Saturday, February 23, 2019

The Kurdish Question

Pulling American forces out of eastern Syria causes a Kurdish problem that flows from our many decisions against supporting rebels who wanted to overthrow Assad before they were defeated by Assad and his Russian, Iranian, and Hezbollah allies.

What will happen to Syria's Kurds once American forces pull out of eastern Syria? Actors involved don't agree:

There is no agreement (between the major powers with forces in Syria) about what to do with the Syrian Kurds and their SDF militia, which was largely responsible for destroying ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) in Syria, including capturing their capital city Raqqa. There is a conundrum about how to handle the Kurds/SDF. It goes like this;

The Syrian Kurds want an autonomous Kurdish region in the northeast, similar to what the Iraqi Kurds have had (for 25 years) next door in Iraq. The Assads are inclined to allow that (as the Assads have been able to work with the SDF for years even though the SDF are technically Syrian rebels). The Turks and Iranians oppose the Kurdish autonomous region while the Russians and Americans support it.

In one sense, America's withdrawal only accelerates rather than causes this issue. Even if 2,000 American troops stayed in eastern Syria, eventually Syria will recover enough military power to attempt to retake eastern Syria. Or Assad's forces would recover enough to inflict a Beirut Barracks-style terror attack on our forces there.

I once thought we might have gotten a de facto autonomous zone we could patrol along the deconfliction line (the DCL, as I eventually called it). But without Assad's cooperation, we'd need a major force to defend it. Assad would probably agree to this as would the Kurds. But Iran and Turkey--who both have restive Kurdish minorities--are opposed. Remember that in 2017 Iraq's Kurds got slapped down by Iranian-inspired Iraqi attacks that rolled back Kurdish controlled territory in Iraq.

That's why I said we had to decide what our objective for being in Syria was before some Beirut-style mass-casualty attack took place. Remember, Iran was behind that terror attack. Do you really think Iran wouldn't try to do the same thing to American troops in eastern Syria? We really haven't decided on an objective we can achieve and what the American people would support at the price of significant casualties; and so yes, it makes sense to pull our troops out of Syria. But we really need to do something to bolster the Kurds who helped us defeat ISIL even though in the long run we can't save them from Assad's wrath if he chooses to strike back.

Nobody has any stomach left to continue to oppose Assad to the point of overthrowing his minority Alawite regime even though his military power is largely spent from the multi-war, and he relies on Iran's power (money, expertise, Hezbollah, and a Shia foreign legion) and Russia. The British and French will pull their troops out of eastern Syria, too (as that initial Strategypage post reports--unless our decision to keep 200 troops there "for a period of time" convinces them to remain a bit longer), despite the fact that they have more interest in Syria than we do because of Syria's role in pushing so many refugees/migrants into Europe over the last half decade.

And it would be very hard to reconstitute armed rebellion after letting the non-jihadi rebels wither on the vine and finally die. Remember, the Kurds were never going to be the core of an anti-Assad force willing to march on Damascus.

This is why I wanted a focus on Assad in Syria before going after ISIL in Syria. My idea was "win, build, win" of defeating ISIL in Iraq while building up non-jihadi and non-Kurdish rebels in Syria; then after defeating ISIL in Iraq turn to winning against ISIL in Syria.

After that, because we had built up new rebels in the east and continued to support rebels in the west, we could go after Assad.

Of course, Russian intervention in 2015 to bolster Assad ended the hope of that kind of plan. The very length of time it took America to help Iraq defeat ISIL combined with our effort against ISIL in Syria which was essentially a gift to Assad may have given Russia the opportunity to intervene.

So here we are with Assad still in the throne after we struck weak blows against him; the Syrian Kurds who helped us defeat the ISIL caliphate are exposed to Assad and Turkey; and no objective we could achieve with a small force absent an agreement that recognizes the situation on the ground. Even a small American contingent with allies in support only buys time to figure out what exactly we want to do in Syria.

And Iran thwarts an effort to resolve this Kurdish problem. Iran really is a Gordian Knot for resolving a lot of problems in the Middle East.

Orange is the New Black

Germany continues to refrain from even debating their national security needs. They prefer to ignore the issue and hate America for even bringing the issue up.

Is the German public ready to debate their post-Cold War rejection of a real military force?

In the same way that in 2014 the German political leadership realized that it was time to question its automatic fall-back policy of international restraint, in 2019, the German public needs to realize that hiding behind a mix of deliberate ignorance and automatic rejection of anything military can no longer be an option. It is Sicherheitshalber’s aim to help inform the public and create a general debate on the basis of which a better, more strategic German foreign policy can take root.

What isn't mentioned at all is the oft-cited reason to justify rejecting an actual military, which really annoys me:

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

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

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

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

But no debate. Just an Orange Man Bad attitude that cuts off debate. And apparently thinking.

If so many Germans are correct that they can't build--let alone use--a real military lest they become raging, homicidal conquers dressed in Gestapo black, maybe to be on the safe side we should pull back and nuke the site from orbit.

Is that the only way to be sure?

Friday, February 22, 2019

What a Bloody Giveaway

Do you wonder why I say that the European Union is essentially an anti-American body that we should not want to strengthen and gain control of Europe?

Ah, our EU friends!

Amidst all the defeats and setbacks Iran is suffering at home and overseas there is one notable victory. Iran was able to persuade the EU (European Union) to assist Iran in getting around the sanctions the Americans restored because of Iran violating the 2015 treaty that lifted most of the sanctions. Iran offered EU nations lucrative economic opportunities in return for cooperation in getting around the American sanctions. The EU created the SPV (Special Purpose Vehicle) which is basically an EU approved barter system that makes it easy for Iran to sell trade with the EU via barter rather than use dollars. Iran uses a similar system with Russia and China.

It doesn't matter that Iran is an aggressive, terror-supporting mullahcracy seeking nukes. No, the chance to stick it to America by implementing a "European" policy independent of America is more important to them.

When the EU is relentless in trying to destroy NATO by strengthening the EU European-only military arm and letting European low defense spending erode NATO (where America is the major power) by robbing it of resources to feed a European military, how can you be an American and favor the EU?

Don't forget that today's Europe is the way it is because American post-World War II influence suppressed a European tradition of autocracy--or worse (as I note in an update in this post):

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.

We can have friends in Europe. Europe as a political entity cannot be our friend. The Iran issue is just a peek at what a more powerful EU would do to undermine America.

And really, given the effect we've had on Europe since 1945,  it is pro-European to save Europeans from the European Union.

UPDATE: Don't ever forget we have friends, like Tony Foulds, in Europe. Tip to Instapundit.

So What Does the Army Do When Marksmanship is Issued?

Army rifles will eventually be very accurate using technology no longer too bulky, heavy, and expensive for just armored fighting vehicles. What will the next generation training for infantry look like when that arrives?

This is cool:

The U.S. Army’s next assault rifle and machine gun will have built-in computers to give soldiers unparalleled firing accuracy. The so-called Next Generation Squad Weapons will feature a digital fire control system borrowing many features from today’s main battle tanks, allowing shooters to engage targets faster and with greater precision than their opponents can muster. ...

The new ballistic computers allowed tanks to automatically intake information such as target range, wind speed, barrel life, and the number of shots fired and make instantaneous corrections, allowing for dramatically improved first round accuracy.

That capability is in sight for infantry weapons.

Of course, just as drones aren't just for major power armies, opponents will eventually get such weapons--even militias, insurgents, and terrorists.

As I argued in this Naval Institute article, we will need to spend far more time--and earlier in training--drilling soldiers and their leaders in superior tactics to maintain our infantry edge that in large measure has been based on intensive training in individual aimed fire.

