Monday, December 31, 2018

Certain Death is Good Information for Islamists to Have

It is difficult to judge whether online efforts to discourage the creation of jihadis works on the target audience of jihad-primed Islamists.

I'm not against efforts like this:

The number of programs dedicated to countering violent extremism (CVE) has grown in recent years, yet a fundamental gap remains in the understanding of the effectiveness of such programs. This is particularly the case for CVE campaigns, which are increasingly conducted in the online space.

But I am convinced that these so-called WebOps work best with LeadOps that kill jihadis as a discouragement to join the jihad.

So don't forget the KVE (killing violent extremism) program.

Take Your Time, What's the Rush?

The Indian army (IA) published a new doctrine this month that calls for their army to create integrated battle groups for mobile warfare across multiple domains. Is India just adding the new "domain" buzzword to an older doctrine still being debated?

This seems so familiar:

[The] doctrine states that the IA will employ "composite" IBGs comprising a mix of five to six battalions to execute conventional combat operations for "greater flexibility in force application".

Each IBG, which would be larger than the existing 3,000 personnel-strong brigade but smaller than a 10,000-strong division, would be headed by a two-star officer and include infantry, armoured, artillery, air-defence, and support units, all of which would be backed by attack helicopters.

According to the doctrine, the IA's will also focus on developing cross-domain capabilities, facilitating enhanced jointness and integration among the three services, and optimising the available forces and resources "for effective and robust military responses in a future battlefield milieu".

And bonus points for the use of "milieu" in a doctrine publication.

But isn't this just basic combined arms and joint warfighting thinking updated for the "multi-domain" formulation that is all the rage lately?

And isn't this just an updated IBG organization idea from nine years ago that argued India could deny Pakistan the ability to identify and respond to a main Indian attack because India spreads out Indian armor across the front, denying India the ability to win a campaign even if the IBGs can win battles spread out over a large front?

Why would Pakistan be hard pressed to identify and fight any one of the integrated battle groups? Why would they need to? Pakistan could let their infantry formations on the border absorb the many weak blows (in the same manner that a bed of nails spreads out the force of all those pointy nails to the point that they don't penetrate skin) and attrite and halt the Indians, and then launch their own armored forces in a concentrated counter-attack that would drive into India to hit a pivot corps that has already been involved in trying to break through the frontier defenses for a battle group.

While I understand the need to win on the battlefield before international pressure can compel a halt to fighting, this strategy just aims to quickly fight on a broad front without the capability of winning anything of significance in that quick fight.

Seriously, if there is no main effort of course Pakistan can't deny the main effort.

An added angle is the talk about cross-border terrorism. Which indicates India's willingness to use ground forces in response to Pakistan's active support for terrorists attacking India, a desire that has been evident since the brazen 2008 Mumbai terror attack.

India has apparently been pondering reorganizing their armored formations for a long time to support their large number of infantry divisions.

But what the heck, organizational decisions don't need to happen fast given the dysfunctional procurement bureaucracy that India has which can't field weapons on anything but geological time frames, whether designed and built locally or purchased from abroad.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Weekend Data Dump

Dave Barry's 2018 year in review is hilarious as usual.

It is ironic that the most fervent fans of President Trump call those who oppose even some of his policies (or just his language and tone) "Republicans in Name Only." Mind you, some of those Republicans are as unhinged as the Resistance. But simple disagreement is allowed. My basic worry about Trump (and none of my worries include him being a Russian puppet, a secret Nazi, or a tyrant) has been that his conversion to conservatism and the Republican Party is skin deep. He is the real RINO when push comes to shove. Which is why I've wanted the Republican-controlled Congress to send conservative measure to the president's desk for signature. Trump wants victories and he'd sign what he gets. The House failed to do that while it could and in 2019 Nancy Pelosi will have the gavel. And Trump will sign what Pelosi can get sent to the Oval Office. We rely on the Senate to stand its ground. If Trump reverts to his long history of being a liberal Democrat, curse the 2017-2018 Republican House leadership for not taking advantage of the rare opportunity complete Republican control of Congress gave them. Their failure to take advantage of the lame duck session--which is the norm--is especially frustrating. I remain grateful that Trump defeated the thoroughly corrupt and inept Clinton. That gratitude may be tougher to cling to the next two years. I hope not.

Venezuela's navy crossed into Guyana's territorial water to intercept an oil exploration vessel. The vessel retreated east to avoid the Venezuelan "navy" (number of ships not stated). Venezuela has long claimed the sea area. In 1899 Venezuela accepted an international tribunal's decision in favor of Guyana but Venezuela later recanted that agreement.


The Iranians said they didn't view the presence of an American carrier in the Persian Gulf as a threat. Well, yeah. In the Gulf the carrier is an asset for operations against any enemy but Iran--in this case Afghanistan. In the Gulf the carrier is just conveniently dangled near Iranian assets that could attack it or trap it in the Gulf by closing the Strait of Hormuz. The Iranians said they wouldn't allow the carrier to enter their territorial waters. I should hope that is the last thing we'd use a carrier for! If America wants to threaten Iran our big ships will leave the Gulf and operate in the Arabian Sea.

A tour of Iraq. Sunni terrorists and Iran (and their local fanboys) remain threats.

Who can "check" Trump on war once Mattis is gone? Seriously? How about treaties, the Constitution, laws, Congress, public opinion, and every other factor that "checks" every other president? Good God, people, get a freaking grip. And quoting Hagel of all people is insane.

Russian electronic warfare capabilities, which were used in Iran to down our RQ-170 drone back in 2011. Reset! Of course, we and our allies are taking advantage of the ability to confront Russian EW capabilities in Syria and Ukraine's Donbas region to learn how to cope better.

Well, yes. Just as explosives from World War II continue to routinely plague countries and just as explosives from our Civil War continue to turn up.

Online, nobody knows if your followers are dogs.  Why do we go along with the idea that the inbred and self-referring social media world reflects our country?

CRS report to Congress on Iran.

Taiwan is choosing to pursue sales of the F-16V rather than the F-35. Personally, I wouldn't sell the F-35 to Taiwan because I don't think they spend enough on defense to give me assurances that China couldn't simply capture intact F-35s after a successful invasion. And that's on top of the Chinese espionage strength in Taiwan that the article mentions.

Perhaps this just exposes my lack of knowledge about the international soybean trade, but why is it a problem for America that China now imports zero soybeans from America? Isn't China simply buying from other soybean exporting countries and won't the customers of those other soybean exporting countries simply buy from America now? Isn't this just a one-time cost of rearranging international trade flows in soybeans?

I have never ever assumed America's military can't be beaten. And if you do you are making a dangerous mistake. Really, the Welfare-Bureaucrat Complex long ago defeated the Military-Industrial Complex.

Chest thumping and flinging hypersonic poo. Russia may never see one of those in their arsenal even if the test was successful, I suspect. Increasingly Russia looks like Iran with their fantasy weapons displays.

Ukraine ended their eastern martial law declaration after 30 days. I'm not sure what the point was. Just a test in case Russia escalates or Ukraine wants to?  Or was it all for election purposes? "And" is always an option.

North Korea is willing to supply African rulers, among others, with the brutally effective security forces they need. Decades (?) ago, North Korea trained a Zimbabwe army brigade that developed a reputation for brutality even in that awful state. People die to provide North Korea with hard currencies with little outrage. And yet the world condemns "blood diamonds."

