Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Bolt from the Blue

Could Russia pull off a global Pearl Harbor against our fleet using missiles in shipping containers?

Translations from a Russian defense journal and from a secret Iranian military handbook suggest that Russia and Iran have developed a Pearl Harbor 2.0 plan to sink the entire U.S. Navy fleet as part of coordinated asymmetrical attacks against the United States and U.S. military bases around the world.

The plan is to launch Russian Kalibr cruise missiles from submarines, freighter ships, and Trojan Horse Club-K Container Missile System intermodal cargo “containers” that can be smuggled into U.S. ports and moved into the U.S. interior aboard trains and semi-trucks.

In 2015 the Russian journal “Natsionalnaya Oborona” (translation: National Defense) outlined a plan to “hit them in their ports” with Kalibr cruise missiles that could sink entire US Navy fleets docked in ports across the United States, Europe, and the Middle East.

Well, those containers are the basis of my The AFRICOM Queen suggestion published over two years ago for a modularized auxiliary cruiser that could drop off containers on the land for specific missions in the course of the mission. My specific suggestion was for a power projection platform for Army-centric missions but I noted the option could work for the Navy, too--which was my original notion.

It would be hard for Russia to pull off because the discovery of any single container with such missiles would expose the plan. And give America a chance to take apart a Russian missile and supporting equipment. Although if Russia infiltrates harbor operating companies they would have the access to smuggle in such missile-launching containers.

So this couldn't be something the Russians set up just in case a crisis requires that option. It would have to be part of a deliberate plan to initiate war against America as soon as the assets are in place.

I doubt this is terribly feasible on the scale described in the real world, but even if this wouldn't work as intended some parts might work. And something else might be added to that aspect to add to the destruction. To be fair, the plan calls for shore-based smuggled missile containers, containers on cargo ships, and submarine-launched missiles. So it isn't just smuggled containers.

Yet even if this is really just a localized threat to help the Russians carry out a regional mission by taking out the closest American Navy assets--remember that the actual Pearl Harbor attack was intended to knock out the regional American threat so that Japan could carry out their early war missions unchallenged by what the Japanese considered our key Pacific assets. This is a threat even if the global scope can't be achieved.

Which is why I think we should always take precautions against that kind of threat too many think is impossible. And as a bonus, in that late 2012 post I link to an earlier 2012 post on the Russian containerized missile that is the centerpiece of the Russian article's point.

NATO Fills the Gap

If there is a war in Europe between Russia and NATO, NATO will need American and Canadian reinforcements flowing across the Atlantic. Iceland will be important for protecting that flow.

In the Cold War, Soviet subs, ships, and planes would have needed to pierce the Greenland-Iceland-UK Gap where NATO maintained a barrier to threaten the sea line of supply. Iceland was a key outpost in that barrier.

While the threat is much lower now than in the Cold War, our assets to move forces and supplies are thinner on the ground (so to speak).

And Iceland is virtually undefended (just a Coast Guard with 130 personnel in 2012). So NATO's renewed attention to Iceland is good:

Iceland may not have a navy, but the strategically located small nation is punching above its weight in terms of sea control and maritime safety in the increasingly important North Atlantic region, the head of U.S. naval forces in Europe said.

Right in the heart of the Greenland-Iceland-United Kingdom gap, Iceland is at the forefront of a boom in travel to high-north destinations, a growth in commercial shipping as North Atlantic and Arctic sea lanes open up, and an increase in Russian submarine activity.

In a nod to the importance of the country, Adm. James Foggo, the head of U.S. naval forces in Europe and Africa and the commander of NATO’s Allied Joint Force Command Naples, stopped by Iceland for the kickoff of the Trident Juncture 2018 exercise.

I assume that contingency plans put an American Marine brigade in Iceland to be relieved by an Army National Guard brigade after mobilization.

Death From Above

Drone swarms are coming:

Drone swarm technology—the ability of drones to autonomously make decisions based on shared information—has the potential to revolutionize the dynamics of conflict. And we’re inching ever closer to seeing this potential unleashed. In fact, swarms will have significant applications to almost every area of national and homeland security. Swarms of drones could search the oceans for adversary submarines. Drones could disperse over large areas to identify and eliminate hostile surface-to-air missiles and other air defenses. Drone swarms could potentially even serve as novel missile defenses, blocking incoming hypersonic missiles.

I'm worried about how our infantry companies will defend themselves from swarms of small drones striking after short flight times when companies and platoons will have few hand-held anti-aircraft weapons (and will be busy with their ground fight).

Will higher echelon ground-based air defense be able to detect such attacking swarms? If they detect them can they even reach the drones before the attack takes place? Would there be enough expensive air defense missiles to take down the drone swarm if they can reach the attackers in time?

And how will high-flying F-35s control that air space just above the infantry companies?

We are placing more emphasis on our infantry with initiatives put in place by Secretary Mattis. My thoughts on how we will defeat technology-enabled enemy infantry rely on superior training and leadership.

Yet attrition will destroy such a finely crafted machine. Will cheap enemy drone swarms kill expensively trained and equipped infantry at the tip of the spear?

I do have some thoughts on that problem.

As an aside, I raised the issue of point defense missile defense drone swarms over a year ago. Which was different from a forward drone defense over enemy launch points.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

That's Entertainment!

Russia (continued from the Soviet Union before that) is prepared to add to their long history of really obvious lies to deny their behavior.

Will this be one of the favorites when we look back on the best of Russian lies?

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Sunday that Moscow has started preparing answers to the questions related to arms control pact delivered by U.S. officials, RIA news agency quoted him as saying.

This should be entertaining given that the Russians still deny they invaded Ukraine in 2014!

Russia maintains a fire hose spray level of falsehood and Russian answers to our charges that they violate the INF treaty should be an instant classic in the genre.

Remote Payload

Is technology putting the Air Force out of the close air support business?

That is pretty cool:

In 2018 the marines found that the multitude of sensors on their new F-35B vertical take-off jets could spot ground targets in all weather and at night and pass the target location on to a nearby HIMARS vehicle that would then fire a GMLRS rocket at the target. To maintain maximum stealth capabilities the F-35 carries bombs and missiles internally but the capacity of the internal bomb bays are limited. HIMARS can supply the guided weapons for one or more F-35Bs. Some helicopters are equipped with similar sensors and digital communications systems and can also pass on GPS target data to a HIMARS vehicle. An F-35B could even maintain its stealth by sending the target information via an encrypted burst transmission that is difficult to use for location finding.

An empty--not just an empty-wing--F-35 could essentially be a spotter plane for ground artillery. And some helicopters can do the same thing.

The post also notes the increased range possible for the GMLRS ground-to-ground rocket. So while helicopters could be used for close air support spotting, the F-35 would be needed for deeper targets that helicopters can't get to.

Which is nice. Because I worry that the Air Force will have other higher priority things to do besides close air support. If the plane can simply help ground forces fire their own weapons, perhaps it is more likely to be done. Of course, that Air Force priority issue isn't a problem for Marines who have their own aircraft committed to supporting Marines.

But if F-35s and helicopters can do the job, why couldn't Army drones be equipped for this? If the Army adds HIMARS artillery units to the force pool and equips Army drones that can spot for the artillery unit, couldn't the Army essentially take over close air support?

Wouldn't the Air Force actually be grateful for being freed from this chore?

Skin in the Game

Iraq continues to negotiate over a new government.

Iran continues to subvert Iraq:

In the West (Anbar province) Iran has apparently ordered some of its most loyal PMF (Peoples Mobilization Forces) militias to use violence (bomb attacks, assassination)) against Iraqi army units that interfere with the movement of Iranian military supplies through Anbar into Syria. The Iran controlled PMFs are also expected to prevent economic reconstruction in Anbar, which puts these PMFs at odds with most Anbar residents (who tend to be Sunni). Pro-Iran PMF commanders have moved slowly and as covertly as possible with this because most of the armed men in Anbar are hostile to these Iranian orders.

Iranian efforts to dominate Iraq have fallen way short of expectations. For the moment Iran is still trying to halt Iraqi political or military decisions that weaken Iranian power in Iraq. This slowed down the formation of a new government and effort to defeat the remaining Islamic terror groups in the country. Iran has political and military goals that clash with what most Iraqis want.

Do read it all.

