Thursday, January 31, 2019

When You Start to Leave the EU, Leave the EU

"Europe" as a geographic expression has been our friend and ally. As a political term, "Europe" will not be our friend. Britain  shouldn't think they can be a little bit EU.

The European Union's power duo demonstrates its values:

France, Germany and Britain have set up a European mechanism for non-dollar trade with Iran to avert U.S. sanctions, although diplomats acknowledged it is unlikely to yield big commercial transactions Tehran says it needs to keep a nuclear deal afloat.

And Britain goes along ... why? When the French/German-dominated EU continues to punish Britain economically for wanting to leave the EU, why would Britain go along?

Do the British think this gets them any credit in the EU to make Brexit less of a 33-month colonoscopy?

The European Union is prepared to take Brexit down to a last-minute, high-stakes summit rather than cave into U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May’s demands over the next few weeks, diplomats said.

We'll get more of this EU-compliant British behavior contrary to our policies if Britain remains in the EU. The special relationship will be dead.

And the EU will gain more weight with Britain yoked to the EU wagon to be an anti-democratic imperial state. Perhaps it is true that an integrated EU defense effort will provide more defense capability. But any imperial state would be able to command more defense.

Is that the kind of Europe we want? After preventing the Kaiser and Hitler from doing that under German rule? After preventing the Soviet Union from doing that?

And is that what Europeans want? I suspect a pan-European defense establishment will be  directed most enthusiastically against restive member states rather than foreign threats. Just compare how the pro-EU side in Europe treats Britain in contrast to how they treat Iran for a taste of things to come.

Remember, while we and Europe share a Western heritage, until American influence surged through Europe after World War II, European democracy was not widespread as it is today:

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

Does Britain really think the EU will treat them better if Britain demonstrates that it is willing to go along with the EU even as it tries (thus far unsuccessfully) to leave the EU? As the expression goes, when you start to take Vienna, take Vienna. Or perhaps this pre-vote advice is better.

Europe as a geographic expression is a friend; but as a political term "Europe" will be no friend of America, freedom, and democracy.

And if Europe reverts to their norms, the EU elites will get their wish for the exit of America from Europe because Americans will decide they do not wish to spend money and lives to defend non-democracies as energetically as we have defended Europe through NATO when its member states were increasingly democratic.

The Building Blocks Arrive

The Littoral Combat Ship mission packages are finally getting close to reality. I want these and more both for the LCS and for option for a modularized auxiliary cruiser.

Good:

All three of the LCS mission packages are in some form of testing this fiscal year and will hit various initial operational capability milestones in Fiscal Years 2019, 2020 and 2022, Capt. Ted Zobel said at a briefing during the Surface Navy Association’s annual national symposium. However, the anti-submarine and mine countermeasures mission packages’ anticipated initial operational capability dates have slipped a bit again, despite the progress being made on testing the mission package equipment on two separate LCS hull variants.

The third and closest to deployment is the anti-ship package based on Hellfire missiles. But I remain concerned about this because it is intended for short-range work against small boats that would be found in littoral waters--where the LCS should never be placed given the threats and the poor survivability of the LCS.

And given that a Norwegian over-the-horizon missile is being added to the LCS basic equipment, I don't know why the LCS needs the Hellfire package. Good Lord, I hope this is from program inertia rather than a determination to put the LCS into coastal waters.

Still, these modules and more make building auxiliary cruisers as I explored in this Military Review article more possible with the research in the bank and mission packages ready to build and deploy.

And there are more building blocks--including the buzz-worthy drones--not part of the LCS program, and even this awesome one from the Army.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Go Away or I Will Taunt You a Second Time

Israel does not want Iran to be more of a threat to it by adding a frontline position in Syria on top of the Gaza and Hezbollah (in Lebanon) fronts that Iran funds. Is Israel trying to get Iran to strike the first blow in a war Israel will finish?

Strategypage has an interesting take on the Israel-Iran low-level war:

Israel has changed its approach to the war against Iran in Syria. Now the Israelis are attacking Iranian targets day and night and are taking credit for each attack. Senior Israel political and military leaders are now using the Internet to remind the Iranian IRGC commanders that they are losing and unable to do anything about it. This is done deliberately to destroy the myth the IRGC has been creating back in Iran about how IRGC forces are about to destroy Israel. In fact the IRGC mercenaries in Syria have had success fighting ISIL and other Islamic terrorist rebels but not much else. Israel is now convincingly pointing out the IRGC lies and calling the IRGC incompetent and an embarrassment to Iran. A lot of Iranians agree with that.

Is Israel perhaps unwilling (at least at this point) to strike first? Is Israel taunting Iran's nutballs to get them to lash out with assets in Lebanon to give Israel the excuse to launch a massive ground raid into Lebanon to seriously wound Hezbollah before it can return from the Syrian war and re-focus on Israel?

Strategypage has this as well:

Iranian allies Hezbollah and Hamas are both threatening “war with Israel.” Such threats are not made without Iranian permission. That has long been the main Israeli fear, that Iran would support a simultaneous attack by Hezbollah in southern Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. ... Iranian hard liners (mainly the IRGC or Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps) have the most to lose by backing such an attack and then having to face the blowback in Iran for failure. Then there is the “use it or lose it” angle. For over a year anti-government (and anti-IRGC) demonstrations in Iran have persisted and grown. Iranians are angry over all the money being spent to support Hezbollah, Hamas and military operations in Syria. Over 2,000 Iranians have died in Syria, most of them IRGC personnel and five to ten times as many Iranian mercenaries (mainly Afghans), Iran pays death benefits to the families of the mercenaries killed and the Iranians are finding out how much these wars really cost and how that prevents the Iranian economy from improving. Many of the senior clerics who control the religious dictatorship that runs Iran would like to curb the power of the IRGC and the current crises is beginning to look like a good opportunity. Thus many IRGC leaders would see an all-out attack on Israel as something to be attempted sooner rather than later when it is no longer possible.

Could IRGC (the Revolutionary Guards, or Pasdaran) decide to launch a war--one that Israel may be geared up to fight on their terms--before they lose the opportunity and under pressure from the open humiliation Israel is inflicting on them in Syria?

And there is much more in the Strategpyage post, so do read it all.

Defend the Primacy of NATO in European Defenses

This writer says that Brexit is a tragedy and that the European Union is vital for the defense of America and Europe:

When the nations of Western Europe operate together they represent a quarter of the world’s gross domestic product and the world’s second-largest defense budget. But individually, none is remotely as important a U.S. partner as they are collectively.

He thinks the British exit from the EU will wreck the trans-Atlantic alliance.

With all due respect to the former NATO commander and retired admiral, his argument is--to use a technical term--bullshit.

The entity we have to get the Western European nations to operate together in defense of the trans-Atlantic region is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization--NATO. And NATO has done that for many decades now.

And excuse me for noting this, but Britain was a member of NATO before it joined the European Economic Community and Britain will be a member of NATO after it leaves the now-European Union.

Creating a stronger EU with defense roles will only weaken NATO, which the proponents of pan-European defenses see as an impediment because the hated or resented America is the dominant partner in NATO. An EU defense establishment--a union of European states--would of course not include America.

The author's belief that Britain's participation in the EU will prevent the EU from competing with NATO is nonsense. Although I should use the technical term, I suppose. The far larger continental EU will eventually absorb the British fraction of the EU. A mere province will not be able to defy the imperial core for long.

So while the EU might have a phone number for America to call "Europe," the person on the other end of that phone line will be less likely to answer or perhaps be rather unfriendly when they do pick up.