Yes, so this time we should not leave Iraq too soon and allow the jihadi problem to rebuild.

I've gone on about how silly I think the hype about Russian "hybrid" warfare is (here's one random find in my genre). Let's contrast a long military presence by America and one by Russia. For America, it is a "quagmire" that we can't escape. For America it is a sign of America's inability to win. For Russia it is a "frozen" conflict that brilliantly allows Russia to influence events without committing resources to win decisively.  Why is there such a divergent view of the two? I've had thoughts on this before.

Just in time for stories to be printed that Trump visited no troops on Christmas, he and the First Lady visited troops in Iraq.

I heard a Democratic Congressman quote Reagan's "tear down this wall" Berlin Wall statement in support of his position against having a wall on portions of the Mexico border. Truly, he can't possibly be so stupid as to not recognize the difference between a wall meant to keep subjects in and one to keep illegal aliens out. Also, a wall is technology. It reduces the need for manpower to protect the border. That's what obstacles do. There is a lot of dishonestly in opposition to border barriers, including walls where it makes sense.

Basically, the Washington Post is confirming that Khashoggi was a player in the Saudi version of Game of Thrones, including ties to Saudi foes Qatar and Turkey. It is a long article whose length obscures this aspect of Khashoggi. This does not justify the murder but it has never been a case of a murder of a mere journalist.

Thailand's rulers are killing democracy. The military is too political to be effective, it seems to me.

Efforts to lighten the load of our infantry always fail. I fear that exo-skeletons will just convince the Army to add even more weight. And when the exo-skeleton breaks? Oh well!

More on the Manus island base that will be available in the Pacific. I mentioned this Papua New Guinea base and the joint effort by Australia and America to improve it in an earlier data dump. This is a welcome addition to our efforts to increase the depth of our military bases in the face of increasing range of Chinese missiles and aircraft to strike our bases in the western Pacific.

India is beginning to adapt to the fact that China's major improvement of logistics infrastructure in Tibet makes India's northeast vulnerable to Chinese attack. But India has stumbled in this problem, too, so I'm not sure how doctrine without sufficient forces and infrastructure will work. The article also notes that India is increasingly measuring its military capacity including nuclear) in relation to China rather than Pakistan. Which is a problem given that Pakistan will continue to measure their power against India, which needs to measure their power against the more powerful China rather than against the far weaker Pakistan.

Both the overtly pro-Iranian Shia party in Iraq's parliament and Moqtada al Sadr's bloc protested the visit of Trump to Iraq as a violation of their "sovereignty" despite the government's statement that America provided advanced notice. Iran hates our presence as an obstacle to turning Iraq into a closer version of vassal state Syria. And Sadr, of course, is a thug and three-time insurrectionist whose survival we will live to rue. Whether or not Sadr is still pro-Iran, he is anti-American and his efforts will benefit Iran.

This author pushes back against the effort by Remainers to induce panic over the effects of a no-deal Brexit. Good. And I want to know why, as I've wondered many times before, the European Union is apparently eager to punish Britain by denying Britain trade with the EU with as much enthusiasm as the EU seeks to help mullah-run, nuke-seeking, and destabilizing Iran maintain trade with the EU. In the end, it may be that the EU fears the first crack in their wall just as the USSR suffered from Hungary's opening of the Berlin Wall that sparked the collapse of the Warsaw Pact dominoes that eventually reached into the USSR itself. The EU desperately wants its own Brezhnev Doctrine, but thus far it is based on increasingly binding cheese regulations rather than tanks and secret police.

If Russian election meddling online is so effective and pervasive, why would Democrats fake Russian Twitter bots for an election?

Major League Baseball has contracted with the Cuban communist dictatorship for slave baseball players. Tip to Instapundit. Next up? North Korean slave stadium concessions workers.

Strategypage looks at Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Israel, and Yemen. Iran and Syria are in rough shape. And there is a good point that the Syrian Kurds were leveraging America's presence for their goal of independence--which we don't support for reasons of the UN and our allies, even if we wouldn't mind Syria and Iran suffering from this result. And will Iran's mullahs provoke a civil war in Iraq before one breaks out in Iran?

Chum in the water.

The Navy wants icebreakers to carry out freedom of navigation operations in the Arctic Sea.

Yes, the Navy got used to bombing enemies on the land who couldn't shoot back during the post-Cold War world. Now it needs to restore weapons, numbers, and training to fight for control of the seas.

Italy denies being a directly ruled province of the European Union. How cute. The rest of Europe should take note.

Will you to guys settle the ef down?

Children should be seen and not heard. World prosperity is up with poverty down, there is enough food to prevent starvation (and obesity is the worry now), the world is reforesting with lower pollution levels than decades ago, actual fascists and their communist cousins were defeated, Western-style democracy dominates the world so much so that even thug autocrats pretend to have democracy, and you have wonderful things like smart phones and cheap computers connected via the Internet--wirelessly! All done by the older generations--one of whom that young person will call on her smart phone to change the tire on her vehicle when it goes flat and she can't change it with her angry activism. God save us from the young idiots whose historical knowledge approximates zero. We'll see if her vow to not buy new things lasts past her computer breaking or getting obsolete. Tip to the PJ Media live blog. I thank God my own youthful ignorance wasn't broadcast to the world to be forever archived.

The Army is introducing a new physical fitness test that requires a lot of time, space, and equipment to administer. Is it really appropriate? My view is that it is a sincere effort to test physical abilities that will be needed in combat. But the vast majority of soldiers do not need that physical skill set. The old Army PT test should be retained with the new test given to infantry or any other combat arms soldiers deemed to need those physical skills. Give it to special forces operators, too, but I imagine they are motivated enough without the more demanding test. Too many REMFs (and I say that as a proud former REMF) will fail the test if rolled out as planned. The Army will allow deployed units to use the traditional test until after they return. But that just solves the time, equipment, and space issues.

“'Nation states must today be prepared to give up their sovereignty,' Merkel said" recently. She was talking about European Union member states and the Brussels headquarters. And you wonder why I call the EU a "proto-imperial" project? Some of its members are eager to remove the "proto" part. Are all the EU states willing to go along for the ride to imperial subject province?

I'm surprised that the Houthi gave up control of Hodeida port. The Yemen government's navy and coast guard took control, supervised by UN personnel. Although the Houthi have managed to put their people in the navy and coast guard at the port. It would have been better if the Saudi coalition had captured the port. Did the Houthi agree to this deal because they knew they'd lose and the UN is a better shield than their fighters? Besides, since the Saudi coalition has to pull back as part of the truce, if the Houthi break the truce first they can fill that space and improve their defenses. We'll see if food can get to people in danger of starving more effectively than ballistic missile components can get to the rebels in order to fire at Saudi cities and bases. Oh, but the UN says they doubt the claim of the Houthi and want confirmation from somebody else. Um, shouldn't the UN be able to confirm it given their supervision role? Also, the Houthi aren't cooperating on humanitarian aid. Also, the "coast guard" is basically just Houthis. I imagine the "navy" there is the same. So my level of surprise has dropped to zero.

Their mental health issues shouldn't be a problem for the rest of us. The time of judgment is not here and the end is not nigh.

Fahrenheit 404. Because you can't burn code.

Britain might build bases in the Caribbean and Far East after Brexit. This sounds like a "trade follows the flag" policy to encourage trade with Commonwealth countries if the European Union continues to punish Britain for leaving the EU.

