chief has a point. A generation after the fall of the Berlin Wall, some 35,000 US troops are still based in Germany on NATO and other missions. Nor is Germany the only country that is free-loading. On defence, Europe wants to have its cake and eat it.

American exasperation with European defense weakness predates Trump. Indeed, the pledge to increase NATO member defense spending to a minimum of 2% of GDP occurred during the Obama administration. And if Trump can finally get Europeans to take up the burden of defending their continent again, Americans will feel more strongly about defending Europe.

Trump may damn well save the American-European strategic relationship.

UPDATE: Are people this stupid?

President Donald Trump will likely declare U.S. support for NATO’s mutual defense doctrine while pressing for increased spending commitments from NATO allies at a high-stakes summit in Brussels, a senior administration official said on Tuesday.

America is obligated under the Article V mutual defense provision. The NATO alliance was entered into by treaty and is not subject to one president's whims--even if there was any actual evidence that Trump wants to leave NATO!

Are people this unclear about this basic fact? Just. Stop.

UPDATE: American CO2 emissions hit a 67-year low in 2017. America's involvement or lack of involvement in the Paris accord have no effect on our emissions.

Next year's results will be interesting to see given the economic growth finally kicking in this year. All things being equal, growth increases CO2 production. But note our per capita emissions superiority over the accord-embracing world.

The Black Sea Queen

If Turkey is edging out of NATO as it shifts to an Islamist-friendly autocracy that seeks an independent role within the sphere of the former Ottoman Empire, how will Turkish control of the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits effect NATO naval missions in the Black Sea?

The Montreux Convention governing warship use of the straits addresses the transit of warships through the straits, but auxiliary vessels even in the transit situation are a gray area.

Wouldn't auxiliary cruisers in the Black Sea that don't transit the straits nullify any convention restrictions on numbers, tonnage, and duration of time in the sea?

Maybe non-Black Sea states like America could use modularized auxiliary cruisers to fill the gap if Turkey becomes too unreliable as an ally or leaves/is expelled from NATO. Instead of The AFRICOM Queen, as I described, maybe The Black Sea Queen could be just as valuable in this situation.

Container ships would not have a problem as civilian ships moving through the straits in peacetime. And if the system containers were shipped overland to Romania and Bulgaria to be installed on the container ship to create a warship, we'd have an instant flotilla. Could we argue that limits on time outside powers can keep warships in the Black Sea don't apply if the warships don't enter the Black Sea through the straits?

Because the warship isn't a warship when it passes through the straits. And the weapons and systems and even crew wouldn't go through the straits at all.

But even if there are time limits that apply, wouldn't pulling whatever systems off of the modularized auxiliary cruiser erase its status as a warship and reset the clock without having to remove the ship from the Black Sea?

I had mentioned this option among others for getting around convention restrictions following the 2008 Russo-Georgian Goons of August War that Russia initiated.

And given that America does not recognize Russian occupation and annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula, options seem more important than ever.

Monday, July 09, 2018

Assad Destroyed Syria to Save It

Assad survived the rebellion by encouraging jihadis to dominate the then-non-sectarian rebellion, thus alienating the West from the Islamist-dominated rebels and inspiring fear among Syria's non-Sunnis to stand by Assad. That strategy has apparently worked on the battlefield. But what did that do to Syria?

A NEW Syria is emerging from the rubble of war. ...

Homs, like all of the cities recaptured by the government, now belongs mostly to Syria’s victorious minorities: Christians, Shias and Alawites (an esoteric offshoot of Shia Islam from which Mr Assad hails). These groups banded together against the rebels, who are nearly all Sunni, and chased them out of the cities. Sunni civilians, once a large majority, followed. More than half of the country’s population of 22m has been displaced—6.5m inside Syria and over 6m abroad. Most are Sunnis.

Assad is determined to keep out the Sunnis who fled his brutal war of killing and blasting from areas regained by Assad. He is turning over the property of Sunnis who fled the fighting to his backers.

