Tuesday, July 31, 2018

If Iran Goes Boom

I would not plan for the occupation of Iran. But there are things we should plan for if Iranians finally revolt against the mullah-run government.

Our interests are too limited for that. We don't want Iran to be a threat to allies in the region. We don't want Iran to threaten oil exports through the region. And we don't want Iran's nuclear assets to escape in the chaos.

If there is a revolution, we should limit our direct involvement. Sure, support people carrying out the revolution. As Syria shows, leaving the situation alone isn't a recipe for letting locals settle the issue without massive bloodshed and destruction. But don't go in to directly participate in the revolution.

A revolution ends the active threat by policy posed by Iran. On the other hand there is the threat of chaos and refugees expanding outward.

We'd need to plan for how to insulate Iraq and Afghanistan from spillover effects.

At worst, we might need to seize islands in the Strait of Hormuz to nullify Iranian threats to oil traffic. Maybe Kharg Island, too. Although that oil export terminal at the northern end of the Gulf would be unable to export oil if the strait is controlled. If this operation is carried out with a strike campaign to knock out Iranian air, naval, and ground assets that could threaten oil traffic, that's more than enough war with Iran for me.

I'm not sure what we do with the nuke issue. We've planned for a US-ROK division capable of going into North Korea to secure nuclear sites--presumably when North Korea is in chaos, otherwise I don't see how it fights its way through the North Korean army--so maybe that planning would be useful for Iran. But I don't know. Could we move in, securing or removing key assets, and leave without too much problem?

Those are things we might be able to do that I'd like to see planned, rather than planning for an occupation as a warning not to do it. Oh, and I reject the idea that we didn't plan for post-Saddam Iraq. We did. Heck, it was in the New York Times. But no plan survives contact with several enemies.

And really, I don't think we remotely have the forces to occupy a country of Iran's size without a major mobilization of our reserves and an expansion of our ground forces on top of that.

It is true that in late 2004 I speculated about how American troops in Iraq might support a revolution in Iran. But that was a matter of exploiting American forces on the ground nearby in Iraq. And I didn't want to stay.

UPDATE: It is a symptom of our social media-created short-attention span times that a lot of people reacted to the title without reading the article to understand that the author wanted to plan for the purpose of showing how hard it would be.

Once More, With Feeling?

Shia protests in Iraq that initially focused on Iranian influence have evolved into protests over corruption in Iraq:

The growing unrest in southern Iraq is spreading and in early July became more anti-corruption than anti-Iran. This switch in target was not encouraged by senior Shia clerics and most of them were slow to give public support to the protestors. Tribal leaders were more in touch with how most Iraqis live and did not encourage protests but also refused government requests that tribal chiefs call for calm. The chiefs point out that the government does nothing for the unemployed tribesmen and if those tribesmen, especially the younger ones, complain, government officials accuse them of working for Iran, Israel. Saudi Arabia or the hated (by Shias) Saddam government. So far the violence has left fifteen dead and over 700 wounded.

This outbreak of violent protests is not unexpected. Similar protests are going on in Iran and for the same reasons. There are differences though because Iraq has not been under any sanctions and is a democracy compared to the religious dictatorship in Iran. Yet it’s been fifteen years since the decades of Iraqi Sunni minority dictatorship was overthrown and democracy gave the Shia Arabs (60 percent of the population) control of the government. This was supposed to make life better for the Shia majority, and the Kurdish minority (20 percent of Iraqis). It hasn’t, mainly because of corruption.

While Shias got more resources after Shias dominated, Shia politician corruption soon clawed back those gains and reduced the Shias to their former levels of poverty.

Iraq has voting. Which is part of democracy. And one day it might be more honest than Chicago voting. But Iraq lacks an essential component of voting that is less appreciated--rule of law. Corruption is what you get when you don't have rule of law. And while Saddam no longer puts Shia opponents through plastic shredders, in the area of providing resources corruption is proving just as bad for the Shia as Saddam. Don't ever think that corruption doesn't kill. It does.

It is so bad that even with the urging of the respected top Shia cleric in Iraq, Sistani, to do something, the corruption rages under new management:

Iraq's top Shi'ite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani called on Friday for a government to be formed as soon as possible to tackle corruption and poor basic services.

We need to help Iraqis defeat corruption and build rule of law. The defeat of ISIL in Iraq War 2.0 doesn't end the fight--it just changes it. As ISIL reverts to insurgency and terrorism after losing their territory, the fight for rule of law becomes an even more important weapon to defeat them. Corruption lets terrorists pass checkpoints and makes people more receptive to looking the other way if it benefits them personally.

This is frustrating to me. Even before the original Iraq War, as the fight raged, and in the years that followed through battlefield victory and eventual American withdrawal from Iraq, I called for helping Iraq get rule of law to build democracy.

And I called for this again last year:

It is of course important for the American military to remain in Iraq after the Islamic state caliphate is broken in order to help the Iraqis hunt down ISIL remnants; and to keep an eye on training standards in the Iraqi security forces.

But that is not the only thing that should be on the 30-day review of the fight against ISIL (and jihadis in general, including al Qaeda that is rebuilding).

It is also important to have a surge of FBI and court advisors to help the Iraqis build a law enforcement system with rule of law that does not leave so many holes for the jihadis to enter Iraqi life and kill Iraqis.

And advisors on how to run government agencies as something other than personal enrichment fiefdoms.

This must be a government-wide effort and not just a military effort.

This will be the next Iraq War. We need to win that too.

Win this war and democracy can become a practical rather than aspirational alternative in the Arab world to autocrats or Islamists for a governing system.

Bush 43 won the military campaign in Iraq and left office before he could be judged on the rule of law fight. President Obama failed to win the rule of law war, which led to ISIL rising. To his credit, he launched Iraq War 2.0.

And now Trump has finished Iraq War 2.0 and has the responsibility to win the rule of law war in Iraq. Will he fight this war that so clearly needs to be won to prevent a kinetic Iraq War 3.0?

A Kurdish Question

Syria's Kurds will adapt to an environment where nobody is trying to overthrow Assad.

What else are they to do?

A US-backed Kurdish-led alliance said on Saturday that it is seeking a roadmap for a decentralised Syria in talks with the government which opened in Damascus this week.

The Syrian Democratic Forces alliance, which controls a swathe of the north and northeast, said it had agreed with the government to form joint committees to discuss the major issues after a first round of talks on Thursday and Friday.

I've warned that defeating ISIL simply put off the day about whether we abandon the SDF, which is dominated by the Kurds. Do we abandon them to the mercies of Assad?

If so, the Kurds would cut a deal with Assad if they could, I figured.

Yet even if America wanted to follow up the defeat of the ISIL caliphate in Syria with regime change against Assad, I warned that the Kurds would not lead the march on Damascus.

And since we failed in the period of 2014 to today to build up a real non-jihadi Syrian Arab foe of Assad to replace ISIL once defeated, how could we defeat Assad backed by Iran and Russia?

Yet the Kurds risk that a deal with Assad will--like many other ceasefire deals with rebels--simply allow Assad to defeat higher priority targets until Assad can get around to the Kurds.

And it isn't just the Idlib-based rebels Assad needs to control. It is possible Assad needs to bring under firm control the pro-Assad commanders. Are they still virtual fiefdoms that may resist direct control from Assad?

I still don't think we should trust Assad to control eastern Syria where he could resume his funneling of jihadis into Iraq to destabilize that country as Assad long did back to the days of Saddam (who used them for his Saddam's Fedayeen irregular regime enforcers.