Boko Haram was able to mass enough fighters to stage a serious attack on a Nigerian base at Baga that houses a brigade headquarters plus the Multi-National Joint Task Force. It is unclear if the jihadis captured the base. This is what happens when you take your foot off the throat of a defeated and scattered but fanatical jihadi enemy.

The Germans reopened Hamburg airport after grabbing a man who drove a car onto the apron area of the airport and tried to pursue a plane that had landed, saying "no dangerous objects were found."  If I may be so bold to say this, when dealing with a thin-skinned airplane that a car driving at high speed is a dangerous object. Nothing to see. move along.

If the Russians build it and if it even works, what's the point of a Russian hyper-sonic nuclear weapon when they have enough nukes to overwhelm our limited missile defenses? It's more of a threat to our aircraft carriers.

Yahoo news reprinted a silly article on how Russia's campaign in the Sea of Azov against Ukraine is "hybrid warfare. So let me again note my utter contempt for that notion.

So ... Maduro is going to stick with the assumption that he had nothing to do with the thwarted assassination  attempt on Colombia's President Duque?

Creating More Jihadis

Given that we have tried to prop up an unnatural central government in Afghanistan rather than supporting local centers of authority, the decision to pull out our force from Afghanistan could be devastating to winning the war on terror.

We shall see if we give Afghan soldiers, police, and civilian employees reason to survive the morale impact of our decision to leave:

The Taliban welcomed news of the U.S. plan to withdraw half its troops in Afghanistan by the summer, as Afghan generals warned it would be a blow to the morale of the country’s beleaguered security forces who come under daily attacks from the insurgent fighters.

These analysts see no good from pulling American troops out of Afghanistan:

More troubling to us than a so-called “endless war,” however, is an outright jihadist victory. And that’s what Trump’s withdrawal of the small American force in country all but guarantees.

I've argued the same thing repeatedly. We can choose where we fight the jihadis--there or here. We cannot choose to end the war while jihadis want to kill us.

Our allies will leave as we leave, have no doubt. Unless we have a real alternative to bolstering the Afghan forces on our side, this is really bad.

And because the local centers of authority aren't enabled to carry on the war against the jihadis (as I called for almost exactly a year ago), when the artificial central government collapses, who will pick up the fight?

Do we really think we can go back to the days of lobbing cruise missiles at jihadi targets every once in a while will do the job? Such ineffective use of force is what encourages jihadi recruitment.

So at the end of 2019 or some time in 2020 we will lose the effect of staying as long as we did to fight our relentless jihadi enemies in Afghanistan.

So the next time we have to fight jihadis, they can point to Afghanistan and with confidence say that they can outlast us. And after doing that to America and to the USSR, who will tell them that Allah isn't on their side?

Oh, and is assuming that the Afghans couldn't fall apart until after we withdraw a safe bet? We'd best update our broken arrow scenario there:

I've got a bad feeling about this, and I hope our plans (we do have such plans, I assume) to consolidate American and allied troops and civilians in Bagram air base where our air support can sustain them until they can be airlifted out are all up to date.

Otherwise it's roll to your rifle and blow out your brains time.

Have a super sparkly day.

UPDATE: Apparently the White House says it has issued no orders to draw down troop levels despite reports indicating half our few troops would leave.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Don't Try to Win the Unwinnable First Battle

Please tell me that it isn't news to you that Russia could overwhelm their smaller neighbors with a lightning conventional offensive.

From the "Well, Duh" files:

Russia is positioned to quickly defeat forward-deployed U.S. and NATO forces and grab land before reinforcements could arrive, according to a new paper from the Atlantic Council, an international affairs think tank.

That is obviously true. We cannot win that initial battle.

And I think it is obviously true that putting enough troops forward to stop a Russian invasion of the Baltic states simply invites Russia to advance through Belarus to link up with Kaliningrad and isolate the NATO army in the Baltic states.

The key for NATO is to survive the initial Russian attack, mobilize, and counterattack.

And more NATO power in Poland is a reasonable step to take. I've gone back and forth on whether permanently stationed American armored brigades should be based in Poland. Lately I'm on the "no" side:

I think that America should put a division's worth of equipment in Poland; and permanently deploy air defenses plus improve the logistics capacity of Poland to accept NATO reinforcements from the west.

For now the rotational American armored brigade in Poland and NATO tripwire battlegroups are fine.

The next step should be American prepositioned unit sets in Poland. Which I've long wanted.

Then we could discuss actual units forward deployed in Poland.

Your Daily Dose of Moral Stupidity

The New York Times is on the job!

American fingerprints are all over the air war in Yemen, where errant strikes by the Saudi-led coalition have killed more than 4,600 civilians, according to a monitoring group. In Washington, that toll has stoked impassioned debate about the pitfalls of America’s alliance with Saudi Arabia under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who relies on American support to keep his warplanes in the air.

And this is since 2015, so the death toll is over the course of nearly 4 years, I guess.

One, would the death toll be more or less if the Saudis hadn't intervened in the civil war and blocked Iranian attempts to gain a foothold in Yemen?

Two, would the death toll be more or less without our "fingerprints" helping Saudi Arabia strike targets? Even though America advised against a lot of targets, modern America is far more cautious about such things than most other countries. And there is a false compassion angle to great care.

And three, why is America--or even Saudi Arabia--to blame for "errant" (straying outside the proper path or bounds) strikes when the Houthi use human shields?

It is basically not illegal to kill civilians in the process of striking military targets (there are cases when it is unlawful, like if you nuke an apartment building to kill a sniper, for example) and it is always unlawful to use human shields to protect military targets.

And that's on top of rebels dressing like civilians which makes it harder to distinguish between military and civilian targets.

Yet the moral disapproval of the Times authors--fully conforming to Iranian propaganda--falls on America.

Of course, a humanitarian crisis is threatening to really explode. But that isn't the Times topic--perhaps because the Saudis are finally working on combating that. And the Houthi are exacerbating that problem.

And perhaps less care about civilian casualties in the Saudi war effort might have ended the war faster, thus preventing the civilian humanitarian crisis from slowly developing in the first place.

These are sad days when TDR must provide lessons in nuance to the Times.

And despite the ending quote, the Saudi alliance really is (slowly) winning the war

Friday, December 28, 2018

Nervous in Putin's Service

Russia is having problems keeping the "rebels" in the Donbas from wavering too much on the line:

In eastern Ukraine Russia is having a morale problem with the increasing number of Russian troops it has there, pretending to be Ukrainian rebels. There are about 50,000 armed rebels in Eastern Ukraine (Donbas) and over half of them are Russians. Most of these armed rebels are part-timers who signed up for the regular pay and other benefits. But a growing percentage of the armed rebels are Russian soldiers who have long formed the backbone of the rebel combat capability.

Locals tend to be used for internal security behind the lines and getting Russians to serve in the combat zone is increasingly difficult.

Russia is now rotating in company-sized or larger formations and offers better training and pay.

And Russia has phased out the "rebels" brought in from non-Russian areas because they were more problem than asset.

Would Ukraine risk a major offensive given the problems of the defenders? Would the "rebels" break and run in the face of a conventional attack on a large scale? Would Russia openly send in their army to rescue the situation?

And if Ukraine had 10,000 Russian soldiers masquerading as rebels in POW cages, would Russia risk the wrath of their mothers to openly wage the war?

And I wonder if Ukraine thinks they have a time limit on such action that depends on when energy pipelines that bypass Ukraine go online, which will allow Russia to cut of fuel to Ukraine without harming Germany and other NATO states to the west of Ukraine.