When I was in basic training, the only two things the Army really cared about--because they were scored--were marksmanship and physical fitness. Sure, chemical warfare defense and first aid were hammered home, too, but the testing was not as rigorous.

With rifles using the capabilities shown with the TrackingPoint weapon. the Army will have a lot of extra training time not needed for basic marksmanship. Will the Army use that time to provide more drill and ceremony or more extensive tactical skills for maneuvering, surviving, and winning on a more lethal battlefield?

If the Army of the 2020s is more lethal than today's, it will not be because our troops are better shots--a lot of its opponents will be too because of tech, thus matching our troops when today our troops are superior marksmen--but because they are much better soldiers because of next generation training.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

None Shall Pass?

Will Maduro order his troops to stop food from reaching Venezuelans?

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido plans to head to the Colombian border in a convoy of vehicles on Thursday to receive humanitarian aid for his crisis-stricken nation, despite the objection of increasingly isolated President Nicolas Maduro.

And will Venezuela's military obey any Maduro order to do that?

Venezuelan National Assembly leader Juan Guaido on Wednesday gave the country's armed forces a three-day ultimatum to stop supporting President Nicolas Maduro before humanitarian aid arrives.

Seriously, what is wrong with Maduro?

Venezuela has shut a key maritime border and grounded flights as the opposition party seeks to import foreign aid to the crisis-hit South American country.

A government representative confirmed Venezuela has closed its maritime border with Aruba, Curacao, and Bonaire and, in the Western state of Falcon, prevented flights leaving from or departing to those islands.

Can't risk his people not starving for even a moment, eh?

Our SOUTHCOM commander warned the Venezuelan military:

The head of the U.S. Southern Command warned Venezuela's military that it will be held accountable for any harm it causes civilians during the ongoing humanitarian crisis its country is experiencing.

I bet he wishes he had The SOUTHCOM Queen right now. It could have medical facilities, helicopters, and lots of humanitarian aid in shipping containers. And it wouldn't provide Maduro with optics of an American warship offshore.

UPDATE: The "keep out" signs proliferate:

President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of Venezuela's border with Brazil on Thursday in an increasingly fraught power struggle with Juan Guaido, the opposition leader spearheading efforts to bring humanitarian aid into the country despite a military blockade.

Just who in Venezuela is cool with this self-blockade?

UPDATE: The situation develops:

Venezuelan troops fired tear gas at angry protesters unable to cross into Colombia on Saturday after President Nicolas Maduro closed the border to stop the opposition bringing U.S. humanitarian aid into the South American nation.

Demonstrators set up barricades and burned tires in the Venezuelan border town of Urena, as attention turned to whether National Guard troops stationed at the border crossing would fulfill Maduro's orders to block humanitarian aid from reaching a sick and hungry population.

Four National Guard troops at the frontier disavowed Maduro's socialist government on Saturday, following an appeal from Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido to let aid through.

Let's hope we and our regional friends can get a soft landing on this crisis.

Could China's Learning Curve Go Through Russia?

I've noted that China's shiny new weapons need the training and skills of soldiers and commanders to make them as effective as they look. And I've hoped that the problems we can see on our side in readiness is more than matched by readiness problems in the military forces of potential enemies.

So this is comforting:

A large body of evidence in China’s official military and party media indicates the nation’s senior civilian and uniformed leaders recognize significant shortcomings in the warfighting and command capabilities of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). However, most of this evidence is not translated into English for public consumption and is not considered in much of the foreign analysis of China’s growing military capabilities. This situation is not new, but goes back for decades.

Yet, the increasing scope and frequency of these self-critiques during the tenure of Xi Jinping as chairman of the Central Military Commission casts doubt over the senior party and military leadership’s confidence in the PLA’s ability to prevail in battle against a modern enemy. Furthermore, the limitations illustrated by these internal assessments will likely moderate China’s near- and mid-term national security objectives and the manner in which they are pursued. This lack of confidence in PLA capabilities contributes to Beijing’s preference to achieve China’s national objectives through deterrence and actions short of war.

This is especially comforting given that I've worried that China's rulers might wrongly believe they have a military ready for war.

Unless this is a case of appearing far (from ready for war) when near(ly ready for war).

Even if this report about Chinese problems is not disinformation, what if the Chinese think they are in a rare period of unreadiness parity with America that will evaporate as we take care of our evident problems?

But even if the Chinese weaknesses are real and America isn't at risk because of them, if China wants to demonstrate its power to the world (to America?) so China doesn't have to fight to achieve objectives,* how does China overcome their recognized "peace disease" (China's term) of lacking combat experience without a war against their primary potential foe, America?

Could Russia be the potential target to demonstrate China's power to America without fighting America? And getting combat experience at the same time?

Have a super sparkly day.

*As the initial article writes, "By raising its warfighting capabilities and demonstrating them to the world, the PLA seeks to enhance its deterrence posture directed at a variety of threats to China’s national interests and to achieve China’s political objectives without fighting."

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Bask in the European Sophistication and Nuance!

Let's test this argument that Europeans are deeply unhappy with America because of Trump's policies that undermine the international rules-based order, shall we?

[Vice President Pence's] four-day trip to Europe succeeded only in deepening divisions with traditional allies over questions such as Iran and Venezuela and offered little hope in how to deal with threats ranging from nuclear arms to climate change, diplomats and officials said.

So these are the policies mentioned in that broad attack. The must be the most important for being mentioned. So we have the issues of American policy on Iran, Venezuela, nuclear weapons, and climate change.

On Iran, America has pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal and stopped treating Iran as a potential regional partner.

On Venezuela, America has recognized Guiado as the legitimate president over Maduro who won the last election with fraud.

On nuclear weapons, America announced our intent to abandon the partially functional INF treaty (verification measures expired long ago) because Russia has been violating it.

On climate change, America continues to do better than Europe on curbing greenhouse gas emissions, but has pulled out of the Paris climate accord.

What of these?

On Iran, the deal has not stopped Iranian aggression around the Middle East. The deal has not stopped Iran from working on long-range ballistic missiles. And at best the deal stalls Iran's nuclear weapons status for a short time while actually improving Iran's nuclear technology safe from attack in the meantime. If Iran's aggression and missile work are any indication, the time the deal is in place would have no effect on Iran's nutballery. They are dangerous and need to be stopped.

Europe has a problem with that. They prefer a fake paper deal.

On Venezuela, the sticking point appears to be our call to recognize Guiado while the Spanish say he should only be recognized as the interim leader. Since Guiado only claims to be an interim leader until new elections, what is the point in making out as if that is a significant difference?

Europe is really going to make this a deal breaker for relations with America?

On nuclear weapons, America doesn't want to remain in a partially defunct treaty that only America obeys after attempts since the Obama administration to get Russia to comply with the treaty have failed.

Europe would rather have a fake treaty that they can pretend is protecting them from Putin's nuclear threats.

On climate change, the main issue on foreign policy is the withdrawal from the Paris climate deal. That deal was deemed worthless by climate activists right up until Trump pulled out of the deal.

Europe would again prefer to pretend that they did something on paper rather than actually deal with an issue.

That's 0 out of 4 on justifiable reasons to dislike America on American actions in a "rules-based" order.

And if you want to see the utter bankruptcy of that European notion, look who is hailed as a champion of a rules-based system:

It fell to China to aid Merkel in her defense of the post-World War Two order, as the country's top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, spoke in flawless English for over 20 minutes about the virtues of open trade and global cooperation.

