Tuesday, October 23, 2018

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.

Journalist Death Toll Then and Now

Thanks professor!

Quite simply, if [the Saudi] government indeed killed a bothersome journalist, then that action is just the logical, if ghastly, extension of Trump's campaign to vilify and endanger journalists in the United States.

Before leveling the charge that Trump encourages the murder of journalists, actual data shows 46 were killed worldwide in 2017 and 44 so far in 2018. That compares to the Obama total of 430 from 2009 through 2016. Or just under 54 per year on average.

So who really encouraged the murder of journalists around the world if the toll is reliant on what an American president says? I'm not defending the president's words, mind you. But get a grip.

As for the reason Trump might value alliance with Saudi Arabia despite their human rights record? Well, there is precedent.

Seriously, I'll take the charge that Trump endangers journalists in America when correspondents stop their annual gathering in Washington, DC for a gala black tie affair that focuses on insulting and mocking President Trump.

The professor is a fool. Foreign despots have been killing journalists for a long time. And that does not happen here.

It Isn't Always About America

China has a new heavy stealth bomber planned, with conventional and nuclear capabilities, and American carriers could be in their sights?

It had to happen eventually, I suppose:

The Hong-20 will also probably carry CJ-10K air-launched cruise missiles, have a range of 5,000 miles and a 10 ton payload, The War Zone reported.

Assuming it is fully stealth. Which China hasn't mastered yet.

But it seems a little odd that China, with its small nuclear arsenal, would task a nuclear-capable bomber with conventional war tasks very often.

And the cited range--assuming that it means combat radius rather than an actual straight-line capability--even with an air-launched cruise missile, is well out of range of Washington, DC. And maybe barely in range of San Francisco. See the site here.

But it could fly right over Moscow and drop iron bombs if it wanted to. Just sayin'.

Given that there are Chinese claims that might not remain dormant forever (promotion to a "core interest" is always possible!), China might want a better nuclear deterrent against a Russia that emphasizes nukes in defending its territory. Because there are limits to nuclear threats and two can play the deterrence game.

I'm just saying our carriers are probably lower down the priority list for that bomber. Russia should worry given how poorly Russian air defense systems seem to work against non-commercial airliners.

The Only Kinetic Option?

Ah yes, conventional war may be obsolete? We should be so lucky.

Oh please:

Information-age unconventional warfare may become the only kinetic option against an adversary with mature anti-access and area-denial capabilities who at present affects ‘conventional deterrence’. To provide military options for government, the army will need to look beyond the ‘forces assigned’ (those we control) to ‘forces available’ (those we can influence).

The power in these information-age concepts has been evidenced by the Kremlin’s ability to win the Crimea and Beijing’s ability to seize the South China Sea; both are examples of ‘manoeuvre warfare’ that led to a ‘rapidly deteriorating situation with which the enemy cannot cope’. The conduct of special warfare—operations by, with and through likeminded partners—will increasingly become the norm in this multipolar, constrained security environment.

If proxy wars are the new wave in place of direct conventional war, those examples aren't models for that. And one isn't even an example of a war.

As if America abandoned conventional combat and resorted to proxy war in 1945 in the face of intense Japanese anti-access and area-denial capabilities starting at Okinawa.

But back to the examples of the glorious new age of "information-age unconventional warfare."

Russia won the Crimea campaign because of unique circumstances, and there was little proxy involved given the obvious composition of the "little green men" as Russian special forces Astroturfing rebels on the ground; and given the very open Russian movement into Crimea through the Kerch Strait and via airlifts into Russia's Crimean base complex.This was done in the face of a paralyzed army (suffering from deliberate long-term neglect under pro-Russian rulers) of mostly rear echelon troops during the confused aftermath of a pro-Western revolution.

And I don't want to raise the obvious, but Ukraine didn't have any anti-access/area denial capabilities--see the strait crossing and airlift--to compel Russia to use "information-age unconventional warfare."

As for the South China issue, it isn't even warfare. And it wasn't proxy. China built islands on mere sea features. And claim is different than control.

Maybe conventional war really may become obsolete. Perhaps we are at the point in history where everything before us was different and is now impossible in our unique era. But this article didn't make the case if Crimea and the South China Sea are the prime exhibits.

But hey, at least the author didn't talk about "hybrid" warfare as some magical development. You know what I think about that by now, eh?

Saturday, October 20, 2018

America Really is the Land of Opportunity!

"Beto" O'Rourke is Hispanic. Rachel Dolezal is African American. Elizabeth Warren is Native American. Bruce Jenner is a woman. Cory Booker is Spartacus. And Donald Trump is president.

You really can grow up to be anything in America no matter what your origin is! Are we a great country, or what?

Arbeit Macht Frei!

The Chinese are rounding up Moslems in Xinjiang, but there is no reason to worry!

Huh (tip to Instapundit):

China on Tuesday characterized its mass internment of Muslims as a push to bring into the "modern, civilized" world a destitute people who are easily led astray — a depiction that analysts said bore troubling colonial overtones. ...

In the Xinhua report, Zakir said authorities provide free vocational training in skills geared toward manufacturing, food and service industries. Zakir said "trainees" are paid a basic income during the training, in which free food and accommodations are provided.

Vocational training. Salt of the Earth, those Chinese Communists. Saints, even.

Thank goodness those rulers are reasonably enlightened, otherwise it might be worrisome.

Work will set them free, apparently.

It's Dead, Jim

The Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty is dead.

This only makes sense:

John Bolton, US national security adviser, will meet Sergei Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, on Saturday in Moscow, amid reports that Washington will tell Russia it plans to quit a landmark nuclear weapons treaty.