What Part of "All Tasks" is Unclear to You Peasants?

The proto-emperor Xi Jinping of China delivered a public speech justifying his control over even more of China:

[Xi] used the meeting, broadcast live on Chinese television, to stress that only the party’s dominance would allow China to continue its stunning transformation into the decades ahead. The first lesson from 40 years of reform, he said, was the need to maintain party leadership “over all tasks.”

“It was precisely because we’ve adhered to the centralized and united leadership of the party that we were able to achieve this great historic transition,” Mr. Xi said. ...

Mr. Xi’s political power is as great as that of any leader in decades, yet his party’s tightening of controls over the economy and ever more aspects of society suggest a deep-seated insecurity at the highest levels.

Xi wants the power to control "all tasks" in China because China's rulers sees a full spectrum of threats to Chinese Communist Party supremacy that goes from America's hard and soft power all the way to individuals in China who don't toe the line on all aspects of Chinese party demands.

As this writer concludes after noting that Xi rejected reforms to placate the world's resentment of China tilting the international trading system to their side by hook or crook:

Reform and opening, Xi made clear, will mean only what the party needs it to mean. Chinese stock markets plummeted even as the president spoke. But beneath its bravado, the speech underscored the deeper reality that Xi and the country he leads are trapped between conflicting and unforgiving demands. When forced to choose between bad options, the [Communist Party of China] will pick the one that poses the least risk to its power.

Heck, even true believer communists are a threat.

The Chinese ruling class seriously view the inability to control everything to be a threat. And it isn't just the collapse of the USSR that scares them. They fear the French Revolution, too. Who knows what spark could set that kind of circular firing squad in China?

Why everyone but a few rogue tyrants don't soil their pants contemplating China dominating the planet rather than America is beyond my comprehension. You don't even need precious nuance to grasp how bad that shift would be.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Are We Seeing What is Really Happening?

Are we really giving Iran a victory in Syria because of our decision to withdraw our 2,000 troops from Syria?

I've long said that while I would not send in 150,000 American troops to overthrow Assad in Syria--because ultimately Israel will deal with western Syria--that when we had the chance we should have taken our shot at a long-time enemy who deserved to feel our wrath after Assad killed a lot of our troops in Iraq by funneling in jihadis recruited around the world through Syria into Iraq.

But we blew that chance when the anti-Assad rebellion was at its strongest and before jihadis dominated it. And after the rise of the ISIL caliphate led us to intervene in Syria we failed to build a rebel force in eastern Syria that we could have backed after defeating ISIL. The Kurds, I said, would never be a force to march on Damascus.

And I was uncomfortable with American troops in eastern Syria post-ISIL caliphate mission without an idea of what they would do despite our interest in protecting the Kurds who fought with us, our interest in blocking Iranian supply lines to Hezbollah, and our interest in preventing eastern Syria from being a sanctuary for jihadis to threaten Iraq.

I was uncomfortable because we could face an attack that leads to a large loss of American lives that prompts a rapid retreat and defeat that encourages enemies. See the Marines Beirut Barracks bombing and the Battle of Mogadishu for examples of that worry.

I hope that we have alternate means to US troops in eastern Syria to protect the Kurds (and our reputation for standing by allies), block Iran's supply line, and protect Iraq.

Of course, defeating Iran's mullah regime at home would go a long way to achieving those objectives.

And if Israel really takes Hezbollah down in a serious way as I've been writing about, that disarms Iran's forward outpost in Lebanon.

And I've noted other countries are involved in eastern Syria to block Iran and Assad. Are they enough to continue the mission without our troops but backed by our air power?

We shall see whether this decision to withdraw from Syria is a victory for Iran or a means of fighting Iran more directly while keeping our forces away from Iranian retaliation.

If so, expect our carrier in the Persian Gulf to clear out first.

UPDATE: Many of the American forces being pulled out of Syria will "apparently" remain in Iraq to protect the border. Which is good. Under Bush 43 our strikes into Syria to hit jihadis were rare. The precedent has been set by Obama that we can do it at will now.

UPDATE: We are past the chance of getting a post-Assad Syria, We can still work to keep Assad weaker by pursuing a post-Syria Assad--which in many ways arrived.

Work the problem.

UPDATE: Turkey says it has no need to enter Mambij if the Kurds leave; the Kurds want Syria to enter Manbij and the Syrians are willing, and Turkey warns the Kurds not to invite the Syrians to enter Manbij.

If the Kurds get some form of autonomy within Syria, that is enough to protect the Kurds from Assad while not causing problems to our other interests that require no Kurdish state unilaterally declared.

What Real-World Scenario Needs Light Tanks?

What a waste of Army money:

The Army picked its two traditional armored vehicle manufacturers, General Dynamics and BAE Systems, to build contending prototypes for its Mobile Protected Firepower light tank, the service announced today.

Why, good God, why?

The Mobile Protected Firepower vehicle is essentially a 30-ton light tank to accompany airborne troops and other light infantry where the 70-ton M1 Abrams heavy tank can’t go. ...

Now, MPF is not required to be droppable by parachute the way the Sheridan and the original Armored Gun System were, nor capable of fitting on an Air Force C-130 turboprop transport the way the cancelled Future Combat Systems vehicle was supposed to be. But it is small enough to fit two on a C-17 jet transport for landing on a dirt airstrip — or to drive over rickety bridges and down narrow streets where a M1 might not fit.

No worries, we don't intend to send our infantry brigades to fight the Russians who have little but armored hordes:

These aren’t units intended to take on Russian armored hordes — and if they do, their best bet is to go to ground and take potshots from hiding with shoulder-fired Javelin missiles. Normally, the light brigades are expected to face light armored vehicles, bunkers, and dug-in infantry. To help them, each light brigade will get a modest and logistically manageable contingent of 14 MPFs.

If all the Army is worried about is enemy light armor, use up-gunned Strykers.

And what bridges or city streets can't handle an Abrams but can handle an MPF? The Abrams worked very nicely in Iraqi cities in the COIN fight there.

Given that the Chinese and Russians have infantry support vehicles (the Chinese have the QN-506/ZPT 99, which--with small drones for example--is an improvement on the Russian BMPT 72 Terminator 2 model) based on the hulls of tanks, why couldn't we do something like that with our existing stockpile of older Abrams tanks?

Wouldn't a relatively small force of independent company-sized teams built around an Abrams infantry support vehicle that could be attached to infantry brigades headed for cities if attached tanks aren't appropriate work nicely?

If the Army is worried about airlifting armored support, why is having 2 MPF for every Abrams tank that a C-17 could carry significant? I'd rather have 7 M-1s if I had a choice than the 14 light tanks an infantry brigade will get. There is a reason our tankers accept the logistics price of the Abrams! Nothing short of those behemoths have a chance of surviving on the battlefield.

Even with active protection systems, there's more than one way to skin one of those light cats.

If the Army is worried about fighting Russia or China, use Abrams tanks.

Because I have no idea what enemy is going to be sporting enough to send light infantry with only light armor up against our MPS-equipped infantry so we'll have dominance.

The light tank fantasy world is insane. Kill it now before these Future Burned Out Hulks are killed en masse on a future battlefield.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Does the Admiral Really Want to See Who is Afraid?