Are you freaking kidding me? China flouts the rules-based order by ignoring international law to claim virtually all of the South China Sea. China does not in fact support free trade, with trade terms tilted toward China, not to mention their rampant theft of Western technology. Indeed, while China "respects" the Paris climate deal by remaining in it, China is allowed by that deal to continue polluting all it wants!

But Yang spoke in flawless English!  Let the swooning begin! The words were magnificent! It could only have been better in French, I suppose. But then again, the French would never admit anyone not from Paris could speak the holy tongue flawlessly.

Oh, and perhaps the Europeans can explain how in 2011 it was a defense of the rules-based order for Europe and America to twist a UN authorization to establish no-fly zones over Libyan cities to protect them from virtually non-existent Libyan air power into an aerial campaign in support of rebels who overthrew the lawful (if odious) Libyan ruler Khadaffi? But no, that was Obama leading from behind and the Europeans were honored to take the lead (indeed, so eager were the French to strike the first blow that they jumped the gun to take honors).

In the end, the sophisticated and nuanced Europeans have based their view on the notion that Orange Man Bad.

As the French foreign minister who doesn't understand why America would want to get our of Syria (I addressed that already) explained:

"U.S. pressure has a tendency to make us do the opposite. U.S. pressure is counterproductive. It's best that they don't try and pressure us," a senior French diplomat said.

Wow. They don't decide based on interests and facts. They react against whatever Trump wants. How nuanced. How sophisticated of them.

I swear to God it's like dealing with a kindergarten class where every child speaks a different language.

Spinning a Rift Out of a Drift

Trump is not causing a rift in trans-Atlantic relations. Europeans have been more than adequate in achieving that.

Oh please:

European leaders have long been alarmed that President Trump’s words and Twitter messages could undo a trans-Atlantic alliance that had grown stronger over seven decades. They had clung to the hope that those ties would bear up under the strain.

Have we forgotten how Britain and France invaded Egypt without consulting America?

Have we forgotten how France waged bloody colonial wars in Vietnam and Algeria that reduced their military in Europe, and which for the former sucked in America to wage a war there?

Have we forgotten how France pulled out of the military command of NATO?

Have we forgotten how West Germany reached out to East Germany in the Cold War which undermined NATO solidarity?

Have we forgotten the massive European protests (aided by Soviet interference) against theater nuclear weapons to match the Soviet build up?

Have we forgotten how Europe largely--with some notable exceptions--walked away from helping America fight in Iraq and Afghanistan?

And while I'm on this issue, are you freaking kidding me?

[Chancellor Angela Merkel and her defense minister Ursula von der Leyen] cited Mr. Trump’s recent announcements that American troops would leave northern Syria and Afghanistan[. ...

The Syria pullout, she continued, could only help Russia and Iran. That view was echoed by the French foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, who called American policy in Syria “a mystery to me.”]

The utter nerve of that complaint is amazing. What on Earth has Germany contributed to alliance military action in those places? Any combat troops sent to the latter were simply a burden on our logistics system!

And if we are speaking of things that help Russia and Iran, hello nearly non-existent German defense capabilities, the energy pipelines from Russia to Western Europe, and the farcical Iran nuclear deal.

By all means, if the French and Germans want to step up in eastern Syria and Afghanistan, I'm sure we'd help with the planning efforts.

Oh, and the nuanced Frenchman is mystified by our policy? Let me apply the clue bat as I worried long before Trump announced a pullout: After defeating ISIL in eastern Syria we need an objective to justify our presence. I wanted the objective to be helping enemies of Assad overthrow him, but we blew that chance over the last 5 years and Assad has crushed his enemies in the west. Staying without a real objective to attain just risks a Mogadishu or Beirut Marine Barracks disaster that will send us running in defeat because the American people won't support heavy casualties for less important reasons to stay.

I do want to help our local allies rather than abandon them to Assad's tender mercies. But I don't want to stay on inertia with no particular objective to achieve that Americans will support other than not looking like we are retreating. And again, if the French want to step up in eastern Syria, you go, girl. The Kurds and Arabs in eastern Syria only want 1,500 coalition troops on the ground. Surely France and the other Europeans gung ho on eastern Syria can scrape up that small amount of troops. We'd be happy to continue to supply the bulk of the air power, I'm sure.

But I digress.

Have we forgotten how European defense spending and capabilities plummeted since we won the Cold War? Only now are the Europeans taking steps to redress their shortcomings.

Have we forgotten how Europeans made excuses for Russia's invasion of Georgia; and how it has minimized its reaction to Russia's invasion of Ukraine?

Good grief, people, I'm just pulling stuff off the top of my head. Those Europeans have a lot of nerve given that under Trump our reinforcement of our forces in Europe to back up our treaty commitments is continuing without pause.

If the Europeans didn't complain about America during the Obama administration, it was because the Obama administration didn't ask them to do anything hard, and I'm including a NATO plan to eventually increase NATO European defense spending to 2% of GDP over a decade that most Europeans probably felt they'd never be pushed to meet. That suited Europeans just fine.

Trump is merely rude enough to point out the problems publicly. Although I'll grant that if the public comments become counter-productive they should be muted in our interest. I don't know if that has happened.

Look, ever since the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, I've expected NATO Europe to distance itself from America. And it has.

The reason is that the threat of the Soviet Union planted firmly in East Germany pushed America and Europe together for common defense. As I pointed out to my students in early American history (I briefly taught history at a community college in 1990-1992), the strained relations between the American colonies and Britain after the French and Indian War would be replicated between America and Europe because of the same reason--Europe no longer needed America for external defense nearly as much and didn't want to pay for defense. Which was a major point of friction between colonial Americans and Britain in the late 18th century. Friction that eventually led to the break between the two.

And in a similar situation as America's military power in Europe has receded post-Cold War and as European efforts to assert themselves independent of America by emphasizing the EU rather than NATO, the Europeans have drifted away from America.

And that distance is allowing Europeans to revert to their pre-World War II nature of being a mix of autocracy, monarchy, and democracy. I had to be reminded by this author that our long period of influence in Europe during the Cold War had a role in making Europe truly democratic:

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.

If you want to really appreciate the bankruptcy of the argument that the divisions are unique and caused by Trump, check out this point made in the article:

Even the normally gloomy Russian foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, happily noted the strains, remarking that the Euro-Atlantic relationship had become increasingly “tense.”

“We see new cracks forming, and old cracks deepening,” Mr. Lavrov said.

He's normally gloomy but I guess he brightened up at this topic, eh?

Russia wants to split America from Europe to make Europe an easier target. Perhaps Lavrov has an incentive to make the recent disputes seem unprecedented and irreversible--and caused by Trump--eh? Perhaps articles like this are better than any Russian Facebook campaign to sow division in NATO.

If a majority of French and German people now trust China more than America, as the article notes, that's on them. They're fucking idiots.

The trans-Atlantic alliance has not grown stronger for seventy years only to die at the hands of Trump. Trump is just highlighting how Europe has been steadily pulling away from America.

Trump is just an excuse that Europeans who have always disliked America have grasped enthusiastically to justify their views. Indeed, the article even recognizes this although the authors may not realize it:

But beyond the Trump administration, an increasing number of Europeans say they believe that relations with the United States will never be the same again.

If bad relations are due to Trump, why wouldn't trans-Atlantic relations bounce back after Trump? Clearly, Trump isn't the issue. Europe is the issue.

As much as the Europeans frustrate me, we can't walk away because Europe is a prize and not just a source of often weak allies.

Heck, Trump might actually save NATO, which is the key body for maintaining trans-Atlantic relations.