Russia continues to violate it and the verification provisions expired long ago. It's a treaty in name only and if Russia wants to act like the treaty doesn't exist, we should just pronounce it formally dead.

The original treaty prevented America from stationing very effective nukes in Europe that would have played havoc with deep Soviet military targets. And now just as Russia acts like an aggressive nutjob against NATO, Russia provokes America into abandoning the treaty.

Let it go.


UPDATE: More from Strategypage:

The American withdrawal announcement was in reaction of Russian violations of the treaty (like some versions of the new Iskander and RS-26 ballistic missiles) and violations of other important nuclear disarmament deals (like the 1994 one that got Ukraine to surrender its nukes in return for a Russian guarantee that it would never seek to annex all or part of the Ukraine). In addition China is not bound by the INF and producing weapons that violate it. Russia immediately denounced the Americans, who are sending senior negotiators to Russia to discuss the matter.

Russia sees the Americans leaving INF as a major setback because until now Russia has been able to violate several Cold War era arms reductions treaties with impunity as Russia sought to rebuild its empire using the excuse that NATO was conspiring to conquer, or contain, Russia.

I would like a treaty with Russia that limits theater missiles in Europe. Our major worry is China and their theater missiles that threaten our allies, fleet, and bases in the western Pacific. But a deal with Russia that only we obey is worse than no deal.

Although keep in mind that saying China has weapons that "violate" the treaty doesn't mean China is violating a treaty that they aren't part of--just that China is free to build weapons that America can't because of the treaty (and which Russia isn't supposed to build but is building).

And you will see that link again because the post is wide ranging with a lot of interesting news.

Friday, October 19, 2018

The Words are English Yet They Make No Sense

"Why is Germany beefing up its military?" Seriously? That's the story the BBC wants to convey?

Germany's economy is very big and fluffy. Germany has a long way to go before the military beef peeks out around the edges. [Link added, which I intended to include.]

Perhaps it makes more sense in the original German.

2025 is Getting Darned Close

Long age, when the Future Combat System (FCS) was the rage, in the pages of Military Review (pages 28-33) I warned against the urge to build the wonder tank that combines lethality, protection, and strategic mobility:

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.

Apparently, we've made great advances in expanding the capabilities of the wonder tank we would like to field:

Could there be a lightweight armored attack vehicle able to speed across bridges, deploy quickly from the air, detect enemies at very long ranges, control nearby robots and fire the most advanced weapons in the world - all while maintaining the unprecedented protection and survivability of an Abrams tank?

That ... would ... be ... friggin' ... AWESOME!

And back in the real world, the still-awesome Abrams tank gets older and older, approaching the time when updates just aren't possible on the old girls.

And as an aside, if the wonder tank is in reach, why are we looking for a "light tank" as a separate program? The wonder tank will be able to do everything for everyone! Even the Marines will want some.

But even in the cited article it is admitted that the lethality and protection of the Abrams can't be replicated by a wonder tank:

[The] combat-tested Abrams weapons, armor and attack technology will be extremely difficult to replicate or match in a new platform.

Yes, there is no such thing as the wonder tank. So just what is the point of the project's more fanciful desires?

Just build a new damn tank.

Collective Defense in Cyber-space

The United States essentially committed itself to a cyber Article 5 commitment to NATO:

Acting to counter Russia’s aggressive use of cyberattacks across Europe and around the world, the U.S. is expected to announce that, if asked, it will use its formidable cyberwarfare capabilities on NATO’s behalf, according to a senior U.S. official.

The announcement is expected in the coming days as U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis attends a meeting of NATO defense ministers on Wednesday and Thursday.

Katie Wheelbarger, the principal deputy assistant defense secretary for international security affairs, said the U.S. is committing to use offensive and defensive cyber operations for NATO allies, but America will maintain control over its own personnel and capabilities.

The article is from October 3rd, and I assume this offer took place since then.

It is kind of funny that when some people oddly question America's commitment to NATO under Trump against an armed attack on a NATO state, the United States is willing to fight for NATO in cyber-space, too.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

The Coming Slap Fight Along the DCL?

Assad said that after defeating the rebels in Idlib that the Kurdish-dominated east under American protection is the next target. Are either Assad or Trump up for that fight?

Do tell:

“After Idlib our target is east of the Euphrates,” said [Syrian foreign minister] Walid al-Moualem, adding that the area, like all parts of Syria, had to return to Syrian sovereignty.

I'm not sure if Assad has enough supporters to wage war in the east.

But I'm not sure if America is willing to fight very hard for the east.

The Kurds will fight. Will they have the weapons and numbers to do so?

And Iran will fight with their Shia foreign legion. Can Iran afford that?

It is possible that there might be a lot of chest thumping and poo flinging along the Euphrates River deconfliction line (DCL), but little actual serious fighting.

Plus, is the war in the west over even after Idlib falls? 

Thirty Tons is Puny in a World of Giants

The Army is getting heavier to cope with conventional enemies.

As a result of the heavy commitments to counter-insurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2003 to 2011, our Army's force structure shifted to more infantry brigades.

That shift has been reversed. One effort to heavy up applies to those infantry brigades:

One of the service’s priority acquisition programs is Mobile Protected Firepower. This is essentially a light tank weighing 25 to 30 tons, a number of which will be added to the Infantry Brigade Combat Teams.

Light tanks won't be enough unless our potential enemies are sporting enough to only use light tanks against our light tank-supported infantry.

Remember, American Sherman tanks weighed in at a little more than 30 tons in their basic model and proved wholly inadequate as our main battle tank one-on-one against German tanks of 1944. How much worse will a 30-ton light tank be tomorrow against modern tanks?

Those infantry brigades should get tank or heavy combined arms supplements, as I argued in Army Magazine earlier in the year.