Given that the Russian threat is far less potent than the Soviet threat (because Russian power is far less than the USSR's power; and because Russia has been shoved far to the east from its past dangerous position on the Elbe River at the western end of East Germany), what the Hell is the urgency for uniting the states of Europe in what will be an imperial state?

It has long been American policy to prevent a hostile power from getting control of the vast resources of Europe, which could be directed against America. We fought a kaiser and Hitler in hot wars, and the Soviet Union in a cold war, to do exactly that.

Why would we support the EU take control of European defenses when we already have the time-tested NATO to defend Europe? It is decidedly not in America's geopolitical interest to support the proto-imperial EU as it strives for ever closer union to get rid of that prefix.

Honest to God, people think Trump is out to destroy NATO?

On the other hand, the author's call for America to reach out to post-Brexit Britain is good. In addition to their NATO role, Britain should be allowed more bilateral ties with America to undermine any lingering EU attempts to punish Britain for leaving the EU. If European defenses are weakened because of Brexit, it will because the EU decides to punish Britain for leaving--not because of Brexit itself.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

So Maduro Also Has to Step Down?

The world wants Maduro to stop down. I'm not sure he should be quaking in his boots yet.

Well that's nice:

Juan Guaido, the Venezuelan opposition leader and self-proclaimed president, on Monday called for new street demonstrations as pressure intensified on President Nicolas Maduro and the crisis-stricken OPEC nation.

Countries around the world have recognized Guaido as Venezuela's rightful leader, and the United States vowed to starve Maduro's administration of oil revenue after he was sworn in Jan. 10 for a second term that was widely dubbed illegitimate.

I seem to recall President Obama telling Syria's Assad he had to step down back in August 2011:

President Obama on Thursday for the first time explicitly called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, a symbolically significant step intended to ratchet up pressure on the government five months after the start of the uprising in that country.

Well, Obama got over that. That was about half a million dead ago.

So calls for Maduro to step down aren't as awesome as they might seem if the ruler and his supporters are willing to kill as many of their enemies and supporters as needed, for as long as needed, no matter what the damage to the country. And Russian help is nice.

Depressingly, those on the American left continue to defend Maduro and his socialist nightmare (tip to Instapundit), making it clear that no matter how bad it gets they think just a little longer and a little more control (under their enlightened leadership) would make the whole sham of a system work and bring Paradise on Earth.

I'll hope this works out well. On the bright side there is no enemy that can inspire supporters to fight to the mass death for Maduro the way Assad promoted jihadis in Syria to motivate his people to fight when they looked doomed.

UPDATE: The US is sanctioning Maduro's now-illegitimate government and trying to fund Guaido's side:

The Trump administration slapped sanctions on Venezuela’s state-owned oil company on Monday – a move that will ratchet up pressure on embattled President Nicolas Maduro but could increase gas prices for American consumers.

Most American companies will be barred from importing Venezuelan oil under the new sanctions. The administration will also freeze $7 billion in Venezuelan oil assets as of Monday, said National Security Adviser John Bolton in a White House news conference.

A handful of American refineries will still be able to continue to purchase Venezuelan oil but any revenue will go into “blocked accounts,” so Maduro’s regime cannot access that vital stream of funds, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters at the news conference.

Mnuchin said the administration will try to make the oil revenue available to Venezuela’s opposition leader, Juan Guaido.

May it work.

But what's up with this?

The Venezuelan military stands “ready and prepared to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” President Nicholas Maduro said during a speech to soldiers in Carabobo state on January 27.

Their territorial integrity is at risk? Who is going to invade that failed state?

Or does that claim mean territory that Maduro claims?

UPDATE: If the U.S. is exploring of sending 5,000 troops to Colombia--as the John Bolton yellow pad intriguingly "revealed"--over the Venezuela succession crisis, I assume it would be for the purpose of helping Colombia with Venezuelan refugees fleeing civil unrest. The troops could help with receiving and distributing humanitarian aid from abroad.

Or the troops could be sent to a staging ground to rescue our diplomatic staff--if there is no offshore Navy presence to provide that--if the crisis gets massively violence.

UPDATE: More.

UPDATE: Good if true:

What happens in places like Catia, a loyalist stronghold of the regime, where faded posters of Mr Maduro hang from many buildings, may tip the balance of whether the sitting president is able to survive in power in the coming days.

Last week there was a glimpse of what could be a deeply troubling development for the regime. Mr Rui and hundreds of other residents did something they had never done before: they openly protested against Mr Maduro.

I don't know how the poor could think Maduro doesn't care about poor people. Why else would Maduro create so many, hmm?

A Hybrid Land-Sea Power or Divided and Conquered?

China, a traditionally land-oriented power, has built a navy with quantity and quality:

China’s naval buildup is only part of an extraordinary maritime transformationmodern history’s sole example of a land power becoming a hybrid land-sea power and sustaining such an exceptional status. Underwriting this transition are a vast network of ports, shipping lines and financial systems, and—of course—increasingly advanced ships. All told, this raises the rare prospect of a top-tier non-Western sea power in peacetime, one of the few instances to occur since the Ming Dynasty developed cutting-edge nautical technologies and briefly projected unrivaled maritime power across the Indian Ocean. Now, for the first time in six centuries, commercial sea power development has flowed away from the Euro-Atlantic shipyards of the West, back toward an Asian land power that is going seaward to stay. Military sea power may be poised to follow.

Well, China has reduced their land power so much that America's land power is greater than China's these days. Which means the Chinese can't assume America can only fight China at sea and in the air (and in space and cyber, of course), as I wrote about in Military Review.

China faces a land threat from America. And we don't even border China, which has worried neighbors to soak up a lot of China's land power.

Really, we're the first sea power to become a hybrid land-sea power, and we've sustained that for quite some time now.

And has China really matched America's fleet, which would be joined by allies at sea? You can speak of sea developments shifting to Asia, but you have to include Japan, India, and even South Korea--who are allies or friends--and not just count China.

I don't assume that China will be the first land power to build land and sea power. Heck, it isn't the first when you consider that the Kaiser's Germany built quite a fleet that ended up being useless to their land needs; as did the Soviet Union.

If China hasn't reached this hybrid status by now, can they afford it?

China could be traveling a well-trod path to dilution of power. I think we need to see more than a couple decades of Chinese naval expansion before concluding that China can sustain this naval and land power (with both backed by air, cyber, and space power, of course).

And I would be remiss to note that China does not face formidable land powers on their border the way Germany and Russia did when they tried to be both land and sea powers.

For modern China, Russia is not a land threat to China because of weakness and India isn't a threat because of mountains. Vietnam and South Korea (even if united with North Korea) are smaller powers on narrow fronts. So it might be more accurate to say that China is transitioning from a land power to a sea power. We'll see if the need for land power to control their own people prevents China from sustaining their increased sea power.

Regardless, I do worry about China. Because they are a threat even with a reach of only 500 miles. But I don't panic.

Work the problem.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Peace or a Decent Interval?

Of course America doesn't want a long presence in Afghanistan. It is a peripheral theater in the war on jihadi terror only important because of its history as a sanctuary that prepared the 9/11 attacks. But Afghanistan is not the source of jihadi ideology, merely a place it is transmitted. So are peace talks just a means of getting out of our long war there?

I get nervous:

A senior U.S. government official, speaking after six days of talks between a U.S. team and the Afghan Taliban, said on Monday that Washington was committed to the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan after 17 years of war.

The official, who declined to be identified, described "significant progress" in talks last week with Afghan Taliban militants in Qatar on a foreign troop pullout, but more negotiations were needed on a ceasefire and its timing.