UPDATE: Of course, Europe is a big continent and because of Islamism, Turkey really is building a rift--between it and the rest of NATO, both European and North American:

[Most] Turks are uneasy about their own government, which identifies itself as Islamic and democratic but over the last decade has become more irrational, corrupt, authoritarian and paranoid. The Turks had long (since the 1930s) been seen as a secular and stabilizing force in the Middle East. But once the Soviet Union (a major threat to the Turks) collapsed in 1991 Turkish attitudes towards the West and the Middle East began to change. Since 2000 the ruling party has been one that identifies as “Islamic” and not interested in becoming more Western.

The rift is real enough that "a growing number of NATO members see the Turks as hostile and unreliable and not really worth keeping in NATO."

I'm torn about how to fight to keep Turkey a solid NATO ally. But they make it hard. And while I wouldn't kick Turkey out of NATO in the hope that those uneasy Turks can restore Turkey to its former place of trust, I would start to wall off Turkey from causing harm from within Turkey. Limit intelligence sharing. Find alternatives to NATO facilities in Turkey. Don't store nuclear bombs there. And don't sell the F-35 to Turkey. This is a real rift. And it is Erdogan's (and his party's) fault.

And yes, I do fear that pan-Europeanism could replicate in a politically unified Europe the effects of Islamism in Turkey.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Russians Crushed the Nazis in Less Time

The Russians were invaded by Nazi Germany in June 1941 but by May 1945, less than four years later, Russia turned Berlin into occupied rubble. We're coming up on the 5th anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Oopski:

In early 2014 Russia invaded Ukraine. This began with special operations troops, the so-called “little green men” appearing in Crimea and declaring that they were separatists who wanted to free Crimea from Ukrainian rule. This invasion and the subsequent effort (which stalemated) in eastern Ukraine were in response to the February 2014 Euromaidan revolution in Ukraine where a corrupt president was found to have been bribed by Russia to suppress economic and diplomatic links with the EU (European Union) and the West in general. By March 2014 Russian soldiers had seized control of the Ukrainian territory of Crimea, which Russia then annexed. During the invasion of Crimea, there was no effective response by the thousands of Ukrainian military personnel stationed there. This caused the Russians to think they might be as successful with this tactic in the two eastern Ukraine provinces that comprise the Donbas industrial region.

In March 2014 Russia found that Donbas was not like Crimea and would not be taken over by some little green men and intimidation of the locals. Donbas had a lot of ethnic Russians but the local Ukrainian Army units were more prepared to resist and they did. This was followed by a major mobilization of the Ukrainian military and development and production of updated Cold War era equipment that were largely built in Ukraine. Russia was not expecting this, nor did they expect so many of the ethnic Russians in the Donbas to favor Ukrainian over Russian rule.

Do read it all.

Early on I figured Russia would be smart to bank the success of their Crimea operation and bask in the glow of a short and glorious war that burnished the reputation of their largely sad armed forces.

I warned that Ukraine had to fight for Ukraine even if the effort was doomed in order to deter Russia from invading the Donbas. In one post I wrote that Putin would stop at Crimea and not move on to the Donbas:

So I'll hazard a guess and say the immediate crisis is over. And if it isn't, I think Russia risks defeat or an ugly victory.

But no, Ukraine didn't fight in Crimea and Putin got greedy and thought he could repeat Crimea in the Donbas with just a little more effort than little green men. My rational was not Putin's rational.

And now Russia remains stuck between defeat and an ugly victory.

Strategypage says the stalemate might be just what Russia wants because it prevents Ukraine from joining NATO under rules that say no state with a territorial dispute with Russia can join NATO. But I thought that rules already prevented a state with a non-NATO base on its territory--which is what Russia had in Crimea before taking it over--from joining NATO.

And would Russia really count on NATO not changing rules to screw over Russia? Are the Russians paranoid about NATO but not that paranoid?

No, I think Putin thought he'd get quick and cheap victories. I bet the Russians wish they'd been satisfied with their short and glorious Crimean war rather than gamble on another such win in the Donbas.

UPDATE: Given that Ukraine is the one invaded by a strongman in 2014 and still hanging on, I wonder if any Russians will start to consider whether the Russians are in fact the baddies this time:



Maybe Ukraine will turn Moscow into occupied rubble by the time this is over. You never know.

UPDATE: Oh, and on lengthy campaigns, the duration of Iraq War 2.0 still bothers me.

The Facade of Winning

Iran continues to maintain the illusion that they are making Persia great again. But it is not working:

The Arabs will probably prevail in Yemen but it is the only one of Iran’s wars where Iranian prospects are good. Iraq, Syria, Gaza and Lebanon are all more expensive and less likely to provide the Iranian theocracy with a much needed victory. That means the growing domestic protests will become more of a threat.

And Iran's prospects are good only in the sense that Westerners are falling for Iranian propaganda that portrays Saudi Arabia and not Iran and their Houthi allies as responsible for civilian casualties.

Although given that many Westerners are primed to believe anything bad about America or one of our allies, this isn't an issue to praise the sophistication of Iranian propaganda but one to highlight how easily some Westerners will believe the most obvious fraud if it makes America look bad. But points to the Iranians for recognizing and exploiting that, I suppose.

Fortunately, America is trying to topple that house of cards rather than prop it up. With America squeezing Iran financially again, this will be harder for Iran to afford. And Iran's people are already tired of the expense and casualties of the mullahs' endless wars for empire. Iran's bad prospects abroad may follow them home. Iran is a multi-ethnic rump empire, remember, with a whole lot of non-Persians ruled from Tehran.

Can Iran's nutball mullahs go two more years without pallets of cash arriving?

Honestly, this is how I feel about Russia's fights in Syria and the Donbas on top of hostility towards America and anybody on their western border. All give the illusion of making Russia great again but they just might lead to a smaller Russia.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Heavy Cavalry Fights for Information

I was very unhappy about how we lightened up our recon units during the Iraq War and remain convinced we need armored cavalry regiments and smaller units of that type in our brigade combat teams. The  Army study of the Iraq War (volumes one and two) should remind us of the value of traditional heavy cavalry.

Thank God the squadron was able to fight for battlefield intelligence:

Intelligence on the location of the Fedayeen units did not come from the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS), UAVs, and other similar systems that the division had rehearsed using in exercises prior the invasion. Instead, 3d Infantry Division leaders found themselves using the division cavalry squadron and special operations units to locate enemy forces. This more traditional tactical reconnaissance capability became the 3d Infantry Division’s eyes and ears on the battlefield.

The urge to lighten up recon units to "make them more agile" strengthens the longer an army doesn't fight a conventional war. But once you are in a conventional war you find that "agile" just means too weak to survive when enemy heavy forces start shooting at you. And then your recon units are dead.

When you start to build an armored cavalry unit, build an armored cavalry unit.

But no worries, apparently. We have more of those awesome drones now.

Expeditionary isn't the Same as Amphibious

How does the Navy carry out large-scale amphibious landings in the modern threat environment?

Threatened by hundreds of precision-guided munitions now in the hands of Russia and China, the Navy and Marine Corps continue to search for technologies and tactics that will allow them to operate close to the coastline without unsustainable losses.

My view is that to land a sizable force the Navy can either build a figurative battlestar capable of bulldozing through those hundreds of PGMs without crippling losses (in practice this means a fully networked force with shared defensive missiles and guns); or the Navy disaggregates amphibious assets into something like the armed transports carrying company-sized elements that I advocated in this Proceedings article and bring together the assets briefly for the landing from multiple directions in order to avoid giving a military with hundreds of PGMs at hand the time to find, track, and attack the amphibious assets before they scatter again.