But slowing down is not stopping:

Iraq's new premier Adel Abdul Mahdi has had an early taste of the partisan politics he hopes to rein in, failing so far to win parliament's approval of a full government to begin to tackle the destruction of years of war and rampant corruption.

At a heated session on Wednesday night, MPs rejected key cabinet picks and accused some nominees of links to late dictator Saddam Hussein.

Iraq is corrupt and rule of law is hardly making solid progress. But the form of the new government is being decided by prolonged and bitter negotiations--and not by firing squads and midnight disappearances.

Tell me again that we didn't win the Iraq War.

And this is a good sign:

Iraq's new prime minister began moving his offices out of Baghdad's highly secure Green Zone on the first day of his term Thursday, saying he wanted to bring his government closer to the people. ...

"We want to consider all of Iraq a Green Zone," said Abdul-Mahdi.

Voters don't want just government ministers to be safe in their protected enclave.

And the prime minister has responded to that by moving out of the protected Green Zone to share a bit more of the risks his people face. He has skin in the game and can't get away with formal declarations of concern over security for his people.

Not that there won't be high security at the new location. But it is important symbolically.

We must support Iraq in its efforts to build democracy and rule of law while rejecting the crippling influence of Iran.

If Iraq keeps this up for a couple generations they might be as good of an ally as France and Germany are.

UPDATE: Iraq deserves our support:

After more than 15 years of American military entanglement in Iraq, the sense of idealism that characterized the original U.S. intervention has long since dissipated. Rather than dreaming of midwifing a model democracy in Baghdad, Washington’s aims there have become more modest and realist: preventing a resurgence of the Islamic State and balancing Iranian power.

So it is ironic that — even as the American foreign policy establishment has grown averse to a values-based approach to the Middle East — Iraqi democracy is on the verge of a breakthrough.

Bush 41, Clinton, Bush 43, Obama, and Trump all made Iraq an important objective to commit our power to fighting over its future. Democracy (and rule of law) in Iraq is worth fighting for.

Preventing ISIL from regenerating and reducing Iranian influence in Iraq should be the means to the objective of a free Iraq, or a free Iraq might falter in this window of opportunity. Which could allow jihadis to regenerate and enable Iran to increase their influence.

In the bigger picture we have a large interest in showing Arab Moslems that democracy is an alternative to the traditional forms of government--monarchy/autocracy/dictatorship or Islamists--that have held them back for so long by generating Islamist-inspired terrorists (either as part of the government to generate support for it or in opposition to the corrupt government in the belief that Islamism will cure the governance problem).

As much as Germany annoys me today, never forget that the democratic country is far better than it was under a kaiser or a fuehrer. Let's help Iraqis make a better Iraq.

Monday, October 29, 2018

I Think the Russians are Pretty Clear

Trying to decipher Russia's Middle East strategy.

I don't really buy the article. Even aside from the claim that Israel shielded a strike with a Russian plane that Syrian air defenses shot down recently (as I understand it, the Israeli planes were well out of the way going home when Syria shot down the Russian plane), the analysis seems needlessly complex.

The idea that Russia wants "frozen conflicts" as a matter of policy to maintain influence rather than representing a Plan B because Russia is still weak and can't simply conquer places seems obviously ridiculous. Did Russia seek a frozen conflict in Crimea? Hell no, Russia took it and annexed it. Case closed. Move along, nothing to see. And if Russia had the opportunity to win in other frozen conflicts they'd take it.

Personally, I see three answers to the question of Russia's strategy.

One, Russia wants to matter in the minds of the West. The Soviet Union scared the Hell out of the West and that gave Russians swagger. Post-Soviet Russia was ignored by the West despite recent claims that NATO is out to get Russia. The truth that the West was happy to not think about Russia was tough to digest. Now Russia matters even if Russia is now shunned. So that's a victory for Russia, oddly enough.

And as a bonus, the seemingly bizarre and counterproductive hostility toward NATO has the effect of obscuring the Russian policy of appeasement toward China.

Two, Russia wants to stick it to America--the country that blocked and then toppled the Soviet Union. And while Russia appeases China, the Russians can hope the rising China and America take each other out in a major war.

Three, Russia wants a buffer zone in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Just as Russia wants buffer zones on land in the west to push potential threats (no matter how unlikely it may seem at the moment, Russian paranoia retains a good imagination), Russia wants a sea buffer in the southwest. Crimea may be a buffer for Russia but now the eastern Med is a buffer for Crimea and the Black Sea. Lather, rinse, repeat. That's how it works. No doubt Russia would now like a buffer in eastern Libya to protect their Syria bases.

And from any buffer, Russia can project power further to harm American and European interests.

I just don't see a mysterious code concealing Russian objectives to break.

Dispatches from Euro Disney World

European diplomats would rather keep a nuclear treaty that Russia does not follow.

What would we do without diplomats?

"Allies want to see a last-ditch effort to avoid a U.S. withdrawal," one NATO diplomat said on condition of anonymity because of the classified nature of the meeting, which took place two days after senior U.S. official John Bolton informed Russian President Vladimir Putin of the plans in Moscow.

"Nobody takes issue with Russia's violation of the treaty, but a withdrawal would make it easy for Moscow to blame us for the end of this landmark agreement," a second diplomat said.

The diplomats admit Russia is violating the treaty. But they worry that if America withdraws from a broken treaty that people will blame America for the end of the deal.

Which people? Just who would easily believe such a Russian charge because they are unable to comprehend that Russia violates the treaty, killing it in practice; and America is pronouncing it dead--not killing it?

Are these the same people who believe Russian denials that they invaded Ukraine and continue to fight there?

The same people who protested the NATO missile deployment decision in the early 1980s which got us the INF treaty in the first place?

In mid-1983, having collectively concluded negotiations had failed, NATO confirmed it would deploy U.S. cruise missiles to Britain and Italy and Pershing 2 ballistic missiles to West Germany to counter the Soviet SS-20s.

And then the Crisis, designed to stop NATO's counter-deployment, began in full media fury. Western "peace" organizations, Western pacifists and Communist sympathizers demonstrated throughout Western Europe and the U.S., their protests motley yet synchronized. In October the demonstrations intensified, along with media hysterics. Why? The West German parliament had scheduled a vote on missile deployment.

Why do we need to cater to these kinds of incredibly stupid people?

UPDATE: God bless him, Mattis got the job of reassuring the idiots:

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Sunday that the United States was in consultation with its European allies on an arms control treaty, as NATO members urge Washington to try to bring Russia back into compliance with the pact rather than quit it.

Amazing. Europeans aren't nervous about Russia violating the pact for years now. No, our calling out the Russians on this is nerve-wracking to them. Better to happily stick their heads in the sand and tell yourself all is well.

You know what might get the Russians back in compliance? Walking away from the partially expired INF treaty and telling the Russians if they want a new deal, let us know. Meanwhile we will start building intermediate range nuclear-capable missiles.

Excuse Me? What?

I'm never surprised when America is blamed for reacting to what someone else does.

This article's headline says America pulling out the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty with Russia "could escalate tension with China." But check out the causal chain to reach that conclusion:

A U.S. withdrawal from a Cold War-era nuclear arms treaty with Russia could give the Pentagon new options to counter Chinese missile advances but experts warn the ensuing arms race could greatly escalate tensions in the Asia-Pacific.

U.S. officials have been warning for years that the United States was being put at a disadvantage by China's development of increasingly sophisticated land-based missile forces, which the Pentagon could not match thanks to the U.S. treaty with Russia.

China has been fielding increasingly sophisticated intermediate range missiles.

America is constrained in matching China because when the treaty was signed China was a friend and not a missile threat. And so not part of the treaty.

And Russia is violating the treaty whose verification provisions expired some time ago, anyway.

And when America begins to match China's missile arsenal expansion by abandoning the treaty, China may expand their expanding missile arsenal even more.

Therefore our withdrawal from the treaty with Russia could "cause" tension with China.

Got it.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Better Dead Than Not Red

China continues to remind the world that they consider Taiwan's status as the most core of China's core interests. China's position is that one day China will invade the free and democratic country (which lacks a UN seat) if Taiwan doesn't voluntarily accept China's rule.

China couldn't be clearer in telegraphing their aggressive intentions:

On Monday, the United States sent two warships through the Taiwan Strait in the second such operation this year and the latest in a series of U.S. gestures in support of democratic Taiwan.