And overall Assad is content to rely on his minority supporters now without regard to the Sunnis:

The country’s chief mufti is a Sunni, but there are fewer Sunnis serving in top posts since the revolution. Last summer Mr Assad replaced the Sunni speaker of parliament with a Christian. In January he broke with tradition by appointing an Alawite, instead of a Sunni, as defence minister.

And many of those left are crippled, psychologically scarred, and lacking men who died or fled.

Assad is mostly in control of "useful" Syria, the formulation of the former French colonial rulers, according to the article.

I was unaware of that but it matches closely my description of "core Syria" that I thought Assad had the power to control (with a fall back "rump Syria" centered on the coastal enclave, if Damascus could not be held).

But (and back to the first link), however much better it is for him than losing the war, Assad has won the wreckage of his country:

Mr Assad (pictured) has been winning the war by garrisoning city centres, then shooting outward into rebel-held suburbs. On the highway from Damascus to Aleppo, towns and villages lie desolate. A new stratum of dead cities has joined the ones from Roman times. The regime has neither the money nor the manpower to rebuild. Before the war Syria’s economic growth approached double digits and annual GDP was $60bn. Now the economy is shrinking; GDP was $12bn last year. Estimates of the cost of reconstruction run to $250bn.

And the heart of his military might is Iranian-supplied shock troops and Russian air and logistics support. It isn't clear how many actual Syrians are still fighting for Assad.

Nor am I sure how much of the remnant Syrian military is functionally controlled by Assad.

So despite the worries of pro-Assad Syrians that defeating the Sunni rebels might just allow Iran to control Syria, Assad cannot survive without the 80,000 troops that Iran pays for and controls.

Heck, if victory was achieved tomorrow, could Assad survive the peace after the sacrifice his supporters endured in the bloody, costly victory?

Yet allowing Iran to control Syria with the dominant military force in the country could create a whole new war for Assad with Syria as the battlefield rather than an actor.

Which might be Assad's best option for surviving as the ruler of what is left of Syria.

UPDATE: Strategypage looks at Syria.

The Sunnis may be broken as a threat to Assad for a generation or more. But I would not rule out the victors being a threat to Assad for the price those backers had to pay--in lives, money, and sovereignty lost to Iran--to keep Assad behind the big desk.

Purging Turkey from NATO

Erdogan has quickly exploited his presidential victory that leaves him with few institutional checks on his power in order to purge potential opposition from the government.

Here we go again:

Turkey's government on Sunday issued an emergency decree dismissing thousands of public servants for alleged links to terror groups.

The decree, published in the Official Gazette, sacked 18,632 civil servants, including nearly 9,000 police officers, some 6,000 members of the military and hundreds of teachers and academics. Their passports will be cancelled.

At some point, the transition to autocracy will effectively purge Turkey from NATO. Both by getting rid of Turks who favor NATO and all that implies (separation of church and state, democracy, and rule of law) and by convincing NATO that Turkey is no longer acting like an ally who can be trusted.

Time is Money

We have a major problem with talks to denuclearize North Korea. Basically, North Korea doesn't want the fast action that America wants:

The "fastest way" to achieve a nuclear-free Korean peninsula was through a phased approach under which both sides took steps at the same time, [North Korea's official network] KCNA said in a statement citing an unnamed foreign ministry spokesperson.

We want a fast pace to preclude North Korea stalling for time to develop their nuclear threat to the United States.

North Korea wants a phased plan with corresponding rewards to North Korea for each step. That drags out rewards and gives North Korea the option to stop at any phase and resume nuclear development.

Which might be done because North Korea wants more stuff or because they feel they have enough stuff to keep going until they have nukes--and so go back to their original plan of nukes to extort really big payments.

But I don't for a minute believe we have ruled out a military campaign.

North Korea could gain much from a deal. They risk a lot if they won't make a deal.

We must reject North Korean efforts to stretch out the final step of denuclearization. Even if it is true that North Korea is desperate enough to make a deal, a phased deal with rewards reduces the desperation.

I don't know if Kim wants the deal that America must have if the Senate is to approve it--even if our diplomats agreed to a bad phased deal, which I doubt.

Red Card or Yellow Card?

Should Britain withdraw their team from the World Cup in Russia?

