Monday, November 19, 2018

False Compassion in Action

A ceasefire will start in Yemen. Failure to win and end the war is the biggest killer in the war.

Here we go:

The Saudi-led coalition on Thursday halted its offensive to retake the Yemeni port city of Hudaydah.

The Trump administration has been pushing for a cease-fire for weeks, with peace talks set in Sweden at the end of the month. With less fighting in Hudaydah, humanitarian groups can get much-needed food and medical supplies to millions of starving civilians.

As I mentioned about lessening the intensity of the war in this post on Iranian propaganda efforts in Yemen on behalf of the Houthi:

Saudi efforts to win without enduring casualties lengthens the war and makes sure more of somebody else dies. Yemen is false compassion in action.

The ceasefire will not noticeably work and humanitarian aid delivered will be siphoned off by the Houthi for their war needs and blocked for the people who need it after a brief respite.

And the Houthi will regroup and reorganize during the ceasefire to be better prepared to fight the war when the ceasefire is ended.

So the war will last longer and more people will suffer and die. But other than that a ceasefire is great.

PRE-PUBLICATION UPDATE:  Strategypage touches on the ceasefire and humanitarian issues, and more, also noting that the rebels are losing.

Quitskrieg

Strategypage tours the wreckage of modern Germany's military:

Nearly three decades defense spending cuts are causing Germany major problems that just keep getting worse. The latest example was the Defense Ministry admitting that most (61 percent) of major items (armor, aircraft, ships) “delivered” by German manufacturers are not ready for use but must undergo months of additional work (for upgrades and other modifications). Normally this would be an administrative problem that could be fixed by specifying the condition delivered systems must meet before accepted. But this latest humiliation was also part of an embarrassing and seemingly incurable problem; most German military units were not ready for combat or much else.

I've addressed the sad state of Germany's armed forces. Although in some ways such readiness stories are a surprise because it doesn't seem like Germany even has a military.

But what is really surprising in the Strategypage tour is how poor the equipment is, which defies Germany's industrial skill reputation. Their navy is simply the most shocking example of the ineptitude.

Germany really gets on my nerves. They are freeloaders in NATO's collective defense capabilities. And their drive to build a European Union military should be considered in light of Germany's poor performance providing a military for NATO. Germany will not contribute to a real military regardless of what flag it serves under--German, NATO, or EU. The Germans just want to move the money around and pretend that's progress.

And when called on their lack of a real military, the Germans play the Nazi card, which frustrates me to no end:

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

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

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

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

What is wrong with modern Germany?

When Near the Pacific Ocean Appear in the Far East Land

While Russia is a lingering and persistent threat, with a lot of nukes that we must assume actually work; China is the long-term rising threat--to Russia as well as America. What kind of beating with the clue bat will it take for Russia to face their true threat in the Far East?

China's military is aiming to be good enough to take on America:

The report warns that the buildup poses new dangers for the United States and its allies in Asia that are seeking to maintain the traditional democratic and free market order in the region against Beijing's communist expansionism.

Caroline Bartholomew, a China commission co-chairman, said the rapid buildup includes a streamlined command structure and improved Chinese military ability to contest U.S. military operations.

The commission has asked the U.S. intelligence community to produce a report on how China's Belt and Road Initiative will be used for military purposes, she said.

Yes, China's anti-access/area denial weapons (A2/AD) that emphasize long-range missiles to keep American ships away from China (and hence away from American allies near China) are a problem. And efforts to deny America the use of space and cyber-space complement that capability.

And behind that shield, China builds up a blue water navy plus modern aircraft that make the news with claims of stealth; and with little fanfare a modernized army.

But China knows they have a weakness (back to the report article):

"Much of Chinese leaders' concerns center on the PLA's lack of recent combat experience and the perceived inability of many operational commanders to carry out basic command functions such as leading and directing troops in combat," the report said.

My question is whether China's build up in the short run is really intended to fight America. Would China really risk their "China Dream" by using their new but untested military against America, which does have a lot of combat experience?

In the long run, China's military is a threat to America and our allies. But in the short run, if I was in charge of China, I'd want a victory over someone a little more easy to defeat than America to signal the rise of China as a world power.

Taiwan is the obvious choice. And if China can strike hard and fast behind their A2/AD shield, they might be able to pull off the victory before America can even decide to directly intervene.

But that involves avoiding war with America. I really have doubts that China would want to start a war with America that would draw in allies from South Korea and Japan in the north to Australia in the south and India to the west. And we'd likely have some help from Britain and France in time.

Although I could be wrong about Chinese feelings on the question. Japan made the wrong call in 1941, after all.

But would the Chinese really strike in the direction we expect them to strike based on their high profile naval build up? The Chinese do at least pay lip service to deception. Wouldn't China want to appear near when they are really far, as far as their intentions go?

Remember, China is planning to invest an awful lot in their New Silk Road (or One Belt One Road, or Belt and Road Initiative, as I think the latest term of art is) that runs west to Africa, Central Asia, the Middle East, and ultimately Europe. That kind of economic investment will draw their military power to defend the investment.

And looking back in history, Japan signaled its rise with victories over China at the end of the 19th century and then over Russia at the beginning of the 20th century, which were weaker powers, before believing they could take on America and Britain (in addition to fighting China).

America too signaled its rise with a victory over Spain at the end of the 19th century.

Wouldn't China want to signal its rise with a victory over a weaker power rather than risk it all by taking on the strongest power?

I think China might want to strike Russia to seize Russian territory in the Far East seized from China in the 19th century. China's claims are merely muted--not ended.

And China does have, after their military reorganization, a military region that could control all forces that attack Russia's Far East.

While China would be wise not to risk their rise by risking a loss to the strongest military power, we may have enough uncertainty about how well our Navy could fight (our post-World War II experience has been in land and air campaigns without serious naval threats despite very intense preparations to train to beat the Soviet fleet during the Cold War) to be deterred from intervening at sea in a war that China starts.

A signal victory over Russia would demonstrate Chinese power and perhaps begin the process of convincing American allies close to China that America cannot build a military strong enough to shield them from China's demonstrated power. China could defeat America without fighting America.

Russia would be wise to make peace with NATO to make Russia's west a secure rear area and end their effective appeasement of China to recognize China as their main enemy--as we do despite worries about Russia in Europe--that threatens the Russian Far East.

Russia could use all the help they can get in Asia, and that is one reason why I noted the possibility of helping Russia in this article about exploring Army campaign options in the Asia-Pacific region.

Russia is running out of time to prepare to defend themselves in the Far East.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Weekend Data Dump

It really isn't a long path to follow.

My skepticism about the purity of science credibility predates global warming. A friend in archeology grad school in the 1980s would tell me how the old guard defended Clovis like their cathedral and basically squashed research that would challenge that. Say, a pre-Clovis weapon was found in Texas. Science follows the evidence. But scientists are still people.

How can we continue to be so exceptionally bad at human intelligence?

The headline says that Iran benefits from the Saudi-led effort in the Yemen war. But that is clearly wrong. What they meant to write--and as the article argues--is that Iran spends very little to fight to the last Houthi; while the Saudis spend a lot to avoid friendly forces casualties. So Iran is bleeding Saudi finances. While true, the Saudis can afford to spend the money. Iran is being squeezed financially. And Iran really gains by winning the war to establish another Hezbollah on the Gulf of Aden to threaten oil exports via the Red Sea. In the end, it would be better financially to win the war faster and not fight so cautiously. That's on top of the humanitarian reasons to win the war faster, of course. True compassion, as I noted in the last data dump, argues for a faster victory. Sadly, I suspect Democrats have decided that Yemen is the war they will try to lose in 2019 despite getting what they wanted.

The Navy is committed to resuming LCS patrols in the South China Sea out of Singapore. Funny, I'd recently been wondering about that. The reality of the LCS didn't match the good idea of the reconfigurable ship. But it is the most expendable blue water ship we have and so is good for peacetime engagement in dangerous waters.