Given Assad's problem with jihadis, it would make sense to send them on their way to Iraq both to get rid of them at home and to get revenge on America by destabilizing Iraq so it can't settle into a US ally role. By destabilizing Iraq, Iran has more opportunities to build up their own armed faction inside Iraq to make Iraq a new Lebanon where Iran's Hezbollah has veto power over Lebanon.

So yeah, Syria's Kurds will cut a deal with Assad. And if they do, I don't know how we hold our positions along the Deconfliction Line along the Euphrates River, especially the American base at Tanf:

The U.S. base near southern Syria’s al-Tanf border crossing was set up to train local Syrians to fight Islamic State militants, but it also serves as a counterweight to Iranian activities in the war-torn country, U.S. officials and experts tell VOA. ...

Jordan, Iraq, and Syria all meet in the area surrounding the U.S. base, a potential space, officials say, through which Iran could create a continuous land bridge that would stretch to the Mediterranean.

But the U.S. has established a so-called “deconfliction zone” in the area that spans about 55 kilometers around the base. The zone is meant to protect the United States and its allies as they battle the Islamic State militant group, and it essentially prevents any non-U.S. ally from entering the area.

Unless the Kurds get a better deal than one they can forge with Assad to return to formal Assad control (with substantial autonomy) because Russia decides that it would rather contain Assad to the west to avoid destabilizing adventures in Iraq (and to cut off Iran's land line of supply that might run from Iran to Lebanon through Iraq and Syria) by agreeing to a de facto partition of Syria, we'd have to get out or be the constant focus of Syrian, Iranian, and Russian efforts to destroy the base and drive our forces out.

As an aside, I'm not sure our relations with Turkey under Erdogan can be salvaged by throwing Syria's Kurds under the bus.

UPDATE: Can Assad, who has secured core Syria in the west, regain all of Syria?

President Bashar al-Assad's path to a final victory in the war in Syria is strewn with diplomatic landmines that will complicate his attempt to recover "every inch" of the country and may leave big areas out of his grasp indefinitely.

And that's a separate issue of how much control Assad has inside the core Syria he has. Do subordinates rule while Assad reigns; and does Iran and their proxies represent areas outside of Assad's reach despite the victory?

Monday, July 30, 2018

It's Always Something

The Post-Cold War era of American military dominance is over. China is the rising power of the future America needs to worry about. Russia is the declining power we still need to worry about.

China is growing more powerful and seeks to be the dominant power at our expense:

Beijing doesn't want to go to war, he said, but the current communist government, under President Xi Jingping, is subtly working on multiple fronts to undermine the U.S. in ways that are different than the more well-publicized activities being employed by Russia. ...

There is concern over China's pervasive efforts to steal business secrets and details about high-tech research being conducted in the U.S. The Chinese military is expanding and being modernized and the U.S., as well as other nations, have complained about China's construction of military outposts on islands in the South China Sea. ...

Marcel Lettre, former undersecretary of defense for intelligence, said China has the second-largest defense budget in the world, the largest standing army of ground forces, the third-largest air force and a navy of 300 ships and more than 60 submarines.

"All of this is in the process of being modernized and upgraded," said Lettre, who sat on a panel with Collins and Thornton.

He said China also is pursuing advances in cyber, artificial intelligence, engineering and technology, counter-space, anti-satellite capabilities and hypersonic glide weapons.

On the bright side, we have allies and friends with significant economic and military power in the region who don't want to be dominated by China while China has few allies they can count on. China's growing power is thus tied down in a number of directions.

Russia is a declining power--notwithstanding their dead cat bounce--with a tenth of America's GDP and half our population. Yet their geography gives them the advantage over far weaker neighbors of Russia who are far from NATO help in the short run.

You know who else had an economy the tenth of our size and half our population? Imperial Japan in 1941. So even a foe at that scale can cause a lot of damage in the short run.*

And Russia has a lot of nuclear weapons that we must assume work well enough to be a catastrophic threat. So America needs to keep an eye on Russia and make sure our European allies can cope with Russia with the least possible American help, so we can keep an eye on the rising power China.

*Although admittedly the current American-Russian military balance--minus the nuclear part--is  heavily tilted in our favor compared to the American-Japanese balance in 1941.

War, Revolution, or Fragmentation?

Is Putin secure no matter how poor Russia gets?

Three sociologists concluded in May that Russia does not now face any risk of a color revolution; but in doing so, they came up with a question to which so far no one has an answer: Can Putin govern the country in which no one revolts but in which everyone hates the regime?

If true this would be a big deal given that Putin's fear of NATO is based not on an invasion which is out of the question, but on a "color" revolution hitting Russia.

If true, Russia needs no buffer states in the west and doesn't need to build a threatening military to cow potential sources of dissent in free countries bordering Russia.

That's sad for Russians, but if it is true, tough luck Russian people. I'd rather Russia wasn't a threat to NATO.

But there is a threat to Russian government control even if there isn't one now:

If the regime’s funds eventually do run out, then some kind of “orange revolution” becomes possible if a leader emerges to organize and direct the anger of the population. That risk is clearly on the minds of the Putin regime, Belanovsky argues.

“What must the state do to avoid a revolution?” According to the sociologist, it must “radically restructure the state” by handing over vastly more power to the municipalities so that Russians will see a direct connection between the taxes they pay and the better roads and social services they need.

Can Russia decentralize? Traditionally Russia needed a strong center to build and maintain those roads (and railroads). Honestly, I think a further break up of Russia is more likely than a color revolution across all of Russia.

And a heck of a lot of Russia's cash comes from the Far East (I've read that a lot of that money looks like it originates in Moscow but it does not). Russia needs to funnel that through Moscow. How does decentralization work with that glaring problem of varying revenue?

Of course, if Russia needs to save money, they can step back from the three sources of Russian weakness: a fleet, Poland, and the Caucasus. Then maybe they have a chance of avoiding war, revolution, or fragmentation.

But how likely is that under Putin?


Go Deep, Go Inland

China has a lot of shale gas, but it is very difficult to extract. We should hope they get it.


Coal had powered the Chinese economic miracle for decades. But as anger grew from a wealthier population over smog that engulfed their cities, President Xi Jinping’s government turned to natural gas, as well as renewables, for cleaner sources of energy. The discovery of big, exploitable reserves inside the shale formations of southwestern China seemed to come at the perfect time.

But the shale is deep and in scattered pockets. Thus far it has proven beyond reach.

We should hope China succeeds.

One, an increase in a fungible vital global resource helps us by making the supply less scarce and so cheaper. That helps America and our allies even if it helps China.

But more important is my view on China's strategic orientation. I want China pointed inland and not out to sea where American interests off and on the coast of east Asia must be defended from Chinese power and ambitions (here quoting from a 2005 post about how Russia essentially pointed China at America with their arms sales):

No, defeating China makes the best of the worst case and deterring China makes the best of the second worst case. We need to shovel the Snow back north. We need to play the Great Game in Asia to achieve our best case--a China pointed away from the south--Taiwan and the United States and our other allies--and pointed toward the north and the interior of Asia.

In that 2016 post about China's plans to build trade routes inland (now OBOR or just Belt and Road, or whatever the latest Chinese buzz term is) I wrote:

So such a Chinese initiative will help America by dividing Chinese military efforts away from a focus on sea and air power; by getting Russia to worry about China instead of mythical threats from NATO (and if China comes to Europe, having a sane Russia cooperate with or even join NATO makes sense rather than being nonsense pretending a North Atlantic Treaty Organization should guarantee Russia's Far East from Chinese threats); by pushing Chinese power into contact with European military power--which America could never count on to help us in the South China Sea--Europe will tie down Chinese power that makes it to Europe's neighborhood; and India will have more incentive to cooperate with America as Chinese power flows around India's northern borders.

