Sunday, September 30, 2018

Weekend Data Dump

I went to Las Vegas with a couple of old friends and college roommates who I haven't seen since the 1980s. It was in memory of a mutual friend who passed away last year. I regret I didn't join in the annual trip in time to have fun with our friend who unexpectedly passed away. Despite the motivation, it was a fun trip ("Sin City" is hardly an exaggeration!) even though I don't have the gambling urge. And it was good to reconnect with those two friends in time.

Strategypage looks at DABS (Deployable Air Base System). I noted this capability back in August.

I don't know if I've ever read anything written by Ted Carpenter that I didn't think is nonsense. Just so you know my bias. Now he adds Yemen to the list of subjects he subtracts general knowledge from. I just don't see the particular horror and crimes of our side's effort in Yemen (as opposed to what our enemies do which are war crimes) to halt Iranian influence. Just as looking at any victory closely enough can easily make the victory look like a defeat, if you look at war closely enough it all looks pretty damned bad--which it is without insisting that reality is a war crime. Plus, Carpenter always looks on the bright side of retreating in the face of enemy advances. So there's that, too.

Foreign forces continue to make it easy for the Mali government to avoid dealing with their Tuareg minority in the north fairly and avoid dealing with corruption which would enable jihadi success without the foreign forces keeping the jihadi impulses down. Eventually the foreign forces will tire of enabling corruption and stupidity as the price of preventing a terror sanctuary. Until the terrorists strike Europe or spread Islamist terror to more important parts of Africa, of course.

The Chinese sent a hospital ship to Venezuela for a week. Normally that's a response to a natural disaster. In Venezuela, that disaster is just called "socialism."  Tip to Instapundit.

American rule of law, which is the foundation of our liberty and strength, is under assault by the Democratic attempts to undermine the Kavanaugh nomination by any means necessary. I suspect this is the attempt that will prompt Republicans to respond in kind when Democrats are in charge of reviewing a candidate. Which might be next year, ironically enough. You'd think that Democrats anticipating November victories would see the wisdom in maintaining good order and decency for when they have the gavel. No good can come of this outcome that started with resistance to the Bork nomination. Bad trends may be fast or slow, but if not reversed eventually arrive. We have arrived at the time of "eventually." For me, after watching Senate Democrats examine a Goddamn high school yearbook for clues of serial rape (which is more time than they gave to examining the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, I think), I will never vote for a Democrat. To Hell with all of them. They are unworthy of the responsibility we give them. The world's greatest deliberative body, indeed. Shame on them. Motivated by their fantasy world of Trump destroying American democracy, Democrats are inflicting the actual damage. I've been pretty good about staying away from mere politics on this blog lately, as I vowed--for my own peace of mind--but this is different. I have a strong background in working with both parties in the state legislature for the sake of the institution. Democrats are inflicting great damage to the Senate. May this be a wake up call for sanity. Okay, that should be the end of my foray into domestic politics. I said my piece.

A labor strike? By those people? There? Somebody doesn't care about the Palestinians one bit, I guess. When even those people effectively agree that Palestinians are no longer queen of the victim prom, it's game over, man.

Rendering unto Caesar what is God's. The Chinese Communists now want everything under and in Heaven. Does the Catholic Church even care about being a religion any more? Papal objections that Rome gets the final word ignores the fatal flaw that any candidates are approved by Peking's communist rulers.

Will an Icelandic volcano disrupt air traffic? The last time one did I noted the potential military impact. Thank goodness no country in Europe is acting like an aggressive paranoid, eh?

Given the complete clusterfuck (hundreds of soldiers have been killed in recent weeks, and the "fatigued, ill-equipped government troops have reached breaking point") that Nigeria has made of their once-successful drive to defeat Boko Haram, giving the terrorists a bright strobing light of a target seems premature anyway.

Russia's violation of the treaty limiting shorter range nukes undermines the long-range nuke treaty, and may lead Trump to withdraw from both. Does Russia really want a nuclear arms race now?

"Protesters" don't heave rocks, burning tires, and explosives. Those are "attackers" and therefore legitimate targets. Israeli restraint is evident by the low death toll. Also, "More than 2 million Palestinians are packed into tiny Gaza, which is experiencing deep economic hardship." This word usage is designed to make you think the attackers need more "living space." Macao, Monaco, Singapore, and Hong Kong have higher population densities than Gaza, and Gibraltar trails just a bit. None are exactly the Hell hole Gaza is. Note too that Israel's population density is about the same as the Netherlands, Haiti, and India. I suggest economic hardship in Gaza stems from the low priority Gazan "leaders" give economic activity, compared to the joy attacking Israel provides.

No. Way! Tip to Instapundit.

When I set out options for dealing with North Korea's nuclear ambitions, I left out negotiations to de-nuclearize North Korea. That route had failed and I didn't consider it an option. I remain skeptical that North Korea will agree to give up nukes via talks rather than using talks to buy time to make North Korea's arsenal too resilient to destroy with high assurance. But Trump clearly thought outside the box I constructed for the crisis. I hope Trump is right. I worry that nothing can assure North Korea that we don't plan to invade them, considering that for more than sixty years we haven't.

Thailand's Islamic terrorist problem continues to decline. But the south remains different and vulnerable to unrest of one sort or another. Oh, and corruption, of course.

American F-35Bs--flying from an amphibious platform--will get their first combat mission over Afghanistan. Although Afghanistan is hardly a test given the complete lack of need for stealth to operate against ground targets there. (And that mission took place.)

The beatings will continue until loyalty improves. There is method to Maduro's madness. But never say socialism doesn't level out society. Other than the lavish lifestyles of the top 1% of the ruling class, the other 99% is all equally impoverished!

Ukraine, the biggest victim of Russian aggression (as of this writing), is happy with American support.

Russia is squeezing Ukraine at sea economically in the Sea of Azov. I'm not sure how much Ukraine can do militarily given Russian superiority at sea. I still think Ukraine should charge Russia rent for controlling Crimea and the waters around the peninsula, and seek legal remedies. Russia could easily blockade Ukraine and there is little Ukraine could do about it.

It's nice to have a long-range deployable naval mine. But good grief, I hope the aerial weapon carries more than one mine at that weight. How many could a plane deploy? How many could we afford to buy if that effort is needed for a single mine?

The corruption issue I've raised about India's military procurement bureaucracy is just part of the corruption in general that will hobble India's attempts to match China in power (part of a wide-ranging post on Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India).

American B-52s challenged Chinese claims to the South China Sea again.

If the European Union can create an alternative to China's New Silk Road (by whatever name it goes by) project in Africa, I'd actually congratulate that otherwise repugnant tyranny-loving entity.

This author calls for an Army Maritime Command to maximize the Army's "navy."  Few know the Army has boats and ships. But knowing the Army has a navy is one reason I called for an Army modularized auxiliary cruiser. It isn't just for AFRICOM.

I obviously don't want men to assault women. I have a daughter (and mother, sister, sister-in-law, and niece, as well as women friends for that matter). But I also don't want innocent men's lives destroyed by baseless accusations automatically believed. I have a son. And as a citizen, I want rule of law--as I've droned on about for years in regard to foreign countries--here in America.

We should want--and help--Prince Mohammed bin Salman succeed in his efforts to reform Saudi Arabia. This is a path for Islamic moderates to win the civil war that is the heart of the war on Islamic terrorism.

Some protests in the Islamic world about China's mass detention of Moslems. Moslems clearly want to move to America but "Islamophobia" is a problem here.