"Of course we don't seek a permanent military presence in Afghanistan," the official said in the capital Kabul.

"Our goal is to help bring peace in Afghanistan and we would like a future partnership, newly defined with a post peace government," the official told Reuters. "We would like to leave a good legacy."

There could not be a withdrawal without a ceasefire, the official added.

I just don't know if a ceasefire undermines the Taliban and their drug gang funding source; or whether it is actually a shield against government attacks for that combination until we pull our (American and coalition) troops out, leaving the Taliban free to attack a government demoralized at losing our support after years of assuming it is behind them.

And I worry that the article frames the situation as worse than it is:
After being toppled by a U.S.-led invasion in 2001, the Taliban control about half of Afghanistan and are staging daily attacks amid the diplomacy.

The Taliban control or contest about half of Afghanistan. Their control is actually a far smaller portion. And the violence is actually fairly concentrated. So that article's framing makes it seem like our role there has been rather futile.

And the cost in lives of getting to this point is one reason I did not favor the Obama surges in Afghanistan. In addition to worrying about so many troops in landlocked Afghanistan, I worried about what we could do while we risked that and what we would have--after the added casualties--when our surge ended. Especially given that the Taliban retained a sanctuary in Pakistan as a matter of policy by our Black Sheep ally in Islamabad.

We hope our increased punishment of the Taliban with more air power will drive the Taliban to negotiate a better deal. But mere punishment of Taliban foot soldiers has little effect on Taliban leadership sitting in Pakistan or at the negotiating tables. Defeating the Taliban and taking their territory is the only thing that can do that. Or maybe JDAMs on their sanctuary living quarters.

UPDATE: Yeah, I'm worried the answer is the latter option:

Could we be seeing an end to the “forever war”? Is peace (possibly) at hand? Or would a deal represent nothing more than a dangerous retreat by a dispirited nation in the face of emboldened and energized enemies?

We can't end a war. We can merely walk away until greater defeat forces us to rejoin the fight--as we discovered in Iraq in that joyous interval of peace between our withdrawal in 2011 and the dramatic conquests by ISIL in 2014. As the writer states:

It’s vital to understand that peace does not necessarily require withdrawal. In fact, American troops have often been indispensable to keeping the peace after our worst wars. And as costly as those forward deployments are, they are far, far less costly than renewed combat. Keeping an American military force in Iraq in 2011 would have been far less costly than the city-destroying urban battles we’ve seen since America was forced to reengage in 2014. Keeping an American military force in South Korea has been far less costly than the likely catastrophe of a second Korean War.

The idea that we can trust the jihadis is a deadly error.

Screw the Counter-Hacking

The Army has a new multi-domain unit that does what I've long wanted to do.

This is good:

The Army has created its first unit to combine long-range targeting, hacking, jamming, and space under one command, a vital component of Multi Domain Operations. The battalion-strength Intelligence, Information, Cyber, Electronic Warfare, & Space (I2CEWS) detachment was created at Fort Lewis, Washington to counter China, while a second will follow in Europe for Russia.

This is really good:

So what does putting all these pieces together actually do?

First, remember the new unit will be part of the experimental Multi-Domain Task Force. That task force’s core is the 17th Field Artillery Brigade, also out of Fort Lewis, and a second Multi-Domain Task Force will be built around the 41st Field Artillery in Germany. The long arm of such brigades is HIMARS: basically, big trucks carrying launchers for a wide variety of rockets and missiles.

It is the long-range targeting by HIMARS (or perhaps later with a rail gun?)--that I like, as I've droned on a bit about over the years:

While I think we need to be proficient in cyber-warfare, never forget that physical smart bombs will kill the brightest hackers with even the coolest sounding handles.

Cyber war may take place in another domain, but the cyber war hackers live in the physical domain. As I've droned on about.

In wartime, it is pointless to rely only on counter-hacking when we can counter-attack with actual blow uppy things.

UPDATE: How the Russians do this:

On July 11, 2014, battalions from Ukraine’s 24th and 72nd Mechanized Brigades assembled outside of the town of Zelenopillya, located about 5 miles from the Russian border. Having achieved success against the Russian-led separatist forces in the breakaway oblasts of Donetsk and Luhansk (the Donbass) over the previous two months, they were assembling before what was planned to be a final push to the border to cut off the supply lines of the paramilitary forces from their Russian sponsors.

What started as a fairly normal day soon took an unexpected turn. It started with the buzzing of Russian unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) overhead and cyberattacks against Ukrainian command, control and communications systems. The Russians then launched an attack consisting of short-range BM-21 Grad multiple launch rocket system rockets from across the border. The attack lasted only two or three minutes, but it was immensely destructive to the Ukrainian forces. The attack destroyed most of the armored vehicles, killed at least 30 soldiers and wounded hundreds more. The attack left the Ukrainian forces decimated and demoralized, and represented the high-water mark for the Ukrainian offensive.

We need to be able to do this to the other guy; and thwart their ability to do it to us.

Seriously, this should scare the Hell out of anyone that has to fight under that threat.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Weekend Data Dump

America's oil industry is expected to produce more oil in 2019 than last year.

So in addition to embracing anti-Semites, America's far left is embracing anti-Catholicism? Seriously? For a brief moment when the Pope embraced global warming, the Left adored Catholicism. Back to normal, now. Truly the Covington boys have endured a two-minute hate. It's madness. It's kind of funny, Pope Woke I has been pushing me away but the mob is pulling me back.

Are Iran and America doomed to be enemies forever? As long as the nutball mullahs run Iran, yes. Under the Shah, Iran was a close friend of America. Any advice that we should befriend the scumball murderers who run Iran now is a non-starter as far as I'm concerned.

The first crack in Maduro's wall of security appeared but was rapidly sealed by loyal forces. There is no way to know if this is the tip of the iceberg in Venezuela's security forces or an isolated event. The troops who rebelled said they were lighting the fuse as the long-suffering people wanted from the security forces. Will it burn? Tip to Instapundit.

Strategypage looks at Iran with its growing domestic troubles and at Syria, where the major players don't want to have their own people die yet where hundreds of thousands have already died. Odd that is, no? Although to be fair, the Syrian army did a lot of dying until it could fight no more and is now a zombie army. Also, in Idlib province where the last rebels hold out, an Islamist coalition of terrorist groups controls 70% of the rebel-held territory.

The South Korean marines are sizable (29,000 troops and more than two divisions) and considered an elite force. Responsible for the west coast and island defenses, is the force just a good force of infantry for the main front along the DMZ? Or could its increased naval support mean it can pull off its own Inchon invasion, perhaps as far north as Pyongyang?

A reminder that NATO needs to defend the Balkans and the approaches from the Black Sea. Personally, I think a free Ukraine is the front line of NATO from Poland to the Balkans, and we should be helping Ukraine send body bags back to Russia to keep it that way.

Funny enough, De Gaulle believed a large European Union would be weak. I've long said that a united Europe is no path to balancing Russia when we have NATO doing the job. Europeans think they can afford to reduce national defenses if a supranational body makes up for it. The EU doesn't. NATO--with the United States--does. Who knew DeGaulle had it right all along? Although Brussels thinks it has the answer with a more centralized and larger EU. But I think the only power the EU will gain is the right to push around their own peasants with impunity.

Strategypage looks at the top ten sources of war this year. Russia and China are not included, because they have "rational" leaders.  Sure, a "bolt from the blue" attack on America is unlikely. Personally, I wouldn't count on understanding what is "rational" from their point of view in a crisis.