The Russians tried to assassinate a Russian exiled opponent of Putin (and sickened his daughter, too) in London. Those two survived, but there is collateral damage from the residue of the attack, which apparently took the life of Dawn Sturges:

A U.K. woman has died after being exposed to the same type of nerve agent used against a former Russian spy and his daughter, British police said in a statement Sunday.

A British man was also exposed, and is critically ill.

As Putin boasts that the World Cup is showing Russia in a positive light, will Britain go along with this propaganda show while one of their citizens lies dead from Russian action and another struggles for life?

Britain should strongly consider withdrawing from the World Cup right now. How much of a signal of disapproval and anger would that be when Britain is on the cusp of winning the title? How much would that embarrass Putin personally?

And if not that step, the British team should take the field wearing "Dawn Sturges" arm bands. Winning the World Cup in Russia with that statement on TV before a Russian and global audience would strike a blow.

To Hell with Putin's image-building tournament.

UPDATE: Surely the British can exceed this:

After the quarterfinal win against Sweden, some England fans stormed a London IKEA store and trashed the furniture while singing their World Cup anthem, "It's coming home."

The cup won't be coming home to Dawn Sturges. Because of Russia.

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Defending the West

I respect Applebaum, but what is she talking about?

For the first time since 1945, Europe is grappling with an American president who has a fundamentally different view of America’s international role. Trump no longer wants the United States to be the West’s central organizing force. He no longer cares about the benefits that role has brought, if he even understands them.

She appears to rely on Trump's abandonment of NATO; his conviction that the European Union's purpose is to take advantage of America; and a third worry that America will exploit German (and others') worries about Russia.

Oh good grief. Get. a. grip.

Trump is actually trying to get NATO states to spend more even as American military power returns to Europe in the east and as America leads efforts to make sure reinforcements from North America can rapidly reach Europe. Is that the action of a president "abandoning" NATO?

I admit that the EU's purpose isn't, as Trump apparently said (for the sake of argument, I'll not quibble), to take advantage of America. That's just a byproduct of its imperial ambitions that run counter to longstanding American interest in preventing a hostile power from controlling Europe. I firmly believe it is in America's--and Europe's if it wants to be free--to kill the EU before the proto-imperial state goes full empire. Brussels is no friend of America or of freedom. The EU should revert to the EEC to be the free trade area it started out as.

Further, and I shouldn't have to point out the obvious, America is a central organizing force in NATO and not at all in the EU. So a stronger EU that weakens NATO, reduces America's central role in defending the continent.

And the last worry is funny if it wasn't so wrong.

If Germany worries about Russia, why is Germany handing Russia the power to cut the juice to Ukraine and make other Europeans more reliant on Russian energy--all while bolstering Russia's ability to pay for the military threat that Germany supposedly worries about so much.

If Germany worries about Russia, why does Germany spend so little on defense and get so little from what they do spend?

Trump is not exploiting German worries about Russia--he's trying to get them to act on any worry at all to share the burden of defending the West.

And given that it is clear that American dominance is being diluted by the rise of other states, America can't finance the defense of the West as it could after 1991 when the Soviet threat vanished and before China rose and before international jihadis picked up the slack in mayhem. The American "unipolar" moment was nice. But it is gone.

So yeah, the West needs all of its members pulling their weight. And while I don't expect our allies in Europe to help much in Asia, they can damn well do more in Europe so our efforts can be focused on the region stretching from CENTCOM to Alaska through the Indian and Pacific oceans.

Applebaum knows better. Her argument is nonsense.

UPDATE: About those German "worries" about Russia.

Could Ethiopia Have a Modularized Navy?

This is an interesting article on whether Ethiopia could become a power in the Horn of Africa. It has a long history of being a regional power (but without the inherent long-term thinking that China's long tradition of existence gave them?) and could be again:

To project power in the region, the Ethiopian government must achieve three main objectives: maintain control over the domestic population, secure its borders and diversify its sea access. The rise of the Aksum and Ethiopian empires was possible only with these three conditions in place. And indeed, there are signs that the country is already moving in this direction.