"The Taiwan issue is related to China's sovereignty and territorial integrity and touches upon China's core interests," Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe said at the opening of the Xiangshan Forum in Beijing, which China styles as its answer to the annual Shangri-La Dialogue security forum in Singapore.

"On this issue, it is extremely dangerous to repeatedly challenge China's bottom line. If someone tries to separate out Taiwan, China's military will take the necessary actions at any cost."

If China takes necessary actions, I think my old scenario for a Chinese invasion hold up very well.

And no matter how good a peaceful union appears, China will spare no expense in tightening Peking's control over time:

China's President Xi Jinping officially opened the world's longest sea bridge connecting Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China Tuesday, at a time when Beijing is tightening its grip on its semi-autonomous territories.

And while I doubt China's civilian rulers would like to risk a war with America over Taiwan given the economic problems that would cause--and hence pose a threat to Chinese Communist Party legitimacy to rule China--the more narrowly focused PLA leaders with an exaggerated sense of their military power might be far more willing to risk war. Could they?

Surviving a Cyber Blitz

Russia's capabilities in the Donbas war against Ukrainian units exposed a longstanding United States Army weakness in fighting in an electronic warfare environment. The Army is working on that:

Through its recent Cyber Blitz exercise, the Army learned lessons regarding how well electronic warfare personnel can conduct cyber planning and how integrating electronic warfare and signal intelligence would work on the battlefield.

In the Cold War I read about how American maneuver units in field exercises were sent into chaos by other Army units that gave fake orders and otherwise used radios to disrupt command and control.

Adding modern precision firepower to modernized signal intelligence and sometimes Internet-based electronic warfare makes mastering that environment extremely important.

So good.


Well That Sounds Ominous:

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Friday issued what he said was a "final warning" to those who would endanger Turkey's borders, saying Ankara was determined to focus its attention on Syrian Kurdish fighters east of the Euphrates.

Does Erdogan consider the Khashoggi Affair essentially a "get out of jail free card" to play so he can do whatever he wants to Syrian Kurds?

Or did Erdogan cut a deal with Saudi Arabia to quietly back a Turkish campaign in exchange for shutting down the Khashoggi probe?

UPDATE: Remember that Turkey is a historic enemy of Iran and so doesn't want to cripple Saudi Arabia--just leverage the crisis to Turkey's advantage. Nor does Turkey have an interest in advancing Russian power because of the history of wars with Russia.


Turkey's military on Sunday fired artillery shells at a Kurdish militia in Syria that is backed by the United States but deemed a terrorist group by Ankara, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

The shelling targeted YPG positions on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River in northern Syria, Anadolu said.

I wonder what Saudi Arabia's current position on this issue is?

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Weekend Data Dump

A number of Iranians continue to peacefully protest Iran's expensive foreign adventures. Tip to Instapundit.

The Army ad campaign is really good, IMHO. I was impressed when I saw it. But while it advertises for "warriors" the Army really produces "soldiers" who fight in a system.

An article on the 1972 North Vietnamese Easter Offensive. Counterinsurgency had worked by then--as the North Vietnamese implicitly conceded. The conventional offensive was contained and showed what might have happened in 1975 if Congress hadn't crippled the ability of America to support the South Vietnamese military that we built to rely on American support. I'm glad Vietnam is seeking our help to block China. But I never forget that their communist government was cruel in their war and in their victory over our ally South Vietnam. Hanoi might want to consider that American liberals (figuratively, of course, although in part literally for the aging cohort from back then) who cheered North Vietnam on in that war will give them the Saudi Arabia treatment if Vietnam is perceived as our ally.

Ruh roh: "Turkey is increasingly unsure about its alliance with Russia in Syria." I've also read that Turkey is again reaching out to Israel. But as long as Erdogan runs Turkey, I don't think this thinking is anything more than intermittent moments of clarity.

Our sealift reserve capacity--already in rough shape--will get worse next decade. I've been going on about this lately. It's a problem. The most advanced weapon out of action because of a lack of a whatsit part lying at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean is just a pile of expensive junk. Logistics matter.

Twitter released 10 million tweets from 3,800 Russian accounts peddling Russian propaganda since 2013. The Left discovered that Russia (and the Soviets before them) have long conducted propaganda in the West. But it is serious this time because the Left perceived it as directed against them. There was a smaller batch of Iranian tweets, too.

I missed the Navy's 243rd birthday on October 13th. Control of the seas is the foundation of anything we can do with our entire military.

China will be "angered" over two American warships traveling through international waters.

Is the migrant caravan seeking opportunities in America or is it a virtual weapon aimed at America? You decide, if these supporters of the "caravan" are any indicator:

I've read America's fertility rate is continuing to drop. If we need people, we can relax legal immigration. Which is the way it should be rather than just opening up the border to caravans of people who may or may not benefit America.

While effective bullet-stopping body armor is welcome, the weight our troops have to carry into combat causes casualties, too. The weight issue is never solved despite a lot of attention since the war on terror started. Heck, the issue has been around since at least ancient Rome.

Rifle drama.

The idea that the defenders of the EU, which continues toward a supranational imperial state through "ever closer union," see themselves as having a "commitment to democracy, the rule of law, liberty and rights, rational enquiry" (among other things) is just astounding. They are not defenders of a liberal western order. And I hope their EU project collapses into the economic zone it started out as.American-led NATO is the true defender of Western ideals in Europe. And it would be kind of funny if the EU shrank to a core in the west dominated by Germany with a veneer of French window dressing to conceal that domination. The goals of 1870, 1914, and 1940 might finally be achieved.

As a history major, I wouldn't trust this guy to tell me the difference between a hysterical partisan hack and a historian. That is seriously embarrassing. Or should be.

Thailand remains a long-time but problematic ally when it comes to democracy.

Our al Tanf base on the Syria-Iraq border is small but astride a key line of communication between Iran and Lebanon. It does have call on a lot of aerial firepower, but let's hope it doesn't become the frontline in a fight to control the area.

I would very much like to read this.  The mistake of reorganizing the Army because in early 2004 we thought the war would go on a couple years maximum was a good call at the time as the Saddam insurgency faded by February 2004. But the second mistake of thinking Iran and Syria wouldn't dare intervene to begin a new phase of the war made the duration estimate a mistake. Which made the reliance on some less trained Guard units in 2005 more of a problem. Although the Guard units held the line and even in 2005 it seemed like we could turn over the war to Iraqis by the end of that year. It was only the bombing of the Golden Dome mosque in Samarra in February 2006 that ignited serious sectarian fighting that again foiled our hopes prior to the surge (and then the ill-considered withdrawal and Iraq War 2.0) which won Iraq. UPDATE: And the surge was more powerful because of the Awakening that began in late 2006 was the result of persistent efforts to flip the Sunni Arabs who were the base of support for Saddam and al Qaeda terrorists, of course.

France is considering a design to replace their single aircraft carrier. Let's hope it is more reliable than Charles De Gaulle is, which if memory serves me spent a lot of time being repaired.

I have no idea if an electromagnetic pulse attack on America could inflict as much damage as claimed, but I do know that if an enemy does pull off a devastating EMP attack that we'd nuke them in response.And I'm so delighted to have the return of discussions of Fractional Orbital Bombardment Systems weapons. Have a super sparkly day.

MBS pledges to bring the killers of Khashoggi to justice. He will reportedly bring in O.J. Simpson to find the real killer.

I saw news that potential explosive devices were sent to former president Obama and former head of the State Department Clinton. This is horrible and whoever did this must spend some serious time in prison. Although as of this writing there are no details or suspects. But as an optimist, I will note they were futile because they were bound to be intercepted; and maybe now Democrats will stop glossing over attacks on Republicans as nothing much to talk about. This is just politics people, or has that become the new religion that motivated unreasonable hatred for those who think differently? A little tolerance would be welcome. * Already, as more news comes in, they might not be actual bombs. And a suspicious package sent to the White House, apparently. * And then news that there was no package at the White House. The mayor of New York City calls this terrorism. He's banking on this being some white MAGA guy, isn't he? Because normally he would not figure it out a motive that fast. * Now I hear the "bombs" could not work. And another one was found in New York. It doesn't sound like the intent was to injure or kill. An instant of terror upon discovery--rather than lasting terror because of casualties--and publicity seem to be the objective. Unless a real bomb is part of all this--or is added by someone else. * By Friday more "prop" bombs have been discovered. We're up to 12. What is going on? If hate motivated this crime spree, why do it this way? Since when do Nazis pull their punches? * A man was arrested. Was he alone? At this rate I expect Avenatti to be his attorney by nightfall. Motive? Too many American flags to be standard issue lefty but way too many bumper stickers to be standard issue righty. * Hearing they are pro-Trump stickers. NYC major made the right call, I must concede. But he was a "known wolf" for past threats. How long did that record extend? * The man seems more like a loon than a simple partisan.