A Chinese admiral advocating asymmetric means of challenging America, suggested going against our "fear of casualties" in case of war by hitting our Navy hard (tip to Instapundit):

Luo suggested using a missile to sink one U.S. ship and cause 5,000 casualties, and two with 10,000 casualties. “Let’s see if the U.S. is afraid or not.”

Basically he's suggesting sinking a carrier or two. He has a point and this is one reason I don't like peacetime forward deployment of big carriers (or any big ships) where they can tempt an enemy to launch a first strike with overwhelming numbers that have more chance to work when they are on a war footing while we are still on a peacetime footing.

But the Chinese admiral makes a mistake if he thinks casualties are a weakness of America alone. Some years ago I read that the Chinese consider 21,000 casualties apparently too much of a price to pay to invade and conquer Taiwan:

Some months ago it was reported that the Chinese high command regularly provides the leadership with its predictions for an attack against Taiwan. Apparently in 2004 it emerged under questioning that about 21,000 deaths were expected in such an attack. Contrary to Western views that China has unlimited manpower and that human life is cheap, the leadership found this figure unacceptable.

With China desperate to convince their people to have more children are the Chinese any less concerned about their military lives now than they were in 2004?

China has about 4.25 times as many people as America. The admiral thinks 10,000 American casualties could do the job of exposing our "fear." If China isn't willing to suffer a little over twice that to take Taiwan--their most "core" interest--is China really waging an asymmetric battle against our supposed weakness if they go that route?

Conveniently, the Chinese are building carriers that will allow our forces to return the favor at sea a little more efficiently.

Necessity is the Mother of Russian "Hybrid" Warfare

Russian military journals have explored the lessons of Syria for Russian forces in general.

For all the talk in the West of so-called revolutionary methods of "hybrid warfare," Russian lack of conventional means of warfare explains their methods:

The new doctrine takes for granted that Russia has to fight a poor mans’ war because there is no alternative. Many of these new doctrinal principles are those employed by successful irregular forces in the past. The Russians stress the rapid integration of any available resources into the Russian led war effort. The Russian journal articles make it clear that Russia only went into Syria with the understanding that the Russians would be in charge, even if that meant annoying the Iranians at times. ... The new Russian doctrine points out the importance of adapting and doing so quickly.

This emphasis on using what is available and adapting quickly has had a good effect on Russian leadership:

Russia has come to call this use of superior command and control and discipline “management superiority” and that is an accurate term. The Russian commanders were allowed to do whatever worked to get the job done. If this resulted in some bad publicity because of dead civilians or other battlefield indiscretions the Russian government would criticize in private and praise in public (and quickly and quietly transfer home officers who were not up to the job). This made it possible for Russian commanders to be more flexible and innovative than Russian officers have been allowed to be since World War II. As a result this new doctrine is very popular with most Russian officers and troops.

I've long worried that our officers aren't allowed to take risks and adapt quickly out of fear of making a career-ending mistake. Mistakes should not have that effect. Good people make mistakes and zero mistakes can simply indicate somebody who doesn't do anything of note. I honestly don't know if the "zero-defect" mentality is still a problem.

Also, with fewer resources the Russians have stopped talking about the advantages of an all-volunteer force and so talk more about the need to keep casualties low among conscripts (and their mothers) who may not want to die for Putin's adventures.

There is no mention in the Strategypage post about the silly Russian "lessons" of tank usage in Syria.

Anyway, stop that talk of Russian "hybrid warfare" and start talking about "poor mans' war." As I wrote about Russia's flimsily concealed war in Ukraine:

I think Russia is fighting this way not to muddy the waters and prevent us from having a clear reason to intervene, but because Russia is incapable of invading and imposing their will rapidly.

Does anybody think that Russia would not have just sent in the heavy brigades and paratroopers to seize the region from Kharkov to Mariupol if they had the military capacity? Do it fast, like Hungary or Czechoslovakia or Georgia, and the world gets over the affront fairly easily, no?

Necessity has shaped Russia's wars since 2014. Not novel genius. But God help us, their officer corps may be getting better because of it.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Your Christmas Day Operations Security Lesson

Okay, I got this from my AUSA email update:

When SGM Williams found he was going to inherit a fortune when his sickly father died, he decided he needed a woman to enjoy that money with. So, one evening he went to a singles bar where he spotted the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Her natural beauty took his breath away. "I may look like just an ordinary man," he said as he walked up to her, "but in just a week or two, my father will die, and I'll inherit $20 million." Impressed, the woman went home with him that evening and three days later she became his stepmother.

This is why OPSEC is important!

I saw that coming but it was still pretty funny.


President Donald Trump may have inadvertently unmasked a Navy SEAL team during his short visit to a US base in Iraq this week. ...

While the president has broad authority to declassify information, so his tweet likely didn't run afoul of any rules, some observers called it a breach of operational security.

Yeah, don't do that.

UPDATE: Actually it was pointing out that the troops in some pictures were SEALS rather than anything about the picture tweeted. My bad.

Silent Night

Merry Christmas!

And this wish is also for those who are not Christian in the spirit of good will to all men (and women), and not an attempt to convert.

Enjoy! As I shall with no posting on events or issues.

UPDATE: Each year I have a celebration of Die Hard Christmas. The question is settled.

Come on, his wife's name is Holly. Tip to Instapundit.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Mission Not Accomplished

While it is true that the ISIL geographic caliphate is defeated after the last significant town was captured by the SDF, ISIL is not defeated. The rise of ISIL after America pulled out of Iraq in 2011 following the defeat of the group's predecessor al Qaeda in Iraq should not be a lesson forgotten so soon. But have we forgotten?

The Kurds in Syria are right about ISIL not being defeated.

The United States' main ally in Syria on Thursday categorically rejected President Donald Trump's claim that Islamic State group militants have been defeated and warned that the withdrawal of American troops before accomplishing that goal would lead to a resurgence of the extremist group.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said in a strongly worded statement laced with bitterness that a premature U.S. pullout would have dangerous repercussions and a destabilizing effect on the entire region.

As insurgents ISIL is still around and if we pull our troops out with no replacement to back the Kurdish-dominated SDF, that fight to finish them off will peter out.

The Kurds would need to redirect their anti-ISIL efforts to holding off the Turks and Assad's forces, including Iranian-backed militias. Which will allow ISIL to regroup in eastern Syria along the Iraq border and potentially help ISIL in Iraq to fight on.

Add in the abandonment of an ally who fought and bled for us (they bled for their own causes, too, of course). That is shameful and isn't exactly an inducement for other people in the future to fight for or with us.

So no doubt the Kurds are "reeling" at the prospects of what Assad and the Turks will do:

Kurds, among the biggest winners of Syria's war, stand to lose most from a U.S. decision to withdraw forces who have helped them battle Islamic State militants and deter their adversaries Ankara and Damascus.

There may be more that we don't see to provide support for the SDF after our troops are gone. Maybe contractors (what's up with that?) will be there to call in our air support.

Maybe our allies will pick up the slack with their troops and special forces. And on that issue, France said their 1,000 troops will remain in Syria. Also, Saudi Arabia and the UAE apparently have special forces in Syria to support the Kurds. Yes, that's from the Turks but the Saudis have expressed willingness at least over the last couple years to send special forces to Syria. So the Turkish source isn't saying anything outrageous. I'd missed that news, but was thinking of the Saudis especially when I asked if our Arab allies might help fill in the gap. Remember that post-Khashoggi, the Saudis want to be on America's good side. And the Saudis have motivation to reply to Turkish troop deployments around Saudi Arabia. Jordan could be involved, too. And perhaps Britain.