Indeed, if China is no longer so reliant on sea lines of communication through the South China Sea because it has significant trade routes inland, perhaps China won't be so willing to go to war with America to gain absolute control over the western Pacific region.

So I don't react with alarm at China's New Silk Road. I react with a guarded sigh of relief. If China is going to rise--and stay there--I'd rather have as many potential foes of China facing China as possible.

So may China extract their shale gas. If it comes to war I want to beat China. But it sure would be nice if it didn't come to war.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Location, Location, Location

Saudi Arabia is temporarily shutting down oil exports through the southern Red Sea strait:

Saudi Arabia said on Thursday it was suspending oil shipments through the Red Sea's Bab al-Mandeb strait, one of the world's most important tanker routes, after Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthis attacked two ships in the waterway.

And Kuwait is thinking about it.

When you wonder why Iran would try to gain a foothold in this region--and if you wonder why Saudi Arabia would wage war in Yemen--recall that the battle for Gulf oil export routes has been going on for nearly forty years now.

Iran looms over the Strait of Hormuz and Arab Gulf oil exporters want alternate routes to avoid Iranian military efforts. So Iran wants to follow the alternate oil routes that use the Red Sea.

Iran doesn't care if they have allies in Yemen, Sudan, Eritrea, or Somalia. Any one would do.

UPDATE: The Saudis resumed using the Red Sea route:

Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia said on Saturday it would resume all oil shipments through the strategic Red Sea shipping lane of Bab al-Mandeb, the state news agency SPA reported.


Fighter X

Amazingly, the old high-end F-15 fighter might make a good low-end fighter-bomber with the latest updates:

Like the air-to-air F-15C, and unlike the Strike Eagles, the new F-15X would have just one seat. Large digital display screens would replace the analog dials inside older F-15s. The planes could carry all of the existing equipment, like targeting pods, used across the existing Eagle fleet. The F-15X will also be able to carry anti-ship weapons that allies have paid to test and install. In all, the plane could carry 29,000 pounds of weapons.

The F-15’s range, speed and payload separates it from other fighter jets in the U.S. military.

It seems reasonable to me. Although nothing in the article even hints at the frontal stealth that the Silent Eagle boasts. Is that capability built into the F-15X?

Given that Russian and Chinese stealth entries are not all-around stealth like American stealth planes since the F-117 have been, that's not too shabby depending on the price, eh?

And it seems like a decent choice for homeland defense, given the range, air-to-air, and anti-ship capabilities; in addition to whatever roles it might have overseas partnered with the F-35 and F-22.

Indeed, given that it is unlikely new F-22s will be built even as foreign missions against rising conventional threats put new demands on the F-22 fleet, is the homeland air defense role something that should be lifted from the F-22?

While the fleet is an integral part of the U.S. military’s ability to defeat high-end adversaries, the Air Force is facing challenges in providing mission-capable F-22s and the pilots necessary to fly them.

The GAO recommends ...the Air Force explore alternatives to using F-22s to stand on alert for homeland defense, which saps the aircraft from its primary mission.

I think that recommendation is correct. I don't have an informed opinion on reorganization.

But I freely admit that fighter plane evaluation is not my strong suit.

War Has a Lot of Waste

I don't mean to excuse fraud in American spending and how it propels corruption if not adequately monitored, but I view spending money during a war as a type of weapon and so don't get as upset as I would in a domestic or peacetime program abroad.

So what to make of this?

The watchdog charged with tracking government spending in Afghanistan has released its first estimate of the total amount of money wasted there — a staggering $15.5 billion over 11 years — but says even that figure is probably "only a portion."

Yet half of the money counted was for the effort to halt drug production and trade. Have we done better here on fighting our "war on drugs?" Would we have done better to not make that effort?

If the result is victory in Afghanistan, I don't view "wasted" money as truly wasted any more than I view as a waste a bomb that kills 10 jihadis if 10 more join to replace them.

In a related issue, I sometimes read that we've spend 17 years training Afghanistan's military and still they don't do well. That's kind of silly, really. The average private who enlisted in the last year or two obviously hasn't been trained for 17 years. Training is something that has to be done constantly or it is lost. I think Afghan forces have clearly made progress in training, especially when you consider the massive growth in Afghan security forces.

Once we needed 100,000 American troops and 50,000 allied troops in direct combat to fight the Taliban. Now troop strength is far lower and most assist the Afghanistan war effort.

And don't try to tell me that the Taliban are better trained (but insurgency has a lower degree of difficulty than being a soldier).

Yet it is true that corruption reduces the effectiveness of the Afghan security forces. We should try to reduce the waste and evaluate programs for effectiveness.

Of course, the question is whether we are winning the war. I read conflicting assessments that seem credible; and given that the news from Afghanistan is intermittent unlike the constant flow from Iraq even when the interpretation was bad, I have trouble getting a feel for the trends.

Certainly, we should work hard to make the money go to projects that work rather than lining corrupt politicians' or generals' pockets. The report has value to do that. Work the problem. But don't panic. And don't walk away. That I fear, could be the real motive of those who cite this problem.

We are at the point of holding the gains we made at the price of over two thousand KIA. Why would we fail to spend money to prevent Afghanistan from again being a sanctuary for jihadis who want to strike us at home?

Until moderates defeat the jihadis in the Islamic civil war over who gets to define Islam, we have to hold the line not only to protect us at home but to strengthen Moslems who fight the jihadi version of Islam.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Weekend Data Dump

Merkel is right that relations with America are "crucial" for Germany, given German military weakness and extensive trade that requires American military protection for Germany and their trade.

Syria is regaining the Golan Heights border with Israel. Traditionally, Syria kept that border very quiet. If Syria controls the border it will remain quiet. If Iran controls the Syrian side of the border, Israel will face attacks across the border. So what happens to the buffer zone established in 1974?

Well, no, America isn't ready to fight sophisticated enemy militaries. We remain "unbalanced" after fighting insurgents and terrorists for so long. We are in the process of "rebalancing." And restocking war reserve stocks. And with the combat experience of so many officers and NCOs added in, the rebalanced American military will be very good. Given time. And in the meantime, our potential enemies are in worse shape.

Remember, the Obama administration knew about and ignored Russian election interference. Only when Trump defeated Clinton did Obama suddenly care. Perhaps we can now unite on blocking the Russians, who have long pulled this kind of stuff.

The idea that America is at fault for bad American-Russian relations because we tried to bolster Ukraine's ability to resist Russian efforts to make Ukraine a compliant client state and buffer is ridiculous. Ukraine had every right to want to join the West rather than be a vassal state of Moscow. The same holds true for the other people who managed to throw off the Soviet/Russian yoke between 1989 and 1991.

Of course Putin doesn't want NATO to work with Ukraine and Georgia--Russia still has a lot of territory to take from both them.

On the question of whether I "support" Trump, the answer is clear: I remain grateful he defeated Clinton. I support Trump status as the lawfully elected president. I support many of his policies--many more than I'd support if Clinton had won. But that does not mean I cannot oppose policies or actions I don't like. I have mentioned that I don't bow to royalty. Well, I don't bow, period. No American should. Although I shall maintain my focus on national security affairs.

Iran's chief nutball Rouhani: "War with Iran is the mother of all wars." Which is much better than the "mother of all battles" that Saddam promised in 1991 before getting his ass kicked twice, and then tried and executed.

Is this collusion or nuance? I'm so confused.