The idea is that Ethiopia has an interest in keeping foreign influence away from the region. Given that America has long had such military influence, this must mean China for the most part. But there is a lot going on in the area that hem in Ethiopia. Saudi Arabia is moving into the region. Iran is moving into the region. And Turkey is moving into the region. These must be considered different than the stabilizing influence of America.

I wonder if Turkey's forays into the Persian Gulf, Red Sea, and Horn of Africa could be a safely distant competitor that could rally Ethiopians and give coastal neighbors a reason to support Ethiopia if that balances Turkey.

One issue for a local Ethiopian power is the need for a navy to defend interests in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. Which is a problem for a landlocked country that is trying to secure port access through neighbors.

Could Ethiopia have a transient navy that is built for and dismantled after specific missions or patrols?

Would my idea for The AFRICOM Queen modularized auxiliary cruiser apply to The Ethiopian Queen? Would Sudan, Eritrea, Somalia, and Kenya welcome an Ethiopian counterweight to encroaching naval power? Would Yemen ultimately be willing to lease port and airfield access to Ethiopia on Socotra Island?

If Ethiopia equips their warships based on container ships, installing the containers in friendly neighbors' ports but only activating the weaponry when the ships reach international waters, could Ethiopia build a fleet as needed to defend Ethiopian interests at sea even without a coast?

UPDATE: Settling the dispute with Eritrea which is an outlet to the sea would be a good start.

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Weekend Data Dump

When the Royal Navy sends their new carriers and new F-35s abroad with proper escorts, will any ships be left to defend the homeland? Who will stop Russian subs streaming through the Greenland-Iceland-UK Gap to the North Atlantic? Heck, I wondered if the British could afford any escorts.

Sudan and South Sudan continue to bleed with little international outrage. Those Africans might well wonder how the Palestinians were crowned Queen of the Victim Prom all these decades.

I have very little stress over the state of America. I never do. But my pride in America doesn't depend on who is in the White House. Get a damn grip, people. Our president is basically a jerk. I freely admit that. But he is no dictator. And our domestic and foreign policies are basically fine, notwithstanding the panic-fest the media engages in every damn day. "Reality-based" community, indeed. Oh, and for added humor value, it really is true that the left's most dedicated opponents of Trump rely on his jerk status to exceed him in jerkiness.

Over 220 sometimes armed protesters have been killed in Nicaragua over the last couple months. Those people might well wonder how the Palestinians were crowned Queen of the Victim Prom all these decades.

After suggesting packing the Supreme Court after Democrats regain the White House, this professor suggests packing the Senate, too. Wait. What? Hitler will let the Democrats win?

I want to amend a statement I made last data dump that people throwing the Nazi charge at Trump and his supporters are historically ignorant and are themselves vile people. The former charge is basically true, but for small numbers who damn well know better. But a lot of people who don't have the historical knowledge sincerely--if grossly wrong--believe the accusation. Which is unfortunate. And as always, do remember that the most extreme voices we see online and in the media don't represent how all people on that side feel about "the other side." Most people are decent sorts. Even when I complain about "liberals" I really am complaining about the few and not the many. :-) As for social media? I'm far happier without participating in that. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.

The California plantation. Tip to Instapundit.

But it is the Trump administration that is in "chaos?"

Democracy dies in darkness wokeness.

The Israelis are perplexed that we are delivering F-35s to Turkey. Me too. Unless the design of the widely exported plane is expected to fall into our enemies' hands (if that hasn't already happened online). I wonder if we turned off the data- sharing capability that makes the plane so dangerous to enemies? We might have given the Turks a Lamborghini body with the interior and engine of a VW "Bug." Surely, we know that a Turkish order for only 6 F-35s (noted in this long post) is basically enough to take them apart to learn how they work and turn that information over to our enemies--for a price--right?

There is a dispute over who the "useful idiots" are in that alliance.

Forget about wiping an inconvenient server. Swiping it is safer. Our friends the Pakistanis at work, it seems. Tip to Instapundit.

Leftist though he is, I wish Mexico's president all the best in fighting corruption.

This last Wednesday I was walking down the street and I thought I walked by Professor Jordan Peterson. Which seemed silly until I remembered 5 seconds later that I was on Yonge Street in downtown Toronto. I don't have well formed thoughts on him apart from thinking he is a net good.

