Saturday, August 11, 2018

Weekend Data Dump

"Eagle Response 2018" naval exercises concluded last week in the Red Sea, with participation by Egypt, America, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. In case you wonder why. And don't forget the bizarre secret mining of the Red Sea by Iran's then-ally Libya in 1984, as an older reason for paying attention to those waters.

Chinese-Turkish military relations could get closer. If Turkey wants to exit NATO and push America away, Turkey can't rely on traditional enemy Russia. China is a logical counterweight on behalf of Turkey.

I'm no trade expert. Or even a trade hobbyist. As a rule I'm for free trade and against tariffs for long-term benefit. But one thing about the effects of tariffs confuses me. I hear that Chinese tariffs on American soy bean farmers will destroy those farmers' sales. But why? Assuming Chinese buyers go elsewhere for their soy beans because of the tariff, what happens to the non-Chinese buyers who lost their farm source to the Chinese? Don't they have to go to the American soy bean farmers who lost their Chinese buyers? Unless the soy bean trade consists of an over-supply of soy beans and so is a game of musical chairs where the last farmer with unsold beans has to destroy their crop (or sell it at a loss) because they have no buyers, how is this so lethal? It's not like this is a price increase that reduces demand, right? Because the Chinese tariff represents pricing American soy beans out of the Chinese market only--so the rest of the world doesn't face those price hikes, right? Mind you, I understand that the disruption of the existing trade patterns costs money overall as the trade flow changes, but is it really devastating to our farmers? I just don't get it.

An interesting post on how the Baltic states plan to resist Russian invaders until NATO can liberate them, including the Estonian plan to defend their capital, Tallinn--where half their population lives--with their mobilization army--to tie down Russian troops in a grinding urban conflict. With bonus material on urban warfare. After Russia invaded Ukraine and the issue of Baltic vulnerability arose, I wondered if Riga, further south in Latvia, could be such a Tobruk-like hold out. I figured offshore islands would provide sources of support to such an enclave.

If I may address something about me, the free speech issue has always been a point of leverage for the left over me. While mostly conservative--especially on foreign policy and fiscal issues--individual liberty and freedom of speech have always been important to me. And conservatives in the past weren't great on that. For as much as I had issues with the ACLU, I admired their commitment to free speech no matter how vile the client was. I may have been unhappy to see actual Nazis defended, but I grudgingly admitted the ACLU was right to defend them. But the left lost that potential path to my allegiance by abandoning free speech as one of their core values, and the right has picked up the battle for free speech. I've long believed that if I'd grown up in the late 1950s or early 1960s, I easily could have been a Democrat based on foreign policy issues. So defense of freedom from external enemies drove me to identify with conservatives; and defense of freedom from domestic tyrants keeps me there. That's not a full explanation of course. But it is significant.

I mentioned that I thought I'd walked by Jordan Peterson when I was in Toronto, but figured it could have been some random middle aged guy. Just found out that Peterson is taller than me, so I did in fact just walk by some random white man.

I have not been shy about my contempt for the bias and lack of subject matter expertise of the press corps. Most couldn't pour accurate news out of a boot if the instructions were written on the heel. They got worse in the Bush 43 administration, horrible in the Obama administration (in the opposite direction), and have turned it to "11" in the Trump administration. All that said, the suckitude of the media is not a death penalty crime. So even if not representative of anybody but himself (and I don't blame Trump's vehement complaints, either), an actual threat should be condemned without reservation--and I do condemn it. And while I don't have much respect for Stelter, he at least had the decency to note that Fox News people, too, have been threatened. Dial it back people. I personally vow that if I ever see Stelter I will give him a withering glare of disapproval.

The European Union regrets US trade sanctions on evil and despotic Iran, and wants to retain links as much as possible; while the EU continues to play hardball with allied and democratic Britain on easing trade barriers prior to Brexit. And you wonder why I view the EU as a pan-European class of bastards?

Captain Jean-Luc Picard will return to the "air waves" (to subscription online CBS All Access). I got to write a document (I can't remember if it was a tribute or a more formal resolution) for a state legislator, honoring the show on it's last episode. I think I was the only one in the office to have watched the series. For me, it did not hold up well in reruns. Always seemed like "the Federation as the EU." Still, Picard was a good character even if I ended up not liking many of the rest.