The Magic BB is Arriving

An Israeli company has built a device to attach to any rifle to make it easier to hit the target. A future of ill-trained marksmen will force our infantry training to dramatically change to cope.

Here we go. Precision is reaching the infantry:

The system works by tracking potential ground and aerial drone targets using a day or night mode with a traditional red dot sight picture. Once found, it works out a firing solution even as a soldier’s natural breathing and fatigue draws his aim off target. All a soldier has to do is hold the trigger down.

When the solution is calibrated, the round is let loose, hitting the target and nothing else, Smart Shooter officials told Army Times at the Association of the United States Army’s annual conference in Washington, D.C., this week.

The problem is when this technology (which I have dubbed Dumb But Controlled, or DBC) reaches even enemy insurgents, our training edge that emphasizes accurate shooting will be nullified. As I recently wrote on the Naval Institute blog:

The May 1972 “Battle of the Bridges” in which U.S. aircraft destroyed targets that had long resisted dumb munitions announced the arrival of a new precision method of waging war that promised “If you can see it, you can hit it. If you can hit it, you can destroy it.” That was described as the first phase of a revolutionary change in the nature of warfare.[22] That battle won with expensive but effective “remotely piloted munitions” fired from expensive planes by expensively and extensively trained air crews has filtered down to the level of rifles carried by even ill-trained individual fighters. Will U.S. Marines be prepared to win on such a battlefield of tomorrow?

This applies to the Army, too, of course. And to any Navy or Air Force people who carry rifles for a living.

I argued that marksmanship training time in basic training will have to give way to tactical training pushed down to basic training; and that leadership, tactics, and non-weapon technology must be improved to overcome enemies with marksman created by putting a rifle in their hands.

UPDATE: Enlisted leadership has to be chosen carefully to make the most of our infantry.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Thanks Russia!

Russia is not about to help America. Please keep Russia away from anything important to America.

Keep this Russian effort to bypass American sanctions on Iran in mind when Russia offers to "help" on any issue:*


How much more Russian "help" can we endure?

I keep hoping the Soviet-era rulers of Russia will fade away and allow Russia to become a normal country. But I keep fearing that the problem isn't lingering Soviet influence but deep-seated Russian habits of paranoia and self destruction.

And because this never gets old:


*I've never heard of the organization and publication. But the effort reported would be fully consistent with Putin's Russia.

You Can't Get There from Here?

The Army's future-oriented armored vehicle organization that is looking at the replacement for the Bradley is getting the job of looking at near-term vehicle objectives too.

In theory I'm good with this because it avoids stovepiping near-term developments from longer-term projects:

The Army’s new Next-Generation Combat Vehicle’s modernization arm is expanding its scope from prototyping next-generation vehicles and ground robots to also guiding more near-term programs through the procurement process.

The NGCV cross-functional team — which serves under the new Army Futures Command — is taking on the Army’s Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle, which is being manufactured by BAE Systems and just finished its limited user test, as well as the Mobile Protected Firepower capability.

That will help make sure future developments can be rolled into the vehicles built in the near term, eh?

One thing I'd like to see done for the infantry carrier is the capability to use reachback for the squad in some Army missions by replacing onboard infantry with remotely controlled weapon stations on the infantry fighting vehicle.

Why not bridge the gap between near- and long-term vehicle development with an experiment with mounting remote weapon stations on the Bradley that are controlled by soldiers in the rear?

Please note that I don't want to get rid of infantry. I want to prevent them from becoming casualties while mounted before they can be used for dismounted combat. And with the greater emphasis on training and equipping our infantry, preserving those investments is even more important.

I explored that in Infantry Magazine and envisioned that in an essay that didn't make the cut for the Army Mad Scientist initiative.

Preparing to Fight a Ground War in Asia

The Army in INDOPACOM is ditching previous emphasis on humanitarian missions to train for potential wars, reflecting the new national focus on potential conventional enemies.

The threats require this kind of shift:

U.S. Army forces in the Pacific spent most of their training time preparing for humanitarian relief missions, evacuations from natural disasters, and efforts to build up allied security forces.

Not anymore. Since President Donald Trump has come to office, the administration has issued a new National Security Strategy focused on the persistent potential for military conflict with China and North Korea. The Army has shifted gears accordingly. ...

Volesky’s I Corps is unique; the Army has never before assigned an entire corps to one geographic region. The assignment shows the Pentagon’s seriousness about being ready to fight a major war in the Pacific.

Another data point: 20 percent of the Army is currently assigned to U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, Flynn said.

“They’re committed because we do have multiple treaty allies out there, we do have multiple war plans out there,” he said. “That is a big difference from where we were some 15 years ago.

This fits well with my call for the Army to prepare to fight--with allies--in the Asia mainland if necessary. It isn't enough to be coastal artillery and air defense for the Navy anymore. The Army's core competency is large-scale land combat.

I Corps has a lot of scenarios to prepare for in a vast theater.

And remember that 20% means just three brigades. One in South Korea, one in Alaska, and one in Hawaii. So nobody is contemplating a march on Peking.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Midnight Express?

A lot of the Khashoggi murder information--including the most sensational--seems to be coming from Turkey which is a rival of Saudi Arabia for influence in the Arabian peninsula region. Is Turkey about to cash in their chips in the Khashoggi Affair?

The Khashoggi killing is a difficult problem. See here for my thoughts after the affair went beyond my data dump mentions.

Saudi Arabia is an important ally in the region, central to opposing Iran and for much else, including efforts to modernize Saudi Arabia and countering jihadi ideology somewhat; and Saudi oil is crucial for the global economy.