And it is possible that large-scale amphibious operations against defended shores is simply no longer possible.

Maybe small-scale landings--perhaps transitory in nature to achieve a specific mission--are the only thing possible from the sea in the face of hundreds of PGMs coupled with a persistent surveillance network.

Maybe the Marines have to separate their expeditionary role from the amphibious role of assaulting defended shores that has defined the Marines since the World War II Pacific campaign.

Maybe the Navy has to think of the issue like the Army does when pondring how to move troops into friendly NATO Poland in a crisis in the face of enemy anti-aircraft and ground attack missile footprints.

Perhaps the Navy should think of its missions as moving a brigade-sized Marine element (and here is an old idea of mine about how to do that, which links to a Joint Force Quarterly article I wrote) into a friendly port under attack by an enemy and able to land without fully functioning port facilities to rapidly begin combat operations to win the first battle of a war.

Maybe the Marines need to focus on being the leading element of ground power projection to support allies in the INDOPACOM region that includes, as I argued for in Military Review, a large Army component that follows the Marines ashore. We've done it before, as I recounted in this Land Warfare Paper.

Whether by changing how the mission is achieved or changing what missions are possible, the Navy and Marine Corps have to adapt to the new threat.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Weekend Data Dump

Army study on the Iraq War (volumes one and two) notes that Saddam's Fedayeen force of jihadi irregulars was tasked by Saddam with operating behind our lines. But my memory of the war is that they launched futile human wave assaults on the flanks of the Army advance toward Baghdad. (Oh, and as I read further on the study notes exactly that tactic.)

The Army study (volumes one and two) also notes that Iran planned their invasion of Iraq before the American-led coalition invaded. Remember that with Iran supporting Shia gangs from the east and with Iran's Syrian vassal funneling in jihadis from the west who united with the Baathists, Iran took care of arming both sides in the Sunni-Shia divide in Iraq.

Libya continues to try to rebuild their state following the 2011 civil war and the "leading from behind" American intervention. The UN supports the western faction trying to form a government while more and more countries are backing the eastern faction led by Hiftar. The two factions continue to discuss and maneuver to control assets and resist militias, of both the looting and jihadi varieties.

India is taking baby steps to having a submarine-based nuclear deterrent. But India needs longer ranged missiles to be a deterrent to China by being able to strike all of China from deep in the Indian Ocean safe from counter-measures because sending their subs with shorter range missiles to the South China Sea or western Pacific to be within range of China isn't really practical. It will be decades before India has such missiles. Until then, I guess Pakistan is deterred. Oh, and why is it taking so long? "Corruption and incompetent management." Hey no worries. India. It's not like you border a rapidly rising power with territorial claims against you, right?

The Special Operations Command aviation regiment now has a drone company it it. I thought TOE stood for "table of organization and equipment," but perhaps things change without me getting the memo.

Germany's decision to forego buying the F-35 in order to forge closer French-German industrial ties to build their own fighter will harm NATO capabilities until, assuming all goes according to plan, 2040. Tell me again how a more united EU will increase European defenses even though that course automatically weakens NATO which has defended Europe since 1949. Oh, and get this: the German Social Democrats consider buying the F-35 a "reward" to Trump. Oh those sophisticated and nuanced Europeans!

Isn't the real story that MRE packages have designs at all? When did that happen?

If the Army goes to war against a peer it will still drive in the Humvee rather than the newer JLTV. We still have lots of HMMWVs in the arsenal in contrast to the new JLTV. And even when the Army has all the JLTVs is wants, there will be a lot of Humvees in the force. This is viewed as a problem given the problems the Humvee had surviving in Iraq. But in Iraq we faced a pretty unique situation where the war was fought on the roads a lot because the enemy relied on IEDs as their main weapon. Also, a war against a peer will not face anywhere near that kind of insurgent/terrorist IED threat behind the forward troops. That's what the Humvee was designed for, recall. Although given the threat near the front posed by persistent drone surveillance and precision fires, I'd only want the Humvees on bases or well behind the lines out of artillery range.

Did the Russians poison an arms dealer in Bulgaria? 

Is speculation really "rampant" that America might invade Venezuela to overthrow Maduro? Because I don't see that happening. Some nutjob content to abuse his own people seems way down on the list of things to do behind the jihadis, Russia, and China, no? If we've left Cuba alone, why would we expend such effort on Venezuela? And even if Hezbollah is deep in Venezuela, Israel might take care of that at the source. Which would work better because Hezbollah is in other parts of South America, too. I could see limited American forces sent to help facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid should the Maduro government collapse or fall from internal opposition. But not an invasion.

I see Maduro could do plugs for those "buy gold in these troubling times" commercials. But do you get a free safe with purchase? Strategypage looks at what"one of the most corrupt, ineffective, lawless and clueless governments in the world" faces, which explains why the usual suspects of China, Russia, and Cuba see little hope of (or profit in) helping their little friend.

Australia selected a French bidder to build their new submarine fleet (12). I thought Australia should have selected the Japanese sub since Japan no doubt has more experience in the local conditions. But perhaps Australia also wants to pull France into Asia to counter China with the purchase. Japan is already in good shape on that issue; and Germany can barely operate in the Baltic Sea let alone the South China Sea, so what would be the geopolitical point of selecting Germany as the source?

"Europe" as a political entity does not exist. Thank God for that. Honestly, I don't worry that the EU won't (or can't as the author seems to argue) gain the powers that supplant nation--I worry the EU will get the "ever closer union" with no defined end point they haven't been shy about saying they want. And the author--rightly I think--says that we can hardly walk away from Europe despite any frustration with Europe's failure to maintain adequate military power.

Russia announced plans for new missiles in the aftermath of the coming death of the INF treaty. Okay. Like I said before, I'm not saying there won't be a nuclear arms race after INF. I'm just saying that broke Russia won't be in it. And indeed, in contrast to prior boasting, Russia explicitly said they won't be drawn into an arms race. Which is wise unless Russia wants to get even smaller.

Yes, maybe Germany should look to the future better Germany it wants to be by standing solidly with Israel rather than continually look back to their past in fear they could return to that horrific time. Because seriously, if the Germans are right that they are just a deep recession away from setting up death camps, maybe we really should just pull out and nuke the site from orbit as the only way to be sure.

The European Union's shabby treatment of Britain as it tries to leave with a mutually agreeable divorce isn't about Britain anymore, I think, but about making the process the punishment to discourage anyone else from leaving. Tip to Instapundit.

The American prosecution of  Maria Butina as a Russian spy colluding with the Trump campaign is collapsing. All our counterintelligence apparatus has done with this political prosecution on trumped up charges is to justify Chinese, Russian, or Iranian political prosecutions of Americans who fall within their grasp. Given that those thug states are far better at political prosecutions (with police and judicial bodies fully on board the need to railroad the charged victim), "we" should never have opened up this field of battle.

Remember when social media was viewed as a magical tool to bring down tyrants? Well, Twitter and Facebook have signed up with Team Tyranny in Pakistan. Disgraceful. But I'm sure the efforts of those social media giants to police "fake news" or "hate speech" here in America will work much better than in Pakistan where the rulers decided that they hated news they deemed fake, and social media giants went meekly along with the demands.

Huh, is Woke Admiral a new rank in the Navy?

I'm not sure what a national debate in France will do given that it seems like the Macron v. Yellow Jacket Fight is one to the figurative death.