The ability of the F-35 to gather, use, and share information is apparently awesome. Early in this blog I expressed concerns about the plane. Over time I'd hear good things too but retained my worry. It was only relatively recently that I read that the Russians had mounted a propaganda campaign to discredit the F-35, hoping to shoot it down in the procurement stage. Clearly, my former concerns had been shaped by reading people who had (almost assuredly unwittingly) absorbed some of that campaign. Now my concern is keeping the technical secrets of this plane secret. And I should note that I have a small amount of Lockheed Martin stock, as I try to note if I remember LM is involved in something I mention.

If you wonder, I remain a "traditional conservative on the classical-liberal model." At least domestically. Abroad I am not an isolationist.

Oh good grief, nobody actually thinks that defending the West only relies on spending at least 2% of GDP on defense, but that is surely the foundation for everything else. Stop making excuses for Germany.

Fulani herders are killing farmers in Nigeria in a long-running war that so far this year has killed 1,700 people. This will do nothing to soothe worries about Moslems, even though the religious angle isn't the biggest factor. As a point of comparison, in no calendar year did American troop deaths in the Iraq War reach 1,000 KIA.

Now this is worrisome Russian hacking.

Congress might block transfers of F-35s to Turkey. Mattis opposes this. I wonder why he isn't apparently worried about the intelligence threat of giving F-35s to an increasingly hostile and unreliable Turkey under Erdogan? I find it hard to believe that the supply chain for the plane couldn't adapt to the loss of Turkey in it. Surely thought has been given to that already.

China's investments and weapons sales increase their control of resource production in Africa. I wonder if a similar analysis could be done for Chinese activities in Russia's Far East?

In related news, India's Modi promises to engage in Africa.


1,000,000% inflation looming. Socialism is evil whether it is trying to harm people or pretending it helps people.Why people with functioning brain stems and a conscience can embrace it is beyond me.

Russia's use of military contractors (mercenaries) in Syria and Ukraine (among other places). I collected my blog thoughts on this general issue here.

Algeria's president is quite life-like--which is apparently good enough for government work.

Thus far, Congress has not appropriated funds for a United States Space Force. You know my thoughts.

Sweden is worried about their air defenses in light of Russian threats.

I have no idea if the Toronto killer was an ISIL-inspired attack or not. But the idea that he couldn't be a jihadi because he committed suicide after the attack and jihadis don't believe in suicide is an odd assertion given the many years of jihadi suicide bombings we have seen--especially during holiday season. Ringing a bell?

Your daily dose of ancient history when a president is taunted for deporting illegal aliens and the press goes wild in defense of the president.

Good Lord, what a horrible way to die. Corruption has a body count.

China's espionage war to catch up with our technology rages without much public notice.

A lot of Syrian "White Helmet" rescue workers remain stuck in Syria.

It really does amaze and horrify me that the European Union is determined to punish Britain for leaving the EU, even as the EU resists efforts to sanction Iran in an effort to stop the mullahs from getting nukes. Mention of talk about a Brexit 2.0 after a soft Brexit strengthens my view that Britain must get out now even if the deal isn't that good rather than risk failure to leave in a pursuit of the perfect Brexit. Get out and fix what is wrong with the Brexit deal after Britain escapes the EU.

Nigeria named the 4th commander in 14th month in an effort to whip the army fighting Boko Haram into shape. Nigeria did good work scattering the jihadis. But they aren't doing a good job finishing the job or even holding bases in the face of hit and run raids. Nigeria needs to keep after the terrorists 24/7 to deny them the ability to mass and strike--or even to rest, recruit, and train. Oh, and the Fulani cattle war continues.

I've mentioned this before but found a link as I went through unread emails. Iran and Russia provide support to the Taliban in Afghanistan.

A clarification on GDP growth: 4.1% GDP growth in the most recent quarter is good but not a decisive change from the recent past until it is a year-long rate. During the Obama administration, we never had an annual growth rate for a full year of at least 4%. Individual quarters are another matter.

A Peace Treaty Should Follow Actual Peace

The United States shouldn't grant a peace treaty to North Korea as an incentive to denuclearize. Denuclearization and verification should come first.

Remember, it would be a win for North Korea if the US-South Korean alliance is weakened before the talks fail and North Korea resumes nuclear work.

And recall that until a peace treaty is signed, the North Korea issue is still formally under the United Nations' interests which authorized the war to defend South Kore in the first place. North Korea would love to have the UN role (which magnifies our efforts to resist North Korea) eliminated.

You can be sure that Russia and China would veto any effort to get the UN involved again if North Korea's effort succeeds and North Korea resumes nuclear work.

Maximum pressure on North Korea until they get rid of their nukes and verify that status must not relax the pressure in this key area.

The Black Hole of Intentions

North Korea has taken steps to dismantle nuclear facilities but is not moving nearly fast enough to satisfy American demands:

For more than seven months there have been no North Korean ballistic missile launches or nuclear weapons tests. At the same time North Korea is simultaneously dismantling some missile facilities while continuing to expand some nuclear facilities. North Korea asks for some economic help but refuses to discuss verification or timetable of verifiable disarmament measures that would also include commensurate economic aid for successful North Korea completion of timetable items. American disarmament experts believe it is possible for North Korea to dismantle (and have verified) its nuclear weapons program within a year but there are no signs North Korea is moving to do that. At the same time the North Korean economy is collapsing after several years of stabilizing and even growing (because of allowing some free market activity).

North Korea appears uncertain as to whether they should really disarm. The habit of doing enough to get aid flowing and then resuming nuclear work quietly seems strong despite the economic problems.

But even if this is indecision, if by dithering North Korea buys time to go fully nuclear with long-range missiles, won't the side arguing against nuclear disarmament essentially win?

Is it possible that American-led pressure with Chinese cooperation can disarm North Korea even if North Korea fully crosses the line to have the ability to strike American cities?

I simply no longer hear or read about estimates about when North Korea could get the ability to hit American cities. Has that date been put off or are we simply not talking about it to allow for that possibility?

Honestly, I thought we were preparing to strike North Korea if they didn't take irreversible steps to openly start disarming. And I thought, base on estimates floating around last year, that we'd have launched a major military campaign by mid-2018--which has passed--if that didn't happen.

What is going on? Is North Korea still progressing toward long-range nuclear missile capability? Do we know they aren't? How sure are we that China is working with us? And is the military option locked and loaded?

Oh, and there is a bonus section on China's economic penetration of the Russian Far East near the Chinese border that might take demographically what Russia seized from China in the 19th century.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Will Taiwan Defend Their Freedom?

No matter how powerful China gets, Taiwan is not actually doomed:

It is my firm conviction that the continuing rise of China will have huge consequences for Taiwan, almost all of which will be bad. Not only will China be much more powerful than it is today, but it will also remain deeply committed to making Taiwan part of China. Moreover, China will try to dominate Asia the way the United States dominates the Western Hemisphere, which means it will seek to reduce, if not eliminate, the American military presence in Asia. The United States, of course, will resist mightily, and go to great lengths to contain China’s growing power. The ensuing security competition will not be good for Taiwan, no matter how it turns out in the end. Time is not on Taiwan’s side.

It's an old piece reprinted. But it reflects a common view of giving up to the inevitable, making it a "pragmatic realistic" option to just abandon Taiwan to the inevitable.

As long as Taiwan arms up and presents China with a target who will fight and make China pay a price, China can be deterred from invading.

Cuba was not doomed to be invaded and conquered by America.

Finland was not doomed to be invaded and conquered by Russia or the Soviet Union.

Pakistan is not doomed to be invaded and conquered by India.

Vietnam is not doomed to be invaded and conquered by China.

Gaza is not doomed to be invaded and conquered by Israel.