The British say that NATO will be "the heart" of their post-Brexit defense strategy. Given that NATO does the heavy lifting of defending Europe, that's good. Membership in the EU reduces European defenses.

This article asks if the anti-vaccine activists are responsible for a measles outbreak in Europe. Last week in a data dump I noted that Russia was active online in promoting the anti-vaxxer people. So Russian disinformation may be harming and killing people. Here, I once read that regions of low vaccination rates could be tagged fairly accurately simply by noting where a Whole Food Market is located. Seriously. Ah, science.

The Russians have used an airfield in eastern Libya at Al-Khadim (Al-Kharouba). I've noted that Russia is testing the waters in their old Khadaffi stomping grounds from the Cold War.

Can America leverage Iran out of Syria when our presence in Syria is authorized to fight ISIL? On the positive side, Russia, Turkey, and even Assad--eventually--would like Iran out of Syria.

The Lithuanian Iron Wolf brigade will be "affiliated with" a German division. I worry that the sad state of Germany's army will just drag down the Lithuanians. But at least the Lithuanian unit won't be a maneuver brigade attached to a German division. In addition, Lithuanian officers will be assigned to the two German tank divisions. Is this to help prepare units that go to the German-led NATO battlegroup in Lithuania? Or does it telegraph that the two German divisions intend to fight in Lithuania if Russia invades?

My daughter made home-made pasta and sauce for dinner one night last week. And I still had delicious leftovers three days later! I'm a lucky dad.

There was only a lull in Boko Haram activity and corruption in Nigeria. That does not bode well for Nigerians or the region.

Even Russian naval infantry have ditched their light tanks for heavy tanks. Just who is left to face a new American light tank? For God's sake, we have Abrams tanks to spare.

Russia disrupted GPS during the NATO Trident Juncture exercise. The Russians didn't give a damn if it risked civilian lives reliant on GPS.

So what is our policy toward Belarus? Whatever it is, it should recognize that Belarus is arguably the most important territory in Europe today.

The Army is well aware that without adequate sealift it can only be sent abroad to die.

American and Iraqi forces continue to hunt and kill jihadis. I still find it amazing that people don't think we won the Iraq War, forgeting that under Saddam Iraq trained jihadi terrorists.

The Russians say the loss of that floating dock that damaged their aircraft carrier means they can't repair that carrier. The Russians should consider this a gift from God and accept their blessing in disguise.

Russia still denies they invaded Ukraine, so their protests that the fake elections in the Donbas don't violate the non-existent ceasefire are not credible to me.

Macron's denunciation of nationalism was really a defense of the proto-imperial European Union project to suppress nations in Europe and put them under the control of Brussels. This was the centennial of the end of World War I. Which the Europeans blame on nationalism infecting the people rather than on the rulers who led European nations to war then and in 1939.

The North Korea nuclear problem is not ended. Are we making progress or just giving Kim the time to go fully nuclear? On the bright side, North Korea is more vulnerable to squeezing them economically. Although I've read that the South Koreans dismiss the report of secret missile facilities.

Venezuela needs aid and not Marines? Well, if aid rather than Marines is provided, that will just help Maduro survive the unrest caused by his cruelty and ineptitude. If we just provide aid, Maduro will leverage it to punish foes and reward friends. The sad fact is that sometimes Marines are required to get the aid to the people who need it. Mind you, I don't want American Marines to be the force that might secure logistics hubs at ports and air fields. South Americans should mount the operation with our logistics help. As for aid now? Send it to the countries that are hosting Venezuelan refugees to keep the flow of people from destabilizing the hosts.

The SDF is scheduled to resume offensive operations against ISIL in eastern Syria.

Reason N+1 of why I don't trust journalism (tip to Instapundit). It's not merely the partisan bias. In the end most journalists know so little about their subject that they accept being spoon fed information to retain "access" to the people involved. This flaw is about more than hiding news that would portray Saddam in a bad light to keep access to Saddam's Iraq, as CNN famously admitted they did. It's tough to figure out what is going on when you do have subject-matter expertise. Few of the clowns out there now have the subject expertise to even try.

Has China fielded light-weight graphene armor on their (crappy) helicopter?

There are very few actual Nazis in America and so the search for them gets ridiculous (tip to Instapundit). I do recall in basic training standing at attention in formation when the drill sergeant asked for a show of hands on something. Everybody's right palm went up. I recall standing there in formation hoping no photograph was taken at that misleading moment. Seriously!

I have no idea how this political earthquake shakes out, but whatever new Israeli government forms will have the backing for whatever Israel does moving forward from the election.

The only thing ironic about this trade statistic (tip to Instapundit) is that the media would have us believe that the Trump administration is walling off America from imports.

If another person says that a multi-billion dollar "wall" along the US-Mexican border can be overcome with a $20 ladder, with a smirk that suggests they are oh so clever, I will simply scream in frustration. Any physical barrier can be overcome if it is not defended. The point of a barrier is to identify and slow down intruders--as even the Great Wall of China was intended--to give time for defenders to plug the breach. It is not to function as a stand-alone impenetrable barrier. 

President Trump absolutely should have restrained himself on the anniversary of the 2015 jihadi terror attack that killed 130 in France. Trump was wrong. Full stop on that.  On the other hand, the "Je suis Charlie" moment has passed in France, which seems to have gotten over a brief flurry of resolve to defy and actually fight the jihadi terrorists. And the French seriously had no problem with the James Taylor Incident? I'd be upset if Obama had treated an ally--no matter how annoying at times--in this manner. Trump was wrong.

India's first nuclear submarine that can be armed with nuclear missiles finished its first deterrence patrol. It was just a test, really, but it is a start. The close distance between India and potential nuclear threats Pakistan and China make unique problems for India (and for China and Pakistan). If India can solve the problem of security and unauthorized launch, nuclear-armed subs are very important for a survivable deterrent to discourage the incentive for an enemy to try a disarming first strike on land-based nuclear forces.

If "nationalists" are really Nazis, as Democrats are oddly claiming, wait until the Democrats find out that Nazis were self-defined "national socialists" where "national" modified their basic socialist nature.

Egypt may give Russia's "new and improved!" Mig-29 a test as a long-legged fighter-bomber.

"Dumb Government Olympics." Heh.

Russia says the jihadis are not separated from the moderate Syrian rebels in Idlib province. Ultimately I think that assessment just telegraphs a Russian effort to kill them all and let Allah sort them out.

I don't know why the Left increasingly hates on Thanksgiving. Are they saying that it was wrong for undocumented aliens in a caravan to come to North America and in time completely change the demographic and political order that existed at the time of their arrival? Huh.

I do hope we fly our F-35s in exercises with their fancy networked systems turned off to see how the plane fights as a stand-alone plane. Because the ALIS system if hacked would provide an enemy with a lot of information. There is also Joint Reprogramming Enterprise (JRE) which shares sensor data. I hadn't heard of this one. If that is corrupted, what would happen? And I worry not just because I grew up watching Battlestar Galactica. I've worried about this for a while now and the problem is still there. The plane seems to work really well when the networked systems are working. Will the systems work against serious cyber-threats?

The U.S. imposed sanctions on 17 Saudi individuals in response to the murder of Khashoggi.

DARPA practiced defending an electrical grid from a cyber attack. That's a start.

Russia's Pantsir S-1 mobile air defense system apparently doesn't work very well.

Half the world's countries have birthrates too low to sustain them. They are disappearing. America's rate is below replacement level but we have an advantage in that we can make an American out of pretty much anybody--unless our policies promote Old World tribalism rather than assimilation.

Hamas' border assaults continue with Iran's backing, and the Israelis will target the armed attackers more persistently. And Iran expands its plans to fight Israel to the last Arab by expanding forces in Syria to help Hezbollah in Lebanon confront Israel, too.

If memory serves me, the Army did better on recruiting and retention even during the height of the Iraq War.

The other day I was driving behind a car with both a "COEXIST" bumper sticker and a "Resist" bumper sticker. Process that for a moment. Thank God I didn't see a University of Michigan decal anywhere on the vehicle.