Saudi Arabia is hardly the worst human rights violator in the world. The primary accuser Turkey is no prize these days under Erdogan. Saudi Arabia was worse in the past, pre-9/11. And if Saudi Arabia is destabilized Saudi Arabia could be far worse. De facto Saudi ruler Mohammed Bin Salman is no saint, but others who oppose him in Saudi Arabia would prefer to have MBS gone.

The search, according to the Turks, provided damning evidence:

Police searching the Saudi Consulate found evidence that Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi was killed there, a high-level Turkish official said Tuesday, and authorities appeared ready to also search the nearby residence of the consul general after the diplomat left the country.

But other than Khashoggi being missing and seemingly dead, what evidence floated by Turkey has proven to be true?

But murdering a journalist--even one with odd ties to intelligence and jihadi groups who is far from the democracy dissident he is portrayed as--should be out of bounds.

So what do we do if, as seems likely, Saudis killed Khashoggi?

We need to punish for the act but not destroy or weaken the country to lessen its aid to us.

Again, do we brutally punish every country that has killed a writer?

And what if punishing Saudi Arabia helps enemies who are no less brutal to domestic enemies?

This isn't an easy problem.

And then there is the question of who to punish?

It seems as if Khashoggi is truly dead and that Saudis did it.

Did MBS order the murder? Did he order the capture and interrogation that went awry and led to Khashoggi's death?

Did an ally of MBS do either without orders from MBS, believing Khashoggi's death was in the interests of MBS and Saudi Arabia?

Did an enemy of MBS do either without orders from MBS, believing the backlash orchestrated by Turkey is in the interest of moving Saudi Arabia post-MBS (and restoring comfortable corruption in MBS's opponents)?

If we punish MBS if he isn't guilty we are helping his enemies inside Saudi Arabia. But if MBS ordered the hit, he must be punished. To some extent.

And there is still some small doubt about Khashoggi's death. Could he have been smuggled out? That seems unlikely at this point, but if Turkey is working to harm rival Saudi Arabia, could a bribed Saudi official have sent Khashoggi out a side door without a camera? That seems unlikely to me at this point, but the possibility exists.

Yet given that this seems like something that would greatly benefit Turkey if it weakens Saudi Arabia as a rival by weakening the US-Saudi alliance, what if this is a Turkish set up even if MBS ordered it?

I did say in my "Leverage" post linked above that I said the Saudis needed to make a plausible case for rogue elements doing the hit.

Remember, this is a joint Turkish-Saudi investigation. What if Turkey makes a deal with Saudi Arabia for Saudi concessions on some issue of importance to Turkey--like abandoning support for America's backing of Syrian Kurds--and the joint investigation concludes that rogue Saudi agents killed Khashoggi during interrogation? It might even be true.

But that might be irrelevant. It would be difficult to disbelieve Turkey after their more colorful charges have been reported in the West as fact--or at least without any questions.

And consider that the Saudis might have bought a UN Security Council veto to shield this kind of barely plausible (or possibly true) conclusion:

A Frenchman held captive in war-torn Yemen for over four months after his boat ran into trouble near the port of Hodeida has been released, the French presidency announced Tuesday. ...

In a statement President Emmanuel Macron thanked authorities in Oman and Saudi Arabia for helping obtain his release.

And we have a precedent for sanctioning just the identified bad elements, this time the Basij portion of the Revolutionary Guards:
The US Treasury Department on Tuesday slapped sanctions on an Iranian paramilitary group along with a network of businesses that were providing it financing, as part of Washington's campaign of maximum economic pressure against Tehran.

How many times have Westerners excused Iran's mullah rulers for terrorism by saying it was the Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guards) at fault and that they are beyond the control of the mullah government?

Remember, too, that Turkey wants Saudi Arabia weakened to make room for Turkish influence and not destroyed to allow Turkey's other rival Iran to make serious gains in the region.

I wouldn't be shocked if Turkey proves to be the key that "resolves" this affair.

Obviously, this is a lot of speculation. The murder of Khashoggi could just be as evil and stupid as it seems to be.

UPDATE: Exactly:

President Trump is facing his trickiest diplomatic dilemma to date: how to punish a wayward ally, Saudi Arabia, without strengthening its regional foes — particularly American enemies, like Iran.

There is more.

The foundation of the dilemma is do we want Saudi Arabia and the region to be better or worse after our punishment?

UPDATE: Don't forget that Russia would consider it a major victory to drive a wedge between America and Saudi Arabia.

UPDATE: A lot of people here and abroad would see $400 per barrel oil acceptable collateral damage, I imagine. Tip to Instapundit.

UPDATE: Don't ditch Saudi Arabia:

There are two things the U.S. should not do. One is sweep Mr. Khashoggi’s murder under the rug. His disappearance has damaged Saudi Arabia’s standing, including in Congress. ...

But to do what the Iran-deal chorus and the Erdogan and Muslim Brotherhood apologists want—to dissolve the U.S.-Saudi alliance in a frenzy of righteousness—would be an absurd overreaction that plays into the hands of America’s enemies. It could also stampede the Saudis into even more recklessness.

Honestly, Saudi Arabia is a better ally than Pakistan and we put up with them.

And yes, I corrected every mention of "MSB" ...

UPDATE: Seriously, what do we know? With a bonus mention of Pakistan.

UPDATE: You don't have to think MBS is qualified to lead the Arabian chapter of the League of Women Voters to want him to succeed in his reform efforts.

Don't Panic About China's Rise

Work the problem of China's rise because China has plenty:

China’s economy is beset by excessive debt accumulation and other maladies, but the main factor inhibiting economic potential is not a systemic debt crisis—a concern to be sure—but the abandonment of reformist policies. Xi Jinping, the Chinese ruler, has turned his back on Deng Xiaoping’s “reform and opening up” program that is credited with sparking Chinese growth for almost four decades. Instead, Xi for a half decade has been reinstituting the Stalinist state model that Mao Zedong embraced in the early 1950s. ...