I enjoy Jonah Goldberg's The Remnant podcast (he's on iTunes). And I'm almost ashamed to admit the minor childlike delight I get when he occasionally refers to his broadcast as a "fully functional podcast." Early when he called for catch phrases, I altered the Star Wars line to suggest "now behold the power of this fully functional podcast." So I've got that going for me.

Apparently we are fine with the rigged election in Congo because it was at least restricted to getting a rival candidate at least cooperative with the autocrat. Ah, "stability."

Will you two just stop your effing pissing match? Are China, North Korea, and Russia not enough of a common problem for both of you to cut this out?

India will open a third base in the Andaman and Nicobar islands to block China. These islands are hardly "far-off" islands given that they are right at the entry to the Bay of Bengal, overlooking the Malacca Strait that is a choke point going east or west from Singapore.

The South Koreans say a second Trump-Kim summit should have "concrete" results. I count this as progress from past failed South Korean efforts to bribe North Korea into behaving.

I don't believe liberals really believe anyone with a MAGA hat is a terrorist. If liberals did believe that about hat owners they'd be endlessly asking "why do they hate us?" as if the anger was deserved.

The Littoral Combat Ship will get the Norwegian Naval Strike Missile. This is good news but it remains bewildering that the weapon had to be an add-on to the ship.  The ship had a good concept of being reconfigurable with mission modules inserted into the large empty spaces in the ship. But it always confused me that the post-Cold War ship designed to sail in the littorals was so poorly protected against the air, sea, and land-based threats it would face close to shore. Now the ship has to face ships out to kill them, and will have an over-the-horizon anti-ship missile as a basic armament.

An American destroyer and support ship sailed through the Taiwan Strait in a show of support for Taiwan and in defense of the strait's status as international waters.

If it is so easy for 1,500 green private jet owners flying in to Davos to be carbon neutral in their carbon-spewing lifestyles by purchasing offsets, why can't they use their wealth to buy offsets so the rest of us can live our ordinary lives? I mean, I've been told that at some point you've made enough money. Sure, that isn't as morally satisfying as lecturing the rest of us, but other than that why don't they put their money where their mouths are? Tip to Instapundit.

Russia threw an elbow at Sweden in the Baltic Sea.

For 35 years now, since the 1984 election campaign, I've recognized that the media is biased. I was amazed at the time how the news did not match the reality that statistical measures indicated.  Over time it has gotten worse. And more obvious as the means to check the news slant proliferated. Truly, journalism has openly taken sides and doesn't even pretend it hasn't. I've noted this in my sources and methods to avoid the need to raise the issue repeatedly.

Is a cure for Alzheimer's near? This is too late for my dad, but I hope others will be spared this. And thank goodness my gums are healthy. Tip to Instapundit.

Yeah, I dislike the current  cult of personality for our president as much as I disliked the one for our last president. The difference is that the media was pro-cult during the last administration and anti-cult for this one. Which means that rather than mocking those who thought our president was a secret Moslem literally born in Kenya, our media bolsters those who think our president is a secret Nazi/Confederate figuratively born in Russia. Seriously, if you think we are one night of broken glass away from Hitler under Trump, I can't take you seriously. You are a fool. Or a liar. And if you love Trump and believe any criticism of him or his ability to play 3D chess is evidence of betrayal of conservatism, how can I talk to you? Tip to Instapundit. As you can imagine, dating in Ann Arbor for me is quite the challenge. But perhaps I've shared too much now.

Syria's Kurds will talk to Assad's government. Syria is too weak to reconquer the Kurdish regions any time soon (well, without an expanded Iranian presence which Assad does not want); and as I've long said, the Kurds weren't going to march on Damascus. The Kurds don't want to control Syria, they want to escape their control. And if independence isn't at hand, they'll settle for autonomy while under formal Syrian control. For now.

The Greeks finally set aside their apparent fear of the spirit of Alexander the Great to agree that the Republic of North Macedonia is fine with them. This has amazed me for a while.

Remember, when you "only" slice off the wealthy "tippy top" you create a new "tippy top." No matter how many times you repeat that slicing you will always have a "tippy top" to resent and target. And those with the guns and goons will enforce the resentment and anger. Do not start on the path of Venezuela with just a little bit of socialism, because it won't turn out well: "socialist revolutions in particular have a peculiar habit of beginning with a man in a work shirt and ending up with a man dressed like Cap’n Crunch." I know, I know, Progressives say of course they don't intend to create current Venezuela here in America. We'd be different. But do you really think that the Venezuelans who started socialism there a couple decades ago intended to "build" the Venezuela where the people who haven't fled are starving and abused? Of course not. Those Venezuelans (and their fans in America) believed that starting on the path would be glorious! But it is what it is--an evil system that crushes souls and bodies. Well, except for the rulers. They live quite well indeed because they have the guns and goons.

Trump's threat to wage a trade war against China is working because China is vulnerable.  I have been consistent in that I think free trade is best. But it is not being against free trade to resist unbalanced trading terms that benefit China (and others with advantages). Allowing such advantages made sense after World War II because we were relatively stronger economically as the sole power not devastated by World War II and we received benefits in building Cold War alliances. Now we have the alliances and won the Cold War, but are not as economically dominant. Saying that a defense of free trade requires a 100% defense of post-World War II and pre-Trump trade terms has always been ridiculous.

The Zimbabwe crackdown continues and gets uglier.

Why American feminists aren't the most fervent hardliners against Islamists--whether Shia or Sunni--is beyond me.

The Army is broadening the scope of longer training time for combat arms after good results from infantry training.

If you look closely, you can almost make out the "mission accomplished" banner, eh?

The German navy will now consider the Baltic Sea a potential theater of war? That is needed to motivate them. But is this a sign of future progress or a sign that Germany will now willfully ignore what they previously neglected?

A Spanish frigate will sail with the Lincoln carrier strike group. Why we can't do this with European armies is beyond me. I tried to get an article on that concept published last year. I really should work on it some more.

Well that's just freaking great.

More discussion on how to measure soldier physical fitness. I really just don't know enough to have a firm opinion.

Iran has hit the US government with a major cyber-war effort (the fine print says there is only "moderate" confidence that Iran is doing it, but the objectives seem to favor Iran). Well, we've been doing the same since 2009, at least, so this should not be shocking. We've been Iran's enemy since their Islamic revolution put Shia nutballs in charge of Iran. We should act accordingly.

How do we conclude an "endless war" against jihadis who consider their fight open-ended until they win? If such fanatical jihadis will not stop fighting, the obvious answer is to kill them all and let Allah sort them out. But that is dealing with the symptom, however necessary it is. In the long term the Sunni Moslem world has to shut off the flow of such committed jihadis by winning the Islamic Civil War over who gets to define what Islam means--the jihadi version that embraces killing or a more tolerant version that does not live for jihad. But until then, to protect us and to help the non-jihadi Moslems defend themselves against the jihadis and ultimately win the civil war, we have no choice but to wage the "endless war," although the form of our war will change from place to place and over time. It doesn't often require 100,000+ troops fighting on a battlefield.

While this is actually pretty cool, at some level it seems like a tale of government waste--a decade-long expensive project to go get something far away that we could have picked up here.Tip to Instapundit.

Democrats and their legions of media comrades celebrated Trump's defeat in the government shutdown over border security. So they're saying Trump isn't a dictator who can just do what he wants? Progress, people. Progress.

Anti-government protests in France continue, with violence. Via Instapundit.

Whatever else you might say about France as an American ally, they do work to stabilize northern Africa.