The question wasn't dumb. If we could have ended Venezuela's misery, would that have been so bad?  And we didn't "invade." So the misery continues.

I'm seriously not worried about a civil war here, despite the uptick in speculation.

Last summer I saw the Second City comedy show in Toronto and it emphasized an anti-Trump theme. Not the majority, but a constant source of bits that were not really funny, for the most part. Just angry. This year's show did not have such a focus and Trump was only "denounced" by the comics at the prompting of an American audience member. So that's progress in the Trump Hysteria Condition, isn't it?

Turkey is more of a problem. Strategypage notes that it is largely due to Erdogan who has ruled Turkey since 2004, with increasingly autocratic powers. But add in the growth of the number of more Islamic friendly (not Islamist) people who don't value a secular government. And remember that Erdogan had the support of President Obama who pinned his hopes on demonstrating how a "tame" Islamist could embrace Islam without the baggage of Islamist terrorists and their supporters tagging along.

Some segment of the American Left says ICE is a "terrorist" organization. I know they don't mean it, because that segment of the American Left makes any excuse they can think of for why actual terrorist groups kill Americans.

If I understand the issue correctly, some Republicans want Trump to fail and for Democrats to take over Congress to help that failure along because they worry Trump is so damaging the Republican brand that Republicans might fail in future elections to the point that Democrats would take over Congress. So Republicans must lose power now to avoid the chance of losing power later? Okay, I don't get that logic at all. I really am deficient in nuance.

America wants a quick trade deal with Britain after Brexit. Good. We need to help Britain prosper after escaping the grasp of continental wannabe autocrats.

I don't want a trade war. But I don't mind revising the terms of trade--especially if the existing terms are tilted against America. But you have to admit that pushing for revisions when we are adding jobs at a good rate lessens the ability of trading partners to hit us with tariffs that cost jobs here.

America has less than 5% of the world's population. The Left insists America is anti-immigrant because in 2017, for the first time since 1980, America didn't resettle more refugees in a year than the rest of the world combined. Yet even in 2017, America resettled a third of the refugees resettled despite having 1/20 of the world's population. Overall, since 1980, America has resettled 75% of the 4 million refugees resettled. What an odd way of being anti-immigrant. I'd rather address labor shortages that exceed the ability of wage increases to address with increases in legal immigration that selects for the skills employers need.

A highly flawed "study" based on the perceptions of unidentified "experts" says America is the tenth most dangerous country for women. So a BS study gives ammunition to those thug rulers who really do abuse women by undermining America--where women are truly free. But more importantly, how dare these study authors deny the tremendous progress America made in 8 years of Obama's hope and change! Ah, social science!

What the Hell is wrong with all you people convinced we are all doomed? Things keep getting better and you can't even see it! Why?

The Marines, who already have their own planes and armed helicopters for air support, are getting squad-level air power. The Army has opted for squad air power, too.

The story about the Army discharging immigrants is a BS hit piece. People who haven't even been to basic training yet are being discharged because they didn't pass their security checks, for the most part. Saying these recruits are being "quietly discharged" to imply secrecy is nonsense, too. It simply means the Army did its job and didn't issue a press release. I--and every other soldier finishing their term of service--was "quietly discharged" at the end of my service. Ooh. Scary. And the numbers are tiny compared to immigrants actually serving in the military. The American military actually has a long history of accepting immigrants and is not doing anything wrong.

President Trump is wrong to think deploying American troops overseas is too expensive. Here's an example. And if our troops weren't based overseas (and few combat brigades are these days), we'd need more air and sea lift to move them overseas in a crisis. Remember, we have to support our troops wherever they are based, and allies don't subsidize our troops in America.

Belgium folded their existing parachute and commando battalions into a new special operations regiment. I think I'd rather Belgium contribute several heavy brigades to NATO.

Free Trade Dies in Darkness?

I remain conflicted over President Trump's efforts on tariffs.

Trade is good. Free trade is better. And despite the gnashing of teeth over the optics of his approach, he has said his preference is no tariffs.