China, as a result, is moving from authoritarianism back to totalitarianism, readopting a model that brought the People’s Republic to the brink of economic failure twice, once during the Great Leap Forward of the late 1950s and early 1960s and again during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution of the mid-1960s to mid-1970s. China’s economy cannot be expected to do well in an increasingly intolerant political atmosphere, as the country’s own history suggests.

You never saw on this blog the type of China panic that assumed China would surpass America as the top economic power. I've seen the same talk about the USSR, Japan, and Germany only to watch them fall away.

As for China? Maybe 2050 will see China surpass America. But by then, 2100 isn't far off and things could be very different.

On the bright side, allowing distance to obscure the problems of others while closeness allows us to see our own (and make some up) problems has the effect of spurring us to action.

American dominance isn't something I assume will last forever. But I suspect we are in another "American century."

UPDATE: How Xi is killing the goose that laid the golden egg.

Get a Freaking Room Why Don't You?

I am really getting tired of the hype about Russian so-called "hybrid" warfare.

Just stop:

In 2014 Russia-backed separatists used a blend of digital and traditional fighting during their takeover of Crimea, and the Pentagon took note.

As the Russians blitzed the contested eastern region of Ukraine with cyberattacks, electromagnetic jamming and unmanned aerial systems, the U.S. military closely monitored the battle tactics, according to officials speaking Oct. 8 at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual meeting. ...

How the Russians embraced hybrid warfare showed just how effective overlapping these tactics could be. [emphasis added]

So what makes Russia's invasion "hybrid" warfare? The article notes cyber-warfare, electromagnetic jamming, and drones. These helped demoralize Ukrainian troops and helped Russian artillery find targets.

Meh. That's warfare. Plain and simple.

Russia has long--since it was the Soviet Union--had potent electronic warfare capabilities. Those have been improved and cyber-warfare has been added to it. And drones are just a more persistent and capable version of spotter planes.

Yes, Russia put those things together to demoralize troops--which was done by radio or pamphlets in the past.

And Russia put those things together to bombard enemy troops that unwisely massed without digging in when they stayed too long in one place.

And Russia had the huge advantage of going to war against a country whose armed forces were in bad shape from deliberate pro-Russian policies by pro-Russia leaders; and those armed forces were in chaos from the revolution that overthrew the pro-Russia leadership.

Honest to God, the Crimea takeover was impressive but it had unique circumstances that prevent it from being Exhibit A in the hybrid warfare craze sweeping Western defense circles.

Obviously, we need to react to Russian capabilities. But stop the analysis paralysis.

I don't know if the hybrid war craze flows from me being on crazy pills or everybody else gulping them down like M & Ms. Hybrid warfare is simple. It consists of Russia invading a country, Russia denying it, and the West going along with the fiction.

Baby Steps

Iraq is beginning to build a new government after their last election. We can lament the time but we should celebrate the lack of political violence to achieve a government.

Yes, there are miles to go before we sleep:

After four months of vote recounts and bitter negotiations following May's indecisive election, in September Iraq's strife-ridden Council of Representatives voted to form the nucleus of a stable government when its parliamentarians agreed to select Barham Salih as president.

In early October, Salih chose Adel Abdul-Mahdi to be prime minister and charged him with forming a new national government. Abdul-Mahdi must accomplish this feat in 30 days. ...

Abdu-Mahdi's frail nucleus confronts huge challenges. Creating a stable and functioning governmental entity will take a decade or two of focused effort by the Iraqi people and the staunch support of key allies like the U.S.

This alone is a victory flowing from the 2003 war. A victory that flipped Iraq from terror-supporting aggressor to terrorist-killing ally that is bizarrely not recognized even as we stare right at it.

Yes, Iran has influence in Iraq. As a more powerful neighbor with shared religious ties, that's hard to avoid in the near-term. That influence is one reason Saddam invaded Iran in 1980. The problem continues. As that author argues, that's a reason to help Iraq resist Iran and not throw up our hands and walk away--again--to our regret:

Between the election in May and the recent protests in Basra, Iraqis are making it clear that they don’t want to be a vassal state of Iran. This presents an opportunity. The new Iraqi government will have to show its independence. With a little skill and luck, the U.S. can quietly give Abdul-Mahdi the support he needs to push back against Iran and address the economic misery in places like Basra.

More can be achieved if we stay to support Iraq against Iranian efforts to keep Iraq weak and help Iraq gain a stretch of peace to rebuild their country and society after decades of destruction caused by Saddam's cruel rule; Baathist, jihadi, and Iranian Shia proxy insurgencies and terror; ISIL conquest and terror; and Iranian-backed militias.

It is totally frustrating that some would walk away, claiming we've failed.

America's invasion of Iraq to overthrow Iraq didn't cause Iraq's many problems--our invasion gave Iraq an opportunity to overcome and correct them.

Let's hope we stay for the long haul to help Iraqis build a much better Iraq, resistant to corruption and Iranian influence.

Monday, October 15, 2018

The Middle Threat

Nobody has any excuse not to act to defend the West:

The five nations in the world's leading intelligence-sharing network have been exchanging classified information on China's foreign activities with other like-minded countries since the start of the year, seven officials in four capitals said.

The increased cooperation by the Five Eyes alliance - grouping Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and the United States - with countries such as Germany and Japan is a sign of a broadening international front against Chinese influence operations and investments.

I imagine China enjoys quietly gaining power while the aggressive Russians figuratively yell "Squirrel!" by threatening NATO to attract attention. But a quiet Western world response to China works despite the high-profile Putin Show.