I noted a RAND study that disputed that having warrant officer pilots whose job is to fly planes rather than desks as officer pilots do would solve the Air Force pilot retention problem, citing lower pay for WOs compared to officers. I hadn't considered that and so adjusted my view on the issue. This officer disputes the RAND study focus on pay and fits more with my original view. But I admit this is outside my lane.

Russia and China want UN sanctions on North Korea eased. I honestly don't know if this is for the purpose of shielding North Korea's drive for nukes or whether this is because they are actually worried that a real nuclear deal with America will peel North Korea away from alliance with them.

From the "Well, Duh" File: "Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday accused Iran of hiding nuclear-related material at a warehouse in Tehran, which he said proved it had not abandoned its nuclear weapons program."

If there really is a humanitarian disaster looming in Yemen, America should lead an effort to get food aid there. No question. But aside from terrible pictures, where is the food crisis? In territory controlled by Saudi-allied forces? In Houthi territory? Who, if anyone, is blocking food as a weapon of war? And remember that there have been a lot of false cries of wolf (and six months ago the issue was not starvation but "food insecurity") with talk of mass war casualties when the reported death toll hasn't nearly as bad as other wars and not much more than the Ukraine death toll that is mostly ignored; and with loose talk of Saudi war crimes when the responsibility for bombing deaths there usually lies with the Houthis who use human shields. And finally, this is a reminder that a higher rate of casualties to shorten a war is more humane than the false compassion that lowers the casualty rate at the price of lengthening a war.

American forces may not remain in Syria as long as Iran maintains forces there, but it sounds like we will make sure American support for the Kurds and Arabs in the region generally defined as east of the Euphrates River continues.We have about 2,000 military personnel in Syria right now. Whether that includes special forces that we tend not to talk about is another question.

This is just silly. I think European "cohesion" has been an EU aspiration (pursuing "ever closer union") but in reality non-existent (thank goodness); and Trump is strengthening NATO. Nor do I think America will pull out of the WTO.

China isn't advertising its warship launches as it has in the past. Clearly we can see them, so China must want to lower the threat imagery.

Netherlands police prevented a "major terrorist attack." Although it was early in the plan before the arrested men got the weapons they wanted for the carnage they planned to inflict.

An American B-52 skirted Russian territory around the Barents Sea. As a Russian SSBN bastion and the home to Russia's major fleet, that's a sensitive region for Russia.

Somebody needs to take away Sweden's belt and shoe laces.

A Greek author (writing in the New York Times) attacks Trump for allegedly not valuing allies (the author is completely wrong) by noting ancient Greece's alliances that made them great. The author describes how the alliance became an empire without then wondering about the wisdom of urging Trump to act like the ancient Athenians. Seriously, isn't his tale a warning against Trump compelling allies to be subject states? If not, what is the point of the article which oddly wanders off into domestic American politics? Actually, the tale of ancient Athens should be a cautionary tale of Brussels turning the EU from a voluntary trade bloc into  an empire of subject states kept in line with brutal force if necessary. That was a seriously stupid and unfocused opinion piece.

American and Japanese warplanes demonstrated freedom of passage in the East China Sea air space.

Did a Russian fighter snap a photo of an American F-22 over Syria? Maybe. The photo could be doctored. But it isn't impossible. Remember the F-22 is stealthy--not invisible. And the Russians have had three years to pull that off.

The American military is testing multi-domain operations in the Pacific. Honestly, it doesn't seem like a real multi-domain campaign with the synergy provided by each service working its own domain in a joint campaign. It seems like the military is testing how all the services can help control the sea domain from their own domains.

I'm just never impressed with futuristic descriptions of how a military force can win with razzle dazzle technology without an enemy being able to effectively interfere. One can doubt the ability to carry out a traditional over-the-beach invasion on a large scale without buying a fantasy alternative.

The Army and Marines need to do a better job of maintaining prepositioned equipment overseas. With most of our ground power back in the United States rather than forward deployed, those sets of equipment are vital for quickly getting initial units overseas.

Given renewed focus on stopping Iran, it does seem odd on the surface that America is removing two SAM batteries from Kuwait and one from Bahrain (the one to be removed from Jordan is not so odd given the collapse of southern front rebels in Syria). But keep in mind we're talking about only three batteries. Those are small units. And we've been selling a lot of weapons to Gulf allies who can pick up the slack. Nor are those the only forces for the mission in the Gulf region. And we do need to focus more on Russia and China, you must admit.

Germany experiences the joys of an ill-tempered president visiting them. Oh, not Trump who bluntly tells Germany to do more to defend NATO (which we are doing more energetically)! I'm talking about Erdogan who would love a loyal Turkish fifth column inside Germany. Enjoy! I'm sure the rest of Europe will help Germany without needing to rely on America, who some in Europe claim is "unreliable."

Oh Lord. I hope the Navy is on the move to help Indonesia with coping with the disaster. Hopefully the death toll doesn't climb too much. Or, since the airport is functioning, the Air Force. I do believe we have supplies for disaster response stored in the Philippines, if memory serves me.

A Syrian rebel faction rejects the Russia-proposed demilitarized zone deal in Idlib province. They probably accurately assess that the pro-Assad forces will invade anyway, just a little bit later, and that a deal simply weakens the ability of the rebels to resist.

Iran's paramilitary activities inside Iraq have gotten bad enough to prompt America to scale back our presence in the southern Iraqi city of Basra. Hey, it's not like Iran isn't willing to storm a diplomatic compound, eh?

The US Navy sailed within 12 miles of Chinese islands in the South China Sea, in defiance of Chinese claims that those islands grant them control of the region. We called this a "freedom of navigation operation." Sailing within 12 miles is significant because it denies that the sea features turned into islands with lots of concrete make them legal islands that create a 12-mile sea ownership radius for China rather than a safety cushion of a few hundred yards (500?) under international law. Hopefully the American destroyer actually carried out warship functions while transiting so it wasn't a simple "innocent passage" mission that does not challenge claims of ownership. In the Obama administration, so-called freedom of navigation missions were actually innocent passage. That seems to have changed under Trump but the article does not give me reason to know for sure.

I'm not a veteran despite having served in uniform with a DD-214 to prove it; so somebody who wasn't even in uniform should not be recognized as a veteran. That's not a hard question to answer.

I find it hard to believe that this level of security effort by Denmark is about a serious crime.

Yes, Greece is being really silly to worry that Macedonia seeks to take Greek Macedonia. And if Macedonians did have that goal, changing their name  would have zero effect. That said, this is unfortunate.

UPDATE: Oh, and I can't believe I forgot to wish people a Happy Fiscal New Year's Eve! Sorry.

Getting There First With the Most

India continues to lag in the basic preparation of transportation and logistics infrastructure that would be needed to confront a Chinese land threat in the northeast (and the rest of the north, for that matter).

Even aside from building up forces to oppose China, India can't even move and support the forces they have if India needs to reinforce the northeast:

It has been a year since India and China ended the 73-day border crisis in Doklam. And for all the focus on the crisis itself and its implications for Sino-Indian relations, it is worth recalling that along their border, Doklam is arguably an exception where the Indian military may be perceived to have a slight advantage over the Chinese military because of its slightly better infrastructure there.

Relatively speaking, however, the infrastructure on the rest of the border is quite appalling. Indeed, unless India accelerates the pace of the physical border infrastructure build-up, New Delhi will face serious difficulties in any future confrontation with China.