A severe power disparity does not mean that the more powerful will attack even if the potential attacker really wants the target. Nothing takes place in a binary vacuum. Other interests are at play. Domestic audiences that might cheer a short and glorious war will turn on you for a quagmire.

And even China, which says Taiwan is a core interest that it would go to war over, might lose interest in that objective given time and changing circumstances.

Heck, even if China remains focused on taking Taiwan no matter the cost, Taiwan might find that it must up the ante by going nuclear, inviting foreign forces to Taiwan, or even fomenting a democratic revolution in China as the only way to survive the growing imbalance of military power.

But in the meantime, Taiwan needs to arm up and be a hard target at every level of a fight.

Dead, Buried, and Emitting an Awful Smell

Is Germany's navy dead?

The German Navy’s current condition is a true “Schande;” an embarrassment for Europe’s wealthiest country. The German Navy needs to immediately advocate to increase its budget and capabilities. Its mission in the event of hostilities in the Baltics is essential for NATO; it needs to be funded to carry out this mission.

The Germans claim not to be able to afford spare parts to keep any of their subs at sea. And their surface fleet is not capable of fighting anyone tougher than a Somali pirate. Don't bother to ask about naval air.

Is the German navy dead? Oh please, The Dignified Rant held the funeral six months ago.

Russia Needs to Be Hit With the Clue Bat

Hey Russia! While you wet your pantskis over a few hundred American Marines in Norway, China is a growing threat to your Far East:

Not all Chinese foreign investments are in trouble. Case in point is Russia where China has quietly taken control of the local economy in those parts of Russia that border China and North Korea. That explains why China has ignored North Korea using Russia and Chinese cargo ships to illegally export coal. North Korea moves the coal (illegally) into Russia via truck where it is exported on ships owned by Chinese companies. China is tolerating this because Chinese firms have been exploiting corruption in Russia (which is worse than in China) to dominate the economy in the Russian Far East (the area between Mongolia and the Pacific coast). China has a historical claim on this area which China revived after World War II when the communists took over China. Those claims led to border skirmishes during the 1970s that were halted when Russia made it clear it was prepared to risk nuclear war over this issue. That Russian policy still stands, although it is not publicized. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and the Russian economy went free market and open to foreign trade and investment China saw an opportunity to get back its lost lands in the Russian Far East. China will slowly absorb the Russian Far East economically and demographically (with more Chinese settling in the Russian Far East, legally or otherwise.) Eventually Russia finds that Chinese comprise most of the population in their far eastern provinces and control the economy as well. This approach takes longer but is less likely to trigger a nuclear war with Russia.

I have noted that China's territorial claims against Russia were suspended in a twenty-year treaty in 2001.

The year 2021 is getting darned close.

I wonder if Trump is blundering about (verbally--policy is clearly trying to contain Russia) on Russia or is figuratively hitting Putin with this particular clue bat to get them to end their pointless hostility to America and NATO.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Fleet Airships

Could airships be a part of the fleet?

Technological development has reduced the barrier cost of entry of maritime sea control, resulting in a cluttered maritime environment and numerous challenges to the existing fleet. A low- to mid-altitude airship utilizing low-quality/low pressure steam as a lifting gas and off the shelf solar energy solutions may be used to ensure the fleet has the mobility, persistence, detectability, and survivability to ensure continued threat prevention.

Could be. This proposal is more of a support to the fleet as an armed aerial scout with great persistence.

But I wondered if low-altitude airships could substitute for ships in the Black Sea, where outside warships face severe treaty limits on numbers and duration of presence.

NATO does exercise in the Black Sea:

NATO is participating with two naval groups, Standing NATO Maritime Group Two (SNMG2) and Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group Two (SNMCMG2) which assembled in Burgas, Bulgaria for the harbour phase dedicated to last minute coordination and operational details.

Although airships would certainly be a force multiplier for the limited ships we can put in the Black Sea.

Interesting Times in Turkey

Thank goodness Erdogan gathered in near-dictatorial powers before the crash comes (tip to Instapundit):

The economic situation has not been this bad in years. Recently, the rating agency Fitch downgraded Turkey's creditworthiness further into junk territory: the credit rating of the country is now BB with a negative outlook. This puts Turkey on par with countries like Guatemala or Costa Rica.

But President Recep Tayyip Erdogan seems to worry little about rating agencies. And after his reelection in June, he is now more powerful than ever. Now he is head of state, head of his party and head of the government — all in one person.

I have no idea if a crash is likely or whether Turkey will muddle through with Erdogan's powers giving him the tools to make sure his people know the beatings will continue until the economy improves.

Don't Turn the Marine Corps into a Constabulary Corps

I don't like this idea at all to refocus the Marines:

[The] requested report also asks a much bigger question: “whether the joint force would benefit from having one Armed Force dedicated primarily to low-intensity missions.” The bill tells us which Armed Force this would be: the United States Marine Corps.

The author doesn't like the idea one bit, rightly pointing out how Israel utterly failed against Hezbollah in 2006 with their ill-prepared army. I agree on 2006. Although I sometimes fear the lesson didn't take hold. And I agree on the Marine mission issue.

My view is that any good soldier (or Marine) can carry out low-intensity conflict (like counterinsurgency) if properly led.

Focusing on LIC as the primary mission of a fighting force leads to nonsense like this.

Yes, large-scale forcible entry amphibious invasions are probably a thing of the past. But large-scale expeditionary conventional warfare is not obsolete for America with almost all of our combat power in North America. If the Marines don't need to land with Okinawa-level resistance on the shores to fight inland (with the Army), conventional expeditionary warfare is not a bad ability to have, eh? And I could be wrong about the forcible entry need.

I think it would be far better to focus the Marines on urban warfare (see the article starting on page 38) on the theory that assaulting a defended city is a lot like hitting a defended shore--but without getting their feet wet. This training complements amphibious assault missions and doesn't wreck conventional fighting skills.

This Marine focus also allows the Army to emphasize mobile warfare, maintaining just pockets of urban fighting skills in the combat engineers who could have to enable Army troops to fight in a city if necessary.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Cast a Giant Faceplant

I do chuckle sometimes at the notion that Putin has taken a bad "poker hand" (in power) and played it well:

Russia is a nuclear power. But an economic power it is not. Last year, the country’s GDP totaled around $1.6 trillion, less than that of the state of Texas. Nor is its wealth growing: Russia’s GDP in 2017 was smaller than it was in 2013, adjusting for price changes.

And yet there’s no question of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s international influence. Witness his ability to hack bigger, richer countries’ democratic elections, or, as this week’s Helsinki summit highlighted, to cow Donald Trump. The Kremlin’s knack for punching above its weight when it comes to geopolitics is a reminder that wealth sometimes matter less than what you do with it. [emphasis added]

The article is about how Putin siphons off Russian wealth to oligarchs who back him. But that's how the article starts. (And while I'm not happy with the Helsinki press conference optics, I am bewildered at the characterization of the summit.)

My view is that Putin got the West's attention with his actions and rhetoric, but is otherwise effing up royally. That punching by Putin is getting those with more weight to assume a fighting stance.

Remember, in addition to the general decline in Western defense spending, America's military became "unbalanced" with a long focus on fighting insurgents and terrorists, leaving it unprepared for conventional warfare.

In addition, readiness outside of those forces sent to fight in the Obama administration declined with the 2009 planning assumption that America faced no threat of war with a peer or near-peer in the next ten years medium term:

We assume no enemies will match us in the medium term. This is undoubtedly correct. But this also sounds too much like we're instituting the British Ten Year Rule from 1919.