In related civil unrest news, will the editorial board of the New York Times be arrested if someone takes a shot at Trump, on the assumption this piece triggered a lunatic with eliminationist rhetoric? China is a rising future threat. Russia is a declining current threat. Right now we are the biggest national security threat to America. We have met the enemy and he is us, as Pogo said. Can't we all just get along? Or not attack each other, at least?

This is great progress for women in Iran. Why Western feminists aren't the most hard core anti-Iranian Islamists is beyond me.

Really? Chief nutball proxy Rouhani wants to discuss what rulers are responsible for the murders carried out by other people? Honestly, I can't even count how many times people have excused what the Revolutionary Guards do because Iran's government "doesn't really control them."

Not only that, it smiles too!

Corrupt southern Mali rulers seem to consider French and American (and regional) support since the 2013 French military rescue mission to defeat northern jihadis as protection to continue business as usual rather than as an opportunity to resolve the tensions. Unfortunately, the dangers of terrorists, drug gangs, and human smugglers require foreign forces to remain. And Mali's rulers know that. Honestly, the rulers are making the Tuareg case for independence for the poor north. Interestingly enough, a company-sized French parachute drop was made to surprise jihadis in the northeast.

I'm very disappointed that Hungary, using its position within NATO, is making it harder for Ukraine to resist Russia's invasion.

The article accurately states the plane that crash-landed in California had the markings of Nazi Germany's Luftwaffe. The headline writer believed that this meant the plane had "Nazi markings." I don't see any actual Nazi markings on the plane. Always use news sources with caution, keeping in mind their subject expertise weaknesses.

I sincerely doubt that America coordinated a drone strike on a Russian airbase in Syria, as Russia's defense ministry claimed. I hope those clowns are simply lying and don't actually believe the crap they pump out.

In the past the Chinese stoked anti-Japanese sentiment. Now China is trying to calm relations.

So it is a story about collusion involving Trump and Russia? Well, that is grammatically close to the original charge. If true, that was and continues to be a severe threat to rule of law and democracy in America. Will people be punished to discourage this in the future? Tip to Instapundit.

The Saudi story on Khashoggi continues to evolve. It won't be long before they're at this stage:

America continues its work to seize or freeze ISIL assets smuggled out of their former caliphate, which ISIL needs to be a terror group with reach and impact.

If the sanctity of the holy INF treaty is so necessary to avoid war, as Gorbachev said, why has Putin been cheating on it? Putin killed the treaty. Trump is just calling time of death.

Who's asking for good versus bad? Are the concepts of bad versus worse or imperfect ally versus dedicated enemy alien to this man? Wow was that idiotic. Even President Carter recognized we had to defend our interests in the Gulf. The USSR may be gone but the interests remain, as the Reagan Corollary to the Carter Doctrine recognized.

Trident Juncture, the biggest NATO (plus Sweden and Finland) exercise since the collapse of the Soviet Union, has begun. Although in one way--the logistics of moving so many troops--a key exercise ended the day the official exercises began.

Being a socialist means never having to say you're sorry. Socialists keep promising paradise yet only produce Hell. But we keep producing new generations of useful idiots.

Sophisticated European nuance? Huh.

I wonder if stock market volatility in October is an election year-only phenomenon? Uncertainty over government policy would make sense as a cause, and the increasing power of the federal government would make that uncertainty grow over time, no? And the complete mystery over who will control the House of Representatives this year makes the uncertainty greater given the contrast in governing views.

The mail "bombs" certainly redirected the media hysteria complex from covering the Khashoggi Affair.

The Putin Youth League: Balkan Chapter. Tip to Instapundit.

Europe: I am Screw you Charlie.

That seems like a major flaw as we shift from counterinsurgency to great power competition against states that could exploit the vulnerability.

A lot of people--especially but not only Democrats--are really upset about America's close relationship with Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is a horrible country domestically and the Khashoggi Affair has highlighted that. But if America punishes Saudi Arabia for their domestic political structure, why wouldn't we have to punish every other Arab country with the exception of Iraq for being autocrats with problematic human rights problems? And if we did that, wouldn't Democrats call the American policy "Islamophobic" because it impacts Moslems disproportionately?

Is John Bolton trying to squeeze James Mattis out of the administration? I like Bolton, but if I have to choose between Bolton and Mattis I choose Mattis.

Russia's military has islands of excellence in a sea of  mediocrity. So boasts of super weapons are likely just prototypes that will never see the light of day. Chest thumping and flinging poo.

The Trident Juncture NATO exercise in the Nordic region has the Marine Corps using their Abrams tanks and anti-tank LAVs. The Marines are worried about conventional battle again.

The warnings are clear. For both humanitarian purposes and to prevent Iran from getting a victory by exploiting mass starvation in Yemen.

Where Caring is Futile

This makes no sense because I keep getting told that believing in socialism means you care (tip to Instapundit):

Suicides [in Venezuela] are rapidly rising across this once-wealthy nation, but particularly in mountainous Merida, where they are hitting levels never seen. The Venezuelan Violence Observatory, a nongovernmental organization, estimates that the state’s suicide rate was more than 19 per 100,000 in 2017. Only 12 nations have a rate so high.

Such deaths are becoming ordinary in a population plagued by hyperinflation, hunger and mass emigration. Xiomara Betancourt, a neurologist who heads mental-health services at Corposalud Merida, the public health system, blamed scarcities of antidepressant and anti-anxiety medicine and loneliness as loved ones leave.

Venezuela's rulers will be okay. They get first call on dwindling resources.

Remember, capitalism doesn't cause greed--people cause greed. And an economic system designed to cripple economic growth in favor of redistributing resources is well designed for greedy socialist autocrats to make sure they are redistributed to them.

Send In the Sea of Azov Queen

Russia is perfectly happy to rely on international agreements when it suits their aggression.


[Russian Foreign Minister] Lavrov plans to invoke treaty power that allows Russia to object to a forthcoming NATO-Ukraine military drill. "Ukraine wants to hold NATO drills in the Sea of Azov but it will be impossible to go there because our treaty with Ukraine requires mutual consent for the passage of warships into the Sea of Azov."

But violating international law and agreements to seize Crimea and gain control of access to the Sea of Azov to support their invasion of Donbas was just fine by Lavrov.

What if a NATO state sends a civilian container ship to Mariupol and then equips it as a modularized auxiliary cruiser with equipment sent overland to the port, as I described in The AFRICOM Queen?

Friday, October 26, 2018

The Only Game in Town

The Army wants the F-35 to provide close air support for its troops. Sure. It will basically be the only plane the Air Force has for the mission.  But will the Air Force do that?

The F-35A is the only game in town so this view of the plane's close air support role makes sense:

“When you are in a firefight, the first thing infantry wants to do it get on that radio to adjust fire for mortars and locate targets with close air support with planes or helicopters. You want fires. The F-35 has increased survivability and it will play a decisive role in the support of ground combat,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told reporters at the Association of the United States Army Annual Symposium.

I've been a supporter of the A-10 against Air Force efforts to prematurely retire the dedicated close air support plane to free up resources for the F-35.

Yet I recognize that in the modern ground-based air defense environment, the low-flying A-10 may not be survivable. The Air Force has a point that only a high-flying stealth F-35A can survive to put ordnance on target.

But the A-10 is the only dedicated close air support plane the Air Force has. And it remains very useful in a permissive air environment, as in counterinsurgencies.

And it might be a mobile source of firepower if enemy forces pierce our lines and move out of their air defense bubble.

If the Air Force does field a low-cost close air support plane for counterinsurgency, that addresses one of my concerns.

But my other ground support concern (I have an air defense concern too, given the increasing threat of cheap drones that a high flying F-35 will not be able to touch. But I digress.) is that the Air Force really doesn't like to do close air support when it would rather fight enemy aircraft to control the skies and strike deep behind enemy lines, which the Air Force thinks is far more important than supporting maneuver units on the ground in contact with the enemy.