A company hired to find the Argentinian sub that went missing a year ago with 44 aboard found the submarine. Mostly we discuss how inadequate funding can kill in war. It kills in peacetime, too.

Turkey is not pushing the Khashoggi Affair out of a deep devotion to freedom of the press. I suspect they just want leverage for something. Whether it is to harm rival Saudi Arabia or push down the Kurds in Syria who are also a restive minority in Turkey, there is a price Turkey will accept to drop the whole affair. Is the price in America and would we pay it to ease the pressure on Saudi Arabia? That doesn't seem wise on our part. If the report is true. And in a later development, that is not under consideration. Good.

Secretary Mattis explains that military support to protect and defend the border with Mexico has a long history that extends to recent times under both parties. Indeed, my grandfather was sent to the border a century ago as part of the New York National Guard. Mattis also explained that the MPs are included to protect the engineers and others doing jobs in support of the border police. I had assumed they were a reserve for crowd control. Apparently not.

I once respected the ACLU despite their enthusiasm for defending criminal scum. I have always been strong on civil liberties (as a rule of law guy here) and they were on that issue like ugly on an ape. Criminal scum are where we really test our rule of law. Once upon a time in defense of freedom of speech they would defend actual Nazis. Now the ACLU couldn't care less about civil liberties except as a weapon. This lawyers auxiliary to the Democratic party wouldn't defend someone merely accused by left-wing fanatics of being a Nazi. I mourn their death. They are zombies that merely look like the outfit they once were.

I'm just going to say that Pence has staked out a pretty confident position on our trade disputes with China. What is the CIA and Commerce Department telling the White House about China's economy?

Women in combat units, and Israel's experience in particular.

I suspect the new tactical weapon Kim Jong-Un is boasting about is a multiple rocket launcher because he called it a "steel wall." At this point that is ancient technology. So whatever.

A Picture of the Future of Warfare

The director of DARPA calls for meshing all capabilities into a single seamless military effort, which is termed "mosaic warfare":

Part of the concept is “combining weapons we already have today in new and surprising ways,” Grayson said. Key will be manned-unmanned teaming, disaggregating capabilities, and allowing commanders to seamlessly call on effects from sea, land or air depending on the situation and no matter which of the armed services is providing the capability.

I think this is an excellent point and I am posting this mostly to keep the quote handy for a project in my theoretical pipeline (which is a stack of 3 x 5 cards sitting on my desk). It fits with a project that I've been pondering for a decade at least, I think.

Oh, and I want this quote by Army chief of staff Milley about Multi-Domain Operations--the Army entry in the buzzword appropriations olympics:

“We intend to seize and maintain the initiative, to gain positions of advantage, and breach defenses in depth through combined arms maneuver in all domains and operate at speeds far faster than the enemy can react,” he said. The goal is “to disrupt, penetrate, disintegrate and exploit the enemy’s anti-access systems and bring their fielded forces to operational paralysis.”

Mosaic warfare is just an obscure buzzword among a number of other buzzwords like MDO that get at the same concept. But the concept is right in pointing to the ultimate purple warfare we need.

Hey! A new buzzword! UPW!

An American Base in Poland?

Secretary Mattis has discussed Poland's proposal to help finance an American garrison in Poland:

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis met with his Polish counterpart Mariusz Blaszczak Tuesday to discuss Poland’s offer to spend $2 billion on a permanent base for U.S. troops and their families in the country. The base was jokingly called “Fort Trump” by Poland’s president after meetings with U.S. President Donald Trump.

“We are working out the details on what the offer is, what can best contribute to alliance unity, to alliance security and to the continued strengthening of the bilateral relationship,” Mattis told the press prior to his talks with Blaszczak.

This would be an improvement on my call following the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008 for prepositioned equipment in Poland. But Russian behavior has worsened so my original proposal was based on not being too assertive in positioning American troops in the new NATO states in the east.

Still, while I'm not against American armored brigades in Poland, I think I'd prefer a permanent American presence in Poland consisting of air defense forces to protect equipment stored there for troops flown or moved overland into Poland in time of crisis.

As long as Belarus is neutral and not hosting Russian ground troops, Poland has enough of a buffer I think, to avoid needlessly stoking Russian paranoia.

But if we ever restore actual armored cavalry regiments to the Army, I'd consider putting one of those in Poland on a permanent basis.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

The Enemy of a Good Brexit is a Perfect Brexit

Is the potential British-EU deal to exit the European Union any good?

I don't follow the details and it would be beyond my abilities to comprehend, quite frankly. This writer says "no deal is better than this deal."

Perhaps. But I'd add a caveat that no deal is better than this deal if the British actually leave the EU despite having no deal. Deals can be made after exiting, eh? An EU eager to make deals with Iran will be willing to make deals with Britain, I think--in time when they accept the Brexit.

But conversely, striving to get a better deal rather than this deal if in the end it torpedoes Britain's exit will be a catastrophe for Brexit. If Britain doesn't exit on time because it wants to pursue a better deal, the forces for remaining in the EU will win and another peasant revolt will be suppressed.

Remember, even a poor Brexit deal can be amended over time to make it better. The only question should be Brexit. Either Britain leaves or it doesn't.  If it leaves, new trade deals can be made to improve Britain's terms of trade with Europe.

But if Britain doesn't leave on schedule now, it is stuck forever. The EU apparatchiki will learn their lesson from Brexit and will make the legal ties of "ever closer union" too tangled to ever undo short of armed revolt. Nor will their ever be another popular vote on the issue.

As I wrote before the vote, "Vote Brexit On Sight, Vote Brexit First, Brexit To Kill the EU, Keep Brexiting".

When Mohammed Can't Go to the Mountain

Huh:

Google's services went down for an hour yesterday after its IP addresses were routed way from normal paths to Nigeria, China and Russia. Google told Ars Technica it doubted the leak was malicious, despite the fact that government-owned China Telecom was recently caught routing Western carrier traffic through mainland China. Some of Google's most sensitive data, including its corporate WAN infrastructure and VPN, were reportedly redirected.

So this hijacking of a mountain of data wasn't malicious?

But it was possible even if it was just a "big, ugly screw-up."

So if China or Russia decide to do it for malicious purposes, they now know they can do it.

I doubt the Nigeria role was malicious. The Russians and Chinese probably could just bribe somebody in Nigeria.

Friday, November 16, 2018

A Thorn By Any Other Name

Is nobody at all suspicious that the two most prominent backers of a European Union armed forces are the two countries that unified Europe by force of arms despite opposition from other Europeans who ultimately won?

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for the formation of a “real, true” European army during a speech to European Union ministers on Tuesday, lending support to the suggestion made by French President Emmanuel Macron last week.

They don't propose to do it with the levee en masse or with panzers and Stukas, but they do assume they will dominate what Europeans will voluntarily give to them.

An imperial state can't survive without a monopoly on military power that ejects America from the continent. That's all you need to know about the European "real, true" army.

But you know how I feel about the European Union.

UPDATE: And for other Europeans who want a European army, ask the French if they will turn over their nuclear weapons and aircraft carrier to a pan-European military under the control of Brussels.

More Than Centrifuges are Being Spun

Iran is still implementing the Iran nuclear deal?

Iran has kept its stock of low-enriched uranium as well as the level to which it refines uranium within the limits set by the landmark deal, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency report to IAEA member states, obtained by Reuters.

It is not accurate to say that the IAEA can ever verify that Iran is honoring the nuclear deal because the IAEA is limited to where and how it can inspect.

All the IAEA can say is that in the areas that Iran agrees to let the IAEA look at, that the IAEA doesn't see any signs of violations. Is that really surprising?

Any claim beyond that narrow claim in the real world is pure spin and propaganda.

Less Rubble, More Trouble

Rather than trying to figure out how to use firepower to avoid friendly and civilian losses and to avoid destroying a city to take it, I'd rather figure out when we need to take the entire city and when we can afford to just take key parts of the city--and which parts should that be?