Also, will all US troops leave? Special forces are often simply not counted when discussing troop presence. And if they leave, they could enter for specific missions if based in Iraq, for example:

The American commandos would be shifted to neighboring Iraq, where an estimated 5,000 United States forces are already deployed, and “surge” into Syria for specific raids, according to two military officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

And how long could they remain in Syria and not be called deployed in Syria? The definitions section could be important.

Remember, too, our air power will remain on call in the region to help any friendly forces in eastern Syria. So this withdrawal order might not be as bad as it seems.

But don't tell me Trump is just fulfilling a campaign promise. That's what Obama did when he ordered the withdrawal from Iraq in 2011.

On the surface Trump is making a mistake--with the only advantage being that we don't expose our troops to a Beirut Barracks-style attack (or a Mogadishu-style ambush) if we lack a real purpose for our troops to accomplish post-ISIL caliphate. That is something I've worried about without a firm mission, as I note here when I worry about a "Mogadishu moment."

And there is reason to worry about that as the above-linked NYT story indicates:

Under the cover of a sandstorm in October, the Islamic State nearly overran an American Special Forces team and a group of Marines outside of Hajin, wounding two American troops, a third military official said.

The group tried the same tactic again in November, waiting for a sandstorm to mask its movements, and nearly captured Gharanij, a nearby town.

But there could be a lot of other pieces on the board that make the decision less than--or not--a mistake.

But at least we made a decision about Syria, as I said we had to do after defeating the ISIL caliphate:

America avoided facing that question while in the first three steps (and I suspect avoiding that question is why Iraq War 2.0 has taken so long). We've finally finished the first three steps.

America now has to face the fourth step and either finish the job by targeting Assad and defeating Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah in the process; or by pulling out and accepting the consequences of Assad's continued rule, Russian and Iranian bases in Syria, Hezbollah's role on the winning side, and the loss of reputation by watching the Syrian Kurds and Syrian rebels we once supported get crushed by Assad and his allies.

As an aside as we digest information to judge whether this is a mistake, don't believe reports of 30,000 ISIL still being around in Iraq and Syria. That number includes family of ISIL fighters plus supporters and is grossly inflated. There would be far more mayhem if there were that many terrorists running around.

UPDATE: Strategypage looks at Syria, where American troops should withdraw from "by March."

The Kurds may be able to leverage autonomy within Syria and deter the Turks.

Also, the Saudi and UAE special forces story I reported on may not be what it is cracked up to be.

Basically the only people on Assad's side willing to fight and die are the Iranians--as long as their Shia foreign legion does the dying and as long as the Iranian people don't get fed up with the cost. So we do have options for eastern Syria after our withdrawal.

UPDATE: While I think we should have stayed in eastern Syria to protect Kurds who fought with us for as long as we could with our level of effort--and to increase the cost of Syria, Iran, and Russia winning in western Syria--I recognize that in the end we could not stay there once the pro-Assad alliance can project significant ground power into eastern Syria.

And while our foes have gained advantage from our planned withdrawal, it isn't all "mission accomplished" territory for them and we can still act against them.

Work the problem, as I like to say.


Israel is filling in four cross-border tunnels that Hezbollah dug. Is this the last defensive step before Israel launches an offensive?

The Iranian-backed terror group Hezbollah, which increasingly dominates the formal state of Lebanon, lost an attack option:

The Israeli military on Thursday began to seal off four tunnels that it said had been dug by the Lebanese armed group Hezbollah under the border from Lebanon. ...

Israel has called for UNIFIL to deal with the tunnels on the Lebanese side of the border. The Israeli military has said it holds the Beirut government responsible for breaching Security Council resolution 1701, which ended a 2006 war with Hezbollah.

Israel has demonstrated that Hezbollah violated the ceasefire and that neither UNIFIL nor the formal state of Lebanon is able to control Hezbollah.

Israel is paying a lot of attention to their northern border.

Is this the last step--assuming Israel is confident it has identified all the tunnels--before transforming Northern Shield into Northern Sword for a deep ground attack that pushes all the way to the Baalbek region to seriously tear up Hezbollah's terror infrastructure (facilities and rear echelon support personnel) while Hezbollah fighters are still deployed in Syria even as that war's phase for control of territory in the west winds down?

Filling in the tunnels and the construction of border walls on the Lebanese border provides a barrier to protect northern Israel while the Israelis push north. And provides a line to defend after the ground forces return to Israeli territory.

And the timing of this could be very good for Netanyahu if what is planned is a multi-month operation that returns to the border at the conclusion of the mission after destroying Hezbollah infrastructure, killing terrorists, and grabbing intelligence:

Israel will hold an early general election in April, a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday, after members of his governing coalition met to discuss differences over legislation.

I've been looking for such a campaign--essentially a large ground raid--for a long time based on the failure of the 2006 air campaign and based on the idea that it makes sense for Israel to hit Hezbollah hard after it has been bloodied and staggered from their major role in Syria. But Israel would need to do that before Hezbollah can return their fighters to Lebanon and recover from the bloodletting they endured on behalf of Assad and Iran and build on that combat experience.

So I could continue to be wrong about the dots that I think should be connected. But I believe my reasoning is solid.

UPDATE: Interesting:

In the south Israel carried out air strikes against three targets outside Damascus that were apparently Iranian or Hezbollah bases or warehouses. One of the targets was a meeting of senior Hezbollah leaders that left several of those Hezbollah commanders dead, or not. The Hezbollah leaders may have flown off to Iran shortly before the attack. Half an hour before the airstrikes an Iranian B-747 freighter aircraft left Damascus after making a delivery from Iran that was believed to be weapons because the 747 belonged to the IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps).

Was that a pre-H Hour attempt to decapitate Hezbollah leadership? Is having the leadership off in Iran good enough in the short run?

Or was this just a routine attempt to harm Hezbollah that means nothing more than that?

UPDATE: I guess it may be a problem to determine when Israel has the tunnel threat locked down:

Israel's army said Wednesday it had located a fifth Hezbollah attack tunnel crossing into its territory from Lebanon and destroyed it with explosives.

Is there a deadline for locking down the tunnel threat? Netanyahu says the mission is nearly complete.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Weekend Data Dump

I will repeat my longstanding advice to worker cogs everywhere who are faced with the problem of what to call their holiday party prior to December 25 which does not threaten to bring down the wrath of the HR department. Label your party as one celebrating a Collective Holiday Reflecting Individual Sentiments To Mark Another Season. To shorten that you can use the acronym CHRISTMAS. You're welcome. My suggestion was treated as brilliant but never adopted.

Oh, and don't forget to let your little ones track Santa via NORAD assets!

China democracy activists will be crushed. Because China will crush Hong Kong democracy. It is clear that the only way for Hong Kong to defend its dwindling freedoms is to fight the battle in China itself. Either China rejects communism and stops trying to crush Hong Kong or communist China exterminates democratic resistance in Hong Kong.

Erdogan's purge of the military (and his entire society) will never end. If the 2016 coup attempt had this many supporters it would have succeeded.

Yes, I worry about our ability to repair the damage from an EMP attack. The panel's report should be taken seriously. I've long thought we should really have a protected stockpile of the crucial gear that takes months or years to produce in order to get on with repair work. And hardening the electrical grid would be an infrastructure spending program I could support. Could that be a point of agreement between a Democratic House, a Republican Senate, and Trump?