Will the Air Force use the F-35 for close air support when it has so many other missions to achieve that are of more importance to the Air Force?

Milley hopes the Air Force will provide needed close air support for the Army. I'm not terribly sure the Air Force will and I bet Milley isn't all that confident either.

Meaner and Reversing Leaner

The Army has been told to reverse its shrinkage and expand instead, while getting heavier and more focused on conventional combat. Recruiting in a good economy is proving to be difficult.

Strategypage looks at Army expansion. The force structure for the maneuver brigades is as follows:

With the 2017 changes the army will speed up its conversion of BCTs (Brigade Combat Teams or “combat brigades”) to more “armor heavy”. Currently the army has 31 active duty combat brigades (11 armored, six infantry, 5 airborne, 3 air assault and 7 Stryker). The army is in the process of converting an infantry brigade to a Stryker brigade and a Stryker brigade to an armor brigade. Eventually the army will have 16 armor brigades. The Army National Guard (a reserve organization) will have 5 armored, 20 infantry and two Stryker brigades[.]

This is as much a future reference for me as it is intended to be informative to you. Although it doesn't give the future composition other than armored brigades. Nor does it say how many active brigades the Army will have. Still 31?

I strongly believe that a focus on conventional combat requires a return of the armored cavalry regiment, modernized for current weapons of course. Sadly I don't ever read anything about that.

I also wonder if the return of great power focus means that the easily rotated brigades for counterinsurgency campaigns should no longer be the focus for the Army maneuver units.

Should the division be restored to prominence in this environment, at least for the heavy armored forces and heavied up Stryker forces (reinforced with tanks, too)?

Maybe my old article on blending the Army and Army National Guard brigades while having headquarters for expansion is relevant today. See "The Path of the Future Army," Military Review, September-October 2000 (Fort Leavenworth, Ks.: US Army Command and General Staff College), pp. 91-93. When published, the editors stripped out charts resulting in some garbled text. I corrected the two text errors and added the charts on my old Geocities site, but the undead link is no longer good.

The Bottom Line is that ISIL is Less Effective

Yes, ISIL strength has been gutted by defeating the caliphate in Iraq and Syria.

I know I've addressed the ridiculous notion that there are as many ISIL fighters now in Iraq and Syria as there were when ISIL was a caliphate controlling territory. I've read that new estimates count supporters and family members and include a boasting factor as fighters try to intimidate locals.

General Dunford attacks the notion from a different angle:

When we started in 2014, really, a concerted effort in Iraq and Syria, the estimates, as I recall, were 20(000) to 30,000 fighters. Is that about right? About, you know, three or four years ago. And today, you know, many of the think tanks and so forth that have published have said the number is about 20(000) to 30,000, which would be the same.

I find that very difficult to believe. And so I would have to – to address your question, Kim, I’d have to see what is the methodology – what is the geographic orientation of the study. Here’s what we know. So we can talk about numbers. We know that the numbers of attacks from 2016, 2017 and into 2018 have significantly reduced. We know that.

We know that the lethality of those attacks have significantly reduced, and that’s not ISIS attacks. It’s overall terrorist attacks. I don’t think we ever knew the numbers of people that might be inclined towards radicalization back in 2014 and I’m not sure we know that number today, which is why many of the nations today are talking about efforts to ensure that individuals don’t become radicalized and those that have become radicalized, you know, are re-educated, so to speak.

But I don’t have a lot of confidence in numbers that are being bounced around and I would find it hard to believe that the numbers of individual terrorists have significantly increased at the same time the numbers of attacks and the lethality of attacks has significantly decreased.

How you can argue that a force that is unable to even approach a past pace of terror attacks is anywhere near its past strength is beyond me.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Sea Wolf 2.0

The Navy wants submarines focused on killing other submarines rather than for launching attacks or staging special forces teams against land targets:

The Navy plans to start purchasing this new class of submarine in 2034. Previously the SSN(X) class were assumed to be a successor to the current Virginia-class submarine, complete with the Virginia Payload Module (VPM) – a vertical launch system that increases the number of Tomahawk-sized weapons from 12 to 40 – and other acoustic and technological design improvements, according to the CBO analysis released Thursday.

However, the new SSN(X) will take the place of a Block 7 Virginia-class, and the planned design appears to prize increased torpedo storage over the VPM vertical launch capability. The new SSN(X) plans do not include VPM capability. When compared to the Block V Virginia-class submarines – the first built with the VPM – the CBO states the new SSN(X) will have 25 more torpedoes and Tomahawk missiles in the torpedo room.

We only built 3 Sea Wolfs (Sea Wolves?) before going to the cheaper Virginia for numbers when post-Cold War threats didn't justify the cost. That holiday from sea control is over.


Russia has a growing problem that their rulers continue to ignore in favor of beating their chest and flinging poo at NATO:

The Chinese [military] lead is growing and unlike the United States or NATO, has very real and recently (1970s) fought over claims on Russian territory (the Far East and parts of eastern Siberia). China has very deliberately never renounced these claims, not after the Chinese communists took over China in 1949 and not since. Now Russia is increasingly economically dependent on China, a condition that is getting worse for Russia and appears headed for China getting its disputed territories back via economic not military conquest. For the moment Russia plays down the Chinese threat and makes much of the imaginary one posed by NATO.

NATO was atrophying with many wondering just what the point of it was until Russia revived its original mission of keeping the Russians out of Europe. Bravo, Russia. Well done.

I have noted that Russian rhetoric aimed at a harmless NATO essentially conceals Russian appeasement of China.

I wonder what Russia will have to give up to get China to renew their soon-to-expire suspension of claims on Russian territory in the Far East?

Down But Not Out

Somali piracy is mostly suppressed but not gone:
On the 16th October 2018, the MV KSL Sydney, a Hong Kong flagged Bulk Carrier, was attacked 340 Nm off the coast of Somalia in the Somali Basin.

Due to the application of BMP protection measures by the Master, his crew and the private security team, the piracy attack was thwarted and the crew and vessel remained safe. The Master had already evacuated the crew to the citadel when the embarked Armed Security Team (PAST) responded to the attack. There was a sustained exchange of fire before the skiff with several armed people on board broke off and changed course away from the MV.

The article links the best management practices here. On the issue of armed security by privately contracted armed security personnel (PCASP) on top of the BMP5 states:

Any decision to engage the services of PCASP should consider the guidance above for PMSC [My note: Private Maritime Security Companies] as well as the following.

BMP does not recommend or endorse the general use of PCASP onboard merchant ships; this is a decision taken by individual ship operators where permitted by the ship’s Flag State and any littoral states.

It is interesting that the attack took place so far from shore. There had to be a pirate mother ship somewhere.

It is also interesting that the once-controversial idea of arming defenders on civilian ships is a accepted now.

Be careful out there.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

So Have a Super Sparkly Day

So, my pucker factor went up:

Imran Khan, the newly elected prime minister of Pakistan, has proved himself very much a tool of the Pakistani military. Khan openly and enthusiastically supports the Islamic terrorist violence in Indian Kashmir and denies any Pakistani responsibility for it. The Pakistani military can now do whatever they like without any risk of criticism from Pakistani politicians. The new head of the ISI is noted for his enthusiastic support for Islamic radicalism and the use of Islamic terrorism against India. There is a dark side to all of this, even for the Pakistanis. Indian leaders are running out of options and are seriously talking of raids and air strikes against Islamic terrorist facilities just across the border in Pakistani Kashmir. If that happens Pakistan says it will also escalate and that it the direction this is headed.

A war could break out between two nuclear powers.

And our supply lines to Afghanistan--where Pakistan wages war against us by backing jihadis there--go through Pakistan which could be a war zone.

Is it fake news if something dangerous simply isn't discussed much in the media?

There is Nothing to Fear But Jihad Itself

Winning is not a permanent status. You don't achieve it and put it on a shelf to admire and occasionally dust to recall the glorious victory.