It was a perfectly reasonable rule when adopted by the British government in 1919, which stated the British would not face a war in the next ten years. The rule was formally abolished 13 years later, in 1932. But defense spending did not rebound from its post-1919 collapse, and when war broke out in 1939, the British only barely proved they'd done enough to withstand the German offensive in the opening of the war.

Good grief, if Putin had just kept his mouth shut and his army at home, NATO would have continued to disarm. In a few years of the trend continuing, the fierce warriors of Montenegro could have conquered Germany.

And to add to the evidence, contemplate that Putin has managed to turn Democrats into virulent Russia-haters. We know why, of course. But still, the change is amazing. I bet Putin didn't expect Russia's traditionally useful idiots to stop being useful.

Anyway, stop acting as if Putin is brilliant or a model to follow.

Nasty Women

Unrest continues in Iran, with women opposing their oppression:

The protests are not just in the streets but increasingly on the Internet. Twitter is full of messages from Iranians about the need for a new government and every day new videos are uploaded to social media sites showing Iranian women taking off their mandatory headscarves and dancing in the streets like that. This is strictly forbidden hundreds of Iranian women have appeared in these videos so far with their faces clearly visible, daring the IRGC thugs to try and come after them.

I'm not seeing much support in the West for these women resisting actual oppression.

The unrest is at a low level but it has been persistent. Iranian rulers are divided on whether or not they should start killing protesters to shut it down.

I'm old enough to remember that Iran used to be a close American ally. It would be nice to be friends with Iran again. It would sure make our life easier in Afghanistan. And a lot of other places, too.

Where the Fleets Sail

The re-establishment of 2nd Fleet to help send troops and supplies from America across the Atlantic to Europe in case Russia commits aggression against NATO shuffles the fleet borders a bit.

Anti-submarine warfare is again on the training list.

Note how the border encompasses the Gulf of Mexico, reflecting the source of many of the convoys that would head to Europe. And note how Cuba, which in the Cold War would have been a potential cork in the Gulf bottle, is left in 4th Fleet. I guess nobody worries that Cuba-based planes, missiles, ships, and subs will be a potential problem.

Note the expansive reach of 6th Fleet in the post-Cold War world in contrast to its Cold War territory that was exclusively the Mediterranean Sea.

Whatever might be written about the "revival" of the Russian navy, it is in many ways a dead cat bounce, making it but a faint shadow of its Soviet predecessor in 1989.

Which Russia should celebrate. As a land power with a huge border to defend, a robust Russian fleet is actually a source of Russian weakness.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Wargaming History

Strategypage discusses curriculum changes in the Army world:

The U.S. Army’s Command and General Staff College (CGSC) recently announced it was dropping much of its military history courses and replacing them with more wargaming. Many graduates of the CGSC object to the changes because there are few places you can get college level instruction on military history and the degree of ignorance about military history has become epic among college graduates. It’s not just military history but history in general. For military leaders knowledge of military history is important, something often appreciated only in hindsight. For the army this is a major issue at the two primary schools for officers seen as promising and likely to be more effective as they get promoted. The first of these is the CGSC, whose students are mid-level officers (captains and majors). Each year about a thousand of these officers take the basic ten month course. Five or ten years later about a third of those CGSC grads can get into the Army War College (AWC), a two-year course that is more of a graduate school in format and graduates tend to end up as senior commanders in the army. Drastic changes in the curriculum are rare and the de-emphasis of military history at CGSC to make more time for wargames is not as drastic as it sounds as it is part of a movement that began in the 1970s as the army went through a metamorphosis in terms of using military history and several recent (World War II) developments (Operations Research and its use in the form of wargames) that had an impact on the understanding of history.

If wargaming is used to teach the history, that will work. Lord knows the linkage is obvious.

I'm big on both military history and wargaming. My shelf space makes that clear. I only had one military history class in grad school, but that is what I emphasized in all my classes where I could.

I have jokes that in high school before my World War II class (I was lucky to be in my high school early enough to have "history" classes before generic "social studies" classes--blech--replaced them) I played a game of Third Reich (an old Avalon Hill board game) instead of studying course material.

And in the spirit of the Strategypage article, before the Iraq War I made a quick and dirty game skeleton--basically just map and units--to estimate a rapid and low-cost invasion all the way to Baghdad (looking on my shelf now, I realize I must have finally thrown it out in a periodic house cleaning to clear out old unused things on scarce shelf space).

Sadly my board wargaming is low these days despite my proliferating titles on my shelves. My gaming group is not into the wargaming side. I suspect that when my children are out of the nest and I don't need to save my dining table for eating that I will resume such gaming again--ah, there were many holiday dinners as a child when my mom was urging me to clear a wargame off the dining room table before guests arrived!

So while the loss of classes bothers me a bit--you need a structure of understanding history to exploit wargames--a simple tilt away from history to wargaming doesn't seem like a problem. After all, we are training military officers who need to win our wars and not military historians who need to explain wars.

Russian "Help"

Russia wants to help us with North Korea? Just. No.

I see Lucy is holding the football again:

President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that Russia would help with North Korea and offered an enthusiastic update on the U.S. process of negotiating with the antagonistic Asian nation over nuclear weapons.

Russia "helped" with Ukraine in 1994, pledging to respect Ukraine's territorial integrity in exchange for Ukraine giving up their nukes; and then invaded Ukraine anyway in 2014 to annex Crimea and occupy portions of the Donbas east.

Russia "helped" with the Serbs in 1999, rushing troops into the post-Kosovo War area to shield Serbia.

"Russia "helped" with Iraq in 2003, feeding intelligence on US plans to Saddam Hussein (forget about that one?).

Russia "helped" get us a chemical weapons deal with Syria in 2013, which just shielded Assad and did not stop him from using chemical weapons.

Russia "helped" get us the Iran nuclear deal in 2015, which allowed Iran to pretend to not have a nuclear weapons program which obligated America to pretend to believe them; and which helped finance the Russian-Iranian intervention in Syria to save Assad.

Russia is currently "helping" us in Afghanistan by providing some support to the Taliban.

And already, Russia has tried to "help" by reducing the pressure on North Korea to come to a deal:

Russia's envoy to North Korea said on Wednesday it would be logical to raise the question of easing sanctions on North Korea with the United Nations Security Council, as the United States pushes for a halt to refined petroleum exports to Pyongyang.

Ah yes, Russia wants to "help" us--good and hard.

Russia will not help us with North Korea in any way that resembles the common definition of the word. Keep Putin out of this.

Drones Good

People who are victimized by bad guys don't mind drones that kill bad guys, as it turns out.

I'll admit, I didn't think that the American drone campaign that Bush 43 started was more than a holding action during the presidential transition period following the 2008 election. I took it as a fact that drone strikes (because they were air strikes and not because of the use of drones) would anger Pakistanis. I was wrong, and didn't realize that even as Obama continued them, that policy wasn't in defiance of public opinion in Pakistan (although it was in defiance of liberal opinion in the West).

There is a reason for being wrong:

The conventional wisdom (at least among local and international media) was that these airstrikes killed a lot of civilians and aided recruiting for Islamic terror groups. The opinion surveys of the Pakistani civilians (in areas where these missile attacks took place) showed that the missile attacks had little or nothing to do with why young men joined the Pakistani Taliban. The main causes of “radicalization” were the large number of religious schools extolling the spiritual benefits of being an Islamic warrior and defender of Islam. ... As in Afghanistan, the locals saw the American missile strikes as a benefit because they were precise and usually killed leaders of Islamic terror groups[.]

Not that the complaints by the enemy and their media allies and useful idiots didn't have an effect on our air support in Afghanistan.

It's misplaced false compassion, I've argued.