The Indian vice chief of army staff, in his statement to the Indian parliament’s Standing Committee on Defense, voiced serious concerns on the lack of adequate allocation of funds for the Army for 2018-19. He pointed to the “large number of Chinese strategic roads and infrastructural development along the northern borders” and made a case for bigger resource allocation, given that the sanctioned budget for infrastructure development was running massively short.

When you consider that American logistics enables the movement of significant American military power globally (if you wonder why we spend so much, this is one reason), this Indian shortcoming is inexcusable.

Although it is true that building such infrastructure really would  facilitate a Chinese invasion, which was the Indian motivation for keeping the infrastructure weak. So if India builds that infrastructure, India had best build up the forces to hold the territory.

Which is why India abandoned indefinitely postponed their planned mountain strike corps is puzzling to me unless India simply transfers forces from the Pakistan front to the China front.

Without both of these infrastructure and force developments, China gets there first with the most to dig in and dare India to counter-attack a nuclear-armed China.

UPDATE: India has a need to contain China and so does Russia, so the old friendship between India and Russia is worth sustaining:

President Vladimir Putin will discuss military cooperation with India when he visits the country this week, the Kremlin said on Monday, without specifying whether the possible sale of S-400 surface-to-air missiles was on the agenda.

India has had no problem in getting closer relations with America to cope with China. Why can't Russia see the same advantage?

There But for the Grace of God?

When I speak of the problem of allowing Afghanistan's army and police to become static targets of the Taliban without building the capacity to react to attacks with troops and fire support--and ultimately to go after the enemy to keep them from being able to mass to make such attacks in the first place--I'm worried that Afghan forces could become like the Nigerian ground forces in the northeast:

The fatigued, ill-equipped government troops have reached breaking point, [security and military sources] said.

The setback in the war against Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA) and the Boko Haram insurgency from which it split in 2016 comes as President Muhammadu Buhari seeks a second term in elections next February.

Buhari came to power in 2015 on a promise to defeat Boko Haram, and security has once again emerged as a main campaign issue.

In the past three weeks, according to military and security sources, ISWA killed 48 soldiers at a military base and, in a separate attack, left 32 dead in Gudumbali - a town to which thousands of refugees were ordered to return in June.

“The situation in the northeast is deteriorating,” said one security source, speaking on condition of anonymity. “They are running out of weapons, ammo and basic equipment. They are exhausted.”

Now, ISWA is winning almost all its battles with the military, security sources said. ...

“The military are a bit like sitting ducks, waiting for a very mobile and versatile enemy to strike at a weak point or another,” said Vincent Foucher, who studies Boko Haram at the French National Centre for Science Research.

Remember that Nigeria had scattered and pushed down the jihadis not so long ago. Oops?

Which is a lesson for fighting jihadis. Like a disease, insect infestation, or infection, the jihadis have to be completely destroyed or they might multiply and come back just as bad.

When facing jihadis, shoot on sight, shoot to kill, and keep on shooting.

Keeping Their Enemy Too Close For Comfort

The Russian Vostok exercises in their Far East featured invited Chinese troops, plus an uninvited guest:

Russia recently concluded the 2018 edition of the massive Vostok exercise series that included Chinese forces for the first time. At Moscow’s invitation, Beijing sent People’s Liberation Army soldiers, helicopters, tanks – and one uninvited Chinese surveillance ship.

A PLA Navy Dongdiao-class auxiliary general intelligence (AGI) shadowed Russian Navy assets for the length of the at-sea portion of the exercise while Chinese and Mongolian troops exercised ashore, a U.S. official confirmed to USNI News.

China does this--like with America:

While monitoring an adversaries’ exercises with ships that can collect signals intelligence has been common practice for decades and is legal under international law, surveilling an ally while training alongside that ally in an exercise is an uncommon practice – uncommon, but this won’t be the first time China has deployed an uninvited surveillance ship to a friendly exercise. China was formally invited to participate in the 2014 Rim of the Pacific exercise, and Beijing sent four invited PLAN warships plus an uninvited Dongdiao AGI to track the exercise off the coast of Hawaii.

So China treats their close "ally" Russia the same way they treat potential enemy America? Huh.

Chinese participation in the Vostok operation was no alliance activity, as I wrote before the exercise:

Russia can pretend this is an exercise with China, but practically speaking it is a Russian exercise to see if they stand a chance of defending the Far East from China, short of using nukes--while China watches and takes notes.

China sent more note takers than Russia perhaps wanted, eh?

Seriously, Russia and China are not allies.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

What Fresh Hell is This?

As long as yearbooks are bizarrely up for scrutiny, let me get in front of this trend.

I wrote this ad for my senior yearbook when I was 17:


I was fairly amused that "Paphian" passed faculty scrutiny. Amazingly, this did not foreshadow nearly 40 years of Satanism, or whatever.

I choose not to expose the other 17 sponsors. Because people have gone effing insane.

For the record, one brother teacher thought "Reformed Apathetic" was pretty funny. And rather too close to the truth.

The Phantom Menace

I don't think much of the much-hyped threat of Russian "little green men"--Russian special forces without national insignia pretending to be indigenous forces--to NATO states.

Those Russian special forces that are viewed with such alarm since Crimea relied on complete chaos and lack of organized Ukrainian resistance in Crimea in 2014. And the little green men failed in the Donbas against even a minimally mobilized Ukrainian force, requiring direct intervention by Russian army units to achieve a partial conquest and stalemate there. They simply aren't a general threat against a cohesive state.

And you know what I think of that subliminal "hybrid war," anyway.

What I think is more of a threat to NATO would be a Russian brigade stripped of national identification and pretending to be a rebel force pulling a Kargil War scenario and occupying Narva, Estonia, and daring NATO to counter-attack to kick them out.

Just Do It

Britain needs to get out of the proto-imperial European Union with whatever deal is adequate or with no deal at all.

This could yet be Britain's finest hour:

Prime Minister Theresa May signaled on Tuesday that she would prefer a 'no-deal' Brexit to the offer currently put forward by the European Union, stressing that Britain needs to see counter-proposals from the EU to move Brexit negotiations forward.

A determination to exit is the key. I hope May means it. Any other result traps Britain and there will not be another chance to escape the EU imperial state "ever closer union" that Brussels is building one cheese regulation at a time.

And any exit is subject to amendment by agreements with the European Union. The EU is eager to have trade with nutball-run Iran, for God's sake. The EU will eventually succumb to the allure of trade with Britain, which has six times the GDP of Iran.

Or do the EU apparatchiki dislike Britain more for wanting out of the EU based on a popular vote than they dislike Iran for being a women-suppressing, terrorist, aggressive, nuke-pursuing mullah-run nutball state?

Turning Point or Trend Blip?

I'm worried that North Korea is stalling us with diplomacy past a window of opportunity to use force to disarm their nuclear capabilities before the risk of missing is too great (for our allies if not for us). But this seems significant:

President Moon Jae-in became the first South Korean leader to give a speech to the North Korean public when he spoke at the Mass Games in Pyongyang on Wednesday evening.

In his seven-minute long speech, he said the two countries should "become one", as they were before the war.

Mr Moon is on a three-day visit to Pyongyang where he signed a landmark agreement with Kim Jong-un.

The Arirang Games are one of Pyongyang's biggest propaganda events.

Is North Korea preparing their people for peace, which would justify getting rid of nukes--perhaps arguing the pursuit of nukes worked?

Or is North Korea just taking extraordinary imagery steps (that they could reverse on a dime) to buy time to get through their window of vulnerability?