Maybe anti-war advocates should look to Germany as Exhibit A for a country where our intervention to destroy a tyrant and our long nation-building effort has failed to create a real ally. Seriously, Iraq is a better ally than modern Germany is. And if the European Union "ever closer union" imperial project works, Germany may find they can control Europe more effectively with cheese regulations and budget rules than with panzers.

Wow, and just when the Green Leap Forward (aka the New Green Deal) promised to funnels massive amounts of other people's money into projects like that. Oh ye of little faith.

Oh, and I can hardly wait for the GLF advocates to explain to Hindu Indians that they have to slaughter their sacred farting cows. For the planet, or whatever.

The XBox goes to war. The controllers or those very similar have spread throughout the military. As I noted during the Iraq War about how video gaming made remote weapon stations easy for our troops to master, the modern situation gives troops who gamed a lot an advantage in using military systems (well, as long as that edge didn't make them couch potatoes unable to handle the physical challenges). It's like they trained on the equipment for a decade before enlisting. This is kind of like the advantage private cars gave our troops in World War II with a motorized Army.  Of course, our World War II advantage was unique but now every advanced nation has young people who focus on gaming.

Russia used their GPS jammers during the Trident Juncture military exercises that NATO held along with Sweden and Finland. The jamming affected civilians, too. The Russians denied the accusations but nobody believes them. And the Arctic states involved are more convinced they need to band together against Russia. I guess nobody will call this "hybrid electronic warfare" because despite attacking and then denying they attacked, nobody in the West is going along with the Russian lie. You need all three elements to be "hybrid."

It certainly makes sense that our Navy has to get a good deal of attention with a new focus on peer competition given that China is the rising threat and their threat is thus far mainly an aero-naval threat to our western Pacific littoral interests. But declaring a "maritime strategy" as America's approach would be a mistake that simplifies China's military problems and doesn't even address Russia's primary land threat to NATO's frontiers. Don't forget, as I addressed in Military Review, the land domain. I know the Navy likes to say that 70% (or is it 80%) of people live within a short distance from the sea. But I like to add that 100% of those people live on the land. It is distressing that the INDOPACOM commander's intent to strengthen America's military across from China and not just be Korean peninsula focused doesn't seem to consider a significant Army role in its core capabilities of wide-area land operations.

It seems like the best compromise on the border barrier issue able to get left and right united would be to build a high-speed elevated light rail line from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico right along the border with Mexico.  I'm joking, but deep down I fear that might actually occur to somebody and catch on. More seriously, I don't like declaring an "emergency" to do this but I didn't like the "pen and phone" executive action from the previous administration. But declaring an emergency is fairly routine. As I've mentioned before, we should really be horrified about what is perfectly legal for the executive--of any party--to do.

Moslem rebels with new autonomy in the southern Philippines now "must learn to govern." Must? Why? Did Hamas learn to govern when it gained control of Gaza? Did ISIL learn to govern when it grabbed a caliphate? Why must Islamist nutballs learn to govern? Maybe if the Moslems are more secessionist than nutbally they will learn to govern, but there is no "must" about it. I certainly hope that is how it works out, of course. And we should certainly be ready to help the people who want to govern the autonomous region keep the jihadi types suppressed.

Will the European Union, with the backing of America plus new support from France (?!) and over the objections of Germany (thanks Germany!), halt the Russian project of bypassing Ukraine with energy pipelines going directly to Western Europe to allow Russia to freeze Ukrainians in the winter without causing discomfort in Germany? I guess the EU might not be totally worthless. If it follows through, of course.

Hey! I found out about a border "wall" that isn't immoral! Will wonders never cease? Tip to Instapundit.

Huh, is our health care insurance system actually fairly acceptable now after Republicans got to see what was in it after Democrats passed it, and allow more consumer choice while keeping the option of subsidies to those who can't afford insurance (whether from pre-existing conditions or not); and even allowing states to be as big government as they can afford if they choose? Sound plausible. I've never been against the idea of helping people who can't afford health insurance get some form of it to guard against catastrophic health problems. Screwing over the rest of the health insurance consumer base just wasn't my idea of good policy--for individuals or the health care system that insurance pays for.

I was astounded when I heard people take the obvious joke as a serious indicator of anti-science ignorance. Lighten up Francis.

Ah, trained journalists. That annoyed me then and it annoys me now. Are they incapable of learning?

While I see no reason to invade Venezuela to overthrow Maduro (not that it wouldn't be morally defensible, but we are kind of busy elsewhere), the two journalists (and two editors!) who wrote this story are absolutely wrong about this: "Under the U.S. Constitution, Congress has to approve foreign military action." No, Congress has the exclusive power to declare war. The authority to carry out foreign military action is way more nuanced than that simplistic description. Congress does indeed have to approve military action, but Congressional approval is not required prior to military action, and approval can take many forms. Ah, trained journalists (and editors).

Moldova continues to flirt with national suicide despite the example of Russian-controlled Transnistria carved out of its territory during the collapse of the USSR.  Moldovans could choose to join the West but somehow they can't seem to embrace that chance.

Cuba is trying to help Maduro rally Venezuelans against a fake foreign threat--America. We deny Cuba's charge, although it would be smart if we did move special forces within range--to make good on our pledge to protect our diplomats there and not to stage some movie-level regime change with a dozen really tough guys. I'm just relieved Maduro isn't going after a foreign "threat" he might be able to take on. But I think it is way too late for Maduro to rally his people around a foreign threat.

The United States is leading a Western resurgence in efforts to maintain technological superiority over Russian and Chinese advances. Good. Although it would be nice to tighten up our counter-intelligence efforts so we don't end up doing their research for them.

From the beginning I said that the idea that Trump colluded with Russia to win the White House was ridiculous. Russia did what it always did by stirring up divisions in America (and elsewhere, of course). This is something Russia (and the USSR before it) does routinely. But suddenly Democrats noticed it so it was new to them (and were horrified to see the effort directed at them rather than at Republicans). And boy did the minuscule Russian effort work. Divisions? Check. We did it to ourselves, people. To me it was obvious that Russia was, in addition to the stoking-division angle, trying to damage the expected winner Clinton (Russians could read our polling data as well as I could) for reasons that had nothing to do with Trump. But perhaps what should really be shocking is how easily our counter-intelligence people sincerely believed that Russia was behind the Trump presidency. Are they that ignorant? Did partisan media hysteria sway them? Even if we set aside the shocking indications that leadership in the FBI attempted a soft "25th amendment" coup like we are some banana republic because they truly believed Trump might be a Russian pawn, can we count on the FBI to battle threats to America in the shadows when we see how they think and how they acted on that ridiculous belief?

ISIL remains active in Egypt's Sinai peninsula.  Isolating the terrorists from Gaza helps reduce the level of threat. Although not enough to prevent 200 from massing to raid an Egyptian checkpoint. And if Israel had used "non-lethal" gas in a tunnel the way Egypt did at the Gaza border--which resulted in the deaths of two Palestinians in the tunnel--can you imagine the global outrage? Until I read this in that Strategypage post I hadn't heard of the incident. But it fits with the general practice of accusing Israel of "blockading" Gaza while ignoring that Egypt also allows land access to Gaza--except when it doesn't.

Just a reminder that Venezuela interim President Juan Guaidó is a socialist. One just hopes he isn't an idiot, corrupt, and vicious socialist the way Maduro is and Hugo Chavez was. Baby steps, people. Baby steps.

I've shaken my head in wonder at the dysfunctional Indian military procurement bureaucracy. But boy did our KC-135 replacement project give India's record of failure a run for its money. Of course, the cluster continues. I mean, what's the rush, eh?