Monday, July 23, 2018

The Latest Iranian Nuclear Threat

Iran has rattled their nuclear proto-sabre:

Iran has built a factory that can produce rotors for up to 60 centrifuges a day, the head of its atomic agency said on Wednesday, upping the stakes in a confrontation with Washington over the Islamic Republic's nuclear work.

Darn Trump for pulling out the glorious 2015 deal in which "Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief" and thus freeing Iran to do this dangerous work!

I mean, didn't Trump see this horrible consequence of abandoning the deal? Is he even--Wait. What?

Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said the new factory did not in itself break the terms of the agreement.

Well that's problematic.

So this Iranian announcement, intended as a nuclear warning in reaction to the American withdrawal from the nuclear deal, isn't even in violation of the comprehensive (That's right in the title! Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) deal?

But as I said often before the deal was puked up on heavy-weight paper in whatever European castle the deal was finalized at, the outline of the deal was always clear to me: Iran would pretend not to want nuclear weapons; and America would pretend to believe them.

Make West Donbas a Beacon

It should be unacceptable to validate Russia's 2014 invasion of the Donbas as a liberation. But there is an alternative.

I don't like this idea one bit:

Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump discussed the possibility of a referendum in separatist-leaning eastern Ukraine during their Helsinki summit, Russia's ambassador to the U.S. said Friday.

However, the White House said later that it is not considering supporting the idea.

I'm glad that the White House rejected giving Putin a chance to rig a vote after four years of killing people who oppose Putin in the Donbas. The invasion was illegal and I have no doubt that a "vote" would validate that invasion.

There are people who believe the Crimea vote was valid. It was not. Not while Russia occupied the place and nobody was going to reverse it. You do remember this exchange from Catch 22, right?

“What would they do to me," Yossarian asked in confidential tones, "if I refused to fly them?"
"We'd probably shoot you," ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen replied.
"We?" Yossarian cried in surprise. "What do you mean, 'we?' Since when are you on their side?"
"If you're going to be shot, whose side do you expect me to be on?" ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen retorted.

At a more personal level, when I worked for the state legislature my policy was to always vote for the incumbent in the house and senate districts I lived in for the state legislature. Sure my vote was private. But why take chances? How much more do you think that affects people who might lose a whole lot more than I was worried about just a little?

So let's just kill that referendum idea for good.

If Ukraine can build up their forces to recapture Donbas, that is their right. You can't argue that it wouldn't be a just thing to do on both morality and law.

But does Ukraine want Donbas back? Does Ukraine want to pay the price for winning the territory back? When a lot of people there probably are pro-Russia by now--from conviction and coercion. When it is a physical wreck?

I personally think that the non-war solution to Russia's invasion is to settle this with a deal that leases Crimea to Russia, thus not accepting the conquest but accepting that retaking it would be difficult. Unless Ukraine wants to adopt a Hezbollah strategy of fortifying the northern neck of Crimea and periodically bombarding Russian bases in Crimea or planting mines outside of the harbor to harass the Russians, what is Ukraine going to do?

On the Donbas, perhaps Ukraine should just sell the place to Russia and be done with it. Allow residents who want to escape to leave for Ukraine. And allow those in the Ukrainian Donbas to leave for the Russian sector.

Then, with Russian East Donbas and a Ukrainian West Donbas, we can have a contest over who lives better. When has Russia won such a contest against the West? West Germany versus East Germany. West Berlin versus East Berlin. North Korea versus South Korea.

In a generation, those in East Donbas may be begging to rejoin Ukraine.

Russia wanted East Donbas badly enough to wage war? Give it to them. Good and hard.

Crawling ... from the Sea

The Marines are finally set on a new amphibious combat vehicle to take them to the shores and then fight on the land:

The winning design was from European defense firm BAE and it is a variant of an existing vehicle; the SuperAV 6x6 used by the Brazilian Army as the VBTP-MR Guarani. The ACV version is an 8x8 vehicle weighing 31.5 tons and carrying 13 marines plus 3 crew. Other modifications the marines required included amphibious capability the use of lighter modular composite armor including ceramics, and have features that make them equal, if not better at resisting mine and IED explosions than MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicles using steel armor.

The ACV can travel over 20 miles through water to reach the shore. The Marines gave up the dream of being able to deploy 120 miles from the shores.

Armament is not mentioned. I don't know if the ACV is armed as an infantry fighting vehicle or as a personnel carrier. Past discussions have been about the more heavily armed former. But the Marines had to pull back from their expensive wish list on this vehicle to replace their very old AAV-7s.

It would be nice if the armed amphibious transport I advocated in Bring Back the Dragon Swarms could carry a complement of ACVs (could they be lowered and raised over the side of the ship?) to make landing troops more effective.

A Space Navy is Premature

I'm on record as opposing a separate Space Force because I think an Aerospace Force is the way to go. And talk of a Space Navy model is wrong because it is premature.

If this is meant to mean the Navy should be the template for a space force, it is not even close to being right:

"If you look at what space is, it's not that much different than the ocean," added Bridenstine, who made 333 aircraft-carrier landings as a Navy pilot. "It's an international domain that has commerce that needs to be protected."

There is no bulk commerce to make space like the seas. In space there is high value commerce more in line with air space use.

I don't see a persistent human presence in Earth orbit reflecting how a "navy" could provide defense of that domain; as opposed to the sorties into the space domain that an "air force" approach makes possible.

Really, talk of a space navy should wait until we leave the Earth-Moon system.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Weekend Data Dump

India's carrier plans continue to languish. Although I'm not terribly sure that big carriers are appropriate for India which would need to fight a sea control campaign against China rather than a power projection mission against weaker states. Those are different missions. Those Chinese anti-ship ballistic missiles aren't just for America, remember.

There are Germans who want to spend more on defense. My frustration with Germany shouldn't lead you to the opinion that no Germans are ready to defend NATO and the West. But the German Left is opposed and even describes it in terms of not "caving" to Trump's demands, neglecting that it is actually an Obama demand first made in 2014 and repeated (quietly, and so easily ignored) until he left office.

Nice try parasites, we already snubbed you guys in 1776. Britain is a good friend of America that I value. But while they are free to bow and curtsy to their royals, I don't share that trait, thank you very much.

Nigerian troops are pretty awful if a base of over 700 troops is overrun. Hundreds who fled a Boko Haram attack were still missing as of this story, when but 60 or so had returned following the battle. no word on casualties.

The Navy amphibious warfare carrier Essex set sail with a full aviation element emphasizing F-35Bs. It really isn't a light carrier. But the Navy is seeing how well it can function as one. Normally the air element would have mostly helicopters with a handful of fighters. But while the story doesn't mention it, I think the ship can hold 20 F-35Bs plus a small number of other craft. Ideally, V-22s in a tanker role would be with the air component.

The birthplace of the Syrian revolt in the south has fallen as pro-Syrian forces continue the offensive to clear out rebels near the Israeli and Jordanian borders.  Will rebels revert to insurgent tactics after their territorial hold is destroyed?

Prime Minister May is being pushed to a harder Brexit. Which isn't bad if it doesn't derail Brexit. I swear, the Russians must be kicking themselves for trying to hold an empire with troops and secret police rather than smothering cheese regulations.

Afghan and local tribes are openly turning against the Pakistani-backed Taliban/drug gang alliance that wreaks havoc in Afghanistan. Whether that matters in the face of the corruption, guns, and brutality of that alliance is the question.

Vietnam, lying on China's border, is in no mood to be pushed around by China. But they need friends to really resist China's demands for compliance with Chinese demands.

The British unveil their plans for a 6th generation fighter plane.