In history, it is generally a good bet to rely on past trends, because trends generally continue (that's why they are "trends")--until they don't.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Making Russia Grate Again

Putin is not making Russia Russia great again--he's just alienating and annoying people.

This assessment of Russia's 2014 invasions of Ukraine (Crimea and the Donbas) is about right:

It is ironic that the Russian invasion, originally intended to punish Ukraine’s Western-oriented government, has pushed the country in a dramatically different direction. It’s also a reminder that the supposed strategic gifts of Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, are in fact very limited. His interference in Ukraine has made a once-friendly neighboring country into an enemy.

I've been shocked that some in the West can praise Putin's purported strategic brilliance when it seems obvious he is effing up royally.

Russia might have gotten away with their quick seizure of Crimea. The West would have protested but shrugged their shoulders in the end, and gone on with business as usual.

But Putin raised the ante and invaded Ukraine after Ukraine recovered from the chaos of the fall of the pro-Russian government in early 2014. Unlike Ukraine's effective abandonment of Crimea, Ukraine continues to fight for the Donbas region not split between the Russians (via their local hand puppets bolstered by Russian forces) and the Ukrainians.

So the West was pretty much forced to respond to Russian aggression because Ukraine continued to fight the aggression, making business as usual to humiliating to contemplate.

I did say that Russia's invasion of Donbas via proxies as much as possible was a sign of weakness rather than brilliance; because if Russia had the capability of waging a war of conquest against Ukraine, they would have done it to get it over fast:

This Russian approach is all based on Russian conventional weakness (compared to America-against their western neighbors Russia has the edge). Tell me that Russia wouldn't have preferred to hit the Donbas hard and win fast. The West got over the stripping of Georgian territories in 2008 because the war was over fast. The West seems to be ignoring the Russian conquest of Crimea and no doubt would have forgotten about it almost as quickly, given all the excuses still being deployed in the West to justify Russian aggression.

That's the way it works. The USSR subdued Hungary and Czechoslovakia quickly. We could do nothing. The USSR failed to subdue Afghanistan and eventually we made them pay a price for fighting there.

Russia should have invaded the Donbas while they took Crimea if they had the capability and gotten it done fast--or refrained from the attempt, being satisfied with the well-executed seizure of Crimea.

The war drags on. But Russia hasn't lost Ukraine yet. If Russia grows stronger while Ukraine remains static, the war of conquest can be renewed later and won.

If Ukraine can really fight corruption to build rule of law and become part of the West rather than being not part of the Russian empire, then Russia will truly lose the war.

The Austro-Hungarian Empire is the Model?

I don't understand at all why this author thinks that the collapse of the Austria-Hungary Empire is a warning sign against undermining the European Union.

The weakness of the Austro-Hungarian Empire's internal cohesion was one source of World War I. How is that good? He may backtrack on his comparison of modern Europe to Austria Hungary at the end, but then why make it in the first place to frame the arguments for the EU in a stronger form?

And how do you ignore that using that example from European history rather bolsters the argument that the EU actually is a proto-empire trying to shed that prefix?

But what am I to make of the heart of his arguments in favor of the EU?

All of this is bad news for the U.S., which benefits greatly in the international system from a Europe pulling together. A unified continent has the largest economy in the world, a highly capable military with the second-largest defense budget after our own, and a shared sense of the values that truly make nations great — democracy, liberty, personal freedoms, gender and racial equality. Americans will never have a better pool of partners.

So ... which one of these efforts to pull Europe together would have greatly benefited America? But the EU would be completely different? The EU wouldn't suppress the states that are willing to work with America in varying degrees?

Isn't NATO the body pulling Europe together militarily? What evidence is there that a combined European super state under the EU would more effectively spend defense money and spend it in a manner that would help America?

Isn't Europe already the largest economy in the world, when composed of separate nations? How does a strong bureaucratic EU make that better? Could Europe really make their national per capita GDPs better than American states if it became an empire governed from the center? And if possible, what would the price be?

Indeed, I do value our shared values that the initial author wants to protect. But will a European Union imperial state continue to share many of those values that America imposed on Europe after World War II (as I note in the update to this post)?

It is easy to forget--and this was a useful reminder to me--that Europe with its autocracies and monarchies was not fully part of a free West (although obviously part of the Western tradition) until we rebuilt Western Europe in that template after World War II. And NATO expansion after defeating the Soviet Union was more explicit in demanding democracy and rule of law for new members.

Seriously, how good was Europe as a whole on those values before America led Europe to embrace them? Will the Europeans really continue to embrace them if American influence is reduced?

I simply don't buy the author's reporting that the Europeans are eager for American leadership but without pressure or lectures. Oh sure, they say that. If only America led us the right way we'd respond with enthusiasm! But alas ... In reality, Europeans are searching for an American foreign policy just right that also doesn't ask them to do much.

We can't make them happy. We'll always be doing too much or too little or too different.

And the author is dead wrong that NATO will be the heart of a more unified Europe under the EU. NATO is a competitor, and the EU will kill NATO if it can.

He asks what America can do to help the EU form! But America should absolutely oppose the European Union. Europe may become an empire for the sake of its imperial class that wants ever closer union no matter what the problem of the moment is, but we should never help that along.

Let's hope the European Union is the next failed proto-empire and that we don't have to witness it become an actual empire before failing at a high human cost to Europeans and America.

Adjusting to Technology

Stop worrying about presidential tweeting triggering a global nuclear war. This is a bit out of my blogging lane but as a history issue it is fascinating to me.

Let me start with some things that triggered this post. One, I once read a fascinating news article written during the Crimean War that complained that the speed and immediacy of telegraph-based reporting from the war was ruining the ability of the British people to digest news and think about it.

Two, I recall reading that FDR's radio "fireside" chats were very immediate and personal to people who weren't used to a president communicating that way.

Three, television changed campaigns by hurting Nixon against JFK in a debate, with radio listeners thinking Nixon won and TV viewers thinking JFK won.

And four, Obama in his 2012 campaign avoided traditional hard news programs for softer hosts, including YouTube stars.

I imagine the telegraph, use of radio, television, and YouTube frightened and/or horrified a lot of people used to the old ways. I know I was somewhat contemptuous of the YouTube thing, given the whole cheerio bath aspect. Perhaps direct mail appeals or phone call messages had similar reactions.

But I was wrong to be so dismissive of Obama's adaptation. As communications means change, politicians who need votes must follow the audience. Past leaps were accomplished and we adjusted to the new normal.

Now Trump embraces Tweets. And some think it undignified. I certainly do. But my view of dignified television interviews was probably once viewed as kind of grubby and beneath a president for those older than me.

And I don't worry that a presidential tweet will start a war any more than I believe a telegram, radio, television, or YouTube statement could have done that.

With commercial advertising moving to video games, how long will it be before presidential candidates and presidents put their messages into games and virtual reality? Given the changes in reaching audiences, I'm sure that will happen.

It would be fascinating to see a real study of how presidential communications means in office and in campaigning--and popular and elite reaction to new means--has evolved since the beginning of our country.

Perhaps it would provide a little needed perspective.

Seeking the Best and Brightest

The military wants to get away from the idea that the ability to type makes you a God who must never become part of the infantry.

The Close Combat Lethality Task Force, which is seeking to make our infantry much better, is looking at recruiting:

Members of a task force focused on grunts and special operations troops are finding ways to make infantry a top choice and not a last resort for entry-level recruits.

To that end, they have visited the Israeli Defense Force, the 75th Ranger Regiment, the Army’s major combat training centers, the Army’s Infantry School and the Marine Corps’ combined arms training center to find the best practices for finding, recruiting, retaining and training a transformed light infantry.