Urban warfare is deadly to the city and its people if they are stuck in it. Unless an attacker is willing to lose a lot of its own troops to take a city, firepower is the only way to take the city. Which destroys it.

That's the problem in a nutshell of taking a city from an enemy force holding it:

The enemy could be a conventional military force, like the North Korean Army during the 1950 Battle of Seoul or North Vietnamese regulars in the 1968 Battle of Hue. It could be a nonstate paramilitary organization with military training and capabilities, like the Chechen rebels in the battles for Grozny in 1994–1995 and 1999–2000. Or it could be a well-equipped and prepared terrorist organization, like the Islamic State in the battles across Iraq and Syria since 2014. Regardless, the most destructive urban battles usually occur when an enemy force decides to defend from within a city and an opposing force has decided the city must be reclaimed or the enemy eliminated.

We appear to be approaching the problem frontally by trying to avoid destroying a city (mega-cities has been a big buzz word these days) in the context of our campaign objective in the theater in order to save the city.

I'm skeptical we can figure out how to take a city without destroying it from determined defenders and think we should attempt to define what parts of a city we need to take (and likely destroy to avoid needlessly sacrificing friendly troops) in order to avoid destroying the entire city by taking the entire city when we don't need the entire city.

And really, why do we expect to routinely need to fight in cities when our experience since World War II is so sparse?

The few examples include the 1968 Battle of Hue, Panama City in 1993, Baghdad in 2003, Fallujah (twice) in 2004, Ramadi in 2006, and Sadr City in 2008.

And in World War II, the only battles for cities that I can think of that we fought are Aachen and Manila.

Maybe we haven't needed to take (and so destroy) a city that often. Maybe we should spend more time figuring out whether we really need to be able to take an entire city in the future.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Russian "Help"

Russia continues to try to get "peace" in Afghanistan by hosting talks that include the Taliban, a.k.a " “the Emirate of Afghanistan” as they call themselves at the talks.

If Russian "help" gets a peace deal, America and the region loses:

The major problem with that is such a deal turns control of Afghanistan over to drug gangs, Pakistan, Iran and Islamic conservatives (who ban education for women and generally unpopular lifestyle restrictions). This means going back to the situation before the Taliban lost control of Afghanistan in 2001. Back then the Taliban provided sanctuary for Islamic terrorists, especially al Qaeda. The Taliban is still on good terms with al Qaeda. The Taliban is also seen by the majority of Afghans as the creation of Pakistan and a largely Pushtun organization financed by Pakistan supported drug gangs. The Pushtun are 40 percent of the population and the largest ethnic group in the country. The Pushtun dominate the opium and heroin business which is also opposed by most Afghans, if only because it has created so many addicts.

Which helps Russia. Honestly people, don't let Russia "help" us any more.

The only way a peace deal can work is if the Taliban concede defeat and the Afghan government wins. Anything else is just a "decent interval" to get coalition troops out of Afghanistan before we let the Taliban win.

And do read all of the Strategypage post. The perspective on current Afghan government casualties is highly useful. The short version is that the Afghans have lost more in the recent past and that now the Taliban lose at twice the rate.

Getting What We Wished For

Saudi Arabia is leading a war effort in Yemen to block Iran's effort to extend their influence to the Gulf of Aden. And now some are belatedly wary of the problem:

Three years ago, then Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter attributed Iran’s growing dominance to its being “in the game, on the ground.” He urged its regional rivals to do the same, thus expressing a widely shared sentiment in policy circles at the time: Arab Gulf states needed to rely less on the United States and play a greater role in their neighborhood.

In many ways, that is exactly what these countries have been attempting to do since 2015, and now Carter and others have reason to revisit their advice.

In the absence of strong American leadership, now spanning two administrations, the future of the region hinges on what local powers define as priorities, and how they go about trying to achieve them. Even if Washington decides to wake up, it will now find it far more difficult than in the past to assert itself.

And the issue is older than that. Recall that the splendid little Libya War was celebrated by the Obama administration as a glorious example of "leading from behind."

Here's what I said about that policy five years ago when Japan visibly began to rearm:

So you'd think that Japan's decision to reverse a decade of defense spending decline and actually seek the capabilities to defend themselves would be welcome. We are pivoting to the Pacific and not away from the Persian Gulf, right? So help in the Pacific should be welcome, right?

But no. Sure, the usual suspect is all upset. But I've read that even our government is worried. Why? Because with increased military capabilities, Japan might start an armed confrontation that it cannot now, and drag us into a war with China.

Welcome to the flip side of "leading from behind."

When we want allies who can fight without us taking the lead--wait for it--we get allies who can fight without us in the lead.

So they might fight in Vietnam. Or invade Egypt.

I think a lot of the hand wringing over Saudi Arabia's conduct in the Yemen war is the result of Iranian propaganda. But the Saudis are doing what President Obama wanted them to do.

Yet despite that, I suspect the Democrats in charge of the House of Representatives have chosen Yemen as the war they will try to lose in 2019.

Also, I find it amusing that the author's complaint is that we are absent from the Middle East (we aren't absent) and that we aren't there to be "an umpire to manage conflicts and halt the autocrats’ worst instincts." It seems like just yesterday that anti-war protesters claimed our presence just made things worse.

All Your Far East are Belong to Us*

America has said that it won't send missiles to Europe after exiting the INF treaty. Which makes sense because the real target of the decision is China, which is building a large arsenal of conventional intermediate range missiles that threaten our military and allies in Asia.

Seriously, Russia is not the target of the exit even though Russia clearly benefited from cheating on the deal while America did not:

The Russians also know this American decision is really aimed at China which, and the Americans know and the Russians refuse to admit, has a more powerful military than Russia (for the first time in centuries). The Chinese 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.

Yes, China has temporarily suspended claims on Russian territory. How long will China continue to do that and what price will Russia have to pay to get China to extend that suspension of claims?

Our military would like to be able to match those missile capabilities. That would certainly lessen the burden on our aircraft and ships trying to pierce China's anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) capabilities. Softening up the Chinese missile arsenal with our own missiles will make it easier to support our allies close to China.

And really, exiting INF doesn't affect the ability of Russia to pretend NATO is a threat while they appease the real threat of China.

*For those who have forgotten.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Significant Shrinkage

Russia's population is falling, making Russian threats to wage war a bit hollow if casualties exceed the price Russians paid to pound Georgia, take Crimea, and grind away at Ukraine using as many local Ukrainians as possible in the Donbas.

Russia is faced with a declining birth rate and a rising death rate:

On the plus side these population problems made Russia less of a military threat to its neighbors. For centuries Russia (rebranded as the Soviet Union in the early 1920s) was considered a threat to its neighbors by virtue of its larger population. But since the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991 (and half the population broke away to form 14 new nations) the remaining Russian population has been in decline. Twenty years after the Soviet Union collapsed, the Russian population implosion was getting worse. While in the 1990s the population was shrinking at a rate of .1 percent a year, in the first decade of the 21st century that increased to .2 percent a year. This was because the non-Slav Russians are having fewer children, just as the Slavs have been doing (or, rather, not doing) for decades. The Russian population has declined three percent since 1989, from 147 to 142.9 million. The proportion of the population that is ethnic Russian (Slav) has declined from 81.5 percent to 77 percent in that same period. The Russian slide could have been worse had it not been for the fact that millions of ethnic Russians in the 14 new states felt unwelcome with government controlled by the locals, not Russians in far off Moscow. Often the locals wanted the ethnic locals in their midst gone and Russia made it easy for ethnic Russians to return to the motherland. This prevented the Russian population decline from being closer to ten percent. Until the recent invasion of Ukraine, sanctions and lower oil prices, the Russian birth rate was growing. That has stopped.

Russia still has the reputation of being a country willing to lose 30 million people--as they did in World War II--to win a war.

But the reality of modern Russia is far different. The biggest question may be whether Putin could force the Russian people to accept high casualties to win a war.