Computers could generate a news story with nothing more than a headline to guide it. As long as you don't care if the article is factually correct (tip to Instapundit). Big deal. We already know that opinion pieces can be written that way.

So ... Democrats believe Trump is building a dictatorship. And they think it would be a good idea to declare an emergency to battle climate change. With a wide-ranging, executive-strengthening approach such as the Green Leap Forward (aka the Green New Deal). Which Trump would control. Got it. Democrats now hate the executive power they once loved. And yes, many Republicans approve of it now after opposing it then--but others still don't like that form of executive overreach.  I lean strongly toward the latter view that cringes at the expansion of federal power. But I recognize that until it is done to them, Democrats have no incentive to curtail the acceptance of executive encroachment on legislative powers. As I've said, the most horrifying feature of our federal government is what is perfectly legal for the executive to do.

Japan scrambled jets to watch Russian "nuclear-capable" bombers exercising over the Sea of Japan. Given the sorry overall state of Russia's military, I'm shocked the bombers were "flight-capable."

With the war on (Islamic) terrorism, we at least have the choice of emphasizing fighting them "over there" or "here" at home. The battle against socialism sadly has become a battle to be one over here. Which is sad. I enlisted because I believe socialism is evil and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics had to be resisted. And here we are with more Americans claiming socialism is about freaking "caring." So we have to beat that threat "here." Part of beating the threat here must be in explaining what socialism is and is not, because as I've said I think a lot of Americans claiming to be "democratic socialists" just mean they identify as really liberal. They like the welfare state. Yet the welfare state isn't the same as socialism. There are problems with a welfare state gone too far. But at least it isn't--when properly walled off from our economic and political system--the death of free market capitalism which has propelled the retreat of poverty the way socialism is. And socialism will walk in with that confusion very easily.

Oh goodie, Merkel defends close economic ties with Russia. But even if their relationship grows into some sort of pact, it won't guarantee Russian non-aggression. Because even with Russia as paranoid as it is, I find it hard to believe that with the sorry state of Germany's military that Russia sees Germany as a threat rather than a potential victim to be kept weak with soothing talk and trade deals.

The collapse of the Amazon headquarters deal in New York City under pressure from the progressive base of the Democratic party highlights the bizarre reality that 1% tech giants sided with the people on the left who really, really hate them with all their hearts. It's time the tech giants realized they effed up, they trusted the left. Sadly for them, they alienated the right in the process.

The US is promoting economic ties with NATO member Iceland, which has a valuable position for Arctic issues and for safeguarding North Atlantic sea lines of communication between North America and  NATO Europe from the lingering (but reduced) Russian submarine threat.

The head of CENTCOM thinks the United States should continue aiding our allies in eastern Syria even after we pull our troops out. Yes, even if you discount the moral issue of abandoning an ally it is important to shield Iraq from hostile forces that could have a sanctuary in eastern Syria. Assad of course wants us to abandon those people--or at least make those people believe we will abandon them.

French people are tiring of the "yellow jacket" (or "yellow vest") protests. No wonder. They started as a protest against a specific tax and morphed into a general resistance to Macron that made it a figurative fight to the death (as I noted bfore). So now Macron is winning. And the ability to exploit real or imagined (or planted) bigotry within the protests will help Macron win.

I had a fun afternoon with my daughter Lamb, downtown and on campus. We had lunch and a wide-ranging foray walking around despite the cold weather. I am happy that despite her advanced age that it isn't a social kiss of death to have an outing with her dad. We tried a new taco place and it was quite good. But in a "I'm so screwed" sort of way (but perhaps I've shared too much), while we were visiting one place of business I actually recognized a woman (she didn't see me) I've seen on an online dating site. She seems nice from her profile. But this was a daughter-dad event and I had to suppress an urge to introduce myself with this unexpected opportunity. Oh well. It was still a great afternoon.

The Army study of the Iraq War (volumes one and two) recounts the failure of a deep strike helicopter mission during the invasion. At the time I wondered if it spelled the end of that kind of mission. Although since then it seems like the Army is trying to adapt to the factors that led to failure. But in the end it seems like the Army is trying to carry out a mission with its own assets that is something the Air Force should do for the Army. That speaks perhaps to the trust that the Army has that the Air Force has real interest in providing that kind of timely support.

Normal debugging of new technology or epic procurement fail?

Five senators wrote a letter opposing the purchase of the F-15X instead of buying F-35s. But I didn't think this was a matter of substitution as much as it is a matter of maintaining numbers of fighters that F-35 buys can't handle. And really, if the Air Force buys the F-15X, wouldn't that provide a face-saving way of denying problematic Turkey's purchase of F-35s by substituting the F-15X--which the U.S. Air Force would be buying--so we don't worry about the most advanced plane we have in Erdogan's hands?

This is not an essay on how to achieve peace in Afghanistan. It is an essay about how if the Taliban are tired of war, too, then we could leave and support the Afghan government unlike our abandonment of South Vietnam. If the Taliban are tired of war and if we don't abandon Afghanistan like we walked away from South Vietnam leading to their downfall in 1975 (Or as we walked away from Iraq leading to their defeat in 2014), that would truly be great. But if the Taliban aren't tired of war despite their even heavier casualty rates and if we aren't prepared to continue supporting the fragile government, then we might be just getting a pretend peace that paves the way for a Taliban victory exactly the way we got in South Vietnam and Iraq (which we did reverse with Iraq War 2.0; and we do seem to be working to prevent Iraq War 3.0).

The multinational Standing NATO Maritime Group Two exercised with other NATO forces in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. As I've said, Russia's renewed naval presence in the eastern Mediterranean just gives NATO states with Mediterranean fleets something to do in wartime. So I have no problem if Russia spends scarce money on ships and planes to run around down there instead of on forces that can threaten NATO in the Baltic Sea region.

Will Maduro block Venezuelans from bringing in foreign humanitarian aid flown into Colombia?

Quantity's Quality

When the enemy Fedayeen irregular threat to the line of supply to the spearheads heading for Iraq became apparent, there was a disagreement on whether maneuver units should be tasked with securing the line of supply, per the Army study of the Iraq War (volumes one and two):

Franks preferred that the 101st Airborne Division take [Saddam International Airport], a dramatic move that would immediately put forces in Baghdad. Based on his experiences in Afghanistan, where special operations forces and air power had defeated the irregular Taliban forces, he believed the operators and other units with A–10 close air support could dispose of the Iraqi paramilitary forces in the southern cities. What Franks failed to account for, McKiernan pointed out, was that the special operations forces in Afghanistan had worked with organized resistance groups who were familiar with the terrain and could provide pinpoint targets and assessments, but there were no such linkages between coalition special operations and Iraqi resistance groups. McKiernan’s argument carried the debate. [emphasis added]

McKiernan was right. And the local allies could provide local security to the special forces teams, a significant factor alone.

This point fits very well with my frustration in the whole "counter-terrorist" versus "counter-insurgency" debate that was voiced during the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns.

The idea that you could separate the two is ludicrous. Effective counter-terrorism requires the pinpoint information that a large network of non-special forces can provide--in the initial Afghanistan campaign to overthrow the Taliban regime it was local allies; in Afghanistan and Iraq when our allies ran the government you needed the friendly troops (American, coalition, and Iraqi) to provide the information needed for the counter-terror special forces missions to go after the enemy insurgents and terrorists.

Otherwise "counter-terrorism" is just a euphemism for using air power (planes and missiles) directed by aerial recon against targets in a sanctuary.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Humanitarian Shields

Iran has managed a great propaganda victory by convincing many in the West that Saudi Arabia is responsible for casualties and suffering in Yemen when it is Iran and its allies there who bear that responsibility. Western "humanitarians" are essentially running interference for Iran's strategy.