The raw material--people--is key to improving tactics, technology, and training to be a superior force in any environment, whether facing enemy insurgents, light infantry, or mechanized forces.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Comfortably Numb in Dreamland

Germany doesn't know what it wants its foreign policy to do:

Germany is struggling to find its place in the international community. Somehow, this statement has been true for as long as I can remember. As someone who grew up in the 1990s and started working on German foreign and defence policy in the early 2010s, I have heard that “Germany is on its way to becoming a normal country” or “Germany is carving out its niche in international relations” more often than I care to admit.

Yet, despite reassurances to the contrary from Berlin, Germany is stuck in a holding pattern. Seventy-three years after the end of the second world war, and twenty-eight years after German reunification, it remains unclear what role Germany wants to and can play internationally.

Let me apply the clue bat, as I did (again) in this post about the sad state of Germany's military:

I keep reading that the Germans hate their militaristic past so much that they don't want to fight.

Let's try applying the clue bat to Germany's collective skull on this issue.

Conquering and setting up death camps under the shield of a powerful military? That's bad. By all means, don't do that.

Having a military capable of fighting death cult enemies or stopping the Russians from moving west? Well, that's a good thing. Try doing that.

Seriously, Germany should find its place in the international community by fighting death cult jihadis and being strong enough to help NATO stop the Russians from taking NATO territory.

Twenty-eight years after unification and 73 years after the end of World War II, it is unclear why Germany is still unclear on the concept.

On the bright side, according to the article, Germany now has a defense blog. So they've got that going for them, eh?

Fighting Actual Enemies is the Mission Again

The Army is thinking about diverting programmed money for several programs in order to procure capabilities deemed more important for a conventional fight against peer armed forces:

The Army would invest the money saved by cutting some of its banner programs into a next-generation combat vehicle; future vertical lift, long-range artillery, and strike capabilities; a stronger communications network; and air and missile defense.

Although many of the programs to be reduced to pay for these priorities seem valuable for conventional combat.

But it is true that forces need to be protected from enemy precision fire; needs more long-range artillery fire of its own; needs a secure battlefield internet; and that the Army needs new tanks and infantry fighting vehicles. I'm skeptical about the future vertical lift in the face of enemy air defenses, if the mission is moving behind enemy lines for vertical envelopment.

I'm worried about the new combat vehicle given the FCS fiasco. But with the need for protection in a conventional fight recognized, I'm hoping the Army won't try to build a wonder tank that is light enough to be strategically mobile yet well protected and as lethal as we need, as I hoped long ago in my worry about the FCS over-reach (see the article starting on page 28):

Barring successfully fielding exotic technologies to make the FCS work, the Army must consider how it will defeat future heavy systems if fighting actual enemies and not merely suppressing disorder becomes its mission once again. The tentative assumptions of 2001 will change by 2025. When they do, the Army will rue its failure today to accept that the wonder tank will not be built.

At the time, I was more concerned about the efforts to elevate peacekeeping (and the fantasy "peace enforcement" mission, the subject of an article of mine, "Peace Enforcement: the Mythical Mission," that is not online) as the Army's mission, but the lengthy counter-insurgency campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan had a similar effect in downgrading conventional fighting capabilities.

And one result is that we still don't have a replacement for the aging Abrams that, while still outstanding, is reaching the end of its lifespan for upgrades. We can't afford to fail in designing a replacement again as fighting actual enemies is now the Army's mission again.

For the infantry carrier, I hope we use secure communications to reach back for the squad.

And of course, while a declining but still dangerous Russia in Europe is the near-term focus, we can't ignore the possibility of fighting the rising China in a ground campaign in the Indo-Pacific region.

Whatever the merits of details, the new focus on conventional ground combat is justified.

No Easy Way Out

Afghanistan has been a long war. But if America walks away, the war will follow us home.

I'm truly sorry that the Afghanistan campaign has dragged on for so long. Sadly, we face determined enemies who would kill us in larger numbers than they managed on September 11, 2001, if they can.

So walking away is no solution:

Many Americans want to just leave. The problem is just getting out leaves Afghanistan at the mercy of Pakistan, Iran and Russia, as well as all the drug gangs, Islamic terror groups and numerous Afghans who oppose the drugs and all the outside interference. The drugs and Islamic terrorism will still be major exports. The West can leave Afghanistan but the ills of Afghanistan won’t leave the West and that is just fine with Pakistan.

That's it. We can leave. The enemy will see that as victory and follow, continuing the war outside of Afghanistan.

That, as I observed long ago, was the problem with Iraq's invasion of Shia jihadi-inspired Iran in 1980:

Not wanting to repeat our experience in Vietnam, many speak of needing an "exit strategy" before committing troops. Such an approach seeks to minimize our losses under the assumption that we will at some point lose, so we had better know when to cut our losses and get out. It also assumes that the situation allows for an exit and that our enemy will allow it. The Iraqis desperately wanted out of the war they initiated in 1980 but were locked by Iran in a death grip that allowed for no easy exit.

Iraq even tried to leave--pulling back to the border more or less at one point. But Iran counter-invaded Iraq and the war dragged on for nearly 8 years with perhaps a million killed and wounded combined (Iran suffered about twice as much as Iraq).

And to this day, Iran tries to dominate Iraq and seeks out old foes from Saddam's days to kill them.

We can choose to win or lose in Afghanistan. What we can't choose to do is end the war by choosing to lose.

UPDATE: But as I've said before about the trends that alarm me in Afghanistan, government force casualties aren't sustainable and we have to atomize the enemy so they can't inflict these kind of demoralizing losses.

Manning the Front Line at Sea

In this article on Congressional support for amphibious shipping construction is this gem of sanity for the Navy:

Clark, who worked on one of the Navy’s recent studies to choose a composition of the future fleet, said the Navy is increasingly using the amphibs and their aircraft in combat roles and keeping the carriers in more blue water environments.

“They are using the amphibs more as front-line capital ships, with the carriers being more of a strategic force that you keep maybe not as close to the enemy shoreline,” he said.

Praise be. I've been hammering the idea that the expensive ships do sink and should not be dangled in front of enemies (that was a specific complaint but it is obviously generally applicable) as a temptation to strike first for virtually the entire existence of The Dignified Rant.

But the Marines need the amphibs for their job and if those ships are dangled in front of the enemy for peacetime missions, they could be sunk by an enemy first strike at sea.

Perhaps the Navy should adapt my AFRICOM Queen suggestion for a modularized auxiliary cruiser as a power projection platform. This would actually go back to the original concept of a platform that could have anti-ship, anti-aircraft, anti-submarines, fire support, and ground forces (in different combinations depending on the mission).

Such a platform could perform the peacetime forward missions without risking a high value Navy asset to destruction if the enemy strikes first.

And if the Navy wants to fully explore using Marine-focused aviation platforms for sea control, perhaps a multi-purpose Ford super carrier should be the platform for both the amphibious and sea control/naval strike missions.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Is Hezbollah's Syria Distraction Ending?

Hezbollah has guided rockets as part of their massive rocket arsenal in southern Lebanon:

Hassan Nasrallah told supporters it did not matter what the Israelis did to try to cut supply routes because the group already possessed "precision rockets".

He did not produce evidence of this.

Israel, which in 2006 fought a war with Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, has conducted air strikes in Syria aimed at stopping Iran supplying its ally with advanced weaponry.