A Stunningly Laughable Claim

The idea that China "won" the war on terror because we were "distracted" by the fight against terrorists is laughable:

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, America awoke the undisputed superpower, commanding advantages across all dimensions of national power.

America boasted unprecedented diplomatic and military strength. Our companies dominated the U.S.-developed internet, spreading soft power at light speed. Our economy was 32 percent of global gross domestic product, the federal budget generated surpluses and the national debt was less than $6 trillion. A true “near peer” was laughable.

This strategic advantage eroded as America fixated on a small, at times lethal, band of extremists.

Oh, please. Raise your hand if you think America would have forcibly stopped China from building islands in the South China Sea if we hadn't spent the previous decade at war with jihadis? Anyone? Bueller?

And remember, our policy was to promote China's economic growth in the belief that it would lead to democracy and rule of law in China. That predated the war on terror and no doubt would have continued. If there are people who think the Cold War "peace dividend" wouldn't have continued with a shrinking defense budget and a shrinking military with perhaps some amazing new weapons in the laboratories--but not in the field--they are fooling themselves.

The Army and Air Force have a lot of wartime experience now, and new weapons accelerated during the war like drones, precision ammunition for artillery and planes, and more effective body armor. With a refocus on great power rivalry they will be fine.

Heck, the war on terror didn't prevent the Air Force from accepting new F-35s into their inventory. We do need to get the Navy larger and more lethal with dispersed anti-ship weapons throughout the fleet. But I seriously doubt that absent a war on terror that the LCS, Zumwalt, and Ford projects would have been more efficiently carried out.

And consider that without our efforts the jihadis might have gained more support and more lasting territorial control than ISIL managed with their transient Islamic State spanning western Iraq and eastern Syria. The Taliban would still be in charge of Afghanistan and Saddam or his evil spawn would run a jihadi-friendly Iraq with access to at least chemical weapons. Who knows if the Saudis would have fallen to the jihadi surge following 9/11. And who else would have gone down without America supporting enemies of jihadis in Arab states around the Middle East?

The argument that China won the war on terror rests on assuming that without waging that war that nothing much different would have happened in the Arab world. And it rests on America somehow reacting to China's military rise faster by abandoning the policy of promoting China's economy and rearming despite the lack of overt Chinese hostility.

Just stop.

Downsizing

Russia wants a blue water navy but given they only seem able to build small surface ships like the 23 ton, 17 meter (54 foot)-long Raptor, by default they may get the fleet they need.

Bravo:

In October 2018 the Russian Navy received the last two of the original order of 14 Raptor (Project 03160) patrol boats. Three more are under construction in the St Petersburg shipyard where all have been built since the prototype was completed and tested successfully in 2013. Patrol boats like this have turned out to be the only successful post-Cold War Russian warship construction projects.

Which is good even though Russia's leaders may not think so.

Russia really just needs ballistic missile nuclear submarines for a survivable nuclear deterrent and a coastal defense navy (which would include conventional attack subs) to protect the coasts and the nuke subs.

The (blue water) fleet is one of the three traditional sources of Russian weakness. Modern Russia can't afford and doesn't need a blue water navy except to pretend they are still as powerful as the Soviet Union.

Honestly, their Kuznetsov mishap was a gift from God. Will Russia recognize this blessing in disguise and build the fleet they actually need?

UPDATE: To be clear, I mean "good" from Russia's perspective. I want them to try to build carriers--lots of them.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Dogs from God

I remember the Rods from God from way back when I was a college student. I guess they're back. But let's think small instead.

They're ba-ack (tip to Instapundit):

The 107-country Outer Space Treaty signed in 1967 prohibits nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons from being placed in or used from Earth's orbit.

What they didn't count on was the US Air Force's most simple weapon ever: a tungsten rod that could hit a city with the explosive power of an intercontinental ballistic missile.

I recall discussions about how a small rod from God could take out the engine block of a truck and stop an invasion. Putting a nun or baby on the hood would take out that expensive way of knocking out a truck, no?

But as a strategic weapon, with an effect like a nuke an enemy will respond in kind. And if they can't, why wouldn't they use nukes if we are nuking them in all but name?

I would not be the first to put those in space.

On the other hand, I like this but never heard of it:

During the Vietnam War, the US used what it called "Lazy Dog" bombs. These were simply solid-steel pieces, less than 2 inches long, fitted with fins.

There was no explosive: They were simply dropped by the hundreds from planes flying above Vietnam.

Lazy Dog projectiles (aka "kinetic bombardment") could reach speeds of up to 500 mph as they fell to the ground and could penetrate 9 inches of concrete after being dropped from as little as 3,000 feet.

Shades of the precision concrete bombs we have dropped to destroy with kinetic energy while having no blast for collateral damage to nearby civilian targets.

How many of those "Dogs from God" would be dropped from a plane today? It seems like these would have a good effect like cluster bombs against infantry, supply units, or artillery/air defense assets without the dud problem that leaves unexploded bomblets around to be picked up by civilians, stepped on by friendly troops who enter the area, or disassembled by insurgents to make IEDs to use against us.

Are we missing an opportunity using a simple weapon with our focus on precision and technology?

The Stars Align?

The stars can wait. Fight for the Earth.

I'm not exactly against an independent Space Force right now. And I could be persuaded this is the way to go. But right now I think it is premature and this article in favor of the idea (tip to Instapundit) doesn't convince me that it isn't too soon to establish one:

All but the most shortsighted expect that the future of humanity is in the stars, and the United States of America must secure its place as a leader for the long-term in this area if we are to maintain our position at the forefront among the nations of the world.

The stars? We're not to the Moon yet to stay, and already we should embrace a separate space service because eventually we want to go to the stars? I like the enthusiasm, but whoa there fella!

Seriously, the Space Force will have 20,000 staff and not one of them will be in space. Imagine having an army, navy, or air force where none of its members is on the ground, in the sea, or in the air, respectively. 

I've long wanted the Air Force to give up ground support missions to the Army and instead embrace an added space role. I eventually thought the Air Force should become the Aerospace Force. That's how we should enter technical space around our planet. For the foreseeable future anything we do in space is meant to directly affect events on Earth.

Seriously people, I think we can wait for an independent space service until we get beyond the Earth-Moon system, eh?

When You Start to Join the West, Join the West

The fight for Ukraine to be part of the West rather than simply not part of Russia (for now) continues.

The killing of an anti-corruption activist in a particularly cruel fashion in Ukraine has drawn attention from the West:

Far more than the people of Ukraine took notice on Sunday when a young and prominent anti-corruption activist, Kateryna Handzyuk, died in Kiev after an acid attack.

While protests were quickly held in five cities demanding her killers be held to account, it was the strong reactions in Washington and European capitals that mattered more – mainly because Ukraine has become a test case of whether foreign pressure can help end entrenched corruption in a sovereign country.

Ukraine needs to do more to fight corruption and the West needs to help/push Ukraine to build rule of law.

As I've mentioned more than once, if Ukraine remains just a smaller version of Russia, Ukraine will lose their struggle to remain independent of Russian domination or outright control.

Only by becoming more like the West can Ukraine build the economic and military power to remain a free country, just as a free West built on rule of law defeated the USSR.

Remember, Russia is fine with a corrupt Ukraine. It allowed Russia to weaken and dominate  Ukraine's government before 2014, and it will allow Russia to buy influence and control in Ukraine once again.

Stalemate, even tilted toward Ukraine as I noted in this post, in the Donbas won't matter if the real fight for Ukraine takes place in the secret bank accounts of Ukrainian officials and business people.