So it doesn't seem like he wants a trade war, as critics assert.

Yet the media has covered this issue without the information we need to make an informed decision on the merits: just what is the balance in tariffs?

Does America on average face higher tariffs on our exports than we impose on imports?

Isn't that basic--and vital--knowledge to have?

I know that after World War II we accepted a tariff system weighted against America. We wanted the rest of the world back on its feet both to be our customers and to be better security partners.

But that was a long time ago. I assume we clawed back some ground. But how much?

So why doesn't the media examine the actual tariff burden so we know if Trump's effort is justified?

I mean other than because math is involved and treating this as "another" Nazi policy initiative is easier and worth more ratings.

Well That's Just an Adorable Level of Faith

This author thinks the Space Force is a good idea. I'm skeptical. And what effect does it have on the rump Air Force that loses its space mission?

If only:

Most of the Air Force will be thrown back to tactical air support for the Army — the role it least likes. None should forget, however, that the military services, their missions and budgets, exist for the country, not vice versa.

How cute! Bureaucratic bodies know they exist for the country!

Not to pick on the Air Force. Any bureaucracy has a self preservation instinct that would impress Charles Darwin.

But even without space duties, the Air Force will view air superiority and deep strike missions as their preferred missions and not embrace tactical air support for the Army. Losing space won't make the Air Force love the ground.

The Air Force is right that sending aircraft in low over the battlefield is very dangerous for the plane and crew. And the planes are increasingly expensive and fewer in number making losses a problem. The question is whether air support for ground troops can be provided solely from high altitudes.

Heck, the question is also whether controlling the blues skies protects the troops below. Can high-flying planes can even control the skies low over the ground troops.

Rather than thinking stripping the Air Force of space duties will make the Air Force focus on ground support, I want the Air Force to be stripped of ground support missions in order to aim high and view the blue skies and black space as a single "high ground" that must be controlled for navies and armies to operate under their umbrella.

I still think the United States Aerospace Force is the way to go. A true Space Force should wait until we move beyond the Earth-Moon system.

Friday, July 06, 2018

Beginning the Reset

Hezbollah is beginning to reset their Syrian expeditionary force back home to Lebanon:

[So] far this year about half the Hezbollah forced has returned to Lebanon and more are leaving. This is largely because sending Lebanese Shia to fight for Iran and the Assads in Syria was never popular with Lebanese Shia (who are over a third of the Lebanese population and provide the militiamen for the Hezbollah “army’). Hezbollah was created in the 1980s due to massive amounts of Iranian cash, weapons and training. Hezbollah has been sustained ever since by Iranian aid. Lebanese Shia are uneasy with being dependent on Iran but it does provide the Lebanese Shia with more political power than they have ever had in Lebanon so they have remained loyal. But over the last five years just about every armed Hezbollah member has served in Syria, often multiple times. Over 12,000 Hezbollah have been killed or wounded in Syria and while Iran provided cash for death benefits and medical care the thousands of visibly crippled Hezbollah Syrian war veterans are a humiliating reminder that Hezbollah is a “servant” of Iran. Even the Iranian advisors with Hezbollah are aware of this attitude and that is why the size of the Hezbollah force in Syria has been reduced by about half so far in 2018. Iran hates giving up the Hezbollah fighters because they are the most effective Iranian mercenaries in Syria and the ones most suited to successfully using Syrian army uniforms and pass as Syrian troops so Iran can establish forces right on the Israel border. Most of the Iranian mercenaries are Afghans, who have a hard time passing for Syrians. There are still about 4,000 Hezbollah fighters in Syria but many are assigned to Lebanese border areas where they help enhance the Hezbollah reputation back in Lebanon by visibly keeping Islamic terrorists and other bad people out of Lebanon.

I figured Israel would want to strike Hezbollah in Lebanon in a deep multi-division ground raid after the Syria multi-war ends but while Hezbollah was still heavily committed. This would maximize the pain on Hezbollah from the Syria expedition and minimize the number of Hezbollah troops in Lebanon actually prepared to face Israel.

But as time has gone on with no strike, I've started to wonder if I'm way off.