The fact that Hezbollah hasn't launched another rocket campaign against their primary enemy Israel since 2006 surprises me. The war in Syria has certainly been a good excuse since 2012 given the large role Hezbollah troops have been ordered by Iran to play as Assad shock troops.

With rebels going down in western Syria, will Hezbollah focus south on Israel again? Will Iran let Hezbollah do that? Or even order them to attack Israel?

Or has Iran decided that they need a nuclear deterrent to protect Hezbollah before ordering Hezbollah to open fire?

Will Israel strike first? Although time is running out to take advantage of Hezbollah's Syria adventure.

If Israel doesn't strike and Hezbollah remains quiet, I may have to reassess my judgment that Israel screwed the pooch in 2006. Notwithstanding the terrible military performance by Israel on the ground, perhaps the pounding Israel inflicted on Hezbollah and Lebanon's infrastructure in 2006 really has had a significant deterrent effect after all.

What Was Their First Clue?

I'm not a trained diplomat, but I'd say that the last 4-1/2 years have demonstrated precious little Russian friendship, cooperation, and partnership with Ukraine. 

Never say that diplomats aren't a perceptive lot:

Ukraine says it will officially notify now-bitter rival Russia on September 21 that it will not extend its treaty of friendship, cooperation, and partnership with Moscow.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said on September 19 that Kyiv will notify all relevant organizations, including the United Nations, about the move.

The 10-year treaty was originally signed on May 31, 1997, with a clause that set its automatic extension if the parties did not take action to end it. The treaty took effect on April 1, 1999.

So Russia and Ukraine are "bitter rivals" now? Russia invades and occupies Ukrainian territory and that is the most accurate way for RFE/RL (I expect better from them) to describe the relationship?

I was going to focus on the ability of Ukrainian diplomats to ignore reality for so long, but our soft power people aren't much better, eh? Ukraine at least had the excuse of the agreement having no means to cancel it outside of the ten-year increments.

To the Shores of the China Littorals

China is a large bastion for land-based anti-ship and anti-aircraft assets. But they don't have a monopoly on using land for such assets.

This is an interesting evolution in thinking for using Marine amphibious forces in the Pacific:

The [Navy] thinking goes that the Marine Corps can slip into the range of Chinese missiles, land a force on a feature or island, and start fighting back with missiles and sensors of their own. This will force the Chinese to expend resources to address the Marine threat, creating opportunities for the Navy to use its hefty strike capabilities.

“A Marine landing force on an island or feature has to present a problem to the enemy that is credible — anti-ship cruise missiles, short-range air defense, a sensor node contributing to the air or surface picture,” Wood said. “It has to be able to thin out the enemy’s fire power, sensor grid and attention span to give the Navy the chance to get inside the envelope, close and have an impact.”

This requires the ability to spread out the amphibious assets to land multiple small Marine composite units, which is a mission I included in the range of missions for "Dragon Swarms" that would rely on company-sized Marine units on small armed transports that carry on the tradition of the APDs heavily used in World War II (although that is behind a firewall, here's the genesis of the idea), which were old destroyers and destroyer escorts converted into armed transports.

Certainly, the Marines are one source of land-based anti-ship forces that should be fully exploited before dragging the Army into that role.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Friends With Benefits to Be Defined Later

While America and India will draw closer together militarily, I think this author is right that India will never be a full ally of America in an openly anti-China alliance, preferring to hedge their bets. Unless India's situation deteriorates a whole lot.

Sure:

My contention is that India is likely to form both a soft-balancing coalition, relying on diplomacy and institutional cooperation, and a limited hard-balancing coalition, that is, strategic partnerships short of formal alliances. But an outright alliance with the United States is very improbable. The recently concluded U.S.-India “two-plus-two” meeting of foreign and defense ministers and secretaries suggests that the path toward a limited hard-balancing coalition may be opening despite many remaining hurdles. Whether a limited U.S.-India hard-balancing coalition progresses toward an outright hard-balancing alliance will depend heavily on China’s behavior, especially the threat level it poses to India in the years to come.

Part of this hedging, I think, is because the Himalaya Mountains are a wall that reduces the threat from China of actually conquering India. Without that kind of existential threat, India has reason to look to America just in case, but to try to improve relations with China, too, to avoid automatically suffering collateral damage if America and China fight.

Indeed, India very recently scaled back plans to build a new mountain strike corps for their northeast to oppose China. If India doesn't think the land threat justifies that effort, they surely don't think they need America to hold off China short of major conquests, eh?

The Trouble With Tribbles

So jihadi rebels in Idlib province might accept a Russian deal to relocate?

The main jihadist group in northwest Syria will announce its position on a Turkish-Russian deal over Idlib in the next few days, it said on Monday, with its acceptance or rejection vital to the success of efforts to contain the war.

Tahrir al-Sham's stance will be critical to last week's deal which has, for now, averted a full-scale Syrian government offensive in Idlib, which along with adjacent areas of the northwest is the rebels' last major foothold.

The agreement requires "radical" insurgents including Tahrir al-Sham to withdraw from a demilitarized zone along the frontlines by October 15.

So the jihadis pull back from the front that will be patrolled by Russian and Turkish troops?

They would join other rebels who already agreed to the proposal.

Where do the rebels go? I can't believe this is a proposal to create a rebel safe haven.

Does the DMZ prohibit the Syrian government and allied forces from attacking through the DMZ to get jihadi rebels if the jihadis refuse the deal?Or even if they agree?

Doesn't this deal really just peel the jihadis away from the rebels to allow the Syrian side to divide and conquer the remaining rebels?

Or would Russia and Turkey eventually evacuate the jihadis and send them to the east where they'll be no problem at all (for them--but not for America and the Kurds)?

Fight for Iraq's Future

Iran is seeking to expel American forces from Iraq via Iran's proxy allies in Iraq. The war continues by other means and with different enemies.

Plenty of Iraqis are hostile to Iranian influence, but Iran has friends in Iraq that are a threat to America:

While Iranian-backed parties are moving to form a government in Baghdad that could force the U.S. to exit the country, they face growing public anger in oil-rich Basra over governance failures.

Iran's efforts to turn Iraq into Lebanon, with Iranian influence too strong to overcome, continues. America must vigorously oppose Iran and support friends in Iraq who oppose Iranian efforts to add Iraq to Iran's collection of Arab scalps that includes Lebanon and Syria, and which hopes to add Yemen and Bahrain too.

With these events we have supporting evidence that the removal of the evil and dangerous Saddam didn't throw Iraq to Iran--leaving Iraq in 2011 so that Iran had a free run at undermining Iraq was the event that threatened to throw Iraq to Iran.

Although it amazes me that the Democratic belated argument that Saddam was a good counter-weight to Iran implied--if not made explicitly--that we should have accepted a dictatorial and brutal Iraq as a price to contain Iran (but that point was made moot in the last administration by the horrible Iran nuclear deal and associated "outreach").

If we stay in Iraq now after the efforts made in the Iraq War and Iraq War 2.0 with troops and with advisors to fight corruption and build rule of law, we can still have a post-Saddam Iraq that rejects Iranian influence to begin rolling back Iran in the region, helps in the fight against jihadis, and strengthens a fragile democracy to be an example to Arabs that there is governance choice other than dictators/monarchs or jihadis.

#WhyRussiaCan'tHaveNiceThings

What is Russia's major malfunction, anyway?

This is certainly consistent with Russian military policy, depending on the scenario:

At some point during the Trump administration, Russia told Defense Secretary Jim Mattis that it could use nuclear weapons in the event of a war in Europe — a warning that led Mattis to regard Moscow as major threat to the US.