I started reading the Army history of the Iraq War massive two-volume set (volumes one and two). It will be a while. I was amused that it says nobody expected we'd defeat the Iraqi army so quickly. In December 2002 I said we'd be outside of Baghdad in about a week. We had to pause after we did that to resupply before bouncing the city on the run (remember the "thunder run"), but our initial lunge was rapid. And I note I had read somebody say we'd be outside the city in 48 hours. Which I did reject as a road march.

Also, per volume I, one of the side effects of the long aerial war over Iraq between the Persian Gulf War and the Iraq War was that Iraqi units constantly moved to avoid aerial attack and established lots of ammo depots for wherever they might move. For those wondering why Iraq had so much ammunition and weapons scattered around Iraq which sustained the insurgency and terrorism without outside supply, that's why.

Whoever did this should be hunted down and killed.

The Meat Sacks Still Rule on the Battlefield

Russia's Uran-9 remotely operated armed tracked vehicle did not work when sent to Syria.

The 12-ton Russian vehicle could not be used in practice despite laboratory success:

The Uran-9s sent to Syria for combat zone experience did not get much of that because the remote control system functioned poorly under battlefield conditions. The main problem was that the wireless remote control system, while encrypted, had insufficient bandwidth (amount of data sent and received in real time) to handle what was required to remotely operate the sensors, the vehicle itself and its weapons.

Until the battlefield internet problem is solved for bandwidth, continuity, and security, my idea for using reachback for the squad (in a 2016 Infantry magazine article) in some circumstances cannot be tried.

Also, the sensors so far don't match Mark I eyes, ears, noses, and touch.

But eventually somebody will get there.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Pakistan is Its Own Circular Firing Squad

Sometimes what goes around comes around. Sadly, the rest of us may need to duck and cover.

A nuclear-armed state has been invading another country to gain territory it believes should not have been given to the target state when the original country fragmented. And the invading state denies it is invading despite the evidence that it is invading with proxies and sometimes direct military means.

So why aren't strategists elevating what Pakistan is doing to India to "hybrid war" mythological prowess?

This Pakistani aggression in Kashmir is pushing the two nations towards war, despite the possibility of both sides using nukes. This has brought more pressure on the Pakistani military to behave but so far the Pakistani generals are resisting the popular pressure inside Pakistan for less violence on the Indian border. The Pakistani generals see Kashmir as a victory for Pakistan, but one that that Pakistan cannot take proper credit for because supporting Islamic terrorism and sending those Islamic terrorists into India (and Afghanistan) is a violation of international law. While the Pakistani military denies culpability the evidence has piled up to the extent that most of the world is convinced that the Pakistani military is, indeed, violating international norms and supporting Islamic terrorism.

But you know what I think of that hybrid war hyper-ventilating nonsense.

As for Pakistan, the multiple problems caused by sponsoring jihadis the Pakistanis thought they could control are really starting to backfire on Pakistan (back to the Strategypage post):

One of the aftereffects of all that was the Taliban and a growing minority of Pakistanis who backed Islamic radicalism and the imposition of religious law, or even a religious government, on Pakistan. This created a civil war that is still under way. The Pakistani military thought they could control and manipulate the Islamic zealots. That proved more difficult than anticipated and while a four year military campaign (starting in 2014) against the local Islamic terrorists (the extremists among the Islamic conservatives the Saudis created) reduced the number of Pakistani Islamic terrorists seeking to replace the current government (a democracy dominated by the military) with a religious dictatorship, those zealots have become a permanent part of Pakistani society. This has caused problems with neighbors like Iran (Pakistani zealots kill Pakistani Shia), China (Pakistani zealots attack Chinese investments and the Chinese running them) and India (Pakistani zealots seek to terrorize India and seize control of Kashmir). These neighbors have become increasingly forceful in their demands that the Pakistani government do something about this. Pakistan placates the Iranians by refusing to provide military assistance to the Arabs in Yemen, or against any Iranian military operation directed at the Gulf Arabs. Now Pakistan has to deal with increasingly angry Arabs who threatened to halt the cash infusions that the Pakistani economy now depends on. The Chinese demand quick and effective action against Pakistan supported Islamic terrorists who threaten Chinese investments.

And America is tiring of putting up with our black sheep ally. Do read it all.

Perhaps the Pakistanis should look to Syria for what happens when "tame" jihadis truly get out of control. And that's apart from the problem of pissing off India.

Heck, maybe Russia should think about the problems that they could endure from promoting separatism in Georgia and Ukraine.

Setting the Shield Wall

Israel is strengthening their defenses on the border with Lebanon to prevent Hezbollah infiltration and ground attacks:

Israel has created a new army reserve battalion to improve defenses along the 79 kilometer long Lebanese border. With the increasing threat from Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, and the discovery of five and destruction of four Hezbollah tunnels at the end of 2018, the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) revised its security measures for the Lebanese border. A key element in that is the new “Gates of Fire” reserve infantry battalion for the Baram reserve infantry brigade. ...

The new battalion is largely composed of soldiers who had recently served in the Reconnaissance Battalion of the Golani Brigade, which is in charge of defending the Syrian border and Golan Heights. Every Israeli infantry brigade has a Reconnaissance Battalion which handles more than reconnaissance. One of the three companies in these battalions is a reconnaissance unit the other two companies handle combat engineers and heavy weapons. Thus using men who ended their active service in the Golani Reconnaissance Battalion in the last four years provides the Gates of Fire battalion with troops already trained to handle the unique situation found on the Lebanese border (which now includes tunnel detection or at least dealing with the possibility of more tunnels) and defense of a wall that already covers a third of the Lebanese border and will eventually cover all of it.

The northern shield of walls and the anti-tunnel operation are now joined by personnel trained to hold the walls and stop the tunnels.

Is Israel building a passive wall or preparing to push their sword through the shield wall to gut their Hezbollah enemy before it can return from Syria and reset to face and fight the Israelis on better terms?

UPDATE: From the Be Careful What You Wish For files: Hezbollah warns Israel about attacking targets in Syria:

The head of the militant Hezbollah group in Lebanon warned Israel late Saturday over its continued attacks in Syria, saying a miscalculation could drag the region into a war.

Hassan Nasrallah made the comment during a wide-ranging interview that lasted more than three hours with the Beirut-based Al-Mayadeen TV station.

Nasrallah said Iran, Syria and Hezbollah could "at any moment" decide to deal differently with Israel's actions in Syria and hinted that Tel Aviv might be a target.

Israel could attack Hezbollah in Lebanon instead.

With a bonus threat to Tel Aviv that would justify an Israeli invasion of Lebanon to inflict a body blow on Hezbollah by driving all the way to Baalbek to tear up Hezbollah's rear area support infrastructure while occupying the rocket-launching sites in the south.

UPDATE: Has Iran picked up chatter of a pending Israeli attack?

"We announce that if Israel takes any action to wage a war against us, it will definitely lead to its own elimination and freeing occupied territories," Brigadier General Hossein Salami, deputy head of the IRGC, was quoted as saying.

Hezbollah is the IRGC's (aka Revolutionary Guards or Pasdaran) crown jewel of proxy forces. Do the Pasdaran worry Israel could destroy it?

And again, I know I am disposed to looking for dots to plug into a picture I already drew.

UPDATE: And, return:

Israel's prime minister warned the head of Lebanon's Hezbollah of his army's "lethal" power on Sunday, in reaction to Hassan Nasrallah cautioning the Jewish state against further strikes in Syria.