While I am concerned about the apparent inability to end the policy of contracting areas that Afghan government forces attempt to control, I find this attitude about the Afghanistan campaign simply bizarre:

The original goal for the invasion of Afghanistan was to defeat Al Qaeda, but at a congressional hearing in June, a US general testified that “we [the United States] have decimated Al Qaeda.” Although the reason for going into Afghanistan has been met, President Trump himself has shed doubt over the likelihood and timeline of any additional success. In a speech outlining US strategy in Afghanistan, Trump stated that, “Someday, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement [in Afghanistan].” But, more importantly, he added: “nobody knows if or when that will ever happen.” Accordingly, what do US military planners hope to accomplish? And why do US political leaders fear withdrawing? [emphasis added]

Why do we fear withdrawing? Maybe because without Afghanistan and Pakistan able and willing to control their jihadi-prone Pushtun areas, that al Qaeda or other jihadis capable of striking America will regenerate and pose a 9/11-scale threat to America again.

The idea that since we have virtually destroyed al Qaeda that we can withdraw is a mind boggling claim to make.

We nearly destroyed al Qaeda in Iraq and yet after withdrawing at the end of 2011 the group regenerated in a new form with help from sanctuaries in civil war-wracked Syria and exploded in Iraq in 2014 to build that part of the ISIL caliphate.

Every person in the world should fear an American withdrawal from Afghanistan if we risk the victory of the Taliban who once sheltered al Qaeda which killed 3,000 Americans on September 11, 2001 and compelled us to fight the war on terror that continues to rage.

The very fact that jihadis continue to fight should tell us how much they consider killing Americans to be a mission from God that they will not stop trying to achieve. And arguing that domestic American political motives are what prevent a more wise (and fearless?) withdrawal from Afghanistan is breathtakingly stupid under the circumstances.

Sadly, until Islam itself wins the civil war that rages within their religion over who gets to define Islam, we have to fight jihadis to protect our people and to enable the non-Islamists in the Moslem world to modernize and define Islam in a way that doesn't encourage murderous jihadis.

And again, I'm not trying to claim all is well. I remain worried about how we are fighting the war.

But while the noted continued contraction of government forces' footprints (which started in the Obama administration) worries me if not ended and reversed when we can, two other points made by the author don't seem like indicators of defeat. Increased Afghan security force casualties in the last few months resulted from more intense fighting for Ghazni (which Pakistan engineered). It might be a good idea to not publicize friendly casualties to deny the enemy information rather than representing a sign of government defeat, no? And remember the enemy suffered far more casualties in the battles (and that information did not come from enemy press releases).

I don't have high hopes for what can be achieved in Afghanistan, which I expressed before President Obama was even sworn in:

The end result in Afghanistan, if all goes well, will be a nominal national government that controls the capital region and reigns but does not rule local tribes and which actually helps the locals a bit rather than sucking resources from the locals, who in turn do not make trouble for the central government or allow their areas to be used by jihadis to plan attacks on the West. We press for reasonable economic opportunities, with bribes all around (I mean, foreign aid), to keep a fragile peace.

And we stick around this time, unlike after the Soviets left Afghanistan when we ignored the place, for a generation or two to see if we can move Afghanistan into the 19th century (hey, let's not get ahead of ourselves).

I'm concerned about Afghanistan.  But I'm concerned because we can't afford to lose this war. Jihadis free to plan attacks on America will attack America.

That initial article cited was one of the dumbest things I've ever read.

So Leading From Behind Isn't the Model to Follow?

In the whole Khashoggi Affair, complaints about Saudi behavior (long a problem but ignored for bigger reasons) in that murder claim are often accompanied by bizarre notions that Saudi Arabia's intervention in the Yemen civil war against Iran-backed Houthis is unsuccessful, slaughtering civilians, and causing a humanitarian crisis. Those complaints are all wrong.

Yemen is a mess with a UN seat and always has been. But that does not mean Saudi Arabia's alliance isn't making progress:

The UN is accusing the Shia rebels of deliberately blocking delivery of food aid to areas that face starvation without it. This is being used to persuade the UN to apply more pressure on the government and the Arab Coalition forces to halt their attacks on the rebels. The Shia rebels are growing desperate because their military and economic situation has gotten much worse in 2018. Since the beginning of the year the Shia rebels have suffered from a sustained and widespread cash shortage and have been unable to pay many of the government employees in Sanaa. Because of that the loyalty of these unpaid (some since late 2017) civil servants is suspect and the rebels appear to be losing control of the capital. Over the last few months there have been more public protests against the rebels in the capital and that has led to arrests and beatings. ...

The [Yemen] government offensive against the [Iran-backed] rebels has been moving into more rebel territory all year and as rebel controlled territory shrinks rebel morale plummets. The Arab coalition sees victory as inevitable because the rebels are not only growing weaker but Iran, their only foreign supporter is also less able to get support (especially weapons and cash) to the rebels.

Yemen itself will still be a mess after the rebels are defeated. The separatist Sunni tribes down south still want to partition Yemen into two nations. AQAP has good relations (often family or tribal) with these tribes and continues to find sanctuary in these tribal areas.

So the Saudi-backed coalition is making military progress as the rebels weaken.

The humanitarian crisis is being engineered by the rebels to get the UN to save them against Saudi military success.

If we look at the war casualties, we see that Yemen is hardly the unprecedented slaughterhouse that Iran-friendly propaganda would have us believe it is.

In Yemen, the casualty toll ranges from a low of 10,000--which is clearly too low given that number has remained static for a while--to 50,000, which could be too high given how the tendency to over-estimate deaths to get attention is done. Let's say 30,000 as a very imprecise compromise. That is over 3.5 years of fighting and represents about 8,600 dead per year.

Compare that to Yemen's civil war in the 1960s, where 100,000 to 300,000 died in 8 years and 2 months of war. Using the same imprecise compromise, that is 18,400 dead per year.

Or Ukraine where 10,500 have died in 4.5 years of Russia's invasion of the Donbas region. So over 2,300 dead per year can be basically shrugged off there while 8,600 is a number that must generate outrage?

Where are the dividing lines? Because the Syrian civil war of 440,000 (again, an imprecise compromise) in 7.6 years of war gives us 58,000 dead per year, which the international community is apparently okey dokey with in its refusal to stop it.

Do we not care up to a 2,500 rate because it is "low" and not care because 58,000 rate seems too hard to tackle--and 8,600 is in the sweet spot of practical concern?

Further, when an enemy uses human shields--as the Houthi do--they are responsible for the civilian casualties that result and not the people dropping the bombs on what are believed to be military targets.

And finally, even when the war is over it will still be a mess and likely just a pause as factions reform with new alliances and renew the struggle in some form in the future.

And we will still have the job of hunting down the al Qaeda and related jihadis who have made Yemen a sanctuary. Do remember that President Obama actually called our fight there "the model" theater in our war on terror.

But hopefully that will be without Iranian influence that could give Iran a position in the Horn of Africa to interfere with oil shipments from Arab Gulf states that bypass the Strait of Hormuz which is under the Iranian gun. Iran's shipment of missiles to bombard Saudi Arabia and hit Saudi alliance warships could be shifted to oil ports and oil tankers.

The complaints about the Saudi-led war run afoul of our efforts to leverage friendly forces without committing our infantry--remember that Yemen was once the praised "leading from behind" model for Iraq War 2.0--and sound too much like Iranian propaganda. We should not go along with it.

Not that I dismiss deaths in the war. The level is bad whether it is at the Ukraine rate, the Syria rate, or the Yemen rate. We should help with humanitarian aid despite Houthi interference. And we should help the Saudi coalition avoid inflicting civilian casualties. But the bulk of responsibility for deaths is not mostly on our (for the moment) side.

And given the history of Yemen, fighting will continue regardless of what any outsiders do, and we should at least try to keep Iran from winning this civil war.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

[Whatever] for Life

Oh please, formal term limits are no obstacle to Putin's lifetime rule:

For the moment, there appear to be no real rivals to Putin, with the Kremlin having pushed opponents to the margins. Nor are there are any obvious successors. Given the current prohibition on him serving a fourth term in office, Putin's most ardent supporters have openly discussed how to keep him in power, a discussion that predated the March election.

The constitution can be modified using simple legislation, but, at least officially, amending the section of the constitution that would allow Putin to remain in office beyond 2024 requires that a constitutional convention, or assembly, be convened, according to Will Pomeranz, author of a forthcoming book on Russian law.

Oh what's the point of pretending to have rule of law by changing the constitution to make Putin president for life? He was president, then he was prime minister, and now he is president again. It's all the same.

Putin, ruling Russia since 1999, already established the precedent of making whatever office he holds get the power to run the state.