It is simply not true that America tried to overthrow the Assad regime. Although I do not believe that failure to strike Assad for using chemical weapons was a turning point. Our genius Secretary of State had promised "unbelievably small" strikes, recall. Initially we assumed Assad was doomed and didn't think we needed to do anything. Indeed, we said we didn't want to further militarize the conflict! Later when it was clear that Assad would not step down as our president insisted Assad do, we went through the motions of supporting armed opponents of Assad in an effort that was clearly intended to hold off calls to do more to actually defeat Assad. Indeed, we effectively sided with Assad once ISIL rose up. And here we are.

Not everything is going the wrong way in Afghanistan: "Afghan security forces have been finally able to recapture Babaji area of Lashkargah, the capital of southern Helmand province, from Taliban militants, the governor said on Tuesday." The Taliban had held the area for three years. So good. Now hold it. And keep going.

The idea that we are responsible for civilian casualties when enemies use human shields is exactly the sort of thing that encourages scum to use human shields and slows down the effort to liberate civilians from living under scum rule. There is a lot of misguided false compassion out there. Congress should enact laws to punish those who hold human shields and put the blame where it belongs, as the initial article reports is possible.

Naval mines remain an underappreciated threat to our ships.

Somalia continues to be an active theater in our counter-terrorism fight.

I never ever take lightly the sacrifice our deployed troops and their families must endure as we in the vast majority who do not serve go about our lives. My limited military service led me to worry about that kind of separation but I never actually had to experience it.

At this point, the only purchase that makes sense is ammunition. But at this point it isn't "real" socialism, right?

Japan could build carriers on par with the new British carriers if it wanted to. Carriers are increasingly unneeded for strike missions given the advances in precision missiles. But air defense away from land remains a useful mission for Japan given the distance of the Senkaku Islands, which China claims, from land bases.

The American plan to resolve the Palestinian issue "brings new elements to the discussion, taking advantage of the new world of technology that we live in." No details yet. Is it possible that my notions based on new technology are part of the plan?

Is China's new silk road a matter of (trade) connections or (Chinese) control? Embrace the healing power of "and"--the flag follows trade and Chinese control at home will trump all else.The first article has bonus material on being Moslem in China's Xinjiang today.

Brazil's new president is no friend of Venezuela or Cuba. Will Brazil take a major role when Venezuela falls apart?

Strategypage discusses the Quad coalescing to oppose China. As I've long said, I wouldn't trade places with China. Their geography sucks. Sadly, the old Strategypage site I used in that old post is dead.

Have no doubt that Antifa are enemies of the American people. Tip to Instapundit. In the past, using simple Google name searches, I've noted the influence of hard core communist groups in various protests such as anti-Iraq War or Occupy Wall Street. They really are seriously evil people in thrall to an evil ideology. Honestly, if the communists had power they'd kill people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who is mostly a socialism tourist with no real clue about what she is being a useful idiot for. I know socialists like to have a Santa-like Bernie Sanders as their poster boy, but the real ones are killers pure and simple.

One thing that remains missing in the Yemen discussion is the fact that Saudi Arabia is slowly winning. And halting the war saves Iran and their side from defeat. Strategypage looks at Yemen. Key parts are Saudi Arabia's slow win. Iran's role and propaganda in defeating the Saudi alliance, and Saudi efforts to bypass the key port of Hodeida to get humanitarian aid into Yemen and bypass Houthi ability to stop the aid and use the aid route for arms shipments.

American soldiers are giving feedback on what they want an exo-skeleton to do. Helping infantry carry the heavy loads that no effort to reduce has ever achieved would be nice.

In the last data dump I noted that Russia wanted to talk about resuming INF treaty inspections. But we can see what Russia wants by their refusal to let us look at one of the missiles that violate the treaty. As I said, it is all about delaying an America program to match Russia's intermediate range missiles.

Will Mexico "carry its weight" to fight the drug cartels?  Beats me. But the chances are higher than in the 1980s when Mexico ignored our problem, saying it was our "demand" problem. And since Mexico got the money without the addicts, why should they help us? Now Mexico knows why they should help.

Journalists--even biased ones--don't deserve to be killed for their work. If journalists embrace Khashoggi as one of their own in their explanations for why twice as many journalists died this year than last year (34 versus 18), they invite more killings of journalists because dictators will have reason to believe all journalists are like Khashoggi. That's a deadly game to play in order to score a political point against Trump. But then, American journalists are safe from our government so it isn't like they'll pay for this ploy. But it sounds like they are playing with numbers a bit given that when I looked at their data set a couple months ago I found a different picture, "Also, before the charges start flying that Trump encourages the murder of journalists, 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." Why were different numbers chosen? Seriously, people, as with many things, America is not the problem. And prior to publication I see this nonsense that lies with statistics. Ah, the news profession. Our government isn't killing journalists. But our journalists are killing journalism.

China continues to round of the usual Canadian suspects in the Huawei Affair. This isn't actually the way to convince the world that China is a rules-based player in the world. Good luck with that.

Can the appeal of advanced Patriots and ensuring the delivery of F-35s pull Turkey back into NATO as a trusted ally? The problem is Erdogan and his increasingly autocratic Islamist-friendly state so I don't know how this isn't good money after bad. But I confess I don't know what is going on beneath the surface reports. We'll see if Erdogan takes the bait--or simply takes advantage of us.

It is interesting that with the territorial-based war in Syria largely over (unless Assad goes after peripheral Idlib and the far east where the Kurds hold sway), that there are an estimated 100,000 "armed opposition fighters" still in Syria. I assume that doesn't count the SDF who we back because I never counted them as a reliable anti-Assad partner. Is that a good assumption? Could those fighters wage an insurgency in the west now? Not that we'd support them. America basically is willing to accept the butcher Assad remaining in power (thank God Assad didn't kill a single "journalist") and only wants Iran to leave Syria. Good luck with that.

I doubted an earlier report about Russian T-62s being deployed to the Ukrainian border. I doubted that units with those old tanks would be deployed. What I didn't consider was whether just the tanks were put there. It might be T-62s. Strategypage notes a Russian build up on Ukraine's border and says part of it is redeploying the equipment of reserve units. So those reserve units could have T-62s.

Three to 5 million died and more will, but none were prominent journalists, so who the ef cares? Besides, we need a major resource for electric car batteries. So there will be no "No blood for cobolt" slogans tossed about here.

It is interesting that Iran feels it is necessary to build MRAPs for their security forces. What kind of internal armed resistance to they anticipate?

I'm confused. I thought the Arctic ice cap would melt away in the near future. South Pole, sure. But the north? Will there be ice to break there?

Yes, the way the European Union is treating Britain should be the primary evidence at this point to support leaving the EU. The EU doesn't want an ally within NATO and a trading partner that benefits both sides of the English Channel--the EU wants the British to suffer if they dare to hope for more than being a province of the proto-imperial project based in Brussels. This should also be a lesson to America about how the EU treats those outside of their imperial borders. Why we have supported the EU at all in the post-Cold War world is beyond me. Get out while you can Britain, and this could yet be your finest hour.

The US has ordered sanctions on Russians involved in 2016 election influence operations and involved in poisoning attacks in Britain. Oh, and here's how bias works with the same news (and both sides provide the evidence).

These applicants for immigration should be fast-tracked to get here.