According to "Fear," Bob Woodward's recently released book about turmoil in the White House, Moscow's warning was in regard to a potential conflict in the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

I do worry that Russia might mount an offensive that takes Estonia and Latvia while NATO is not mobilized, and then threaten to use nuclear weapons if NATO counterattacks after massing superior forces.

But I don't think that is a credible Russian threat. So I don't think Russia would make the threat openly and risk it being ignored as NATO counterattacks. But they'd sure like NATO to believe the threat is real.

On the other hand, I absolutely believe Russia would seriously consider using nukes if NATO forces liberated the Baltic states and then pushed into Russia itself to threaten St. Petersburg.

But NATO isn't a threat to Russia and has no interest in Russian territory. China is a threat to Russia which owns territory once controlled by China.

And the sooner Russians act like that is true rather than needlessly alienating potential allies in the West the better off Russians will be.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Technically Accurate

The Russians are certainly right about this in theory:

Russia on Friday called a new wave of U.S. sanctions misguided, saying Washington’s habit of using sanctions against Moscow risked undermining global stability and was part of a dangerous game.

Any sanctions that get tough enough to hurt Russia at a level equivalent to damage from actual kinetic combat action risk a Russian response in the military dimension because what's the difference to Russia? Russia may figure why respond ineffectively in a peacetime fashion when they are suffering war-like damages?

But in practice the Russians are lucky that the stronger America (and NATO) is only responding to Russian aggression in Europe and nuclear treaty violations with sanctions. Russia may have the option of escalating to military measures, but that is the step America is refraining from taking.

Is Putin really ready to gamble it all on a throw of the dice he is unlikely to win?

#WhyRussiaCan'tHaveNiceThings

Adding Insult to Injury

It is bad enough that the Taliban can freely mass to attack Afghanistan outposts and bases. Now the Taliban mass to spike the football:

The Taliban has released yet another video showing their fighters gathering in the open after overrunning a military base without fear of reprisal from NATO or Afghan warplanes. In many remote areas of Afghanistan, the Taliban has demonstrated that it can operate virtually unfettered.

The Taliban should fear reprisal not just by air power, but by ground forces. This is a Goddamned dangerous development that I thought we'd started to address near the end of the Obama administration (with a bonus discussion of "atomizing" the enemy).

And yet here we are despite an increased American commitment to the campaign.

We need a sense of urgency. Trump needs to start firing the top American commander in Afghanistan if, after 6 months, we don't see improvements that end this Taliban confidence in their ability to mass forces without paying a high price.

Again, Iraq Was Not a Distraction

It still amazes me that people thought the Iraq War was a "distraction" from the "real" war against al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

Not even President Obama believed that Iraq seriously affected the Afghanistan fight, recall.

And now the chief nutball of al Qaeda explains how every place they are is a mere front in one war:

Zawahiri portrays the US as the chief enemy of Muslims around the globe. Of course, al Qaeda has repeatedly plotted and called for terrorist attacks inside the West. But that is not the only way Zawahiri thinks the jihadists should continue to fight the Americans.

“We must wage the war – in any part of the Islamic World – as if it is a single war with different fronts against a united enemy,” Zawahiri explains. The wars in “the tribal areas in Pakistan, in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Yemen, Mali, Somalia and elsewhere” are not just “between the Muslims and the local governments only,” according to Zawahiri. Instead, these conflicts have “always been between the Muslims and the system of the major international criminals – America being the foremost.”

Iraq was just another front in the same war. A front that al Qaeda itself prioritized over Afghanistan until we defeated them in Iraq.

And note that the murderous doofus apparently thinks that the American invasion of Afghanistan just came out of the blue and that his group's 9/11mass murder attacks had nothing to do with anything at all:

Zawahiri begins his 9/11 anniversary message with an odd bit of framing, claiming: “Seventeen years have passed since Bush launched his Crusader war against Muslims – a war linked with the historical enmity directed towards Islam from its dawn to this very day.”

But it was seventeen years ago today that al Qaeda operatives hijacked four planes inside the US. The US-led invasion of Afghanistan would not have occurred had it not been for the 9/11 hijackings — the act that really “launched” a war.

That's seriously effed up thinking. It's almost as if Zawahiri didn't even listen to the 2009 Obama outreach speech in Cairo to the Islamic world.

I think someone needs a JDAM visit. That's why God gave us JDAMs and special forces.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Weekend Data Dump

Kerry knew Assad kept some chemical weapons. But I knew that, too, because it was predictable. And so did the Russians. The man is a moron and it was a crime to trust our diplomacy to that man.

Seriously, I don't know why people keep saying Russia's Vostok 2018 exercise in the east of Russia is about NATO. Vostok 2018 is about finding out if Russia's military stands a chance at stopping the Chinese; and Chinese participation is just to pretend it isn't focused on China--not a signal that China is an ally. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer, eh? Also, Russia is grossly over-counting the troops actually doing something other than breathing while wearing a uniform. Stop over-analyzing things. Sometimes an exercise facing China is about China.

Indian casualties in their counter-insurgencies, combat and noncombat; with a detour into America's novel experience in the Long War.

Helping someone else be evil is apparently within their mission statement. I retract my retraction of my "Gulagle" judgment. Google wants to shift American views via search results toward their left-wing views. And Google is fine with supporting China's communist government with a controlled search engine. One wonders if that is no mere coincidence.

It isn't quite accurate to say that China's J-20 "can't touch" our F-22s and F-35sThe J-20 is designed to race in protected by frontal stealth, fire salvos of air-to-air missiles against outnumbered F-22s, and then flee at high speed. So it is true that the J-20 does not match our planes in 360 degree stealth. And given the number of F-35s that will be fielded, China will need many more for dealing with a fleet of F-22s and F-35s.

NATO land forces have a formal cooperation deal with Ukraine's land forces. Which will help Ukraine fight and help NATO learn from Ukrainian experience fighting Russia.

A Japanese destroyer shot down a ballistic missile in an exercise. That's a useful skill to demonstrate.

Good, infantry need food to help strengthen their bones given the ridiculous amount of weight they must carry.

I'm not happy with more tariffs. I have hoped that our tariffs are all about reducing tariffs on both sides. But the article does at least establish that tariffs are in fact tilted against America.

Why I worry more about car bomb footprints than carbon footprints. Although it is unclear to me whether Syria's outsized portion of the death toll includes deaths caused by Assad's secular dictatorship and its allies.

Well, Putin did say that it was a darned shame the Soviet Union collapsed and disappeared.

The helmets pilots wear.

Israel warned Lebanon's military not to stand too close to Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.

I don't understand how the Air Force is too small for the relatively minor air efforts against ISIL and the Taliban. If that's a strain given the resources the Air Force has, the Air Force really does have a readiness problem that has not been corrected.

Air supremacy is defined by awarding a Distinguished Flying Cross to a pilot for shooting down a fighter plane. We speak of the Long War against jihadis at 17 years since 9/11. But it has been 19 years since an American pilot last shot down and enemy plane. I hadn't realized that.

American and British naval forces practiced mine countermeasures. Good.

Brexit continues to stumble along. And I worry that somehow opponents will reverse the referendum and keep Britain in the European Union. And now I worry that even if Britain does get out, Britain has been a member of the EU long enough to do real damage to British liberties that will outlast membership. Although perhaps it isn't fair to blame the EU for this outrage. Or did Britain eliminate crime and so the police are free to move on to other issues?