While Israeli conquest of the Golan Heights was justified given past Syrian military actions, I don't think America should recognize its annexation by Israel. Do we really want to set this kind of standard for Russia in Europe and China in Asia? If Syria wants to make a deal that sells the Golan Heights to Israel to get help rebuilding Syria after the multi-war is finally over, that's another thing altogether.

This is an interesting article on the legal authority of tweets--and it starts in Norway. I did write almost a year ago that I didn't understand how a presidential tweet about a military issue isn't an order to the military.Which means the preparation of tweets has to be taken as seriously as any other communication by a government official. I suspect that Trump's tweets are the first and last example of freely written and unvetted communications by a president that had defined this presidency. It will have been an interesting period of seeing first-person presidential opinions in real time.

Michigan ANG A-10 in Latvia:

Let's review standard liberal opinion on the Russian threat a mere 7 months before Democrats went full Jack (D.) Ripper, worrying about our precious bodily fluids social media integrity.

DARPA wants to redesign how electronics are developed, to speed up development.

Russians went after Republicans, too, in 2016.

Wow, Iran isn't even pretending that Assad runs Syria: "Syrian rebels and Iranian-backed negotiators have reached a deal to evacuate thousands of people from two rebel-besieged Shi'ite villages in northwest Syria in return for the release of hundreds of detainees in state prisons, opposition sources said."

Japan and the European Union signed a free trade pact. Because of fears of Trump, it is said. Okay. Trump says he wants no tariffs. But if that scary prospect got them to make a deal, fine. So I have no problem with the EU working with Japan. But say, why is the EU playing such hard ball with Britain during Brexit negotiations over trade while making a deal with Japan?

Well, sure. But Erdogan's Turkey should stop doing a lot of things if it wants to be a trusted NATO ally and member of the West. What are the odds of that? Oh, and clarification of an issue. The F-35 that Turkey has is in Arizona where Turkish pilots will learn to fly it. It isn't scheduled to go to Turkey until next year at the earliest. Unless Turkey shapes up, it should never make it--or have an unfortunate accident that makes it a total loss. Oops.

I suppose we will see how deep jihadis have to dig to have the protection of Allah.

China carried out military drills that they pointedly said were directed at Taiwan. I think my Taiwan invasion scenario holds up well. Ominously, the Chinese seem to imply they'd operate against Japan's Senkaku Islands as part of a Taiwan operation.

While I think Germany's refusal to spend on defense or do more than watch other allies do the defending "undermines" NATO far more than the president's recent statement about Montenegro, I do have to say of the latter, oh good grief.

I worry that North Korea has won the negotiations game by entering into talks that can be strung out long enough for North Korea to go nuclear. If an alternative to talks is a military strike, this delay could make that option too late. If we think we can deter a nuclear-armed North Korea, prevent proliferation, and avoid horrible errors in North Korean launch procedures, that doesn't matter. I'm worried the delay matters.

We had a CIA director who voted for a communist for president??!! Thanks Obama! I don't know how I missed that. He started in the CIA in 1980. So the Carter administration gets some blame, too, I guess.

Russian relations with Greece are rocky with accusations of Russia trying to stoke tensions between Greece and Macedonia. To think it wasn't many years ago that I thought Russia might try to "flip" Greece amidst their financial crisis within the European Union. If that was ever a thought in Moscow, Erdogan of Turkey made Turkey a bigger prize for Russia to pursue.

This is about right on policy, no? "After the summit: No new cold war, but no warming of ties either[.]" Never mind the blather in the article, as a matter of policy we don't want to over-focus on Russia when it is a regional military power (with lots of nukes--God knows how many actually work, of course ...) and when China is rising as a threatening power; but we do want to deter Russia which has the military edge in the short run against eastern NATO countries.

I strongly disapprove of the president's performance in the Helsinki press conference, contrary to most Republicans, especially in light of the tweet blaming America for bad US-Russian relations. But I don't think it will have lasting--if any--effects. And on Russian policy the president is fine so far. Oh, and why do Republicans doubt Russia interfered in our election--as Russia and the Soviet Union before it have done for decades? But then I should ask why so many Democrats think Russia engineered Trump's victory. Russia did not do that and I don't think they were trying to get Trump elected.

You know, I recently read somebody I have respected defend Europe's defense effort by saying that Europe spends more on defending Europe than America spends on defending Europe. Defending Europe is just a small part of our military's responsibility! Europe devotes very little of their defense effort to being able to fight outside of Europe. Seriously, have we reached peak stupid yet? The entire premise of the article is based on the speculation, "what if Trump is trying to break up NATO"(!). Yes, that would be a major thing, yet there is no evidence of that spectacular speculative premise. Get a grip people.

If you just took combat units and ignored logistics--a limiter that helps European NATO states--I think the best 3 armies in NATO are the United States Army, the United States Army National Guard, and the United States Marine Corps.

An example of why India's military procurement bureaucracy couldn't pour water out of a boot if the instructions were written on the heel.

Technology, Arab allies, a friendlier American administration, and a bloodied Hezbollah make Israel's ability to hit Iran's nuclear infrastructure superior to what it was at the beginning of the decade. I thought thinking outside of the box could have enabled an Israeli strike. It might not have worked but it might have been worth the shot if the alternative was a 100% chance of Iran going nuclear.

Macedonia is on the track to join NATO, which would be the 30th member state. I like adding European states to NATO to prevent them from being potential bridgeheads for potential enemies and to make sure there are no "no go" air space and land transportation routes behind NATO's borders.

An American stripper is being celebrated as some feminist icon here; while in Iran fully clothed dancers are being rounded up. Because there, dancing is indeed a crime. It is safer to protest patriarchy here where it doesn't actually exist. May the Iranians finally be freed of their oppression against all people.

This article notes Chinese activity in Africa in the context of "waning" American interest. Waning? Certainly we have more pressing and vital interests in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. But when AFRICOM is busier than ever helping Africans resist jihadis and when America continues its AIDS fight, how is it possible to say our interest is waning?

Is this collusion or nuance? I'm so confused.

I'd been told that Canadians care so much more than Americans. Policy is hard.

Putin said NATO should not get closer to Ukraine and Georgia, threatening vague consequences. I find it outrageous that we should be forbidden to have good relations--and that Ukraine and Georgia must not have closer relations with NATO or anyone else they want--because Russia says so. No nation is doomed to Russian domination, and people who blame America for poor relations with Russia effectively go along with that outrageous demand. Perhaps Russia should try to not be total bastards. Maybe then neighbors won't be so eager to distance themselves from Russia.

Rebel control of territory in western Syria is crumbling, symbolized by the evacuation by Israel of 800 "White Helmet" rescue team members and their families to Jordan. Will resistance to Assad in the west continue lower down the escalation ladder as an insurgency (and given most of the surviving rebels, with terrorism)?

The violence in South Sudan is pretty damning of the longstanding complaint that European colonial boundaries caused Africa's problems. Carving South Sudan out of Sudan didn't make South Sudan a peaceful place on the road to democracy and rule of law. Of course, the Organization of African Unity officially considers borders beyond revision by force despite the complaints.

In response to a Gaza sniper who killed an Israeli soldier, Israel unleashed a destructive wave of attacks on Hamas infrastructure. Hamas responded by agreeing to a ceasefire, thus proving that the Israeli response was "proportional." As I've often said, "As long as civilians aren't needlessly risked, my view is that if an enemy still resists, you haven't exceeded proportionality."

Meanwhile, 300 Nicaraguan protesters have been killed in the last three months and the world doesn't care--because somehow Palestinians were elected Queen of the Victims Prom.