Monday, November 12, 2018

I Remain Grateful for Just Moments of Clarity

This article discusses the Japanese worry about China and focuses on Japan's sizable navy maritime self defense force:

With 18 diesel electric submarines, four so-called “helicopter destroyers” that look suspiciously like small aircraft carriers, 43 destroyers and destroyer escorts, 25 minesweepers and training ships, fleet oilers, submarine rescue ships and other vessels, Japan’s navy — the Maritime Self-Defense Force — is the second largest in Asia and one of the largest in the world. It is also highly advanced technologically and is growing all the time. The two 27,000 ton Izumo-class helicopter destroyers, the largest in the fleet, with flat flight decks and islands on the starboard side of the vessels, are small compared to the United States Navy’s Nimitz-class aircraft carriers (approximately 100,000 tons) or Britain’s new Queen Elizabeth-class carriers (65,000 tons). But if equipped with the new short-take-off-and-vertical-landing F-35B stealth fighter they will still pack a powerful punch. And Japan is considering adding more of these aircraft carriers to its fleet and advanced U.S.-style Aegis class destroyers, capable of shooting down medium-range ballistic missiles.

The author discusses efforts by Abe to get the Japanese people to alter the provision in the constitution that prohibits Japan from having offensive weapons.

While I think the distinction between "offensive" and "defensive" weapons is pure fiction, I think even a failed amendment effort would have value by implicitly conceding that what Japan has done up to now is perfectly in accordance with the existing constitution. Given the false distinction that only seems to prevent Japan from building the logistics base to support forces far from Japan, I don't think their constitution would stop Japan from reacting to China's growing threat. Especially if the Japanese can plug into the American logistics system.

The article was fine until the end:

Japan is heavily dependent on sea transport, especially for fuel oil and natural gas, that comes from the Middle East via the Strait of Malacca and the Formosa Strait. With the U.S. under President Donald Trump adopting an increasing isolationist tone, Japan, like Australia and other nations in the region, will have to put more assets into their own defence.

Dude. Ditch the derangement syndrome. America is not becoming more isolationist.

Has nobody noticed the increasing American freedom of navigation exercises around China to dispute their territorial claims (and note too, that under Obama the Navy conducted phony freedom of navigation exercises against China)?

Seriously, did this not happen?

China bluntly told the United States to stop sending ships and military aircraft close to islands claimed by Beijing in the South China Sea, during talks Friday that set the stage for a meeting between President Donald Trump and President Xi Jinping later this month.

The U.S. pushed back, insisting it will continue to "fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows."

And what about the American exercises with Japan and others in the region?

American also increased substantially the defense budget and is making serious efforts to restore readiness harmed by years under the budget freeze that prevented the military from redirecting money to readiness. Ring a bell?

Trump is certainly urging allies to spend more on their own defense, and doing it in a less-than-diplomatic manner. But no alliance is under threat. Just where is the evidence of isolationism and what in the heck is the "tone" the author says telegraphs it?

Also, to say as the author does that China dominates the East China Sea and South China Sea "the way that the United States dominates the Caribbean" is just idiotic. America does not claim the Caribbean Sea!

The author was on solid ground and then he went and ruined the ride. Skip the last two paragraphs and this is a fine article.

House of Cards

China's banks are in big trouble after financing GDP-producing construction projects (while being built) that aren't providing a return in that investment:

A major problem is the huge quantity of unsold housing and business properties. The government looked into this and found the situation was worse than anyone had imagined. It turned out that about 50 million housing units (mostly newly built apartments) are unoccupied. That’s about a fifth of all housing in the country. To make matters worse, a lot of the new construction (like so much else in China) is shoddy because of the corruption by builders and government officials who are supposed to prevent such fraud. A growing number of Chinese don’t believe their government can handle this mess and that results in hundreds of billion dollars’ worth of Chinese currency trying to get converted to more trusted foreign currencies (like the dollar, euro and yen).

The Chinese government can hide that for a while and move money around to pretend there is no problem. When does China run our of time and money to avoid dealing with the worsening problem?

You'd think that the Chinese rulers--long renowned in the West for their genetically based long-term planning abilities--would have seen this coming in time to prevent it.

But oddly enough, Chinese decision makers are actually just humans just like the rest of us.

UPDATE: More on China's debt and financial problems.

Not that we in America (and the West in general) don't have a growing debt problem ourselves.

Tip to Instapundit on both articles.

Fobbits No More

The Army wants its brigade combat teams able to fight for 7 days without resupply, which is up from the current 3-day standard:

"Our goal [is] to have brigade combat teams sustain themselves for seven days without resupply," Lt. Gen. Aundre Piggee, who is responsible for Army logistical operations as deputy chief of staff for Army G4, told an audience at an Institute of Land Warfare breakfast sponsored by the Association of the United States Army. "That is significant. Seven days, that is a challenge."

After many years of staging out of well supplied and defended forward operating bases, this will be new to a lot of soldiers.

I assume this means hauling around more supplies, which are vulnerable to enemy attack. I'm not sure how soft targets like that survive on the battlefield.

But it also means using less fuel and 3D printing some spare parts.

Of course, precision artillery and more accurate shooting in general reduces ammunition needs.

What I don't get is why this is a goal. Is it simply to lessen the burden on supply line continuity to allow pulses of protected supply runs to reach brigades at the defined front?

Or does the Army anticipate brigades fighting while behind enemy lines on offense or when cut off during enemy offensives temporarily?

I suppose the healing powers of "and" might apply here.

Preparing to Fight the Last Splendid Little War

I swear, every European defense initiative seems like an exercise in figuring out how to get other Europeans to spend on defense.

Stung by the shortage of bombs in the 2011 Libya War that America had to resupply the European, Europeans are building a stockpile of aerial ammunition that they can share. And America is building up its own stock in Europe:

Over the past month, US Air Forces in Europe took delivery of their largest shipment of ordnance in two decades. It’s another sign of the rearming of the continent as the United States pushes troops and equipment back into the region after years of drawing down, even as its NATO allies — and increasingly, non-allies like Finland — make preparations of their own.

The "preparations of their own" are plans for joint ownership of ammunition by various NATO countries, Austria, and Finland. Belgium, Denmark and Austria now have $20 million in joint air-to-ground precision weapons. Which can't be very much.

This program will include ground- and sea-launched ammunition, too.

I suspect this reaction to the Libya War will not be the best response to anything bigger than another Libya War. If the war is against Russia, every state in that joint ownership group is going to need every bomb and missile in their own possession and the ability to transport them around to needed nations will be halted by the need to move reinforcements and supplies east to meet the threat.

I fear the future is 16 European states with 200 F-35s and 100 shared bombs that they need the US Air Force to shift about.

But if Europe goes to war against Khadaffi's Libya again, they'll be all set. 

For something bigger, there's the Air Force stockpile.

Well, with a little more work the Europeans will be all set:

A coalition of European militaries ready to react to crises near the continent's borders was launched on Wednesday with Finland becoming the 10th country to join, amid calls by French President Emmanuel Macron for a "real European army".

They call it the European Intervention Initiative. I wish someone would initiate an intervention with the Europeans on defense issues.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Save the Next Generation of Recruits

Military service in America tends to be a family tradition. If the stress of war damages the offspring of male soldiers, the military has an incentive to make sure that veterans of war can have healthy offspring.

Whoa (tip to Instapundit):

A stressed-out and traumatized father can leave scars in his children. New research suggests this happens because sperm “learn” paternal experiences via a mysterious mode of intercellular communication in which small blebs break off one cell and fuse with another. ...

Striking evidence that harsh conditions affect a man’s children came from crop failures and war ravaging Europe more than a century ago. In those unplanned human experiments, prolonged famine appeared to set off a host of health changes in future generations, including higher cholesterol levels and increased rates of obesity and diabetes. To probe the inheritance of such changes at the cellular level, Bale and co-workers performed a series of mouse experiments.

Of course, the level of stress needed to create such changes in sperm to pass along the problems from the stress is not clear. We may be talking about many years of constant and massive horrors rather than a tour of duty with a combat job in a war zone. But a researcher not involved in the study notes the potential impact on troops.

And given that being a college student created measurable (but not, it seems, damaging) differences when stress was reported, the possibility is there.

If modern war creates the level of stress noted in the study, the military has an interest in preventing offspring who will be a prime source of recruits from having problems that prevent the potential recruit from joining the military; and avoiding the added costs of treating those problems when the damaged individual is in the military.