Banning eating cats and dogs here is fine, but urging other countries not to do it is wrong. What will we say if other countries urge us not to eat cows or pigs?

Socialism is bad for pets and other innocent creatures. I'm sure pet food was a key part of these discussions. God help the other innocent creatures.

Iran remains exposed to air attack and the Iranians don't like it. I guess all those "wonder weapons" products of Iranian design genius that the Iranians periodically announce had no effect on the situation. Basically, Iran has a lot of weapons and personnel that are almost a complete waste against a modern attacker. Although their existence at least means that if an attacking aircraft goes down because of a mechanical failure the Iranian can claim to have shot it down.

Russia's CAR involvement confused me. I'm starting to suspect that Russia's entry into Africa is almost purely about gaining weapons customers as India and China fade as customers. Because otherwise, Russian attempts to gain influence in Africa are a waste of money in a tertiary theater.  Gaining diplomatic support in the UN General Assembly seems like a weak reason.

At a Michigan football game last week I was surprised to see some police armed with M-4s scattered around at ground level That was a first for me. Is this a new normal or in response to something specific? Entry to the stadium seemed to be the usual process. Sad.

We suspect Iran (via their Iraq hand puppets) of lobbing mortar bombs at our embassy in Iraq and warned them we would respond if they try something like that again and any Americans are injured.

America might impose sanctions on China over their mass mistreatement of Moslems. Any action at all would be a big deal in contrast to the deafening silence coming from the Islamic world and their leftist allies in the West who are usually quick to pounce on a perceived microaggression.

Russia is waging a disinformation campaign in Macedonia to block their NATO membership. But don't elevate this to an example from the Disinformation Age. All that is new for an age-old practice is the use of the Internet.

This is pretty silly. As if people won't kill over the tiniest of differences.

Is the tariff war a serious danger to China's economy? This American analyst seems to think China has a serious problem in effectively resisting American pressure.

If Maduro thinks he can have a short and glorious war against Colombia to rally his people around him, he is sadly mistaken.

America will apparently pick up the slack after Greenland rejected a Chinese bid to invest in Greenland.

There is some Congressional opposition to an independent Space Force. Apparently the Air Force is quietly lobbying against it--can you blame them? I'm on record as wanting an Aerospace Force, with a truly independent Space Force (or Space Navy) waiting until we move beyond the Earth-Moon system.

The Marines can turn down that kind of request?

The French have the nerve to wonder if they can count on America? France, which withdrew from NATO during the height of the Cold War and which refused to help us in Iraq in 2003 wonders about America? The America which bailed out the French in the Libya War and in Mali with logistics support? Sure, we haven't given a blank check to France, but nobody gets that kind of automatic support.

I really don't think we are waging war on a tactic. The war on "terror" is a polite fiction to soothe the feelings of the majority of Moslems who are not the enemy and who must win the two-part war. Our part in the war has to emphasize military means--which the author agrees has been fairly successful in protecting our homeland--while the bigger part is really an Islamic civil war about who defines Islam--jihadis or reformers. I'd rather see critiques about our effort to support the good guys (and girls) in the Islamic Civil War because it is easy to forget that our part is just a holding action while the real war is waged.

America won't let Russia use enhanced sensors over the United States under the Open Skies treaty and both countries are not allowing the other to conduct reconnaissance flights under the treaty.

Japan carried out naval exercises in the South China Sea in open defiance of Chinese territorial claims. That was a big freaking deal of a freedom of navigation exercise. It was very clearly not innocent passage.

The Saudi coalition restarted their drive to take rebel-held Hodeidah in Yemen.

You have to admit the Poles know how to pitch an idea to our president.

Lots of oil plus socialism equals gasoline shortage.

It doesn't look like Trump's effort to get North Korea to give up nukes will work. Nor does it look like North Korea's efforts to get a pretend deal (as North Korea got before and as Syria and Iran--temporarily--got) for needed aid will work. North Korea's Plan B is to wait for someone in the White House willing to pretend. Is our Plan B to wait until after the mid-term elections to strike North Korea? Or could we get lucky and see North Korea collapse? Would China try to stage a coup?

Is a ground-based anti-UAV capability sufficient to protect forward troops? Congress wants to see an Army plan to protect against all types of aerial threats.

Secretary Mattis dismissed reports of tensions with Trump.

I've long been worried about the F-35. But when it was introduced the credible good reports of the plane in flight led me to set aside my worries. Other than normal new product teething problems, the plane looks like the real deal. I then read that Russia had for years mounted a propaganda campaign disparaging its capabilities to prevent the plane from being produced. The propaganda effort is still having an impact on false reporting, it seems. I should note that I have a small amount of Lockheed Martin stock.

Japan's military self defense force has serious recruiting problems because of their aging and declining population. With a bonus appearance by (in my judgment, but with no proof other than long observation) a prolific Russian troll in the comments who I see everywhere in Yahoo news.

Brexit news is really worrying me. Pro-Brexit people need to get out of the European Union and worry about the details later. Once out, as a sovereign nation, details can be amended by Britain. But if Brexiters let pursuit of the perfect be the enemy of the good, Remainers will win and there will never ever be another referendum on leaving. And the EU proto-imperial state will have learned how to entangle subject states even tighter in a web of regulations to discourage the attempt.

Hiftar sure sounds like he has set his sights on ending the division of Libya by marching west when he can.

Nobody should celebrate that Iran suffered a terrorist attack. But Iran has a lot of nerve accusing America of being behind it, stirring up their subject people against the cruel regime of the small rump empire.

The number is actually pretty small for 4 years of Coalition air strikes. Remember, it is not illegal to kill civilians as long as the military mission is reasonable and care is taken to avoid deaths. In addition, if the enemy uses human shields, the deaths are the enemy's responsibility despite the bombs being ours. Amnesty International's charge of war crimes is nonsense.

Ultimately Irrelevant

The Philippines is of course free to make whatever kind of deal they want in the South China Sea. But the world needs to remind China that possession of even more islands does not grant China ownership of the South China Sea outside of legally recognized territorial waters.

This is hardly widely accepted in the Philippines, but the government is obviously free to cut deals with China:

The government is negotiating a treaty that will allow China to share, with the Philippines oil and natural gas revenue from portions of the South China Sea where China claims control of areas that are Filipino according to current international agreements. This deal is unpopular with a lot of Filipinos as well as with neighboring countries also being pressured by China. Malaysian leaders warn that Chinese offers of massive investments come with too many strings and have proved to be more about enriching China and not the country receiving these investments. Any agreement with China on who gets what in Filipino parts of the South China Sea will have to be approved by the Filipino legislature and that is where the Chinese will probably encounter the most opposition.

As I've long said, America's position on the South China Sea is pretty basic:

I've written before that while we have no real stake in who controls small islands off the coast of Asia, we have an interest in making sure the issue isn't settled by force against our allies. And we have an interest in whoever controls them accepting traditional rules of the sea in keeping the nearby waters international waters where we can sail freely. China compels us to oppose them more than we'd need to by insisting that these waters are Chinese waters where they can deny us the ability to sail our warships.

Whether the Philippines or China controls an island doesn't affect the fact that the South China Sea is basically international waters.

I'm not happy that the Philippines would give up territory to China--and Malaysia believes the move is foolish--because the Filipinos have the right to do so, even if under Chinese pressure. That's life. If the Philippines believes that is the best course to take, they can do it.

But we still don't have to accept Chinese claims to control the South China Sea no matter how many islands they take, buy, or build in the region.