The US carrier Stennis set up a land-based air resupply hub in Sri Lanka while it is in the Indian Ocean. Which is nice to counter China's inroads on that island nation off of India. India lacks the ability to counter China there given the tensions that flow out of a Tamil minority in India that takes the side of Tamils in Sri Lanka. So this helps us, helps Sri Lanka, and helps India. And I will repeat (because I remain immensely pleased with my acronym) that I wish INDOPACOM had been named PAINCOM.

It will be interesting to see who was flying drones over Britain's Gatwick Airport.

The U.S. is rapidly expanding the new base called Camp Dahlke West, 60 miles south of Kabul.

Oh good grief, now the Chinese are being credited with revolutionary "hybrid" war techniques that will lift the burden on China of actually invading Taiwan? I admit that a "D-Day" scenario won't happen, but invasion is definitely a threat Taiwan must defeat.

I remain happy that Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016 and prevented that calamity. But that was two years ago. I don't understand the absolute loyalty that Trump's fans display now any more than I understand the so-called resistance. Trump has never been a committed conservative. His history says otherwise. But it is frustrating that Trump's extreme resistance opponents turn the opposition dial to 11 each and every day over every minor thing.  If some conservatives looked silly arguing that Obama was a secret Moslem literally born in Kenya, some liberals look just as silly arguing that Trump is a secret Nazi figuratively born in Russia. That makes it easy to side with Trump over them. But Trump should be celebrated for doing conservative things and criticized when he doesn't. And really, it's okay to want him to stop being a crude jerk. I hated it when Obama was a condescending jerk and this is hardly an improvement. Conservatives rightly mocked Obama loyalists for treating Obama as a god. That worship--and not the choice of god--was the wrong thing to do. And still is. We are free people and should act that way. It is frustrating. In my adult life partisans on both sides have accused me of being on the "other side." But that characteristic served me well in my career, so I had that going for me. Only the Army got to issue me marching orders. Just sayin'.

If this works, expect North Korea, Iran, and China to be early adopters.

I'm disappointed that Trump pushed Mattis out as secretary of defense. Although civilian supremacy means Trump gets his way even if I agree with Mattis on a number of issues--such as Afghanistan and Syria, as well as the issue of being rude to allies (bluntness is fine when needed, but I've expressed my dismay at verbal blasts at good allies). It must be that way. Mattis, although a former general, has responded by accepting his loss of a job in the best tradition of our military. And given how a number of Democrats were aghast at the ex-general's appointment by Trump when he came into office, their gnashing of teeth now over this firing/resignation is fairly humorous. Seriously, I'm so old that I remember when liberals were horrified by the language of LTG Mattis. Will there be a "revolt of the admirals generals" in protest over Syria or Afghanistan? I hope not. There wasn't one over the first draw down in Afghanistan nor was there one over Iraq in 2011. Indeed, I even wrote back then that Iraqis seeing our military leave Iraq despite a desire to stay would be a good lesson in civilian supremacy of the military as Iraq tries to build a democracy. Reporters just don't get the ideal of civilian control.

This Strategypage post says that talks with the Taliban are basically intended to expose how much Pakistan controls the Taliban for the benefit of Pakistan, and force Pusthtun tribes from southern Afghanistan to confront that reality and make a choice about whether they want to be Pakistan's puppets and cannon fodder. 

The Iranian air force is a museum-quality mess. Unless Iran intends to use 90% of their combat planes as a kamikaze force (with the rest as recon) against enemy warships in the Gulf and Arabian Sea, there is little point to their air force.

China denies conducting industrial espionage? Really? Huh. Never say the communists don't have a sense of humor. We should just tell the Chinese to give America a social credit score of zero and just end the suspense.

We have a lot of work to do before we can even try to have civil debates. That was a depressing thing to read early in the morning. Back in the day when I listened to NPR on my long work commutes, I'd be amazed at their repeated and laughable efforts to seem balanced with their debates that came down to "Republicans: evil or just too dumb to know better?" These scribes of the left (the visible public voices of the left) have settled on evil (and a good portion of the visible right has joined this trend) with an assist to dumb. Tip to Instapundit.

Syria's Kurds are naturally freaked out by our announced withdrawal of troops from eastern Syria. I hope as the details are revealed that the Kurds will find they have not been abandoned. But that's just my hope at this point. As I said under Obama, Trump can't "end" a war by pulling our troops out of it. He can just make it more likely that we get a bad outcome. If we have truly abandoned the Kurds to be massacred by whatever combination of Turks, Iranians, Russians and Assad loyalists go after them, this will be shameful stain on our record. And screwing people willing to shed blood at our side will make sure we have fewer people at our side in a future fight.

Of course, Turkey now has reason to delay striking the Kurds in Syria until our troops are out. So this buys time for the Kurds. I can hardly say this is the plan. But it is an effect. Can we do something with that time to help the Kurds? Don't know. And could there be something about making Turkey make good on their threats to invade northern Syria but for America's nefarious opposition (as Erdogan frames it)--or back down from that threat? Again, I don't know if that is the intention but it could be an effect.

The federal government is so large that the power of the purse that Congress has is greatly restricted in practice. Shrink the size of the federal government and checks and balances are restored, eh?

Can federal investigations and regulations be far behind? That said, get to the bottom of this crisis because it might be just the tip of the iceberg.

I haven't been optimistic about the Trump outreach to North Korea on nukes. Optimism isn't justified yet. But if we strike, nobody can say it wasn't the last option chosen.

The United States joined Canada in calling for China to release the two Canadians taken by Chinese in a blatant retaliation for the lawful arrest of the CFO of Huawei. Canada has gotten other support and is trying to pull in more allies to pressure China.

Russia has reinforced their bases in Crimea with more combat aircraft. Question: Why don't media style guides call for writing "Russian-occupied Crimea" in every story?

An EMP strike isn't the only reason to harden our electrical grid and stockpile key replacement components.

Wait, I thought our allies were already deeply worried because of Trump. Face it, Europeans worry about alien America regardless of who is president.

I've heard the notion that Trump's decision to pull our troops out of Syria has highlighted the secret nature of our deployment. Anybody who wants to pay attention knew this from open sources and if you needed to have it rubbed in your face to realize it that's on you.

Germany is selling its soul to Russia and throwing Ukraine and east European NATO allies under the bus in the process. If you are interested in tales of collusion with Russia, this Nord Stream 2 project is the story to follow. I don't want to hear another damn thing from Germany about our reliability as an ally. Just call it the Nazi German-Soviet Russian Non-Aggression Pact Pipeline.

Japan will set a record with their defense spending.

We have a carrier in the Persian Gulf again. I think that is a mistake and wonder why the obvious alternative isn't used.

I have difficulty taking claims of people who have daily claimed to be scared of the Trump presidency that after the forced resignation of Mattis that these people are now truly scared. Good grief, people.

Holy cow, Army rolled over Houston in their bowl game. I felt sorry for the Army people who had to do so many push ups after each touchdown. Army plays Michigan in 2019. Sadly, I will have to root for Michigan.

Actually we didn't need a TV show to imagine a Nazi victory in World War II because we had the Soviet Union. You don't even need nuance to grasp the similarities between national socialists out to conquer the world and international socialists out to conquer the world.

Bloody Hell.

If Western-style democracy is such an alien superimposed system on non-Western countries, why does every thug dictatorship try so hard to pretend to have rule-of-law democracy?

I'm just going to say that the French are the last people I want to hear from on the issue of ally reliability. They are the people who pulled out of the NATO military command in the crucial Cold War period. And we won't even talk about the Iraq War.