"The lethal striking force of the IDF (Israeli army) stands facing Hezbollah," Israel's premier Benjamin Netanyahu said at the start of a cabinet meeting.

Is this just a war of words or is Netanyahu telegraphing real capabilities now facing Hezbollah?

Friday, January 25, 2019

The Narva Scenario

I have no doubt that NATO would apply Article V on collective defense should mysterious well-armed troops take over Estonia's Narva on the Russian border.

Would Russia attack NATO by seizing--while denying it is doing so--Estonia's border city of Narva?

If you haven’t heard of Narva, you might very soon. This small, mostly Russian-speaking city lies along Estonia’s boundary with Russia, separated geographically from its larger neighbor only by a partially frozen river. A 13th-century castle towers over passersby, while an intimidating medieval stronghold stares back across the river from the Russian side. A short walk away stands a monument to the late chess grand master Paul Keres, who was born here and lived through decades of Soviet occupation, but always attributed his success to the Estonian school of chess.

This city is also the epicenter of what could be an epic challenge for Western military alliances—what NATO calls the “Narva scenario”—one that would test the foundation underpinning the security partnership.

Yeah, I wrote about that scenario well before those articles did (in early 2015, in this case) and I quoted a late 2014 post of mine on the issue:

Could Russia seek to use their relatively few quality troops on a narrow front rather than try their "little green men" astro-turf revolt tactic again that we will be more attuned to reacting to if applied to Estonia, a member of NATO, with its relatively large (a quarter of the population) ethnic Russian minority?

What if Russia attempts a page out of Pakistan's long territorial struggle against militarily superior India in the 1999 Kargil War?

What if Russia sends in their regular troops--while denying they are their troops--to seize the Estonian ethnic-Russian city of Narva on the northeast border and dares NATO to counter-attack, which would devastate NATO's reputation if we did nothing?

Although at this point, Russia would be making a mistake because post-Crimea NATO is fully digesting the need to resist Russian aggression on its eastern frontier. I don't think there will be any hand wringing about "little green men" as if we don't know exactly who they are the way we pretended to do in Crimea and in the Donbas when Russia took Ukrainian territory.

And a small Russian conquest on a narrow front would allow NATO to deploy forces to retake Narva without worrying about putting the forces needed to oppose a full invasion into a potential kill sack should Russia thrust through Belarus to link up with their Kaliningrad exclave to isolate the NATO troops sent to Estonia.

And seriously, the idea put forth that Trump would not honor America's treaty-based NATO commitments is nonsense. I'm actually grateful that Trump has managed to get Democrats suddenly deeply committed to the alliance.

The Great Fall of China

Is today the high tide of Chinese economic power?

This worsening slowdown, which is the new normal for China, may have major effects on Beijing’s foreign and security policy. On the one hand, it will become increasingly unaffordable for China to build the type of military it has been aiming at for decades now; indeed, Chinese defense spending has already dropped from years of double-digit increases. It is still the world’s second-largest military budget, and the People’s Liberation Army is modernizing, but projecting out slowing growth rates into the future means that Beijing will have to make hard trade-offs between domestic spending on an aging population and fielding the world’s most powerful armed forces. Thus, in a few decades, we may look back at today as the high-tide of China’s global power.

Well, the current time is certainly the age of China's peak toil, but I think 2050 might be the Chinese power high tide. But yeah, the China century might be fading before it can get started.

The author is right that peak China doesn't mean the danger has passed. I've worried that China might decide that striking before their situation worsens is their best course to lock in any transient advantages they can get now.

That's more of a worry than thinking America might strike first to avoid China taking the lead. I just don't think the Thucydides Trap is applicable to the US-China competition.

And remember, saying we are entering an "Asia century" is not the same as saying we are entering a "China century," thus denying the problems that could derail China's rise. America is in the Pacific, too, and is part of an Asia century. So Asia can rise without China leading it.

Honestly, Russia has more to worry about than America if China wants a signal victory.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

When Statues Topple

There is now an alternative to Maduro in Venezuela around whom scattered and unfocused resistance to Maduro can rally:

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself interim president on Wednesday, winning the backing of Washington and many Latin American nations and prompting socialist Nicolas Maduro, who has led the oil-rich nation since 2013, to break relations with the United States.

U.S. President Donald Trump formally recognized Guaido shortly after his announcement and praised his plan to hold elections. That was swiftly followed by similar statements from Canada and a slew of right-leaning Latin American governments, including Venezuela's neighbors Brazil and Colombia.

Is this a symbol of the end of Maduro and his socialist regime?

In a potent symbol of Venezuelan anger, demonstrators in the southern city of Puerto Ordaz on Tuesday toppled a statue of late socialist leader Hugo Chavez. They broke the statue in half and dangled part of it from a bridge.

Maduro has relied on loyal armed support willing to abuse and kill for the inept autocrat. Is that changing?

Maduro has granted bonuses to rank-and-file soldiers and placed generals in key government posts, including at the helm of the state-run oil company, seeking to cement their support.

But with Venezuela sliding into economic collapse, there have been signs in recent years of fraying in military support[.]

And if more people openly resist Maduro, will the security forces have the capacity to battle protesters on a large scale? When the rationalization that only a few are causing the unrest is clearly false?

So far the death toll in this wave of unrest is not high:

A Venezuelan monitoring group says at least a dozen people have been killed by gunfire in a wave of anti-government unrest rocking Venezuela, where a young opposition leader and socialist President Nicolas Maduro both claim to be chief of state.

But the opposition isn't rudderless now:

Since late fall 2018, nationwide opposition to Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro has shown signs of increasing coordination -- emerging links connecting angry anti-Maduro street demonstrations, domestic political preparations by opposition leaders and anti-regime international diplomatic initiatives that portray Maduro as the vicious thug he is.

So a small dose of violence might not be enough to suppress this latest round of unrest.

Is a revolution beginning (tip to Instapundit)?

And is it too late for Maduro to lash out at a foreign enemy in an effort to rally his security forces against all of his enemies, foreign and domestic?

UPDATE: Guaido has gained some international support while the usual rogue suspects back Maduro:

In a united and seemingly coordinated front, the U.S., Canada and some Latin American and European countries announced that they supported Guaido's claim to the presidency.

But Russia, China, Iran, Syria, Cuba and Turkey have voiced their backing for Maduro's government.

What will the Venezuelan people and the security forces do now?

UPDATE: If there is foreign intervention, I'd guess the United States would play a supporting logistics and surveillance role for Latin American states to occupy ports and key airports to allow humanitarian aid to flow in and to block any shipment of arms from the rogues to support Maduro.

UPDATE: Venezuela ordered American diplomats out and we refused to go:

Speaking to supporters outside the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, socialist leader Maduro said he would give U.S. diplomatic personnel 72 hours to leave Venezuela, which is suffering from a hyperinflationary economic collapse. ...

The U.S. State Department said in a statement that it would not remove American diplomats because it did not recognize the Maduro regime as the government of Venezuela[.]

So that's another reason we might send in forces. Trump won't allow a repeat of the September 11, 2012 Benghazi attack. If Maduro attacks our embassy I assume Marine reaction forces are moving to staging areas if they aren't there already; and that the ready brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division is breaking out the maps of Caracas. And 1st Marine Division, too, although they would take longer to deploy.

UPDATE: As the slow-motion disaster rolls along, remember that if President Bush actually had staged a coup back in 2002 against Hugo Chavez, the founder of the wreckage of modern Venezuela now being destroyed by Maduro's inept cruelty, that we'd have spent the last 17 years hearing the Left screech about how Bushitler had deprived Venezuelans of the wonderful socialism Hugo promised--unaware of the alternate history timeline we now live in.