Rumors started that our base at Thule, Greenland, had been destroyed by a meteor. Please note that TDR accurately reported a strike near the base and so did not contribute to the false rumor.

Italy is reevaluating their new ship design. Given the revived Russian interest in the Mediterranean Sea, maintaining anti-submarine warfare capabilities seems like an obvious concern for Italy.

The situation in Azerbaijan is worrisome. I can't say that Iran is involved but I'm sure Iran would try to exploit unrest there if it breaks out. Russia, too, for that matter. Armenia would be a highly interested neighbor as well.

Taiwan will increase their defense spending a decent amount. But it still isn't nearly enough, all things considered.

Protests continue in both Iran and Iraq.

America reimposed sanctions on Iran--good. The Iran deal was horrible and designed to shield Iran while it gained nuclear missile capabilities.  I honestly don't know how people with a functioning brain stem can believe the Kerry deal didn't suck. And I'll note again the the EU is all upset about losing trade with nutball Iran but is eager to stick it to allied and democratic Britain for daring to want to leave the EU. It is clear that neither Iran under the mullahs nor political Europe under the EU are our friends. Iranians and Europeans can be our friends without the entities to claim to speak for them working against America.

The Philippines faces unlawful Chinese territorial claims, Moslem rebels, and communist rebels.

Sea mines are a simple, effective, and overlooked weapon that has and will hamper American amphibious operations unless the threat is addressed adequately.

So what were the Chinese rulers up to?

Deaths in Indonesian earthquake. While the total thus far isn't in the mind-numbing quantity, the economic effects will harm many.

That seems like collusion with a rising--rather than declining--hostile power. So ... yawn, I guess.

Your one-stop source for all your mayhem and murder needs. And it is made in Russia, so you know you can count on it. And like Avis, they try harder because they're number 2!

While we aren't in any position to reverse Russian aggression against Georgia 10 years ago (and which is ongoing at a subliminal level), it is good that we called upon Russia to pull out of their occupied territory. One day, justice will be achieved.

That pilot's mission debrief had to have been brutal. But seriously, it is lucky no Russian planes were lurking close by.

The US will have a rather large consulate in Iraq's Kurdish region.

Colombia's new president wants to "correct" the peace deal with FARC rebels, on the belief that victims of the rebels deserve more justice than they got. Just be careful.

The failed drone attack on Maduro is all the excuse he needs to gut what little formal opposition there is in Venezuela in the legislature.

Already, there are problems with the launch tubes for the next nuclear ballistic missile subs that America and Britain will build. That's a bad sign for a smooth program that comes in under budget.

The Saudi-led coalition continues to grind away at Houthi defenses at the key port of Hodeida, slowed by sensitivity to ground force casualties. The Houthis need the money they skim from humanitarian aid arriving at the port. But Iranian support is starting to be scaled back under American pressure and popular anger at home for the money spent abroad. Also, Sudan has separated itself from Iran, committing fully to the Saudi effort. Sudanese troops fight in Yemen.

Strategypage mentions revised Russian/Syrian tank tactics in Syria. I dispute the idea that Russia is learning "a lot about modern combat in Syria," if the implication is that Russia is learning a generally applicable lesson in Syria. Russia and Syria are learning a lot about using tanks against light infantry equipped with some anti-tank weapons in Syria. And honestly, some of the tactics seem silly. Sure, I accept that moving tanks are somewhat safer than stationary tanks, but the "carousel" tactics doesn't make sense to me against an enemy with adequate anti-tank weapons. These lessons of "modern combat" will not apply to a fight against another army. We learned different things about the use of armor in Iraq, which didn't prepare us for modern combat in general.

Iran's hand puppets in Iraq vow to undermine American sanctions on Iran. Well, I don't know how effective they'll be, but it does reveal their nature. We must not withdraw from Iraq the way we did in 2011 in order to counter Iranian influence.

This is evil. As I've said before, extremely few Moslems in America are evil.

I find the online Twitter and social media mobs dangerous and little more than online Maoist Red Guards. In China, Chinese analysts see their own microblogs exactly like that: "They present the network, in fact, as a space eerily reminiscent of China during the Cultural Revoluton--although few ever make the analogy explicit, at least not in print" (Lynch, China's Futures, p. 136).