One day Russians will fear the Postmaster General of Russia.


Dispatch from Bizarro World

Foreign Minister Lavrov continues to live in Russia's paranoid fantasyland:

“I believe everyone will be wise enough to prevent that,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said about the prospects of war, according to state-run TASS. “However, we are certainly very much concerned about the total absence of any professional dialogue between the Russian military and NATO.”

NATO has neither the interest nor capability to invade Russia and start a war. So if Russia would refrain from launching wars in Europe, we'll all be just fine.

But apparently that concept escapes Lavrov, who also expresses astonishment that Ukraine should for some reason still believe Russia should be punished for annexing Ukraine's Crimea and continuing to fight in Ukraine's Donbas region nearly five whole years after Russia began a war in Europe.


Meanwhile in Afghanistan

The Pakistani-backed Taliban offensive to take Ghazni certainly flamed out after gaining a lot of publicity. Which worried me. Is the Afghan government quietly pushing back now?

In the east ( Ghazni province) Pakistan has been reinforcing the Afghan Taliban since August in a continuing effort to gain control of the province. Currently the Taliban have been trying to avoid the government counteroffensive. Unable to assemble large forces for another attack on the provincial capital the remaining Taliban are fighting to hold onto their rural bases. Earlier in the month Taliban forces sought to halt traffic on the main road to Kabul and destroy bridges. Some of those efforts succeeded but the Taliban were eventually forced away from the roads and bridges. Two months of fighting in Ghazni cost the Taliban about a thousand dead. This is exceptionally high for the Taliban and led to some embarrassing consequences for Pakistan. Among the hundreds of Taliban dead Afghan security forces were able to examine many foreigners (Pakistani, Central Asian and Chechen) were identified. Since the 1990s the Pakistani ISI has sent reinforcements recruited in Pakistan to the Afghan Taliban. Officially the Pakistani denies this happens but occasionally evidence becomes so visible that it is difficult to ignore, or deny with any assurance of being believed. [emphasis added]

I haven't read about any government counteroffensive until now.

And there is this:

Those [Taliban] casualties were result of unexpectedly prompt and effective resistance by Afghan security forces, armed locals and American air support in Ghazni province.

Given that at the time it did seem like the Taliban had suffered heavy losses, my main worry was that the Taliban would keep the initiative and that the Afghan security forces would hunker down in the cities and large bases, surrendering the countryside to the Taliban.

If the government forces are following up the failed Taliban offensive with an effort to exploit enemy losses, the Taliban may yet get knocked back on their heels and make the Pakistani effort fail.

And one last thing. Even if Afghanistan is still a geographic term rather than a real political entity, Afghans are getting used to the idea that voting is how you should choose leaders. So there's that.

The Russian Triad of Deceit in Ukraine is Collapsing

Russian violations of the ceasefire in the Donbas are being documented because, it seems, the static front allows more assets to watch them despite Russian interference with Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe ceasefire monitors:

The 600 OSCE staff (most of them roving monitors) in eastern Ukraine and Donbas, whose job is to oversee the ceasefire, have been complaining since 2015 that they are being restricted by rebels and, less frequently Ukrainian forces from carrying out inspections. There are satellite photos available as a backup and local sources on the ground. Russia believes that because the front lines have not moved much in years, they can do what they want with no consequences. Despite that attitude the Russian operation in Donbas is falling apart. Morale among the Ukrainians who agreed to keep the rebellion going is bad and getting worse. More and more of the “rebel activity” in Donbas is carried out by Russians pretending to be Ukrainian rebels. The Russian government apparently believes it will ultimately win but does not have a clear idea of when or how.

Well, I've long said that rather than being some unique new style of war that requires tons of PowerPoint presentations to counter, Russian "hybrid" warfare consists of invading a country, denying they are invading a country, and the West going along with that lie. The last leg of that triad of deceit is collapsing.

More importantly, the separatists who provide a veneer of local consent to the Russian invasion are getting tired of the war.

And even more significant is this development that has completely escaped my notice:

In eastern Ukraine (Donbas) Ukrainian forces recaptured another village and its 150 or so inhabitants were no longer prisoners of, and human shields for, the rebels. Russian backed rebels are withdrawing from more and more rural villages that Ukrainian forces are slowly surrounding or at least making difficult to reach and resupply.

"Another" village was liberated? How many others have been freed?

I did note early last year that Ukraine was launching their own subliminal counteroffensive. But I hadn't read that it was slowly working.

And if declining morale means Russia must take over more of the fight, Ukraine needs to send body bags back to Mother Russia.

The war isn't as "frozen" as the Russians might like. This puts a new light on Russia's squeeze play of implementing a subliminal blockade of Ukraine's Donbas coast on the Sea of Azov.

Russia has a problem of course. They could escalate or broaden the war in response to losing in a smaller war. Although it is risky because Russia could not sustain such a bigger war for long.

Sadly, Russia's war in Syria, which I've considered Ukraine's real front line because of the scarce resources Russia must divert to that campaign, is apparently winding down.

But perhaps just as important, if Russia is counting on time to weaken Western resolve to sanction Russia for their 2014 invasions of Ukraine, a bigger round of fighting would stiffen spines in Europe and perhaps accelerate NATO rearmament, too.

Explain to me again how Putin is a master poker player.

Monday, October 22, 2018

"Train the Way You Fight" Should Apply to PT

This article thinks little of the new Army physical fitness standards:

The new Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) is a truly terrible idea. The Army decided to overhaul its long-standing PT test in order to improve individual fitness for combat and reduce musculoskeletal injuries, which are certainly legitimate objectives. But the new test will create far more problems than it solves, and could actually increase some types of injuries.

I trusted the Army about the validity of the new tests, but as the article points out, the specialized equipment and vastly increased time needed to carry out the tests is a real problem. And reserve components will have even more problems. That aspect worried me. The existing test has the advantage of needing zero equipment to carry out.

And there are other problems. So do check it out. The authors make a good case.

The Army has a point that the old test doesn't really test the kind of physical requirements that experience on battlefields shows are needed. The new test is supposed to correct that.

That's good.

But only a tiny fraction of Army troops are actually combat troops who would be required to execute those battlefield physical tasks. Is it really wise to force all troops to train for what only combat infantry are going to face?

The test itself recognizes this by having three levels of achievement based on job types.

So why bother making the entire Army meet the new test?

I think I'm settling on a view that the old test should be the standard Army-wide standard for physical fitness while infantry units should have the supplemental standard from the new test on top of the standard test.

I mean really, in practice infantry have done that. Does anybody really think that infantry aren't already in better shape than signal soldiers (that was my job) despite the common standard? And I have no doubt that special forces train to even higher standards already.

Focusing the new test on infantry would limit the needs for equipment across the entire million-plus Total Army to just a smaller part that needs those standards to meet the physical needs of a modern battlefield.

As the Army gains experience, perhaps it could expand the test to more troops. But I suspect the Army is asking for a lot of test failures if this new test is kept for the entire Army.

Objective: Kaliningrad

Russia is improving infrastructure in Kaliningrad, their Baltic exclave that lies on the northern flank of Poland. It could serve as a missile base to impede movement of NATO reinforcements to Poland and the Baltic states by air, sea, and ground routes; and as the anvil for a Russian offensive through Lithuania and/or Belarus.

Russia's actions in Kaliningrad, which is basically the old East Prussia, pose a threat to NATO if Russia wages war on the alliance:

US military officials say they are concerned by what they call Russia's ability to establish "anti-access/area denial" capabilities, or, weaponry that reduces NATO's potential freedom to maneuver in the region. Those include some of the modern weapons systems stationed in Kaliningrad, including anti-ship missiles, radar systems and surface-to-air missiles.

The improvements include nuclear capable missiles, but no word of actual nuclear weapons.

If Germany is serious about rebuilding their military, I think the joint German-Dutch corps should have the wartime mission of spearheading an offensive to take Kaliningrad or at least compress the perimeter into a small enough area that it poses no threat to NATO logistics and is incapable of supporting a Russian offensive.

Thus far, I believe that Russia's ground garrison has only 3 brigades. And those brigades are much weaker than an American or comparable Western brigade.

Making Infantry Great (Again?)--For a While

The United States wants better infantry, and this author looks to World War II for lessons.

Yes, it will be difficult to focus attention on the infantry given the competing needs of the rest of the Army and Marines.