Sadly there is no Wayback Machine to prevent the disaster we have today.

UPDATE: The high command remains with Maduro:

Venezuela's powerful military high command threw its weight behind President Nicolas Maduro on Thursday as opposition leader Juan Guaido pressed a direct challenge to his authority with the backing of the United States and key Latin American allies.

That's not too shocking. But what about the mid-level officers as well as the NCOs and privates at the pointy end who would need to open fire on a large scale if protests snowball?

UPDATE: More (tip to Instapundit):

Venezuela’s National Guard, whose support for President Nicolás Maduro has endured despite the country’s dire economic and humanitarian conditions, is beginning to show signs of a break. A budding insurgency within the force was quashed over the weekend, but not before the dozens of protesting guards used 21st century weapons - videos and social media posts stating they didn’t recognize Maduro as president – to rally support for their cause.

If the signs of breaking increase, will one of the high command decide to step in front of the parade just out of self interest if not for the sake of the people?

And are all of the high command looking at each other to make sure they aren't the second one to step in?

UPDATE: Maduro has ordered Venezuelan diplomats to come come; and basically threatened our diplomats who are staying despite Maduro's order to leave:

Maduro warned that if U.S. officials "have any sense" they will pull out their own diplomats from the U.S. Embassy in Caracas, rather than defying his order for them to leave.

Since we don't recognize Maduro as the legitimate president, we can hardly consider his orders valid.

UPDATE: We are ordering "non-emergency" staff home. I have no idea what that means. Although I assume emergency personnel includes any Marine embassy guards there.

The U.S. also advised citizens to get the heck out of Dodge.

UPDATE: More. Let's hope socialism is finally rejected there.

And to those who say that socialism doesn't mean what has happened to Venezuela as it crumbles today, do you actually think that today's Venezuela is the intended result of socialism established in Venezuela decades ago?

Celebrities and leftists here celebrated the path they were on as a miracle, recall.

Venezuela today is the logical outcome of establishing socialism in even a prosperous country with an educated people and abundant natural resources.

UPDATE: If you think it can't get worse, Russia is getting more involved:

Private military contractors who do secret missions for Russia flew into Venezuela in the past few days to beef up security for President Nicolas Maduro in the face of U.S.-backed opposition protests, according to two people close to them.

A third source close to the Russian contractors also told Reuters there was a contingent of them in Venezuela, but could not say when they arrived or what their role was.

Their role is to get more Venezuelans killed. Sadly, Post-Soviet Russia measures their global stature by how many people they can get killed in unrest they encourage.

UPDATE: And remember, what Guaido has done is not a coup:

Guaidó did not "declare himself" president of the South American country. He assumed the presidency of Venezuela as constitutionally mandated. ...

When Juan Guaidó stepped on that stage on Wednesday, he was not "declaring himself" president, rather, as the highest-ranking democratically elected official in the country, he was assuming the responsibility for steering the country back to democracy.

Maduro is the one who has staged a coup by undermining institutions and hanging on to power. Guaido deserves our vocal support.

UPDATE: A mid-level Venezuelan officer from their embassy sided with Guaido.  We'll see if that's a one-off or the beginning of a trend.

Major European powers told Maduro to announce a new election within eight days or they would recognize Guaido as president. Ah, nuance.

The Taiwanese Need to Be an Ally and Not an Objective

The fate of Taiwan is more than a question of a small free democracy surviving the grasping claws of an evil communist behemoth looming over it:

Those focusing on whether China can sink a U.S. aircraft carrier or lob missiles at Guam are missing the larger problem. And it is not about the tragic loss of a democratic friend in Asia.

The nightmare is how the strategic landscape will radically change if China controls Taiwan, either by political or brutal force.

Yes. The article describes the assets China would have if it controlled Taiwan.

I've long gone on about how Taiwan under China's control is a power projection platform for China rather than being the cork in the bottle that blocks China's projection of power past the western Pacific littorals:

Clearly, even if we cared not one whit for Taiwanese democracy and independence, blocking Chinese efforts to dominate the seas around them requires a friendly Taiwan as a figurative cork in the bottle penning China's fleet close to shore.

But unfortunately for Taiwan, their unwillingness to pay for an adequate defense means I cannot support selling them our most advanced weapons lest they be captured by China in a successful invasion of Taiwan that not only provides a power projection platform but gives China close access to our best weapons that would be key to containing a Chinese drive to push past the first island chain and isolate our western Pacific allies from our power.

Oh, and while I want Taiwan to defend themselves for the sake of their liberty and for the sake of our security by giving us a reason to intervene to save them (that is, by giving our intervention a good shot at working rather than being futile), Taiwan needs to arm up to prevent America from becoming a threat.

Remember, if Taiwan is controlled by a hostile China and is a power projection platform for China, America has the incentive to build the capability to destroy Taiwan as a Chinese power projection platform. That's just a sad reality.

If Taiwan isn't strong enough for us to fight with at their side, we will fight China over controlling the battlefield of Taiwan. So Taiwan will face attacks from China and America. Or do you think we didn't bomb France after the Germans took it over in 1940 just because the French had been our friend?

Have a super sparkly day.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Iranian Mission Accomplished?

I appreciate that the Army should be critical of its abilities when reviewing a war to avoid complacency that handicaps our ability to prepare for the next battlefield. But oh please, just stop:

The US Army has concluded that Iran was the only victor of the eight-year US campaign to remove Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and replace him with a democratic regime.

I haven't read the massive two-volume set (volumes one and two) yet. But I find the conclusion that Iran won the Iraq War ridiculous.

So Iraq's Kurds didn't win by getting rid of a regime that gassed them?

Iraq's own people in general didn't win by getting rid of a regime that considered running dissidents through plastic shredders a good idea?

Kuwait didn't win by getting rid of a regime that considered Kuwait Iraq's 19th province?

We and the entire region didn't win by getting rid of a WMD-seeking regime with massive oil wealth which sponsored terrorism?

Further, revolutionary Iran had influence in Sunni Arab minority-ruled Iraq via the oppressed Shia majority long before we defeated Saddam in 2003. That is one of the reasons Saddam invaded Iran in 1980:

The war that we view in retrospect as a disastrous and costly war was conceived by Saddam Hussein as a limited conflict against a fragile Iran. In addition to gaining vengeance against a once powerful Iran which had humiliated Iraq by forcing a border settlement favorable to Iran in 1975, Hussein sought to propel Iraq to a position of leadership. Most narrowly, by defeating Iran it would be possible for Iraq to claim leadership of the Gulf region. With Egypt then ostracized by the Arab world for signing the Camp David peace accords with Israel, the demonstration of Iraqi power against the Persians could vault Iraq to leadership of the Arab world as well. Finally, only two years prior to Iraq's hosting of a major nonaligned nations conference, the elevation of Iraq through a victorious war could even make the nonaligned nations look to Iraq for leadership. The disorder caused by the Iranian revolution seemed to make all this possible in addition to allowing Iraq to capture Khuzestan and to humiliate Iran and nullify Iran's ability to subvert Iraq at only a nominal price. Saddam Hussein's plan did not work for the simple reason that Iran did not carry out its role of victim when struck by Iraq. [emphasis added, and note this is a summary of a book manuscript so I didn't dwell on the subversion angle]

Indeed, Saddam was worried his largely Shia soldiers wouldn't fight for him against revolutionary Shia Iran.