And I just don't get this angst:

In a little-noticed pivot, the Administration set up China as the major geopolitical opponent of the United States in no uncertain terms, led by a speech from Vice President Mike Pence. This change in position — not to be confused with the far more benign “Pacific Pivot” of the Obama Administration — has set off alarm bells ringing from Tokyo to Melbourne.

Our allies are worried that America will stand up to Chinese pressure and aggression? I don't think so:

When asked if it would be better for the world to have the US or China as the leading global power, 73 per cent of Asian respondents – represented by polls taken in Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia and Australia – favoured the United States, versus 12 per cent for China, the new research showed.

I think those who fear China could pick them off one by one see the advantage to having America provide a shield:

China has a growing problem with the Americans waging a trade war (because of decades of economic scams). China is at a disadvantage in this trade dispute because China exports nearly four times as much (in dollar value) to the U.S. than the Americans export to China. This trade dispute is escalating and that is bad for Chinese businesses in general because China has tended to treat all its trading partners badly. Now those countries see a chance to get back at China.

Indeed, if alarm bells are ringing in Tokyo, it is the sound for general quarters:

Warfare exercises in the disputed South China Sea over the past two months reveal a sustained, long-term escalation of Japanese activity in a region where Tokyo has strategic interests that include keeping Beijing in check.

In September a Japanese submarine, helicopter carrier and two destroyers explored the sea contested by six governments, with China the most militarily powerful. The exercise is part of a two-month initiative called Indo Southeast Asia Deployment 2018, designed to promote “interoperability with our partner navies,” the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force says on its website.

Then, on Monday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged to work with Vietnam on security in the South China Sea. Two days earlier his forces had held a beach-storming drill with their counterparts in the Philippines.

Is the Trump focus on China less "benign" that Obama's pivot to the Pacific? Sure. But that's because the Obama pivot was really a pivot away from the Middle East. Between leaving Iraq in 2011 after winning the Iraq War and reentering Iraq in 2014 to wage Iraq War 2.0, the Obama administration needed a reason for trying to flee the Middle East.

Further, the claim that the original pivot (which was just the continuation of a post-Cold War trend, anyway) was some definition of "benign" ignores that China claimed to be outraged that we'd even need to pivot to the Pacific.

And as an aside, contra the angst-ridden author, that I find the assumption that the Chinese have an amazing long-range planning ability to be just silly.

Remember But Don't Obsess

As the Army and Marines reset to conventional combat, the skills in counter-insurgency (COIN) are fading. That's okay as long as the officer corps retains the knowledge to reorient the troops to that mission if needed.

Sure. What of it?

The U.S. military’s “new” doctrine on COIN (FM 3-24) was lauded as a revolutionary moment. With the “new” doctrine in hand, the U.S. military could now effectively win its unconventional wars. However, comparison reveals the new COIN doctrine is strikingly similar to that developed during the Vietnam War. Why does the U.S. Military forget how to conduct the types of conflict it is more often engaged in?

We’re witnessing it happen right now. The military finds itself in a nonconventional conflict, adjusts on the fly haphazardly, eventually gets some systematic doctrine written down, and once the war is over it goes right back to preparing for near-peer competition. With troops still stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan actively engaged in combat, the Pentagon is already shifting focus back to near-peer competition with the new 2018 National Defense Strategy. [emphasis added]

The article asks why we forget COIN when most of our post-World War II missions have been irregular rather than conventional.

I'll tell you why, and it isn't something that needs to be corrected. An Army trained for COIN pushed into a high-speed intense conventional war will be destroyed; while an Army trained for conventional warfare will likely be unable to win--yet have the time to reorient without being destroyed to eventually win.

I argued, when the Iraq War surge was still going on, that any good soldier makes a good counter-insurgent--as long as the officer corps has the knowledge to use them in a good campaign.

Mind you, the author seems mostly on the same page as I am, but you need to get to the end:

Thus, the problem lies less with the military’s forgetfulness of how to conduct low-intensity operations, but with the nation that asks them to perform such operations whilst remaining ready for a near-peer war. States shouldn’t demand a military that can do everything somewhat well, but instead a military that can execute operations that serve vital interests incredibly well. Civilian leaders shouldn’t expect their militaries to be “jack of all trades” organizations. If American leaders ask the military to be good at stability operations they risk them being bad at countering existential threats.

The question is whether the Army and Marines are making sure that the officer corps retains the institutional knowledge of COIN even as they necessarily refocus on conventional combat.

Just Build a New Damned Tank

Oh. My. God. We keep finding out how useful tanks are in actual combat yet the urge to build anything but a new tank seems to be embedded in the DNA of some parts of the Army.

Here we go again:

While the M1 Abrams tank still has life in it yet, the Army is starting to begin the thinking and planning process for a future tank, “which is really exciting because it might not be a tank,” Coffman said. “It is decisive lethality and what that decisive lethality is will be determined by academia, our science and technology community within the Army and industry.”

The Army will choose a path in 2023 on how it plans to replace the Abrams and some of the ideas cropping up in discussions have been “everything from a ray gun to a Star Wars-like four-legged creature that shoots lasers,” Coffman said, “but the reality is that everything is on the table.

Same old stuff again.

Not that we might not settle on a tank after looking at the laser-armed crawler option.

And not that we aren't modernizing our actual tanks in the arsenal right now.

But while past efforts to build a wonder tank failed, this time our academia, science, and technology communities just might do it! This time it will be different!

I railed against the effort prior to the Iraq War to build the Future Combat System--not a tank (the article starts on page 28). While I accepted some sort of light armor that could be airlifted to try to bridge the gap between foot infantry and heavy armor, I argued it would not replace a tank.