Perhaps a benefit of joining the military is freezing pre-deployment sperm so that the effects of war don't contaminate natural impregnation and create problems downstream for the military.

The Army We Will Have

This CSIS report looks at the path the military is on. I'll focus on the Army.

Increases in Army personnel are mostly going to increases in the support base and filling out units so they don't have to borrow troops from non-deploying units--thus making the non-deploying unit less ready to deploy. This strength will be a bit above pre-0/11 active duty strength.

But remember that a lot of artillery units were disbanded since 9/11 because of the shift to precision fires. So that manpower is available. Also, during the Iraq War a lot of Army slots were freed up by moving jobs to civilian slots. So the Army can do a lot more with even just a bit more official end strength.

There will be 31 Army brigade combat teams and 11 combat aviation brigades in the active force, plus 26 BCTs and 8 CABs in the National Guard. Add in special forces, including the Ranger regiment, of course, as combat forces. And Military Police, which are effectively infantry for rear area security.

The composition of the BCTs will be 13 infantry brigade combat teams (including airborne and air mobile), 11 armored brigade combat teams, and 7 Stryker brigade combat teams in the regular force and 19 IBCTs, 5 ABCTs, and 2 SBCTs in the Guard. This represents a shift to two more active armored brigades from the recent past. Heavying up the Army is taking place through two routes (this is per Jane's 360):

In the spring of 2019, the 1st BCT of the 1st Armored Division at Fort Bliss, Texas, will begin transitioning from a Stryker BCT (SBCT) into an Armored BCT (ABCT). A year later, the 2nd BCT of the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, Colorado, will transition from an Infantry BCT (IBCT) into a SBCT.

Also, all brigades will have three maneuver battalions each. In the Iraq War era expansion of our brigade total, the non-Stryker brigades went to just two maneuver battalions. Although for deployments they'd have extra forces like artillery or tank units attached, with the personnel trained to fight as infantry and leaving their big weapons back at their U.S. base.

I'm not sure what the composition of the battalions is. Are they traditional triangular with 3 maneuver companies each or do they have 4 companies as they did when part of 2-battalion brigades?

In the Cold War our forces were pretty balanced between infantry and heavy (either tank-heavy armored or infantry-heavy mechanized divisions). Now it is different with the medium Stryker BCTs which have armor-protected wheeled vehicles but little tank-killing power. Although it is true that before the Bradley infantry fighting vehicle with its auto cannon and anti-tank missiles our mechanized infantry had the lightly armored M-113, which was a Stryker on tracks I suppose.

Also, there will be 5 active security force assistance brigades in the active force and 1 SFAB in the Guard. These units free both special forces and active brigades from the role of training allied and friendly troops.

My How Time Flies: A Century Since War Was Ended

One hundred years ago the War to End All Wars--or as we know it in retrospect, World War One--ended as the armistice to stop the European bloodletting began.

It was our first direct intervention to prevent a hostile power from controlling Europe's large reserve of military, economic, and scientific power.

World War II and the Cold War were subsequent efforts to keep Europe from being controlled by a hostile power.

And while Europe is declining as a military and economic power, it is still necessary to keep the continent west of Russia on friendly--or at least non-hostile--terms. Which is why I strenuously oppose the European Union political project that would turn the trade bloc into a multi-ethnic empire that tramples on democracy to keep member states from exercising authority.

Let's not waste the financial effort and sacrifices in lives we've made for a century now.


And may we never have a World War Three, of course.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Weekend Data Dump

With a new focus on conventional warfare, the only tank plant in America is no longer in danger of being closed. I was unhappy with that idea even though the Army said it could do without it for 3 years.

Women pilots aren't the full solution for military pilot shortages. I once read that as a general rule, because of better reflexes, women made better pilots than men. But as jets got faster and capable of not being ripped apart in high-G maneuvers and those forces increased on pilots, men get the advantage again in fighter planes because of the upper body strength needed to train to resist the Gs so you don't pass out. Will the F-35 with its promise of fighting with the tray table down (as I put it) mean women can be a significant source of fighter pilots?

France's Pacific possession New Caledonia rejected independence. It is the source of a quarter of the world's nickel supply. Could bad feelings toward France give China an opening? It was an important bastion to maintain the line of supply between America and Australia in World War II. China might have that in mind.

The Russians are working to undermine cohesiveness in the American military via social media warfare. The cost-benefit analysis of social media seems to tilt more and more to the cost side every day.

Norway is happy to host the large NATO Trident Juncture exercise. They have a border with Russia. During NATO's Cold War nadir, Norway faced the prospect of being cut off from reinforcements as the Soviet fleet surged toward the Greenland-Iceland-UK gap to challenge the Atlantic supply lines. Today Russia is a weaker air and naval threat to Norway and is not capable of cutting off Norway from help. As a bonus, non-NATO Sweden and Finland are more openly supportive.

I recently heard the Fox and Friends morning show called the Presidential Daily Briefing. Heh. That's pretty clever, you must admit.

The Saudi-led offensive to take the major port city Hodeida drags on.
Map showing control of Yemen
And America has stopped refueling Saudi coalition aircraft providing air support over concerns about civilian casualties in air strikes despite the fact that the Houthi are far more responsible for those casualties.  But I suspect that the Saudis will simply use contractor air refueling from a private company. We probably just stopped using enough of such contracted service to make up for our cancellation. Still, true compassion would have led the "concerned" world to back the Saudis to wage more intense combat over a shorter period of time to secure the port and reopen it for humanitarian aid quickly (and in the bigger picture to defeat the Iran-backed Houthis more quickly). But here we are, blaming the Saudis for both their conduct of the battle and war against an enemy that uses human shields, and for the impact of shutting down the port while the battle is cautiously waged. Iran's propaganda is effective.

I think these pilots struck the Penn State offense during their flyover of Michigan Stadium last week.
The last time I set a flak trap for an F-16 flyover all I got was the roar and a video of sky as I whipped around trying to follow them. I think they were lower and/or faster that time.

The US granted China, India, Italy, Greece, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey temporary exemptions on our renewed sanctions on buying Iranian oil. They are mostly allies who we need to keep strong (India, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan) or allies who are economically vulnerable (Italy and Greece). Turkey is interesting. They aren't much of an ally under Erdogan, so I'm not sure we care much about their economic health. But did we get a quiet Turkish concession to refrain from striking Syrian Kurds east of the Euphrates River in exchange for the exemption? As for China, a concession that is simply keeping the status quo is a fairly cheap "concession" to them to keep them reasonably cooperative on North Korea.  And other sanctions are hurting Iran, so we didn't completely undermine pressure on those dangerous nutballs.

I got a couple mailings showing my voting history and the history of two neighbors whose name and address were redacted. It was very creepy and stalky. I don't know anything about the group that sent them out.

China has a full slate of UAVs in production these days.

Last Tuesday we held free elections across America, which I've been told has become a fascist dictatorship the last two years. Odd, that is, eh? Please people, very few among us are true enemies of America. Stop acting like everyone on the other side is the enemy. If we can do that, a period when the other side is in charge won't result in people panicking to join the Resistance or a militia. And let's celebrate yet another election and transfer of legislative and gubernatorial power, plus other lesser offices. Which is a good example to set for the world despite our intense political competition. I for one will contribute by not spending the next two years rioting or wailing to the sky in frustration. You're welcome.

Why air power needs land power. Because the point of air power is to control the ground and not simply destroy it? But do read it. My simplified view of air power is here. Also, here's an old essay on air power that I tried to get published during and shortly after the 1999 Allied Force campaign.

Russia has expanded sanctions on Ukrainians. Presumably for the outrage of resisting the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Add this to the quasi-blockade of Ukraine's Sea of Azov coastline.

It isn't always jihadis plotting mayhem in Europe these days.

Schrodinger's aircraft carrier. Yes, the carrier is and isn't obsolete. As I've long droned on about, it depends on the mission. We keep having fruitless apples and oranges debates.