And it is also true that green or ill-trained infantry die all too easily at the front. Nor can veterans remain for too long in combat before PTSD takes them out of the fight.

Indeed, as British experience with their well-trained and highly experienced volunteer infantry in World War I demonstrated (when the Germans ran into them in 1914, they believed the high volume of accurate rifle fire from the British came from a lot of machine guns), in high attrition combat the system cannot replace the infantry with similar quality troops. British infantry never regained their initial edge in the face of mass conscript German armies.

So while I think we must train our infantry differently to maintain dominance over enemy troops, militias, or insurgents who will close the quality gap with technology, that won't be enough unless we win a war quickly.

Of course, the same technology that helps enemies match our own marksmanship currently achieved with training will help our effort to send replacements to the infantry.

Although ideally, replacements will be sent to units out of the line to be absorbed rather than funneled in like replacement parts while the unit is at the front. But who knows if we will have the number of units to afford that better practice.

But the attrition makes it important to seek ways to reduce casualties among the infantry when they aren't being used as infantry. This is far different than "force protection"  measures that withhold infantry from doing their job.

The obvious solution to win a war fast before infantry replacements are needed is nice work if you can get it, of course. But we can't count on it.

The sad truth is that even if we succeed in training, organizing, and equipping better infantry, with a long enough war and high enough attrition the quality of the infantry will go down over time.

Making infantry great is a good thing to do. But we must also consider how we fight when the infantry quality goes down as it must in any serious ground campaign.

Hello artillery.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Weekend Data Dump

I accidentally deleted my entire weekend data dump Friday morning while typing one-handed (I was eating an apple) and must have inadvertently selected "all" before hitting another key. I thought I exited before the "changes" could be saved, but alas, no. So this will be short. Even after shifting this to Sunday night. Luckily I have a backlog of national security emails to clear, so this may regrow by then.

One thing Saudi Arabia should not do in response to the Khashoggi Affair murder to avoid repercussions is announce they will turn their energies to fighting the National Rifle Association. This was the entry that killed so much of this data dump.

Scandinavia is taking sides. Russia is paying a price for being total jerks to countries that have no interest in being threats to Russia. #WhyRussiaCan'tHaveNiceThings

At least one dumped link story is back! Europeans are worried that they can't keep up with America's private sector space launch advances. They liked the post-Space Shuttle market share. They may try to follow our lead. I will say that this is one Obama policy I liked a lot--which involved getting out of the way of the private sector, I should note. Tip to Instapundit.

And another: This attack was deadly enough and potentially very embarrassing if the top American general in Afghanistan had been killed. But is it really a symbol of our willingness to declare peace in Afghanistan and go home in disguised (for a little while) defeat? Trump has long been of the same mind as Democrats who have wanted to get out of Afghanistan ever since it stopped being the "good" war that they supported as a shield to lose the Iraq War.

Is South Korea firmly with America on insisting on verifiable denuclearization before the flow of aid starts to North Korea? Apparently so far. Although north-south work on DMZ issues don't make us confident this will remain so. In the past South Korea has been softer. But remember their capital, Seoul, has been subject to destruction long before North Korea started to develop nuclear missiles. North Korea has 5-60 nukes but nobody knows if they can be mounted on missiles.

The Marine Corps has not been adequately taking care of its overseas afloat prepositioned equipment ships. No worries, we can just bring it all from the continental United States. Wait. What?

Whatever the truth about the state of the war in Afghanistan, their people have gotten used to the idea that elections should determine who rules them.

Israel continues to exploit the  the treasure trove of information about Iran's nuclear weapons programs that they drove out of Iran this year. Yet Europeans continue to think the Iran deal was good rather than a cover for Iran to complete their nuclear weapons program.

An American B-52 flew near a Chinese island in the South China Sea to deny claims of Chinese territorial control in violation of international law.

So Iraqis simply "got used to" three-time insurrectionist Moqtada al Sadr? Not really as the story describes the evolution of the public face of Sadr. We (America and Iraq) will rue the day we let that dangerous man live.

Venezuela isn't so much a national suicide as it is a murder-suicide pact with socialism holding the gun.

Everybody knows that war on terror rages in Africa with American help--including air strikes. But the reason there is so little news is because the Pentagon doesn't spoon feed the media information? Twitter has apparently destroyed shoe leather reporting.

Trouble in not-much-of-a-Paradise.

Once again, this is not a protest: "An Israeli military spokeswoman said about 10,000 demonstrators massed at the border and that some threw burning tires, grenades and explosive devices at the troops across the fence. About 30 Palestinians suffered tear gas inhalation, the Gaza Health Ministry said." Palestinians say 77 were wounded but there were no deaths, which indicates "rubber" bullets rather than an effort to kill. And at 10,000 this was much smaller than past human shield assaults on Israel's border.

In the above article, the story says Israel maintains "tight control" over its portion of the Gaza land and sea border while Egypt merely "restricts movement in and out of Gaza." Huh. No bias there.

Strategypage looks at mines and a recent American long-range mine that keeps delivering aircraft out of air defense envelopes. This replaces a story on the specific Quickstrike weapon test killed in my Dumpageddon.

It is now the Republic of North Macedonia by vote of their parliament. So RoNM can now join NATO. Seriously. 'Twas a silly dispute.

Anti-Brexit protesters want a second referendum before Britain leaves the EU. Of course they do, it is traditional to keep voting until the EU gets the result it wants. Britain needs to get out on schedule with whatever deal they can get--or no deal--and deal with the problems after safely escaping. Delaying for a better deal can only give opponents a chance to reverse the original Brexit vote.

Yet "flopping" on the ground after someone brushes you to draw a foul is perfectly fine with this guy.

Israel deployed heavy armored forces near the Gaza border as a warning and Egypt tried to talk some sense into Hamas to stop the border attacks.

Kosovo, which still has 4,000 NATO troops in it to protect it since the 1999 NATO war against Serbia, wants to convert its paramilitary police force into a formal army over Serbian protests. NATO isn't thrilled either.

Can America and China avoid the Thucydides Trap? Yes. I love me my Thucydides but geography is very different. But if the concept does apply, hold on tight because we could see two transitions.

Good Lord, Serbia used to grant Iranians visa-free access to Europe until recently?

From the "Well, Duh" file. It might be the actual purpose of the outrage campaign which oddly singles out the Khashaggi outrage in a world of greater outrages and in a country with a long history of ignored outrages. Remember, nothing has changed about Saudi Arabia's human rights record or our policy toward it except which president Democrats can blame and attack for their record or our policy.

As the European Union tries to keep Britain inside the EU (or at least punish Britain as a warning to smaller states who might get the same idea), Brussels might want to consider whether budget-busting Italy remaining in the EU is a greater danger to the EU.

Oh, and I know I linked to an article noting that a yearly increase in federal revenue (only about half a percent, admittedly) despite tax cuts still resulted in a greater budget deficit. Spending and not tax cuts are the cause of our persistent annual deficits and climbing debt.

Wiping out the last pockets of ISIL in Syria is taking a long time. In part I imagine this is because it isn't a high priority for our allies on the ground there. And their fighters don't want to be the last casualty in a victorious war. So we are doing this cautiously. Plus, once a force goes insurgent and terrorist by scattering, they are harder to find and fight. It takes longer to kill small groups than large masses of forces. But I can't shake the feeling that part of the slowness is due to our presence in Syria relying on the fight against ISIL for the legal basis. And once ISIL is defeated we have to get out or re-establish the basis to remain for other reasons. I said we had a decision to make post-ISIL and we really haven't clearly made it yet.

Both Koreas and the UN command are discussing ways to demilitarize the border? There is a Demilitarized Zone in place. Isn't this just about South Korea defending its side of the border less energetically? That's hardly wise.

Tens of thousands of Taiwanese rallied for formal independence from China. According to China, such a declaration would be a trigger for China to go to war. But I can't help but think that Taiwan would have been better off to have made the formal break in 1996, during the crisis in that year. How much harder would it be now after two decades of Chinese military progress? And how much more difficult will it be in two more decades?

Let's not bicker and argue over who killed who? The Saudis need a better explanation for Khashoggi's death than that.

Strategypage looks at the Air Force pilot retention issue. Their study rejecting warrant officer pilots didn't quite accurately describe the details of that potential solution that could be adopted.

Russia's proxy force in the Donbas continues to kill Ukrainians.