Further, by claiming the Iraq War unleashed the possibility of a Shia-Sunni regional war as the study does, is it that easy to overlook that the Iran-Iraq War actually was a regional war between the Sunni Arabs and Shia Persian Iraq? A war that led both Iran and Iraq to pursue WMD to break the long stalemate.

And you can easily point to the source of a surge of Iranian influence as being not our destruction of Saddam's regime in 2003 but the 2011 decision to get out of Iraq after defeating the battlefield threats and leave the political field to the Iranians. Without America's presence to shield Iraq and block Iran, of course a weak Iraq feared looming Iran and adjusted their policies to be more favorable. And it even made some sense to let their military hollow out by promoting officers loyal to the Iraqi leadership as a safety net against Iranian influence.

And still it took the collapse of the Iraqi military and the loss of massive amounts of territory to ISIL in 2014 to allow Iran to seriously penetrate Iraq through many of the Shia militias raised to resist ISIL.

Blocking Iran to defend the victory 2.0 is a reason I want us to stay in Iraq post-ISIL caliphate.

One problem with the Army judgment is what point do you freeze in time to judge whether it was right to invade Iraq in 2003?

Consider the Korean War. When I was growing up I would have glibly called it a draw. We held our autocratic south and the communists had the north at the end of the war, just like at the beginning.

But as the decades have passed and South Korea became a free and prosperous democracy while North Korea has sunk further into an impoverished black hole run by truly evil people, I believe we clearly won the Korean War.

Remember too, Syria was on the "winning" side as a virtual satrap of Iran which the study says won the Iraq War. How did that victory work out for Syria? Will Iran do better over time?

Are you really going to call Iran's post-Iraq War record a success?

Iran is at war on multiple fronts including another nationwide popular outburst against the religious dictatorship running the country. There was some of this popular protest in 2009 that called for fair elections and one in 1999 seeking freedom of speech. Those two were put down with force. But the latest outburst, that began at the end of 2017 and continues, specifically calls for withdrawal from foreign wars and paying more attention to economic problems at home. Protestors were, for the first time, calling for the corrupt religious rulers to be removed, killed if necessary. Some protestors call for a return of the constitutional monarchy the religious leaders replaced in the 1980s (after first promising true democracy). The popular uprising was quickly contained but not shut down and the government found that its many wars had also turned sour. Before the 2017 nationwide protests the religious rulers saw Iran on the way to some major victories in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen. That optimism turned out to be premature. The good times were supposed to begin in the wake of a July 2015 treaty that lifted the many sanctions Iran operated under. The government got a lot more money but did not apply most of it to improving the Iranian economy. Instead a lot of that cash was stolen by corrupt officials or diverted to the many foreign wars.

And what is the alternative to the war? Were we really to leave Saddam in power and think that we could have managed Saddam since 2003 successfully?

Would it really have been better to leave Nazi Germany as a counter-weight to the USSR?

Seriously, using the same logic as the Army apparently has (and I should not assume the full nuance of the set really concludes this, to be fair to the Army) you could have said that the biggest winner of World War II in Europe was the Soviet Union that pushed into central Europe to reach the Russian empire's greatest territorial expanse, military power, and global influence. Right until 1989-1991. And in the Pacific, wasn't communist China the only real winner? (Russia's Pacific victory lasted a bit until the Sino-Soviet split, the first unraveling of their World War II victory.)

Iraq is an imperfect democracy that helps us kill jihadis rather than sponsor them or invade neighbors to destabilize the region. Apparently even the Army editors and researchers overlook this fact.

We won the Iraq War and we can win more if we fight for the post-war. And this link-filled review of the Iraq War prior to President Obama's decision to initiate Iraq War 2.0 to defeat ISIL is useful.

Anyway, I do look forward to reading the Army study. But there may be an inherent problem that flows from the very length of the Army study, as Jean Paul-Sartre perceptively identified:

A victory described in detail is indistinguishable from defeat.

We'll see if the study shakes my belief that we actually did a  good job of adapting to evolving threats in the war.

And we'll see if Iran is ultimately the victor of the Iraq War.

Where Should We Solve the Afghanistan Problem?

The Afghanistan Taliban refuse to talk about peace. As long as they have sanctuary in Pakistan, that refusal is hard to break. Maybe the campaign is taking so long because we have failed to figure out where to fight the problem.

The Taliban aren't going along with our plan to pressure them into talking:

The Afghan Taliban rejected reports in the Pakistani media that they were prepared to resume meetings with U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Islamabad and repeated their refusal to deal directly with the Afghan government.

Trump simply added pressure to the Obama approach, really. And the Pakistan component of the "regional" approach just isn't working.

We could in theory break the Taliban without Pakistan's cooperation. We broke the Sunni Arab and pro-Iran Shia resistance in Iraq without dealing with the Syrian and Iranian sanctuaries, respectively.

But the situations are too different in practice. We don't have the troops in Afghanistan to win rapidly on the battlefield--and we shouldn't commit them to this landlocked theater in what is really a peripheral campaign in the war to help normal Moslems win the Islamic Civil War over who defines Islam--and the Taliban are a harder nut to crack for an awakening.

Our fight in Afghanistan is really about a narrower--but highly important--mission of preventing Afghanistan from serving as a sanctuary for terrorists who would strike America or the West as they did on September 11, 2001. We should not abandon that mission.

I was against the Obama surges because of the supply problem, in part. I didn't think that we could achieve lasting gains given that the Taliban problem really sits in Pakistan.

Mind you, our surge offensives--despite being truncated--did knock back the Taliban in the south and gave us time to build up Afghan forces to carry on the fight.

And the reality of the supply situation through Pakistan means that we can't really solve the "regional"--read that as primarily Pakistan (but toss in Russia and Iran who cause problems, too)--problem. If we had an alternative to Pakistan land lines of supply as we once had through Russia (before they got too Russian-like to trust) we could afford to be harsher with a jihadi-supporting Black Sheep ally Pakistan.

Maybe Iran should be the real "regional" focus for an Afghanistan strategy.

A harder policy toward Iran that reverses the Obama era Iran nuclear deal fantasy of making Iran a responsible regional power could actually open up supply lines to Afghanistan through a non-nutball Iran--which do exist--and allow us to seriously pressure Pakistan and reduce the "regional" problem in the east that sustains the Taliban and their drug gang allies.

We have a problem of extremely dedicated killers continuing to fight. Why is the answer to that problem a decision to come home and hope those dedicated killers will dedicate their lives to planting kale, or something?

Or do we simply want the false peace of retreat and hope future people will pay the higher price to stop the jihadis again?

UPDATE: Pakistan is unlikely to voluntarily be a regional help to resolve Afghanistan:

In Pakistan the military staged a silent coup since 2017 and took control of the top elected leaders, the mass media and highest courts. The Pakistani military plans to keep this power by doing what they have done for decades; create foreign threats where none exist and use that to justify the continued power, prosperity and immunity from prosecution of Pakistani military leaders. To make this work Pakistani generals have to ensure that several volatile situations do not blow up. One of the more obvious examples of this is Afghanistan, which the Pakistani military sees as a potential problem that is best handled by establishing a degree of Pakistani control over who does what in Afghanistan. Thus Pakistan created the Taliban in the early 1990s to end the civil war in Afghanistan and that had unfortunate side effects. For Pakistan, Afghanistan seems to be nothing but unfortunate side effects.

I keep hoping that Pakistan will come to its senses. They have not. Perhaps because my rational is not their rational.

If we had a supply line through a friendly Iran, we'd have options to combat Pakistan's sanctuary for Afghan Taliban and jihadis.