If Britain doesn't leave the EU despite current polls which indicate a preference to remain, rule of law takes a hit. If Remain had won that referendum, the pro-EU side would have said that settles the question forever. But by making the Brexit negotiations difficult and promoting fear of alleged dire consequences, Remainers make it virtually impossible to leave the EU if the 2016 vote is to be overridden by future polling or even by a future vote.

More on how China and Iran gutted our CIA's assets (either killing them, arresting them, or forcing us to pull them out--and how many were turned?), quite likely on a worldwide basis. We screwed the pooch bigly on that one. I know I've mentioned this, but this article is truly horrifying.

Communist insurgents in the Philippines continue to lose support in their war, but linger on (since not long after World War II). Also, pirates in Southeast Asia take the lead.

Twitter was made for Russian disinformation efforts, which existed long before Twitter or the media discovered it in 2016.

Europeans are worried that with the House in Democratic hands that Trump will be more disruptive abroad? Oh good grief. Europeans were worried when all power was in Trump's hands. I'm starting to think "European" is some old Germanic word for "people who worry." Europeans worry when we lead and worry when we don't lead. Europeans worry when we are strong and worry when we aren't strong. They worry when we come to a deal with Russia lest they be left out and they worry when we walk away from a deal the Russians aren't obeying. Sheesh. Europeans are worried. Full stop.

Math error.

Acosta is a jerk. And if you ask him he'll tell you he's kind of a big deal. It is nice that they no longer hide their partisan nature and demonstrate why I don't trust them to report news without spin and haven't for several decades. The key is to know enough history and current events to have a chance at de-spinning the news we are given.

I'm so old that I remember when anti-Iraq War people said we should have knocked off the dictator and just left to allow the locals to work out their differences without our bad influence. Seven years after the dictator was killed we have chaos and jihadis who are destabilizing the region, including Europe, plus Russia mucking around in their old stomping grounds.

War and plague in the heart of darkness. I was worried that President Obama's deployment of the military to help contain the last Ebola outbreak would be fouled up. But his initiative worked. Is the forewarned world better able to respond without requiring American military assets?

The Army is returning to table top wargaming of conventional warfare.

NATO needs a contributing Germany able to pull its weight. They aren't and German industrial prowess is notably lacking in the military equipment they build. This article says that the NATO Trident Juncture exercise will help Germany assess the state of its military. But we know the German military is awful. It is the detailed granularity of its awfulness that Germany needs to know. Will Germany act to correct the shortcomings highlighted or seek to conceal them?

Ah yes,  promoting socialism means you care! Three million fleeing the country and the remainder will be multi-millionaires soon (but couldn't buy a cup of coffee with their millions). Maduro seems to have taken to heart those "buy gold in these troubling times" commercials.

French European nuance or Nazi apologist? You decide.

China's J-10 is extremely maneuverable because of thrust vectoring. Which won't matter against the F-35 if our operating theory is correct. I hope our theory is correct.

This is from a professor of American political science? So all big states are Democratic and all small states are Republican? So you are going to compare the vote total and results when there were no votes for a Senate candidate in California because their system sends the top two vote recipients to the general election (and neither was a Republican)? But hey, at least he didn't complain that the Senate boundaries were gerrymandered in favor or Republicans like one loud-mouthed idiot on TV did.

And speaking of the gerrymandering charge that says the percentage of individually elected House seats should match the national vote total (well, only when Democrats lose out), consider a hypothetical situation where there is a country with 51% Blue voters and 49% Red voters with a legislative body of 100 seats. Let us further assume that rather than self-sorting into Blue or Red enclaves, they are evenly distributed through all the legislative districts. No gerrymandering is even possible. Assuming equal voting rates, you would expect the legislative body to have every district won by a Blue candidate with 51% of the vote. But Red voters are 49% of the country! That is unfair! Right? Explain to me how democracy is better if voters in 49 districts are told that because of "fairness" that their votes will be nullified and the losing Red candidates will be seated instead. Because fairness. Or something.

My apologies for the two previous paragraphs on domestic politics. But civics shouldn't be so obscure that BS can be left uncalled.

Stupid man with a bomb. He's mad at America for what? America doesn't bomb "the Middle East" any more than we bombed "Europe" or "Asia" in World War II. And just as a lot of Europeans and Asians were happy about who we bombed back then, our campaigns to bomb and otherwise kill jihadis in the Middle East have a lot of Middle Easterners supportive of bombing the people we bomb. But hey, hate away in prison you evil dumb ass. You got the Golden Ticket and made it to America. And that's what you did with it.

America imposed sanctions on people and entities profiting from Russia's annexation of Crimea. Russia's conquest is not forgotten.

Well of course we have "concerns," given that China claims pretty much near the whole damn sea.

China's massive effort to "reeducate" their Moslems to love Big Han Brother continues with little protest from the Moslem majority countries of the world. Yet America, which saves Moslems from tryanny, is the great Satan, or something. The world is a funny place.The post also notes how Xinjiang is basically the Beta version for a system of control that will eventually be rolled out countrywide.

Okay, Political Science 101 is called for. "Nationalism" is not the same as "white nationalism," hence the need for the "white" modifier. Personally, I'm not a nationalist (or a white nationalist, if that needs to be said). I'm patriotic. Technically "nationalism" is an ethnic thing and I believe anybody from anywhere can become an American because unlike being French or Russia, America is an idea-based country. But in America, much as I think people on the left calling themselves "socialists" really just mean "really, really liberal" (because "progressive no longer does the trick, I guess), I think people calling themselves "nationalists" mean really patriotic. With a further meaning of being anti-"internationalist" in that it puts America first over multilateral deals that restrict our freedom of action. Personally, I believe in general internationalism benefits America because we designed the international system after World War II (after--and you don't have to like Wilson to recognize this--a failed effort after World War I to do that, which showed that our absence from the world has lethal consequences).  But sure, if push comes to shove and internationalism harms us, I'm good with a nationalist approach. Just because internationalism benefits America doesn't mean all internationalist policies benefit us. Since this is really a foreign policy thing, I feel justified in addressing it despite the desire of the left to make it an issue of hate.

Our problem child Pakistan has behaved badly enough by supporting jihadis that America finally cut off all economic and military aid. China is not replacing the aid but is willing to extend poison pill loans to Pakistan. I worry that rather than behaving better that Pakistan will behave worse and cut the supply lines to our forces in landlocked Afghanistan.

China continues to try to shield North Korea from the effects of American-led sanctions. Thanks China! We want North Korea to have a sense of urgency to cut a deal before they collapse. China's backing allows North Korea to believe there is no sense of urgency in moving talks forward.

Mattis plans to stay. Good.

Professional journalists and pundits who aren't very good at reporting events really like to predict the future after each election. But their ignorance of the past isn't a good sign of their predictive powers. Journalists keep seeing the unusual in the banal. Trump will no more realign our politics than Obama, Bush 43, Clinton, Reagan/Bush 41, or Carter did (either by spoiling their own party's appeal or creating a new permanent governing coalition for their party).

One of the problems in our long war is the asymmetric nature of the sides. A nutball Isamist who rampages in Melbourne is obvious and news. A moderate Moslem in a Moslem-majority state (or in a Western state) who prefers rule of law, voting, and tolerance is ... well, unseen in the news because such people go about their lives quietly obeying the law, voting, and tolerating people of different religions or even different versions of Islam. Don't be discouraged. It is a long war. It is not an unwinnable war. And we shouldn't want the nutball Islamists to win the the Islamic Civil War over who defines Islam.

Where a president literally believes a free press is the enemy of the people (as personified by the president).

We now resume our usual programming. They have nukes and Lord knows what kind of use and safety protocols.

Russia bolstered anti-vaccine advocates with Twitter disinformation. Ah, science!

The Army wants new approaches to recruit in less promising areas it long neglected in favor of more fertile recruiting ground. I had thoughts on that subject out of my usual lanes last year in Army magazine.

That's highly ironic.

China won't need a Great Firewall of China if the rest of the world doesn't put anything objectionable online.