Desert Storm showed the value of heavy armor:

Technologically superior heavy forces and air power decisively prevailed in Desert Storm after a laborious deployment to the Gulf. With lighter and fewer but technologically superior troops, we expect to deploy globally from CONUS and smash any enemy rapidly and with few casualties. Desert Storm, updated to Information Storm, will become a Global Storm. Our Information Storm cannot become global without tradeoffs. If we lighten the Army too much and optimize it for stability operations, our troops will be shocked if we must fight even a single MTW, let alone something worse.

But that was forgotten.

And the Iraq War--both in the conventional phase and in the counter-insurgency phases--proved the value of armor again. Can we not remember that?

And we've had other examples of how heavy armor still has a vital role on the battlefield despite the claims that the little furry mammals were about to make them extinct.

The Army needs mobile protected firepower. If not a tank, what will provide that requirement in numbers we need?

I have no doubt that the heavy main battle tank will one day be replaced by something. No weapon systems dominates forever. But we keep trying to leap ahead to that day and falling on our faces. Why are we tempted to say "This time for sure!"

And if once again the faith in technology to solve the problem of being lethal, protected, and strategically mobile fails as it has thus far, falling back on the mature Abrams tank will falter too as that old platform is unable to handle updates to keep it abreast of potential threats.

Just design and build a heavy tank.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Well That's Just Excessive

The Army is aware that we have an Air Force, right?

It is the Army’s No. 1 priority to develop long-range precision fires that ultimately can exceed 10,000 nautical miles. And while enhanced projectiles can get a munition well out beyond the line of sight, ensuring accuracy and effective targeting will depend on other technologies and operational tactics.

Long-range artillery is a great thing to have. That's good.

But I don't understand the need for an intercontinental fire support capability. Isn't the solution to the accuracy and targeting problems to put the projectile on a plane?

A Love-Hate Relationship

The new report on America's manufacturing and defense industrial base vulnerabilities hasn't yet provoked cries against a "military-industrial complex," but I imagine it will. So let me get ahead of it.

Eisenhower's warning about it is always truncated. Here's what Eisenhower also said:

A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction. Our military organization today bears little relation to that known of any of my predecessors in peacetime, or, indeed, by the fighting men of World War II or Korea.

Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense. We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions.

Eisenhower experienced the normality of America without that arms industry of his presidency which was the new normal. It was natural to regret that and warn about the new development--even as he knew it was vital to have.

It would be nice if we didn't need so much of a military and defense industry. But we are a long way from being an isolated nation apart from and insulated from the major players in world politics.

Survival is the Measurement

The national defense strategy renews focus on great power competition and conventional warfare. Casualty evacuation and treatment needs to focus on great power confrontation, too.

Can casualty evacuation honed to a high degree of success through American counter-insurgency campaigns (although Afghanistan lagged Iraq) succeed in getting casualties to medical care in a conventional war environment without a permissive evacuation environment and with a volume of patients we haven't seen in a long time?

That may require extending the "Golden hour" to medical care to a period our system can handle rather than trying to make the system meet that time standard.

Seriously, if patients are moved to medical care to meet the time standard when they should be stabilized first even if they make it to medical care in longer than an hour, that's the right thing to do.

So I hope we use good data on what the Golden hour actually means.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Weekend Data Dump

Despite our 1995 military intervention in support of Bosnians, Bosnia still faces unrest. Russia has a hand in the crisis, of course, enabled by America's gradual withdrawal over the years.

The Dutch caught the Russians trying to hack the OPCW, the "chemical watchdog" group that documents Syria's violations of the glorious 2013 Kerry-Lavrov chemical weapons deal that did not end Syria's use of chemical weapons, and which as I predicted just helped Assad in his civil war.

Here's the report on the American defense industrial base shortcomings.

We're a long way from knowing what happened at a Saudi consulate in Turkey and whether bin Salman had any connection to it in execution or concealment after the fact, but if true, good Lord that's bad. Tip to Instapundit. And the US is putting pressure on the Saudis to explain this.

We had Columbus Day this last week. He may have saved the West, to the benefit of the world that has Western concepts of democracy, freedom, and free market capitalism (but sorry about the communism stuff).

China is more aggressive about defending its outlandish territorial claims in the South China Sea. Which is dangerous. The recent near collision was averted only when the American destroyer changed course in the face of a Chinese warship apparently intent on causing an accident is the latest incident of concern. I suspect it is because we are now doing actual freedom of navigation operations rather than innocent passage masquerading as FONOPs. The last time the Chinese pulled this was in 2013 when the Chinese wanted to brush back an American cruiser observing their new carrier (from this excellent tour of China whose economy is slowing down, which the government would prefer their people not read about). We need to overwatch our FONOP assets to protect them in case of an incident. Don't forget that the Chinese rammed our EP-3 aircraft in 2001 (although I suspect it was pilot error on China's part).

Lack of efficiency in aid projects as part of a war effort isn't something that usually outrages me--I consider it "ammunition" and would no more complain about ammo usage efficiency--but this program in Afghanistan seems above and beyond in waste and possible corruption.

While it is a saying in Australia that "you aren't drunk until you throw up on your shoes," that isn't the legal standard.

Good Lord, what is going on? The woman's murder is bad enough but if it was done to stop her investigation into corruption, that's big picture bad for rule of law.

Orban is right, you must admit.

A look at Iran's "museum grade" air force. Not that it couldn't do some damage. But it couldn't do damage for long if opposed by actual air power.

The Army is heading to urban areas with new strategies to recruit in regions that historically haven't provided recruits. I suggested a program with a dual mission of making urban areas more resilient to casualties from terror or natural disasters--or just crime--while exposing more people to the value of the Army for personal choices.