Does the redeployment of Hezbollah forces back to Lebanon indicate Israel lost their chance?

Or perhaps Israel wants more Hezbollah troops back in Lebanon where they can be killed in the raid rather than safely riding out the ride in Syria before returning to Lebanon to rebuild their terror state.

It will take time to reset the training of Hezbollah's forces to face Israeli tactics after years of fighting rebels. So the reset isn't just moving gunmen out of Syria.

Connecting dots is hard.

Russia is Weaker Than the West

Russia is a declining power and models that show otherwise are misleading by thinking a dead cat bounce is a sign of strength.

I don't buy this conclusion comparing Russia to other powers at all:

For a comparative perspective, we contrasted Russia with the world as a whole — and with several groups of key competitors and peers: five leading Western powers (the United States, Germany, Britain, France and Italy); the other four BRICS members (Brazil, India, China and South Africa); and all former Soviet republics, except the Baltic states, and selected oil and gas producers. ...

The claims of Russia’s imminent demise seem unfounded — all but one model showed that Russia’s power vis-a-vis the world as a whole has grown in the 21st century. And all our models showed that Russia’s power has risen vis-a-vis Western nations.

In absolute terms, all four methods showed Russia’s power to be less than that of the United States — and one showed it trailing Germany. All four models show that Russia has lagged behind China and India in absolute values of national power.

The "claim" that Russia's demise is "imminent" is a straw man argument. Who claims that?

And while you may be able to say Russian power is relatively stronger than the West's now compared to 1999, that is misleading. Measuring changes since 1999 reflect Russia bottoming out after the collapse of the Soviet Union as the starting point and reflect the post-Cold War "peace dividend" in the West that is only now being reversed with some difficulty in Europe. It also picks up the big surge in China's military power at the same time.

Including territory as purely a measure of Russian power neglects the fact that having a huge land border is also a defense nightmare for Russia. It remains true that a lot of territory means you have a lot of resources and a lot of room to retreat if invaded without being destroyed. But you need a lot more military power to defend your territorial integrity, too.

And counting population as a pure indication of power unjustifiably inflates Chinese and Indian power. At a certain point, population size ceases to be an advantage. I don't know what minimum population is necessary to be a great power. And I don't know what minimum is necessary to be a burden, but I think that factor is real.

Further, I have problems using purchasing power parity, which is narrowly useful to account to compare specific features--like cheaper military personnel costs in poorer countries like China--as a broad substitute for GDP, which demonstrates your global strength.

And rather than explaining Russia's aggression in the West as a reflection of the relative gain in power versus the West contra Russia's decline compared to China; I think Russian aggression in Europe conceals Russian appeasement of China.

Oh, and any model that shows Germany powerful relies on measures of potential power. Which is real, of course. In the long run if converted to actual power.  But Germany lacks actual hard power that can be applied.

But back to Russia.  Russia has recovered from its post-Soviet nadir in both power and willingness to use it. And Russia retains an advantage in the west by having weak neighbors--even those in NATO. And a large number of nukes--although who knows how many are maintained well enough to work.

But America and NATO plus non-NATO Europeans are far stronger than Russia if the scattered power can be mobilized and deployed to the east.

And Russia has long-term problems that weaken Russia demographically and economically, with potential powerful enemies all around their land borders. But it is still a dangerous power that cannot be disregarded.

As for the model's claim about a rise of a multi-polar world? That seems right. Our post-World War II dominance was an anomaly, really, that was being corrected by the 1970s; only to be renewed by the collapse of the USSR. And now China--and to a much lesser extent, India--are expanding their power which reduces America's relative advantage.

Brazil is a fascinating case. As some wag once put it, "Brazil is the power of the future--and always will be." Somehow metrics that should indicate the potential for a major power never seem to make that major power a reality.

But because of America's geography, America will always have more deployable power than any other contender for global dominance--even if China passes us by.

I remain fascinated by quantitative models. And once thought of going in that direction. But numbers divorced from geography and history miss a lot. That's the basic reality that the quantitative models seem to miss completely. I don't think they figured out a way to measure national power accurately, as they claim.

But I do plan to look more closely at the project the article relies on.