Hamas fired a rare long-range rocket at an Israeli city, which Reuters describes as "a show of force and defiance by Palestinian militants". So not a terrorist attack attempting to deliberately target civilians? A show of "defiance." Given that Israel fights Hamas in Gaza simply to be left alone, what exactly is Hamas "defying?" Israel responded with heavy bombing, hitting 150 targets; and Hamas fired off 180 more rockets and mortar rounds into Israel. At least the Hamas barrage isn't described as a "protest." So there is progress, I suppose.

Is Colombia thinking about removing the Maduro government?  No doubt the growing chaos in Venezuela is harming Colombia. And it could get much worse. And without the FARC insurgency, Colombia's military is free. I have little doubt Colombia's military could handily defeat Maduro's military. But I sincerely doubt if Colombians want to replace a decades-long counter-insurgency against FARC (and others) with a war to defeat Maduro/Chavez loyalists who have been armed to the hilt. If there is to be a war, I always assumed Venezuela would initiate it--against an easier target. Still, Venezuela's socialist rulers have long blamed Colombia for their self-inflicted wounds, so the choice might not be Colombia's to make.

I think less of Erik Prince for working with the Chinese to set up a private military force to help defend their New Silk Road (OBOR) project. As I read it I thought it might have good effects by introducing a non-state military force to China, but it isn't allowed to operate in China, as I found out by the end of the post. I would be remiss if I didn't link to my one and only collection of essays, which addresses privatized military power.

The countries bordering the Caspian Sea have come to an agreement that paves the way for pipelines and energy exploitation within territorial waters established. I wonder if that would make it easier to have a line of supply to Afghanistan across the Caspian Sea territory of Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan or Kazakhstan?

Are we about to basically hand Iran a land line of supply across Syria by softening up Abu Kamal?  Remember, air power is not a replacement for troops if the intent is to control territory. If we can stop the line of supply in Iraq, it doesn't matter much. But can we do that? Or do we simply want to encourage Iran to use that supply line in order to simplify targeting by American or perhaps Israeli aircraft?

If other countries who don't mind Palestinian terrorism love Hamas so much, let them make up our aid cuts.

Russia condemned American sanctions which increased over Russia's poisoning attacks in Britain. Trump would rather have better relations with Russia. Unfortunately, Russia continues to act like--and forgive the political science technical term--"assholes." Medvedev, who was surgically removed from Putin's buttocks some years ago, warned this was getting close to economic warfare. He does have a point that at some point sanctions can become little different than kinetic attacks in their effect, which could lead a target of sanctions to simply respond with actual war.

The XM-25 project was canceled. I'm not sure whether the issue is lack of usefulness in the fights American troops have been in, delays in fielding (a couple decades ago this was a combined rifle/grenade launcher, but the grenade launcher was made a stand-alone weapon as the XM-25), or excessive cost. Because I thought South Korea adopted something similar but with a higher caliber round. To me it seemed like the added anti-armor capability of the XM-25 would be very useful against light armored vehicles.

Eventually, the oil will run out there. What happens if there are still too many religious studies majors and not enough engineers and business majors?

I'm just going to note that no Trump tweet has caused this much of a foreign policy headache.

I have nothing but sympathy for the families of these two young Americans who were murdered (as the last of a lot of bad things that happened to them on their "shithole adventure trek"--and it goes without saying that if we can we should hunt down and kill the murdering jihadi scum who did this--but can we all agree the victims were really stupid? They were probably totally against "endless war," and totally believed they were part of the reality-based community, eh? Evil exists. And it found them. But what is most distressing is the apparently large number of people who celebrated the couple's idiocy rather than recognize how stupid it was to trust a dangerous world with their lives.

I missed the news from November 2017 that we approved the sale of Javelin anti-tank missiles to Georgia. Good grief, I was hoping we'd ship infantry anti-tank weapons to Georgia even as the embers of the 2008 war were still glowing.

So why doesn't the media have any curiosity about the "Driving Miss Dianne" Chinese spy on an American senator's payroll for 20 years? I'd say it is odd, but it isn't at all. Tip to Instapundit.