Worries about American commitment to European defense are silly considering that NATO is a treaty commitment that transcends individual presidents--and our current president has affirmed the commitment explicitly--and considering that America is increasing its capabilities in Europe even as America pushes Europeans to do more for their own defense. In what alternate world is this a questionable American commitment? But it is true that European "intellectuals" calling for a strong Europe are not capable of replacing America. But my view is that the intellectuals simply want to downgrade and ultimately eject America to clear the path to a European empire under the EU, and defense of Europe be damned. The Baltic states at the edge of that proto-empire know America is the key to their defense and not Brussels.

I'm not sure how you can argue against up-arming the Stryker. As long as you recognize it is a start and not the solution, the downside eludes me. Mostly I'd like to move beyond the issue of up-gunning the Stryker and admit we need an actual armored cavalry regiment in the force structure.

Without a description of how many missiles Iran has in their arsenal, I find this article describing the models of missiles less than useful.

Trump isn't about to "shuffle" America's top officers as the headline states, he is about to replace a number of senior officers whose terms are ending, as the article describes. The news may not be fake but the headline is sure fake, implying some level of so-called "chaos" and turmoil. And you wonder about my caution in using news sources?

I got a human scammer calling me about issues with my gas usage. Normally they are by computer generated voices and are kind of hilarious in their grammar and subject matter. This request for a call back sounded legitimate but ... off, in some of the details. Plus, I've never ever had my energy company call me so figured given my low use of gas this time of year that this was a scam. I just got my monthly bill and all is normal. Be careful out there. Never call a number that is given by someone calling you. Use a number from your own resources if you think it might be real.

So Krugman thinks Venezuela was trying to be Venezuela when Hugo Chavez started the country down their suicidal socialist path to the cheers of people like him? Good Lord, of course Chavez believed he would produce paradise. Of course he didn't intend to create today's basket case of a nation. But that's really the point of the Siren Song of socialism that inevitably leads to despair and despotism despite the claims of progress and equality, now isn't it?

I wonder if this State Department base on Cyprus was set up with an eye toward promptly evacuating Americans from Lebanon in case Israel invaded. Since it was shut down, what would that say (if my wonder has a basis in fact)?

Since ditching communism and despite the loss of a lot of territory in 1991, Russia is again an exporter of wheat. I did not know that.

They say the prospect of a hanging focuses the mind.

I don't think that Saudi air strikes in Yemen are the problem. Houthi willingness to use human shields is the problem. More of a problem is lack of food, and even that looming crisis is made worse by Houthi actions to divert aid for their war effort. If Iran hadn't gotten involved in the civil war, Saudi involvement would be minimal.

As long as fanatics are drawn to social media, the ability to quickly analyze the traffic is certainly very useful.

You've got to be kidding me. If it turns out that nobody ever resets the default password of "password" I will be very upset. Well, the bayonet and entrenching tool will always work, eh?

I've been pronouncing "carbine" wrong my entire life. Not that it comes up much. Now the correct pronunciation just seems so wrong to my ear. I'll get used to it. You learn something new every day.

Wow. Ukraine's Orthodox Church will split from the Russian Orthodox Church. It's the state church in Putin's Russia and Ukraine doesn't want to be part of that state. But as long as one Russian Orthodox believer remains in Ukraine, Russia will be willing to go to battle for that poor soul! #WhyRussiaCan'tHaveNiceThings.

American sanctions are sharpening the contrast between the corrupt wealthy and distressed poor in Iran. Good.

This article discusses Australian army developments. Personally, I think the Australians need an army on wheeled armored vehicles mobile enough to defend their large continent and able--with naval infantry--to hold outposts north of their country to shield Australia. Submarines and good aircraft able to attack approaching superior naval and amphibious forces are crucial; while good surface warships capable of supporting amphibious operations north of Australia are needed, too. Build that kind of military and it will be of use further abroad as well.

The speed of Russia's S-300  deployment to Syria's military following the Syrian shootdown of a Russian plane while blaming Israel led me to suspect that it was a token capability rather than a real deterrent to Israeli aircraft going after Iranian and Hezbollah targets. I didn't even bother to blog it in a data dump. The deployment is not much of a big deal in the short run.

NATO will reactivate an Albanian air base at Kucova. Which will be a nice backstop to facilities from Romania to Bulgaria, to Greece, to Crete; as well as being an outpost to watch over Serbia.

I started to watch Designated Survivor on Netflix. I lasted four episodes before I grew weary of the all-too-predictable foes to the suddenly elevated liberal everyman president that included a tiresome conservative Islamophobic governor, a pro-coup warmongering general, and a scheming Republican representative. The trinity of evil for liberals. Even Maggie Q couldn't keep me in longer than that. Maybe I'm missing out on the big reveal that the ACLU was behind the massive bombing that provides the premise for the show, but I'll risk it.

It is sad that the far left Twitter mob has decided to condemn someone who actually killed lots of actual Nazis. And insult our British allies.

And yet the Philippines will still be a better than average thug member of the UN body.

Useful idiots. To be fair, we knew that about Vox. Now we just know that China finds them useful. Tip to Instapundit.

I mentioned that real casualties would be inflicted if Palestinians penetrate the fence between Gaza and Israel and launch attacks inside Israel. Palestinians did both and 7 were killed. These are not protests. They are attacks with lots of human shields--shields no less for being willing.

We may have solved our aircraft oxygen generating problem. I hope so.

Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida sustained a lot of hurricane damage. Let's hope the F-22s left there because they could not fly out can be repaired. We have few of these excellent aircraft and can't afford to lose them.

Ukraine suspects sabotage as the cause of a large ammunition depot explosion. Things should be blowing up in Russian-occupied Donbas, if you ask me.