Yes:

Iran sees itself as still a potential winner in Yemen, despite numerous defeats. For one thing, Iran still has a lot of support from leftist politicians in the West. This is partly resentment against the United States, which has always been the primary supporter of Saudi Arabia, and Gulf Arab oil states in general. Now the majority of legislators in the American Congress are willing to demand the U.S. halt military aid to Saudi Arabia. This is unlikely to pass into law but if it did it would be a major win for China, as well as Iran. The Saudis would be forced to seek other nations as a reliable weapons supplier and China has already proven itself capable of producing and selling (without any strings) modern weapons to the Gulf Arab nation. The best example is missile equipped large (Predator size) UAVs.

While the Iranian Information War campaign (with the help of Russia) to demonize the Arab coalition in Yemen, continues more Western analysts are pointing out that the main cause of civilian casualties are the Shia rebels, who deliberately use civilians as human shields. Arab armies will attack anyway but the Shia rebels are setting up those civilian deaths mainly to manipulate Western media. This has been more obvious during the current ceasefire. The main cause of ceasefire violations and dead civilians have been Shia rebels.

Yes, I've been reporting that. Although those are immediate causes exacerbating the underlying cause of corruption in Yemen.

And the urge to push ceasefires that interfere with a Saudi victory is a form of false compassion.

Aerospace Force, Here We Come

Even if this is a win for the Air Force in the bureaucratic wars, I have no problem with the Air Force taking charge of a space force within the Air Force:

Detailed planning for the proposed Space Force is expected to be handed over soon to the U.S. Air Force, a sign that Pentagon leaders — many of whom opposed the notion of consolidating military space operations in a new organization — have found a version that they can support. ...

Under the proposal, [Air Force Secretary Heather] Wilson would oversee the Space Force, just as Navy Secretary Richard Spencer oversees the Marine Corps. The proposal also calls for creating a Space Force undersecretary below Wilson, along with two four-star billets: a chief of staff who would be a member of the Joint Chiefs, and a vice chief of staff.

That's long been my view (and I refined that notion in more posts over the years). The Air Force should add the "black skies" of space to their "blue skies" traditional missions. It is a natural fit.

Now all the Air Force needs to do to make me really happy is give up the close air support mission (and the money and assets that go with that mission) to the Army in the "brown skies" above the battlefield--a mission the Air Force clearly doesn't prioritize--and let the Army figure out whether manned fixed wing or rotary wing aircraft--or drones or ground-based fires assets, for that matter--are the means (in whatever mix seems right) of providing fire support to Army ground forces.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Net Warfare

Could Army troops down drones with net rounds fired from standard grenade launchers?

It's likely that whoever US troops fight in the next war, these enemies will be armed with drones. That's why Army researchers have invented a smart and cost-effective way to bring them down.

The US Army has invented a new grenade in the 40 mm configuration that is packed with a net and specifically designed to take out enemy drones.

That sounds pretty cool. And useful. And cheap. Although I have no way of judging whether that method is superior to a weapon that tries to shoot down the drones.

But my worry is that the short-range weapons is now one more thing that forward infantry will have to carry and use, distracting them from the close fight against enemy ground troops.

That's why I called for an air defense drone swarm (in Army magazine) scaled up as the capability goes up the headquarters chain.

It would not be cheap but it has the advantage of allowing the infantry to focus on the close fight with no more effort to fight drones than they expend on fighting high-flying enemy aircraft that the Air Force will try to keep off their backs.

Still, it would be a useful addition to an infantry platoon just in case; and definitely useful for base defense.

Also, could it be put in the vehicle-mounted launchers usually used to fire smoke grenades around the vehicle?

UPDATE: A soldier armed to fight drones?

A Roman retiarius gladiator holding a weighted net and a three point trident. : Stock Photo

Maybe the trident will be fixed on the end of the rifle.

Passing the Threshold of Notice

Pakistan's policy of killing Indians while denying it just passed the threshold that will require India to strike back.

Uh oh:

At least 33 soldiers were killed and about 20 others wounded Thursday in a car bomb attack on a paramilitary convoy along a key highway in Indian-controlled Kashmir, security officials said. It was one of the deadliest car bombings in the disputed region's history.

Officials said a local Kashmiri militant rammed an explosive-laden van into the convoy, targeting a bus carrying at least 35 soldiers. ...

Sanjay Sharma, a spokesman for India's paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force, said many of the injured were in critical condition. "The blast was so powerful that one cannot recognize whether the vehicle was a bus or a truck. Just pieces of mangled steel remain of the vehicle," he said.

This is a very tense situation with Pakistan persisting in attacking India while denying it is doing so.

And with the dead seemingly going to move north of 40 very quickly, Pakistan will find that the usual denials aren't going to make India think that without hard evidence they can't do much in response.

No, I think that many dead Indian troops in a very high profile attack will compel India to strike Pakistan in retaliation.

India and Pakistan have nuclear weapons.

Have a super sparkly day.

UPDATE: Here we go?

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi warned Pakistan on Friday to expect a strong response to a suicide attack that killed 44 paramilitary policemen in Kashmir, ratcheting up tension between the nuclear-armed neighbors. ...

"We will give a befitting reply, our neighbor will not be allowed to de-stabilize us," Modi said in a speech, after meeting security advisers to discuss options. ...

Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale summoned Pakistan's ambassador, Sohail Mahmood, and issued a demarche demanding Pakistan take verifiable action against Jaish. India also recalled its ambassador in Pakistan for consultations, a government source said.

So how large in scope and duration will the Indian response be? Seriously, what could restrain India given that America is against supporting jihadis and China imprisons huge numbers of Moslem and brainwashes them out of a worry that some could become jihadis.

UPDATE: That's not good for Pakistan:

The United States has told India it supports its right to defend itself against cross-border attacks, the government said on Saturday, as New Delhi considers retaliation against a car bombing in disputed Kashmir claimed by Pakistan-based militants.

That is the right thing for America to say given Pakistan's unrelenting campaign of violence against India.

But do remember that we have troops in Afghanistan with major supply lines that go through Pakistan. Yes, we do have alternatives--through Iran and Russia.

Thanks Pakistan, your circular firing squad keeps hitting us, too.

The only good thing to say about Pakistan is that it is better to have them as a highly flawed ally than it is to have them as an enemy. Although I freely admit you need a firm grasp of nuance to see the difference these days.

Actually, Pakistan should be grateful to America. I'm sure America's backing of India comes with limits to the scope of India's actions to defend themselves that we will back.

UPDATE: India is hunting the "mastermind" of the bombing. This won't remain an internal issue for long. God help the Pakistanis if that mastermind flees to Pakistan.

That mastermind is probably more at risk from his Pakistani allies who would be happier with a dead mastermind who tells no tales and attracts no Indian bombs.

UPDATE: Oh, now the Pakistanis want to talk?

Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Tuesday Pakistan would retaliate if India were to attack in response to a bombing in the disputed Kashmir region, which India blamed on Pakistan, while adding he wanted to cooperate in investigating the blast.

An offer to help investigate is just stalling for time because Pakistan is well aware of what happened.

Stuff is going to blow up inside Pakistan and the only question is whether India does it openly or denies it to play Pakistan's game of "prove it." I suspect the former will happen.

And then Pakistan will be on the hook to make good their vow to "retaliate" for an Indian strike that is in fact the retaliation for the Pakistani bombing.